Many know that the Roman Empire was by far the strongest of its time, but many don t know why they were able to accomplish such feats such as conquering almost the entire western world. It is a surprise to many that their success was not due to their large army, but rather how they how they motivated their men. The Roman Army s success was almost entirely due to their soldier s fear of the harsh discipline implemented by the Roman Army. For example, laziness was punished by decimation of a unit, or killing every 10 th soldier in the unit, falling asleep on duty was punished by making the soldier sleep outside the camp, men in Roman-conquered lands who attempted to get out of serving in the Roman Army were punished by decapitation, and running away with your unit was punishable by death by stoning.
The fear of the Roman Army s harsh regulations prevented the Roman Army soldiers from running away during battle and encouraged soldiers to fight courageously. Soldiers who fell out of place in battle, or were found being lazy were executed and their units decimated (Deary, 20). This rule was important for the Roman Army as it drove fear into every soldier s heart about the consequences of being lazy and falling out of place during battle. It therefore increased productivity levels and confidence in battle.
During battle, it made sure that everyone kept up with the army and was not lagging in any way. In this way it also increased confidence among soldiers, as it made it so people couldn t fall back and let others go forward. Also, by killing every tenth soldier (decimation) it showed the reality to all of the soldiers of how serious the crimes and punishments were, and reinforced the fear of the Roman Army, which reassured that no one else would commit the same crime. People hear about many punishments, but unless effected many do not realize the seriousness of the crime (Crime).
By killin every tenth soldier almost all would have friends (or at least acquaintances) who would have died, so they would realize the seriousness of the crime. It would also leave a very bad name for the person who did commit the crime. The effects of committing such a crime were assured death, a bad name, and also the death of 10% of your unit, where as fighting in battle one could at least withstand a chance of survival, and therefore most soldiers opted for fighting (Wary, 28). The Roman Army s rules made sure all of their soldiers were attentive and that none fell asleep on duty.
In the Roman Army if one of the soldiers was found falling asleep on duty, they were made to sleep outside the safety of the camp where the enemy army could capture them or kill them with ease (Deary, 20). The soldier s fear of the consequences of committing such a crime made sure all were attentive so no one would miss instructions given by the generals. They would therefore all proceed into war with full knowledge of what was going on, and not blindly following what everyone else was doing. This punishment also made sure many other soldiers were aware of the crime and punishment, and therefore prevented others from doing the same. Also, the punishment served as a training to make the soldier pay attention. While outside the safety of the camp, the soldier must pay attention in order to survive, and therefore learns to stay alert and attentive at all times (Sumner).
The Roman Army s enforced strong laws that demanded all young men in the conquered lands to fight in the Roman Army. Anyone who tried to escape this fate of serving the Roman army would immediately receive decapitation (Deary, 20). This rule made sure no one tried to escape the fate of the Roman Army draft. Most would prefer possible death in the army than assured death through decapitation. Fear of such a gruesome death kept most men in line and highly encouraged them to join the Roman Army. This rule also proved and reinforced the power and strength of the Roman Army.
It proved to the people of the conquered lands that there was no easy way to escape the Roman Army (Raise). It also made others realize what happens when one attempts to outsmart the Roman Army. This kept the people of the conquered lands under control while strengthening the Roman Empire and allowing them to conquer more lands throughout Europe. The Roman Army s harsh rules forced all of their men to fight, even in the worst of circumstances. For example, in a battle where a soldier had no hope of surviving and decided to turn and run away from the enemy, he would shortly thereafter receive an assured death by stoning (Deary, 20). Those who did chose to run away could expect to be killed a few days afterwards.
However, this punishment served as a lesson to all others soldiers, as it taught them that the other army could not intimidate them. If they were scared and ran away, the soldier would receive guaranteed death whereas if they stayed they at least had a chance of enduring through the painful battle. Also, stoning was a public affair and everyone could participate or see the offenders dying (Sumner). This cruel, painful, and slow death made all want to obey the harsh regulations. It also showed the immense power of what the Roman Army could do, and discouraged all others from doing the same. This harsh rule also encouraged soldiers to continue fighting even as others around them fell.
In some untrained armies when a couple soldiers died, others would flee in terror, and this would lead to an unorganized retreat. This rule highly encouraged them to stay and continue to fight out the battle instead of turning at the first sight of blood. This made the Roman Army much more powerful and stronger as it allowed it to conquer many more lands throughout Europe. As one can see, discipline was the key to Rome s success throughout its imperial rule. Successful modern-day armies such as the US Army have tough regulations similar to that of the Roman Army. Although death is rarely ever the punishment to a crime, the harsh rules do keep everyone in place as well as make others aware of the consequences of misdeeds.
As once stated by the RAA C Ethos, Discipline is fundamental to the success of any military operation because military operations achieve success through the coordinated efforts of large groups of individuals.