by Macabee Callard
This is the second part of a very short paper on how Rome conquered the Mediterranean, and then held a stable empire. If you have not read the first part, go and read it right now. The main and most explicit reason, is, well, the Mediterranean. Whether it be marching an army, transporting a noble, or delivering supplies it was a logistics nightmare to walk things al the way across Europe or the Middle east. Now lets do some calculations. Say your marching just a hundred legionaries, and a centurion. Each of them eats only 2 pounds of food each day. Lets say they have 120 pounds of weight to carry. (A Roman sword, Shield, and two pila weighs about 40 pounds. With his helmet, breastplate, food, pack, and various camp supplies including heavy things like pickaxes and shovels I’m making an estimated guess of 80 pounds from other things.) So, since there are 101 soldiers, that’s 12,120 pounds of equipment. Now. That’s hard enough, but you also have to carry that 202 pounds of food! You can’t do that! so they bring pack animals along, to carry some stuff. But they need food to!
According to Wikipedia, draft horses eat 1.5-3% of their body weight each day. Lets say 2 percent. Wikipedia says draft horse breeds vary from 1,400 to 2,000 pounds. Let’s say 1,700. That means each horse will eat about 34 pounds of food per day. If they each drink 15 gallons of water, they consume 49 pounds of stuff every day. To even it out, lets say the containers make up another pound. That’s 50 pounds. Lets say there are 20 animals. 20*50 is 1000. So 12,120+202+1000 is 13,322 pounds of stuff to carry in one day. And the number will increase if you have more days in your march, which almost all will. Wow. Thats alot of damage. Or, you could let a boat do all the work.
Not only do you not have to arc around something (the Mediterranean) while your sailing, but you also don’t have to bear the weight of all those pack animals and their food! Its cheaper, quicker, easier, and less morale grinding. Marching day in and day out is really hard, especially in some of the climates in which these soldiers had to do so. It makes the soldiers less happy. The roman empire, along with so many others, used sea transport to keep it’s economy going. In China they built the grand canal. All stable empires used something like this.