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Everything posted by Virgil61

  1. I can't imagine anyone on UNRV disagreeing with that. Scapula believed he was in a poor tactical position vis-a-vis the Britons and was only driven to that particular battle by his own men agitating to push the issue. The description in Tacitus shows the terrain largely hilly and the barriers set up by the Britons. ...he (Caratacus) resorted to the ultimate hazard, adopting a place for battle so that entry, exit, everything would be unfavorable to us and for the better to his own men, with steep mountains all around, + and, wherever a gentle access was possible, he strewed rocks in front in the manner of a rampart.And in front too there flowed a stream with an unsure ford, and companies of armed men had taken up position along the defenses... Tac 12.35 ...Their eagerness stunned the Roman leader; at the same time he was terrified by the stream barrier, the additional rampart, the looming ridges, the fact that there was nothing which was not frightening and replete with defenders. But his soldiery demanded battle, shouted repeatedly that everything was assailable with courage;and the prefects and tribunes,by saying similar things,intensified the ar- dor of the army... Tac 12.31 Nothing beats good morale and self-confidence among your infantry and junior leadership. There are times you just throw the playbook out. The example you gave on the Picts is a good one of a failed campaign due to guerrilla warfare. The following are just thoughts coming to mind for discussion based on prior posts: 1. Formal battles were a Roman strength. [Anyone on UNRV who doesn't think this?] 2. Romans weren't shy about being "offensively proactive". 3. If the Roman incursion is temporary then a guerrilla campaign is going to be a no-win for them, (vs Picts, arguably Germanicus incursion vs Germans post-Teutoberg) 4. If the insurgency takes place during long-term ongoing occupation--w/time on their side--the Romans are generally able to find an approach outside of their normal strengths (see 1) on the battlefield to whittle you down (Bar Kochba in Judea, Tacfarinas raids in N Africa, JC stamping out small insurgencies in Belgium/N Gaul) On #3 the Romans are like most armies in history but on #4 they might arguably be better suited than most.
  2. Virgil61

    Info on Disciplina

    Browsed through this post just now and might have something to offer. I have an ebook copy of 'Roman Military Service: Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Early Principate' by Sara Elise Phang. While it is interesting it's very academic in its prose. It reads sort of like a post-modern"ish" PhD thesis (if that makes sense), not exactly a page turner. Here's what she had on the issue of a deity in all of 330+ pages; According to some, Roman disciplina militaris was originally religious or sacral in nature, enforced by taboo and sacrilege, and underwent Weberian Entzauberung (disenchantment), becoming more rational. 53 This book will not examine this transition, due to the problems posed by antiquarian accounts, written many centuries later, of archaic Roman religion. However, it does appear that Roman military punishment left the sacral sphere, in which disobedience was a sacrilege and capital punishment an expiatory sacri?ce, and became rationalized. 53 Rupke 1990: 80, 93
  3. If we adjust the question and ask what armies have been successful fighting guerrilla warfare or COIN (counter-insurgency to use the new phrase) the answer shows just how difficult a fight it is. The list of successful COIN operations in modern times is pretty thin. Off the top of my head there's the Brits during the Boer War and Malayan Emergency, the US during the Philippine-American War and nominally in Iraq under "the Surge". I think there's a strong argument that the Roman attempts at COIN were historically more successful than most armies.
  4. I think there's a strong argument that the Roman army under the late-Republic/Principate could hold their own at
  5. Archaeological evidence show that the Romans suffer great loses at the start of the revolt and one legion, the XXII Deiotariana, was completely wiped out and the revels strike coins to celebrate their new found independence. The Romans respond by concentrating their army in Judea in great numbers and they virtually wiped out any places in Judea that could show sympathy to the rebels, in simply terms the Romans were force to enter an attrition war until the overcome their enemy. This Roman method of counter-insurgency here is interesting in that there is something familiar to the approach involved. It's a tried and true strategy of 'draining the swamp' of support for insurgents; supplies and sympathizers (villages) are eliminated decreasing the ability of guerrillas to move freely. During the Boer War the Brits corralled the civilian populace and used a block house strategy to whittle down the Boer area of operations. In Iraq company and platoon sized elements were sent to Sunni areas to live in the smaller towns and villages for 12 month tours lessening the ability of insurgents to move anonymously [we avoided the Roman approach of razing villages]. I'm simplifying of course, the Roman approach was blunt, cruel and harsh (some argue the Brit approach was), but its a sound one. The Romans were engaged in Spain for several years during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. The terrain and guerrilla operations of some of the indigenous tribes being to blame for the difficulty if I remember correctly. Off the top of my head I recall at one Roman commander in another region adjusting to the local battle by having his cohorts conduct operations in mountainous areas without armor in order to track and engage the enemy. EDIT to add: There's always this Air Force Command and Staff College paper. A lot to quibble with maybe, but still an interesting read; [Opens PDF File] LESSONS FROM ANTIQUITY: WHAT THE ROMANS TEACH US ABOUT INSURGENCIES
  6. I'd like to find something along the lines of Augustus or Cicero by Anthony Everitt or Ceasar by Goldsworthy. They seem to be oddly scarce. I found Trajan: Optimus Princeps by Julian Bennett. I'll pass on the used paperback copies going for $137 to $250 (!) on Amazon.
  7. As great a resource as the Perseus web site is I hate using it due to it's layout. For example here I'm looking at an Ammianus Marcelinus page LINK. On the left is a Book/Chapter tree that takes up around 10% of the horizontal screen's space. On the far right are several bars with assorted relevant but not necessary material which--even when the info is collapsed--retains around 40% of the horizontal space and leaving nothing but solid 'white space' below it for the length of the page. The actual writing gets about 50% of the space. Just obnoxious, even worse if you zoom to increase text size.
  8. Virgil61

