- Examine the character and political significance of the Ro...
Examine the character and political significance of the Roman army in the later second century BC. Was there a manpower shortage? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.
For many centuries, the Roman republic had survived with a
military and political framework that had ensured the survival and
prosperity of the city state. However, it is clear that by the
later second century BC the nature of Rome was changing to adapt to
varying internal and external stimuli. The army began a significant
process of change that would eventually culminate in the creation
of a thoroughly professionalised land force by the time of the
Principate. The other primary issue, manpower in Italy, is not so
easy to establish. The truth is that very little evidence remains
either to confirm or refute the long accepted assumption that there
was a manpower shortage. Many scholars have used conjecture and
mathematical hypotheses to support their arguments, and though we
shall examine these more closely it remains clear that to answer
the question we must explore other related issues such as the Roman
class system and the effect of war upon Roman society in this
period. Therefore, the relationship between soldiers and the State
they were fighting for requires close consideration.
The year 146 BC is widely considered to be an important
watershed in the annals of the Roman State. It heralded the end of
the third and final Punic War and the utter destruction of
Carthage, which up until then had been the only state with the
military power to challenge the Romans. Rome acquired an additional
six overseas provinces: Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Nearer and
Further Spain, Africa and Macedonia, with Asia and Transalpine Gaul
added in the subsequent few decades. Thus, the size and rate of
growth of the Empire had been increased dramatically. The
Mediterranean was at their mercy.
In conclusion, though it is impossible to say for certain that
there was a manpower shortage during this period we can assume that
it was most likely. The strains relating to the massive expansion
of the Roman Empire combined with the expulsion of the Roman
peasants from public land must have taken their toll. Though we
cannot confirm that the population was either rising or falling
significantly, we can at least say that the class of people that
traditionally provided soldiers was seriously suffering, thus
leading the way for a permanent, professional army that subsequent
Generals would use to overthrow the Roman Republic.