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Everything posted by Virgil61

  1. Virgil61

    Mutiny In The Ranks

    We can't because the forum rules say so As it happens, people do that routinely. In fact, by making direct comparisons, the temptation to paint the Romans in modern colours is distorting the picture. It is true there are parallels, for no other reason that the Romans were human beings too, and despite differences in culture some elements of behaviour are bound to be similar. The skill is to draw the correct comparisons and not to take it to far. The Romans weren't aliens but nor were they 21st century Royal Marines. However, there is an assumption about the Roman legions that isn't supported by archaeological or anecdotal evidence. In Life In Roman Britain, Joan Alcock describes the legion as "An efficient fighting machine". That's a common statement and one based on reputation and the idea that a persistent and detailed organisation implies certain kinds of behaviour. I won't contest the Romans were organised. They obviously were, at least in terms of organisation, but apart from unit affiliation and provision of duty, how organised were they? Note this extract... Certain soldiers are gramted by their conditions of service some exemption from the heavier fatigues. These are men such as surveyors, the medical officer, medical orderlies and dressers, ditchers, farriers, the architects, pilots, shipwrights, artillerymen, glassfitters, smiths, arrowsmiths, coppersmiths, helmet-makers, wagon-makers, roof-tile-makers, swordcutlers, water engineers, trumpet-makers, horn-makers, bow-makers, plumbers, blacksmiths, stone-cutters, lime-burners, woodcutters, and charcoal-burners. In the same category are usually included butchers, huntsmen, keepers of sacrificial animals, workshop officers, attendants, clerks who give instruction, clerks responsible for monies left on deposit, clerks responsible for monies left with no heis, orderly room staffs, grooms, horse trainers, armoury officers, the herald and the trumpeter. Digest (Tarentus Pateernus) At first glance this seems like an astonishing depth and breadth to legiomnary life. However, notice that in most cases, these are civilian trades already known to the individual. The legions did not train people in all of these tasks, and for many, the jobs listed are little more than specific but menial duties that aren't actually required on a day to day basis. Instead, they are listed as Immunes, trades or posts for which the lucky holder can avoid onerous labour. The point is that many of these are of exaggerated importance. Excuses to sit on their backsides in some cases. Also notice that the treatment of these individuals mirrors that of the villa system. Skilled slaves are given specific duties and kept from hard labour. The positions are excuses to sit on their backside, but that is one of the benefits that no doubt the individual was happy about. The system somewhat mirrors practice common in most organized armies. For example, currently trained doctors, nurses and other skilled medical personnel are given accelerated rank and additional pay in the U.S. Army. The system looks like an incentive to keep skilled labor. It also recognizes the fact that for an army to operate efficiently it does not put skilled positions into the front-line ranks. Did this attitude of skiving and bribing really produce an efficient military machine? I don't know, most armies as you say "bribe" skilled positions though I'd use the word incentive. And yes, I'd say it does contribute to efficiency to some degree. Soon no skilled personnel would want to join the legions to make bows, helmets, shields, give medical treatment to the wounded and sick and so on. A small inefficiency contributes to a larger efficiency I think. We have letters like one recovered from Vindolanda, asking for underpants and demanding to know why their beer ration hasn't arrived. We have accounts, like those of Tacitus recounted earlier, or the insights provided by Josephus. Indeed, the letter is striking in how it looks so much like letters home from a soldier in any era asking mom for socks or complaining that the rations are short of edible items. Josephus is mostly quoted for the famous line that "Their drills were bloody battles, and their battle were bloody drills". Yes, remember I quoted that to you once to emphasize training on another thread (that got pulled). It does suggest an aggressive and grim determination in conflict, which was exactly what the Romans wanted from their legions. However, Josephus also tells us how dull witted and clumsy Roman soldiers could be in their business. Whilst engaged on siegeworks, Roman soldiers leave their weapons too far away, and an ambush by zealots results in chaos, one instance nearly causing the death of Titus himself. For all their 'traditional military discipline' as Drusus described it, it was quickly thrown off. Note also how Josephus gives an account of Roman looting, when legionaries are let off the leash deliberately by their commanders, effectively out of control for three days. Notice how quickly discipline evaporates in Pannonia and Germania. It's all very true. Yet none of it means the Romans weren't disciplined or professional, it means they were an army composed of--generally--younger men and of leaders who sometimes make mistakes. Discipline, as I wrote previously, is often notoriously absent from the most elite units be they a Roman Legion, the Army of Flanders looting Antwerp or US Army Rangers returned from Afghanistan robbing a bank in Tacoma, Washington (!). We cannot discount the endemic corruption, the fleeting nature of their uncompromising discipline in both peace and war, nor that evidence the Romans have left us that condradicts the image of an efficient Roman military. Of course there was corruption but there's no evidence it was endemic to the army as a whole at all times. Good Roman leaders understood leadership principles (pay your troops, firm but fair discipline, listen to them, have good junior leaders, etc). Bad ones--sometimes--paid for it. The trick is, I think, to walk the line between thinking the Roman legions can't be understood in any modern context and thinking they are some sort of example of uber-efficiency. The Roman Army--in any era--was neither completely exclusive in its experiences and organization or an uber-efficient machine. What they did have was a superior system and culture of producing soldiers and army organization, warts and all.
  2. Virgil61

