One of the most important battles of Rome’s entire history took place on the 2nd of August, 216 BC. The Battle of Cannae was a huge defeat for the numerically superior Roman Army by a smaller and more agile Carthaginian Army under the command of Hannibal. While this battle was catastrophic for Rome it was one of the most important for Rome’s future in 3 major ways.
The Battle of Cannae was important to Rome’s future for 3 major reasons. First, the battle outlined the importance of light infantry’s ability to maneuvar heavy infantry. Second, the battle forced the Roman military to begin to admit lower ranks of Roman society into the military. Third, the battle demonstrated the importance of a centralised military command understanding the battlefield and weather.
Rome would ultimately take the lessons it learned from the Battle of Cannae and build out a more well-rounded military with better commanders. Nearly 70,000 Romans were killed at the Battle of Cannae making this day one of the bloodiest in all of human history.
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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why the Battle of Cannae was important to Rome’s future.
The Battle of Cannae Changed How Rome Built Their Legions
One of the most important reasons why the Battle of Cannae was important to Rome’s future was because it completely changed how Rome built their legions.
The Roman legion was the infantry body of Rome’s army. The problem however was that the military of Rome before the Battle of Cannae was built around a heavily armored infantry that fought in a phalanx formation.
This phalanx formation meant that the infantry line behaved like a wall. From the front it was invincible but from the sides and back it was weak. Further, this infantry line was heavy and not mobile, as such it was very hard for Rome’s military line to move directionally to engage multiple targets.
What this meant is that Rome’s legions during the early and middle republic were built around providing an impenetrable wall and slowly advancing towards their target. Normally this was not a problem as Rome had fought against either other heavily armored infantry lines or non-structured mobs of enemies.
However, the Battle of Cannae changed this completely. During the battle, Hannibal managed to spread his light infantry line out so that it eclipsed the Roman infantry line. Hannibal then told his light infantry to skirmish with the Roman line and then strategically retreat knowing the slow-moving Roman heavy infantry could only go forwards.
What ended up happening was that Hannibal’s light infantry managed to feign a retreat and then encircle the entire Roman legionary line. Rome’s entire army was destroyed in one day as they could not move to protect themselves.
After this stunning defeat, Rome would break their legions up into several smaller groups of units. These units would have a command and were taught to fight in a small cohesive unit and be both heavy infantry and mobile. It would be these legions that would conquer the known world as they were nearly unstoppable after Cannae.
Simply put, the Battle of Cannae demonstrated that Rome’s legions needed to be broken down and trained on how to fight in small mobile units. This completely changed how Rome’s legions would approach training and warfare and prepared Rome to rapidly expand over the next centuries.
The Battle Of Cannane Forced Rome To Draft Lower Ranking Members Of Society Into The Military
The second reason why the Battle of Cannae is important to Rome’s future is that it forced Rome to draft lower-ranking classes into the military.
Before Cannane Rome’s legions were built up from free men of the higher class who could afford to arm themselves and receive the training of a soldier. Unlike today where soldiers are provided for and trained Roman soldiers of the early and middle Republic would have to provide everything for themselves.
In return, the soldiers often got higher standing positions after military service and also obtained a portion of the loot the commander received. However, the Battle of Cannae significantly reduced the population of Rome that was eligible to serve in the military.
Right after the Battle of Cannae Hannibal sent a peace delegation to Rome to see if the city wanted to surrender. The Roman Senate refused and instead began to enlist nearly all available men in the city. This included slaves and landless peasants.
This forever changed Rome’s future. Before Cannae, Rome’s military came from those who held land and thus could afford to hire people to work it. These were equivalent to modern business owners who had a vested interest in making sure their assets were safe.
Allowing plebians to serve in the Roman military would set a precedent that Gaius Marius would use to reform the Roman military in 107 BC. These reforms would then allow Sulla and Julius Caesar to build armies that were loyal to them and could march on Rome.
Simply put, the Battle of Cannae is important to the future of Rome because it set a precedent for allowing plebeians to join the military. This would set Rome on a crash course with transitioning into the Roman Empire.
The Battle Of Cannae Demonstrated The Importance Of A Centralised Command In Charge Of The Army
Probably one of the most important reasons why the Battle of Cannane was important to the future of Rome is because it demonstrated that the Roman army needed to be under one centralized command.
One of the main reasons why Rome lost the Battle of Cannane was because there were two generals in charge of the Roman army. These were the two Roman consuls Aemilius Lucius and Gaius Terentius. These Roman consuls were elected by the Roman people to lead the Roman state in peace and war. However, Cannane demonstrated the importance of centralized command in an army.
The problem was that during the middle of the battle there was a breakdown in communication between these two consuls and as a result, the central line of Rome’s army advanced forward. This is what allowed Hannibal to perform the pincer movement and completely annihilate his enemy.
After the Battle of Cannane, all of the Roman armies were placed under a centralised military commander. This violated the Roman constitution but it was seen as a necessety because the Romans realised that it was nearly impossible to beat an amazing commander such as Hannible when you had two somewhat decent commanders. As such after the Battle of Cannane the legendary Roman Comander Scipio Africanus was made the commander of the entire Roman military in North Africa.
Making generals sole commanders of the military and not elected offices set the Republic on a crash course with absolutism rule. Now generals could become incredibly powerful over regions under Roman rule. This forever changed the future of Rome.
There you have it; an entire article on the 3 reasons why the Battle of Cannane was important for Rome’s future.
This battle is so famous for the explots of the Carthaigian commander Hannible who managed to completly anhilate the ROman army. This was possible because Hannible knew how the Roman military fought and its weak points. By building an army that was tailord to fight the Romans and exploit this weakness Hanniable was able to almost completly defeat Rome. Any potential historians out there will find substantial research oppurtunties when looking into the battles of Hanniable and Scipio Africanus.
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