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Everything posted by dnewhous

  1. dnewhous


    This is a peanut gallery comment, but anyone seen the opening of Enemy at the Gates? The rest of the movie was so bad I couldn't finish, but that first half hour was riveting. For those who haven't seen. The Russian soldiers were ordered to attack, and anyone who retreated was mowed down by fixed position machine gun fire. This was at the battle of Stalingrad.
  2. dnewhous

    East V West

    When was the empire officially split? Was that under Constantine?
  3. Notice a universal theme, that in order to enjoy the killing, you have to dehumanize your enemy to lower your inhibitions. The jews did this with their enemies, for they were ordained by God to go before the Hittites, the Canaanites, and whoever, and destroy them to the last every one, or some such. The Greeks and Romans had very racist/xenophobic attitudes about people outside of their kingdoms/empires. And today, it is very important for soldiers to believe that God is on their side. Gladiators - in social stratification they were the lowest of the low. Lower than slaves, lower than criminals. Given that they are that low, you wouldn't feel guilty about watching gladiators kill themselves for entertainment would you?
  4. dnewhous

    Justified Admiration

    Well, to take it seriously for a moment, I don't agree with Ursus that the Romans would have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them, but the appropriate question is to ask is how far did they progress? The Romans 1) created an empire of citizens and not of subjects. They were not free of racism or xenophobia but things gradually got better as they went along. 2) In the treatment of women they were way ahead of the Greeks. 3) slavery had almost died out by the end of the empire. If it had died out a lot sooner it may have saved the republic, but they were better towards their slaves, gladiators excepted, than other societies. 4) the culture of Greece and Rome provided the template to organize societies that worked to overcome the blights of mankind Racism and sexism are univeral properties of all cultures BTW. Western civilization has delt with them better than others. As far as relevance to modern societies goes 1) The difference between the Anglosphere and continental Europe has a lot to do with the bureacratic nature of Roman society and the much more individualistic culture of pagan Anglo-saxans. 2) The fall of the Republic - at the popular level no one mourned its passing because it hadn't served the interests of the public for decades. This has a lot to do with the fact that a government designed to govern a city-state couldn't handle the demands of a nation. Could it be that the strains placed on modern republican governments could lead to the downfall of our republics?
  5. dnewhous

    Civil Wars

    Yes, in the past it has been the die hard southern patriots that were still bitter over the civil war in America. The most important division in America these days is the red America (Republican voting)/blue America (Democrat voting) divide. In the past this has been parodied as a cultural elite that lives on the east and west coast and a reference to the rest of America as "flyover country." But it's not quite that simple. If you look at a detailed map it is the difference between urban voters and non-urban voters, and it's just that most of the urban centers are on the coasts. This is more important than the classical distinctions between ideological "liberal" and "conservative." For instance, it is blue America that generates the tax revenue and red America that receives it (this will hurt some people's feelings, but it is absolutely true). The policies of the Republican party have adjusted accordingly. I have not investigated the history closely but it is frequently said that Lincoln wanted to fight the war because he was afraid that the union would disentegrate completely if southern states were allowed to secede. I also have the impression that many in the north wanted to let the south go. The incident that started the war was Lincoln sending a warship off the coast of some fort in the south, he wanted to set it up so that the it would at least look as though the south fired the first shot. He felt he needed to do this to get public support. Partly what set the southern states off was that Lincoln wanted to put a freeze on the number of states that were allowed to have slaves. His hope was that then slavery would die out eventually in the slave holding states. If Lincoln hadn't won the election, the southern states wouldn't have seceded. Not at that moment at least. I think there is also an issue of a tariff on cotton. I.e., the north wanted to kill the cotton tariff so they could buy cheaper cotton from foreign countries, though I may be misremembering. I highly question the notion that the north depended on southern cotton. Also, I don't think most foreigners (or Americans) understand just how loose the union was. The constitution and the bill of rights was a guarantee of rights ONLY at the federal level. Any state constitution/law was free to violate them. Your highschool history teacher may deny this, so ask a lawyer if you don't believe me. (This is an absolutel rock solid truth, I have no uncertainty on this one.) It is only after the civil war with the "due process" clause of the 14th amendment, passed by the radical Republican congress, that federal courts over time have ruled constitutional rights to be applied to the states. In short, my country started as an uneasy union of independent states, and the constitution left a lot of loopholes in that relationship. We fought a war to decide the issue, and the more centralized nation won. (The south was hampered terribly by the confederation government's limited powers, especially in regards to taxes.) It has anecdotally been said before the war you would say "The United States are..." and after the war you would say "The United States is..."
  6. dnewhous

    Leaving Brittania

    Do you mean athoritarian regime? The model citizens of the south moved to Wales and built a wall when the Anglo-Saxons started invading, did they not? The Republic and the empire were always beset by nomadic barbarians thoughout their history. The empire fell because the number of people willing to die for its preservation had dwindled. Great Britain was the backwater of the empire. England was the weakest of the European successor states until the 15th century under Elizabeth I turned it into a world power. In fact, it could be argued that all the territorial acquisitions made in western Europe from Julius Caesar onwards weren't worth the cost in support. The Eastern Empire survived because there was enough tax revenue to pay mercenaries for defense after Adrianople.
  7. dnewhous

    Sex In The City !

