How Many U.S. Marines Could Bring Down the Roman Empire?

It all started as a thought experiment on when a user posed the question: “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?”

Then the Reddit user offered a more precise scenario:

Let’s say we go back in time with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) … could we destroy all 30 of Augustus’ legions?

We’d be up against nearly 330,000 men since each legion was comprised of 11,000 men. These men are typically equipped with limb and torso armor made of metal, and for weaponry they carry swords, spears, bows and other stabbing implements. We’d also encounter siege weapons like catapults and crude incendiary weapons.

We’d be made up of about 2000 members, of which about half would be participating in ground attack operations. We can use our mechanized vehicles (60 Humvees, 16 armored vehicles, etc), but we cannot use our attack air support, only our transport aircraft.

We also have medics with us, modern medical equipment and drugs, and engineers, but we no longer have a magical time-traveling supply line (we did have but the timelords frowned upon it, sadly!) that provides us with all the ammunition, equipment and sustenance we need to survive. We’ll have to succeed with the stuff we brought with us.

So, will we be victorious?

The question touched off a frenzy of discussion. One user, James Erwin, wrote a short story, Rome Sweet Rome, imagining how the battles might play out, and Warner Bros. came along and bought the movie rights to the story.

And now professional historians are weighing in. Interviewed in Popular Mechanics, historian Adrian Goldsworthy, an expert on the Roman army, offered these thoughts:

Obviously, there is a massive difference in firepower. Not only would Roman armor be useless against a rifle round—let alone a grenade launcher or a .50 caliber machine gun—it would probably distort the bullet’s shape and make the wound worse.

But here comes the difficulty:

In the short term and in the open, modern infantry could massacre any ancient soldiers at little risk to themselves. But you could not support modern infantry. So all of these weapons and vehicles could make a brief, dramatic, and even devastating appearance, but would very quickly become useless. Probably in a matter of days…. Marines are the best warriors ever trained. But they can’t fight an endless wave of soldiers. No one can.

You can find the rest of Goldsworthy’s thoughts here, and several good Roman history courses in our big collection of Free Online Courses.

via Andrew Sullivan

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Comments (77)
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  • Despite spending more money on killing than all other countries put together the telling point here is Americans have, in the absence of an honourable victory or defeat resorted to fantasizing over battles with armies from antiquity.

    It says a lot. They can always jerk off to the Indians that were wiped out in their millions but that one is a little too close to home.

  • Raymond says:

    The answer is: NO. The moment the US soldiers start firing, all of the marines whose surnames end in a vocal would vanish cause lets face it if you’re American you’re Italian or you’re Irish

  • Abdul Basir Muhammad says:

    Historians underestimate gap in tactics the shock an awe of our modern weapons will disrupt the command and control structure of any single legion . A few spectacular victories is all that is needed the legions will fall apart and probably even mass defections.

  • Bart says:

    I’m in to negotiate with the emperor, can I bring my Latin teacher too?

  • Michelle says:

    Everyone needs to remember to stick to the question and leave your comments or thoughts about the US anything at the door…It would be a wave of force unlike all others but the Marines would have to make each and every thing count. Nothing could be wasted because once it’s gone, it’s gone.

    Now, people are focusing on the hardware depletion when, as Abdul said, they have to remember another huge factor..the psychological one. Once the first volley is fired and they see those tanks it’s pretty much over. Any modern leader worth their salt would be using that to their utmost advantage.

  • The story of Isaac Asmimov’s Foundation series keeps repeating. It’s the little things that bring down an empire. Everything in our modern world is totally dependent on technology. The Romans would win easily.

  • Steve says:

    One Marine sniper team will create havoc as the Roman officers are killed off because they wouldn’t know to take cover at such a distance from the enemy. The the legions will begin to see the contemporary weapons causing devastation on their ranks and, particularly with their officers killed at a great and unimaginable distance, run like hell.

  • Juan says:

    Although I appreciate the historical curiosity, I am glad to see I was not the only one thinking that it is a very fascist question. We are literally fantasizing with the death and suffering of thousands of men (even Roman soldiers who made that matter exactly their own business). Of course, we are also forgetting the casualties among our own Marines. Plus the heavy civilian dying and suffering that takes place in every conquest.

  • bennet says:

    Gordon of Khartoum inflicted 11,000 casualties on the Mahdi’s army for the loss of 50 of his own men – and that was over 100 years ago. Simple maths would imply that the marines wouldn’t have too much trouble.

  • Jose Mendes says:

    Think of Pizarro and Cortez and the Aztec and Inca Empires. A modern invading force, if simply intent on using military power might even be defeated if a guerilla type of war developed on the lines of “moderns” agains “ancients”. But you would have to be a pretty thick commander if you did not play power politics with the ancients.