    Mutiny In The Ranks

    Speaking of discipline I have a copy of "Roman Military Service; Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Early Principate". LINK Interesting Bry Mawr Classical Review excerpt: S. E. Phang's Roman Military Service is a wide-ranging look at military discipline and a host of related issues from the point of view of social and cultural history. As Phang usefully points out in her introductory chapter, there are commonly held views of the Roman army that exaggerate certain aspects of discipline--decimation and the view of Roman soldiers as tactical automatons are among the apt examples--and thus severely distort a more complex reality. Rather than mere repression or organization in service of a tactical goal, Phang argues, "discipline" embraces a wide array of cultural practices that inculcated obedience, enabled the social control of the army by the elites who commanded it, and were shaped by a complex of ideologies. There is a wealth of useful information in this book, and it provides several new ways of looking at important aspects of the social and cultural history of the Roman army.
  3. Virgil61

    Mutiny In The Ranks

    It's a fascinating subject. I don't agree that we can't compare the Roman army to later armies, in fact through experience and my own knowledge of military history the Roman experience in mutiny, discipline, etc., is often comparable to other armies (Army of Flanders, French Army in 1917, etc.). As a side note, in terms of discipline (not mutiny) the absolute worst tend to be the elites; paratroopers and Marines. The home of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fayetteville North Carolina, has been famous for full jail cells of paratroopers on Friday and Saturday nights. The British Royal Marines I saw (and partied with) in Injurlick Turkey were among the rowdiest people I've ever seen. Of course Roman methods were more brutal [as were many things in those times]. Again, the irony is that the most disciplined troops are often the worst in terms of behavior. One can speculate on the reasons and where they are similar or dissimilar to each other and the Roman experience. I partially agree that we can't take everything about the Romans too far in comparing military experiences but I believe the Roman military experience can a teach some basics rules of leadership to a perceptive military reader and the issue of mutinies does a fine job of highlighting it [issues of pay, excessive discipline, continued enforced enlistment, keep troops busy, etc.] In 1920 Wm Messer wrote an article in Classical Philology (Mutiny in the Roman Army. The Republic; William Stuart Messer; Classical Philology, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr., 1920), pp. 158-175) that covers similar ground on the issue of mutiny in the Roman army. He essentially accuses Polybius of being the first to exaggerate the Roman military. JSTOR charges $19 for it but Google Books has it for free: http://tinyurl.com/2wm9odf. [see the download button on the upper right.] Worth a read.
  4. I thought something was up with how the Italians in charge were running the place if only because they seem to be trying to prevent or slow down any potential discoveries of books from the Villa Papyri. The possibility of finding more volumes of Livy as well as lost writings of other ancients (in carbon cinder rolls) seems like the quest of the century to me.
  5. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    There's a difference between claims that many principals of warfare are universal [Clausewitz for example], sticking someone with something sharp and the technological differences in warfare [arrows vs Stingers]. I addressed the first not the last two. Principals of warfare like concentration of forces, objectives, economy of force (Augustus would understand this one), unity of command, surprise, etc. can be applied and used for analysis on Roman military undertakings. It's one thing to overdo it, it's another to say you can never use them profitably, it's quite another to confuse it with technological progress. I think you'd be better served to understand what combined arms consists of before arguing against it. Functional independence has little to do with the argument against combined arms. Once you've utilized cavalry, archers/slings/onagri, skirmishers and infantry on the same battlefield you've conducted combined arms tactics. Archer Jones who taught at the US Army Command and General Staff College once compiled a matrix of the relationship between cav/armor, missile throwing weaponry and infantry from the Greeks to WWII. Used within reason and understanding the limitations it's a constructive insight into military history. No, I'm not. Are you sure your aren't thinking 30kg not 30 lbs? Soldiers never carry all their gear into combat. That just doesn't happen. Only the necessary equipment for the fight (unless ambushed). When encounters are expected they leave their issue consolidated at base camp, with the log train or wherever. I seriously doubt you'll find any army any time in history that carried it's full compliment of non-essential gear into battle on any regular basis. Let's assume the worst case of legions having to march with what's on their backs. When 'on the march' you're claiming that a pick-ax, helmet, a shield, armor w/greaves etc, a sword, say a pilium, cooking equipment, three days of food, a cloak, etc and all come in under 35 lbs. That's just not wrong but incredibly so. It's one to make the sort of 'intellectual analogies' you're arguing against. It's another thing not to use common sense to see that 35 lbs for a full load isn't always a realistic appraisal. Do a simple experiment. Get a pack (or a bag) and a scale. Fill it up with 35 lbs of gear (not fluffy blankets but serious metal, foodstuffs, etc) akin to the list above. That's why I'd agree if you'd only called for caution. I have no idea what
  6. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    Principals of warfare
  7. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    We have some serious disagreements on the nature of the Roman army, military organizations and combat I think. Then again it would be boring and ultimately not very challenging if we all agreed on everything I suppose. There's a difference between
  8. Virgil61

