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Roman Provinces--Troubled Frontiers

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Poll Question: Which Roman Provinces posed the greatest challege to Rome?
Poll Choice Votes Poll Statistics
2 [4.35%]
22 [47.83%]
4 [8.70%]
7 [15.22%]
5 [10.87%]
1 [2.17%]
0 [0.00%]
1 [2.17%]
4 [8.70%]
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  Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Roman Provinces--Troubled Frontiers
    Posted: 04-Jan-2005 at 13:02
Tin, Copper, Gold, Silver, Slaves, sheeps' wool, hunting dogs all were exports of the Britons during the Roman Empire, of course they were the same before and after the Roman Era as well.  One could argue that Britain didin't produce agriculturally that much for the Romans, as Spain or S. Gaul did, but the Britons still were the source of much important products and to deny the economic importance of the province is ludicrous.  Has anyone ever play the boardgame RISK?  Anyone who has, tell me which of the territories is the most difficult to control and take over?  Britain.  Why?  Because its an island.  Strategically and economically important, but seperate from the European landmass and therefore difficult to control and defend.  Also, one must look at it's main raw resources--mineral.  When cut off by hordes of marauding Saxons, Angles, Friscans, etc, food probably was not easy to get to the troops.  Napoleon, Hitler, Wellington, and any other military planner would tell you the most imporatnt thing to an army are their stomachs.  If the army isn't fed and eventually paid in either salary or loot, the army will disinegrate. 
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  Quote Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2005 at 13:30
I would never deny the economic importance of Britian  to the empire. One of the major reasons for all the provinces was economics. Its more a case of - if the back forty is threatened at the same time as the home quarter you pull pack to the house. (excuse the farm metaphore)
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  Quote Infidel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jan-2005 at 16:44

I believe Germania was the worst...

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  Quote J.Caesar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Mar-2006 at 23:24
Biggest threat was other Romans and desease.
You cannot really count the late western Roman period soldiers as the same. Their was such a decline,plus most of the legionaries  were of Germanic blood near the end. I say  that created an inferior fighting force as most historians agree.
New age historians are taking a much different view of the end of the empire, most state in was just due to economics(over taxation) and lack of Italics in the military.
As for the Romans having trouble against Celts or Germanics all you have to do is look at the battles. Maruis,Caesar, Drussus and Germanicus did a huge number on them. You must understand the Romans were alwys,always greatly outnumbered by them. Look at the battle of Vercalae* Wikpedia: Germans: over 200,000, Romans: 50,000
Roman victory, 140,000 Geramns dead,60,000 prisoners
Roman dead: LESS than 1000
There are many other battles similar. The Only way the Celts/Germans won any battles was by trap and with huge numbers. A close look at writings from these battles was strange. Roman writers tried to uplift their foes to make themsleves seem even better. Reading through the lines I see German/Celts to be seriously over rated by old time historians.(were mainly German) It seems more fact that these warriors were extremely easy to beat no matter their numbers. Also, it seems that cowardice was pervasiive with them. Even Caesar hinted to their lack of ability to carry on the fight. He was amazed how many drowned in the Rhine just fleeing his small force.
However some poltically minded historians tries to state the Romans were stopped at Tuetonberg forrest and forever feared the Rhine. Not so. Roamns lost battles to many and the only thing that stops them was lack of wealth or weather of the region. Also, Tuetonberg may be msileading also. As you know Arvistious was invovled but the Roamns thought he was one of theirs as he fought with them and became a knight. So they were led into a trap. However very little is known about the battle and a leading American historian,Ben Peterson, (101 st airborne,Kentucky) believes the Roamns actually won ableit losing amny men. He went there and investiagted and looked at the burial mounds. He dated them to the time period. They were Romans plus some animals buried too. He surmised that only a Roman victory could allow this. His close works believe that German historians twisted things a bit to faciltate.
Also, there were many Romans suchas Drussus who went beyond the Elbe and crushed them all,with ease and with realtive few.
When Caesar crossed the Rhine(just because he could) he estimated that he would be outnumberdc by 50 to one. He didn`t care! He knew the superioryty of his men. As Peterson and I believe that in reality the Celtic/Geramn warriors were just made into myth by some ancient Romans and modern German historians for propaganda.(different kinds) Also,  ancient Roman soldiers writings seem to really look at a froce that was so confident while being so out numberd.Closing looking at these battles just reinforces this. The numbers are amazing.
However, Rome did meet her match while she was in her prime against Parthia. Their suprior bow and horseman proved to be a force for them.
 Loosing an emperor in battle also! This was Rome in prime not late stages. Roame had to change her fighting forces to cope and get victories. But the greatest loss of Roman life occured here! Also Parthia offered wealth, so you know Rome was interested.
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  Quote Maju Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Mar-2006 at 23:46
It's an easy poll: the most dificult province to conquer was that that was never conquered: Germany.

