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Roman Cavalry.

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Italy, like most of the other countries around the Mediterranean, it's not open plains but few narrow plains along a coast or a river and a huge number of steep and dry mountains and hills, a land very hard to move around. Greek and roman armies of heavy infantry were developed to have a large number of men, many enough to completely block a narrow valley or plain. As they had to fight only the enemy ahead of them the ones with the heaviest equipment were the strongest.

In the valleys of Rhine and Danube romans met a different geography with much more open space. The Sarmatians of Tisza valley or North of the Black Sea lived in open steppe and were difficult neighbors for the romans along the Danube or in Caucasus and so were the related parthians on the syrian plaines. This people used lots of cavalry including horse archers and heavy cavalry so romans copied them. By the time of Trajan and Hadrian they started creating heavy cavalry units and deployed many numidian cavalry units and palmyrian horse archers in Dacia.

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The Romans were good at fighting with infantry, but if it came to cavalry battles then the Roman usually failed miserably (The Parthians easily defeated Roman armys many a time).

 

So I ask you, do you think the Romans would have fared better all across the Empire with more and batter trained cavalry?

 

Yes.

 

There were also numerous instances of Roman armies with little or no cavalry defeated superior forces with much more cavalry.

 

At Pharsalus Caesar was outnumbered in both infantry and cavalry. He held some cohorts in reserve and had them hold up their pila in a pahalnx-like formation to drive away Pompei's cavalry. They subsequently advanced and broke Pompei's flank.

 

At Magnesia and in the Mithridatic wars, the Romans also had less cavalry, but thye had innovative methods of dealing with them.

 

Mounted archers were another matter altogether. The blunder of Crassus at Carrhae could easily have been avoided. He made numerous tactical errors and he allowed himself to be deceived by more than one treacherous scout. Later Eastern Armies certainly had to increase their cavalry units in order to deal with them. The Byzantine armies certainly had large numbers of well-trined heavy and light cavalry.

 

Alexander was probably the first to defeat outright a body of mounted archers. He was able to do so with combined-arms tactics. Cavalry, artillery, light infantry, etc.

 

Feel free to join my recent post on Alexander and Crassus.

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So I ask you, do you think the Romans would have fared better all across the Empire with more and batter trained cavalry?
Yes.
Usus autem sum, ne in aliquo fallam carissimam mihi familiaritatem tuam, praecipue libris ex bibliotheca Ulpia, aetate mea thermis Diocletianis, et item ex domo Tiberiana, usus etiam [ex] regestis scribarum porticus porphyreticae, actis etiam senatus ac populi. 2 et quoniam me ad colligenda talis viri gesta ephemeris Turduli Gallicani plurimum invit, viri honestissimi ac sincerissimi, beneficium amici senis tacere non debui. 3 Cn. Pompeium, tribus fulgentem triumphis belli piratici, belli Sertoriani, belli Mithridatici multarumque rerum gestarum maiestate sublimem, quis tandem nosset, nisi eum Marcus Tullius et Titus Livius in litteras rettulissent? 4 Publ<i>um Scipionem Afric<an>um, immo Scipiones omnes, seu Lucios seu Nasicas, nonne tenebrae possiderent ac tegerent, nisi commendatores eorum historici nobiles atque ignobiles extitissent? 5 longum est omnia persequi, quae ad exemplum huiusce modi etiam nobis tacentibus usurpanda sunt. 6 illud tantum contestatum volo me et rem scripsisse, quam, si quis voluerit, honestius eloquio celsiore demonstret, et mihi quidem id animi fuit, 6 <ut> non Sallustios, Livios, Tacito<s>, Trogos atque omnes disertissimos imitarer viros in vita principum et temporibus disserendis, sed Marium Maximum, Suetonium Tranquillum, Fabium Marcellinum, Gargilium Martialem, Iulium Capitolinum, Aelium Lampridium ceterosque, qui haec et talia non tam diserte quam vere memoriae tradiderunt. 8 sum enim unus ex curiosis, quod infi[ni]t<i>as ire non possum, ince<n>dentibus vobis, qui, cum multa sciatis, scire multo plura cupitis. 9 et ne diutius ea, quae ad meum consilium pertinent, loquar, magnum et praeclarum principem et qualem historia nostra non novit, arripiam. Edited by sylla

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Armenians often performed outstandingly well against the Parthians, which was hardly surprising as both nations used essentially the same weapons and tactics.

 

 

And Crassus made the mistake of not joining forces with the Armenians when he advanced against the Parthians.

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... the Armenians often performed outstandingly well against the Parthians, which was hardly surprising as both nations used essentially the same weapons and tactics.

 

It's my impression that the Armenians were primarily known for their heavy cavalry (catphracts), although they may also have used mounted archers to a lesser extent.

