The hidden story why the ancient Greek couldn’t fight the Romans even though they defeated the Persian empire

The Greeks couldn’t fight off the Romans because no one could stop the Romans.

To borrow and slightly modify a famous quote from Napoleon “The Greeks’showed themselves worthy of victory, but the Romans showed themselves worthy of being invincible.”

The Romans were the most powerful fighting force the world had ever seen. There was simply no stopping their expansion.

Egypt, Macedonia, and even Carthage couldn’t stand against the might of the Roman war machine. Greece was no different. Rome was unstoppable.

During the Second Punic War the Romans quite literally went up against one of the greatest military strategists in history, Hannibal Barca.

Hannibal, a Carthaginian General, ravaged 3 Roman armies, killed off 20% of Rome’s male population, killed 2 Roman consuls in battle, and subjected Northern Italy to constant raiding for years.

Even with such astounding success, Rome still won the war.

Carthage was defeated, stripped of its power, and eventually absorbed into the Roman machine after the Third Punic War.

The Romans had many advantages over essentially all of their rivals. These included their excellent road networks, powerful navy, and well trained and equipped soldiers.

On top of this they also supported a massive population in Italy, and had incredible production output both in terms of food, and military supplies.

All of these things made the Romans a fearsome rival in any confrontation, but what made them even more powerful and ultimately unstoppable, was their adaptability, especially in the early years.

As an example, when the Punic Wars broke out, Carthage was the premier naval power in the Mediterranean. The Romans simply couldn’t compete with them, and were at a huge disadvantage when it came to their navy. By the end of the Punic Wars, however, Rome’s navy was unrivaled, and easily the most powerful in the Mediterranean. This was due to the Roman’s adaptability and their willingness to change their strategy.

The Greeks were able to defeat the Persians for a few reasons. They were able to utilize their better trained troops to inflict severe damage on the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Persians were far from home and had thin supply lines so it was difficult for them to maintain such a large army. After the defeat of the Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis the Persians were essentially forced to retreat because they couldn’t maintain supply lines without control of the sea.

The remaining Persians in Greece were defeated by the better trained and better supplied Greeks at the Battle of Plataea. I would attribute the Greek victory over the Persians to mostly their naval superiority, though other factors also came into play.

The Romans, however, as we discussed above had essentially unrivaled naval control of the Mediterranean after the Punic Wars. Unlike the Persians, the Roman fleet was actually well led, well equipped, and well built. The Greeks wouldn’t have been able to defeat it nearly as easily as the Persians.

Additionally the Roman legions were just as well equipped and trained as the Greeks. Though you could certainly make the argument that the Roman soldiers were superior to Greek soldiers.

So basically when we look at everything, the Romans had more people, greater production capabilities, a better navy, more efficient transportation networks, and better trained and equipped soldiers.

The Greeks didn’t have a whole lot of advantages against the Romans, with the home-field advantage probably being their most important. Therefore when the Romans invaded they met with incredible success, just like they did in nearly all of their other invasions in the early years.

Even if the Romans lost a war or two, their continued persistence, backed by unrivaled population growth and production meant that they could recover quickly from losses and eventually win a long run war of attrition.

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During the Pyrrhic War starting in 280BC, the King of Epirus, Pyrrhus, met with a string of victories against the Romans, though at a significant cost to his own troops.

After one such victory he supposedly remarked something along the lines of “If we defeat the Romans one more time my army will be ruined”.

This is obviously in reference to the fact that even when the Romans were defeated in battle, they could still win the war. Every soldier Rome lost could be replaced by 2 more in a matter of months. For small nations like Epirus, soldiers were harder to replace and therefore every one was important.

As we saw in the Second Punic War, the Romans lost 20% of their male population, but were still able to bounce back and win the war.

The Greeks could have dealt significant damage to the Romans if they played their cards right, but I think no matter how well the war went for the Greeks, eventually the Romans would pull ahead due to their superior adaptability and greater population.

21 thoughts on “The hidden story why the ancient Greek couldn’t fight the Romans even though they defeated the Persian empire

  • October 13, 2019 at 11:26 pm
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    The reason is simple
    The Greeks were not united
    The romans did not conquer a united Greek force but rather they defeated
    The polis of the time

    Reply
  • October 14, 2019 at 4:33 am
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    “Egypt, Macedonia, and even Carthage couldn’t stand against the might of the Roman war machine. Greece was no different. Rome was unstoppable.”
    FYI Macedonia was a part of Greece and it still is. Fyrom was named Macedonia, because it is a part of the old Macedonia. Thats why its actually named North Macedonia.

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  • October 14, 2019 at 7:52 am
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    Macedonia was and will always be Greek
    .

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  • October 14, 2019 at 8:11 am
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    This article is a joke. Greece wasnt united

    Reply
  • October 14, 2019 at 9:17 am
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    Thr Peloponnesian war weakened the Greeks (Macedonians included of course). “Civil” war at the wrong moment with the Romans at the gate.

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  • October 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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    Greeks had suffered a pelloponisian war aka civil war between Athens and Sparta and their allies. Then the Macedonians aka Greek Dorians like Spartans, although they united Greeks, they also suffered from civil wars after Alexander’s death. Egypt of the time was also a Hellenic kingdom weakened by the rivalry between the Hellenic kingdoms ( Alexander’s generals ). So, we have a united Roman state and a divided Hellenic world… Pyrros alone, another Hellenic kingdom, also didn’t had a chance. The outcome was inevitable…

    Reply
  • October 15, 2019 at 2:22 pm
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    Again, the legion was a modern weapon against phalanx which had a disadvantage when taking sideways attacks.
    The Macedonian phalanx with sarissas (the long spears) had to be very well trained and had also a sideways wickness. The Persian army was poorly trained and equipped. In the contrary Romans were very disciplen and well trained. Add these to the facts mentioned previously about the rivalry between Greeks and you will understand why Romans won….

    Reply
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