Too easy.

In fact Germany was never a stable province of Rome, if you except those fragments west of the Rhin that were more properly Gaul.

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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Mar-2006 at 04:46
Germany gets my vote too.

Britain was not so unimportant as suggested by many, though. Britain was yet another of the great metallurgical centers that the Romans so valued, and far more industrious than many might think. It was very valuable to the Empire, but, I believe, when they were under pressure it was decided not to invest more in defending it - they could just trade with it instead. The British province was certainly not difficult to rule - it was quickly conquered and, apart from a single notable rebellion that was very short-lived, it was rather passive compared to places like Spain or Germany. The Picts and Hadrian's Wall are a different matter, since they lay outside Roman provinces and don't belong in a discussion about which provinces were easiest to rule.

Britain was originally taken because it was believed British made weapons were being used by Gallic tribes on the continent to resist the Romans. Those areas were pacified by the time the Romans abandoned Britain. The Romans probably figured no barbarian peoples could mount an invasion across the Channel, in either direction, and if they needed anything from the Britons they could probably just trade Roman luxuries for it.

Another difficult province to rule was Judea. Not as difficult as Germany militarily, but it presented social problems for the Romans, particularly after the inhabitants were resettled and the new populations became the breeding grounds of a new religion which was rooted in hostility to Rome.

Spain was also an exceedingly difficult province to take and rule. Most of the great Punic Wars were fought on Iberian soil, and the Spanish Wars - a series of massive rebellions lasting over a century - followed as Rome attempted to take control of the rest of the peninsula. Polybius called the wars with the Celtiberians the "fiery wars", Cassius described the Cantabri as committing mass suicides before the Roman soldiers rather than face capture, and Livy proclaimed the inhabitants of Spain were more suited to war than any other people on earth. So obviously they made an impression and couldn't have been easy to rule.
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  Quote Komnenos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Mar-2006 at 14:07
Originally posted by J.Caesar

However some poltically minded historians tries to state the Romans were stopped at Tuetonberg forrest and forever feared the Rhine. Not so. Roamns lost battles to many and the only thing that stops them was lack of wealth or weather of the region. Also, Tuetonberg may be msileading also. As you know Arvistious was invovled but the Roamns thought he was one of theirs as he fought with them and became a knight. So they were led into a trap. However very little is known about the battle and a leading American historian,Ben Peterson, (101 st airborne,Kentucky) believes the Roamns actually won ableit losing amny men. He went there and investiagted and looked at the burial mounds. He dated them to the time period. They were Romans plus some animals buried too. He surmised that only a Roman victory could allow this.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not questioning above statement out of patriotic duty, but the notion of a Roman victory at the Battle of Teutoborg Forest seems a bit far fetched.
I agree that the military importance of the battle might have been overrated, as with many other battles, and especially by German 19th century historians, and that it was probably more of a psychological blow.
But as all contemporary Roman sources make no secret that the battle was a total defeat for the Roman Army, so much that the Battle became known as in Roman times "Clades Variana" (The Varus disaster) and I don't think even Roman historians, who have been known for being economical with the truth when needed, would have changed a victory into a defeat.
I don't know what your airborne Professor unearthed here, and how he came to his conclusions, but it would have come as a huge surprise to Tacitus.

Edited by Komnenos
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  Quote YusakuJon3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Mar-2006 at 08:59
I have to second Komnenos on this one.  Something can be screwed up if a man thinks that the Romans were the only people sacrificing animals in a certain manner in those days.   Even the ancient Celts were described as having performed some pretty bizarre rituals with the carcasses of horses set in a heated cauderon in one case, so it wouldn't quite be unlike the Germans to have carried on similar animal sacrifices of their own.
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  Quote ArmenianSurvival Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Mar-2006 at 05:00
     I think the German frontier was way too much for the Romans to handle, so I would have to pick that. Wasn't this the frontier that later delivered the final blow to the Western Roman Empire with its series of migrating peoples?

     I must note that the poll leaves out the Armenian frontier with the Parthians, which was one of the hardest provinces for the Roman Empire to capture and hold onto, and was the cause of much of the strife between Rome and Parthia.
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  Quote Digenis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Mar-2006 at 05:22
In Palestine was really difficult to establish control!
The constant rebellions of the Jews effected 3 legions to stay stuck in  the area!
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  Quote Quetzalcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Mar-2006 at 18:09

Originally posted by YusakuJon3

The Germans indeed posed quite the problem for Rome, especially during the declining years of the Empire when they could take advantage of the opportunities provided by frequent civil strife.  Roman factions even made use of German mercenaries in their campaigns.  When tribes such as the Franks began to settle in Roman territories, the decline of the Empire was accelerated.  While Roman-style rulers held on to an eastern Empire based at Byzantium, the western portion fell within 150 years to Germanic invaders

 

Disagree. The Franks didn't cause the decline of the Romans empire, on the contrary, they were allied to the romans and shielded the roman empire for sometime. Only after Gaul was almost completely overran that the Franks made their move to take a piece of the empire. 