    Rome was a very divided society: Within factions of the tiny rulling elite, between rich citizens and poor citizens. Between the metropolitan members of the rulling class and the provincial magnates. Between Romans and the different subjected peoples of the empire. And of course the slave class whose revolts were always feared.

    I sugest you read Peter Heather’s The fall of the Roman Empire. There he points out that one overlooked but important element on the fall of the Empire was the breakdown of social order in the countryside sparked by the barbarian invasions. A barbarian army or people would come into a province forcing at the very least, the legions to retreat and concentrate to strongholds. Without the back up of that military arm the rural population (composed of slaves from great noble estates or supposedly free peasants who were half bonded by debt to the local magnates) took to plundering and attacking a social order that did nothing for them, forming bands of “brigantes” i.e. thiefs and rebels that often would follow the barbarian armies to re-plunder a recently attacked province and effectively prevented that province to rebuild itself and become a usefull tax paying part of the Empire again.

    Using superstition, using the support of some population groups against others and even using the external enemies of Rome like the Persian Empire, you could indeed defeat the roman Empire.

    On top of that you can use both the system the british used to rule India (using local rulers…from chieftains to proper client Armenia, Galatia etc) or the Manchu to rule China…by appropriating the Ming administration and power structures.

  • Jose Mendes says:

    And why kill te poor Roman soldiers? A couple of explosions and the flight of a few helicopters over their heads and they would be running to the hills thinking the gods had come down to Earth. Think of the impact that seeing spanish soldiers ridding horses had on inca and aztec warriors. They were terrified! In a world were humans have not started dreaming about flying to have a scary noisy helicopter flying above you would be more than enough to scater a legion and make fortified cities open their gates.

    I myself with fly over the city of Rome and throw loafs of bread to the scared populace with printed leaflets in latin saying the gods sent me to rule Rome and punish injustice and see how that went down. At the very least I would be creating a faction inside the city to support me.

    Or use fireworks for a few nights (careful not to burn the city down) before entering as a representative of the gods.
    It is also a time were army operations had to be limited to seasons when armies could feed off the land (i.e. robbing the peasants) so a modern army with enough supplies and using modern logistics would have a huge advantage in the winter.

    You could also attack the Empire gradually. Start with a rich province like Sicily that can provide for your modern troops basic needs and start basic support industries for your invasion army. Get the locals to provide the bulk of an army that the modern troops will be the back bone of.

  • Jose Mendes says:

    Just read the Rome sweet Rome story and not convinced by it.

    Like the Earthquake and then the soldiers find themselves in a different time and place. But how long would it take you to realise you are 1st in Italy (specially if you have aeroplanes which would allow you to start recognising basic geography points….would you really miss the alps or the Po valley or mount Etna? If you do you should not be flying an aeroplane) And surely the abundance of olive trees would be a give away that you had moved from Afghanistan to somewhere in the Mediterranean basin.

    It could take a bit more time to find, or after finding, accepting, that you are in a different time continum.

    The author is also not using the biggest weapons at our disposal: superstition, knoledge of our enemy, our technological superiority in litle things, food preservation, basic medical relief…

    The issue of morale is interesting…a few roman wenches, the idea that we are all in this together and the possibilites offered by knowing that you would be part of the ruling elite and live quite well off should cheer one up…but also start internal conflicts.

    He doesent say much of the civilian contractors and that offers so many story line possibilities my head spins. Imagine a nice looking UN volunteer, altruisitc, head set on improving the world, acting like a moral voice and elements more interested in taking advantage of the situation…oh those roman wenches again…and the military in the middle trying to keep the whole group together…with a vision that the american constitution knows best but also that you need order to win a war and keep an empire and that human rights for all are ideal but might be the first casualty of war (umm do we liberate the slaves or not…specially when the roman wenches we like so much would as slaves mend our socks and do other things just as we like it..which they might not want to do if they are free)

  • Jose Mendes says:

    Regarding the matter of supplies…well we should know more or less where to find them no? We just need to explore the resources and set up those basic support industries I mentioned before. We know we can find oil easyly (on the surface even) in some parts of the world (Azerbaijan, Irak) so we just need to know how to refine it…and its just basic chemistry.

    Food can be sourced localy…it is after all what the armies of that time did. Goat and sheeps meat is delicious, a few cheeses, bread and olives stolen from the local peasants or negotiated with the local chieftains (if out of Italy) and even local authorities, and you have an army well fed untill you are powerfull enough to demand tribute.

    Amunition and gun powder can be fabricated in rudimentary ways if you know how to do it…even a modest officer would have enough knoledge of military history to know the weaknesses of the roman army and a few basic weapons that can be fabricated and are effective againt the romans…again use disafected locals to use these and you keep the XXIst century stuff for yourself.

