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marcus silanus

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Everything posted by marcus silanus

  1. marcus silanus

    Top Five Most Overrated Tourist Attractions

    Without trying to sound deliberately contrary, on my first visit to Rome just over twenty years ago, I spent my first evening simply walking without paying much attention to where I was going. My pocket map was always going to get me back to the hotel so it was wonderful just taking everything in. I walked around a corner and there was the Colosseum, in the middle of the traffic, but quiet and majestic in itself. In those days, you simply walked in and out at will and this gave me many opportunities to enjoy this most famous of buildings. On my last visit a year ago, the experience of the Colosseum from the previous year led me to give it a swerve. There was the hassle from groups who offered to fast track you through the long lines, that ultimately we stood in for a couple of hours still having to argue the toss over our EU residency all combining to having had enough almost as soon as we got in. I suppose the Rome authorities have done what they needed to do in commercialising the major monuments; after all the revenues raised have funded an immense amount of research and archaeology as well as maintaining the viability of the well known attractions. I just have a bit of a romantic memory about the many free trips to the calm Colosseum in the middle of the frantic traffic island.
  2. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    Nope.I'm not sure exactly who are you thinking about, but Africanus Major was as aristocrat as it can get, from the most successful noble family of the most successful Patrician Gens. The consuls and commanders after Cannae and even after Zama were from the same traditional noble families. Among the consuls for the first 30 years after Cannae, only two new men are attested, Laelius (Scipio's client) and Cato Censorius. In fact, the two new men from the beginnings of the Hannibalic War, Flamininius and Varro, faced the full responsibility for Trasimene and Cannae, respectively. The Sword of Rome was a Claudius (Marcellus), the Shield was a Fabius (Maximus) and both were veterans from long before Hannibal; the heroes of Metaurus were another Claudius (Nero) and a Livius (Salinator). Even Atilius Regulus (from the group defeated at Cannae) eventually became a Censor in 214 BC. I am definitely not under the impression that the Roman aristocracy had been wiped out, of course not. However, the Hannibalic war did account for a large number of Senatorial casualties, not families obviously but individuals. Some of these were highly experienced and if that were not enough, conflict with the Gauls continued in the North, independent of the Carthaginian War that saw off, amongst others, L. Postumius Albinus as Praetor and the larger part of his army. He had been Consul twice and had already been elected to the position for the following year. That the same families continued to dominate the magistracies is beyond question. However the casualties did present opportunities to a new generation who had reached adulthood during the the conflict. This was in a climate where the Senate itself, deprived of some of its elder statesmen and the auctoritas that they possessed had already demonstrated, at times, a less conservative and bolder approach. Perhaps a good example of this was Scipios appointment to command in Spain, following the death of his father and uncle, with full proconsular power at the age of twenty-six; a most unconventional decision. The availability of experienced men of Senatorial rank had been depleted. Eighty Senators were killed at Cannae alone as were half of the military tribunes, perhaps many of whom might have been destined for high office. Commanders in the field had their offices prorogued as expediency to an extent displaced convention and that all leads to a situation that gives us the highly "professional" legions of the late third century onwards. The bitter experiences of this period, did force the Senate to change its outlook. Yes the same families appear time and time again, but the experience of the survivors of Cannae etc was more valued and contributed to the growing capabilities of the legions.
  3. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    This thread does seem to have entered a period of trench warfare and someone needs to invent our equivalent of the tank to move it on. I genuinely feel that you have both made many valid points and are disagreeing so vehemently on the finer detail of how proficient the legions were or not as the case may be. It is clear that Rome prevailed and that must be in some large part due to its military system. Certainly the citizen militia became more and more proficient after Cannae as it learned from its errors, experienced veterans were re-enlisted and the Senate was forced to give command to bold and capable generals by pressure from the people and also because so many of the aristocrats that may have expected political/military position had been killed. Sylla has not said that the legions of this time were an unstoppable force, without comparison and beyond compare and Caldrail has not said that they were a hapless yeomanry. He did state that a major factor in the success of Rome was her self belief, patriotism and other aspects of her character that combined with undoubted military capability and resources carried the day. Sylla has said that the evidence to support the statement that the legions were the finest fighting force of the day is the fact that Rome consistently won through. I would personally describe the legions as the most successful force which is slightly different. I don't think that anybody can dispute the success of Rome even if at times, it might have been at great cost. That was actually the idea behind the original question. Losses such as those suffered by Rome at Cannae in a single days conflict, were not seen again until the carnage of The Somme. Those tens of thousands were killed, by and large, face to face, bone on metal. It is the character of Rome, that after such devastation still says carry on, that I was trying to identify. If that means that I have a romantic view, I really do not mind the accusation because I am not here to be dry and academic, but because I love the lessons that we can learn from this period in an age that suffers so greatly with short term memory loss.
  4. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    It is actually quite straight forward to deal with the semantics of amateur/professional. Amateur is derived from French/Italian meaning lover and the definition that follows is one who engages in a pursuit for love and not for pay. It has also come to mean inept, but the two definitions can be easily distinguished by the intent in their use. All Rugby Union players prior to 1995 were amateurs in the context of their terms of playing the game. However, I am pretty sure that if the word had been used as a slight against the likes of Will Carling, he may well have taken issue. Prior to the Marian reforms, the legions were by the first definition amateur although there was sometimes the prospect of booty and material reward. The intensity of the Hannibalic War forced the citizen militia to remain under arms to the great extent that their farms were ruined and, in time, we see the great problems of the latifundia and eventually, the land reform proposals of the Gracchi. This, I would think, would constitute a standing army in practice if not in the sense of a professional body, paid by the state. After a certain point, the legions were precluded from acting as expedient and ad hoc militia, that point being the second Punic War. Veterans were re-enlisted and their hard won expertise highly valued in the growing conflicts with Macedon that followed.
  5. marcus silanus

