Emergence of a Naval Superpower: The Development of Roman Naval Warfare From 509BCE to 14CE
The Roman navy is all too often neglected in scholarly discussion of Roman military history. The goal of this paper is to bring to attention the history of the Roman navy, its development, evolution and importance, from the early Republican era, circa 509BCE, to the end of the Principate of Augustus in 14cE. A brief introduction to the field of maritime archaeology is necessary to understand the importance of such a study of the Roman navy. A chronological evaluation of the Roman navy can fall into a few flexibly assigned time periods. The first is the period of the early and middle Republic to the First Punic War, dated here at 509 to 261 BCE, during which the Romans are a relatively impotent sea power, relying mainly on allies to furnish ships and crews. Following comes the period of the three Punic Wars, ending in 146BcE, in which Rome truly tests her hand at naval warfare against the nautically mighty Carthaginians for over a century. From 88BCE to 31 BCE is the period of intermittent Civil Wars in Roman history in which ambitious generals attempt to take control of the state for themselves. During this period, important land battles were fought, along with the naval battles fought in a multi-front war, most importantly Actium in 31 BCE. 31BCE sees the great naval battle of Actium between Julius Caesar's rightful heir Octavian and his adversary Marc Antony. Emerging as victor from the ashes of the Civil Wars, Octavian, later Augustus, embarked on a series of military reforms, including some involving the navy. He also worked to combat the threat of pirates in the Mediterranean in attempts to secure trade routes and coastal safety. Within each time period, the social importance of the navy was Slightly different than the era before it. This is reflected in the type action it takes and the amount of activity it is engaged in. The ultimate goal of this paper is to present fact and interpretation as accurately as possible in order to bring the early history of the Roman navy into the study of the Roman military, and even further, Roman history.
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