    Both Pizarro and Cortez were quick to find indigenous mistresses of subjected tribes who were fundamental to establish spanish rule in the americas…there are plenty of slaves, peasants, conquered tribes that would be all too happy to give you a hand to defeat the Coortes.

  • Jose Mendes says:

    Language would not be an excessive obstacle. Yes the latin language speakers would be very usefull (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French Romanian)…any of them would be very quick to point out that the language on mile stones, staelas, etc

    A catholic chaplain could be usefull…I dont think they have to learn latin these days but they still need to know some expressions (canonical right).

    Even you english speakers would be amased how much latin you could understand if you made an effort.

    On Rome sweet Rome I also dont like the fact that the different soldiers are not treated as individuals with lives before being drafted. Everybody has talents and interests that could surely be used. A former farmer would know alot about agriculture. The son of a miner would know alot about mining. Someone that collects stamps would know alot on how to organize a postal service. And we could go on. Knoledge is a thing held by a community, piece by piece and it is incredible what we pick up even without noticing…someone that knows how to hot wire a car already knows more about electricity than anyone in the Roman empire ever did.

    I also do not like the idea that it all has to be reduced to conflict. I mean, I am sure the roman elite would not fancy loosing their grip on power so batles are probable but if you read about the conquistadors of the americas a whole lot more than pure force was used. I mean the conquistadors were sleeping with the locals and using family connections of these women to find allies, they were negotiating with members of the Inca royal family (to backstab them after) using their own technology to impress the natives with their suposed links to the gods. Cuning was more important than force to establish their rule.

    Also, if you offer advantages to you newly conquered people…or if you impress them enough with your “superiority” in any field, the conquered ones will find you interesting as a ruler and may support you or at least want to be in your good books. The romans benefited from this but also think about the Kingdom of Hawaii, Meiji Japan…It is said that the arabs had no trouble conquering the iberian peninsula because when they established themselves they actually reduced the level of taxation being required by the visigothic Kingdom…which pacified the provinces of Hispania very quickly.

    Sorry to bore you all but am finding this idea rather interesting.

  • Dan Sullivan says:

    I was attached to a Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2007 and we had a fleet of chips, along with harriers and cobra attack helicopters. I’m not saying we would win. But we will fight until the mission is accomplished. Death before retreat!

  • dman73165 says:

    We must remember, a MEU also has two things in it’s arsinal, Chemical and nuclear weapons that can be used if there is no contact with the Commander in chief, as a last result to keep fron getting beaten.

  • Jon says:

    A lot of it depends, in sense. Marine snipers could be used, taking out key Roman officers, which could cause havoc in their legions. Artillery, accurately used, could stop an assault by a Roman Legion–not necessarily by obliterating everyone, but the shock and fear of large explosions around them. If the Marines were fully loaded out with ammunition (.223, for example), they could carry 210 rds, with 7-30 rd clips. If each individual shot was a kill shot, and 1500 of the 2200 Marines were used, (considering others are deployed with artillery and armour), they would kill 315,000 Roman Soldiers. Thus said, it is highly unlikely each shot would be a kill shot.

    If used in quick, and decisive blows, the Marines could defeat the entire Roman Army. This would be accomplished by effective use of accurate artillery, followed up by quick-moving armour and Infantry. Snipers would eliminate Roman Officers, causing somewhat of a disinegration of order, and lead to chaos in the Roman Lines.

    Thus said, if done decisively, and wisely, it could be done.

  • Josh says:

    Who says you have to defeat the entire Roman army? Take advantage of the concentrated firepower. A single armored vehicle could drive right up to the emperor with impunity. A single fire-team could slice right through the front lines to their command and support. A single mortar strike could panic their cavalry. A single sniper could take out most of a legion’s leadership.

    Even disregarding the pure firepower advantage, the Romans would have no procedures, tactics, or strategies for dealing with explosives, the rapid speed of motorized vehicle, indirect fire, or the even the scouting advantage of binoculars.

  • Zorro says:

    What if the Marines showed up with a great big wooden horse???

    …filled with 40,000 lbs of Semtex-H?!

  • John Russell says:

    Rome wins.
    No rules of engagement…

  • PacRim Jim says:

    How many Marines could bring down the Roman Empire?
    None of them, especially since it no longer exists.

  • Don O'Shei says:

    A MEU has neither nuclear or chemical weapons under ant normal circumstances.

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  • Pablo says:

    Why bother fighting the Romans? Once the marines figured out where in the world they were, they could either build, or otherwise acquire, sea-worthy ships and sail to America. Once here, they could befriend, and blend in with the Native Americans; and get them ready for the eventual arrival of the Europeans. (The marines, knowing history, would paradoxically, also know the future). Trained and educated by a group of modern US Marines, the American Indians would be much better prepared to meet the future coming of the Western European migration. A possible alternative history of America would be a much more interesting discussion than merely the hypothetical outcome of a fight.

