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Onasander

Roman Horses could carry only less than 1000 pounds

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http://ft111.com/horsepower.html

 

I cant remember which thread I mentioned this in, but it was in this section.

 

Roman horses were rather useless as beasts of burden. The horse collar wasnt in existence for the western empire.... meaning logistics was.... complicated, and simple tasks were donkey powered, which is always highly reliable, especially when the weather is bad and you really, really need the tired donkey to work.

 

Or imagine wagons flying at the speed of an ox.

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Horses were expensive, allocated to cavalry use by the wealthier or more important republican soldiery, and never used in bulk by the imperial legions until the late empire when increasing demands of strategy made cavalry all the more important. The legions used donkeys/mules/asses, and officially one such animal was supposed to be allocated to an eight man contubernium. However, that would depend on availabliity, and we know that Roman legionaries weren't shy of appropriating whatever animals they needed. The 'collar' is irrelevant - the Romans would have used the same shoulder yoke they applied to oxen, as did most peoples of the era.

 

It's also important to note that Roman cavalry men were very wary of letting their horses tire during battle. Although their tactics relied on movement and speed (not a head on charge), they would only gallop for brief instances, and in the case of cataphractii/clibanarii, not at all, which meant the heavier cavalry were not as quick on the battlefield as later medieval riders, but then Roman horses were generally smaller than today.

Edited by caldrail

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1000ibs? That is probably incorrect information based on mistaken original research in 1910 by de Noettes. Try searching for 'Roman Traction Systems' on the web Weller provides evidence that at least 1 to 1.5 metric ton wagon loads were possible.

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Horses were usually too valuable to be used as baggage animals by ancient armies. 

Donkeys and mules (if available ) were preferred.  J.P Roth (Logistics of the Roman Army at War) and D W Engels (Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army), using both modern and ancient sources, estimate a donkey could carry a load of 150-200 lbs., and a mule 220-300 lbs.  Mules, being bigger and stronger than donkeys, could carry a load 25-50 miles a day for extended periods.

Carts and wagons drawn by mules and oxen were also used sometimes, and could haul 1100-1200 lbs. However, wheeled vehicles reduced mobility as they required roads and bridges, were subject to breakdowns, and oxen could only cover about 10 miles a day. 

There is probably something to be said for the agricultural aspect of horse collars re plowing the heavier soils of Northern Europe in the middle ages.    

Edited by Pompieus

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I am very pessemistic in view of rationed promises to supplying the men with stuff like donkies.

 

Such promises often fail, despite the ironclad assurances, and such soldiers would discover that they are, indeed, the donkey. Just speaking from bitter experience.... I see a setup for broken hopes and bad work details in such assurances.

 

Recognitioning is going to depend on the commanders orders as to how prevelant it is.

 

I understand.... constant civil wars, military has no checks and balances, they can do what they want, right? Not if the commander is opposed, for whatever reason. You gotta live with those people, pissing them all off then grunting your legions name and motto leads significant civil unrest not easily repaired. On this site, we point out the pointlessness of complaining about soldiers taking your stuff.... we fail to grasp the people believed there was such a means to getting their stuff back. Would you go pester a Hun Commander for your stuff back, or a Vandel? No.... you wouldnt even bother. The fact that some people made themselves a fool suggests they were following a tradition of redress that didnt always end so foolishly. Hence why they even bothered to ask.

 

1 1/2 tons would fit most work details realistically that I can imagine. Men load up on the wagon, with a large water skin, tools, hammer or chop or hunt..... roads or fortifications could be resupplied with building materials.... a donkey could carry the cookware if the wagon cant maintain all that on the first walk out....

 

Yeah..... thats more realistic. Calvary can screen or troops switch out on guard details with the ones laboring for rest periods when in combat zones.

 

Im getting this image of guys loading up on a wagon early morning to head five miles out for a detail, pick axes loaded up, two donkies tied to the wagons rear..... some cookware in the corner..... someone in the wagon asking another to pull their finger..... everything is cold and dewie..... sun isnt quite above the horizon...... wondering if this is going to take all day again.....

 

Yeah, 1 1/2 tons can do nicely.

 

So..... what is up with the Roman Law forbidding over a thousand pounds?

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Such promises often fail, despite the ironclad assurances, and such

soldiers would discover that they are, indeed, the donkey. Just speaking

from bitter experience.... I see a setup for broken hopes and bad work

details in such assurances.

