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Pony Queen Jace

History Thread!

138 posts in this topic

5 hours ago, A True Kaniggit said:

Hannibal says bring it. He figures if Alexander can beat 90,000+ Persians, then he shouldn't have a problem. 

Cannae 216 BC,  with an army of 26,000  men he beat a  much larger Roman army numbering  70,000 .

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7 hours ago, GAROVORKIN said:

Cannae 216 BC,  with an army of 26,000  men he beat a  much larger Roman army numbering  70,000 .

Alexander had a competent command staff, can't say the same of Rome at that point in time.

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I just have a hard time imagining Hannibal's mercenaries (even at their best) could match Macedonian Hoplites armed with a 20 ft. barbed spear led by one of the most impressive general staffs of the ancient world being bolstered by all of the wealth and manpower of Asia.

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41 minutes ago, Pony Queen Jace said:

I just have a hard time imagining Hannibal's mercenaries (even at their best) could match Macedonian Hoplites armed with a 20 ft. barbed spear led by one of the most impressive general staffs of the ancient world being bolstered by all of the wealth and manpower of Asia.

 

It would  be interesting see what kind of counter strategy Hannibal could come up with here. B)

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14 hours ago, Seli said:

Alexander had a competent command staff, can't say the same of Rome at that point in time.

Scripco Africans became Rome's most important tactician after Cannae . He eventually met and defeated Hannibal and Carthage at the battle Zama in 202 BC. After  the second Punic War Carthage  was greatly diminished.

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6 minutes ago, GAROVORKIN said:

 

It would  be interesting see what kind of counter strategy Hannibal could come up with here. B)

There wouldn't really be one. Alexander's Persia could have out produced Carthage even more completely than the Romans did, while there's no way for Hannibal to threaten Babylon or Greece directly without a battle on ground that would basically be guaranteed to be favorable to the Phalanx in North (eastern) Africa.

I just don't see how Barca gets past Alexandria in Egypt without a decisive fight that is difficult to imagine him winning.

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1 hour ago, Pony Queen Jace said:

I just have a hard time imagining Hannibal's mercenaries (even at their best) could match Macedonian Hoplites armed with a 20 ft. barbed spear led by one of the most impressive general staffs of the ancient world being bolstered by all of the wealth and manpower of Asia.

Considering that the Romans did not use the long spears that the Macedonians used, somehow someone found an effective defense. The mark of a great general is that they find new ways to counteract older weapons. I am sure Hannibal could have responded in a novel way when confronted by Philip or Alexander.

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On 11/8/2017 at 11:10 AM, GAROVORKIN said:

Cannae 216 BC,  with an army of 26,000  men he beat a  much larger Roman army numbering  70,000 .

He was greatly outnumbered, but he was reinforced by an additional 20,000 defecting Italian allies and Gallic allies. All up it was about 40,000 versus 70,000... still an incredible feat.

19 hours ago, Seli said:

Alexander had a competent command staff, can't say the same of Rome at that point in time.

True. Until...

4 hours ago, GAROVORKIN said:

Scripco Africans became Rome's most important tactician after Cannae . He eventually met and defeated Hannibal and Carthage at the battle Zama in 202 BC. After  the second Punic War Carthage  was greatly diminished.

Scipio wasn't the only one. Quintus Fabius (the inventor of "Fabian Tactics") wore Hannibal down first. He ruined Hannibal's supply lines and denied him a pitched battle on the terms that Hannibal picked. He even almost forced him into submission in a mountain pass, although Hannibal managed to feign an escape by tying torches to oxen and then slipping out the other way.

Fabius' ability to show caution and shadow Hannibal, slowly starving his troops and robbing them of their booty in a scorched earth tactic was so effective that it's still used today.

Hannibal was clever, but he wasn't up against much more than superior numbers. He outnumbered Scipio at Zama, and had friendly supply lines and a battlefield that favoured his tactics. Scipio's strategy was vastly superior; he'd accounted for defeating the elephants, the cavalry and the infantry in a series of carefully thought out formations.

