Introduction

Carthago delenda est!" (Plutarch 14). With the infamous words, "Carthage must be destroyed," Cato the Elder succinctly captured the Roman approach to warfare. Unique among ancient civilizations, Rome engaged in what we today call "total war"-a war continued until the enemy capitulates or is utterly defeated. In order to win such conflicts, Rome required a military force that embraced this philosophy, and that force was the legions. While the impact of the alae (allied forces that fought with the legions) should not be underestimated, it was the legions that formed the heart of a Roman army, and it was the legions that fought Rome's wars in the only way that culture could comprehend: To the finish. The legion of the first century was the product of a long series of wars that had continuously increased its professionalism. The organization and structure of the principate legion reflected the discipline, organization, and political institutions of Roman society, and the arms and armor of the legionary exemplified the hardnosed, practical streak of the Roman citizen-and the tactics employed by the legion capitalized on the discipline, practicality, and desire for glory that were imbued in every Roman citizen. As the supreme representation of Roman culture, the legion was uniquely suited to wage total war in the ancient world.

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