  • Tiberiis says:

    You have to be kidding me. May I remind you that it has been 2000 years roughly. Thats like comparing people in the 4000s to us.

  • Octavius says:

    The legions would eventually surrender after the overwhelming losses. The Roman army wouldn’t continue to fight a losing battle. When they fought the barbarians, several of the battles were lost and they regrouped and fell back to avoid major casualties. This is part of the reason why legions liked Caesar so much because he only put them in battles he knew he had decisive advantages.

  • Bob says:

    Just put it in your mind on how people you fight or kill.

  • Bob says:

    It’s not how many people their are it is if you have the skills to take them down.

  • opériet populabundos says:

    by the time your initial recon surveillance was began your copiers would be ground unless given evac orders. As such I woud then arm the peasantry with simple arms and tell them of the enemy hordes. I would then take slaves and badge them as frumentarii chiefs. They would spread propaganda amongst non roman tribes while making rome look good. That woul end any guerilla war to come. Then as they would be targeted by snipers, my civilian brute squads would comb the country side for evil foregners. This will tie up all remaining guerilla tactics and thus begins a war of wearing down the enemy. In one swoop. All prisoners and useles non citizens would be rounded up with non patriots. They will be mentally scarred and half starved. I will unleawsh them in a stampede towards your defended goods. As you would waste uncountable bullets on innocent civilians (as always) I will be moving my advanced infantry into your blind spots. Up close and unseen. Since I control all resource and yours is dwindling; I will send traders as spies to colect intel and to act as sleeper assassins. When you are doing busines I will send a suicide squad to burn all your reserves and equipement. Poison your water supply. Asassinate your command. I will send a messenger. He will state anyone defecting will be well cared for. The rest killed until no dust remains. You will canibalize one another. You will betray. This is the american way. We will only clean a few gladii because you will bloody your own daggers. The marines are child of republic. I am eater of republics!

  • Jesse Cox says:

    After the Romans saw their comrades shredded by .50 caliber bullets and a grenades, I would think that this would have a devastating psychological effect on the remaining Roman soldiers who would give up the fight.

  • Kolin says:

    Should’ve went with a US Army Corps (or even just a Division.) They can just insert a couple squads right in the heart of rome via Black Hawks and capture Rome’s leaders (Then PSYOP can do their job, drop leaflets, “warn” the roman soldiers about their impending doom, etc.). Then just use heavy artillery and send in heavy armor and stryker brigades to steamroll the roman legions. Other infantry personnel can be used to encircle and prevent anyone from escaping. The other option would be scorched earth tactics.

  • Kolin says:

    Or we can win without fighting at all using Helicopters with megaphones telling the romans we are the “gods” and they should lay down their arms or die. On those same choppers we will have snipers to pick people off one by one if they do not comply. (technically that’s not considered “attack air support”)

  • bulls nuts says:

    only way they could win would be by using there newer weapons if Marine didn’t have none of that not even gun was go hand to hand with train roman i think the roman would easily defeat the marine times were harder back in roman era even mideval soldier i think would win no matter how good u.s marine or any of them are i do think deep down they are scared to die they think of there family’s and even write to them when their sure their going off to war think there not coming back don’t know where there going after they are killed back than in roman era your family could careless of you they kill you just take something from you if they wanted it everything Romans did was for gods they were sure there was after life now day’s nobody thinks like that they were more stronger better train hand to hand and in sword battles now day’s they depend to much on there weapons choppers everything else to me wouldn’t count because not them personal that beat Romans but all there cheating tatics that did but them without any of that just hand to hand sword fighting my option roman would beat marine ass hand’s down they were much more cruel back in that era than what it is now

  • blehhh says:

    Since the conventional weapons treaties did not exist in that era, just 1 marine to flick a switch on an ICBM with a hydrogen bomb thousands of miles away would do it. No need to send in anything else. The magnitude of the ensuing explosion would be in the range of tens of millions of tons of TNT. The entire empire would be disintegrated in a fraction of a second.

  • Paul says:

    Just the posts here, sound like a better movie than what this movie will be. Propaganda, leaflets, drive up to the leadership in a tank LMAO. Wouldn’t even be a war. Would be conquered in 24 hours, don’t need to resort to any resource finding, bullet making, etc. Just save the bullets. Except for the hard headed.

  • dubbs says:

    Wasn’t this done before?( ..”seem to remember an aircraft carrier going through a time tunnel and landing right in the middle of WW2..”)

    Anyway, what people are overlooking is the power void that would occur. Wiping out the legions would put the Roman empire in a vulnerable position, and the “barbarian/celtic/germanic” tribes would have swarmed into the empire a lot earlier.

