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Everything posted by caldrail

  1. caldrail


    Its animal behaviour. By putting on a display (in this case fastidious grooming) you advertise to your rivals that you are.. well... better somehow. Until they beat you in confrontations that is.
  2. The word means 'malingerer', or someone who decides not to turn up when required.
  3. Plunder was something the romans took for granted, but then it was pretty well accepted by any army that your soldiers took what they wanted after your enemies defeat. I'm not sure if celtic/german cavalry would halt and throw coins in the air rather than pursue their target to his grave. Tacitus certainly wouldn't have thought that - his perception of germanians was that they preferred to fight and get drunk above all else. Perhaps his educated upper class roman viewpoint is biased, but he had a point.
  4. caldrail

    Imitation Legions

    Are there any other examples?
  5. caldrail

    What's Up With That?!

    Can you imagine? There you are, commanding your first battle. You've handed out orders, the troops are in position, and the enemy begins to manoever. At this point you feel excited. You're probably confident of victory. Then it all starts getting out of hand. A unit breaks, others chase the enemy, some are clearly in the wrong place sitting on the hill chewing grass stems. Officers are shouting at you for orders and you discover the enemy prepared a suprise attack. Its at that point that your suitability for battlefield command really does get tested - or are you up to it? Is there a senior officer taking initiative from you to save the day? Or is this a disaster for Rome? Armchair debates about battles are great because no-one gets hurt!
  6. The key here is the need for celts/germans to show individual prowess in combat. There wasn't much teamwork - they would rather shout loudly, swing swords around their heads, and run full pelt toward the enemy. Rather like a rioting mob toward police lines. Cavalry require close control to be effective. Thats something the celts/germans rarely had so I've decided that I was initially wrong. Their cavalry wouldn't be particularly effective since most of it would disappeared over the horizon chasing anyone in sight. Thats not a slur on the courage of those men - they had plenty - but a lack of command and control
  7. caldrail

    Praetorian Guard

    I think you have to view the praetorians as an elite unit by status, not ability. Pay and perks were definitely better than the legions so entry into the praetorians would be seen as desirable. I don't think their training was any different, and given the relative lack of practice in combat possibly offset any advantage a newbie praetorian had by merit (apart from the occaisions when they did go to war that is, but their ability was still at the legionary level)
  8. Disagree, there were still plenty of Italics in the army, but all were in Italica, The Army of stilicho against the Visigoths was entirly italic, the Army of Aurelianus against the Alemannics was entirly italic. Records and documents are being hold in the Communale Library of Milan and Piacenza and in the Cathedral Archive of Arezzo. Further More The Germanic mercenaries were also very discaplined, and were not known as troublemakers. Well, I freely admit the final days aren't my strong point, but I have seen records of some very undesirable behaviour of germans. They weren't 'roman'. Some clearly couldn't care less, although I would expect many did want to be. Standards of behaviour simply weren't up to roman standards. But I accept your correction about the numbers of italics with good grace sir.
  9. I would like to add that the 'civilisation' of the roman soldier is a bit of a misnomer. Toward the end the legions were nowhere near the standard they had been, with german mercenaries en-masse, many of whom bullied the locals as a matter of course. Few italians would have liked life in the army by then, and most avoided it at all costs including a big increase in the practice of cutting off one's thumb so a sword could not be held.
  10. caldrail


    Difficult to say isn't it? The ambush took place over a long stretch of forest trail and was done peacemeal to avoid alerting the roman command. The final action, where Arminius trapped the romans between marsh and a prepared defensive (offensive?) wall, would have been over very quickly. I don't think there's enough evidence to categorically say 'it took this long'. It all depends on what you include as the battle itself.
  11. They also became the most highly practised skivers too. The work was hard so if they could bribe or hide or excuse themselves on medical grounds.... yep.
  12. caldrail

    Unarmed Combat Training

    ok, but perhaps I've generalised. An established fort would have a vicus - the dwellings of civilian hangers-on - which certainly would have included a brothel or several. Soldiers married covertly, or openly in later periods. Soldiers were also permitted to keep slaves. Now whilst most were probably male I dare say some might have been women, which brings up some interesting aspects to life in the 8-man rooms of barracks.
  13. caldrail

    What's Up With That?!

    I've learned about military matters from an early age too, but put in front of a legion and told to win this battle - I probably wouldn't! Experience in combat is vital and hard won. Some people have talent for battlefield command, others never will whatever education they had.
  14. caldrail

    Praetorian Guard

    If Romans thought it was so admirable to exploit one's priviliges, why were there so many courts set up to prosecute those who did exploit their privileges? Why were men like Cincinnatus celebrated? Let's remember--for the Romans of the Old Republic, "rex" was an insult. Roman ambivalence rears its head a lot doesn't it? There were all those laws and taboos but still many romans ignored them. However, as you quite rightly point out, many romans wanted to be good citizens. Some even commited scuicide because of an accusation, never mind a prosecution. The shame was too much to bear. others of course, squirmed and weasled their way out of problems while some stood firm and faced their accusers with honour.
  15. caldrail

    How Bloody Was The Arena?

