September 25, 2001.
An ancient army was an incredibly unwieldy mass, hard to control and difficult to move in an organized way. Composed of huge numbers of soldiers packed into dense linear formations that could stretch for a mile or more, the army was forever nervous of it's vulnerable flanks and the individual soldier never quite sure whether his side was winning or losing. The general's job of command and control over this fragile entity depended not so much on his own personal charisma (chances are that most troops serving for Caesar or Alexander had never even heard them speak due the huge numbers involved) but upon the organization and training of the army itself. This was in this area which Rome excelled over all others.
Above all other ancient empires, Rome was the master of the art of organized warfare. Romans seemed born organized and in this vein every aspect of Roman military life was part of a cohesive structure. The legionary was drilled every day, so much so that it was said: Roman drill was a bloodless battle and Roman battle was bloody drill. The discipline thus instilled in the legionary led to a level of control on the field of battle never before seen.
Three elements crucial to this command and control were the centurions, the standards and the musicians. Through their horns the musicians would relay command orders over the din of battle. Standards, one for every sixty men or so, formed a rallying point and also held a religious significance which made their loss an unforgivable dishonor.
More important then these however were the centurions. Unlike the aristocratic tribunes and generals who nominally commanded, centurions were veteran legionaries who had risen from the ranks by their own merit and who brought with them not only experience and courage but personal relations with the men under them. It was these non-commissioned officers who were the glue which held the Roman war machine together and over and over led the eagle standards to victory.
- Robert Murch - Canada
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