Citizens, Mutineers, and Aggressors: The representation of soldiers in three Roman historians

Timothy Brady

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the portrayal of common citizen-soldiers in the work of Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus. In doing so, it reveals each historian’s perception of the rôle of the citizen-soldier and the social, moral, and political place of military service within the framework of the Roman State. The three historians allow for an exploration of this perception from the Republican period, the reign of Augustus, and the beginning of the 2nd century AD. This allows the reader to follow the development of the ideology of military service in the transition from the Republic to the High Empire. The general scholarly consensus remains that Roman historians did not think about the soldiery in a complicated or nuanced way, and rather that they dismissed and disdained them as an armed mob. This thesis argues against this consensus in support of more recent scholarship that has began to examine how the Roman historians portrayed soldiers in their narrative. Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus each represent soldiers as engaged social and political individuals and military service as being fundamental to their conception of how the common Roman citizen interacted with the Roman state. Sallust presents military service as a unifying, democratic, and – if done correctly – reforming activity that all Roman citizens took part in. For Sallust, military service was so fundamental to the maintenance of Roman society that the corruption of military mores led directly to the corruption of the larger res publica. Livy also presents military service as a unifying and reforming activity, but one that was restricted to plebeian soldiers. In his reconstruction of the Early and Middle Republic, military service provided the plebeian citizen with social capital as well as an organised route for political engagement. The army became the vehicle for organised resistance to the Republican élite. The thesis concludes with chapters on Tacitus’ Annales and Historiae. In the Annales Tacitus uses the mutiny of AD 14 to demonstrate that organised military resistance was no longer acceptable in the new context of the principate. In the Historiae Tacitus establishes that the new dynamics of loyalty in the Imperial Army, where the vital connexion was now between the emperor and the individual soldier, had profoundly altered the relationship that citizen soldiers had with the Roman state.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Alston, Richard, Supervisor
  • Rankov, Boris, Advisor
Award date1 Jul 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 2020


  • Roman History
  • Roman Army
  • classics
  • Sallust
  • Livy
  • Tacitus
  • ancient history
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • PhD
  • thesis
  • Roman Soldier
  • Republic
  • Principate
  • Rome
  • Ancient Rome
  • military service
  • soldiers
  • history
  • historiography

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