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Categoria: Strategy – English Version

Military virtues – An individual perspective – 3

By Ssolbergj – The vexilloid of the Roman Empire

Always keeping in mind the importance of the classical period of Roman history, Vegetius suggests that the best soldiers are peasants in peace: they are more accustomed to the harsh reality of hard work for surviving, to the difficulties of a merciless and uncomfortable life. They are also well-motivated people not to die because they have a lot to lose. Even if it was not the subject of (fairly recent) studies, it was already clear in the past that humans considers the fear of loosing more relevant for making decision than betting to get something more. One strives for the defense of what already owns, rather than the love of risk for something better. According to the studies of neuroeconomics, this is true for a ratio of 2/1, so that peasants already have several virtues useful from a military point of view.

Vegetius and the principles of war – 2

Vegetius’ analysis is grounded on three main assumptions. They are the conditions to define a good army:

(EB) An army is good if and only if

(a) is organized rationally,

(b) each unit is efficient in relation to its role,

(c) is able to have sufficient means to act.

Points (a) and (b) are poorly formulated because they already imply and require a quality assessment, which makes the Vegetius’ definition slightly circular – it implies already an account of what a good army is even though he is explaining exactly that point. However, at least in the first glance, these principles immediately able to be grasped by anyone who is not a philosopher who naturally needs more rigor. In any case, let’s eliminate the problematic terms (“rational” and “efficient”) to obtain greater clarity regarding our topic:

The Art of War – Publio Flavio Vegezio Renato – 1

yeowatzup / CC BY (

The Art of War (De rei militaris or Epitoma de rei militaris) is a classic of war studies. It has a particular descriptive value and not strictly strategic, that is, not so much focused on a normative dimension (principles of war and what I’ve called pure theory of war). Publio Flavio Vegezio Renato (from now only Vegetius, as it is universally known in English) is not substantially interested in general and strategic elements of war and “military art”. Therefore, he is not so much interested in what we would say today the part of war most connected with the state politics (or an empire) or concerning the nature of the strategic planning of the military campaign. Rather, he is a historian and tactician of the classical Roman era. Let it be said straight away that the Vegetius’ Art of the war is not a text written in the Rome’s Republican period but during the epigonic phase of the empire (4th century AD). The influence of the classical Roman period (understood in the period between the monarchic and the republican period up to Augustus included in this broad concept of Latin classicism) extends for all the pages of the work of Vegetius. He was far by considering the Roman imperial mandate as ended with the center of gravitation of civilization. He tries to find the reasons why the ancient Roman armies had made the city the center of the known world (by the Romans).