Why did the discipline of the Roman Army fall apart?

The Roman Army was legendary for its discipline. Toward the end of the Empire, the army got way weaker. Some think it was due to the changes in weapons, but others claim that discipline falling apart caused the Army to become weaker?
Why did the Roman Army's discipline fall apart? Was it the fault of the foederati? What if the discipline of the Roman Army never fell apart?
 
A lot of reasons,and you seem to be lumping a lot of stages of the empire together as well.If it’s about the Crisis of the Third century then part of it was that:The empire stopped expanding and there’s no easy booty anymore.The easiest way a soldier could profit was to become emperor maker.If they have very little respect for the office they are supposed to protect,there’s going to be little reverence for the officers as well who enforced discipline.

In terms of the late stages,there was no Roman army,at least in the west.The foederati was basically just a foreign army for rent with it’s own leaders and agenda.In the East the problem of foederati was substantially less because the East was still able to pay for it’s own army.
 
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There are numerous reasons - armies became too expensive to maintain and enemies became more numerous/sophisticated. Also, the long periods of peace and the fact that wars became more and more distant from home eroded the Romans' fighting spirit. The average Roman in 200-300 AD lived a much different life compared to the average Roman in 200-100 BC, so its impossible to expect them to have the same attitude towards fighting and martial discipline.
 
The Roman Army was legendary for its discipline. Toward the end of the Empire, the army got way weaker. Some think it was due to the changes in weapons, but others claim that discipline falling apart caused the Army to become weaker?
Why did the Roman Army's discipline fall apart? Was it the fault of the foederati? What if the discipline of the Roman Army never fell apart?

An army reflects the society it guards. 1st century Rome was a highly functional society, with a robust tax system that meant troops got sensible orders, good equipment and reliable pay. Combined with a healthy institutional culture that leads to good disciple.
5th century Rome had poor quality leadership, a weak tax system, leading to unreliable supplies. Plus for a long list of reasons serious institutional failings. Thus a crap army.
It's the difference between the IDF and Arab Armies in '67 just over time rather than space.
 
A lot of reasons,and you seem to be lumping a lot of stages of the empire together as well.If it’s about the Crisis of the Third century then part of it was that:The empire stopped expanding and there’s no easy booty anymore.The easiest way a soldier could profit was to become emperor maker.If they have very little respect for the office they are supposed to protect,there’s going to be little reverence for the officers as well who enforced discipline.

In terms of the late stages,there was no Roman army,at least in the west.The foederati was basically just a foreign army for rent with it’s own leaders and agenda.In the East the problem of foederati was substantially less because the East was still able to pay for it’s own army.
Thanks. Maybe the chronic civil wars in the Crisis of the 3rd Century also eroded away the respect for the Army, as people may have seen it as primarily fighting itself and having no glory?
 
What do we mean by the Roman army? Likewise, when are we claiming that the Roman army became 'way weaker?' In essence to the first question, or to simplify, are you asking why specifically Italic soldiery became weak or the entire Roman military system and complex, which by the reign of Trajan was to a large degree composed of peoples from Northern Europe.

The Roman army improved in some ways as time moved on though, especially as a result of its Germanization, much better cavalry, better array of offensive weapons, more elaborate helms, improved steel swords, better lances for horsemen, better Scythian-styled bows, and many other additions that the Roman army lacked prior. Indeed, if Crassus had engaged the Arsaco-Surens at Carrhae with an army made up of Goths or even earlier folk from these areas that Rome came to gather soldiers, the battle might have been a victory for Rome. As the Franks and other warriors enlisted into the Roman army displayed, they possessed ready ways to combat an army operating along the lines of horse archers + super heavy cavalry. Likewise, the introduction of heavy cavalry and horse archery appeared in Rome alongside the Germanization of the Roman army, this is evidented by the styles of lances and the style of jousting utilized by Roman cavalry. That is, the traditional 'German' way of lance holding, which was by custom held on the left shoulder and once coming for a charge was thrust overhand into the foe and then followed by a quick right dash of the rider/horse avoiding the foe. This is different from the later couched model used by the Frankish parts of Europe in the Middle Ages and the Scythian style of a two-handed lance thrust that was used in the Arsacid and Sassanid realms.

