Roman brutality and attitude to others around 45 B.C.
In a brutal time, Rome surpassed many other so-called civilised people with their hard edge. I shall cite a few examples and try to conclude what that means for the player characters in a Roman campaign.
- Slavery, slaves are property, “Talking Tools” and as with other tools, some care well for them, others not. Some get a relationship to some slaves, but mostly not. The marked difference is those Greeks who sold themselves into slavery in order to become teachers in Rome.
- Pater Familias had the right to kill any member of his family who broke his rules. No one could or would interfere or question him.
- Gladiatorial Games, while the Greeks had theatre and while martial arts are popular in any culture. The Romans in general loved the bloody spectacle of Gladiators killing each other in showy ways. Yes favourites could be saved by the grace of the audience, but many died. When a Slave dies well, how much better will a true Roman die?
- Annual warfare, all through the Republic the Romans went to war almost annually, and only in a few instances did they have trouble recruiting troops even for dangerous campaign, and if loot was in the offing…
- Decimation. A punishment used against units that had shown cowardice, every tenth man, drawn by lot, was clubbed to death by the rest.
- Torture, was frequently used to obtain evidence. In fact a slave was not a valid witness unless subjected to torture.
- Total annihilation of enemy territory and cities. All through antiquity many cultures wiped out enemy cities if they did not surrender before “the ram touched the gate”. The Romans, however, did it frequently and with a brutality where even pets and animals were hacked to death.
- Livy relates how even hardened Macedonian Phalangati was horrified by the brutality of the Gladius Hispanensis and those wielding it as they encountered the remains of their compatriots that had fought them in 199 B.C.
- Even the soft and civilised Cicero led a campaign in Asia Minor.
- One last example will suffice. During the conduct of the war against the Latins in 340 BC, Manlius and his co-consul, Publius Decius Mus, decided that the old military disciplines would be reinstated, and no man was allowed to leave his post, under penalty of death. Manlius's son, seeing an opportunity for glory, forgot this stricture, left his post with his friends, and defeated several Latin skirmishers in battle. Having the spoils brought to him, the father cried out in a loud voice and called the legion to assemble. Berating his son, he then handed him over for execution to the horror of all his men. Publius Decius later performed Devotio and thus won The Battle of Vesuvius.
There is much more, but lest it be tedious(-er) I better sum up.
Playing a Roman character you have to remember that you do not flinch at death or killing. It is but natural, vanquished foes are yours to do with as you please, ransom, sell as slaves or kill and to you it is all the same.
Roman attitudes to others.
- Greeks are civilised and you can learn from them. But they are soft and until ROME enforced order their constant bickering was all they did besides thinking. “Greeks, valiant in words rather than in deeds” as either Plutarch or Livy says (I cannot recall which). It is good that Rome enforced Pax Romana on those Graeculi (small-greeks).
- Gauls and Celtiberians are barbarian and uncivilised. They have yet to be really touched by softening civilisation, but they have also to yet attain culture and be fully pacified. Caesar’s recruitment and enfranchisement of Gauls for his Legions in Gallia Cisalpina has recently caused uproar. Just as it took a bloody civil war a generation ago for the Italian Allies to gain citizenship.
- Parthians are decadent eastern despots, they are dangerous and so is their nasty despotism and religions. They got Crassus and though Publius Ventidius Bassus would inflict a like defeat on a Parthian Prince in 40 or 39 BC only Augustus would even the score and get back the Eagles.
- Germans are the ultimate barbarians, huge, bellicose and violent beyond belief, the greatest praise you can give a legionnaire is to call him “Brave as a German”, the Germans embodies the barbarian fright in Romans as well as their ultimate picture of the Noble Savage. Untouched by civilisation, living in villages under chiefs and despising monarchs as well as civilisation, Germans are to be feared and if possible defeated and conquered. Not much is known about them, and this just adds to the fear and awe. A few traders have ventured from Gaul and have found the Germans interesting in trading luxury items and weapons for amber and skins. One of Caesar’s largest accomplishments is to have defeated Ariovistus and he intimidates Rome with his German bodyguard as well as his hardened legions.