    It's good to be the Caesar.
  8. dnewhous

    Rome V Han China

    You are correct. The notion of a college without a printing press is absurd. Obviously, education predated the printing press but it wouldn't have been anything like I was thinking.
  9. dnewhous

    Rome V Han China

    The war college thing - did China have this? Just because someone wrote a book on the art of war doesn't mean they did. It could be a big advantage - the reason the German army was so effective in World War II was that they had war colleges for the training of their officers. The post war U.S. military is modeled on the pre-war German one. The Mongols never had a numerical advantage except when they invaded Europe. They were almost always badly outnumbered.
  10. Were the shields of the Guard wood like the common soldier or were they metal? What was left to garrison Rome when the capital was moved?
  11. dnewhous

    Rome V Han China

    I never got to add the last post I wanted to add to that thread. I am satisfied with the description of the Roman shield having metal on the edges and being mostly wood. Many armies banged on their shields, the Romans banged on their shields in unison, at least in their heyday. I think geography is the most important factor in evaluating the armies. The Romans and the Greeks used heavy infantry because of the mountainous terrain they came from was ill-suited to cavalry. This is seen in the wars agains the Parthians - the Romans won when they fought in the mountains of Armenia. In open field, the Romans would be toast against the Chinese.
  12. Look at the Iraqi National Guard. The term of service in the U.S. army is at least 3 years if I'm not mistaken. And it works because there are career NCOs to instruct them. That's something the Russian army has in short supply, even during the cold war.
  13. I have now caught up with all the comments. Although I skimmed through a few of the last. The Roman shield was mostly wooden - if that is right, it is toast against the Chinese crossbow. But I have a hard time believing it because what the army did at the outset of a battle (during the Republic days) was have all their soldiers bang on their shields in unison. The sound would intimidate their enemies. This would not have worked if the shield was wooden. The Romans consistently got their butts kicked by the Parthians - I don't believe that. At their height the Romans were great at adapting to defeat their enemies. If they were fighting Parthia for that long I hardly believe they never would have adjusted. They did break the Parthian government eventually, didn't they? And afterwards is when they finally had direct contact with China? The Romans had no cavalry - absolute nonsense. The Romans were dumb - the Romans were engineers to the Greek's philosophers. Chinese philosophy is nothing to brag about. They deliberately discouraged individual thought, which is why China accomplished nothing for over 1000 years. Europeans got slaughtered by Mongols - numbers do matter, and the Europeans were a pale shadow of Rome when they were invaded To the numbers thing - A conscipt army, even with 2 years of training, is not a good match for a professional one. But it looks like Han had a professional army and a conscript army. If the size of their professional army was on par with Rome's then the almost certain advantage of numbers from the conscript army would be a big difference. They would, if nothing else, serve as gun fodder. And that matters. The biggest difference maker in an army is the quality of the NCOs. Senior officers go inside the tent . Senior NCOs stay in the field.
  14. Armor stops swords from being effective in slashing motions. This is why the Europeans went to the rapier in the Rennaissance, which is a stabbing weapon. By way of comparison - the medieval full plate armored knight on a horse with stirrups (very important invention) was like a tank. There were very few of them, but they were extremely effective. Full plate armor works against swords and arrows. Chainmail is worthless against a crossbow. Chainmail was the armor of the medieval European foot soldier and this is partly why the Mongols were so effective. To fight a knight in full armor you have to stab them at the joints between sections of armor. It came to be that being maneuverable was more important (think - the musketeers). I.e. an unarmored man with a rapier has an advantage over a knight on foot because the knight can't move well.
  15. The Byzantine empire was still around when the Mongols were, so the question is not that unfair. I figured that the Roman shields would be unreliable against the Mongol compound bow, but how do you know that the Chinese crossbow would penetrate it? The Romans did eventually defeat the Parthians, though they chose not to attempt to add the territory to the empire. Their big defeat at the hands of the Parthians was when they were led by an incompetent fool whose only claim to fame was defeating a slave revolt. Also, the cataphract cavalry intrigues me. Could it have had some success agains Chinese archers? If I'm not mistaken Roman cavalry was more of a run up close and use your sword kind of thing, not much into archery. Also, when did Rome invent their crossbow? It could be after encountering China they found it much more important than they did before.
  16. Don't be so certain that the cultures in the east were not diverse before they were unified. There are at least two major languages in China, Mandarin and Canton. That's not even counting Tibet. It looks like one culture now, but how would Europe look culturally if the empire never broke up?
  17. The Romans adopted cavalry themselves. The Romans in their heyday had the abiility to adopt innovations into their military whereas at their end they were increasingly dependent on foreign mercenaries. Remind anyone of the Persian empire? The Romans didn't have crossbows, but as someone else points out, crossbows weren't very good for cavalry anyway.
  18. The loose formation with the infantry doesn't sound particularly impressive.
  19. The Huns invaded when the empire was weak and in decline. If they had invaded during the reign of the Antonines I doubt they would have been successful. The discipline and professionalism of the army wasn't there any more.
  20. dnewhous