    Roman Cohort versus a Macedonian Phalanx.

    I doubt that most ancient armies were capable of complicated tactic movement on the battlefield. The units were placed in lines then ordered to move forward or to stand their ground. Flanking movements were usually predictable when possible and countermeasures were taken so we don't see many battles won like that. Reserve units were deployed when needed... etc Most armies were of levies/recruits with little ability to do more then keep formations and not even the principate romans that had a professional army did not had professional officers until much later. I also doubt that a maniple was a unit designed for movement and maneuvering because it did not had an officer but 2 centurions and an unit with 2 commanders/2 standards can not keep cohesion during movement. With respect to Roman armies, perhaps prior to the Carthaginian Wars most of what you say is true. However, as the citizen militia increased its time in the field and gained experience, more complex tactics could be used and would pay off. Scipio on his arrival in Spain was not allowed a significant levy to supplement the surviving armies of his father and uncle. He was renowned for his caution, gathering of intelligence and training that perhaps made him an exception, but nevertheless he gives rise to a good example that contradicts your view. His victory at Ilipa was the result of intelligence, patience, audacious planning and knowledge of his own weakness - the Spanish Allies. The complicated manoeuvers involved were absolutely pre-planned. The Roman commander, or any other in the ancient world, did not have the opportunity on the day of battle to ride up and down a line of battle barking impromptu or ad hoc orders. It simply was not possible to communicate in this way and therefore, the good General would make best use of the 'consilium' to explain to his officers the general plan, ensure that it was understood and make plain what was expected. Of course an inadequate commander would be unable to make adequate use of this forum or any other and that has and will always be the case. To return to the 'legion/phalanx' comparison, it was in some instances the fact that the maniples were controlled by the Centurion/Optio the carried the day. The Centurion was the operational trump card of the legion. Whilst the General would be unable to alter tactics once the battle had commenced, the Centurion was encouraged to think on his feet and use his unit to best advantage. The Syntagmatarch who by contrast occupied the extreme right of a unit about double the size of a maniple, but forming one block of the dense phalanx, was not afforded the same flexible opportunities. It was precisely the experience and flexibility of the manipular structure that allowed the Centurions at Pydna to take advantage of the gaps created in Perseus' phalanx by the uneven territory that led to such a comprehensive victory for Paullus.
  6. marcus silanus

    Guess the ancient city!

    Anybody like to have a crack at this?
  7. marcus silanus

    Such Huge inaccuracies in movies, its scary!

