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What organisational challenges did the Roman Army face?

Hugo Delamain by Hugo Delamain

What organisational challenges did the Roman Army face?

Roman insights for the leaders of today


From the legions of Rome to the boardrooms of the 21st century, the battles of organisational strategy, structure and leadership remain timeless. 


Reading time: Approx. 2 minutes​


Hugo Delamain, Head of Digital Product at Q5 and author of The Business of Stuff newsletter, shares reflections on how even the Roman empire faced challenges of organisational effectiveness. If you’d like to hear more like this from Hugo, subscribe to The Business of Stuff newsletter here for a weekly dose of news, delivered differently.


Strategy: The Roman army’s biggest problem was often deciding who to invade. Ultimately the answer was ‘everyone’ but prioritisation was inevitably a challenge as was managing its existing lines of business. Two invasions of Britain were called off by Augustus to deal with revolts elsewhere in the empire.

Structure: The first big re-org was in 387 BC after a particularly bruising defeat at the Battle of Allia. Prior to this legions were structured based on social class but the new system was based around age and experience. Legions got gradually smaller over time in order to make them less unwieldy but were fundamentally command and control structures, not what one would call ‘agile’.

Data integrity: During the republican civil wars many of the generals had founded their own legions and named them as they liked (everyone wanted a Legio X of course). Augustus underwent another reorg – reducing the number of legions, undertaking a pay review and establishing a permanent navy.

Supply chain: The logistics required to facilitate a never-ending stream of campaigns across a vast area were monumental. In many instances soldiers were forced to carry their own food and forage, which was the undoing of Lucius Afranius.

Culture: The diversity of the Roman army (drawing on all corners of the empire) was certainly one of its strengths and it’s how elephants ended up in Colchester. There was however often tension between legionaries and ‘auxiliaries’ with little attempt to embrace their ways of working and language – an “I’ll just call you Marcus” attitude was rife.





Hugo Delamain

Senior Consultant, Q5

Author, The Business of Stuff

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