An army reflects the society it guards. 1st century Rome was a highly functional society, with a robust tax system that meant troops got sensible orders, good equipment and reliable pay. Combined with a healthy institutional culture that leads to good disciple.
5th century Rome had poor quality leadership, a weak tax system, leading to unreliable supplies. Plus for a long list of reasons serious institutional failings. Thus a crap army.
It's the difference between the IDF and Arab Armies in '67 just over time rather than space.

I would be wary of characterizing any army in the Late Roman Empire as crappy. At least if we are counting the general forces utilized by Rome which were primarily Germanic or other assorted north/northeastern European warriors. None of these were weak at all in the slightest, Rome did have issues in the form of a lack of strong and courageous warriors, that much is assured. Surely, the only group that attempted to maintain the Roman empire was these warriors, despite the protestation and lamentation of the urban populaces who decried the situation but did little to nothing to oppose the Western Hun state or the Vandals.
 
The decline of the Roman state from the Republic to the Empire to late Empire was a slow motion rot on the Roman Army from making it less and less a dynamic competitive body.

Emperors feared competitive and effective officers that could rival them. How many solo Triumphs took place for generals (not Emperors) after the Republic? Agrippa... Belisarius... ???

The dregs started floating to the top of the army like in corrupt third world autocracies not the cream like in successful competitive democracies.
 
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The decline of the Roman state from the Republic to the Empire to late Empire was a slow motion rot on the Roman Army from making it less and less a dynamic competitive body.

Emperors feared competitive and effective officers that could rival them. How many solo Triumphs took place for generals (not Emperors) after the Republic? Agrippa... Belisarius... ???

The dregs started floating to the top of the army like in corrupt third world autocracies not the cream like in successful competitive democracies.

When would you consider the height of the Roman military then? And what was its greatest victories? This is important for the discussion, surely.
 
The easiest answer is that it really didn't.

The Roman Army when assembled even in the late 5th century was a far more formidable and professional force than most of its rivals, but was in an impossible situation. Majorian for example reconquered most of the Western Empire in a few years, and had the Romans not battered themselves bloody in civil wars, they'd have been able to head off most of the invasions.
 
The easiest answer is that it really didn't.

The Roman Army when assembled even in the late 5th century was a far more formidable and professional force than most of its rivals, but was in an impossible situation. Majorian for example reconquered most of the Western Empire in a few years, and had the Romans not battered themselves bloody in civil wars, they'd have been able to head off most of the invasions.
to add the" barberians " where not idiots that just attacked in hordes ever since the marco germanic wars we see the barberians adpating to the romans and learning from them themselves getting better in warfare most them had some experience being the in the roman army.
 
The Marian reforms are fake news. There was no major reform of the Roman army that can be attributed to Marius that we can trace in the sources.
Maybe not a major reform but there was a formal acceptance that the old property requirements could be disposed of (which was de facto the case already) and more importantly that the army increasingly became loyal to commanders above the state.

But no, there was no Rome Total War style doubling of the effectiveness of infantry units
 

Thomas1195

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The easiest answer is that it really didn't.

The Roman Army when assembled even in the late 5th century was a far more formidable and professional force than most of its rivals, but was in an impossible situation. Majorian for example reconquered most of the Western Empire in a few years, and had the Romans not battered themselves bloody in civil wars, they'd have been able to head off most of the invasions.
What army? Majorian just played one barbarian faction against another, and hired foederati from one group to fight another, which is not sustainable. I mean, you don't want to fight a war against the Visigoth King with a Visigoth mercenary army unless you have no choice.

The fact that Ricimer openly arrested Majorian on the highway showed that his position was always fragile. You simply cannot pull that shit against people like Justinian as a barbarian warlord. Regarding Senatorial opposition, if Majorian had a big army loyal to him, he could have simply ruled by the sword (like Cromwell you know).

I am talking about the Western Empire. In the east, situations were better, because they were able to raise native troops.

