Expansion Strategies and their Consequences

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Expansion Strategies of the Roman Empire

Many emperors saw the need for territory expansion as a way to demonstrate their military might and to amass more riches. Strong empires were frequently portrayed as having large, imposing armies that were well-versed in the art of battle. Economic stability was another important element in determining how strong an empire was. Strong emperors could easily subjugate lesser ones thanks to the aforementioned characteristics, making them their subjects. Because of this, it was crucial for kings to devise plans that would allow them to enlarge their domains. Important to note is that expansion strategies employed by various emperors were effective and they assisted them to acquire more territories. However, they had a number of merits and demerits. The paper seeks to provide an in-depth analysis on the expansion strategies employed by Roman and Chinese. It also looked at the positive and negative consequences of the expansion strategies.

The Grand Strategy

The Grand Strategy was a non-force military strategy employed by the emperors of the Roman Empire to conquer, quell criticism and terrify those who were viewed as immediate threats to the dynasty (Goldsmith, 1979). The Roman leaders had realized that a greater dimension of power was a psychological concept rather than physical concept and for this reason, they employed psychological ideas to conquer and retain most of their territories. Manipulative diplomacy and money were used to secure loyalty from potential threats. Before the military conquest, for example, the top leadership of the army would consider reaching a diplomatic deal with the potential subjects, more often, with a promise of unwavering security in return (Warry, 1980).

The siege of Masada was a perfect example where the grand strategy worked. The Masada fortress could be brought down by the Roman army in a fewer number of days. According to Gibbon (2014), the Roman military instead, decided to use their remote engineering skills to bring down the wall, and this went a long way in creating an impression that they don't solely rely on warfare. Again, the strategy spelled a blow to those who might have anticipated and prepared for a forceful conquest.

Operational Strategy

Before the use of the grand strategy of wit and diplomacy, the Roman Empire relied heavily on the operational strategy. Notably, the strategy mentioned above connotes to the use of force, with some few elements of tactics to stage revolts and devour their enemies. The strategy ran on a system where young men, especially from the low class, were continuously recruited to serve in the army in order to provide a standing army. The tactics employed in this strategy those dealing with maneuvering tactics in the battlefield. The fighting troops were organized into troops. Certain troops that constituted only of the Roman descent fighters were called the Legion while troops made up of other conquered tribes formed the auxiliary troops (Goldsmith, 1979). The large standing army ensured permanent surveillance throughout the territory and went out on expeditions to conquer extra territories.

Infantry tactic strategy

The infantry tactics was a composite of various tactics that originated from diverse factors as the desire to exercise hegemony, borrowing of particular war tactics from neighbors, flexibility in war tactics, strong discipline and strong cohesion among the roman tribes. This enormous pool of tactics enabled the Romans to overwhelm their opponents in a battle by being able to shift their strategy almost instantly. The ability to shift their tactics made them unpredictable in the face of their opponents. Similarly, the ability to stay together, even in the face of defeat, triggered self-inspiration that saw the military men keep their morale high for future conquests (Warry, 1980). While out in the field, the fighters were supplied with food and other needs to ensure they don't run out of the basic needs as well as necessary tools and weaponry. Some particular tactics that the Roman combatants copied were fighting with combatants arranged in rows, the closing phase movement and the shock tactic.

Consequences of the Roman Empire strategies

The military organization of Roman Empire brought significant advantages to the empire, especially on the war front, but on the other side, a few evils prevailed. The ranking of the combatants into troops and levels of seniority enhanced mistreatment and corruption within the forces. There were situations where the senior officers would pocket a portion of the pay belonging to the junior employees and this caused loggerheads within the military ranks. Furthermore, some of the officers did not report the death of their fellows as a ploy to continue enjoying the benefits that were meant for the deceased, and all this compromised the level of discipline expected of the men in military service. In addition to that, because of the great number of youths joining the army, more people became militarized due to the increasing number of people acquiring military skills. In fact, at one point in the 4th century, the number of the Roman army was estimated at close to 600,000 men, and this was considered too many a number to possess military skills and live within the society once they left service (Warry, 1980).

