Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Sign in to follow this  
M. Porcius Cato

Gallic War death toll

Recommended Posts

Except that the Spanish had already had much contact with Carthaginians who were as cosmopolitan and urban as were the Romans. Further, you seem to imply that an absence of evidence is an actual evidence of absence. You do realize that that is an elementary logical fallacy, don't you?

 

So if we abide by this hypothesis, the Spanish population must have been decimated upon their initial contact with the Carthaginians. Do you have any historical/archaeological evidence for this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Except that the Spanish had already had much contact with Carthaginians who were as cosmopolitan and urban as were the Romans.

So if we abide by this hypothesis, the Spanish population must have been decimated upon their initial contact with the Carthaginians.

 

First, there is no sense in oversimplifying biology. The impact of the Carthaginian presence in Spain would be a function of the number of foreign troops fighting there, the time they spent in contact with the Spanish, and how isolated the Spanish were with whom they had contact. Whether the Spanish population would have been 'decimated' (i.e., reduced by 1/10 th), centimated or merely millimated would depend on these factors. Without knowledge of these factors, it's impossible to predict how many Spanish would be expected to be killed by the spread of disease alone.

 

Second, there is no sense in oversimplifying my theory. My claim is that Caesar is likely to have underestimated the number of Gauls he killed if he didn't reckon with the number killed by disease and famine. My claim is NOT--can you please read this FC??--that any contact between two groups leads to one of the groups being wiped out. There is no reason to expect a "great depopulation" when provicial auxiliaries, for example, are garrisoned far away from the locals, with hardly any long-term close contact, and no disruption to the normal harvest. In contrast, if you circumvallate an enemy fortification for a long period of time, you're putting large foreign bodies in close contact and raising the number of disease vectors. If, in addition to this, you also cut off the enemy supply of food and water, you are clearly engaged in a kind of biological warfare--you are trying to lower the enemy's defenses WITHIN the walls by lowering the defenses of the enemy body itself. Under these circumstances, it shouldn't be hard to imagine that the rate of infection from minor injuries, and the spread of common colds, typhoid, cholera, or any of those "diseases of filth" would have been likely, and that many of those who died from these causes would have been rightly described by Caesar as among his killings. And he probably didn't count them all because those who left with their lives later died prematurely or spread the diseases when they returned home.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's fine MCP, then I think we are in agreement. I was responding to your previous post (in the parent thread now separated), and through our discussions I think the original points may have been lost.

 

To conquer, to hold, and to improve--these are three very different proposals. Caesar often conquered areas in Gaul and was forced to take them again because he was unable to make a lasting settlement. Ultimately, he resorted to what was to become the typical Roman strategy: to make a desert and call it peace. Contrast this with the remarkable settlements affected by Caesar's betters--in Asia, in Greece, in Spain, and in Africa.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Inspired by Virgil's suggestion, I contacted an expert on the Roman republic about my theory. He thought the possibility posed "a very difficult question". On the one hand, early modern and modern wars (e.g., the Thirty Years War ) have led to many, many deaths, and in some cases, deaths due to disease and famine surpassed what could be attributed to actual combat.

 

On the other hand (and it turns out there are many other hands!), there are some factors I hadn't considered. First, many of the big killers--like typus, cholera, or plague--didn't emerge in Europe before late antiquity (so far as we can tell--Pertinax??). Second, the historian David Henige has been busy debunking claims regarding the numbers of dead caused by the diseases spread by Europeans in the New World, and he also addresses issues regarding the numbers of dead reported in our ancient sources.

 

These two factors are important issues to consider in trying to actually quantify the number of potential deaths caused by war but not combat. So, while the number of war dead could have been quite close to what Caesar claimed or even higher, it isn't certain by any means. If only we knew what communicable diseases were present in antiquity, it would help us enormously.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Conversely, wouldn't the Romans have picked up some Gallic bugs and have been decimated there from?