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  Quote J.Caesar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2006 at 00:52
There are very few scholars who take Tacitus seriously. He was the king of propaganda and the ultra liberal of his time. He glorified all of Romes advisaries to the point where they were so superior to the Romans in every way. So, Roman victories were just a cruel and illegal act against noble people.
Yes, romans acknowledged the Varus dissaster and there were survivors too. Petersen did much archelogy at the sites and insists Tuetonbeg was adisater for the Romans but they still drove the Germans off. Lokk at most of their battles agianst the Germans, the numeric superiority of the Germans was irrelavant. Caesar and other Roman soldiers account that the Geramns were really bad fighters. However, back in Rome they could not say this, it would ruin there victories. The truth is the Romans had little trouble with the Celts or Germans but had monumental trouble with Carthagians and Parthians.
Cathagiinians were feasome fightters the Celts or Germans were not! Roman propganda built them up as Romans did to ALL their enemies to make themselves seem greater.
This ios reality and was carried on by German historians for their own motives.
Rome had all they could handle against Parthia ..lost many more men here than any battles gainst North Europe, not to mention Emperors head...and relocation of Roamn catptives to the far far east.
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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2006 at 01:27
Originally posted by J.Caesar

There are very few scholars who take Tacitus seriously.


None of the Classical historians are regarded without a grain of salt. Tacitus is not particularly ill-regarded by modern scholars - not any more so than most other Classical authors.

The truth is the Romans had little trouble with the Celts or Germans but had monumental trouble with Carthagians and Parthians.


Really. And how many times did the Carthaginians or the Parthians sack Rome itself? The closest the Carthaginians got to defeating Rome was Hannibal's unsanctioned war, but he led a force primarily composed of Iberian Celts. Neither the Carthaginians nor the Parthians even came close to having a Brennus proclaim "Vae Victus" in the Roman streets with his bloodied sword, or having an Odoacer exile the emperor and style himself "King of Italy". It just didn't happen.

Romans had considerable difficulty with both of these groups at various points in time. They may have adopted the trireme from the Carthaginians, but virtually all the weapons and armour designs of the late Roman infantryman were copied either from the Germans or the Celts. The oval shields, the Gallic helmets, the gladius, the pilum, chain mail ... in short, the standard outfit of the late Roman infantryman - all Celtic or Germanic designs, originally.

Nor was Teutoberger the only notable Roman difficulty with these groups. The Romans had many crushing defeats, eg Battle of Noreia and the even worse Battle of Arausio during the Cimbrian War. At Arausio, the Romans suffered nearly 80 000 casualties and were decisively routed from the field. Most Roman authors agree that the Marcomanni Wars were very much comparable to the Punic Wars - just far less succesful, and rather than expanding the Empire, caused it to shift to a weakened and defensive state.

If anything, the Romans tend to downplay the threat that so-called "barbarian" peoples represented to their security, until that threat is all too obvious. The unfortunate fact is that prejudice of Roman historians tended to weigh against the capabilities of the "barbarians" and in favour of powers that more closely resembled themselves - a prejudice we have inheirited.

One can say that the Romans exhibited great ease in certain conquests, like the Gallic Wars, but this does not mitigate the difficulties they often had, difficulties which were of such excess that Rome itself was threatened and even defeated militarily on more than one occasion, and never by any but armies composed of Celts and Germans. Other times, such as during Attila's campaign (one waged largely by Germanics) the Romans only saved themselves by paying tribute.

The Parthians and Carthaginians were formidable defenders - but, with the exception of the Second Punic War (involving, as previously noted, a force of primarily Iberian Celts and not Carthaginians), they proved offensively incapable of penetrating mainland Italy to any great degree. The Celts and the Germans, on the other hand, were formidable aggressors with far more success waging aggression against the Romans - either on their own or as mercenarial armies - than any other group. On the other hand, they were very, very poor defenders! Roman aggressive campaigns against them were nearly universally succesful.