3 hours ago, maarsen said:

Considering that the Romans did not use the long spears that the Macedonians used, somehow someone found an effective defense. The mark of a great general is that they find new ways to counteract older weapons. I am sure Hannibal could have responded in a novel way when confronted by Philip or Alexander.

This was also partly because Romans aimed for all weapons to have more than one use. Their pilum, could be used as a thrusting spear or as a javelin. The lack of close-quarters range was offset by the fact their weapons could be thrown and their shields were more effective. The disadvantage of those long spears is that they cannot easily fend off attack from more than one front, which is why the Romans went to short ones.

Hannibal versus Alexander would have been a great clash of cavalry; Numidians versus Macedonians. I don't think I could pick a winner there.

That said, Rome at its peak would flatten Alexander at his. Unless he changed his weaponry, Alexander would have been crushed by Caesar, for instance (which isn't entirely fair, since Caesar also had 200 years of technological improvements to work with). The Romans were just engineering masters, and when the battlefield didn't favour them they'd literally rebuild it so that it did.

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10 hours ago, GAROVORKIN said:

Scripco Africans became Rome's most important tactician after Cannae . He eventually met and defeated Hannibal and Carthage at the battle Zama in 202 BC. After  the second Punic War Carthage  was greatly diminished.

True. Even though Scipio was actually too young to lead armies in the Roman system when he started out. And in the end Rome won as much due to their ability to weather defeats and keep functioning as a state.

Something I don't quite see Macedonia and Carthage doing, they are much more vulnerable to loss of their leaders.

Of course, depending on exact shifts, there is the question how stable the Roman state was at the time of Alexander. Any ideas about that?

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6 hours ago, Yukle said:

Hannibal was clever, but he wasn't up against much more than superior numbers. He outnumbered Scipio at Zama, and had friendly supply lines and a battlefield that favoured his tactics. Scipio's strategy was vastly superior; he'd accounted for defeating the elephants, the cavalry and the infantry in a series of carefully thought out formations.

Agreed. But I also want to add that exactly this kind of knowledge Scipio displayed plays in such a theoretical battle a critical role hugely in favor to whoever is fighting Alexander. Hannibal for example knew Alexander's strategies by heart. He would know exactly what he's going up against and would use that knowledge to come up with a strategy to lure Alexander's companion cavalry into a trap and divide him from his phalanx. Since Alexander's skirmishers were crap (the heavy peltasts were developed after him), he wouldn't have much left to support his infantry in case Hannibal is successful with such a stunt and Alexander doesn't pull back in time.

6 hours ago, Yukle said:

This was also partly because Romans aimed for all weapons to have more than one use. Their pilum, could be used as a thrusting spear or as a javelin. The lack of close-quarters range was offset by the fact their weapons could be thrown and their shields were more effective. The disadvantage of those long spears is that they cannot easily fend off attack from more than one front, which is why the Romans went to short ones.

I... am not quite sure I understand your line of thought. Yes, the pilum as a throwing weapon was very effective in softening up a phalanx, though it should be said that during the times of the Romans every mediterranean faction made heavy use of skirmishers for the same effect (so does Hannibal), it is only that the Romans used both dedicated skirmishers and equipped their heavy infantry with pila to give the enemy one last nasty surprise. The close combat itself however was usually made with the gladius. Legions fighting with their pila in close-combat was unusual, if Caesar's account of Pharsalus is to be believed, and there it was pointedly only done to ambush cavalry.