    Books on Aurelius & Co.

    thanks Ursus. I have added that book to my wish list. Another thank you Ursus. I have it but haven't read it yet.
  9. Virgil61

    Line relief system

    Let me present a slightly different POV. As far as I'm concerned the Romans won their battles before they took the battlefield more often than not because of the time spent on the training field. That isn't exactly a great revelation to be sure but I'm a big believer in the power of training. Conducting disciplined battle field drills successfully during the heat of battle has been done by several armies in history even when artillery/rifles/muskets became a staple of combat (Swiss pikemen, their derivatives, the Grand Armee comes to mind). Well at least the good armies and the Romans I think we all agree would make everyone's top ten list. One of the benefits of the cohort system over phalanxes or masses of men was it's flexibility. To utilize that flexibility takes training--learning and responding to commands (drums, whistles, flags or verbal)--and a dependable cadre of junior leaders (centurions) to know when to make those commands. I don't think it's too difficult--again, if it's part of one's constant training--to conduct such a maneuver at the cohort/century level as shown in the video.
  10. I'd make this speculation: The capture of Rome would have--if not shattered--then probably fatally weakened the remaining allied allegiances. I can't imagine Hannibal lacking the vision to not take the city if it were doable. He'd then be the owner of one of the greatest victories--Cannae--and one of the most strategic blunders in military history. I'm of the opinion his reasons for not moving on Rome had validity probably due to the lack of probability for success [in Hannibal's eyes]. Is it possible he made an error? Sure, but in spite of Maharbah's reported statement, I take it on faith that Hannibal knew his strengths and weaknesses, what his army was capable of and what the enemy was capable of.
  11. Virgil61

    How Did it All Really Begin?

    I think Gary Forsythe's Critical History of Early Rome calls into question quite a bit of early Roman mythology linking a large portion of it to corresponding myths shared by--or more often--predated by other cultures. His footnotes contain a lot of decent sources on this if I remember correctly [and try to blow the cobwebs out of the Roman history portion of my cranium.]
  12. Virgil61

    So you want to study History...

    double post. *hiccup*
  13. Virgil61

    So you want to study History...

