Was the ancient city of Rome easy to siege?

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Both Sulla and Caesar succeeded because the Republic had laws against keeping legions in the vicinity of Rome and tbus when they broke the law they had no effective opposition. By the time of Belisarius, Rome had been sacked several times and was greatly reduced in size. Also philosophically, the Republic was offense oriented preferring legions to walls.


After Augustus and until Aurelian, Rome’s military could keep enemies on the border provinces. However, during the crisis of the 3rd century the army could no longer maintain the empire’s borders as they once did. So the Emperor Aurelian had the Aurelian walls built and many cities followed suit. After this, barbarians would use Roman roads to quickly travel within the Empire’s borders but cities were now walled and a Roman army could arrive to relieve the city before barbarians sacked it. The barbarian sackings of Rome in the 400’s, Rome hardly had an army to come and relieve the city.


The first time the Gauls sacked Rome it was because they hadn’t built up the Servian Walls yet (I believe archeologists trace the origins of the wall to the 6th century but believe the walls, as we currently understand them, werent completed until after the Battle of Allia in 390 BC and the subsequent Sack of Rome), which were formidable enough to give Hannibal second thoughts during the Second Punic War. However I’d imagine an army better supplied and supported could’ve made a go at it given the right conditions. I wouldn’t really count the various civil wars as a proper siege since those armies, marching on Rome, usually did so facing little resistance by the city itself. Usually you’d see them fight pitch battles elsewhere in the empire and march on the city more as a formal seizure of power. By the time of the third century Rome had outgrown the Servian walls and the instability of the era led to further barbarian encroachment, namely the Vandal invasion of 270, so Aurelian built the thusly named Aurelian Walls. The problem with the walls wasn’t really structural it was that they were usually poorly garrisoned, especially as the Empire continued to atrophy. They were more of a deterrent against raids and surprise invasions as it would require the attacker to devote significant time and energy to build siege engines and muster the manpower and supplies required to launch several attacks- which is why Hannibal didnt even attempt it.


I seem to remember my Roman History professor say something about Rome; that it was a fantastic city with which to build an Empire, but it wasn’t a great place to defend or govern it from. Hence why during the later Empire, the Western capital was moved to Mediolanium, and then Ravenna (city with big walls backed up onto the coast), and Constantine built Constantinople as ‘Nova Roma’, with big walls and existing literally on the edge of mainland Europe. Certainly during the time of Caesar and Sulla, marching on Rome was a shock because it was unexpected that a general and his army would turn on Rome; there weren’t many troops around to prevent such a shocking turn of events. As for the Gothic and Vandalic Sacks, a big point has to be that, alongside the fact that Rome was of mainly symbolic over strategic value, the Western Roman army was mainly trying to contain a variety of different threats at once across the Empire; there wasn’t enough to protect Rome.


Well for Phyrrus look up the term Pyrrhic victory. For hannibal yeah why did a brilliant general not want to attack Rome directly? There was a lot going on there. Hannibal wasn’t getting the support he needed from carthage, but also Rome was not engaging him directly. And while that policy earned the consul who advocated it scorn at the time it worked. Hannibal couldn’t seige Rome with a roman army at his flanks and that army wouldn’t engage him. As for Sulla and Ceasar those weren’t foreign invaders nor did either want to sack Rome.