Legionaries were nicknamed "Marius's Mules"

 

There are various possible origins for that, one being Josephus, who describes the baggage that soldiers carried themselves and the soldiersas being 'almost beasts of burden'. Also...

 

Setting out on the expedition, he laboured to perfect his army as it went along, practising the men in all kinds of running and in long marches, and compelling them to carry their own baggage and to prepare their own food. Hence, in after times, men who were fond of toil and did whatever was enjoined upon them contentedly and without a murmur, were called Marian mules. Some, however, think that this name had a different origin. Namely, when Scipio was besieging Numantia, he wished to inspect not only the arms andthe horses, but also the mules and the waggons, that  every man might have them in readiness and good order. Marius, accordingly, brought out for inspection both a horse that had been most excellently taken care of by him, and a mule that for health, docility, and strength far surpassed all the rest. The commanding officer was naturally well pleased with the beasts of Marius and often spoke about them, so that in time those who wanted to bestow facetious praise on a persevering, patient, laborious man would call him a Marian mule.

Life of Marius (Plutarch)

Edited by caldrail

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Requiring soldiers to carry their own weapons, armor, rations, camp equipment etc. was apparently something of an innovation in ancient times.  Supposedly Phillip of Macedon began the practice.  Cavalrymen and classical hoplites (being reasonably well to do) had servants or slaves to fetch and carry.

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Yes, I know about Marius' reforms, and have doubts gained from long personal experience as just how often this accured.

 

1) Marius was in Carthage-Numedia...... as cold as it can.get in the desert, its not a variant lower than the romans wouldnt be accustomed to. I dont think they were carrying around the massive tents we see in movies and reenactments.

 

2) They 99% certain couldnt carry that crap in the humid, frost ridden north.

 

Ive seen the hypothetical kits.... Its not out of reason, what is out of reason is the concept of truely independent infantry lacking a base or supply train for a operation more than a few days.

 

I spent a few years in the infantry, but my expertise in carrying loads comes more from my hardcore Cynic days, where every inch of space and once counts.

 

The later roman Rucksack had 6 straps (thin straps , no frame, clearly meant to be worn over body armor, but the US Army reenactor who showcased it on TV didnt grasp this) had a definate upper weight limit and space limitations.

 

Factor in the weight of all the armor, quality of shoes..... and distance needed ti travel, and in combat missions, the need to arrive fresh enough to fight, the belief in independent infantry carrying everything quickly goes out the window.

 

I know the mantra, and also the belief they would train and get used to it, but come on..... seriously?

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Yes, I know about Marius' reforms, and have doubts gained from long personal experience as just how often this accured.

 

 

Factor in the weight of all the armor, quality of shoes..... and distance needed ti travel, and in combat missions, the need to arrive fresh enough to fight, the belief in independent infantry carrying everything quickly goes out the window.

 

I know the mantra, and also the belief they would train and get used to it, but come on..... seriously?

 

Well the Roman legions often did march that lightly, which I guess is one reason a lot of military guys throughout history give them so much respect. The better way to put it is the better legions did it [the variation of quality vis-a-vis legions in time/space and all].

 

According to Polybius Scipio stripped his soldiers loads down to the bare necessities. In N Africa Marius was up against Jugurtha who fought a highly mobile mostly mounted war against Rome & the Romans had to respond in kind if I remember my Sallust. In Gaul one of the trademarks of Caesar's generalship was getting his legions to the hotspot in very quick time, much of it in northern Gaul and a famous incursion into Germany. He's also very clear that in winter campaigning generally ended & he split his legions up housing them throughout Gaul sometimes a few cohorts at a time.

 

We know the kits aren't hypothetical. They've been described in Polybius & Appian among others, plus we have visual confirmation on some ruins/digs/other 'works' like Trajan's Column [below from Wikipedia]. The column shows the legions in Dacia;

 

Sarcina_detail_001.jpg

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Im not in disagreement with the kits, the reconstructions seem reasonable. Im just strongly cautioning about how much you could regularly expect the guys to carry.

 

Ive been getting some of the cartlidge back in my knee as time goes by..... I cant jump really, nor run for long, but managed to get 4 miles in a hour twenty minutes with considerable elevation two days ago through a snowstorm.... I had to in a emergency..... had six hours of high activity after that before my body begun to shut down..... lack of food and water.

