A Roman general was responsible for military activities, such as leading troops into battle and ensuring the expansion of the Roman Republic. A general would remind his soldiers that they were being closely watched, and that their bravery would be rewarded and their cowardice punished. A commander received various benefits that ensured his social status, including prestige, financial resources, and servants.
A military commander was responsible for inspiring soldiers to do their civic duty and serve in the Roman army. He was not required to rush into the thick of the battle with a sword or spear in hand, but rather train his troops to be successful in battle. During a period of peace, a general was expected to continue training his troops because exercise was considered important. Idleness was deemed a threat that would disrupt military discipline and sharply reduce the forces’ combat capability. Additionally, a commander needed to pay attention to the intelligence organizations of his enemies in order to fight successfully against spies and preserve military secrets.
A Roman general was a magistrate, or a representative of official authorities. A general was not necessarily a Roman Emperor, nor did he have an established place on the battlefield. Since external enemies often threatened the existence and prosperity of the Roman Empire, military victory was considered the most significant accomplishment for any Roman general, which would bring him the greatest glory. The successful management of military operations became a matter of upmost for Roman politicians. Roman generals often became political figures and were occasionally named Emperors after significant victories in war.
Gaius Julius Caesar was one of the first Roman generals that became an Emperor of Ancient Rome. He fought in Spain, and then against the Gauls, the Germans, and the British. When he finally defeated all his rivals, he was awarded five victories. The fifth was for the victory over the army of Pompey in the battle of Munda. After the victory on the battlefield, the army formally proclaimed Caesar an Emperor. On his return to Rome, he marched with his army along the Sacred Road, which ran through the capital of the Roman Empire. The victory was a great honor, and Caesar’s family celebrated his victory and fame for many generations.
Many of the buildings and temples of Rome were erected or restored by triumphant commanders with the proceeds of the spoils captured during the war. Victorious generals usually benefited materially from their achievements, but the rise of prestige was far more critical. Military glory contributed to a beneficial political career, which, in turn, provided more opportunities to command the army in wartime.