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Feeding the frontiers: logistical limitations of Roman imperialism in the West

by Thomas, Christopher Felstead

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis is an examination of the importance of army supply in deciding the success and failure of the frontiers of the Roman Empire with particular emphasis on those frontiers in the Rhine-Danube provinces. It will look at logistics as the reason for the end of expansion of the Roman Empire and the frontiers forming where they did. It will also argue that the failure of logistics was a major factor in the collapse of those same frontier defences and the ultimate fall of the western part of the empire. The need to feed and supply large numbers of troops and their dependents dictated where they could be based. Because of the impossibility of supplying the whole army with imported goods, the suitability of local land for food production was also paramount. The need to have reliable sources of supply locally was met by placing veterans on retirement in villae rusticae in frontier zones. This had the effect of controlling those local sources of supply and also satisfying the increasingly expensive needs of the army praemia militiae. The increased warfare and periodic invasions from the reign of Marcus Aurelius especially on the upper Rhine and upper Danube made supply more difficult. The army placed an increasing number of beneficiarii consularis on important points on the transport network to control and direct the flow of army supplies. The more frequent invasions across the frontiers from the third century caused greater dislocation to the agricultural infrastructure not only on the frontiers but deeper into the more settled and richer provinces. This destroyed the sources of local supply and also often the source of imported supply, forcing Roman armies to stay well inside the imperial boundaries more often than before. The loss of their logistic superiority spelt the loss of their military advantage, and the loss of empire.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr Paul McKechnie; Dr Tom Stevenson; Dr Bridget Buxton

School:The University of Auckland / Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau

School Location:New Zealand

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:fields of research 430000 history and archaeology 430100 historical studies 430112 classical greek roman

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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