Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Don’t Have Enough Troops to Do the Job? Hire Mercenaries

The purpose of the Praetorian Guard was to protect the Emperor and, at times, lead palace revolts. ~ William Gilkerson in Gilkerson on War

(Note: This is a very compressed and somewhat skewed presentation of Roman history).

Does history repeat itself? We’d better hope not. There seem to be a lot of parallels between the history of ancient Rome and the present United States. I’ll not go into my perspective on that here, only to say one of the misjudgments of the Romans that led to the fall of the Republic was when Roman citizens became so well off that they no longer served in their armies.

The first response was that the Roman armies were no longer made up of citizen solders, but of professionals drawn initially from the lower classes of Rome and the surrounding cities. Then, because there grew a need for more and more troops as Rome conquered more and more of the known world, the armies were augmented by mercenaries. With the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Caesars, these mercenaries began to play a greater and greater role in Roman politics, until it was provincial mercenaries who sat on the throne of Caesar.

Sound familiar?


  1. As a fifty year student of ancient Roman history, I accept your disclaimer. I also concur with your conclusion.

    Gilkerson on War was a great book!

  2. The weird thing is that the mercenaries are almost all former American soldiers. This just seems like the most expensive way to do it- instead of paying the money to keep them in the service, we pay much much more to hire them as independent contractors.

    I just don't see what the benefit is.

  3. Very nice and one to think about. Boy I miss so much when I go away for a week or so.