But you are totally right that the disadvantage of the phalangites was that they could only strike forwards and were extremely vulnerable to the sides or the back. Therefore the Romans employed two tactics: First, don't hold your ground. It is suicide to attack them from the front, therefore the Roman lines were constantly falling back, trying to lure the phalanx to uneven ground where hopefully gaps would be opened up. Second, pure mobility of the manipular chess pieces. Roman units could move very freely and independantly without loosing compat ability. Once sufficient gaps in between the phalangites opened up, the Romans could just march in with tight groups, slice the Macedonian lines into small pieces, surround each of them and cut them down. Though it must be said that this was only so neatly possible because the successor states failed at adequately supporting the phalanx, because either all their tactics revolved around breaking up other phalanxes or because their part of the empire simply lacked the traditions to field the necessary heavy cavalry. I am thinking that Hannibal, once he had taken care of the companion cavalry, could easily fall back to a similar tactic to destroy the phalanx. Heck, Cannae is a good example that he doesn't even need the numbers the Romans need to take one down when the battlefield is just right.

I should note that while you are correct that there was a lot of technological advance in between Alexander and Hannibal or Caesar, the phalanx itself was still quite a fearsome foe if properly supported. It's not without reason that it revived shortly during the early gunpowder age. So Alexander can still win, even with the disadvantage of not knowing what he is going up against while his enemy does, he just needs to deploy more carefully than he usually did.

6 hours ago, Yukle said:

That said, Rome at its peak would flatten Alexander at his. Unless he changed his weaponry, Alexander would have been crushed by Caesar, for instance (which isn't entirely fair, since Caesar also had 200 years of technological improvements to work with). The Romans were just engineering masters, and when the battlefield didn't favour them they'd literally rebuild it so that it did.

I actually once made a similar thought experiment, pitching Caesar against Alexander. Caesar is by all means no tactical genius, only a charismatic and aggressive leader who is truly blessed with a ton of pure dumb luck, but I think with proper preparation even he had a chance. Just give him a decently sized army and let him pull off his strategy at Pharsalus and Alexander would be in a lot of trouble.

Edited by Toth

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23 minutes ago, Toth said:

I actually once made a similar thought experiment, pitching Caesar against Alexander. Caesar is by all means no tactical genius, only a charismatic and aggressive leader who is truly blessed with a ton of pure dumb luck, but I think with proper preparation even he had a chance. Just give him a decently sized army and let him pull off his strategy at Pharsalus and Alexander would be in a lot of trouble.

No way; Caesar was entirely ahead of his time. There's the old adage: amateurs think in strategy, professionals think in logistics.

Caesar's tactics at Alesia, Dhyrracium (which, admittedly, he lost but he did retreat in good order) and Avericum as well as his invasions of Britain and Germania all used engineering solutions to problems.

He would frequently build walls, dig trenches, build bridges, use long-range weaponry and cut off enemy supply lines - especially fresh water - in an effort to create force multipliers.

The idea of Caesar being "lucky" is part of his propaganda techniques. In the same way that he probably didn't face the same numbers he claims to have (although he was nonetheless usually outnumbered), Caesar did not have the "luck" that he claimed. For Caesar, culturally, luck was seen as a sign of favour from his gods. So he frequently wrote about how lucky he was because he was trying to win popular support, as though the gods were intervening and his victories were pre-ordained.

In reality, his use of building bridges over difficult rivers, digging trenches to create no-man's land, scaling walls with towers and ramps - all of these ideas would not become commonplace until centuries later. He was frustrated with the Romans' poor boats, so made new ones to defeat the northern coastal Gallic tribes. He instructed hooks be built to wreck the sails of enemy vessels to (pardon the pun) turn the tide in sea-battles. The fact that he could retreat from defeat without being routed was also a sign of success; generally retreating meant losing the bulk of your army but he was able to complete strategic withdrawals. This was a trait Hannibal was also freakishly good at.

There is also the fact that many of Caesar's veteran commanders, such as Labeinus, defected to the Republicans during the civil war. Men who had served with Caesar and knew his ideas inside and out - and yet Caesar still outclassed them.

Alexander inherited his army, Caesar built his. He was initially given four legions, but two were understrength. He eventually had ten, most of them trained under his leadership.