In fact, with a very different POD, Anthemius could end up having greater chance. Have Ricimer dumb/egoistic enough to take the purple, then you can see Leo giving Anthemius a big army to reconquer the West a.k.a Anthemius playing Belisarius- thus actually putting him in a better position to re-establish Roman rule in Italy.
 
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I read this in a political article so I won't link it, but I found it an interesting take:

"There are a lot of different ways of understanding the end of the Roman Empire in the west: barbarian invasions, internal dissension, economic collapse, some combination of the above, or a gradual slip into imperial senescence. The one that’s always made the most sense to me focuses on the imperial periphery.

The Roman Empire’s frontier zones were a space dominated by the Roman army, not just as a military force but also as a cultural and economic institution. When the people living beyond the frontiers - barbarians - interacted with the Roman Empire, they were really interacting with its army. Sometimes they fought it, sometimes they supplied it with food and supplies, and most often, they joined it. The result was a distinctive shade of frontier culture focused on the Roman military, but with a healthy dose of “barbarian” - wearing trousers, using Germanic words, and so on - mixed in. This culture encompassed both sides of the border, creating a zone of intense interaction stretching well into both the barbarian lands and the Roman Empire.

In the later stages of the Roman Empire’s existence in the west, it’s often hard to tell the difference between a force of rampaging barbarians and a Roman field army. Both drew their recruits primarily from people living beyond the frontier. They used the same kinds of swords and wore the same kinds of helmet: Even the famous Sutton Hoo helmet from 6th-century England is just a Roman cavalry helmet (a Spangenhelm) with a cool-looking mustachioed face mask added. Roman soldiers spoke a variety of camp Latin that was generously spiced with Germanic words. Plenty of barbarian raiders had served time in the Roman military; it’s not hard to imagine that some barbarian recruits into the Roman army had probably raided Roman territory at some point before they joined up. Even Roman soldiers recruited inside the empire’s boundaries were often descended from recently settled barbarian groups.

The upshot of all this is that rather than seeing a series of barbarian invasions that brought foreign invaders into the Roman heartlands, we should instead think of what happened as the transposition of frontier culture from the periphery to the imperial core. We can’t really draw a line between the “barbarian” and Roman military, because there wasn’t a firm distinction; the two bled into one another, and it’s easier to think of this as a militarized and ethnically distinct frontier culture. This culture, and people who had been brought up with it and molded by it, was what moved, not a distinct series of barbarian ethnic groups who were unfamiliar with Roman ways and practices.

The Roman frontier was a violent place. It was, after all, a militarized space. When the frontier and its military culture expanded into the formerly peaceful Roman core, violence came with it. A military aristocracy that derived its position from its war-making capacity replaced the Roman civic elite; where the latter survived, it assimilated to the new, militarized aristocratic culture. Armies tramped through the interior, sacking and burning cities like Rome and Carthage. It’s a safe bet that the average folks of lowland Britain, coastal Spain, and fertile North Africa didn’t welcome the sight of the frontier coming toward them; that meant violence, blood-stained swords, armored men rifling through their possessions, burning huts, and much more."

It's not an end all explanation, but the melding together of forces, both Roman and foreign, at the Imperial periphery and the intense centuries of violence that came with it, meant that when serious crises of the civilian administration came around like The Crisis of the Third Century or the multitude of civil wars, the violence wrought on the periphery came home in devastating ways. The civilian administration from the Republic and the early Empire, always an arms length from the armies, eventually melded together to a system in the late Empire where might makes right in politics. And if might makes right is the rule of the Empire, anyone can become Emperor if they have the force to win it so civil wars broke out constantly over succession. Also, if might makes right then what happens when there is no strong ruler to hold it all together?

There's many different reasons for the collapse of the Roman military such as cronyism and corruption, the expansion of the foederati system as a means to get around the recruitment of imperial citizens, the use of the army to fight civil wars rather than man the periphery, the naked self interest of its commanders and leaders whether that be taking bribes from your foe or using any opportunity to seize stations of power with your army, etc. There's no one single reason, it was a combination of many factors, but I did find this section compelling.
 
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