    The effect would have devastated world history as we know it( the barbarians incorporated much of roman knowledge into their own society).Europe might not have come out of the dark ages UNTIL the rise of Islam, and North America as well as central and South America, even much of Asia would be totally different.

    On the other hand, Romans were very resourceful, and I see Marines,throwing in with the Romans once they realize they can never return to the 21st century. Medicines would have been advanced, as well as weapons and machinery( people don’t realize the intelligence and skill found in an MEU); within Roman skill at metal working, even,their ancient knowledge of minerals, the Roman Army,taught by Marines, would have had musket rifles in as little as 5 yrs, as well as simple 18th century style cannons.

    Roman engineers would have had a rail system in approx 20 to 30 yrs( people forget romans were prolific road and public works builders-they created indoor plumbing and hot water public baths!!!). Within an MEU , you have not only Marine fighting men, you haveNavy support teams and even civilian technical contractors! Once communication is established,say to one of the “likeable emperors”, Rome wpuld have been unstoppable.

    Oil would have been discovered and processed within 15 yrs( people forget an M1 abrams can run on damn near ANY liquid fuel source, and bio diesel wouldn’t be hard to make, given ancient roman resource access, and modern military know how. And with either better sailing techniques and training by U.S. Navy personnel, the Romans would have Better sailing ship designs, navigation, and an Naval and commercial force resembling something like the English Navy, circa the 17th to 19th century. Trade routes to Asia would have been opened within 30 yrs of the MEU arriving, barbarian hordes would have been surpressed, and incorporated into Rome, England would have been solidly Roman, and the Americas would have been discovered and conquered by Rome( “Mexicalius”, and the City of New Rome instead of New York). I believe the Marines would have influenced a Roman empire with an emperor somewhat
    Iike the current british monarchy, and the Romans form of slavery would have been abolished for the
    9th to early 20th century form pf capitalism and “wage slavery”( seeing as many current US military personnel have been shamelessly indoctrinated into rightwing politics!)

    n this latter scenario, the only virulently ugly thing would have been the represaion of and possibly destruction of islam, with hard core rightwing christianity as the defacto religion( in place of catholicism) and some limited allowance pf judiasm( state of israel would have been allowed to flourish, albeit as a roman client state)

  • ace says:

    The romans would politic immediately after the first 500 men were killed they’d offer women and endless gold and wine and land and the marines would accept and spare the romans and live as kings and the technology would be used to enslave the rest of the world then the slaves would revolt and basically 2014 would be transformed into1540a.d. gunpowder would be a little bit more scarce because of all the wars that came earlier then they should have

  • Zo0tie says:

    Uh guys, you’re forgetting something very important. After several tours in the middle east the marines would have begun to question the wisdom of their mission and their leadership. Plus remember that they will eventually realize that everything they are fighting for is GONE. Mom, Dad, family, veteran benefits, social security, bank deposits, mortgages, outstanding parking tickets, everything will never, has never existed! How can your pledge to defend the nation, people, and constitution of the USA mean anything when all of that doesn’t exist. Plus your commander will never be able to pay you again. Most soldiers are not saints. Nor are they revolutionaries. Often they joined up just because the civilian job market sucked. Morale and unit cohesion is gonna take a dump real fast, with individual soldiers and groups deserting because they think they can set up their own little kingdoms with the help of their BOOM sticks. The Romans are experienced in using barbarians to fight other barbarians. And when the ammo runs out, god help them.

  • dman30498 says:

    Any Marine or US Army unit would have chemical unit on hand, the use of CS would put the Roman legion in fear,then roll up to the palace and blow off the doors, send in one company of Soldiers or Marines and kill everbody,prob;em solved!

  • Dave Nielsen says:

    Marines are the best warriors ever trained.

    Among the best, not the best.

  • alex says:

    All they would have to do is snipe all officers and the whole army would be in chaos. Officers are clearly marked by their armor and helmets so it would be easy for any modern marksmen to pick them out. The officers you didn’t kill in battle force recon could kill or capture at night with night vision goggles and stealth tactics. Once all the high ranking people are dead there’s no way for the army to function and the thousands of soldiers would disband.

  • David says:

    Roman legion numbered approximately 5500 soldiers, and not 11000. This info made the whole theory invalid. Because the man describing Roman Equipment, described it like someone watching to much movies and knowing nothing about Roman way of fighting and that time period.

    Therefore, the theory, is invalid.

  • 86095 says:

    Well it wouldn’t exactly be a Revolutionary war style exchange would it? Kevlar and bike helmets wouldn’t do much against rows of ballista,rolling jugs of greek fire, catapulted flaming boulders with shrapnel, and ten thousand man strong barrage of arrows. Not to mention the tight formation of testudo. Bullets would just ricochet and the ones that did connect the lines would tighten right back and you’d be over run.

    76 vehicles though. That will do it. Without those marines would just be fleshy corpses to be over run and with them meat bags to make many fleshy corpses.

