Title: The grand strategy of the Roman Empire: from the first century CE . reserve forces that kept the western empire going till the fifth century and the. The grand strategy of the Roman Empire from the first century A.D. to the third by Edward Luttwak, , Johns Hopkins University Press. In this book, the distinguished writer Edward Luttwak presents the grand strategy of the eastern Roman empire we know as Byzantine, which.

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PDF | Luttwak (E.N.) The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. From the First Century ce to the Third. Revised and updated edition. Pp. xx +. Luttwak, Edward. The grand strategy of the Byzantine Empire / Edward N. Luttwak. p. cm. completed a book on the strategy of the Roman empire up to the third. Luttwak has done scholarship an immense service Every page brings detailed insights into the working of Roman military organization, in strategy and tactics.

How is this to be explained? One must look not for the genius of One man or even of many men, but for the selective development of sound institutions which could endure and prevail in the midst of all kinds of upheavals at home. Certainly the empire was not founded upon any special genius for government displayed by the Roman people as compared with other literate peoples of the time, like the Greeks.

For long periods when the empire was at its strongest, the office of the emperor was regularly vacated by murder and then filled through a show of force impelled by bribery. Statistically speaking, the vocation of emperor during those times was not much less hazardous than that of gladiator. Nevertheless, during such periods the primary preoccupation of the man at the topmost place of power must have been with keeping himself there, which meant keeping himself alive. One surmises that the maintenance of the empire was pretty much the accomplishment of a fairly detached and probably self-perpetuating bureaucracy.

Luttwak does not enlighten us very much on this matter, but concentrates rather on the military mechanisms manipulated by whichever government structure was responsible for the manipulating. Although he distinguishes three different periods, each with a particular pattern, certain factors were common to all three. Thus, the basic theme for the success of the system lay in the economizing of forces.

Because of the very slow modes of movement in those days, whether by land or by sea, it would have been futile to keep any significant portion of those forces as a strategic reserve within Italy. On the other hand, a perimeter defense is always a brittle one. The Romans adopted a compromise system.

The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire

Legions were allocated to specific border regions on a fairly permanent basis; those legions were near the perimeter, but were nevertheless maintained as masses of maneuver. Complementary to the legions were the native forces of the client states just outside the empire.


Client states did not pay taxes to Rome, and they derived a certain prestige from their connection. Also, they were guaranteed support from nearby legions if they undertook to resist intrusions from the barbarians outside. By the same token they could fear a dread punishment if they did not comport themselves appropriately. An essential part of the system was the certainty of punishment, both inside the empire and without, for attack or rebellion.

The treatment gives one always the feeling of commendable conciseness, for Luttwak uses words as sparingly as the Romans used their legions. There is, however, one serious flaw in the book: there are essentially no people in it. True, one sees the names of many emperors, but they are brought in simply as labels for time periods.

There are two serious consequences of this flaw. First, though the book is well-written and moves along at a good pace, it lacks a certain liveliness that it might otherwise have had, the kind of liveliness that would truly attract one to the reading of it.

Second, since the technology of the time is so different from ours and the time itself so remote, anyone interested in this military history because of its possible relevance to the present will keenly miss the one element that might have made for relevance—the conduct of men under stress, especially the stress of war.

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Still, this is a work well done and long needed. A paradox indeed-and quite unelucidated.

On the matter of "defense- in-depth," one is never quite certain whether Luttwak sees the system as engendered by the third-century crisis or as a later response by Diocletian and Constantine.

The process is murky and the motivation left in doubt.

Further, there are suggestions awkwardly inserted and insufficiently integrated. The discussion of the limitanei I seems to bear little relevance to the strategic pattern which Luttwak discerns in the later Empire.

Luttwak - Grand strategy

The same holds for development of central field armies I And we receive neither preparation nor explanation for Luttwak's allusive comment about Rome's cultural and economic influence creating "a cultural and political basis for common action against it" I The trails lead in a number of directions that never get followed up. Luttwak's experiences in U. Yet their impact is felt throughout as an undercurrent to the argument.

They surface with explicitness in the appendix entitled "Power and Force: Definitions and Implications. When power must be demonstrated, its effectiveness correspondingly diminishes. It is "perceived power" that counts I We are in the realm here of a strategy of "deterrence"; no one needs to be told the modern context from which that notion arises.

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Luttwak's message on Rome is clear: her policy rode to success while clients could visualize her power without having to feel it; deterioration came when Roman authority sank to the level of actual resources.

The conception provides a useful vantage-point-so long as one does not press it very hard. For Rome had no single major adversary who needed to be "deterred.

There was little in common between Decebalus and Parthia, between barbarous Britons and the nomad tribesmen of the Sahara, and be- tween Gothic invaders and Sassanian Persia.

The distinctions, when recognized, place a heavy strain on Luttwak's theory. He acknowledges them briefly but offers a dubious resolution: the primitive peoples of continental Europe had to be kept in line with the direct application of force, but client rulers in the East were sophisticated enough to understand power "in the abstract" , Perhaps so.

But four legions stood in Syria, even in the Julio-Claudian era-not an abstraction which had to be "visualized" in the mind's eye. The Romans knew better than to rely exclusively on eastern "sophistication. The political scientist's tendency to overrationalize will trouble historians who know that events are not always dictated by human calculation.

Luttwak sees design everywhere.

Irregularities are explained away, submerged, or made to fit the scheme, even as "paradoxes. Yet all this is dismissed: the small number of legions, he asserts, was determined by "a rational scheme of deployment, in which it was the desired level of forces that set the costs, rather than the other way round" I6-I7. The Roman frontier in Britain was shifted more than once in response to the difficulties of pacification, and the establishment of a Rhine-Danube perimeter line took over a century of false starts and changing boundaries.

Luttwak smooths over the bumps: again and again we read of"rational admini sLative policy," "systematic consolidation," "coherent plan," and "consistent pattern" Trajan's conquest of Dacia, jutting out well beyond the Danube line, is explained as creating "a strategic shield for the region as a whole" ioI, And that emperor's ill-fated Parthian expedition, which, Luttwak admits, brought conquests too extensive to be successfully consolidated, is nevertheless given a pragmatic purpose, the installation of a new eastern frontier I o-I i.

When "defense-in-depth" became the policy of the late Empire, its implementation was far from uniform.

As Luttwak observes, the Romans continued to press for a "forward defense frontier" in the East by contrast with their actions in Europe and North Africa. Reasons for the difference are not given, but both policies are declared "rational" and "with obvious deliberation" I The unsettled nature of the strategy seems more pronounced than its coherence-a fact obliquely noted but swiftly passed over To put it on the most general plane: "those who controlled the destinies of Rome" practiced "the firm subordination of tactical priorities, martial ideals, and warlike instincts to political goals" 2.

So speaks the professional defense analyst. But Rome did not have professional defense analysts. The broad pattern can be conceived only in retrospect and Luttwak's constructs offer a legitimate basis This content downloaded from The Physical Object Pagination xii, p.

Copy and paste this code into your Wikipedia page. Further, there are suggestions awkwardly inserted and insufficiently integrated. And how did they do so at such moderate cost that their treasury could pay for an immensity of highways, aqueducts, amphitheaters, city baths, and magnificent temples?

Philip Rance. This illuminating book remains essential to both ancient historians and students of modern strategy.

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