Articles

Here's what would happen if modern Marines battled the Roman Empire

What would have happened if a Marine Expeditionary Unit found themselves up against the combined strength of the Roman Empire? Encyclopedia writer and two-time "Jeopardy!" winner James Erwin, who writes on Reddit as Prufrock451, may have the answer.


Photos: US Marine Corps and Wikimedia Commons/Jan Jerszyński

Erwin wrote a series of short stories called "Rome Sweet Rome" back in 2011 that looked at the scenario day-by-day if an MEU were suddenly transported from fighting in Kabul, Afghanistan to ancient Rome.

At first the Marines, a small detachment of Air Force maintainers, some Afghan soldiers, and a few U.S. civilians are confused about what has happened to them and where they are.

As the story wears on, day-by-day, the Marines figure out what has happened. After an accidental clash between the Marines and the Roman soldiers triggers a war, the initial battle goes as most people would expect.

The Marines annihilate the first ranks of the Romans, killing 49 men and 50 horses in the first volley.

The commander of the Marines immediately seeks peace, and the story ends with the senior Roman and American commanders reaching a shaky truce at the end of the first week. This is good for the Marines, since other scholars have weighed in and said the Romans would win any protracted conflict.

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, historian and novelist Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy said a lack of re-supply would make the tanks, helicopters, and modern weapons of the MEU useless within days. The unit simply doesn't carry enough ammunition and fuel to fight to fight the 330,000 men of the Roman legions in 23 B.C. without strong supply lines.

Meanwhile, the Romans would be able to recruit and train new infantrymen by the thousands.

"Rome Sweet Rome" was wildly popular on Reddit and a subreddit was created by the fan base. The story was then optioned as a movie, but progress has been slow.

The subreddit remains active as members speculate on the movie and other potential "Rome Sweet Rome" stories. Some fans have even made mash-up trailers for the film.

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