Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Roman militarism and the definition of warfare

I am listening to a new Teaching Company lecture series entitled "Great Battles of the Ancient World" presented by Professor Garrett G. Fagan
of Pennsylvania State University. His first few lectures explores the various theories about what characteristics define warfare as opposed to other forms of communal violence. One predominate theory is that warfare is distinguished by the use of formations, tactics, and generally uniform weaponry and training. (Sorry, I don't have my course handbook with me so I don't remember the scholar's name putting forth this definition. This made me wonder, though, how proponents of this theory would categorize Roman battles with ethnic groups that did not embrace these hallmark traits, like the Celts or the Germanic tribes. Does warfare exist if only one side employs the distinguishing characteristics of what some scholars define as warfare? I was also surprised that this theory did not take into account communal political goals usually surrounding governance that, to me, would be more of a hallmark of formal warfare than the physical trappings of combat.

Another point Dr. Fagan discussed was that formal warfare appears to become more culturally entrenched in more segmented societies. By segmented, I assume he means hierarchical. This made me wonder about the cultural differences between Rome and Carthage. Both cultures engaged in warfare but Carthage concentrated on commerical development and trade rather than military conquest as its mode of growth. Was Roman culture more segmented than that of Carthage? I know both cultures had slavery and both cultures had an elite aristocracy, but were the social rules governing the "middle class" far more structured in Rome than Carthage? Was this a factor in the emphasis on military achievement in Rome as compared to commercial achievement in Carthage?
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