Wrote a Short Account of Military Practice in four books, which is the only such account to have survived intact. The work was written after ad 383 but before 450, and is addressed to an emperor.
Book 1 discusses the recruit, bk. 2 army organization, bk. 3 tactics and strategy, bk. 4 fortifications and naval warfare. Vegetius examines important matters—the maintenance of discipline and morale, vigilant preparations in enemy territory, establishing a camp, campaign planning, tactical adaptability in battle, conducting a retreat, and the use of stratagems. He also quotes some maxims which ‘tested by different ages and proved by constant experience, have been passed down by distinguished writers’. Vegetius is convinced of the relevance of this approach. The emperor had instructed him to abridge ancient authors, and sought instruction from past exploits despite his own achievements.
Vegetius was not himself a soldier or historian, but served in the imperial administration. He took an antiquarian interest in the army, ignoring the detailed changes accomplished by Diocletian and Constantine I, and for his manual collected material from many sources and chronological periods without adequate differentiation and classification. This impairs his value as a source for the organization and practices of the Roman army. He mentions some of his sources: Porcius Cato 1, Iulius Frontinus, and the ordinances of Augustus, Trajan, and Hadrian. But there is no reason to assume that he always consulted these at first hand or that they were his only sources. The ‘old legion’ to which Vegetius refers, and which is clearly not from his own day, should probably be dated to the late 3rd cent.
See also armies.
Subjects: History — Classical Studies.