There's so much more to combat than just what happens on the battlefield; time after time Caesar would enter enemy territory and time after time he'd come out on top. Being a propaganda master, he certainly exaggerated some of his own accounts (at Avericum, for instance, he claims his forces were without food for a highly unrealistic ten days or so, when in reality it was probably two at best or his men couldn't have fought for a whole day afterwards).

Alexander was hardly an amateur, but there isn't evidence of him using the same engineering and logistical skill that Caesar used time and time again. You must balance Caesar's claims of "luck", which he made to prove divine intervention, with the much more realistic assessment that he just planned things extremely carefully so that he appeared in the most favourable light.

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I've been reading a bit on Genghis Khan- outside of religious figures like Jesus, Muhammed and Buddha, has there ever been more of a "Great Man" of history, in terms of singular effect? Obviously the Great Man idea is a little unfashionable these days, but it's hard to see much in the infrastructure and culture (or lack thereof) at the time of his birth to suggest that if he hadn't united the tribes and taken over half the civilised world, someone else would have. And while Mongol culture doesn't seem to have spread massively, a modern world without the Mongol Empire before us could be extremely different, even outside Asia- they encouraged East-West trade along the silk road, and many people believe they inadvertantly caused the Black Death in Europe.

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1 hour ago, Seli said:

True. Even though Scipio was actually too young to lead armies in the Roman system when he started out.

...

Of course, depending on exact shifts, there is the question how stable the Roman state was at the time of Alexander. Any ideas about that?

Haha, my favourite fact about Scipio: he was given the command in Hispanic because literally nobody else wanted to take such a suicidal placement. His first act once there was to casually capture Carthago Nuevo, the capital, in less than two days.

To address the second part, Rome was still fairly small in Alexander's time. Most of southern Italy was still ethnically Greek, for instance, and the Po River valley was still ethnically Gallic. Rome had control of several other former city-states but was hardly a juggernaut. An unremarkable state of that time, save for its quite innovate Republican model of government. For instance, it took the innovation of the Maniple system to conquer the Samnites, and they weren't even close to the fighting force that Macedon was.

Rome didn't really begin to stand out as a military threat to the rest of the Mediterranean until their unexpected resistance to Phyrrus' invasion about 50 years after Alexander's death.

It's probably fair to say that Alexander wouldn't have found it especially difficult to conquer the entire Italian peninsula, Rome included, had he tried it during his lifetime.

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8 minutes ago, Yukle said:

Haha, my favourite fact about Scipio: he was given the command in Hispanic because literally nobody else wanted to take such a suicidal placement. His first act once there was to casually capture Carthago Nuevo, the capital, in less than two days.

To address the second part, Rome was still fairly small in Alexander's time. Most of southern Italy was still ethnically Greek, for instance, and the Po River valley was still ethnically Gallic. Rome had control of several other former city-states but was hardly a juggernaut. An unremarkable state of that time, save for its quite innovate Republican model of government. For instance, it took the innovation of the Maniple system to conquer the Samnites, and they weren't even close to the fighting force that Macedon was.

Rome didn't really begin to stand out as a military threat to the rest of the Mediterranean until their unexpected resistance to Phyrrus' invasion about 50 years after Alexander's death.

It's probably fair to say that Alexander wouldn't have found it especially difficult to conquer the entire Italian peninsula, Rome included, had he tried it during his lifetime.

I liked your comments on Julius  Caesar. Now I have a lot more reading to do. 

Edited by maarsen

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10 minutes ago, mankytoes said:

I've been reading a bit on Genghis Khan- outside of religious figures like Jesus, Muhammed and Buddha, has there ever been more of a "Great Man" of history, in terms of singular effect? Obviously the Great Man idea is a little unfashionable these days, but it's hard to see much in the infrastructure and culture (or lack thereof) at the time of his birth to suggest that if he hadn't united the tribes and taken over half the civilised world, someone else would have. And while Mongol culture doesn't seem to have spread massively, a modern world without the Mongol Empire before us could be extremely different, even outside Asia- they encouraged East-West trade along the silk road, and many people believe they inadvertantly caused the Black Death in Europe.

