Friday, 1 August 2014

How Bad is Agathias? Experiencing War in the Sixth Century

I've been reading bits of Agathias for a chapter on women and warfare in Procopius - and really running with the thin/thick descriptions, which I had erroneously attributed to Levithan (actually found it in Petersen's massive new book on siege warfare in late antiquity, and it ultimately goes back to Geertz and anthropology).  Anyway, I'm a Procopius lover, though I've had a soft spot (as one does) for Agathias too.  I've engaged a little both with Agathias here and there, and have always had plans of doing more, but it's not quite worked out...perhaps soon.

Anyway, although Kaldellis has made some forceful arguments for the quality of Agathias' historical achievements, and though Syvanne is generally positive of some of his military accounts, many would place him low down the historian leaderboard.  For some reasons, this might very well be a fair assessment.  Given I've been looking at war, I'm wondering if it's not a little unfair.  As wonderful as Procopius is, much of his descriptions are shorn of the "face of battle" style that Kagan (2006) has attributed to Ammianus (think Amida).  Indeed, when Procopius bothers to mention women in accounts of warfare, his mentions are usually restricted to the inevitable (from an historiographical perspective - I'm not trying to downplay the horrors of these actions) enslaving of women and children.  Now, I haven't gotten to the siege of Rome yet (537ish), and my memory is a bit rusty, so there may be more there.

Nevertheless, I read Ps.-Joshua's account and, well, as I already knew, he spends a considerable amount of time on the experience of war, particularly with respect to the siege of Edessa around 504 (is it later? - not sure off the top of my head).  Good stuff, few of the classicizing topoi, and generally a vivid account of the experience of siege warfare from the perspective from those on the inside - though there's much of value in general.

Where does Agathias fit in?  Well, he's next on the list, and as I've been perusing (and really only perusing) the Histories, I've been struck by the care with which he composed his accounts of warfare. I know he's a poetic historian.  He does have a penchant for verbosity, and some of his descriptions are long-winded - reading about a coiling-elephant trunk and a stampede in the Greek was a painful (but pleasurable too) exercise.  And yes, his lack of first-hand experience has inevitably meant that he's had to fall back on topoi, stereotypes, and the like to compose his accounts.  Yet, while there is a certain consistency from account to account, there is still considerable variety, and this most superficial of readings is leaving me with the impression that his verbose and literary treatment of warfare conveys much better than Procopius does the experience of warfare.  His ekphrases, then, seem to be much more effective at brining the warfare before the eyes of me, the reader.  More needs to be done, but he's given me much to ponder.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Tracking Roman Combat Fatalities, or How to Use the Evidence

I've been reading some of Ian Morris' wide-ranging work, including his new book on war.  It's got me thinking about a lot of things; one in particular is death in combat.  If we wanted to know if Rome was doing better or worse at war, one ostensibly, simple way to do this would be to take a look at death rates among soldiers (let alone civilians) in combat over the course of Rome's documented history.  So, if we're talking about using reliable accounts, that would mean, most likely, using everyone from Polybius to Theophylact (my cutoff for Rome being in the mid seventh century - and really my choice is just as arbitrary as anyone else's).  Sure, there are narrative accounts for earlier periods, but given the questions pre-Polybius, not to mention issues with Dionysius and Diodorus.  Best leave those out.  Although that doesn't provide a complete list, it does give us some solid thick descriptions (here I'm borrowing terminology from Levithan's Roman Siege Warfare) of battle over the course of a considerable amount of time.

Ideally we'd like to use official records, but short of the occasional document like Hunt's Pridianum, or select Vindolanda tablets, we don't have what could be called official records of fatalities.  And, that's not to say that those aforementioned documents are official themselves.  And we're assuming that they had them to begin with.  Given the general, and occasionally detailed, image we have of Roman military organization it seems unlikely to me that they didn't have some sort of record.  Heck, even the list of names from the monument in Romania (not the Adamklissi one - name escapes me and this IS a blog post so I'm not going to check) points in that direction.  But, as I say, we got nothing.

Archaeological data from sites of battle would be useful too, but we have almost nothing in this regard.  The penchant for collecting and burying the dead, not to mention the pillaging of lost weapons by Romans and their foes alike has meant that we haven't found much of this, besides problems with tracking down the specific sites of individual battles.  They did eventually find the site of Varus' last stand, and some remarkable stuff was recovered, but outside, say, the remains of Dura (and we're talking a siege here - and I have blurred the line so far), we haven't much to go on.  In fact, even less of this than we have of the official record sort.  What remains, then, are the accounts in the aforementioned historians themselves.

