In 146 BC, the armies of the Roman Republic destroyed Carthage and Corinth, two of the most spectacular cities of the ancient Mediterranean world. It was a display of ruthlessness so terrible that it shocked contemporaries, leaving behind deep scars and palpable historical traumas. Yet these twin destructions were not so extraordinary in the long annals of Roman warfare. In Spare No One, Gabriel Baker convincingly shows that mass violence was vital to Roman military operations. Indeed, in virtually every war they fought during the third and second centuries BC, the Roman legions killed and enslaved populations, executed prisoners, and put cities to the torch. This powerful book reveals that these violent acts were not normally the handiwork of frenzied soldiers run amok, nor were they spontaneous outbursts of uncontrolled savagery. On the contrary—and more troublingly—Roman commanders deliberately used these brutal strategies to achieve their most critical military objectives and political goals. Bringing long-overdue attention to this little-known aspect of Roman history, Baker paints a fuller, albeit darker, picture of Roman warfare. He ultimately demonstrates that the atrocities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have deep historical precedents. Casting a fresh light on the strategic use of total war in the ancient world, he reminds us that terror and mass violence could be the rational policies of men and states long before the modern age.
Gabriel Baker holds a PhD in history from the University of Iowa and specializes in Roman and Hellenistic warfare.
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
1 “As Is the Roman Custom”: War and Mass Violence in the Roman Republic, Third and Second Centuries BCE 1
2 “Adorned with Scars”: Roman Military and Political History to 146 BCE 1
3 “What the Fire Could Not Consume”: Methods of Mass Violence 3
4 “The Ram Has Hammered at Their Walls”: The Logic of Mass Violence 6
5 “Deterred by Fear”: Defection and Deterrence in the Second Punic War 8
6 “So Much Destruction and Utter Ruin”: Politics and Pragmatism in the Third Macedonian War
7 “He Soaked Spanish Soil with Blood”: Failure and Frustration in the Lusitanian War
Appendix 1. 124 Cases of Mass Violence in Roman Warfare, c. 400–100 BCE
Appendix 2. 181 Cases of Mass Violence in Ancient Mediterranean Warfare (excluding Rome), c. 500–100 BCE
Appendix 3. The Government and Army in the Middle Republic
About the Author
Gabriel Baker provides a grim but important contribution to our understanding of Roman violence: atrocity and massacre were not simply adjacent or ancillary to Roman warfare but rather represented fundamental modalities of Roman military practice, alongside pitched battles and sieges. Military histories that gloss over such atrocities not only sanitize Roman war making but misunderstand it. Baker’s book presents us with a clear-eyed and unflinching vision of Roman violence.
How did the Roman Republic build Mediterranean dominance? The focus has often been upon the legions on the battlefield and the senate in the curia. But in this stimulating book, Baker turns the focus to the legions and their senatorial commanders off the battlefield, who visited horrors upon civilian populations. He provides a vivid, detailed account of the effort Romans invested in mass killings and other atrocities, for what purposes, and under what conditions. Baker has staked out the position that Rome’s practice of mass violence was exceptionally persistent, often strategically purposeful, and a significant, horrifying contributor to Roman expansion during the Middle Republic.
Spare No One is a must-read for anyone interested in the brutality of Roman warfare: it documents the acts of extreme violence carried out by Roman armies as a matter of routine in all periods, and it explains how and why victory on the battlefield was often followed by mass executions, the enslavement of civilian populations, or the looting and physical destruction of cities. A model of how to craft a narrative that combines careful readings of the ancient sources with modern parallels and interdisciplinary theoretical approaches, this book is an essential resource for the scholarly and general reader alike.