    In the case of animals, it still wasn't the blood that mattered. What did matter was that the public saw these animals in the way they expected. Elephants showing feats of strength, ferocious bears, lethal big cats etc. As for the poor sap that got torn limb from limb, well, he was condemned after all, right? With beast hunters, it was the same as gladiators in that a good fight was paramount. Don't forget that meat was handed out to the poor during games - it came from butchered animals that lost their lives in the arena. Also the roman equivalent of hot dog stands were common, so the poor might have had a mainly bread diet but meat was there to be had.
  16. AS PP already mentioned, the Imperial State did fall. The society and culture might have evolved over time like any other civilization but Rome's power and domination declined and collapsed and that cannot be denied. No one is arguing that Rome, the state and government itself did not fall, I am arguing that Roman civilization, and culture and society did not fall, it evolved. The two are different. I would argue that 'evolve' suggests it improved. It didn't. I would say.... decayed.
  17. Romans did not have a physical advantage. Far from it, their celtic adversaries were bigger. The Romans had training, discipline, and tactical advantages which compensated. When well led, they were highly capable. Most Roman soldiers came from poor families. They would have enlisted having been used to some physical labour, and apart from useful artisan skills, this fitness was something recruiters looked for. Training was done with heavier practice weapons to build muscles, and lets not forget, soldiers were employed as manual labourers wherever possible. I don't think the camps were holiday homes! As a legionary, you would be expected to carry around 60lbs of gear for 20 or 25 miles, then build a camp to stay overnight (and you might be required to go on guard duty overnight too if you hadn't paid off the centurion). These route marches were common. I see the average legionary as a very hardened and brutalised person. It was a tough regime that produced tough men.
  18. I would have thought cavalry was at a premium back then, so I doubt that generals on either side would be too willing to charge them headlong into the enemy. Both would have used them in scouting and forcing enemy formations to halt or break up. There's no reason to believe that celtic/germanic cavalry would be any more or less effective than anyone else.... except..... horses were smaller then. More manoeverable? Less momentum in the charge? Slower?
  19. caldrail

    Surender Not Acceptable

    By and large I agree. However its possible a more handsome enemy might have been dragged to a certain officers tent once in a while. Humans haven't changed much in 2000 years.
  20. caldrail

    What's Up With That?!

    I think its often forgotten that they didn't have modern communications back then, and that an armies mobility was limited by terrain, forage, and local intervention. In order to fight your enemy, you had to find him. During the Punic wars romes borders were much smaller, their forces more centralised than the frontier lines of the imperial times. Don't forget also that Rome's generals were amateurs. They were often political appointees who knew as much about warfare as I do about quantum mechanics. Time and again the first battles of a campaign were disasters. Only Rome's larger enlistement pool gave it enough breathing space for the generals to learn from their mistakes. Also, troops of both sides would much rather sit the winter out. Some armies would go home in autumn for this reason.
  21. caldrail

    Praetorian Guard

    Praetorians were an elite unit. But they knew it too, and exploited their privileges like any good roman. Trouble was, they were very close to men in power and I suspect many of them were a bit envious, so unless they were treated well they tended to get miffed as we see from the record of assassinations. Not only that, ambitious schemers would have used individual praetorians as spies and hired killers for handouts of cash. After all, why take the risk yourself when your enemy is guarded by disgruntled armed men?
  22. caldrail

    Unarmed Combat Training

    Disciplined? Oh yes. But that has a side effect of causing frustration. We're talking about men who are at some periods denied wives (or even sex), who are trained to be aggressive, and to kill when ordered. Get them drunk, they fight. All armies are like that right through to today.
  23. Personally I think Rome lost its dynamic fervour, and this more than anything led to the western collapse. There was less and less reward for individual initiative and less willingness to 'do your bit for Rome'. As I read about the later empire I'm struck by how little they match up to their forebears. The Rome of 476AD comes across as a pale shadow of its former self. That to me indicates that the people with influence and power had less ability and less drive. Truth is, the older noble families had died out, most later nobles were descended from slaves, and foreigners had increasingly risen to high rank. There goes the neighbourhood. Rome, essentially, became a run down area.
  24. caldrail

    Availability Of Arms And Armor

    Arms and armour were excluded from the city of Rome by custom. Praetorian guards wore togas on duty at the senate and would have kept blades out of sight. Out in the countryside? Anyone spotted with this equipment would either have it requisitioned by the legions or find himself volunteered for service (or dealt with as a deserter or thief). There simply wouldn't have been any need to have this stuff. You could always join the army if you did.
  25. caldrail

    Unarmed Combat Training

    A small degree of unarmed combat training took place but this was more like rough-house brawling than Jackie Chan. The soldiers would have have gotten plenty of practice after drinking hours anyway! Training concentrated on weaponry for combat. Special forces? Yes, on rare occaision. Small troupes of gladiators were used in this manner, and we know that roman soldiers went on raids and reconnaisance missions into germanian areas. But it wasn't exactly the SAS!