 

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=htt...sa%3DG%26um%3D1

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... the Armenians often performed outstandingly well against the Parthians, which was hardly surprising as both nations used essentially the same weapons and tactics.

 

It's my impression that the Armenians were primarily known for their heavy cavalry (catphracts), although they may also have used mounted archers to a lesser extent.

 

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=htt...sa%3DG%26um%3D1

Usus autem sum, ne in aliquo fallam carissimam mihi familiaritatem tuam, praecipue libris ex bibliotheca Ulpia, aetate mea thermis Diocletianis, et item ex domo Tiberiana, usus etiam [ex] regestis scribarum porticus porphyreticae, actis etiam senatus ac populi. 2 et quoniam me ad colligenda talis viri gesta ephemeris Turduli Gallicani plurimum invit, viri honestissimi ac sincerissimi, beneficium amici senis tacere non debui. 3 Cn. Pompeium, tribus fulgentem triumphis belli piratici, belli Sertoriani, belli Mithridatici multarumque rerum gestarum maiestate sublimem, quis tandem nosset, nisi eum Marcus Tullius et Titus Livius in litteras rettulissent? 4 Publ<i>um Scipionem Afric<an>um, immo Scipiones omnes, seu Lucios seu Nasicas, nonne tenebrae possiderent ac tegerent, nisi commendatores eorum historici nobiles atque ignobiles extitissent? 5 longum est omnia persequi, quae ad exemplum huiusce modi etiam nobis tacentibus usurpanda sunt. 6 illud tantum contestatum volo me et rem scripsisse, quam, si quis voluerit, honestius eloquio celsiore demonstret, et mihi quidem id animi fuit, 6 <ut> non Sallustios, Livios, Tacito<s>, Trogos atque omnes disertissimos imitarer viros in vita principum et temporibus disserendis, sed Marium Maximum, Suetonium Tranquillum, Fabium Marcellinum, Gargilium Martialem, Iulium Capitolinum, Aelium Lampridium ceterosque, qui haec et talia non tam diserte quam vere memoriae tradiderunt. 8 sum enim unus ex curiosis, quod infi[ni]t<i>as ire non possum, ince<n>dentibus vobis, qui, cum multa sciatis, scire multo plura cupitis. 9 et ne diutius ea, quae ad meum consilium pertinent, loquar, magnum et praeclarum principem et qualem historia nostra non novit, arripiam.

Edited by sylla

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Please remember the Romans conquered virtually all their known world; at least up to the V century, they never found an enemy that with enough time and resources they weren't able to defeat; if they didn't conquer Persia (or Caledonia or Germania or Sarmatia or Ethiopia), that was entirely explained for purely logistic limitations; the Empire was simply too big to grow any more.

 

Therefore, in the long run the Romans literally got the full monty: how much better would they have fared with even more and better trained cavalry?

 

Besides, more often than not, the Romans did have an excellent cavalry at their disposition, either national or auxiliary; for example, the Armenians often performed outstandingly well against the Parthians, which was hardly surprising as both nations used essentially the same weapons and tactics.

Sure they had good cavalry at their disposal, but not enough. Seriously, if the Romans really did have enough cavalry then they would have done a lot better in wars. In Sicily (a good old example) the Romans got attacked and were bleeded by probing attacks by the Carthaginians. Their own cavalry tried to stop them, but they did not have enough. Now Sicily was a big campaign, so you would have thought they would have had enough cavlary to protect the marching columns, but they did not.

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Sure they had good cavalry at their disposal, but not enough. Seriously, if the Romans really did have enough cavalry then they would have done a lot better in wars. In Sicily (a good old example) the Romans got attacked and were bleeded by probing attacks by the Carthaginians. Their own cavalry tried to stop them, but they did not have enough. Now Sicily was a big campaign, so you would have thought they would have had enough cavlary to protect the marching columns, but they did not.
Can you quote your source? Far as I remember, Punic War I was defined at sea.

 

In any case, the Roman army was in constant evolution; any time they found a worth contender, they took something valuable; from the Punic army, the gladius hispanensis, the Numidian cavalry, the Balearic slingers and even the war elephants, at least for a time; that

Edited by sylla

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Sure they had good cavalry at their disposal, but not enough. Seriously, if the Romans really did have enough cavalry then they would have done a lot better in wars.

 

 

The armies of the late empire placed more emphasis on cavalry, and they were unable to hold off the barbarian invasions in the western half of the empire.

 

The Republic and early empire may have found it cost-effective to maintain an army composed primarily of infantry. The cost of maintaining more cavalry during the later period may have contributed to Rome's economic problems.