    Why was Caesar a great general?

    Labienus almost annihilated Caesar's whole bloody army. According to Caesar's henchmen, the only reason Caesar was let off the hook was that Labienus wanted to give Metellus Scipio the honors of finishing off the rascal. What is the best source for the Battle of Ruspina? Was it an orderly retreat in the face of overwhelming odds, or was it a major debacle? de Bello Africo is one source: http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/caesar/africoe.html It's a testament to his troops--and probably because of the veterans that he had within the ranks--that they kept their cool in spite of their fears and kept their faith in JC. The formations to counter the encirclement and the extension of his lines to 'break the circle' are quite an insight into the kind of command and control JC had, the response to training of these mostly raw troops and into the junior leadership he had on hand to carry it out. By the way a lot of German historians of the 19th century had differing theories as to what kind of drills and marches may have been used but that's not the point, the point is he responded quickly using the tools available. Ruspina is more military art than military science. [it's possible that this sort of encirclement scenario was predicted and this tactic was thought up as a possible counter to it. Speculation of course but it would make sense if you were 'wargaming' scenarios as a commander.] It wasn't a debacle, but not a win for JC. It was a tactical win by Labienus but the reality was he didn't need a tactical 'win' he needed to annihilate JC. The story goes that later that night deserters from Labienus' camp claimed that he'd hoped for panic and confusion in the ranks. He miscalculated his old commander even in defeat.
  9. Virgil61

    The Fall of the Republic

    Nothing short of Nobel Prize winning genius! I'm not sure if O is a genius but knowing how one gets on law review journals--samples submitted anonymously with a # rather than name and then reviewed by a committee--he's certainly got smarts to have made it as part of one of the two or three most prestigious law journals in the country (Harvard Law Review).
  10. Virgil61

    The Fall of the Republic

    I'm thinking proscriptions had as much to do with the number of New Men then anything else. Sulla (amongst others) did kill him some prominent families and family members.
  11. Virgil61

    Allia River

    It was probably their version of our Darwin Awards jokes. During the siege Tiberius looks up the wall inquisitively and exclaims: "Hey Clodius those sure are big rocks!" Clodious (muffled voice from under his shield): "What's that Tiberius?...[big *PLONK* sound]...Tiberius?...Tiberius?..."
  12. Virgil61

