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phil sidnell

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  1. phil sidnell

    Adrian Goldsworthy

    Ah, if only that were often the case, my job as a commissioning editor of ancient military history would be oh so much easier. In fact, there are very very few British authors specialising in this field who are lucky enough to be able to support themselves at it as their 'day job'. Most are academics who earn their bread and butter through teaching posts or enthusiastic 'amateurs' with 'ordinary' jobs. I think the fact that Adrian Goldsworthy is virtually unique in Britain in earning his keep by writing ancient military history as his main income suggests he must be doing something right. I only wish I could afford to commission him myself... Oh, and Sonic, you only had to ask for a higher word count. I'll be expecting an extra 40,000 words on the next one then! No extension on the deadline, obviously . Phil Sidnell.
  2. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    Of course, books, even well-founded on analysis of 700 battles, will also reflect the personality of the author in their conclusions. That's what keeps us all discussing this fascinating subject isn't it, there are few cast iron certainties and plenty of room for different approaches and opinions (which we should all be able to discuss calmly and politely).
  3. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    Which book was that?
  4. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    More than half I'd say. A huge part of the whole cavalry charging thing (which was the original point) is psychological and largely irrational. It must have been partly the apparently irrational recklessness of a group of men effectively riding on the back of a stampede of large, excited and frightened animals, that made a cavalry charge such a terrifying thing to face up to, even if the infantry did know logically that standing firm was their best defence. Getting off topic now but a good set of wargaming rules does take psychological factors and chance (or those myriad of small factors that would defy prediction - Clausewitz's 'friction') into account. Any wargame so predictable as to say that in this situation this side would always receive 50% casualties and this 100% (quite apart from 100% casualties being very rare in any period) would quickly become tedious. The complexity and the interplay of multiple factors is what makes battles (and wargaming) so interesting (in my humble opinion). Try winning a wargame of the Battle of Granicus or Issus as Alexander, without having to resort to an 'Alexander wins because he's Alexander' rule and you'll see what I mean. Phil
  5. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    Wargaming is great fun, but has to be informed by what we know of the ancient world from the relevant sources - not the other way round. It can be a useful way to envisage how things happened and can give insights into why a general may have adopted a particular strategy (or more often, tactics), but it is dangerous to start arguing backwards the other way. Just because something works in a wargame does not mean it was done or that it was possible. It may just mean your particular set of wargames rules are wrong. Phil Sidnell.
  6. phil sidnell

    Anyone know a good source for Scipio?

    You might want to try Goldworthy's In the Name of Rome too. Phil
  7. phil sidnell

    Hannibals elephants

    I was wondering how he put one and a half elephants on each flank. Phil
  8. phil sidnell

    Hannibals elephants

    Hi there. I agreed with your point in its essentials, the elephants didn't really get a chance to make much impact in Italy. However, I can't find where exactly in Polybius he says only three made it into Italy. I only have the Penguin translation to hand so perhaps it is lost in editing - could you give me chapter and verse please? I was under the impression a more substantial force made it as far as the Trebia, played a fair part in the battle and then, but for one solitary animal, died from the combination of exhaustion and exposure to severe snow and rain after the battle: In his description of the deployments for the Trebia, Polybius says Hannibal 'divided his force of elephants and stationed them in front of the wings of the infantry phalanx, so that the flanks were doubly protected'. (III.72) This doesn't sound like just three elephants. Later, in the course of the battle, he says 'Finally both wings of Longus' infantry, which were being hard-pressed bfrom thje front by the elephants, and from the flanks by the light-armed troops, gave way and were forced back'. (III.74) And later, apart from the 10,000 who fought their way clear, 'Of the remainder of the Roman army the greater part were killed by the elephants and the cavalry'.(III.74) Describing Carthaginian losses he says: 'They were exultant at the outcome of the battle, which they regarded as a decisive success: the losses among the Spaniards and Africans were very small and most of the casualties had been suffered by the Celts [no mention at this stage of elephant casualties] - The whole army had been severely affected, however, by the pouring rain and the snowfall that followed it, with the result that all the elephants died except for one and large numbers of men and horses perished from the cold'.(III.74) In Livy's account, the elephants are again divided half and half and posted on the extreme flanks beyond the cavalry (whereas in Polybius they were in front of the wings of the phalanx, with cavalry outside of them on the flanks). They played a great part in driving off the Roman cavalry 'as the horses were terrified by the sight and smell of these strange beasts they had never seen before'. After the Roman cavalry had been driven off, they attacked the Roman infantry and 'forced a way right into their line'. The Roman light infantry, (who in Polybius account had retired through the heavies after the initial skirmishes), were called up to counterattack and drive them off, with great success: 'The light-armed foot, specially brought in to deal with them, drove them off with their javelins, followed up, and pierced them again in the soft skin beneath their tail. Under this treatment the brutes were getting out of hand and looked like turning in against their masters [as quite often happened in other battles], so Hannibal had them removed from the centre and transferred to the left wing, against the Celtic auxiliaries [the Cenomani, the only Celtic tribe to remain loyal to Rome]'. Still their contribution was not over, for Livy continues 'The auxiliaries promptly broke and fled, thus adding a fresh cause of alarm for the hard-pressed Romans'. Livy concurs that it was 'rain, sleet and intolerable cold' that 'carried off many of the pack animals and nearly all the elephants'. Livy, xxi, 55-56 I think then it would be fair to say that they did contribute quite a bit to the victory at Trebia, and it was lucky for the Romans that the weather did them in. Of course, this was not the first time an invader had used elephants in Italy. Pyrrhus of Epirus owed his two (proverbially costly) victories over the Romans in no small part to his elephants. In Hellenistic warfare too they were often a major factor in success (although equally often in the defeat of their own side!), and so it is not true they were only succesful against primitive or unsophisticated armies. Alexander's hardest fought battle was against Porus and his elephants. The African elephant used may actually have been Loxodonta Africanus Cyclotis, or bush elephant, only recently identified as a seperate species. Males grow only to about 8' tall, as opposed to 13' for the savannah elephant Loxodonta Africanus[\i] Phil Sidnell
  9. phil sidnell

