So hypothetically speaking, if the army of the Roman Republic, at its peak, met the army of the Empire, also at its peak, who would win? Would the tactics and equipment be very different?
The Empire would win, no contest (sorry, Skywalker).
The thing you’re not considering in this hypothetical scenario, and the fact that overshadows any other advantage, is the sheer size of the army the Roman Empire possessed, at its peak. As the Empire amassed more countries, they had to make sure they contained these new states and controlled them. To this end, they took troops from other areas in the empire and deposited them in other countries, promising men their citizenship at the end of their duties.
Now, that little history lesson only had one reason, I admit, but it was an important one: the Empire had to have had enough troops to (at the very least) visit each of the places that it controlled. And that space was, at its peak, well:
Now, size aside, the Empire had some other advancements that would have been hard for the Republic’s army to combat.
But sadly, I’m not nearly well-versed enough in Rome’s army to note all of those things. But if anyone else happens to be an expert in that, I’m sure they’d be happy to add their two cents on the debate.
Right, I’m writing my dissertation on the army of the Army of the Republic, so I can provide a good chunk of info there.
Size-wise, there wouldn’t be too big a difference. One of the biggest strengths of the Polybian (or Republican) army was it’s large pool of manpower it could recruit from. Considering that every Legion consisted of a force of citizen legionaries and a force of Allied soldiers (known as the Socii) of equivalent number, they could be called up very quickly. It’s one of the reasons they won the Second Punic War, because they could soak up horrific defeats that’d force any other state to capitulate.
Meanwhile, the army of the Empire wasn’t that big. Yes, the Empire was huge, but the Legions were concentrated on the borders and trouble points rather than spread equally. For example, there was just one Legion in the entire province of Iberia, while there were eight ones on the Rhine.
However, the Imperial Army would still win. The Polybian Legion, was, at heart, a citizen army. Men would be called up to fight for a campaign, provide their own equipment, then go back home with booty. This meant that each Legion had to spend precious time training together and that once it was disbanded, all it’s experience was lost. Meanwhile the Imperial Legion was a fully professional force, with citizens signing up for 25 years active service with five years as a veteran, and non citizens signing up for a similar space of time but with the promise of citizenship as mentioned above. This meant that each Legion had been fighting continuously for many many years and the experience gained was passed down, making them very effective.
This leads onto another reason why the Imperial Legion would win: Auxiliaries. The strength of the Legion was in it’s heavy infantry, but they weren’t stupid enough to not have anything else. To fill the other roles (cavalry, ranged infantry, skirmishers, etc) they would recruit auxiliaries from provinces, for example archers from Syria or light horsemen from Numidia. These could provide extremely skilled troops to support the Legion in combat. The Polybian Legion had nothing like this. The cavalry was drawn from the richest members of society and was thus small in number, and generally performed with zeal and not much else, usually being outclassed by their opponents. The skirmishers were the Velites, comprising of the youngest and often poorest men. They used javelins to soften up the enemy before the legions engaged. The Socii troops were often of the same standard of the Citizen legions, IE heavy infantry, so they wouldn’t have provided anything else either.
Overall, the victor would be the Imperial Legion. However, if the Republican Legion was one that had been fighting for a while, for example the soldiers that accompanied Scipio Africanus, then they could be a near match for the professional Legionnaires. But without any decent cavalry or ranged units, they’d be at a massive disadvantage and would eventually be destroyed.
Hope that helped, sorry if it was too essayish, I’m still in uni mode! :D
Apolo and Daphne (1622-25) by Gianlorenzo Bernini
Ἕκτη Φθίνοντος/ Ἕκτη μετ’εἰκάδας, XXV day
From today’s sunset: twenty-fifth day of Hekatombaion.
Since for today there are no other religious prescriptions, apart from the daily ones, we honor Ares in His sacred day.
(Gigantomachy detail: Ares (and Aphrodite behind Him) aiming spear downward, and Eros aiming His bow; from Melos, ca. 400 BC - ca. 390 BC. now in the Louvre…)
The reconstructed Temple of Trajan at the Ancient Greek City of Pergamon.
Bergama, Izmir, Turkey
© 2014 Nur Uretmen
This, believe it or not, is a coin. It’s a coin of the polis of Olbia on the black sea coast, and it is a cast in the shape of a dolphin. In one of the most remarkable currencies of the ancient world, Olbia, literally the wealthy city, according to its name, chose to mint coins in a non-circular form for the first time since the invention of coins. The distinct form is generally attributed to the fact that the city of Olbia, located on the Black Sea, was at the fringes of the Greek world, therefore adapted Greek forms to fit their own needs. The large quantities of finds and the later appearance of dolphins on circular coins have convinced scholars that these were used in exchange.
The symbolism of the dolphin is believed to be religious, since the city held a large temple to Apollo Delphinios, Apollo of the Dolphins, which is also connected to the Apollo at Delphi. The image shown here, taken from a Greek vase, shows Apollo atop a tripod with his lyre, accompanied by dolphins.
The coins are undated through any kind of marking but are generally thought to be the product of the 5th or 4th centuries BCE. They are bronze and are generally a little more than an inch long.