It is formally testified that, from a copy of Vegetius de Re Militari, in the school library of St. Paul's, MARLBOROUGH imbibed his passion for a military life. If he could not understand the text, the prints were, in such a mind, sufficient to awaken the passion for military glory.
It appears from Vegetius, that every governor of a province was furnished with a description of it, in which were given the distance of places, the nature of the roads, the face of the country, the direction of the rivers, &c.: he adds, that all these were delineated on a map as well as described in writing.
Geoffrey the Handsome, called Plantagenet from his love of hunting over heath and broom, inherited few of the great qualities which had made his race powerful. Like his son Henry II. he was always on horseback; he had his son's wonderful memory, his son's love of disputations and law-suits; we catch a glimpse of him studying beneath the walls of a beleaguered town the art of siege in Vegetius.
The text as we have it depends on a single MS. and sadly needs a careful revision; it is interpolated with numerous glosses, both Greek and Latin, which a skilful editor would detect and remove. Among the other treatises in his Encyclopaedia, next to that on farming, those on rhetoric and tactics were most popular. The former, however, was superseded by Quintilian, the latter by Vegetius.
It is the just and important observation of Vegetius, that the infantry was invariably covered with defensive armor, from the foundation of the city, to the reign of the emperor Gratian.
And as to the Ladin, although its derivation be more manifest, yet we are equally at a loss from what period or branch of the Latin tongue to trace its real origin; for I have found, after many tedious experiments, that even the vocabulary, in which the resemblance is most evident, differs equally from the classical purity of Tully, Caesar, and Sallust, as it does from the primitive Latin of the twelve tables, of Ennius, and the columna rostralis of Duillius, which has generally been thought the parent of the Gallic Romance; as also from the trivial language of Varro, Vegetius, and Columella.
Another work of the same period was a theoretical treatise on tactics, alluded to in the more popular work which we possess, and quoted by Vegetius who followed him. In this he examined Greek theories of warfare as well as Roman, and apparently with discrimination; for Aelian, in his account of the Greek strategical writers, assigns Frontinus a high place.
It is of no use going into that diffuse subject that vexatissima quæstio of how far the military dress of ancient days accorded with the wants and uses of the service; the reader may go and look into that dusty little volume of Vegetius de Re Militari, if he is fond of dabbling in military antiquities; or he may consult our learned old friend, Captain Grose of facetious memory; or still better, let him be off to Goderich Court, and ask the porter to admit him to a sight of the finest collection of armour in the world.
Pliny rightly praises Trajan as the lawgiver and the founder of discipline, and Vegetius classes Augustus, Trajan, and Hadrian together as restorers of the morale of the army. The confidence which existed between Trajan and his army finds expression in some of the coins of his reign. For nearly two years after his election Trajan did not appear in Rome.
The treatises on husbandry by Palladius, and on the art of war by Flavius Vegetius Renatus, became, to a certain degree, standard works; the little handbooks of Roman history written in the reigns of Constantius and Valens by Aurelius Victor and Eutropius are simple and unpretentious, but have little positive merit, The age produced but one Latin historian, Ammianus Marcellinus.