Gray, Laura

Ancient Roman clothing

In around the 4th century A.D., Rome gained a sudden desire to expand their  army. At the same time, they did not desire to pull their civilians into the frontlines of any wars they could have – many battles, potentially causing many losses. The country did not want to lose its citizens, so a new, expendable solution was discovered in the form of mercenaries from Germany.

German mercenaries had a role to protect Rome as determined by the state and were added to what was left of the Roman army in large numbers. The people were initially impressed by their barbaric defenders, as the fighters did not hesitate whatsoever in their attacks. Romans themselves had become softened, accustomed to the simplicity of daily life(1). These fearsome allies were not, though to be crueler due to being raised in such a brutal environment – one cold in terms of temperature as well as friendliness. The foreign mercenaries were also much larger than the average Roman in stature, adding to their appeal as fighters(3).

This turned out to have a fairly negative effect on Roman society. When the fighters first came over to assist in battle, Rome set itself at a standstill; there was no need to attempt anything new in terms of revolution or tactics when they had such a large and powerful army(1). They didn’t see the possibilities for the foreigner’s betrayal.  Even though the Germans weren’t easily swayed by political alignments as many Roman soldiers could be, they were still able to be taken by a larger offer of money(2). Sometimes the Germans would even attempt to take over a town, succeeding, to plunder and temporarily rule it before moving on to the next. Citizens, of course, did not take well to this, and demanded to be free. It took quite the while to get all the Germans out of the land, even involving a few skirmishes(3). Upon leaving Rome, the mercenaries took with them Roman tactics and such, forcing the Romans to advance themselves as to not be left behind(2).