    5 books on great generals

    All these years of reading on Rome, military history and history in general and I been meaning to but haven't gotten to this one yet. I've read his Strategy and The Rommel Papers a long time ago and remember them to be pretty decent reads.
  13. Virgil61

    5 books on great generals

    I highly recommend JFC Fuller's flawed masterpiece; Caesar: Man, Soldier and Tyrant. Fuller is most certainly wrong in his central criticism of what he thinks is Caesar's irresponsibility as a commander [and he's been criticized for it ever since]. He comes across almost like a sports journalist criticizing the New England Patriots for taking too many risks from 2001 through 2005 and downplaying the fact that they won three Superbowls in that time frame. You godless Europeans insert your soccer analogy here (I'm loathed to call that sport football). Fuller, an ex-commander who should have known better, forgot what is the motto of several military units "Qui audet adipiscitur" [Who dares wins]. But Fuller's insight into the mechanics of command, preparation, execution of Caesar's operational and tactical missions and his insight into the psychology of military leadership all through the eye of an ex-commander of troops himself are worth the read.
  14. Virgil61

    Tuft's Perseus layout - Truly obnoxious

    I love the idea of what they are trying to do--footnotes, translation notes, etc., readily accessible--but the execution (configuring for simple readability) leaves much to be desired. Especially nowadays when so many people are using netbooks, iPads, under 14" screens, etc on the go.
  15. I think the answer to that is probably. I wasn't clear enough. I meant--with an eye towards events in later 1st Century BC--that accompanying the Marian reform the appointment of position or positions whose task was to "settle" with the veterans, keeping military leaders out of the issue. But of course no one was prescient enough at that time to know what the fallout would be. There are however some good photographic images of possible areas of centuration and discussion on this blog specifically about some North African examples. Brian Campbell's The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (Journal of Roman Studies Monograph) is possibly the definitive work on the subject containing a wealth of detail of how it was carried out and by whom but I haven't got time to go through it at present. This is good stuff. I have a couple of articles in my "Roman Stuff to Read" files by Campbell (I just realized one is on land surveyors) I have never read. They just jumped to the front of the line.
  16. Next you'll be telling us a wolf might not have raised two twins. I just read a few estimates from somewhere in the last few days, educated guesses on the manpower numbers. For the life of me I can't remember where unfortunately. Have you had a look at the essay in Blackwell's 2007 Companion to the Roman Army on the subject of manpower and the 'latest' by Luuk de Ligt? To narrow it down more is the fact that the generals become the 'go too' guys for land when whatever the call-up campaign was for ended. Laying aside the issue of where to get the turf, could the state have had a "land official or officials" offices or positions set up to identify and distribute (even conquered) land to released veterans independent of legion and leader (releasing army commanders of the role of proponent)? I put that out as just a thought. I don't think they were politically consistent enough or perhaps even administratively capable of doing so.
  17. I think the concensus here is that early and late Roman armies were more or less identical in their brutality, Christianity only serving to give justification to the slaughter of non-Christian foes. I wonder, though, wether Alaric's Christianity played a part in moderating his sack of Rome? Most accounts seem to think so. Orosius says something to the effect the Goths (mostly Arians) were very respectful of church property while pillaging and even gives a vivid account of returning pillaged religious valuables to their places. Of course Orosius seems to think anything bad that happens to Rome under pagan leadership is God's punishment and if it happens under Christian (Catholic not Arian) rule then evil must be involved.
  18. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    That's an observation--the ebb and flow of the ancient battle--quite few have made that passes the 'smell test' as we say. The line-relief at the small unit level issue aside, the bottom line--we agree on--is that there is a distinct advantage to getting fresh soldiers into the battle. I think the issue was the writer's attributed fondness for excessive formality or reliance on strict dress-right-dress formations on the battle line. But you're right, there is a wide range of options between a toy-soldier like disposition and that of an unruly armed group of Germans heading in your direction like a mob of fat wives making a bee-line through Macy's doors for the Christmas sales. Off topic but interestingly here are 'drills' which have replaced marching drills in the sense of marching drill's usefulness on the front line [in the Napoleonic manner] - LINK. A much different animal.
  19. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    It's also a first example of invention. Nowehere, as far as 'm aware, do the Romans dicuss a formal manoever to replace the front rank in combat. The Romans were far more down to to earth than that. A massed sword fight is not going to be conducted with their centuries and cohorts in precise order. Although they were trained to present a persistent front (Always moving into a gap ahead of them caused by casualties, thus a 'relieved line', if somewhat less than the parade ground manoever often quoted or in this case filmed for the express rwason of impressing us with Roman organisation as opposed to representing real life behaviour), the realities of a pitched battle mitigate against such line manoevers. In conducting the 'Line Relief', there is a grave danger that an alert enemy could exploit the situation and cause chaos. I'm at a loss to know who you are arguing with. I'm wasn't arguing for the line-relief method used on HBO [or any specific method for that matter]. The question asked was a
  20. A shame. I remember reading a couple of articles quoting some American and British archeologists complaining about the way things at Pompeii and Herculaneum are being run. Really very sad.
  21. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    I seriously don't think a rehearsed chorus line of actors represents adequate proof of something that isn't documented in Roman sources. This is not a proof I'm talking about here, but a mere indicator of "Could it be possible to train average people to do that kind of system. Is it possible? Yes. Anyone who's both been trained and trained soldiers, been in combat and--less often--marched or been marched could point out that the scenario is possible. Certainly the fighting must have been exhausting--no matter what the physical stamina of the soldiers--so some relief in the first line system must have been in place as it was at the larger organizational level. As a practical matter marching over rough ground is more difficult but, with a proper guide system, possible. A more "loose" Roman formation was certainly more capable in rough terrain than the Greek phalanx which by necessity needed to be tighter to be effective [as Pydna showed]. It's doubtful an artillery battalion commander [like LTC SG Brady] in the post-War American army [circa 1947] would hold marching in much esteem. Parade marching tends to have been (and still) held in fairly low regard by combat arms units like artillery or infantry.
  22. Virgil61