    You’d have to go guerilla w/o them and our immune system due is inferior and compromised compared to ancestors due to medicine,diet,lifestyle. Nature would do most of the killing for the Romans and with what soliders are paid? I bet at least 1/5 every sick,homesick, horny marine would explain the guns to the local magistrate in exchange for citizenship and an invite to the all you can eat buffett/orgy.Slap an ius on your name bam integration. Disease and desertion would win it if you went long.

  • Spencer says:

    Your comment brings absolutely NOTHING worth wild to the posed question.

  • no party says:

    juan this is not a Pease talk ,this is a historical military forum/talk. Wrong place x you to talk about the tragedy and suffering. last what Fascism has to do with this. Please learn before typical liby words.

  • JohnCS says:

    Yours is the best answer so far!

  • David says:

    Yeah, tell that to Hannibal.

    The Romans rolled right over after Ticinius (Hannibal killed 2500 of 10000 romans with minimal casualties) Trebia, (42000 romans, 10000 killed), Lake Trasimene (35000 troops, 15000-20000 lost) and Cannae (~700000 troops, and 40000-60000 killed with 8k casualties). That shock and awe broke them, and they definitely didn’t win the subsequent war.

  • David says:

    You should study the second Punic War. The exact scenario you are suggesting would result in surrender occurred, and it did not result in surrender.

    You should also look up Carrhae.

  • Archibald Wolfe says:

    Please learn words before typing them. “Pease”? Seriously? Also, Fascism isn’t a “liby” word. It’s a word. It isn’t a registered voter.

  • Gabe says:

    What if, instead of killing each other, the Marines joined up with the Roman army. If the Romans see how formidable an enemy the Marines are, it would surely make sense for them to try and ally themselves with the Marines, or even incorporate the Marines into the Roman Army. If that were to happen, Rome would be the more technologically advanced and significantly stronger than before.

  • Gabe says:

    Apologies, I did not see that this has already been mentioned.

  • JB says:

    The question is a thought experiment. Similar to a question on who would win between a ninja and a pirate.
    Please stop presuming that everything has a political flavor behind it.

    Would it have made you less riled if the question had been “Who would win between the Romans and ISIS?” Or would that be pandering to our enemies somehow?

    Those who actively seek reasons to find offense with anything rarely find disappointment.

  • Brad says:

    So if you cripple the Marines sufficiently, take away this, take away that. You can’t use this and you can’t use that. And on the other side you just throw an unlimited number of bodies with no regard for their own lives whatsoever then eventually, given enough time, then yes, the Romans would win. Brilliant hypothesis.

  • Joe says:

    This is stupid the Romans fell 18 hundred years ago and using humvees and tanks is just stupid romes army was the best for over 500 years let’s see if America is even around in another 200 years this stupid anyone who says other wise isn’t being practical

  • Knight_Fever says:

    what you have forgotten, and you all assume

    the Marines have first right of the attack, they get to use there firepower massively all over.

    now what happens if its attrition, mountainous regions
    take 200 miles , constant attrition bleed them dry.

    they have no support for logistics, for there firepower

    The great Caesar and many romans used Fortifications , massive trenches long lines, true easily destroyed by modern firepower but they will still have to expend it.
    and three modern weapons need ammunition and even there armoured vehicle’s require fuel, even batterys

    In other words even if they make to the battlefiend, then win. how long would they last once you take away the modern army. the US Marines would be crushed, they would fight to the last man

  • Nick says:

    to make the fight even, both sides must be prevented from retreat and allowed enough space, say the size of a football field to duke it out. Romans wins hands down.

  • O. says:

    Marines aren’t the best warriors ever trained, far from. Spartans, vikings, samurais, ninjas, knights or templars, all have they been trained and raised from kids to fight, to become the ultimate warrior. If you put a marine vs any of these in a hand-to-hand fight, the marine would be down in a matter of seconds or minutes. Give the ancient warrior a sword and the marine would die within seconds, give the marine a rifle and, of course, the ancient one would die within a matter of seconds. That’s why it’s important to let it be a fair fight, and fair would be 100% naked, in a sand pit, one-on-one fight with bare hands, till death. Why did you even bring up such a stupid, very stupid statement? Please leave your patriotism out of the answer, as it should be a neutral answer, based on facts not emotions. Sadly for you, you failed miserably in stating properly, just why the marine would be the greatest fighter in history.