 

The risks wouldn't be symmetrical because the populations to which they had been exposed previously differed greatly. That is, if you were a Roman growing up in a city of close to 1,000,000, you would have a higher probability of encountering a novel bug than if you were a Gaul growing up in a village of only 100. If that bug didn't kill you as a Roman boy, it is because your antibodies beat them off, and with your life you would have been left with some immunity to the bug in the future. Thus, going to Gaul, you as a Roman would have been less susceptible to encountering a novel bug than your Gallic counterparts encountering 10,000 Romans like you. Hence, the risks were asymmetrical.

 

(BTW, glad this digression got its own thread.)

 

This is ignoreing that most of the novel (and dangerous) dieseases come from human contact with Animals? I.E. FARM ANIMALS? Smallpox came from cows. we are getting Avian flu coming from chickens. mad COW diesease and CHICKENpox are self explainatory.

 

I dont have my copy with me but didnt they go over this in Guns Germs and Steel?

 

Also all Ive heard on the subject of communicable diesease in pre modern war was the risk to the soldiers themselves. The risk of living in close quarters with a lot of other men.

Also novel strains of diesease dont necessarily kill large numbers of people

Many people come down with the flu year after year only to recover from these novel strains.

of course many dont but they are generally the old the young and the immune difficient right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Inspired by Virgil's suggestion, I contacted an expert on the Roman republic about my theory. He thought the possibility posed "a very difficult question". On the one hand, early modern and modern wars (e.g., the Thirty Years War ) have led to many, many deaths, and in some cases, deaths due to disease and famine surpassed what could be attributed to actual combat.

 

On the other hand (and it turns out there are many other hands!), there are some factors I hadn't considered. First, many of the big killers--like typus, cholera, or plague--didn't emerge in Europe before late antiquity (so far as we can tell--Pertinax??). Second, the historian David Henige has been busy debunking claims regarding the numbers of dead caused by the diseases spread by Europeans in the New World, and he also addresses issues regarding the numbers of dead reported in our ancient sources.

 

These two factors are important issues to consider in trying to actually quantify the number of potential deaths caused by war but not combat. So, while the number of war dead could have been quite close to what Caesar claimed or even higher, it isn't certain by any means. If only we knew what communicable diseases were present in antiquity, it would help us enormously.

 

Apologies MPC , I was looking the other way! OK-the communicable "big killers" are "late period" arrivals. The difficulty is that malaria and "plague" are the two certain "classical " killers.

Now the problem as regards what is understood to "be plague" is this, some suggest that plague should only be named as such when it is a communicable variant of Anthrax (which is of course animal originated, but mutated in its impact into the human population ) which requires tissue analysis from a cadaver (and can still be risky if dormant in ,say, a sealed lead coffin).

 

The "plague" that we tend to think of (Black Death) is now thought to have two totally independent components to it ( mode of transmission is not the issue here , so Ill skip the rats/parasites vector we all know and love) ,

1: the well known buboes erupting in armpit/groin in relation to lymph structure , which showed a gross assault on the lymphatics/endoctine system (though the eruption indicates a dire effort by the system to fight back)-certainly many with this sympton did perish, but not all , as usual the very young and the elderly or infirm succumbed.So pustules do not equal certain death.The physical crisis might pass within three days to two weeks.

2.A pulmonary anaphylaxis which could be appeared to kill without any eruption of the skin , but might well have occured at the same time by coincidence was almost certainly fatal to an already debilitated person.This vector appearing to kill within hours of airborne contact.

I hope my digression helps, what I hope to point out is that:

- the existing pre-disposition to morbidity in a population will accelerate a disease event ( starving people with dirty water will suffer parasitic attack leaving the immune responses depleted) and :

- unless we have plenty of tissue samples from known fatalities we can only conjecture as to "what" did it.

 

The Thirty Years War is the best example of early modern conflict where ,communication and food supply disruption, looting, and communicable disease conspired to cause heavy civilian casualties-though I venture to suggest the rupturing of the social fabric is the most telling component.

 

edit: my suggestion might be, if a population is weakened by social disruption and a basic lack of simple medications and foodstuffs , parasitic infection (from gardia lambli (dirty water) to trichonosis (encysted pork) will pre dispose a population to reater cohort morbidty.

phew! Does that help?