    I agree. If one looks past the historical inaccuracies it is a good adventure yarn set in a period we all like. As for Mel Gibson... He is prepared to bend or alter any historical fact he can in order to thumb his nose either at Jewish or English people. He is indeed an unpleasent character. Gladiator is a great film with or without its inaccuracies, most of which I am well aware of down to the apparent misuse of the subtractive numbering system! Although I have stated elsewhere my distaste for historical inaccuracy in films, especially with respect to Kubrick's Spartacus, I'll excuse those within Gladiator because by and large, they are for dramatic reasons and not part of a political or religious agenda. The same can not be said for Spartacus, Quo Vadis or Ben Hur for example. The only 'political' comment that I detect is the supposed desire of Marcus Aurelius, to pass power to Maximus - never a nomen I know - to return Rome to being a Republic. We know that this didn't happen but perhaps if we bear in mind that the foundations of the United States constitution were so significantly influenced by the Roman Republic and that American principles are based on freedom, independence and free speech, perhaps it was expedient to ascribe this view to the "good emperor" for the sake of the US audience. The "most esteemed source" of ideas during the American revolutionary period was after all, according to Clinton Rossitor, "Cato's Letters", collated by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon. Otherwise, I can watch the opening sequence repeatedly wher the imagery is largely accurate for the period, but whether or not its so gripping! Lastly, in agreement, what is Gibson's problem!? Braveheart is about the worst of the lot!!
  8. marcus silanus

    Cannae and the Roman Republic

    I can't resist the link between the empires of Rome and Britain here as alluded to by Goldsworthy - introduction to "In The Name Of Rome". As much as the Roman system placed command in to the hands of the often mediocre or even incompetent, it also produced Scipio for example. The maintenance and expansion of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries was often in the hands of the foppish or foolish but then there was Wellington. Before the victories of these respective commanders the fortunes of both Rome and Britain were by no means assured. After Zama and Waterloo, although each suffered defeats in various theatres, no ultimate threat to Roman power was manifest until the 4th century and to that of the British until the aftermath of WWII. There was at Rome, certainly at the time of Cannae, a system where the people had a say in who was elevated or re-elected to the Consulship, that the ordinary British subject didn't have. It was largely required that a candidate had successful predecessors, the assumption being that positive characteristics were inherited. However flawed the aristocratic dominance of both Rome and Britain was, both were highly successful enterprises leaving huge legacies to the world. Therefore, to re-iterate the original question in this thread, which aspects of the national character of Rome allowed her to recover from such catastrophe as Cannae? There must have been something above and beyond pure resources and luck!
  9. marcus silanus

    Greatest Roman Figure??

    You definitely have a point, I agree that Augustuses 28 Legions were already stretched and so taking Germania would not have been a very good idea. However if they did take it and Romanise it then they would have quite a lot of strong Axillary troops to recruit. But I don't think he was the Greatest Roman figure. That's a very fair point about the recruitment of auxiliaries. Additionally, in not gaining control of Germania, the Empire was left with basically the long Rhine-Danube line as its border which came under immense pressure from the 4th century onwards. So much might have been achieved if the Antonine Emperors had been able to capitalise on Trajan's conquest of Dacia and push the border north. If that boundary had started at say, the mouth of the Elbe and run South-East to Dacia, the Northern frontier would have been shorter, more manageable and easier to defend.
  10. marcus silanus

    Sallust's pessimism about Rome's rise to power

    If I may be allowed to digress from the work in question and refer to his speech to Caesar on the state, the suggestion of his personal hypocrisy becomes manifest. He exhorts the simple life of living within one's means, banning usury and fixing incomes to meet need. He doesn't seem to be suggesting that he would be subject to such restrictions and Caesar, upon whom he layers flattery, had been hugely willing to risk other people's vast sums of money, before the Gallic campaign had paid off.
  11. marcus silanus

    Why are you interested in Rome?

    Hi markc and good to see you here. The Roman system of discipline was certainly harsh and 'decimatio' was the most extreme manifistation. A cowardly or incompetent unit was split into ten groups and each of those groups drew lotts. The 'shortest straw' was beaten to death by his comrades and they would be relegated to rations of barley outside the confines of the camp. It was, however, rarely used especially from the mid-republic onwards and when Crassus famously revived this punishment in the Third Servile War, he does refer to its rarity and place in antiquity. He selected the first 500 to have run and therefore 50 suffered this fate. Caesar threatened this punishment during the civil wars on Legio IX who mutinied in a "pay dispute" having not received 500 Denarii each promised at Brundisium for their services above requirement. He relented and 'only' had the twelve ringleaders killed! The last references to this practice are to Marcus Antonius at Media when he personally administered the punishment, an incident under Augustus in 17 BCE (Seutonius) and the defeat of Legio III at Tacfarinas provoking Lucius Apronius to such extremes in 20 CE according to Tacitus. In all of this we should not forget that as harsh as this seems, the penalties within the military for cowardice and desertion have always been drastic. Rightly or wrongly, the image of the nine legionnaries extinguishing the life of their tenth comrade is very little different to the firing squads of WW1 and WW2 making examples of those that lost their nerve! We are not so far removed from antiquity as we might believe.
  12. marcus silanus

