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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 19: Comparison of the armies.[319 BC]
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It remains for us to compare the one army with the other as regards either the numbers or the quality of the troops or the strength of the allied forces. Now the census for that period gives 250,000 persons. In all the revolts of the Latin league ten legions were raised, consisting almost entirely of city troops. Often during those years four or five armies. were engaged simultaneously in Etruria, in Umbria (where they had to meet the Gauls as well), in Samnium, and in Lucania. Then as regards the attitude of the various Italian tribes -- the whole of Latium with the Sabines, Volscians, and Aequi, the whole of Campania, parts of Umbria and Etruria, the Picentines, the Marsi, and Paeligni, the Vestinians and Apulians, to which we should add the entire coast of the Western Sea , with its Greek population, stretching from Thurii to Neapolis and Cumae, and from there as far as Antium and Ostia -- all these nationalities he would have found to be either strong allies of Rome or reduced to impotence by Roman arms. |
He would have crossed the sea with his Macedonian veterans amounting to not more than 30,000 men and 4000 cavalry, mostly Thracian. This formed all his real strength. If he had brought over in addition Persian and Indians and other Orientals, he would have found them a hindrance rather than a help. We must remember also that the Romans had a reserve to draw upon at home, but Alexander, warring on a foreign soil, would have found his army diminished by the wastage of war, as happened afterwards to Hannibal. His men were armed with round shields and long spears, the Romans had the large shield called the scutum, a better protection for the body, and the javelin, a much more effective weapon than the spear whether for hurling or thrusting. In both armies the soldiers fought in line rank by rank, but the Macedonian phalanx lacked mobility and formed a single unit; the Roman army was more elastic, made up of numerous divisions, which could easily act separately or in combination as required. Then with regard to fatigue duty, what soldier is better able to stand hard work than the Roman?
If Alexander had been worsted in one battle the war would have been over; what army could have broken the strength of Rome, when Caudium and Cannae failed to do so? Even if things had gone well with him at first, he would often have been tempted to wish that Persians and Indians and effeminate Asians were his foes, and would have confessed that his former wars had been waged against women, as Alexander of Epirus is reported to have said when after receiving his mortal wound was comparing his own fortune with that of this very youth in his Asiatic campaigns. When I remember that in the first Punic war we fought at sea for twenty-four years, I think that Alexander would hardly have lived long enough to see one war through. It is quite possible, too, that as Rome and Carthage were at that time leagued together by an old-standing treaty, the same apprehensions might have led those two powerful states to take up arms against the common foe, and Alexander would have been crushed by their combined forces. Rome has had experience of a Macedonian war, not indeed when Alexander was commanding nor when the resources of Macedon were still unimpaired, but the contests against Antiochus, Philip, and Perses were fought not only without loss but even without risk.
I trust that I shall not give offence when I say that, leaving out of sight the civil wars, we have never found an enemy's cavalry or infantry too much for us, when we have fought in the open field, on ground equally favourable for both sides, still less when the ground has given us an advantage. The infantry soldier, with his heavy armour and weapons, may reasonable fear the arrows of Parthian cavalry, or passes invested by the enemy, or country where supplies cannot be brought up, but he has repulsed a thousand armies more formidable than those of Alexander and his Macedonians, and will repulse them in the future if only the domestic peace and concord which we now enjoy remains undisturbed for all the years to come.