 

Im only 30, with a injury to my knee many older legionaires would of had.... and did it with maybe ten pounds in my ruck. I would exist on the pathetic lower quality end in terms of physical.strength for a historic legionaire. You would only keep someone around like this for leadership or support..... but such guys keep the whole unit moving that pace. This is the speed many platoon sargents move at.... I now feel their pain.

 

Now, go back to my teens, I could hike 70 miles in a weekend, 2 hours of sleep, drinking a few pints of water during the day, a gallon of ice tea at night. That is NOT weighed down.

 

I suspect your average legion, the bulk of the guys could maintain that. The hundred miles a day stuff, oh dear God...... yes, its possible, but...... no, your not wearing armor, the Caterpillar Effect is going to do some truely freaky stuff to the formations, and you gotta do it when the ground is solid and the creeks are flowing, with bridges, and wagons picking up stragglers, and there will be a lot.

 

Especially if your doing this multiple days, 100 miles back to back. Old guys like me with physical issues would be very late arriving, while the young, very fit version of me would be delirious, exhausted and starving.

 

I remember hallucinating from sleep and food deprivation on my pre army hikes. Once I almost toppled backwards into a creek over a guardrail barrier because I thought I almost ran into a man..... who turned around and blew sand into my eyes.... the Mr. Sandman, give me a treat song was playing, it was raining, I had a high body temperature, steaming my ugly malfitted running suit I had on.

 

Musical Ear Syndrome is a occurrence I get right before I hit the point of absolute exhaustion. It hits extreme ultra marathoners sometimes.... its my cue its all over, time to sleep.

 

I am guessing the Roman Legions had these issues. You can rush the young guys foreward, minus the most knowledgeable experienced men, as well as support.... but only uf there was lots of water, no serious obstacles, and no expectation to immediately field a force if your doing a extreme march.

 

With armor and kit, minus the mindless complications of the caterpillar effect, expecting not just to fight but win.... 20-25 miles max without a wagon train, 25-40 miles with a decent wagon train. This us assuming a calvary screen pulling 100 % of security, perfect roads, well rested troops starting off, and dry rations and plenty of water.

 

If you gotta provide infantry security..... much less, like 15-20 max. If your shadowing a army that is moving, and look for your own food, and pray for water like Marius.....

 

 

Yeah. Well..... yeah. Your splitting your forces, and hoping against hope your not dooming yourself in doing so.

 

Marius and Sulla probably had the worst infantry job period. My ability to estimate collapses, I honestly wouldnt know. And its not from a lack of exposure to the desert on my part. Just it ceases to be a logistics issue and more strategic cunning.

Edited by Onasander

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A great deal is sometimes said of Roman logistics but in fact they avoided that necessity like the plague. That was of course part of the origin of the nickname 'Marius's Mules', in that the soldiers themselves carried everything they needed and did so in a manner that made them no better than pack animals.

That wasn't entirely true of course because where available each eight man contubernium used a mule to carry the unwieldiest kit like the leather tents. There are mentions in the sources of Roman civilians complaining uselessly that soldiers appropriated their animals whenever they felt like it so the official quota is probably inaccurate and represents what was considered standard procedure, thus in reality legionaries may well have been off-loading their packs whenever they could get away with it.

As it happens it isn't clear exactly what they carried anyway. We have two main sources for descriptions of marching order in imperial times. One is from Josephus during the Jewish War, the other from De Re Militaris by Vegetius.

Our own modern inclination is to assume these loads were standard. I think this is a gross mistake. Standardisation is not a likely scenario when dealing with legionaries. Whilst a generic appearance was prevalent, we know that legionaries were entitled to buy their own equipment if they could afford it (technically at least they were lease-purchasing weapons and armour from the state anyway with deductions in pay). It follows then that a completely uniform appearance was improbable, and more likely the idea that legionaries were identical comes from our own mass production modern mindset.