I'd be hard put to think of one.  He had to figure it all out for himself.  First, surviving on the steppe with his family after they'd been driven out of his tribe (although his remarkable mother played a big part in that); then winning back control of his own tribe, then uniting the Mongols;  then conquering Northern China, and Central Asia;  then welding all the territories into an empire that would outlast him.  He used Mongol archery to deadly effect, just before gunpowder would have made it redundant, but realised that deadly archery was not enough on his own to win, so established heavy cavalry units, while recruiting infantry and siege engineers from among his enemies.  At the same time, he unerringly identified the pressure points among his enemies, whether disaffected nobles or tribes, or people being persecuted for their religious beliefs, and got them to defect.  And he chose brilliant subordinates.

It's just a pity that a man with so many great qualities was a mass murderer on an unprecedented scale.

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42 minutes ago, Yukle said:

No way; Caesar was entirely ahead of his time. There's the old adage: amateurs think in strategy, professionals think in logistics.

Caesar's tactics at Alesia, Dhyrracium (which, admittedly, he lost but he did retreat in good order) and Avericum as well as his invasions of Britain and Germania all used engineering solutions to problems.

He would frequently build walls, dig trenches, build bridges, use long-range weaponry and cut off enemy supply lines - especially fresh water - in an effort to create force multipliers.

The idea of Caesar being "lucky" is part of his propaganda techniques. In the same way that he probably didn't face the same numbers he claims to have (although he was nonetheless usually outnumbered), Caesar did not have the "luck" that he claimed. For Caesar, culturally, luck was seen as a sign of favour from his gods. So he frequently wrote about how lucky he was because he was trying to win popular support, as though the gods were intervening and his victories were pre-ordained.

In reality, his use of building bridges over difficult rivers, digging trenches to create no-man's land, scaling walls with towers and ramps - all of these ideas would not become commonplace until centuries later. He was frustrated with the Romans' poor boats, so made new ones to defeat the northern coastal Gallic tribes. He instructed hooks be built to wreck the sails of enemy vessels to (pardon the pun) turn the tide in sea-battles. The fact that he could retreat from defeat without being routed was also a sign of success; generally retreating meant losing the bulk of your army but he was able to complete strategic withdrawals. This was a trait Hannibal was also freakishly good at.

There is also the fact that many of Caesar's veteran commanders, such as Labeinus, defected to the Republicans during the civil war. Men who had served with Caesar and knew his ideas inside and out - and yet Caesar still outclassed them.

Alexander inherited his army, Caesar built his. He was initially given four legions, but two were understrength. He eventually had ten, most of them trained under his leadership.

There's so much more to combat than just what happens on the battlefield; time after time Caesar would enter enemy territory and time after time he'd come out on top. Being a propaganda master, he certainly exaggerated some of his own accounts (at Avericum, for instance, he claims his forces were without food for a highly unrealistic ten days or so, when in reality it was probably two at best or his men couldn't have fought for a whole day afterwards).

Alexander was hardly an amateur, but there isn't evidence of him using the same engineering and logistical skill that Caesar used time and time again. You must balance Caesar's claims of "luck", which he made to prove divine intervention, with the much more realistic assessment that he just planned things extremely carefully so that he appeared in the most favourable light.

It's very hard to say "Would X have beaten Y" when they lived in different times.  Alexander would probably have lost to either Hannibal or Caesar had he used the strategies and tactics that were successful in his lifetime, but had he lived in a different era, he would probably have used different strategies and tactics.