    voting in Rome

    Yes; our best evidence is empyrical; The Republican politicians spent immense amounts of effort and money, and sometimes even risked their personal security, just to get the popular support. Yes; just a scant minority of Patricians and rich Plebeians were eligible; this aristocracy was entirely autodefined, mostly based on hereditary and economic factors (in that order). This seems contradictory. If the "populus" had a real say then rich guys can not have all the power. Semantics aside, facts speak for themselves; Roman people had a real say, even if a rich aristocracy had essentially all the power. Ultimately, although the aristocracy had the power, the people were instrumental in deciding which of those aristocrats gained the magistracies. You are quite correct in debunking the notion that there is any contradiction in the wealthy holding the real power whilst the people had a real say. We should not flatter ourselves that we are markedly different in modern democracies. Once elections have taken place and the electorate has exercised its 'power', a relatively small number of people will make all the key decisions. Certainly a large amount of financial muscle was neccesary in the Roman Republic but it did not have a system of political parties with campaign funds and sophisticated marketing machines. Whilst the modern government will make decisions with a view to gaining re-election and therefore retain acknowledgement of the electorate's wishes - in theory - the Roman Magistrate would endevour to build his reputation as he climbed the cursus honorum and therefore, with exceptions of course, retain an interest in the opinion of the people thereby affording them constant influence in the political and military affairs of the Republic.
  13. marcus silanus

    voting in Rome

  14. The popular image of the Roman army is of the post-Marian cohortal legions, resplendent in lorica segmentata and imperial Gallic/Italic helmets, which is understandable and fair. However, Rome's primary rise from regional power to mistress of the Mediterranean occured from the time when it is widely accepted that she adopted the manipular tactics of the Samnites to the end of the second century BCE. The Samnite Wars were closely followed by the Pyrrhic War and from that point the general use of the manipular system, I believe, contributed greatly to Rome's further success. I wonder how far members would agree or disagree with me that the popular use of this system was a major factor in Rome's triumph over the Mediterranean.
  15. marcus silanus

    The Supersizers Eat Ancient Rome

    This was an interesting part of a fun series. Giles Coren and Sue Perkins are both endearing characters and they have provided quite a bit of both entertainment and information - to be Reithian. Although the Roman component did not make me groan with hunger in the same way as the Edwardian and Louis XVI programmes, it did provide a little irony. As everyone winced at, for example, the description of garum, how many realised that the recipe is almost identical to the modern Thai fish sauce so predominant in their cuisine so fashionable in the West?
  16. marcus silanus

    General Spartacus

    This is an interesting spat. Is their any more mileage in this theme within this thread? In all seriousness, there has not been a new post in this section for quite a few days and the subject of Spartacus and his credentials as a 'military' leader is rather enticing.
  17. marcus silanus

    Romans and diet

    There is no doubt that Plutarch was a passionate vegetarian against the consumption of land mammals at least, although he did not seem to have any issue with sea food, regarding it as divorced from the common life led by human beings and oxen for instance who are "...nourished with the same food, inspire the same air...", whilst creatures of the sea are "...strangers to us and are brought up, as it were, in another world...". Plutarch is immensely persuasive in his argument and everyone will take their own view, but I do not see how this can be taken to say that legionnaries were predominantly vegetarian. In practical terms, they would receive a large proportion of their diet from their 'hard-tack' and grain based commodities because they were portable and long lasting. However, Plutarch's ethical vegetarianism I doubt found favour with the commonalty of the roman legions.
  18. marcus silanus

    Prepare to get annoyed

    Bearing in mind my comments in the other thread about the Kubrick film, I guess that I may be one that could be expected to be annoyed, but I agree with you here: why should I? I've no doubt that this effort is complete and utter hogwash, but the difference is that Tapert's does not begin to enter the realms of serious historical drama. I was under the impression that Xena and Hercules were made for children and would expect this to be so far removed from anything resembling quality and value that it will not live long enough in the memory to matter at all.
  19. marcus silanus

    Roman Coins

    There is a shop on The Shambles in York with a wide selection of Roman coins from mainly - I think - the third and fourth centuries. I can get the name and number shortly and will obviously post the details if that is any help for you. That wouold be great thanks. The shop is a retail outlet of Spinks - http://www.spink.com/home_page/index.asp - and I would suggest that you give them a call on 01904 654769, firstly checking that you are talking to the shop and not the auctioneers. I am sure that, if my memory serves, they had a wide selection including some at quite reasonable costs. Spinks are international auctioneers and browsing their website will give the impression that there is virtually nothing available for under
  20. marcus silanus

    Roman Coins

    There is a shop on The Shambles in York with a wide selection of Roman coins from mainly - I think - the third and fourth centuries. I can get the name and number shortly and will obviously post the details if that is any help for you.
  21. marcus silanus

    What's the last book you read?