    Artwork gallery

    Just got my copy of slingshot with one of your works on the front - well done!
  10. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    Okay, but that's moving the goal posts. Your original thread was 'why Romans didn't charge' - yet they clearly did. You say that the infantry being charged must waver or break or it was a disaster - I'd agree with that as a general rule, but that is to miss the point. The infantry often did break, which is why cavalry did charge.
  11. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    No problem. Incindentally, if you do want to read the book, the full title is Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare, ISBN 1-85285-374-3 and you can get it through Amazon and elsewhere. all the best Phil
  12. The quote usually cited in support of this is the following from Livy: 'Now they saw the bodies dismembered with the Spanish sword, arms cut off with the shoulder attached, or heads severed from bodies, with the necks completely cut through, internal organs exposed, and a general feeling of panic ensued when they discovered the kind of wepaons and the kind of men they had to contend with.' Livy, History of Rome, xxxi. 34. This is from his description of the first meeting of Roman and Macedonian troops at Athacus in 200 BC, but what is often not mentioned is that the only Roman troops engaged were cavalry (and they were fighting against both Macedonian cavalry and light infantry. Also, I don't think it is absolutely certainly the case that at this date (ie in the source Livy was drawing on) the term 'spanish sword' would necessarily have meant the final form that became the trademark weapon of the legions. Experience against Spanish troops in the Punic wars had led the Romans to take Spanish smiths back to Italy to make swords, the key being their technique of making better iron/steel, rather than the design itself. The Spanish used either a straight cut-and-thrust sword, which is obviously the pattern for the later classic gladius hispaniensis, or a recurved slashing falcata. Perhaps at first both sorts were known as spanish swords, if made using the new technique, regardless of shape. So it could even be that these cavalry were using the falcata style of sword (back in the 4th c. BC, Xenophon had recommended the similar kopis or machaira to Greek cavalry as more suitable for a horseman, ' because, from the height of a horse's back the cut of a machaira will serve you better than the thrust of a xiphos' or straight sword). Phil Sidnell
  13. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    Of course in line 3 of the above I meant to say the saddle is more important than the stirrups. D'oh!
  14. phil sidnell

    Why Romans Didn't Charge

    Stirrups can provide a lot of stability to a charging lancer or swordsman - against a frontal impact, by pushing forward against them you can brace yourself against the cantle, the raised rear of your saddle. Judging from jousters I spoke to, the saddle is more important than the saddle. In battle it is unlikely that an impact will be purely frontal as it would appear in a diagram drawn from the side. Where stirrups are really useful, even in just everyday riding, is in shifting your weight in the saddle to regain your balance if you are in danger of losing it, because you can put your weight on either one and push off from it as required. Of course many ancient cavalry, including Alexander's companions (sorry Caldrail, I know you only like purely Roman talk), rode without rigid saddles - the earliest evidence for the horned saddles being the 'Gundestrup cauldron' from late 2nd c. BC, at the earliest, and the earliest within the Roman sphere from a relief found in Provence in the 1st c. BC. Stirrups are very nice things to have, but don't underestimate what can be achieved by a rider raised to ride without them. Couching the lance, tucking it under the armpit, was not impossible before stirrups, but there it is generally accepted that there is no evidence that it was done (although there is one graffito of a Sarmatian lancer that looks to me like he might possibly be couching). It did not actually become the standard technique until the late 11th century AD. It would definitely have been possible with a Roman saddle but no stirrups, because I have a photo of it being done by a reenactor against a sand-filled dummy. As for evidence of the two-handed technique, there are a number of good images from artefacts in the Osprey book on the Sarmatians (Caldrail, you have to let me off on this - the Romans copied the contus from the Sarmatians, even calling it the contus sarmaticus). The rock reliefs of Persian and Sassanid lancers at Taq-i-Bustan or Firzubad seem to show the two handed technique also. Incidentally, the Parthian horse in the lion-hunting scene (if you mean the plaque in the British Museum) is probably meant to be galloping rather than rearing. It was not until the development of photography in the late 19th century that anyone, in the Western world, actually managed to correctly work out, and therefore depict, the exact sequence and motion of horses legs in canter and gallop. Nearly all earlier paintings of running horses have their legs in a position that they could only attain while jumping, if then. Hope some of this helps. Phil