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13 minutes ago, SeanF said:

I'd be hard put to think of one.  He had to figure it all out for himself.  First, surviving on the steppe with his family after they'd been driven out of his tribe (although his remarkable mother played a big part in that); then winning back control of his own tribe, then uniting the Mongols;  then conquering Northern China, and Central Asia;  then welding all the territories into an empire that would outlast him.  He used Mongol archery to deadly effect, just before gunpowder would have made it redundant, but realised that deadly archery was not enough on his own to win, so established heavy cavalry units, while recruiting infantry and siege engineers from among his enemies.  At the same time, he unerringly identified the pressure points among his enemies, whether disaffected nobles or tribes, or people being persecuted for their religious beliefs, and got them to defect.  And he chose brilliant subordinates.

It's just a pity that a man with so many great qualities was a mass murderer on an unprecedented scale.

I don't know a huge amount about the other Asian cultures of the time- do you think Genghis' exceptional ruthlessness effected the military culture of the region, leading to more brutal military tactics generally?

One thing I "liked" (seems an odd term to use without sounding like a sadist) was how you have certain ideas about a figure like Genghis, but when you read about him, you realise it's largely exaggerated. And while he certainly had a lot more to him that being a vicious bastard, establishing social order and religious tolerance, he was possibly even more of a vicious bastard than the average person thinks. The bit about marching prisoners of war into moats so they could cross really seemed to be crossing the line from the reality of warfare into fictional levels of evil.

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34 minutes ago, mankytoes said:

I've been reading a bit on Genghis Khan- outside of religious figures like Jesus, Muhammed and Buddha, has there ever been more of a "Great Man" of history, in terms of singular effect? Obviously the Great Man idea is a little unfashionable these days, but it's hard to see much in the infrastructure and culture (or lack thereof) at the time of his birth to suggest that if he hadn't united the tribes and taken over half the civilised world, someone else would have. And while Mongol culture doesn't seem to have spread massively, a modern world without the Mongol Empire before us could be extremely different, even outside Asia- they encouraged East-West trade along the silk road, and many people believe they inadvertantly caused the Black Death in Europe.

A great organizer, a great uniter, and great at using one of the best military leaders ever (Subatai).

 

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53 minutes ago, Yukle said:

No way; Caesar was entirely ahead of his time. There's the old adage: amateurs think in strategy, professionals think in logistics.

Fair enough. You are absolutely right when it comes to his logistical expertise and general embellishment! I was just thinking more of his tactical skills in an open battlefield and there, while undoubtedly good, I didn't find him particularly inspired when compared to the likes of Alexander or Hannibal. Like you described, Caesar was more of a siege expert in my opinion. One who took the already remarkable skills of the Roman engineering corps (something no other faction ever had) and went completely nuts with it.

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31 minutes ago, mankytoes said:

I don't know a huge amount about the other Asian cultures of the time- do you think Genghis' exceptional ruthlessness effected the military culture of the region, leading to more brutal military tactics generally?

One thing I "liked" (seems an odd term to use without sounding like a sadist) was how you have certain ideas about a figure like Genghis, but when you read about him, you realise it's largely exaggerated. And while he certainly had a lot more to him that being a vicious bastard, establishing social order and religious tolerance, he was possibly even more of a vicious bastard than the average person thinks. The bit about marching prisoners of war into moats so they could cross really seemed to be crossing the line from the reality of warfare into fictional levels of evil.

I think it inspired some people to emulate his ruthlessness, such as his descendants Timur and Babur.  Not that his enemies, like Shah Muhammed, or the Jin were any slouches when it came to killing and violence. 

I think what made the Mongols different was that they were usually heavily outnumbered by their enemies.  Blotting out entire cities that offered resistance was a pragmatic way of inducing people who outnumbered them to surrender, when the alternative was so much worse than the average sack or round of executions.  As was the other revolting Mongol tactic of mass rape. 

There seems very little evidence that Genghis Khan was deliberately sadistic (he expressly forebade torture for example).  It's just that for him, mass murder and mass rape were extremely effective methods of breaking resistance.

 

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