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Thread: What if: Roman legions vs medieval European army

  1. #61
    Contributor chanjyj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Which leads to all sorts of interesting speculation about why they went under.
    Internal politics and a rate of expansion too fast. And it is my personal opinion they overstretched their army.

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    technology, command-and-control, unit articulation, tactics.

    it really depends on the timeframe. against the early medieval armies, the imperial romans would have gone through them like a dose of salts.

    against a high-medieval/late-medieval army, not so much-- it'd be dependent on a lot of factors. even hannibal needed varro...
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    Internal politics
    this more than anything else, with logistics at the end of the empire a close second.

    note how caledonia was never captured even though multiple emperors actually campaigned there, and -knew- that finishing the job would allow them to reduce the manpower needs of garrisoning the entire island.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  4. #64
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    Well I think the Antonine Plauges are at least as responsible as anything else. It may have killed 1/3 of the population in the West and wrecked the legions. Policy letting Roman citizens serve as auxilla didn't help either as it gutted the recruiting pool for the legions.

    On Roman's vs knights... This is one area where the Romans would ahve to recruit locals. The training needed just wasn't there. You could not simply give an Equestrian or cataphract plate and a lance and expect him to be shock cavalry, especially with lighter horses.

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Z, tend to agree the plague/s had a big impact. There have, however been a a number of theories put forward over the years from the obvious (barbarian invasion) through to the more left field (lead poisoning). As I result I can't help wondering if it wasn't a combination of all of the suggested factors i.e. economic disruption due to shifting trade routes, successive incursions by 'barbarian' tribes who had adopted roman arms and armor, civil war, plague and most importantly a series of weak/poor leaders.

    I suspect Empires are a bit like animal species in that they can usually survive any one threat e.g. new diseases, increased predation, environmental change etc. - the population might plunge for a time after taking a hit from one of these things but given time it recovers. Its when they get hit simultaneously or in rapid succession by a series of them that they go under. (Think woolly mammoths - climate change means their range decreases, a new predator on the scene at the same time (man) and down they go. Same thing for Rome, it faced a series of threats over its history but survived because it never got hit simultaneously or in rapid succession (think generations) by any of them. When it finally did it went under. The fact that it lasted so long in comparison to other historical Empires is, I think a tribute to the values, organizational skills and determination of Roman society.

    Might be a lesson there for us all.
    Last edited by Monash; 30 Oct 14, at 14:10.

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    Agree with your post. The reason I single out the plauges is the utter devastation seen in the west where for some reason it was particularly virulent. It seems the East was spared until Justinian. After the Antonine Plauges the West never really recovered to its former gloryand more and more of the Empires heart and soul shifted east. In short order the Western Emperors became the junior partners. It was only a matter of time till a less densely populated and less Roman Western Europe would fall to the barbarians. Other factors in play- Christianity, climate change (end of the Roman warm period), barbarian invasions and the eternal wars against Persia, Roman political infighting, concentration of huge amounts of wealth outside the reach of imperial taxes, allowing citizens to serve as auxilla....

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    ultimately the root cause is that the Empire was a defacto monarchy with the guise of a Republic.

    because there was no perceived legitimacy in handing down the Empire on a heriditary basis, ultimately what happened was that succession was determined largely by whom could control the most/best troops.

    this had immense follow-on effects on military effectiveness-- the military turning more and more mercenary- followed by bureaucratic/noble infighting, ruining what was left of the Empire's tax base.

    all of the rest-- the plagues, the barbarian invasions, etc-- were all completely survivable if it wasn't for that main issue. the ERE had much less of a problem on this issue, so it was no accident it survived. similarly it only went into terminal decline when legitimacy went down the tubes following the Komnenian restoration and political infighting started once more.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    There are plenty of theories.However,there was hardly a long decline into abyss.By mid 4th century,the economy was booming.Trade was as high as ever.Construction was changed in nature due to changes in society,but otherwise it was high.The army adapted to the Persian threat.The crisis of the empire started after the massive barbarian invasion of the West after 406 and it turned decisevely against Rome after Genseric took Carthage.
    What layed at the foundation of the failure was not any of the ''traditional'' causes suggested: economy,Christianity,bureaucracy etc... It was factionalism and that was caused by egalitarianism.Starting with 212,when Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to all free born inhabitants of the empire,you no longer have an empire and it ceases to be Roman.You might have a common civilization,but the empire is gone.The Empire had at best10% citizens and the elite running the show is even small in numbers.But these guys work for a common cause.
    If you aren't a citizen,you have 3 choices in life.You can mind your own bussiness,pay taxes and worship your gods.You can rebel and then you die.Or if you're ambitious,you can serve the Empire.There is no place,politically,for local patriotism.
    If some province is under threat,either by invasion or rebellion,the Empire mobilizes and brings it back under control.That effort results also in shattering blow to the enemy and a long period of peace afterwards.That peace allows the empire to deal with something else.

    All this changes when all are equals.Why should the Gallic soldiers fight on the Danube or in the East,if their homeland is under threat from raiders?Why should the East pay to defend Dacia&Pannonia?A or two generation after Caracalla,you get the breakup of the Empire along ethnic and cultural lines.You get the Gallic Empire,Palmyra and the Illyrian provinces.Gallienus and Aurelianus in essence are trying to recapture the bulk of the Empire using the army of the Danube.
    After Diocletianus,this separation becomes official.But nothing changes.You still have the same centers of power doing their power grabs.The only area of the empire that doesn't get the memo is Italy and city of Rome.
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    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    .Starting with 212,when Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to all free born inhabitants of the empire,you no longer have an empire and it ceases to be Roman.
    but it wasn't factional squabbling that broke the system, it was infighting at the top. Aurelian took less than 5 years to quash both the breakway Gallic and Palmyran Empires. the problems that led to the Empire getting overwhelmed were much deeper in nature.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    Infighting at the top doesn't happens if locals don't support secession or autonomy.Aurelian did his job swift and nice.But then comes the tetrarchy and after that another bout of civil wars.And the same forces fight again during Constantin's rise.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    mihais,

    Infighting at the top doesn't happens if locals don't support secession or autonomy
    sure it does-- plenty of power grabs prior to Caracalla. hell, that's how the Empire got established in the first place.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  12. #72
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    Yes, that was real infighting.But the nature of that changes.You don't get Vespasian declaring himself a de facto independent ruler.And you don't get the no.1 man in Rome allowing or even establishing an autonomous ruler in an area that hs the potential to be viable as an independent player.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  13. #73
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    Medieval army would take the win probably. It's all about the cavalry. A group of Norman mounted soldiers (with stirrups, which were non-existent to the Romans, by the way) would be able to push their way through the Legionaries. But that's only in a coordinated cav attack. Anything else and the Romans have got it. Also that's purely tactical. On the operational/strategic level I give it to the Legions.

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    well now we'll know how roman legions do against a chinese army or something, lol:

    'Dragon Blade' Trailer Featuring Jackie Chan And John Cusack Goes Viral

    this will probably be good for the world's shlockiest movie award.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  15. #75
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    well now we'll know how roman legions do against a chinese army or something, lol:

    this will probably be good for the world's shlockiest movie award.
    Ye're Jackie Chan will demonstrate how ancient Chinese armies conquered their opponents with Kung Fu while John Cusack will demonstrate how the Romans wise cracked their way to victory. Then both armies will join forces to save the Emperor's beautiful young daughter (doesn't matter which Empire) before swearing everlasting fraternity and riding of into the sunset together. I can't wait.
    Last edited by Monash; 09 Jan 15, at 11:47.

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