    read amazon kindle books without having a kindle

    Kindle for PC seems to have limited functionality. I used it then found mobipocket ebook reader which reads the same ebook files Kindle does (mobi and prc). It's far superior in functionality than what Amazon gives you on Kindle for PC. LINK I also use Caliberwhich is pretty funky as well. It reads both Kindle and Nook type files.
  23. I have two recent translations of the Annals. One is by AJ Woodman and one by JC Yardley. I've already read Michael Grant's Penguin translation and a couple of forgotten old versions. Anyone read either of these new translations?
  24. Virgil61

    Mutiny In The Ranks

    That's exactly the point. There is no skill in drawing comparisons between ancient and modern because inevitably it distorts the ancient world in modern colours. You believe there is no skill in drawing comparisons between the ancients and modern (or any) society? Hundreds of PhDs in the classics and history have been awarded on the basis of 'skill' in comparative analysis of historical eras. Avoiding historical distortions are partially why history departments teach historiography and there is a discipline called history in universities. Chapter 4 of Victor Hanson's
  25. To go slightly off post topic, Cato's (not yours the other one) intentions aside (as you probably guess-remember I'm suspicious, but that's another thread) I think one issue here is not so much giving veterans land as where the veterans wanted to be settled. Giving them land in some newly expanded area of the Republic might not have been a great problem but, if I what I've read so far is correct, most of these veterans of the late Republic wanted their land in central Italy and as the old adage goes you can't fit 10 lbs of sand in a 1 lb bag. Armies of the Principate don't seem to have this as dramatic an issue as the late Republic (though there was sometimes grumbling over the kind of land). To make matters worse I've just been reading that Sulla used a technicality to appropriate land for his veterans. I've been skimming Public Land and the Roman Republic and many of the Italian tribes had signed treaties that made much of their agricultural land legally the property of Rome though in practice it was left to be tilled by the locals for decades. Apparently he took the land regardless of whether the tribe had been loyal to Rome or forced to sign treaties. You can imagine the happy campers they must have been when told.