Flavius Vegetius Renatus Analysis

Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Little is known of the life of Flavius Vegetius Renatus (FLAY-vee-uhs vuh-JEE-shee-uhs re-NAYT-uhs). His writings suggest he belonged to an upper-class Roman-Spanish family. He was certainly a Christian. Vegetius was not a military man but a high-ranking civilian official in the Late Roman Imperial government, perhaps the comes sacrum largitionum (finance minister) or comes sacri stabuli (count of the imperial stables). He authored two surviving works, Mulomedicina (n.d.; the treatment of mules), on veterinary medicine, and the better-known De re militari (between 383 and 450 c.e., also known as Epitoma rei militaris; The Foure Bookes of Martiall Policye, 1572, also translated as Military Institutions of Vegetius, 1767). The latter, a proposal for reforming the military through discipline and training—and replacing the barbarian troops the empire had come to rely on—was cloaked as a description of the “ancient” Roman army. It was dedicated to an anonymous emperor, probably Theodosius the Great.

Influence

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Military Institutions of Vegetius was one of the most widely read books in the West from the early Middle Ages to the seventeenth century. Always a favorite with commanders (such as Richard the Lion-Hearted), Vegetius influenced the military theories of Niccolò Machiavelli (Dell’ arte della guerra, 1521; The Art of War, 1560) and the development of the regiment by Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625).

Additional Resource

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

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