Edited by edgewaters
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  Quote J.Caesar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2006 at 23:59
Drussus and Germanicus conquered most of Germany east of the Rhine...easily. There are settlements and many historical accounts of this. The Romans elected to not stay in such a useless and cold region or they would have. They punished or anihilated who they wanted. Tribes on their side were ussalu moved to the west of the Rhine where Rome wanted to have a natural border. Read about Drussus,this has been so dwonplayed by general historians but not serious ones. Germany was in realty subdued but had rebelions just like other provinces.
It was easy to advance in those days because it would take a long time to respond and pursue because of the obvious lack of technology. Hannibal and Sparticus did that so well. Also, many legions were spread out all over so response slow.
The late Roman era was not the same fighting force and Rome (city) became a side show.
However, even Belisarius had such an easy time with the Vandals and the Goths reatking Italy...he was also amazingly outnumbered.
Roamn figure are generally acuurate. Geramn histrians also agree with accounts of Veracealle and others. List of Roamn battles will show an amzing lst of battles won and very few losses. They were alway heavily ounumberd.(Not just Roan writers) Also, Roman accounts of slaves were exact. Rome had a huge German and Celt slave force.
Just because Carthage did not raid the city of Rome is meaningless because the city was raided when Rome was really no more or (in the case of the Celts) just in its beginning phase.
If Carthage had the numbers of the Germans or Celts we would be on this forum today because Rome would have lost in its prime. The Carthiginians and with their Numidian cavalry would have overwhelmed the legions every time where the Celts/Germans failed.
The fierceness of the enemy is in the numbers. Carthage did not have numerical superiority and this well documented too. They were fairly equal in numbers.
The Germans/Celts failed to use their numeric superiority because they would lawys flee instead of just continueing the pressure. They had to wear down the Roamns eventaully with their huge numbers but they did not. Why? They were not the soldiers some say they were. As I stated before...if it was Carthage or Sparta with those numbers...
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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Apr-2006 at 08:10
Originally posted by J.Caesar

The Germans/Celts failed to use their numeric superiority because they would lawys flee instead of just continueing the pressure.Why? They were not the soldiers some say they were.


They were not soldiers at all ... they were tribal warriors fighting in a mob or crowd, rather than an organized fighting force. They did have small high-response units - the naked religious fanatics of the Celts, or the professional war-bands (the comitatus) of the Germans - and though these numbered only a few dozen, they were absolutely devastating.

One thing to remember as well is that although the barbarians usually outnumbered the Romans overall, the Romans in almost every instance outnumbered the barbarians greatly where it mattered - at the front of battle - by virtue of their closely-packed ranks. It matters little if the battle as a whole is 10 to 1 against the Romans, if at the front line, the barbarians are fielding 2 or 3 men - and only lightly armoured - per ten feet and the Romans are fielding 7 or 8 heavy infantry in the same ten feet.
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  Quote Ikki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Apr-2006 at 12:47
Of the conquered provinces, Hispania was the most troubled. But if we count frontiers and not conquered territories i think the lower and medium Danube, between the actual Austria and the Black Sea was the more dangerous, in fact this include two regions in the military deplyment of the romans the eastern side of Germany and the region around of Dacia. The frontier of western Germany, specially the Rhin border lost importance after 150 AC, the briton front and the north african front was secundary. The other important border was the East, specially in sassanid time, but althougt the persian armies was by far more dangerous and they tried to conquer and not only sack, their treat appear and dissapear; contrary, the Danube front was always treatened and the invaders always wanted to take a portion of the empire. So my list of troubled frontiers is as follow:

1. Danube
2. East
3. Rhin
4. Briton
5. North frica

I think that the briton front is more dangerous because the position of the romans in Brittania was fragile in comparasion with the African provinces, where the romans stablished a very well developed, populated and romanized system so the berbers in many regions will had problems with the "foreign" romans, a thing that can't be said about Brittania where the entire population was celt (ok, a minority of romans, but a very small minority)

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  Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Apr-2006 at 12:59
Getting back to the question, the most troublesome province for Rome must surely have been the Armenia, eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq region, Armenians, Parthians and Sassinads at various times.
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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Apr-2006 at 16:46
Originally posted by Ikki

I think that the briton front is more dangerous because the position of the romans in Brittania was fragile in comparasion with the African
provinces, where the romans stablished a very well developed, populated and romanized system so the berbers in many regions will had problems with the "foreign" romans, a thing that can't be said about Brittania where the entire population was celt (ok, a minority of romans, but a very small minority)



Hmmm ... Roman Britain was one of the most "Romanized" provinces in the frontier. They may have been "Celtic" (or at least, Britons - the Romans seem to distinguish them from Celts) but they also seem to have been quite eager to adopt the Roman way of life, sporting togas and taking to the luxuries of Roman life like the bath quite readily. After Boadicea's short-lived revolt, they seem to have been very passive and enthusiastic about the Roman presence, and it became a very developed province with an extensive infrastructure of roads and towns.

The problem with Britain was the northern border with the Caledonians and the Picts, who were masters of guerrilla warfare. Initially, they were pushed back to the Antonine line, but it was not long before they adapted and forced the Romans to retreat back to Hadrian's line. Like the Danube, this was a constantly threatened border, but unlike most other borders, the Caledonians and the Picts posed no threat at all to the main body of the Empire. Defending Britain did not at all contribute to the security of Rome, other than the fact it secured access to vast mineral resources like iron and tin.
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