The important point though is the legions did not want to bother themselves with vulnerable and time consuming logistics. They didn't want dependence on roads or caravans. Therefore men marched to war carrying their own rations, usually a supply of grain they could make meals from. It appears from the sources that the amount of food carried on any march varied. One source mentions that soldiers had seventeen days rations, others more like three. There must have been foraging along the way if extended marches were required.

a saw and a basket, a bucket and an axe, together with a leather strap, a sickle and chain, and rations for three days, so that an infantryman is little different from a beast of burden.
Josephus

This variable load allows us to consider the equipment carried by legionaries. Although Josephus gives us an idea of what he saw in Judaea, there's actually no indication that this was standard at all. Also, although the description is a comparison to beasts of burden, it doesn't tells us the weight was entirely onerous, just that a soldier marched with it. Vegetius however  gives us a hint in that he mentions a legionary might be expected to carry a heavy load, indicating that troops marched with with any possible permutation between required or desirable load.

To accustom soldiers to carry burdens is also an essential part of discipline. Recruits in particular should be obliged frequently to carry a weight of not less than sixty pounds (exclusive of their arms), and to march with it in the ranks. This is because on difficult expeditions they often find themselves under the necessity of carrying their provisions as well as their arms. Nor will they find this troublesome when inured to it by custom, which makes everything easy.
Vegetius

This weight estimate is vital information, but for the unwary, a bit misleading. It was standard practice for warriors and athletes of Rome to practice with much weightier objects to build strength and endurance for instance. However Vegetius clearly tells us that troops marched with variable loads and that not all expeditions would be as demanding. Further, sixty roman pounds is much closer to three quarters of the modern measurement. Don't be disappointed by that. Legionaries were carrying substantial loads without ergonomic load bearing webbing in a manner that was not exactly comfortable - a test a few years ago with american servicemen in Roman dress proved that a route march was difficult even for fit, healthy, well-muscled modern human beings on a good diet - but notice that assumed the typical heavier modern estimates of load.

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A Contubernam = a Squad in modern parlance.... not exactly the same, but guys in the military will instantly get what your saying. Mule = Ahkio, carried similar crap. Just in modern times, we pull the Ahkio, Romans had animals to do it. I found a Gerber Saw and a hatchet could remove any parachute from a tree (and we liked to land in trees at Fort Greeley). Trees tend to by just slightly longer than parachute and paratrooper combined, meaning it would snag them, swing them into the truck, and wack them. Once they came to their senses, they would fall three feet to the ground, or the tree would snap. Fun fact..... chainsaws don't like to operate at certain temperatures. Another fun fact..... the strings that hold the parachute to the pact, 550 cord, is mindlessly expensive, and your not allowed to cut it. Guess what that meant for me, the only guy with a saw and hatchet on hand? A small Blade work wonders. I doubt the first time around, they would of had the smarts to get a small saw. But..... much of that stuff could be minimised or rarely carried. If this metaphysical belief in command providing you with a donkey is true.... maybe it is, but I have my doubts until I physically would have such a Donkey under my direct control, then life is easier. Until Donkey gets hungry. Right when you want to set up camp and hide inside, donkey wants to head out into the field with his buddies and munch a few hours, which is a bad idea. so for every Donkey, there is a need to feed them. Or.... you can just pile tools onto a wagon few wagons and feed considerably less donkies. Why buy, stable, and feed costly commies when the guys can carry everything or do without for free? There is ALWAYS going to be flexibility for rations. No law or standard can tame this fact. http://themellowjihadi.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/A-team-of-soldiers-pulls-a-loaded-ahkio-sled-March-21-during-the-Operation-Arctic-Forge-competition-at-Fort-Wainwright-Alaska.-.jpg

Edited by Onasander

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A Contubernam = a Squad in modern parlance....

Wrong, although it did perform some similar functions. The word means "Close Friends" and nothing else. The Contubernae were not combat units and existed only to create brotherhood and esprit de corps at grass roots level, aspects the Romans thought very important. I guess that it assisted with administration too seeing as contubernae normally billetted together with a spokesman, but I've found no evidence of duties allocated at that level. men were assigned individually or in groups called "vexillations", which were themselves only temporary, or as centuries and upward.

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Squad

 

Still Squad.

 

As I pointed out, not exactly the same. I know they wouldnt fight as a Unit, and its minus the inherent rank of two team leaders and a squad leader (nine men), but its still a squad. Plus, my gut instict says they would either be on guard rotations together, or one after anothet.

 

Hence the picture I supplied, that is a single team pulling a squad ahkio. Basic tools like ten man tent, pick axes, regular axes, shovels, stove, etc are loaded in it. One team pulls, the other team smiles.

 

Word of the day, Squad.

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