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marcus silanus

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Everything posted by marcus silanus

  1. marcus silanus

    Ides of March

    That's an interesting question. Certainly Caesar knew he was hated by some: "Can I have any doubt that I am deeply loathed, when Marcus Tullius has to sit and wait and cannot simply come to see me as he wishes. If ever there were an easy-mannered man, then it is he. Yet I have no doubt that he hates me." Moreover, until early 44, Caesar was constantly attended by a bodyguard of Spanish auxiliaries. Moreover, there were rumors of conspiracy constantly swirling, including one involving Antony. Despite this, Caesar also believed greatly in his own importance in keeping the state from falling into another civil war. According to Suetonius et al, Caesar supposedly claimed that even Brutus was sensible enough not to be impatient for his death. This attitude of Apr
  2. marcus silanus

    Psychology of Legionnaries

    If we are talking about Caesar's account from his Comentarii (Book II, ch. 32), that psychological description was not on the legionaries but on the Gauls (more especifically, the Aedui). I was referring to the passages relating to the legionnaries who '...at times, could not restrain their tears' ( Book I 39,40,41). This led Caesar to call together all the Centurions and convince them that their fears were lacking foundation. Of course the Gauls who had been subjected to particular cruelty were particularly fearful, but my reference was to the legionnaries. Otherwise, I did not use the term 'counsel' in the modern sense. Caesar's way of dealing with the disruption in discipline was by and large to tell the legionnaries to pull themselves together and stop being weak. He held up the reputation of LEGIO X to add shame to the admonishment. Punishments for cowardice were especially harsh, but perhaps and I am guessing, Caesar would have considered it more expedient to erase any possibility of cowardice spilling on to the battlefield by his speech to the Centurions. At it's conclusion, '...there arose an intense enthusiasm and eagerness to start the campaign.'
  3. Roman discipline was tried over centuries against some blood curdling opponents, but who do you think would make the blood drain from your head even before they removed it?!! Take your pick from hundreds of years worth of monstrous foes. For me it has to be the Teutones and Cimbri. One particularly nasty practice was to ritually disembowl prisoners over a large pot to give thanks to their gods and also, successfully I suspect, to utterly demoralise the enemy. However, we all know that however heinous those practices were, the legions ultimately triumphed, so what aspects of the Roman character enabled them to often come back from the brink of defeat and quell such savage foes?
  4. marcus silanus

    Roman Military

    But Adrian Goldsworthy in The Complete Roman Army consistently makes it clear that the legions and the Auxilia were two entirely separate entities. Independently raised and organized differently, I believe they were a regular part of the army along with the legions. As to the Carthaginians, Ernle Bradford in his book Hannibal makes it very clear that their armies consisted largly of mercenaries from a large number of nations. This includes Numidians, Iberians, Libyans, and Celts. As I recall we have almost no written material from the Carthaginians (Except for an agricultural treatise, according to National Geographic). All of this makes unit organization for them very difficult to ascertain. The only Carthaginian unit clearly identified as far as I have found is the 'Sacred Band'. Carthage itself, during the wars with Rome only provided the officers and this group of elite troops based in style on a late Greek model i.e. both cavalry and infantry armed with a short sword, infantry with a long pike and cavalry with a Greek spear. This unit was only called to arms when Carthage itself was threatened such as afetr the invasion by Regulus.
  5. marcus silanus

    Psychology of Legionnaries

    Much has been said here about the possible instance of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, there is a neat twist in Caesar's Gallic Wars that perhaps points to pre-traumatic stress in legionnaries. After the defeat of the Helvetii, Caesar had decided to take on the German tribes under King Ariovistus. Such was his reputation for the torture of child hostages and other practices cruel by even ancient standards, discipline in the Roman ranks started to break down. The less experienced were brought to fearful tears and in general, the legionnaries spent all night bemoaning their fate and writing wills. Such was the panic that it spread to the more experienced. The psychology of a legionnary was plainly vulnerable to fear, although the threshold was very high in today's terms. The therapy applied by Caesar was partly to convince the soldiers that their fears were exaggerated and largely to shame them that if they would not follow him at least the tenth legion would, in which his trust was unquestionable. Needless to say, after the legionnaries had spent time on Caesar's 'couch' and received his counseling, their spirits returned.
  6. marcus silanus

    Terrifying Enemies

    How about those Carthagenian mercenaries who revolted after the defeat at Zama over pay arrears ? As I recall it they lured some prominent Carthagenians to their camp to negotiate over conditions, then grabbed them, cut of their ears, noses and lips, broke their arms and legs and threw them in a ditch to die in full view of their fellow citizens. Needless to say what the Carthagenians had in store for them when they finally got the better of them. (Don't remember the author). The Romans were no softies either. I guess it was pretty much the way things were at the time. Public executions, crucifixions and so on were very common events even in peaceful times. And in war it was immeasurably worse. WW II maybe made more victims than all the wars fought by the Romans put together. But very few of those were killed in hand to hand fighting. In the old days it had to be done almost exclusively by hand. I guess to survive at all in those days you had to be pretty immume to blood and gore and suffering. Formosus The Mercenary Revolt was a perfect example of the lengths to which men will go when they have nothing to lose. The leaders, Spendius and Matho, both faced death by torture if they returned to their native lands. This was, however, at the end of the First Punic War and not after Zama.
  7. marcus silanus

    Who's Your Favourite Historian?