  • Zo0tie says:

    If they fight both sides would lose. A quick slaughter of the Roman army by Marines would create a power vacuum that the small number of Marines with their depleted ammo and fuel reserves could not fill. Provinces and slaves would revolt, the Parthians and barbarian tribes would invade. Mass chaos and nobody wins. And worst of all Marines would begin to desert since their commanders cannot pay them with American money or get them back to their homes. Better to apply just enough force to convince the Romans that the Marines would be a good buffer ‘tribe’ on some imperial frontier. My first choice would be Wales where the industrial revolution began but the Rhur Valley, Romania(Dacia) or Crimea(Regnum Bospori) might work also. The remaining modern weapons would serve as a deterrent to outside interference while the Marines and their new indigenous families spend the next few decades building up an industrial/commercial/intellectual base producing goods(steam engines and steel plows) and ideas(All men are created equal, etc.) In 50 years the Marines or their descendants would march into Rome to cheers of citizens of a new Democratic Federation of European States.

  • Zach says:

    I have taken the time to examine all aspects of both military capabilities. To start off, I’ve noticed discrepancies throughout most responses about legion size. The size of the Legion depended greatly on the time-frame and the current emperor. For instance Augustus average legion size was approximately half of the size of the legions under Marcus Aurelius’ rule. Roman legions would have greater knowledge of the environment and depending on the area have already won over the hearts and minds of locals. The United States Marine Corps while being one of the most powerful and we’ll known military branches in the modern world would have a severe lack of supplies and all topographical information would be invalid due to terra-forming and other changes. Unfortunately any modern military force would have a terrible time due to the extreme lack of resources. And would eventually have to revert to ancient style weaponry. An average marine would have about five magazines or clips depending on the rifle used. Helos (using naval terminology) and land vehicles would run out of fuel and with out a proper replacement would render most useless.

    I say this now I love the marine corps and I also love Rome BOTH could be considered to be the greatest fighting force known to man. But I believe that Rome’s legions would win mainly due to their supply of resources, overwhelming amount of soldiers, code of honor, knowledge of terrain and love/hatred of locals would win a war against the marine corps.

    Veni, vidi, vici

  • Pete says:

    I love this idea. Sounds like a great book in the making…

  • Matalink says:

    I dont think they need to face the entire roman army to win, all they have to do is kill the emperor and the other leaders cause without a general to lead them the army would disintegrate and then put another emperor to the throne one that would be on their side.

  • Sumadinac says:

    Just watch the movie Sengoku jieitai . 1st all vehicles would be useless once they run out of fuel . Let’s say they managed to fix that “problem” . Romans would attack most likely at night , catch the soldiers off guard . Sure they would post guards for the night but romans would be able to get near them as they wouldn’t be seeing much around their camp at night . Lets say they light up all around the camp , well than romans would just stay further away in the shadows and get some arrow showers going . That tactic would beat them on the long run . Also if romans were to climb on tanks and disable their optics , destroy the machine gun , or say light a fire on the tank , that would surely disable it . I see many people underestimate the hierarchy of the romans , well , you shouldn’t . They are highly trained skilled professionals , best of the best , I think they would put up a fight , maybe even to the end . Also I saw someone say they should murder the emperor , easier said than done . For that you must enter rome , prepare to be attacked in an urban environment – arrows from rooftops and higher story buildings , spears thrown at you , lit grass and torches . It possibly wouldn’t destroy the marines but it should at least lower their morale by seeing their mates filled with arrows . Also in modern world it is easy to treat a wound such as an arrow shot to say shoulder (since body armor doesnt cover it) . But in the old times – not so much . In conclusion the Romans would win as even if marines were to start ruling the Rome , I think they would be killed at night in their beds even by the women they slept with as no one likes occupiers.

  • David Ryan says:

    Like 98% of the Indians died before we even really started colonizing here. The moment we made any sort of contact with them they were introduced to new diseases that they had never faced before. They had no immunities to the diseases that europeans had already faced and developed immunities too. The SAME thing happened when trade with the Orient started happening more. It is likely the reason for the black plague that swept through Europe was when those two people groups started having more contact. It is true however that we made war on the Indians that lived but then they made war on us too. IT wasn’t like they all came for peace and we just suddenly started attacking them for no reason. Also lets not forget they made war among themselves both before and after our arrival. Why was it okay for them to kill each other but not okay for us to kill them exactly? I mean seriously NO one talks about it being wrong for indians to kill each other. No one talks about it being wrong that african tribes continue to practice genocide against each other today. No the only people group that is evil for making war is apparently the white people. Everyone else but us is apparently allowed to. At least allowed to in the court of public opinion.

  • GO says:

    USMC would win until they run out of ammo and gas, then get massacred by the Romans…

  • Thomas smith says:

    The same reason you can beat your kids, but I cant!

  • Rob says:

    I’m stunned by how many of these moronic questions are out there. Duh uh, whoa, uh like what if, uh what if like uh, you know like if the Spartans fought against uh, like uh, you know like fought against a battalion of like B-52’s…who would win?
    Its unreal how many people thought the 300 Spartans movie where they fight in their “Battle Panties” was real history, omg. Democracy doesn’t work, it only breeds dumb people that have to much freedom and who should actually be kept down in permanent lower classe status without access to technology…ever.
    lol, do I seem annoyed?

