The Marian Reforms: Becoming a Professional Army in Ancient Rome

In order to understand the Marian army, one must consider the military structure of pre-Marian times. By Philip MathewAncient Historian Introduction The Marian Reforms were a set of the reforms introduced to the Roman army in the late 2nd century BCE by Roman general and politician Gaius Marius (157-86 BCE). Through these reforms, the Roman army[…]

Gloria Exercitus: A History of the Ancient Roman Legion

Because legions were not permanent units until the Marian reforms, hundreds were named and numbered throughout Roman history. Introduction A Roman legion (Latin legio, “military levy, conscription”, from legere “to choose”) was the largest military unit of the Roman army. A legion was roughly of brigade size, composed of 4,200 infantry and 300 cavalry in[…]

Fire Gilding of Arms and Armor in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

The practice of amalgam gilding goes back many centuries. It was used by the Romans to apply gold onto silver, known as silver-gilt. Gilding is the application of gold to the surface of some other material. Many techniques exist for doing this. A surface may be inlaid with gold wire (often referred to as damascening),[…]

Common Misconceptions about Medieval Arms and Armor

Some misconceptions are due to lack of education and experience, and some are utter nonsense and historically vapid. Introduction The field of arms and armor is beset with romantic legends, gory myths, and widely held misconceptions. Their origins usually are to be found in a lack of knowledge of, and experience with, genuine objects and[…]

Infantry in the Middle Ages

The relative inexpensiveness of the infantryman, combined with a shortage of manpower, provided incentives for expanding their use. Introduction Despite the rise of knightly cavalry in the 11th century, infantry played an important role throughout the Middle Ages on both the battlefield and in sieges. From the 14th century onwards, there was a rise in[…]

Battles That Saved America: North Point and Baltimore, 1814

The young republic might have ceased to exist and may have become a mere footnote in the history of the world. By Command Sergeant Major James Clifford, USA-Ret.COCOM Exercise Logistics Planner for Air Force Reserve Command These few words—the opening line of the United States’ national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”—are some of the most[…]

The History of Military Ordnance in America

The American Revolution established the general outlines of the future Ordnance Department. By Karl RubisOrdnance Branch HistorianUnited States Army Introduction The Ordnance Branch is one of the oldest branches of the U.S. Army, founded on 14 May 1812. However, the duties and responsibilities of the profession date back to the colonial era. In 1629, the[…]

The Civil War Overwhelmed the Senses Like No Other

The loudest booms people had ever heard and the powerful stench of death on a staggering scale. In rhetoric and substance, wars are generally fought for ideals that are noble, dignified, and lofty. Leaders justify waging war—and endeavor to inspire those who fight them—by appealing to powerful abstractions: liberty, self-determination, and national identity. In turn,[…]

A History of Militias in the United States since the Colonial Period

The early colonists of America considered the militia an important social institution, necessary to provide defense and public safety. Introduction The militia of the United States, as defined by the U.S. Congress, has changed over time.[1] During colonial America, all able-bodied white men of all ages were members of the militia, depending on the respective[…]

The Medieval Russian Army

Tribal militia formed the basis of the army in Kievan Rus’ before the Mongol invasion. Introduction The Medieval Russian army, from the foundation of Kievan Rus’ till the reforms of Ivan the Terrible, can be roughly divided into the Kievan Rus’ period, between the 9th to 13th century, mainly characterized by infantry armies of town[…]

A History of Domestic Military Intervention in the United States

The use of federal troops in a law enforcement role has a twisted and often anti-working class and racist history. In his controversial “Send in the Troops” New York Times op-ed, Senator Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas) misquoted the Constitution of the United States. New York Times editors, who are under fire for running the essay, either failed to fact-check the[…]

World War Two Weapons That Flopped

World War Two saw a massive increase in weapon types and technology. Some didn’t work out quite so well. Panjandrum: The Ultimate Invasion Weapon This ungainly device was intended to be used against the beach defences of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. It consisted of two rocket-propelled wheels, ten feet in diameter, joined by a cylinder filled with[…]

Aerial Warfare during World War One

From Zeppelin airships to propaganda leaflet drops, aerial combat was used on a large scale for the first time in World War One. Introduction Aerial warfare was by no means a First World War invention. Balloons had already been used for observation and propaganda distribution during the Napoleonic wars and the Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870-1871.[…]

The Praetorian Guard in Ancient Rome: Protection and Imperial Intelligence

The Praetorian Guard became notable for its intrigue and interference in Roman politics. Introduction The Praetorian Guard (Latin: cohortes praetoriae) was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army whose members served as personal bodyguards and intelligence for the Roman emperors. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort[…]

America’s First Veterans: Post-War Experiences of the Revolutionary War

In the first years after the Revolutionary War, Americans found it difficult to acknowledge a debt or honor the service of the veterans. Our commitment to the veterans of our time is a legacy of the American Revolution and our commitment, two hundred years ago, to honor and care for America’s first veterans. Over a[…]

Warfare in Medieval Europe

The Middle Ages saw the emergence of the castle in Europe, which then spread to Western Asia. Introduction Medieval warfare is the European warfare of the Middle Ages. Technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a severe transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity, changing military tactics and the role of cavalry and artillery.[…]

The Armored Body as Trophy in Shakespeare’s Roman Plays

The treatment of the military subject in Shakespeare’s Roman plays complicates early modern cultural understandings of the material aspects of militant nostalgia. Remembering Rome, performing Rome… Introduction At the end of Book 12 of Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas is described as “stetit acer in armis” or “ferocious in his armor,” a colossal and threatening force, a[…]

The Immortals: Ancient Persia’s Elite Fighting Force

Introduction The Ten Thousand Immortals were the elite force of the Persian army of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE). They formed the king’s personal bodyguard and were also considered the shock troops of the infantry in Persian warfare. Their name comes from the policy of always keeping their number at exactly 10,000; if one[…]

Lady Hell Cats: Women Marines of World War I

In 1918, the Marine Corps began investigating how the integration of women would take place. By Kenna HowatHistorian Prior to World War I, if a woman wanted to join the military, she would have to join as a nurse or disguise her sex. Some historians estimate that hundreds of women served in the Civil War[…]

Medieval Mongol Warfare

Ultimately, the Mongols would establish the largest empire the world had ever seen. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Mongols conquered vast swathes of Asia in the 13th and 14th century CE thanks to their fast light cavalry and excellent bowmen, but another significant contribution to their success was the adoption of their enemies’ tactics and[…]

The Crime of Desertion in Roman Law

Roman law provisions on desertion had features that were totally different from the common Roman criminal law. Introduction While watching –once again—the classic and broadly acclaimed movie Ben-Hur, I thought about the legal consequences of deserting from the Roman Army for Roman conscripts and soldiers. Desertion was a serious crime under Roman military law, as[…]

Ancient Parthian Warfare

Parthia controlled territories that stretched from the Mediterranean in the west to India and China in the east and were even a match for the Romans. Introduction Parthian warfare was characterized by the extensive use of cavalry and archers. Coming at enemy troops from all directions Parthian riders created confusion and wreaked havoc. They even[…]