If we wanted some sort of control on our data, we might only consider those historians who fall within the classical or classicizing tradition, and so describe history - and for us war and battle - in a conscribed sort of way (speeches, digressions, etc.).  This would mean using writers like Josephus (Jewish War), Herodian, and Ammianus, but not those like Josephus (Jewish Antiquities), Eusebius, and Count Marcellinus.  We'd probably have to include Caesar too, even if he doesn't quite fit the mould, though he is similar.  There are, unsurprisingly, problems with using a sample like this.  Indeed, there are significant gaps during the period in question, not covered by these sorts of historians.  Plus, even those that do survive describe battle in varying ways and in varying quantities. Their credentials too vary quite a lot.

Of course, it's clear that this attempt at control starts to falter quite soon too.  There are too many gaps, many of which are filled by other historians working within different traditions.  This does likely mean that they approach evidence and shape their narratives (if a narrative it is) in quite different ways - and hold different events and details of different worth than the classical and classicizing ones, though by the end of antiquity the lines had really started to blur.  Still, it would probably be in our best interests to use as many different historians as possible, despite the glaring lack of consistency, and as along as we're sensitive to the vagaries of the various authors we should be ok...should be.

Now that we've established that we would use the various ancient historians (and anything literary that might be of value) and we feel "extremely" (read sarcastically) confident about that, we have to take a look at what sorts of figures they use.  Some give precise figures ("612", some give vague figures ("no less than 1000", some use general phrases ("many died"), and some give widely fanciful ones ("70,000", or it could be read in some cases of "70 myriads" - which to me is less a real number than it is a vague generalization) - and some times the historians use all manner of figure.  Of course, sometimes they give nothing, or only give it for one side only, and not the Roman side.  If we look at chronicle (or chronograph - however you want to call them) accounts, sometimes we have little more than figures, and no sense of context.  In fact, the closer you look the less ideal this evidence appears. None of this is really new, but to my mind it's still worth stressing.

So, what do we do?  Do we discard this too?  That would mean we're left with nothing - and there is no way to look at changing death rates amongst soldiers over the course of Rome's history.  Sure, I could have mentioned inscriptions, but those are really only useful for a couple of centuries, and even then of the many dead soldiers recorded, few (so far as I know off the top of my head) come from combat itself.  Rather, the epitaph was usually erected later in life.  Even if it proved useful for at least some areas of the empire, it's no good to us for the republican period, or the late roman period.  Ultimately, still nothing.

Maybe, however, this is the point.  We don't have the sorts of data that we like, and the last thing we should try to do is to make it fit into any preconceived plans or theories.  If we don't have the evidence, we don't have evidence, and we should leave it at that.  Problem is, we do have some evidence, and as wretched as it might at a sweeping glance seem, I think it behoves us to use it.  As long as we're all aware of what we're doing and what we're using, and as long as we don't make attempts to apply whatever results we have too widely, and we are careful and methodical as much as we can be when using it, then it is worth using.  For, though it might not tell us give us the exact evidence we want, it's possible it might give us some sense of the rate of fatalities amongst Roman soldiers in combat over time.  Then, if we used that in conjunction with other evidence (wins, losses, territorial gains, losses, etc.), we might go some way towards getting a better idea just how well the Roman military actually fared over time, particularly in late antiquity.

The Changing Face of Classical Warfare

How much did warfare change between Classical Athens and Sixth Century East Rome?  And if it did was it an improvement?  Was there anything that could be considered a revolution?  Some say there have been a number of military revolutions (er - that's revolutions in the ways of war, rather than, say, the replacement of one ruler by another) at various points, other just a few.  Had matters improved to such a degree by the sixth century that an east Roman army would annihilate a band of Athenian hoplites had they jumped forward in time some 1000 years?

The most obvious answer is probably yes.  After all, the hoplite armies of late classical Greece had been defeated, quite significantly, by those of Philip, Alexander, and Macedonia.  In turn, those same Macedonian armies had been defeated, in time, by the Roman armies, and again quite significantly.  So, if the sixth century east Roman army was an offshoot of the earlier one that had been so successful, then it would stand to reason that yes, they would be successful, and so things had improved.