  • Dominic says:

    “Marines are the best warriors ever trained. But they can’t fight an endless wave of soldiers. No one can.” Thanks for the laugh, HAHA.

  • Brian T says:

    If they save their brass, hard to do with a m-60, they could reload, make more ammo. They would know how to make gunpowder. find an alchemist type to recharge the caps. A blacksmith to recondition the caps. yes I know that modern ammo doesn’t always use caps, but the audience wouldn’t catch on….

    Their best bet would be to team up with the empire, and spread it all over the face of the earth. The sun would never set on the roman empire.

    decked ships, steering sails (jib), navigation, where the winds blow (columbus’s), spark gap radio, explosives, soap, how to break arms n legs in hand to hand combat.

    If they went back in “hurk”, and landed in the emperors back yard on Copri; when he’s at home….

  • Brian T says:

    That should read:- If they went back in a “hurk”, and landed in the emperors back yard on Capri: when he’s at home….

  • El Lordo says:

    I was the author of the original supposition which was posted on a forum on the Above Top in 2008. This is very funny to see some supposed former solider has attempted to graft a story out of a throwaway remark I made in a sci fi what if question. Will this gutless wonder please send me an E Mail. Since I have the original work trademarked and copyrighted.

  • bullt says:

    The marines would win and beat the whole roman empire if they had unlimited bullets and gas.

  • David Stover says:

    You have to have bodies to replace the injured, dead. You need medical resources, sanitation, supplies, logistics is the key to the story. Hitler out ran his supplies, General winter caught his ass out in the middle of nowhere. The Soviet forces moved their manufacturing to the far mountains west, out of Nazi reach and had plenty of resources to supply, their forces,food, weapons, medical. Stalion could recruit personal from as far reaching to Mongoulia, his weapons were simple, easy to manufacture,use, easy to teach a farm boy how to shoot, drive a trank, truck. Stalon was no fool! Hitler should of left them alone. I’m an veteran of the US Army. Logistics is the key to survival and 247 MOS’s are needed to win any war. The sad fact is that the US Marines may win in the begining but, the lack of fresh personal, supplies, medical, replacement parts , POL ect,that would be their down fall except if they had the NBC or nuclear option at their disposal, then things may be some what different. I’ve been to war, seen the crap happen.

  • CheddarCheetah says:

    Ummmmmm……The Trojan horse was from Greece to Troy, not to Rome, so I doubt that would work

  • Jim says:

    Well it all depends on the soldiers being sent The U.S military is very diverse and depending on prior knowledge and if forced the military could quite possibly get fuel for a period and a few various other factors would have to be put in place. For example do you really have to kill every Roman at what point will they retreat or give up. What’s the political climate? In reality the soldiers would be slaughtered in mass the first few battles but could learn to change tactics but who can change tactics faster. Maybe the Marines with modern knowledge or the romans either way you also have to take in account the fact the marines may run out of modern weapons but they could still make better weapons then the legions. Also what happens if the marines spread American ideals and convert the populace to support them? Sorry for any spelling errors that may be present.

  • Lola says:

    lol. marines are NOT the best soldiers ever trained. they’re just the best trained soldiers you know of, and aren’t very bright.

  • Bruce C Uebergang says:

    A large group of Terrorists are moving down a road when they hear a voice call from behind a sand dune. “One United States Marine is better than ten Terrorists!”

    The Terrorists commander quickly sends 10 of his best soldiers over the dune, whereupon a gun battle breaks and continues for a few minutes, then silence.

    The voice then calls out “One United States Marine is better than one hundred Terrorists!”

    Furious, the Terrorist commander sends his next best 100 troops over the dune and instantly a huge firefight commences. After 10 minutes of battle, again silence.

    The American voice calls out again “One United States Marine is better than one thousand Terrorists!”

    The enraged Terrorist Commander musters one thousand fighters and sends them across the dune. Cannons, rockets and machine guns ring out as a huge battle is fought. Then silence. eventually one wounded Terrorists fighter crawls back over the dune and with his dying words tells his commander,

    “Don’t send any more men…It’s a trap. There’s two of them!!!”

  • Henry Schwarz says:

    The marines would be tactical. Assuming they have snipers, that can take out a target up to 1/2 mile away, they could surgically take out all of the commanders and battalion leaders first. Without proper leaders the urge to “fight for Rome” would quickly be forgotten especially if there fighters in front of them all got massacred.

    Heck if they resorted to guerrilla warfare the Marines would win all the time. The Scottish let the Roman brigades march all the way North without putting up a single fight, troops died of hunger, sickness, etc. Simply take off the front troops and rear troops in a systemtic fashion

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