The strategies, on the other hand, led to a number of victories for the Roman troops. The adoption of the grand strategy, in which the use of force was minimized, significantly reduced the number of casualties as the war was avoided. Additionally, it is a strategy that was largely accepted and embraced by those who were in the military and the conquered subjects. The conquered viewed it as a peaceful strategy while those who served in the army did not need to be in constant fear of losing their lives in battles.

Expansion Strategies of the Ancient Chinese Societies

Huge Standing Armies

The rising of the ancient Chinese Societies happened alongside an increasing population and improving economic aspects. Actually, it was the well-performing economy that saw the rise in population, and as a result, empires were able to maintain a large army which was well fed (Lewis, 2010). With enough food and a territory to protect, a lot of military technology came to the fore and weapons like the cross-bow were invented. Together all these developments enhanced warfare and conquests across the regions covered by the ancient societies. Besides battles, various states were able to use their economic and military might to get materials for constructing fortified walls to keep off potential invasions from groups like the barbarians and steppes from central Asia (Lewis, 2010).

Bureaucratic leadership

As more people joined the army, the leadership of the Chinese Societies had to contend with increased need of collected tax to pay the military men. For this reason, the Kings decided to partition their regions into districts, with prefects heading each district (Scheidel, 2011). These district heads were to oversee the collection of the tax which was used to pay the military for their role in ensuring the security of the empires. Apart from ensuring effective collection of taxes, Scheidel (2011) asserts that the mentioned prefects later got some administrative role over the military, and this made coordination of military activities easier, thereby, improving the surveillance throughout the territories.

Technological and Economic Advancements

Increased interstate warfare among the ancient societies prompted the various armies to start thinking on how they could dominate others in terms of the military supremacy, as a way deterring any form of aggression and possibly capture some extra new areas (Lewis, 2010). The necessity, therefore, prompted the combatants and civilians as well to try out new ideas of creating sophisticated tools and weapons. As a result, iron casting technology, metal coins, and large-scale irrigation methods emerged. The advanced tools contributed immensely to the growth of farming activities which consequently led to increased food for the combatants (Lewis, 2010). Improved and more lethal weaponry meant that more invasions were made as a stronger security was beefed up within the territories.

Consequences of the Chinese Societies Strategies

The introduction of more improvised ways of watering farms greatly enhanced food production and coupled with the emergence of coins, the technological and economic strategy spurred trade to heights never witnessed in the previous years. According to Scheidel (2011), peasants were able to sell their farm produce for an equivalent value of money and in the process market centers emerged and expanded into towns. The use of bureaucratic leadership implanted indiscipline among the rulers who were appointed to govern the states. The state rulers gradually concentrated power under them and eventually lost the loyalty they held to the King. For instance, in the Zhou Society, a ruler by the name Qin annexed a preserved Kingship rump; an act that eventually led to the collapse of Zhou dynasty in 256 BC (Lewis, 2010).


From the above discussion, it is clear that the expansion strategies used by both Roman and Chinese empires played a significant role in ensuring that their territory was completely protected and also enabled them to conquer more territories. The strategy such as the grand strategy enabled Roman Empire to maintain and conquer other territories without the shade of blood. Conversely, a strategy such as the use of the bureaucratic leadership had its consequences; it empowered the state rulers making them be indiscipline and losing their loyalty to the king. Technological and economic advancement strategy assisted Chinese to increase its food production and trading activities. Therefore, despite the benefits of the expansion strategies, they also had negative consequences.


Gibbon, E. (2014). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. New York, NY: Sheba Blake Publishing.

Goldsmith, O. (1979). Goldsmith's Roman history. Philadelphia: John Conrad and Co.ork: St. Martin's Press.

Lewis, M. E. (2010). The early Chinese empires: Qin and Han. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

Scheidel, W. (2011). Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires. Oxford University Press.

Warry, J. G. (1980). Warfare in the classical world: An illustrated encyclopedia of weapons, warriors, and warfare in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. New York.

June 26, 2023
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World History Army Wealth

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