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The 10 Most Badass Roman War Heroes

Because sometimes history is just freaking epic.

by
Spencer Klavan

Bio

August 11, 2014 - 10:00 am
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Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres_019

Before Ancient Rome was a titanic empire, it was a collection of huts, a tribe of outlaws, and a few unshakable ideals — courage, virtue, and duty. The defense of those ideals inspired some of the greatest war stories and acts of heroism ever written down. Here are the 10 most badass heroes, ranked in ascending order, from Rome’s legendary history and historical legends.

10. Romulus

The legendary founder who gave his name to Rome also carved out the city’s place in blisteringly hostile territory. Etruscans to the North, Samnites to the East, and Latins to the South: Italy was no safe place for a little village made of mud and bricks to stake its claim. Romulus led his ragtag team of rejects and outlaws against the peninsula’s fiercest tribal armies, saving Rome from being annexed or enslaved. But he had an erratic, unheroic temper that kept him from making it higher on this list — legend has it he murdered his brother in a violent rage.

(Livy 1; Dionysius, Roman Antiquities 1-2)

Top Rated Comments   
'When Scipio heard his superiors contemplating surrender he “declared that anyone who wanted to save the Republic would go with him that instant, fully armed.” Fourteen blood-soaked years of war later, Scipio had done the impossible, defeating the general who had seemed poised to obliterate Rome.'

I other words, the unObama.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The story of Cincinnatus reminds us of George Washington.

King George III asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”

“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
You forgot 'The Old Woman'.
Gaius Marius.
" Roman general and statesman. He held the office of consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his important reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the structure of the legions into separate cohorts. Marius defeated the invading Germanic tribes (the Teutones, Ambrones, and the Cimbri), for which he was called "the third founder of Rome."
from wiki
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
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Fabius Maximus, "Cunctator" or "The Delayer." He stood against Hannibal when the latter was unbeatable. He understood that Roman's armies at that time could not defeat Hannibal in open combat, so he kept on the move, preventing the Carthaginian from consolidating his victories or recovering from his losses. While he saved Rome's position and prevented further victories by Carthage, buying time for Rome to rearm and re-equip, the Romans themselves did not appreciate his tactics, expecting their generals to charge straight in and whup some barbarian butt. The fact that several Roman generals had suffered massive defeats doing just that apparently was lost on the Romans, save for Fabius.

As one who put his personal glory second to the security and safety of his nation he deserves very high marks. That attitude was distinctly un-Roman, yet he saved Rome at a critical time.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
Always been partial to one of the men referred to as "the last of the Romans": Flavius Aetius. The man who stopped Attila the Hun should be in there somewhere.
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
Scipio should be a LOT higher on that list. He could have successfully challenged Alexander, had they been contemporaries.
Julius Caesar belongs high on that list. He was a brave man and excellent commander.
You missed Aurelian entirely. He was an amazingly skilled commander, doing so much with so little.
Publius Fabius Maximus led the remnants of Rome's shattered army in Italy against Hannibal, never engaging him but keeping him moving, unsettled, unable to consolidate his victory. This weakened Hannibal while giving Rome time to regain its footing and properly train new troopers.
Then there was Gaius Marius, who organized Rome's first professional legions and defeated the invading hordes of Teutons and Cimbri.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Manlius needs to be remembered for more than his youthful bravado. His real character was shown by his making the greatest sacrifice a Roman could make as a mature man. We have nothing to compare to the position of the paterfamilias of the Roman Republic. Their authority was matched by their deep sense of pride and duty. Their family was everything.

The following is from the wiki on Titus Manlius Torrquatus (Consul 347 B.C.) regarding his final term as Dictator in 340.

"During the conduct of the war, Manlius and his co-consul, Publius Decius Mus, decided that the old military disciplines would be reinstated, and no man was allowed to leave his post, under penalty of death. Manlius's son, seeing an opportunity for glory, forgot this stricture, left his post with his friends, and defeated several Latin skirmishers in battle. Having the spoils brought to him, the father cried out in a loud voice and called the legion to assemble. Berating his son, he then handed him over for execution to the horror of all his men. Thus, "Manlian discipline.""

This article could be matched by another giving examples of women who exemplified Roman Virtue.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Although not a general, Cato the Elder should be included for his steadfast commitment to prosecuting the war against Carthage: Ceterum censeo Carthago esse delendum
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
How about Count Belisarius?
He won against the Persians.
He took back North Africa.
He took back most of the old Western lands.
He saved the Emperor during the Nika Revolt.
Any man who can use a 10:1 disadvantage and win ought to be pretty high up on 'Most Famous Generals' list, period.

Yet no one seems to even know of him.

Perhaps, given his circumstances and problems with Justinian being stingy with troops, the greatest general of all time for economy of force getting the most payback. You have to get to Gustavus Adolphus in the 17th century until you find someone who could do as well as Belisarius.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
We view Roman and European History through such a Latin lens that practically nobody has heard of the leaders of the Eastern Empire. Had it not been for the Black Death, Belisarius might well have restored central authority in the West and History would have been written very differently.
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
What, no Mel Brooks' "We are running with Mucus" joke on the "lefty"?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
No such list could be complete without Horatius.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't remember the fellow's name, but my Uncle Ted from Syracuse, New York, told me that in the early 19th century an itinerant American patriot (veteran of the Revolution?) had a hand in naming alot of the upstate New York towns after the great Greek and Roman legends and cities, which still pepper the area. Syracuse and Rome New York are the most obvious remnants. I grew up near Homer, but this article reminds me of Manlius, Cincinnatus and Pompey, NY the former two of which my little school of St. Mary's in Cortland, NY played Football back in the day. Other New York towns that may have come from the same fellow, or had a different source are Athens, Attica, Babylon, Bethlehem, Brutus, Cairo, Caledonia, Canaan, Carthage, Cicero, Corfu, Corinth, Delhi, Eden, Elma, Fabius, Fredonia, Goshen, Greece, Hector, Hemlock,, Ilion, Ithaca, Jericho, Jordan, Latham, Livonia, Lysander, Macedon, Malta, Marathon, Marcellus, Minerva, Mount Sinai, New Lebanon, Olean, Ovid, Palmyra, Phoenicia, Phoenix, Romulus, Sardinia, Savona, Scio, Scipio Center, Sodus, Troy, Utica, Vestal, and West Seneca. The other source for this trend I read, only recently, was the patriotic solidarity the early New Yorkers felt with the Greeks as they fought for independence from the Turks as the Erie Canal was being built, at a time when Greece was recognized as the Wellspring of Western Democracy that truly deserved to again be free. Amen.

I wish I knew the Name of that Johnny Appleseed of the Western Republic Spirit who namelessly spread his spirit around upstate New York.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
According to this article http://yorkstaters.blogspot.com/2006/01/whats-in-name-no2-origins-of-classical.html it was either General Simson DeWitt or Robert Harpur, or both, working for or through the New York State Land Office who used the device of naming new settlements, or renaming existing settlements with classical place names to attract settlers or to promote classical republican/democratic principles in the post revolutionary period through 1850. The first place so named was Troy, NY renamed from the less mellifluous Vanderheyden. Fabius, Pompey, Aurelius, Manlius, Cicero and Solon followed thereafter. All in all it probably was not a bad idea and me and my school mates always had a grudging admiration for it.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
'When Scipio heard his superiors contemplating surrender he “declared that anyone who wanted to save the Republic would go with him that instant, fully armed.” Fourteen blood-soaked years of war later, Scipio had done the impossible, defeating the general who had seemed poised to obliterate Rome.'

I other words, the unObama.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
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