Chapter 4 - A Transition of War
Writing in 1744, Abbe Galliani noted that "empires being neither up nor down do not fall. They change their appearance." The barbarian invasions of the Roman empire for the first four centuries match precisely this description. Rome did not collapse as much as it metamorphosed into a decentralized state of quasi-Romanized Germanic fiefdoms each ruled by a warlord equipped with a private army. The Roman army had always to deal with the problem of hostile tribal orders on its boundaries. In Gaul, Spain, and Britain, Rome solved the problem through military conquest with the eventual Romanization of the tribal peoples resident in these areas. The problem on the German frontier, however, was different. Here the tribes were very large, culturally warlike, offered nothing in terms of resources that could be obtained by conquest, and occupied an area of dense forest, rivers, and mountainous terrain that was very difficult to conquer and occupy. The massacre of three Roman legions at the hands of the German tribal chieftain Armenius in 9 A.D. in the Teutoberg forest effectively settled the question of conquest for the Romans. Roman military strategy changed to the defensive, and was marked by the creation of a strong system of in-depth fortifications constructed along the German frontier.