Roman Logistics in the Conquest of Hispania

Over 2000 years ago, a strong campaign had been under way by the Roman Empire to conquer Hispania, or what was in part present day Spain. A study of this conquest can show timeless lessons in logistics.

 

The conquest of Hispania did not come without difficulties, namely due to the character of supplying Roman warfare. Roman legionaries relied on impedimenta, or supplies which they carried with them to the vanguard and afore, as well as commeatus, or the restock of supplies coming from the imperial capital.

 

The amount of impedimenta which could be brought to battlegrounds was of course limited to the weight which could be carried. Use of pack animals, namely donkeys, helped carry additional supplies for the campaign. The further supplies, commeatus, came from the capital through the use of what were then sophisticated supply lines. These lines took various forms adapting to the difficulties of the location. The use of bridges and carrying ships were used, as well as the employment of third party suppliers, or publicani, hired as private contractors to ship the supplies.

 

Supplying campaigns could of course be costly due to the remuneration of the publicani, or the use of resources in the form of men and food, which caused problems if a campaign was neglected in the home front, as politicians limited the allocation of resources to the legions. The soldiers then needed to rely on the procurement of their own resources. Harvesting food and wood could be a dangerous task on enemy lines, due to the time required, and the need to spread thin, making them a target for ambush. Often, legions would purchase from local vendors, or in one case, created trade agreements with the Celtibereans to organize trade on the mountain tops.

 

The Romans 2000 years ago faced many of the same difficulties in logistics as present day organizations, and these timeless examples underline some of the questions to be asked in regards to logistics. Such questions include how many resources to dedicate to a campaign, how much a campaign should finance itself and how much by the rest of the organization, what third parties or agreements could be necessary, and much more. Although the answers today might be quite a bit more complex, the problems remain very much the same..

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