    If you want something more than just getting a degree for personal gratification then online degrees aren't what you want (I think that goes without saying). If you're looking forward to doing grad work or getting in the door with a job interview then reputation, reputation, reputation plays a big role I think. I completely agree with docoflove1974. A degree from more than just the Ivies will get you some respect, but remember the admissions office is the real target if you want a grad school. How's the public university where you live? UCLA, Berkeley, Texas, Michigan and N Carolina are some publics held in high regard. You can find a professors at hundreds of colleges and universities who got at least one of their degrees from them. Smaller liberal arts colleges are great, especially if you want to position yourself for grad schools. Just remember they come with debt, debt, debt. [i think Ursus has a degree from a very well-regarded liberal arts college.] I hate them but look at the USNews college listings. Everyone downplays them but everyone looks at them. Besides high-school teachers and PhDs remember that a lot of students with history degrees end up in law school & as military officers. More true in the past than it is now I think, but there's still quite a few.
  14. Ronnie James Dio dies at 67 from stomach cancer. RIP Dio. Baltimore Sun Link Ronnie James Dio, whose soaring vocals, poetic lyrics and mythic tales of a never-ending struggle between good and evil broke new ground in heavy metal, died Sunday, according to a statement from his wife and manager. He was 67. Dio revealed last summer that he was suffering from stomach cancer shortly after wrapping up a tour in Atlantic City, N.J. with the latest incarnation of Black Sabbath, under the name Heaven And Hell. "Today my heart is broken,
  15. Virgil61

    What Roman Personality Are You?

    Hadrian Horace Claudius Julius Caesar Paulus (which one?) I was really pulling for being one of the Gracchi.
  16. Virgil61

    Second thoughts on Wikipedia...

    I think Wikipedia has improved immensely in the last few years. The 'overwatch' of articles and constant review of changes from the long-time admins/editors has improved the quality quite a bit. I now find it my 'go to' source for quick info. I agree, it is especially good on pop culture and not too shabby on history if you need a quick refresher on a subject.
  17. Virgil61

    Birthday Hails, Ursus

    Long overdue Birthday wishes from an old UNRV member. One of my 'things to do' is to make more time for UNRV, a very special place on the web that I miss. Virgil
  18. Virgil61

    agrippa & augustus

    I think the argument is in reality really reversed--as those above have stated--Octavian's friendship made Agrippa. Not doubt Augustus benefited from his loyalty and competence. In most of Agrippa's successes it's probable his legions contained a large number of veterans--or those led by veterans--who had served under Julius Caesar; being his 'son' was cachet Agrippa didn't have.
  19. Virgil61

    Fear mongering

    My favorite fear-mongering are the local news 'teases'. Real news teases; "Could constant hiccups be a sign of cancer? Watch news8 at 10." "Are you normal. Find out Tuesday at 11." "How a twist on the Predator Law could shut down religion." "Could your house be making you fat? Tomorrow CBSNews2 at 5."
  20. I am suddenly seized with a renewed interest in the field of archeology. Exerpt: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/16/ap/strange/main5664596.shtml?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+CbsNewsApStrange+(CBS+News:+AP:+Strange) This Scotch Was On The Rocks For 100 Years: Antarctic Team To Drill For Lost Cache Of Liquor Font size Print E-mail Share (AP) WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A beverage company has asked a team to drill through Antarctica's ice for a lost cache of some vintage Scotch whiskey that has been on the rocks since a century ago. The drillers will be trying to reach two crates of McKinlay and Co. whiskey that were shipped to the Antarctic by British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton as part of his abandoned 1909 expedition. Whyte & Mackay, the drinks group that now owns McKinlay and Co., has asked for a sample of the 100-year-old scotch for a series of tests that could decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct Scotch. Workers from New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust will use special drills to reach the crates, frozen in Antarctic ice under the Nimrod Expedition hut near Cape Royds. Al Fastier, who will lead the expedition in January, said restoration workers found the crates of whiskey under the hut's floorboards in 2006. At the time, the crates and bottles were too deeply embedded in ice to be dislodged. The New Zealanders have agreed to try to retrieve some bottles, although the rest must stay under conservation guidelines agreed by 12 Antarctic Treaty nations. Fastier said he did not want to sample the contents. "It's better to imagine it than to taste it," he said. "That way it keeps its mystery." Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay's master blender, said the Shackleton expedition's whiskey could still be drinkable and taste exactly as it did 100 years ago.
  21. Virgil61

    *twiddles thumbs*

    I'm in isolated eastern Oregon (again). Miss having the time to read up on Roman history and arguing on UNRV.
  22. Virgil61

    The BBC in Iraq

    That's been around a while but I still laugh every time I see it.
  23. Two years two weeks or so. Missed this place, but the real world gets hectic sometimes. Who's still here that I know?