 

This sort of work is more to do with physical analysis of identifiable "cororsive " diseases ( sclerosis, osteoperosis, dvt) from cadaver inspection, rather than communicable disease.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diseases-Antiquity...TF8&s=books

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Inspired by Virgil's suggestion, I contacted an expert on the Roman republic about my theory. He thought the possibility posed "a very difficult question". On the one hand, early modern and modern wars (e.g., the Thirty Years War ) have led to many, many deaths, and in some cases, deaths due to disease and famine surpassed what could be attributed to actual combat.

 

On the other hand (and it turns out there are many other hands!), there are some factors I hadn't considered. First, many of the big killers--like typus, cholera, or plague--didn't emerge in Europe before late antiquity (so far as we can tell--Pertinax??). Second, the historian David Henige has been busy debunking claims regarding the numbers of dead caused by the diseases spread by Europeans in the New World, and he also addresses issues regarding the numbers of dead reported in our ancient sources.

 

These two factors are important issues to consider in trying to actually quantify the number of potential deaths caused by war but not combat. So, while the number of war dead could have been quite close to what Caesar claimed or even higher, it isn't certain by any means. If only we knew what communicable diseases were present in antiquity, it would help us enormously.

 

Interesting reply you received. So the answer may be tbd until or if we know what diseases were present. I know that the New World disease theory stating up to 40m or so deaths is very contraversial since it gets caught up into some of that PC-slanted 'white man is bad' theory.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
if a population is weakened by social disruption and a basic lack of simple medications and foodstuffs , parasitic infection (from gardia lambli (dirty water) to trichonosis (encysted pork) will pre dispose a population to reater cohort morbidty.

 

So, malaria, one of the plagues, sundry parasites, and trichonosis could have led to greater cohort morbidity in Caesar's Gaul. Of these, there is archaeological evidence of malarial deaths in Rome and testimonia (from Sidonius Apollinaris) attesting to a malaria-like 'pestilence' in Gaul. Both are mentioned in this interesting NYT article from 1994. Though I do wonder whether an outbreak of malaria would have gone unreported by Caesar--presumably he would have taken precautions against his men contracting any pestilences known to afflict the enemy.

 

What about animal borne diseases? If you have to flee your village with your livestock, you might find yourself sharing a bed in the forest with a sheep in order to keep warm. (Russian serfs often shared their homes with their livestock.)

 

What about tuberculosis? Cases of tuberculosis have been reported as early as the 2nd century, and in medieval Lithuania, nearly 25% of the population were infected with it. If one-quarter of the Gauls had tuberculosis too (a big if), that alone could readily explain Caesar's high causalty estimates.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did post some time ago on the range of malaria in antiquity, ( I shall seek it out and link when I find it!) suffice to say that that range was considerable-into the Baltic in the North for example: so bear in mind that the only real requirement is a good supply of stagnant water (siege works? marching camps?) as a medium for the insect , one tends to think malaria should not be ignored. Again consider that malaria has (in essence) two strains, 1.deadly 2. episodicaly debilitating .

 

Animal borne disease without doubt-I personally, today , have an identifiable client base of Farmers working with bovines that require episodic medication. Cow saliva is a great medium for passing on parasites, indeed the mode of transmission illustrates how many parasitic organisms move from life cycle stage 1 in a ruminant host to active mischief in an omnivore, (either by airborne contact via saliva or ingestion via the beast as food).

 

The Ancients used plenty of substances that would deal with parasites (my blog lists some), wormwood, feverfew , mastik and orris root for example, but parasite incursion is an ongoing war .

 

If you slept with your sheep ( :tomato: order at the back!) then one burrowing sheep tick (which wont live on you , but will pass infected blood into you) can make you rather unwell, lyme's disease (rat urine being the other source).

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/lymedisease.htm

 

TB I will return to, and more on parasites later -I must away for now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Except that the Spanish had already had much contact with Carthaginians who were as cosmopolitan and urban as were the Romans.

So if we abide by this hypothesis, the Spanish population must have been decimated upon their initial contact with the Carthaginians.

