Auxiliaries at Mons Graupius, Barbarians at Adrianople: From Victory in Britain to the Death of a Roman Emperor and the Fall of the Eternal City
By Geoffrey H. Graham
Bachelor’s Thesis, Olivet Nazarene University, 2012
Abstract: It is my purpose in this paper to explore a possible relationship between the battles at Mons Graupius (Britain, AD 84) and Adrianople (modem European Turkey, 378) as one ofthe primary factors in the end of Roman hegemony in the West. Between the 1st and 4th centuries, the ever-increasing specialization in the legions and the corresponding rise in reliance on non-Roman auxiliary troops for the fulfillment of other tactical roles led to the loss of the very tactical flexibility that aided-even enabled-the unprecedented success of Roman armies. I explore this theme by examining the history and structure of the legions, the evolution of military equipment, and by investigating specific engagements (in addition to the two mentioned above) as case studies.
Introduction: During the Renaissance period, the rediscovery of a wealth or written sources from antiquity began in earnest a study of the Roman army – in addition to Roman law, politics, art, poetry, rhetoric, architecture, and so on – that has continued down to the present. Today, some four and a half centuries later, virtually every aspect of the Roman army has been studied in great detail. However, even after hundreds of years of academic attention, significant gaps remain in our understanding of the legions. It may surprise the reader to learn that one of these gaps exists exactly where (in my opinion) it should not. That is, for all the celebration of ‘the glories of ancient Rome,’ comparatively little research has been conducted on the tactics and strategy of the Imperial Roman army, the very institution that facilitated Roman dominance of the Mediterranean basin and much of Europe for nearly eight centuries.