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The Republic and early empire may have found it cost-effective to maintain an army composed primarily of infantry. The cost of maintaining more cavalry during the later period may have contributed to Rome's economic problems.
Based fundamentally on Luttwak (first phase), it seems what the Republic and early empire definitively found cost-effective was a warrior-state economy primarily based in looting; any raid and conquest was money, at the very least from slave trade and (indirectly) from political prestige.

 

It was only after the Empire got bigger and bigger (second phase) that the inversion required for any further conquest vastly outgrew any potential earning; after that point, the Roman army constantly required to become even bigger and stronger just to keep the conquered territory, in spite of the obvious risk of rebellion, patently evident since the Republican Civil Wars.

 

The increasing economic pressure from the military budget (including but not limited to the cavalry), the unavoidable social instability from so many active soldiers and the migration pressure from alien populations over the static borders were presumably all critical for the eventual collapse of the V century.

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Please remember the Romans conquered virtually all their known world; at least up to the V century, they never found an enemy that with enough time and resources they weren't able to defeat; if they didn't conquer Persia (or Caledonia or Germania or Sarmatia or Ethiopia), that was entirely explained for purely logistic limitations; the Empire was simply too big to grow any more.

 

No. The empire was too big to retain conquests. It was perfectly capable of defeating enemies around them, provided those enemies fought in any predictable manner (the Romans being an organised people were usually beter at defeating an organised enemy, at least until the smaller legions of the late empire when raiding became the better option)

 

Trajan had shown the parthians were beatable. However, the territory was largely wilderness had had no strategic or econimic value, thus Hadrian was only too happy to be rid of the problem and handed it back, along with hostages, in return for a stable frontier by peace treaty. In other words, in this case at least, expansion was limited by politics, not practicality.

 

Also the endless wilderness was not easily held by Romans who were an essentially urban civilisation. Without defined settlements to hold and colonise, their grip on terrain was entirely down to military occupation and experience had shown them that wilderness was difficult to adequately maintain peacefully. It might be observed that the territorial conquests of modern times are of a different order to the location focused conquests of ancient times. Areas meant little - what mattered was the infrastructure and assets contained within.

 

In other other words, a modern army engages in area denial, an ancient army engages in population control. If your enemy has a dispersed disorganised population, he isn't easily controlled no matter how good your planning and logistics, which is one reason why the Romans were so keen to bring local populations into their system of government, and barbarian chiefs were regularly given such positions in the Roman heirarchy for that very reason.

 

There are instances in which the Romans demonstrated superiority in wilderness campaigns. Caledonia for instance, which was aborted for political reasons, not from any difficulty in logistics.

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For once, we are now in more than 90% agreement :unsure: :

So I ask you, do you think the Romans would have fared better all across the Empire with more and batter trained cavalry?
Yes.
Please remember the Romans conquered virtually all their known world; at least up to the V century, they never found an enemy that with enough time and resources they weren't able to defeat; if they didn't conquer Persia (or Caledonia or Germania or Sarmatia or Ethiopia), that was entirely explained for purely logistic limitations; the Empire was simply too big to grow any more.

 

Therefore, in the long run the Romans literally got the full monty: how much better would they have fared with even more and better trained cavalry?

 

Besides, more often than not, the Romans did have an excellent cavalry at their disposition, either national or auxiliary; for example, the Armenians often performed outstandingly well against the Parthians, which was hardly surprising as both nations used essentially the same weapons and tactics.

No. The empire was too big to retain conquests. It was perfectly capable of defeating enemies around them, provided those enemies fought in any predictable manner (the Romans being an organised people were usually beter at defeating an organised enemy, at least until the smaller legions of the late empire when raiding became the better option)

 

Trajan had shown the parthians were beatable. However, the territory was largely wilderness had had no strategic or econimic value, thus Hadrian was only too happy to be rid of the problem and handed it back, along with hostages, in return for a stable frontier by peace treaty. In other words, in this case at least, expansion was limited by politics, not practicality.

 

Also the endless wilderness was not easily held by Romans who were an essentially urban civilisation. Without defined settlements to hold and colonise, their grip on terrain was entirely down to military occupation and experience had shown them that wilderness was difficult to adequately maintain peacefully. It might be observed that the territorial conquests of modern times are of a different order to the location focused conquests of ancient times. Areas meant little - what mattered was the infrastructure and assets contained within.

 

In other other words, a modern army engages in area denial, an ancient army engages in population control. If your enemy has a dispersed disorganised population, he isn't easily controlled no matter how good your planning and logistics, which is one reason why the Romans were so keen to bring local populations into their system of government, and barbarian chiefs were regularly given such positions in the Roman heirarchy for that very reason.

 

There are instances in which the Romans demonstrated superiority in wilderness campaigns. Caledonia for instance, which was aborted for political reasons, not from any difficulty in logistics.

