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11 - The army and the navy


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Lawrence Keppie
University of Glasgow
Alan K. Bowman
University of Oxford
Edward Champlin
Princeton University, New Jersey
Andrew Lintott
University of Oxford
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By the middle of the first century B.C. the Roman army had developed over centuries of all but continuous warfare into a professionally minded force. At least fifteen legions (a total of about 60,000–70,000 men) were maintained in being each year, their manpower drawn from all Italy south of the Po. Military service was the duty of every Roman citizen aged between seventeen and forty-five. Those who enlisted were usually held for at least six years of continuous service, after which they could look for discharge. In law they remained liable for call-out as evocati to a maximum of sixteen years (twenty years in a crisis). Some men were happy to remain in the army well beyond the six-year minimum and constituted a core of professionals for whom soldiering had become a lifetime's occupation; but conscription was employed throughout the late Republic, and it should not be imagined that the legionaries were always predominantly volunteers. Until the later second century, cavalry was formed from the equites (as the name implies), who might be expected to serve three years, with a maximum of ten. Thereafter Rome looked to her allies, in Italy and beyond, to make up the deficiency. (In theory the equites remained liable for service, but were not called upon.) At first, military service had been viewed as an essential public duty: only men with substantial property were permitted (or could afford) to serve. However, the property-requirement was gradually reduced, and from the time of Marius no more is heard of it.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1996

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