    I've almost finished re-reading Ross Cowan's "For The Glory Of Rome" (Greenhill Publishing). This is such a highly entertaining guide to Roman warriors and warfare that includes one of the best overviews of the Pyrrhic War in any modern source. Cowan's accessible and involving style is a delight and is to be commended. He is also well respected as one of the authors for Osprey - Greenhill's sister brand - where inevitably his style is dryer and more academic, but I would certainly recommend in particular "Roman Battle Tactics 109BC - AD313".
  22. marcus silanus

    Polybius on brutality of Roman army

    By and large, cities were taken by seige, treachery or storming. If the refusal to surrender or come to terms led to the decision to storm, the attacking side would inevitably suffer a horrific number of casualties and therefore, in some respects the consequent sacking was on the one hand 'pay-back' and on the other deterence to others from forcing the use of costly tactics. There is a cold expediency in the reasons for the Roman sack of a city, but the brutality as pointed out here and elsewhere was by no means unique. Hannibal concluded his victory at Saguntum, for different reasons, by ordering the slaughter of every man of military age for example. I tend towards thinking that the Nazi comparisons are a little facile and lack substance. Roman brutality of this type was broadly speaking of its time. National Socialism was fudementally and at its heart a racially supremacist creed that visited its horrors upon the Jews, Slavs etc within that context. Roman brutality, without my being too much of an apologist, was an acceptable expedient. The better comparison with the Nazis if we need to look for one, might be the Assyrians who would impale or flay alive the senior amongst a conquered people and continue to rule those people with an iron fist and ruthless ferocity. Although there is an irresistible parallel between the sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 CE, there is only one Roman atrocity, for me, that has deeply Nazi overtones. Servius Sepulcius Galba was a repugnant mixture of the incompetant and the greedy. Having won an intitial victory against the Lusitanians, he later lost 7000 to the reinvigorated tribesmen. Having been rescued by Lucullus and knowing that the primary issue with the Lusitanians was poor land, he designated a central gathering point for the tribes to gather from which they would be "resettled" to more fertile lands. He ordered their massacre at that place. There were attempts to indict Galba for "war crimes" that ultimately failed. His actions in Lusitania heralded a half century period of instability and distrust for the Romans starting with the Geurrilla warfare of Viriathus which most certainly removes this example from the category of expedient brutality.
  23. marcus silanus

    Polybius on brutality of Roman army

    This could be a reference to Book 10 Chapter 15 in which Polybius describes the sacking of New Carthage thus:- ".......according to the Roman custom; their orders were to exterminate every form of life they encountered, sparing none, but not to start pillaging until the word was given to do so. This practice is adopted to inspire terror, and so when cities are taken by the Romans you may often see not only the corpses of human beings but dogs cut in half and the dismembered limbs of other animals........"
  24. marcus silanus

    Happy birthday Ingsoc!

    I hope that you've had a good day. Happy birthday!
  25. marcus silanus

    Commonly taught inaccuracies about the classical world

    I haven't seen any such misrepresentations thus far but I do know what you mean. Perhaps The History Channel will ask Don Cheadle to play Septimus Severus!!! As I am writing this, they are broadcasting "Battles BC" with a ludicrously miscast actor playing Hannibal, plainly of sub-Saharan African descent and I do know there is an image elsewhere on this forum but I couldn't remember in which part. Casting directors nowadays seem to think that if a certain character, such as Hannibal or Severus, is from Africa - per se - they must avoid offence by casting an actor of sub-Saharan ancestry. This, to my mind, is as offensive as Laurence Olivier 'blacking up' for his portrayal of Othello who, by the way, was a Moor and therefore of Arabic descent. Hannibal was of Phoenician lineage and would have been of Middle-Eastern appearance and Severus was of Italian, Libyan and Phoenician mixed heritage. It doesn't seem to be realised that Roman Africa was a province in the north of the continent, populated by a mixture of indiginous peoples mixed with other ethnic groups, non of whom match those misguided portrayals. There are so many lazy intellectual attempts in the media to portray historical characters in, what they see, as a sensitive and accurate fashion. In doing this they cause more offense to the reasonably knowledgeable than the most crass and chauvinistic representations of the past.