    Who Was Responsible For Fall Of Republic

    The Roman army seams to have operated as an ani-poverty program for the poor. Julius Caesar was murdered in part because he was a populist and the patricians hated him for it. Julius's anti-poverty program - invade backwards Europe, murder and displace the natives, and replace them with impoverished Roman colonists. In addition to being unethical the territory conquered was undeveloped and didn't contribute much to the empire.
  21. dnewhous

    Who Was Responsible For Fall Of Republic

    Gaius Marius did what he had to do. He was responding to events. The consequence of not doing what he did would have been worse.
  22. Octavian is the one who really organized the empire's army. I have been very impressed with the Romans, given what I have learned about their military organization. The Romans discarded the Greek phalanx because it wasn't good enough. Yet the Persians relied on Greek mercenaries because the Greek phalanx was so much better than their own military organization. Alexander commented that there were more Greeks fighting against him than for him. But this is anecdotal since I know very little about Chinese history. As demonstrated by the people who think the Roman empire only had 7 million people, very few people know much about both. But generally speaking, Western civilization fields superior armies - where numbers don't tell the true strength. The Spartans are credited with starting this tradition. The Roman army was much larger than the organized armies of the European middle ages, but it was typically outnumbered by the natives as the empire expanded. Alexander had 30000 infantry and 5000 cavalry and look what he accomplished. Even today, China only fields an army of 275,000 men that we would consider a front line fighting force, compared to 500,000 by the United States (we are relying heavily on 2nd and 3rd stringers in Iraq). The rest of the Chinese army is for the purpose of occupation. If it weren't for the other 2.5 million men the Chinese empire, even now, would splinter up. Not just Tibet. Various officials would grab what men and power they could and form independent domains. History also demonstrates something else - the requirements of an army that is designed to destroy other armies in the field are very different from one that is designed for occupation. I say the Roman army destroys the Chinese army in the field, but occupying the empire is hopeless. If the population of the Roman empire was underestimated by these people, the population of China may have been too. A more interesting question - could the Roman empire have fought off an invasion by the Mongols? (Moving Ghenghis about 1000 years into the past.) The Chinese couldn't. And they certainly outnumbered the Mongols. Technologically, the Romans liked heavy infantry whereas the Chinese and Mongols liked cavalry and archers. The Mongol composite bow far outclasses anything even today. But the Romans had those giant shields. However, military prowess is not the best way to measure an empire. The Roman empire is better because it fell. This eventually led to the decentralization and innovation of the Rennaissance and Enlightenment. The Chinese Empire is what Rome would have been had the stagnation of the late empire continued for 1000 years.
  23. dnewhous

    Who Was Responsible For Fall Of Republic

    Julius Caesar was an egomaniac for sure, but he was also a genuine populist. The point that needs to be made - the reason the Republic fell is because there was no popular support for the senate. When Caesar invaded Italy the people sided with him. That's why the empire fell.
  24. dnewhous

    Who Was Responsible For Fall Of Republic

    In Primus Pilus's description of the Marus reforms, he mentions that in the late Republic all the land was bought up by the patricians and equestrians leading to a dispossession of the family farmer. Why did that happen? His write up doesn't answer that. There's something else that is ambiguous. Could a plebian who owns his own land but is not equestrian serve in the army? I suppose it's a question of whether they could afford to equip themselves. Something tells me this might have changed over time in the Republic, I have a mental image of the early Republic's army being somewhat irregular but the late Republic's army being fairly well equipped.
  25. dnewhous

    Who Was Responsible For Fall Of Republic

    I was going by some unreliable sources for my information on England. Is it the same for rural, suburban, and urban residents? Sorry for the error.