 

There's another point here: we can hardly manage to go back to a time when there was no contact around the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians (i.e. ancestral Carthaginians) had been trading with Spain for centuries at least before they began to make conquests; and the Greeks traded with both. Many now believe that the Iberians, regarded in classical times as 'autochthonous' in Spain, were migrants from North Africa some thousands of years back. If there was always some sort of contact at one level or another, there was much less chance of a loss of immunity to diseases.

 

By contrast, the really bad epidemics usually talked about (incidentally I haven't read David Henige on this and he is a very good historian) were transmitted between peoples who had had no contact at all for tens of thousands of years. I don't see that kind of situation as very relevant to the classical Mediterranean world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There's another point here: we can hardly manage to go back to a time when there was no contact around the Mediterranean. ... If there was always some sort of contact at one level or another, there was much less chance of a loss of immunity to diseases. By contrast, the really bad epidemics usually talked about (incidentally I haven't read David Henige on this and he is a very good historian) were transmitted between peoples who had had no contact at all for tens of thousands of years. I don't see that kind of situation as very relevant to the classical Mediterranean world.

 

With all due respect, these points seem irrelevant to the matter at hand. First, the worst epidemics in history---the Great Influenza epidemic of 1918, the Black Death, and AIDS--were spread among groups with considerable contact with one another historically. Thus, contact provides no absolute immunity, even to the worst killers. The point of the New World example is not that it models the relative level of contact between invaders/invaded, nor that it provides a perfect model for the number of potential non-combatant deaths, but instead that it illustrates the concept of asymmetrical immunity. I'm sure you would agree that the immunity of the Belgae to the Romans was less than that of the Romans to the Romans. It's simply the asymmetry that is needed to explain how, for example, it would be possible for Romans to spread diseases in Gaul from which the Romans themselves did not suffer in such numbers.

 

Second, asymmetrical immunity is not the only cause of differences in susceptibility to disease and overall non-combat deaths. An army--unlike a village under seige--can break camp, leaving its latrines and waste (and pathogens!) behind them. An army--unlike a village under seige--can find new sources of water and replenish their food supplies (not that Caesar was any good at that), thereby maintaining their immunity over time. An army--unlike refugees from battles--has the luxury of choosing the grounds where to camp; refugees are left to camp in the places no other man would do so, including low lying areas that are likely to contain higher concentrations of malarial mosquitos and sundry pathogens. Thus, even if there was not an asymmetrical immunity, there were many other reasons that the Gauls would have faced a greater risk of disease than did the Romans.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A "trail of pathogens" is a useful phrase to describe an army.

 

Tuberculosis, here is a good paleopathology piece:

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/pagerende...ageindex=1#page

note that this ties to remarks I have made in the past as to a possible Roman aversion to milk drinking (from cattle).Note also , like parasitic diseases, that a young population without immunity are greatly at risk.

 

Could I also mention sexually transmitted disease as a weakening co-factor, what do armies require after food and drink? This small blurb relates to the "old world-bad" idea"

 

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_syphilis/interview.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Diseases always follow the armies, but is there any evidence that the population of Gaul suffered a large decrese as a result of the war?

It is famous the fact that most roman cities in Gaul received the names of local poulations in third century (Lutetia - Paris) and this is a proof that most of the inhabitants were locals more or less romanized.

I think that Cesar was boasting and the losses were in the lines that war torn Galia was used with. He conquered a haotic area with many conflicts not a sheltered, peacefull country.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A point on assymetry (as regards immunity). A body of Roman combatants will tend to be males (age 16-45) in tough physical condition. Non-combatants exposed to a pathogen trail/other vectors will have a more "normal" age/ sex distribution curve , and hence have more "at risk" age specific cohorts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Diseases always follow the armies, but is there any evidence that the population of Gaul suffered a large decrese as a result of the war?

The most importance evidence is Caesar's own claim to have killed a million Gauls. Normally, this is dismissed, but if we recognize that Caesar may have been including ALL those killed in the war, not just those killed in battle, then the claim makes much more sense.

 

A point on assymetry (as regards immunity). A body of Roman combatants will tend to be males (age 16-45) in tough physical condition. Non-combatants exposed to a pathogen trail/other vectors will have a more "normal" age/ sex distribution curve , and hence have more "at risk" age specific cohorts.

 

Very good point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×