But was there anything that could be called revolutionary in the changes that had taken place?  There was no gunpowder, or air power.  Even the stirrup wasn't quite there yet.  What about changes in artillery:  do they count?  Perhaps, but did victories in sieges ultimately lead to success in war?  The Romans had a lot of success, but so did the Persians - and they eventually lost out.  Perhaps if there was a revolution it was less in the area of the methods of fighting than in the organizations that emerged instead.  The Roman armies were famously professional - eventually - and the greater flexibility of their units allowed them to run circles around their foes.  Polybius describes something to this effect in his Histories when he's describing the Macedonian phalanx and the Roman legion (which in his day was filled with cohorts rather than centuries, which came a bit later).  Sarantis (2013) has argued that Roman success in late antiquity rested in another aspect of organization - their infrastructure, from the series of well-fortified sites across the frontiers to the well-planned logistical networks and systems.  So maybe the revolution, or revolutions, was less in the way of war than in the means of enabling it.

Much of our evidence for combat, of course, comes from literary sources, and their take on things can muddy the waters to no insignificant degree.  To my mind one of the most stark examples of this is Procopius' descriptions of combat in his Wars.  For Procopius is effectively describing war in the language, manner, and style of Thucydides, even though Thuydides is dealing with hoplites and Procopius late Roman soldiers.  Even more surprising - and problematic - than this is his "famous" comparison in the preface between Homeric archers and the horse archers of his day.  Scholars have wrangled over what Procopius is saying:  legitimate discussion, playful and subtle criticism of contemporary practice, or the presentation of some sort of ideal.  Whatever he had in mind, it's worth considering that he did see fit to make this comparison in the first place, and his relative success as a writer suggests it had some currency.  Is this just a case of the baffling ineptness of Procopius and some members of his audience?  In some real sense did they really think that you could compare the warfare waged 1000 years (and more - even 1500) earlier with that of his own day?  Had some actually criticized the present-day soldiers in light of those earlier ones?

But maybe we are missing something - maybe war really hadn't changed all that much.  Yes, Roman legions had crushed Macedonian phalanges/phalanxes, but if Alexander had lived a little later, and/or the two met a bit earlier, would the phalanx still have been bested by Roman might?   I think that question is harder to answer.

Ultimately, a satisfactory answer would take a lot more time and space than the length of this blog and the amount of time it took me to write this.  But, if warfare didn't change all that much, at least during the classical age (and you might say Homer and Procopius fall outside it, to some degree, at least when we're concerned with warfare, and so the notes about them are misleading), that Procopius, for instance, did see fit to describe war in the manner that he did might not have been as foolhardy as it might seem on the surface.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

What Makes a Good Ancient(etc.) Military History Part 3: Procopius' Art of War

As I was saying about more time...

There were a number of ways to describe war in the sixth century and Procopius simply opted with the most tried and true of approaches.  Indeed, one of the greatest aspects of the sixth century is the many ways available to describe both the more recent and the more distant past - and the number of different aspects of those pasts that were described.  It was no longer simply war and politics.  Nevertheless, that's what I'm interested here.

So, however we might characterize Procopius' way of war, it's also worth asking whose it is?  Is it his alone?  Those of the wider sixth century in general?  This is important, for it has some bearing on the evaluation of his worth as a military historian (or war reporter).  There are other historians who described some of the same events that he did, such as Malalas, John Lydus, and Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite.  Many consider Malalas to represent the official view, though he's not terribly interested in the minutiae of sixth century warfare, with few exceptions - and many (though not me) would argue that what we have is little more than mishmash of other sources.  John Lydus' history is lost, though that he was apparently commissioned to write a history of sorts of Justinian's war/wars is worth noting.  Pseudo-Joshua was writing a bit earlier, and his worldview is not quite that of the classicizing Procopius:  it makes for a refreshing comparative.  With that said, a cursory glances suggests that his worldview is more likely that of the Romano-Persian borderlands than that of the core of the empire in Constantinople and environs.

Still, that doesn't help us with Procopius.  If his views are idiosyncratic - those of him alone - then it would be more than a little misleading to characterize his approach to warfare as the "Byzantine Way of War", the "Late Roman Way of War", "the East Roman Way of War", or what have you.

