Flavius Vegetius Renatus Biography


(Comprehensive Guide to Military History)

Article abstract: Military significance: Wrote a brief compendium on military organization, which became the handbook for medieval armies.

Little is certain about Flavius Vegetius Renatus, the author of the most influential military manual of the ancient world, the Epitoma Rei Militaris (Epitome of Military Science, 1993). He appears to have been a Christian bureaucrat of the very late fourth century, possibly from Spain and without any direct military experience. His work is dedicated to the Roman emperor, probably Theodosius I, and seeks to gather, in an antiquarian manner, information about the earlier Roman army that could stand as a basis for the reform of existing imperial forces. The work covers virtually all areas of the ancient army: recruiting, training, fortification, organization, deployment, weaponry, battle tactics, and even naval matters. More than just a compiler, Vegetius Renatus stands as an early exponent of deterrence and the use of noncombat means of obtaining victory. His primarily defensive perspective places him at variance with much of ancient military thought. The popularity of Epitome of Military Science was unrivaled during the Middle Ages, despite the changed nature of combat, and Vegetius Renatus was credited by victorious commanders well into the seventeenth century.

Further Reading:

Keppie, J. F. The Making of the Roman Army. London: Routledge, 1998.

Milner, N. P., ed. Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993.

Rich, John, and Graham Shipley, eds. War and Society in the Roman World. New York: Routledge, 1995.