Some minor points:

 

- All armies perform better against enemies that fought in any predictable manner; that is a tautology (i.e. a statement that is necessarily true).

 

- For any conqueror (even for nomads like the Mongols) wilderness has always been difficult to adequately maintain peacefully, as it has always been harder to keep control over dispersed non-urban populations than over cities; ergo, another tautology.

 

- All armies engage in control population; no one can fight against unpopulated territories .

 

- Can you explain a bit more the concept of "area denial"?

Edited by sylla

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- All armies perform better against enemies that fought in any predictable manner; that is a tautology (i.e. a statement that is necessarily true).

 

 

The Roman Republic seemed to have much more success against the highly organized combined arms forces of many of the eastern kingdoms, even those that had large numbers of cavalry. Against barbarians (gauls, cimbri, teutons) the outcome seemed less predictable. Not every Roman general was able to beat them in the manner of Marius or Caesar.

 

It has been said that Caesar's quote"I came, I saw, I conquered" was with refernce to his easy success against eastern foes compared to what he had experienced in the west.

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- All armies perform better against enemies that fought in any predictable manner; that is a tautology (i.e. a statement that is necessarily true).
The Roman Republic seemed to have much more success against the highly organized combined arms forces of many of the eastern kingdoms, even those that had large numbers of cavalry. Against barbarians (gauls, cimbri, teutons) the outcome seemed less predictable. Not every Roman general was able to beat them in the manner of Marius or Caesar.
Usus autem sum, ne in aliquo fallam carissimam mihi familiaritatem tuam, praecipue libris ex bibliotheca Ulpia, aetate mea thermis Diocletianis, et item ex domo Tiberiana, usus etiam [ex] regestis scribarum porticus porphyreticae, actis etiam senatus ac populi. 2 et quoniam me ad colligenda talis viri gesta ephemeris Turduli Gallicani plurimum invit, viri honestissimi ac sincerissimi, beneficium amici senis tacere non debui. 3 Cn. Pompeium, tribus fulgentem triumphis belli piratici, belli Sertoriani, belli Mithridatici multarumque rerum gestarum maiestate sublimem, quis tandem nosset, nisi eum Marcus Tullius et Titus Livius in litteras rettulissent? 4 Publ<i>um Scipionem Afric<an>um, immo Scipiones omnes, seu Lucios seu Nasicas, nonne tenebrae possiderent ac tegerent, nisi commendatores eorum historici nobiles atque ignobiles extitissent? 5 longum est omnia persequi, quae ad exemplum huiusce modi etiam nobis tacentibus usurpanda sunt. 6 illud tantum contestatum volo me et rem scripsisse, quam, si quis voluerit, honestius eloquio celsiore demonstret, et mihi quidem id animi fuit, 6 <ut> non Sallustios, Livios, Tacito<s>, Trogos atque omnes disertissimos imitarer viros in vita principum et temporibus disserendis, sed Marium Maximum, Suetonium Tranquillum, Fabium Marcellinum, Gargilium Martialem, Iulium Capitolinum, Aelium Lampridium ceterosque, qui haec et talia non tam diserte quam vere memoriae tradiderunt. 8 sum enim unus ex curiosis, quod infi[ni]t<i>as ire non possum, ince<n>dentibus vobis, qui, cum multa sciatis, scire multo plura cupitis. 9 et ne diutius ea, quae ad meum consilium pertinent, loquar, magnum et praeclarum principem et qualem historia nostra non novit, arripiam. Edited by sylla

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When and wherever enough evidence is available on the armies and commanders from tribal societies (what you seem to understand as "Barbarian") that eventually bested Roman armies, it is usually obvious that they had a significant military organization

 

I am familiar with the various definition of "barbarian"

 

Originally it was anyone that was non-Greek, such that even Phillip of Macedon who was quasi-Greek was considered a Barbarian.

 

By the standards of the ancient Greeks the emerging Romans were barbarians as well, as Pyrrhus stated "These may be barbarians, but there is nothing barbarous about their discipline..."

 

Subsequently the Rome borrowed the term from the Greeks to describe those civilizations outside of the Greco-Roman world.

 

Generally speaking barbarian is used to describe the gauls, germans, and other tribes that were considered more primitive and crude compared to the Roman and Hellenistic civilizations of the same time.

 

 

"Organized or not, predictability is indeed a poor quality for any army."

 

And yet many of the Roman armies won in spite of being predictable. The legions of the late republic and early empire had a fairly standard way of lining up for battle, and they were so effective that the commanders didn't have to be innovative and unpredictable.

 

Just like a football team with a strong running game (big offenesive line, powerfull running backs) can be predictable and still pile up the yardage to win games.

Edited by barca

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