Whosever views we think Procopius presents, it's also true that he makes for a complex case because of the quantity of his surviving work, and the sheer variety of what he does include.  On the one hand, he presents a host of rulers, from Persian shahs to Roman emperors.  The central emperor, Justinian, features occasionally, at least explicitly, in the Wars, though has a much more central role in the Buildings and Secret History.  Plus, from a military perspective (though from other perspectives too), the image of Justinian that he presents is obtuse, at least if we use all three texts - and I think we should.  In the SH we have an emperor whose foreign policy decisions undermined the security of the state, thanks in part to his willingness to use what seem to be less than desirable means of achieving his desired ends - i.e., he pays of barbarians and under-funds the very soldiery on whose safety the empire depends.  In the Buildings, the emperor's construction work led, amongst other things, to what could be called an unprecedented level of security of the empire and its citizenry.  Indeed, the emperor of that panegyrical text is - or at this point in my research seems to be - very much a defensively-minded one, which would seem to mesh with how some characterize the general Byzantine strategic mentality.  In the Wars, in sharp contrast to his adversaries, Justinian doesn't campaign in person, and the warfare that's described is a mixture of the defensive against Persia, though the Romans do attack on occasion;, the offensive (how else ought we characterize the wars in Africa and Italy than as wars of aggression?; and asymmetric, if we go back to Africa and the unrest that arose after the initial lightning-quick conquest.  We also get some insight, particularly in the build-up to the African invasion, of the foreign policy decision making at the court of Justinian.

Even the combat described is varied - Persian combat is in many ways unlike Vandal combat, which is also in many ways unlike Gothic combat.  And, all this is to say nothing about the little-mentioned Balkan combat that he all but excludes.  Sure, cavalry is described, and there are some well-known discussions of horse archers, but infantry features too, there is plenty of siege warfare, and let's not forget the asymmetric combat.  Some Romans (or East Romans or Byzantines if you prefer) demonstrate predilections for what some call the western way of war - direct assaults on the enemy.  Other Romans prefer what some call the eastern approach - fight at last resort.  Indeed, in some ways this is the problem of Byzantine history in general - in the minds of many it lands somewhere between east and west:  more eastern than western to medievalists, and perhaps more western than eastern to orientalists.

Anyway, if there's any point yet it's simply that there's much to consider.

What Makes a Good Ancient/Late Antique/Medieval Historian Part 2

More time means more thinking.

So, one of the issues, or at least a matter that has been raised about Procopius - and you could argue widely accepted - is his status as a topnotch reporter, but less so a top historian (Cameron 1985, essentially).  As noted, my focus is on military history in particular, and so for me I've framed this particular dichotomy, one which the book will address, is whether Procopius is a topnotch war reported or a top notch military historian - or various shades of grey.  

The thinking, so far as I understand it, is that if he's simply a top reporter, then his account is more valuable for what it describes than how he explains what he describes.  Thucydides, famously, not only provides one of the most vivid accounts of war from any age, but one of the most penetrating historical analyses as well - and, it is probably fair to say that Procopius doesn't quite hit that mark.  But does he only describe?  I'm convinced that, at least with respect to combat, he doesn't.  In fact, there are all sorts of explanations that he includes in the bulk of his descriptions, and even in those brief notices.  But, to my mind it stands to reason that if he explains combat, both implicitly and explicitly, then he probably explains a lot more, even if the analysis itself isn't as penetrating as we might like it to be.  That might mean that he has recourse to the divine and morality, which might not be what we'd like (though that in itself is interesting from a cultural perspective), but I do believe it's there - though if it's not, I'll note that too.

Procopius certainly presents a wide variety of the experiences of war, and even some of those of the lower echelons of society, even if they are sometimes little more than vague references and compilations of cliches, dare I say.  Indeed, there's no doubt in my mind that his coverage is extensive.  Procopius provides information on the planning for war, at both the highest levels and in the field.  He discusses some of the logistics of war, both directly and indirectly, from his manifold descriptions of fortifications in the buildings and the food problems experienced on the voyage to Africa, to the attempts of Belisarius himself to recruit men before heading back to Italy for the second time.  There are also all those anecdotes - like his own (Procopius') foray into Sicily and the coast of Italy during the Gothic War.  