    Polybius, for me, is the most gripping of the ancients. He benefits from his subject matter, that being the period of greatest Roman expansion from regional power to the mistress of the known world. Although he does reflect his Achaen background and favour towards Scipio Aemilianus in certain passages, by and large he strives for truth and balance. As a non-Roman looking in, he is better able than others to put the vast story of the rise of Rome in the context of the cultures and powers that surrounded them. The text has an epic feel about it for this reason and I find his history in the modern critics' parlance, 'unputdownable'.
  8. marcus silanus

    Roman Cohort versus a Macedonian Phalanx.

    I agree with one or two other comments, that historically the legion wins. Pydna demonstrated a number of pitfalls in the Macedonian method. However it's worth pointing out that one of the major benefits of the phalanx, especially when facing an less diciplined force than a Roman legion was that it was an absolutely terrifying spectacle. Paullus admitted late in life that this was the most frightening thing that he had ever beheld. Nevertheless, in true Roman style, he rode up and down the ranks of his men without shield or armour to show contempt for the enemy and encourage their spirits accordingly. The battle itself, started in a confused way when skirmishing was provoked across a stream. This led the Macedonians to deploy too quickly and not into the proper positions. Eventually, one of the main problems with the phalanx was exposed, literally. When a single close order block of pikemen advances over any distance on anything less than flat ground, there was a tendency for the unit to break up leaving gaps in the order. At Pydna, the exposed flanks resulting from this were exploited with ruthless efficiency by the maniples. Individual Centurions could order their units into the gaps where their incomparable prowess with the short sword won the day. The sarrisii of the phalanx became useless and many of the Macedonians abandoned the weapon and employed their swords, but to little effect. The phalanx was flawed when placed against the flexibility of the Roman legion. Hellenic forces had been content to continue with the format in their internal wars such as those of the Diodochi, because their mindset accepted that conflict would be concluded by negotiation rather than the out and out victory of one side or the other. Phalanx against phalanx would rarely render a decisive military result. The Romans, however, did not view a war as concluded until they had a clear victory and the vanquished became clearly subordinate. Had the Macedonian strategy been different, they may have had the motivation to adapt the system to meet more diciplined and flexible opponents such as Rome.
  9. marcus silanus

    Your screen name

    Silanus sounded good, I thought, and he was Scipio's colleague at Illipa. My first name, Mark, was obviously going to be changed to Marcus and it so happens that the Silanus at Illipa was a Marcus. No more imaginative than that.
  10. marcus silanus

    Roman influence on Christian doctrine?

    As far as i understand, one of the most important reasons for the adoption of Christianity, politically, was to apply some much needed adhesive to the vast empire. One way of doing this was to make the new religion recognisable to the average citizen by, for example, swapping pagan deities and their 'specialist areas' to patron saints. In other words, rather than the god of whatever, you could focus on the patron saint of whatever. Also, much of the imagery of paganism was transferred such as the halo of the sun god that has remained in Christian imagery since that time. Therefore, in as much as orthodox and Catholic tradition still maintains the domains of particular saints and the images based ultimately on the pagan, modern Christianity indeed contains very loud echos of things that were "for the good of the Roman empire".
  11. marcus silanus

    Regarding the Gladius

    Images have been taken from the Aes Graves coin collections of short swords - blade narrow near the hilt and becoming thicker before coming to the point. These are thought to be authentic for the Hastati and priceps of the Pyrrhic war and not markedly different to the Hispaniensis in appearence and application. To go way back before the Roman army was organised in any more than the form of warrior bands, tomb finds have been made in Rome of a short sword designated 'Cuma' type and a longer blade designated 'Rocco di Marro'. These date from the early Regal period and so are not weapons of the Roman army in any of it's recognised forms but might be worth pointing out. Sorry if that is off topic.
  12. marcus silanus

    Where Is Every One From?

    Manchester (UK for you across the pond). As much as Rome defined the values and systems that define us today, Manchester, once the small fort of Mamucium/Mancunium, became the inventor of the modern age of industry and invention. A nice link. Capitalism and the factory system were first operated here and communism was conceived. The atom was split for the first time and the first electronic computer was operated. pretty good I think but the comparison in defining the world with Rome stops there. Beauty, charm and vigour will always triumph.
  13. I hadn't ever thought of Constantine in those terms and I do admire the iconoclastic logic. He was an arch expedient and the truth of his motives were, I suspect, markedly different to the Christian tradition. The focus of the empire shifted geographically, of course and it's self confidence and esteem was more fragile from that time.
  14. Without doubt Scipio. His greatness in character, perception in judging his opponent and intelligence in the use of tactics was, unlike Caesar and Constantine, uncorrupted by spurious motive. Caesar's decision to cross the Rubicon, that ultimately led to Pharsalus, showed an inability in him to temper his desire for total power even though he knew that his actions would throw the world into turmoil. He feared the judgement of posterity more than anything. Constantine was simply the arch politician and manipulator of superstition. His genius was to use the hitherto conflicting cult of Christ to work with the cult of the emperor, providing a much needed adhesive to a fragmenting empire. Scipio's triumph over Hannibal was one of a great general over a great general. It was Wellington over Napoleon. His greatness had already been proven in rallying the defeated troops at Cannae and gaining ultimate control in Spain after his inspired victory at Illipa. His reward was meagre in comparison to the benefits enjoyed by Caesar and Constantine. His motives were, however, pure and unsullied and he, unlike Caesar, did not risk the future of all around him to gamble at reaching the pinnacle of historic regard.