Could a Marine Unit have defeated the Roman Empire?

I had no idea where to put this.

An alternative history question on Reddit has turned into a possible movie.
Could a modern day U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU have destroyed Augustus’ Roman Empire?

An MEU is about 2200 men with artillery and vehicles.
They could not bring additional troops or material forward but they could recruit.
There are some who say yes. Most say no.

Most of the yes is based on attacking a legion close to Rome- dazzling them with their fire power and leaving a few to return to Rome and tell the story. Perhaps Rome would think that resistance is futile and surrender to prevent being destroyed.
The No is based on the fact that the Marines would be grossly outnumbered and wouldn’t have a chance once their weapons were spent.

What do you think?

I sort of agree with both answers to the question, depending on the scenario. In an all out fight video game style battle - 2200 Marines against all the troops in the Roman Empire, obviously not. But if it goes along the lines that the “yeses” imagine, a good strategy, “shock and awe” than I absolutely think they could. Especially if you figure the Romans have no idea how many more of those MEU’s were out there or what the status of their resources were, they’d be insane not to surrender.

I’m more or less on the yes side.
Shock and awe the legion. Leave survivors to return to Rome and tell the story.
Roll up to the gates of Rome with enough resources left to put on another show, if necessary.
Demand to speak to the Emperor. Demand surrender.
One small point. I doubt that any of the Marines could speak conversational Latin. How would they handle that?



A modern fighting force requires a continuous supply supported by a modern industrial complex.

The would win a battle, they would not win the war.

Without continuous support the modern MEU with vehicles, tanks, aircraft are going to run out of gas, bullets, missiles, medical supplies, (hell) boots, bullets, batteries (for all the electronic gizmo’s that give us advantage, like night vision goggles), - heck the list is exhaustive

Within a fairly short time, measured in weeks or months of battle - the MEU will be reduced to fighting at the same level as the Romans.


a rapid air assault on the Roman Senate.

politicians would give up Rome

Would that mean an end to the Roman Empire?

The marines would have to shift to a long term strategy, start giving the people everything they want -food, money, playthings - to reduce their incentive to work and fight against the new government. If they can commandeer shiploads of cannabis to give to the population of Rome that would help too.

One strafe from an attack helicopter and the Roman Legions would have bowed in worship. Also would save a ton of ammo, and make a lot of Infantryman cry.

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That’s kind of what I think could happen. Interesting to ponder. I’ll be looking for the movie.

I think one has to consider the psychological impact the Marines would have on the Romans. The Romans would have never seen anything like them before. The Marines would likely be considered Gods.

That said, the Marines wouldn’t win simply by virtue of existence. Careful strategy would have to be crafted.

Zero chance. Every one of the marines would be too laid up with dysentry and other ailments that they have no natural immunity to.

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Capture Caesar, do a firepower demonstration. Run the world.

Save Jesus.

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Great thread. Some of the best alternative history fiction along the same lines is the Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham. A 21st century Naval carrier group is transported back to 1942. What follows is not only a great military action thriller but a look at he social impact of two radically different cultures coming into contact with each other. The Germans and Japanese manage to capture some of the assets and thanks to the dvd’s Etc discover they lose the war but now can adjust their tactics accordingly. One of the British ships is captained by a female of Pakistani origin which obviously is not well received by the 1940s British military.-and quite topical for today Prince Harry is one of the characters.

The carriers modern technology is their greatest asset but also is quickly determined to be a huge weakness.

The answer is yes, but only if they had allies and exploited internal divisions in the empire. Modern equipment requires resource like gasoline and ammunition that are unavailable in ancient times. Any prolonged conflict without resupply would be fatal for a modern army.

Similar example from history: A small band of Spaniards was able to conquer the Aztec empire with the help of Indian allies who were unhappy with Aztec rule. The Spanish had horses and gunpowder, which were impressive, but did not begin to make up of the massive difference in numbers.

I’m telling you guys, they would have zero chance. Within a week or two every Marine would be very sick and some would be dying. Diseases change over time. Even the non fatal ones. We build up immunities to the current variations which is why we aren’t sick all the time. Put someone from this time back then or vice versa though and its going to be like Columbus coming to America all over again where something like 95% of the Native American population died of diseases they’d never been exposed to before. We’d have no natural immunity to any diseases variants that existed back then, people under the age 40 aren’t even vaccinated for Smallpox anymore.

You seem to not take in account the opposite.
The sickness and things we have become immune too that we carry could turn into the black plague to the Romans.

True to some extent but there would be a lot more Romans than Marines. Even after having 95% of their population die off in the 1500’s, the Native Americans still gave settlers / invaders a tough fight despite their superior firepower.

Lets see. The Marines have a limited supply of modern ammo (modern communications? walkie talkies?).

But their bodies are taller, bigger than the Roman bodies.
Less experience at sword fighting, but not untrained.

My strategy would be to avoid using the modern weaponry, try to win battles with edged weapons. Use the throwing weapons (e.g. rifles) for critical situations.Win a few victories and use that PR to inspire allies/desertions.

One other question is, suppose the Marines go on to win their conflict with the Romans. What happens then? Would they set themselves up as some version of the next Roman senate. I suspect that if the Marines tried to run the Roman empire, they would start acting like Romans. The technology of the day and the mindset of the populace of Europe requires that anyone trying to rule those people, would act like the Romans did.

For example, if the Marines tried to eliminate slavery the culture of Europe at the time would cause that effort to fail.

I don’t believe the Marines would be that predominate in sword to sword combat. They might be, but not enough to shock and dazzle.

They need to head for Rome as soon as possible and wipe out a couple of legions on the way using every modern weapon they have. They need to leave enough survivors to go back and tell the story.
If they’re lucky, when they get to Rome they’ll be welcomed as gods and will be given no resistance.
I think that is their only chance.

I still have the original question- How will they communicate with the Romans? They will need to be able to.
Would a common Marine unit have anyone who could speak conversational Latin?

Marine combat troops have a knack for making themselves understood.