One issue that could pose some problems is the lack of closure. Though parts of the Wars end in what are to my mind more reasonable places than most have assumed, in all cases, save maybe Africa to some degree or other, the wars hadn't finished by the time he'd finished.  Indeed, even after he'd penned book 8 it wasn't all over.  Yet, the same was true for Thucydides, or Polybius for that matter, and yet that hasn't stopped scholars from praising them.  

So, more to come...

What Makes a Good Ancient/LateAntique/Medieval Military Historian?

How do you determine whether an ancient/late antique/medieval historian was a good one?  What criteria should one use?  Is there even such a thing as a good one?  Heck, is it anachronistic to even consider ancient (etc.) historians if this was only part of what many of them did?

The reason I ask is that this has something to do with a project of mine looming on the horizon, and one I should be able to really get into within the next month or two.  In this "year of Procopius", as I'm calling the next 12-14 months or so, one of the most significant things is an evaluation of Procopius as a military historian, something which hasn't attracted too much attention, or at least too much sustained, detailed attention.  Sure, many have used him for late antique military matters, and so included some comments about his worth and the like, and there's even been a few essays, but nothing book length.  Given that this is what I've set out to do (and plans and a possible/probable publisher are in place) I should really determine what that is.

I have already given the issue some thought.  Another project, on Procopius and battle, is, I hope, nearing completion.  That study is much more of a cultural reading of his approach to combat - I'm less interested there, at least explicitly, with whether or how we can use him for the realien of late antique military history - which is what this other project tackles.  So, I do have a plan, or a tentative one, for how this ought to go.  I'll include all three works, Wars, Secret History, and Buildings - they each have valuable evidence to offer, and to provide a full evaluation it would only make sense to cover all three.  I've also been leaning towards dividing the project into at least three principal sections.  One of the problems I'm having is I'm wondering this working plan is anachronistic - am I being guilty of the sorts of things that I'm saying we shouldn't do in this other project on combat?

The three sections I have in mind are:  first, on strategy, which some would say is anachronistic for the pre-modern world, others wouldn't; the second, on operations, certainly mentioned and important - and some could argue even stressed, but a modern classification no less; and the third on tactics, the stuff at the battle level, where there would be some overlap with the previous project.  I plan on rectifying the overlap problem by focusing in this new one more squarely on:  "how can and should we use Procopius for military matters".  Anyway, is this how I should be evaluating him, using our own terms?  To some degree this is unavoidable - I am writing in English, after all .  But if I shouldn't, then how should I do this?  I guess you could look at the various ways that the ancients thought that war was won and lost, and we do, fortunately, have a good amount of evidence for this.  I could then compare this with what Procopius has to say.  Does he cover the same things?  Would ancient readers approve of how he describes and explains war - and matters such as the role of God, Justinian, generalship, and whatever else?

Of course, maybe it need not be one or the other.  There could be a first half that sets out Procopius' art of war (tentative title, I should add, is Procopius' Art of War), and which could cover all those issues that he does, from fortifications, siege engines, and technology, to disadvantaged frontier soldiers, multiethnic Roman armies, and questionable paying off of barbarian peoples.  All those issues could fit under the broader category of war.  Then, the second half could discuss how we use this.  First, from a late antique operations standpoint, second, from a strategic standpoint, and third, from a tactical standpoint.  If you do that, though, it would probably make sense to work in the former into the latter.  Perhaps, then, it's not as problematic as I sometimes think it is.

Ultimately, the more I think about something, the more I doubt what had originally seemed so sensible.  It's entirely plausible that I'll eventually go full circle and return right back to the original plan.  But, plenty of time to work this out yet.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

If the Late Roman Military Was a Sports Team: should the emperor/coach get fired?

Some time ago, while suffering through, and thinking about, the inconsistent performances of my favourite NHL team (the Ottawa Senators) and the local one (Winnipeg Jets), two things crossed my mind:  first, what constitutes "a good record"; second, do - or even could or should - the criteria for sports team excellence apply to other phenomena?  The other that I had in mind was the late Roman military, often either good or bad in modern estimations, with very few verdicts falling in between.  If I took the general criteria for evaluating the success of a given team over the course of a season and applied it to the late Roman military how would it stack up?  With this ridiculous idea and parallel in mind, I present this comparative approach to an evaluation of the late Roman military.

