How Would Ancient Rome’s Sertorius Introduce New Tech to a Team?

What does the “Roman that took on Rome” have to do with Software Teams? This article covers the Sertorius style utilization of gifts, rewards and frame control to bring about technological progress quickly.


Garry Tiscovschi

3 years ago | 3 min read

When Sertorius wasn’t busy convincing Iberian Tribesman that his pet fawn could predict the future (as opposed to his extensive spy network), the leader was modernizing his army and organisation using the power of gifts (Plutarch & Perrin 1989).

In 81 B.C.E Sulla’s dictatorial “Pro-Aristocratic” take-over shook Rome to its foundations. Sertorius now an on-the-run member of the “Anti-Aristocratic” faction began constructing and modernising a Rome outside of Rome in Hispania.

In the process he achieved what so many other Roman governors had failed to do in their lifetimes in a matter of years. The statesman brought urbanization, Romanization and technological progress to a previously highly hostile network of tribal enemies and instead of resistance to change, faced increasing loyalty.

One of the many factors for this rapid modernisation was Sertorius’ use of frameworks. He introduced Republican equipment to the usually reluctant Iberian tribal leadership not by force but by liberally distributing gifts of legionary style helmets, gladii, cloaks and armour for service and loyalty. As these leaders embraced their new boons with enthusiasm so did their communities (Matt Hollis et al 2020).

Furthermore, Sertorius setup academies for the children of Iberian elites loyal to his splinter Roman state. There he offered a highly sought-after Greek & Latin education with prospects for administrative promotion. This was again presented as a reward for service (Matt Hollis et al 2020).

Instead of expensively forcing Roman equipment and educations on the new territory like so many others, Sertorius converted a challenge into an opportunity, making his reforms a beneficial reward.

Modernising in Modernity:

Often in our own work-lives we can find ourselves, co-workers, friends or the teams we manage resistant to reform. Be it a new organisational or information system or even a new programming environment, people are sometimes reluctant to make the switch or to start re-learning work.

This can be true especially when a change is forced on them without consultation (Diamond 2010).

Forcing a change, even one that is very helpful, can meet stark resistance from those used to the old ways. Taking a note from history and selecting team members to be pioneers of change as a reward, joint effort, or opportunity for promotion can flip the whole situation on its head.

According to famed negotiator & entrepreneur Stuart Diamond, a sense of choice and consideration for your own interests can create a large amount of motivation and goodwill (2010).

Yes, a more diplomatic approach may seem slower than sweeping change, however Stuart argues that the motivation and goodwill generated will lead to better and more efficient long-term implementation (2010).

Gentle and steady can be faster than forceful and sporadic. Furthermore, it is a lot less likely to lead to broken plates or in Rome’s case the continuous razing of tribal towns to get change to happen.

Additionally, the Sertorius style, staggered & steady approach has other advantages. As many programmers know already iterative development can let teams see if changes are even advantageous in the first place (Reis 2011).

Implementing new tech piece-meal provides an opportunity to learn and reflect. Even if you are 100% that the change is perfect, iterative adoption can lead to lessons on how to best implement or even get more from the development as it spreads in the future.

Thus, and through other often equally fascinating systems, Sertorius brought fast technological progress to a previously struggling land. This built a powerful state and a new modernised army that let Sertorius defeat Pompey the Great again and again before Caesar ever made it cool (Plutarch & Perrin 1989).


To learn more about the fascinating character Sertorius see the entertaining mini-documentary linked in the references.

Was the statesman and general a traitor to Rome or the last resistance to growing tyranny?

Comment below!


Created by

Garry Tiscovschi







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