The criteria that I'm going to use are quite basic:  how many wins are there and how many losses.  This is the easiest way to compare sports to militaries:  both win and lose.  To make the analogy between then (late Rome) and now (modern North American sports), I've also decided to see how the military performs in different centuries, with the aim being to present a wider picture.  I should note too that I've limited this discussion to wars agains external foes, for in civil war surely everyone's a loser from the Roman perspective.  Any significant military activity (and I have been rather loose with respect to what counts) has been included, whether it's what could be considered a full-scale war or some sort of military campaign.  Also, it's hardly an extensive list:  I've only considered those wars listed in the back of volume 2 of the Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare.  So, without further ado, here's late Rome's "performance":  a preliminary investigation.

Wins-Losses-Draws  5-8-2
208-210 Septimius Severus in Scotland  WIN
213-214 Caracalla against Alamanni  WIN
215-216 Caracalla invades Parthia  WIN
230-233 Alexander Severus campaigns against Persians  DRAW
234-235 Alexander against Alamanni and Marcomanni - buys them off  - DRAW
238 Persians attack eastern frontier  - LOSS
243/244 Gordian defeated by Shapur I - LOSS
249/250 Goths raid Balkans - LOSS
251 Decius dies in battle against Goths - LOSS
260 Valerian captured by Persians - LOSS
260 Franks invade Gaul - LOSS
260 Alamanni invade Gaul - LOSS
262-267 Goths invade Asia Minor/Greece - LOSS
271 Aurelian defeats Palmyra - WIN
273 Aurelian reconquers Gaul - WIN

Wins-Losses-Draws  1-4-1
337-350 inconclusive war with Persia - DRAW
357 Julian defeats Alamanni - WIN
359 Shapur captures Amida - LOSS
361-363 Julian invades Persia - LOSS
378 Goths defeat & kill Valens - LOSS
396 Alaric & Goths ravage Greece - LOSS

Wins-Losses-Draws  0-6-1
410 sack of Rome - LOSS
429-439 Vandals take Africa - LOSS
440s Attila - DRAW
455 Vandals sack Rome - LOSS
460 Majorian's expedition to get Africa fails - LOSS
468 Basilicus' expedition to get Africa fails - LOSS
480s Goths overrun northern Balkans - LOSS

Wins-Losses-Draws  5-4-1
502-531 Rome wars with Persia - DRAW
533 Belisarius takes Africa - WIN
540 Belisarius takes Italy - WIN
540 Khusro attacks east - LOSS
544-552 Narses defeats Gothic resistance in Italy - WIN
568 Lombards invade Italy - LOSS
572 Justin II invades Persia - WIN
578/579 Avars start invasion of Balkans - LOSS
586/587 Slavs raid Greece - LOSS
590s Romans "win" in Balkans - WIN

Wins-Losses-Draws  1-2-0
614 Persians take much of east - LOSS
627 Heraclius defeats Persians at Nineveh - WIN
642 Arabs capture Alexandria - LOSS

Overall Wins-Losses-Draws  12-22-5

As noted, this is a far from thorough and extensive compilation of wars and wins/losses/draws and the like, and what has constituted for me a win or loss, or draw for that matter, has come down to a vaguely arbitrary decision.  Still, a few comments - the evaluation portion - are in order.

Overall, the late Roman military (henceforth lrm) has a dismal record.  In most north american sports leagues, or any for that matter, a 31% winning percentage isn't likely to lead to an extension of a coach's or manager's contract.  That percentage puts them in the same rank as the Buffalo Sabres of this current NHL season (at 28% at the Olympic break - even worse remarkably).  If we break it down by century, things look particularly grim in the third and fifth centuries, which is perhaps what we'd expect.  So too, however, does the situation seem to be in the fourth, when most consider the lrm  to have been performing at a reasonable level.  In fact, it's the sixth century that the lrm does best, though a 56% winning percentage is nothing to write home about.  Just ask the Jets; it's not going to get you into the playoffs.  The record for the sixth century may not seem so dire either, though I stopped in the middle of that century.

There's at least one other way to look at these figures, however, at least if we look at the century by century breakdown:  does the lrm win its last or most important battles/wars?  If that's the criteria, then the third and sixth centuries again represent winning seasons:  they've finished on top.  Still, the records leave much to be desired.

In the end, a poor showing, though a more detailed complete would be far more helpful.  So too would some additional comparative material, like Rome during the republican era and the early imperial one.  Perhaps in another post...