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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Warfare Through the Ages > The Ancient Era

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The Ancient Era Discuss Ancient Warfare! Romans, Carthaginians, Greeks, etc.

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  #1  
Old 28 Jan 06, 18:25
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Question What are you favorite moments in the Ancient Era



Within the Ancient Era - from the beginning of human history through 450ad - what is/was your favorite period, or military occurrence???

And more interestingly... Why???

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  #2  
Old 07 Feb 06, 15:57
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The Roman Soldier

Rome! A remarkable feat! A thousand years of empire on which are laid the foundation stones of our current experience. The Roman Army is without parallel. In the course of its long existance it displayed remarkable flexibility and adaptabily. Like all human machines it was not without fault...but came the closest to giving the term "universal" legitimate meaning. It was to a very great extent one of the first examples of leadership by merit in our world.

A "miles gregarius", a simple foot soldier, could through luck and perseverance, advance as far as his skills and intellect would allow. Nobility came not from the seed in his loins but the steel in his hands. These were truely remarkble men. They faced death in such proximity that few modern warriors ever experience. They made a game out of war...and war into a game. There are few today amid the ranks of so-called soldiers who could carry their loads or capture their discipline and sang foid.
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Old 23 Feb 06, 14:21
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The Romans were great but varius Roman armies fro diffrent regimes and time periods are so different that I propose The Macedonian Army as an example of thirst delibretly planned and used Conbine Arms Tactic:

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The army was both created and led by legendary commander-in-chiefs who merged the relative strengths of the ancient militaries of the time and adapted them to work together in one, efficiently deadly war machine. The military became more than just a patch*work of its separate parts. As Iphicrates noted, it became a unified body of military might, ready to react to any situation as quickly and cooperatively as was possible. Philip, and Alexander after him, astutely studied the tactics of the age, analyzing the titanic clashes of the Greek heavy phalanxes and the finessed attacks of the Per*sian cavalry. From these age-old military institutions they con*structed their revolutionary military, constantly disregarding the contemporary thinking. Through continued evolution, and the usage of an aggressive style of battle that deftly took advantage of the newfound force, the Macedonian military proved for all history the necessity of combined-arms tactics.

In order to better understand the way that the combination and deployment of the different forces, it is first necessary to examine each part independently. Only by looking at the origin of each part can one truly appreciate the genius it took to invent a method of combining them. First and foremost in the Macedonian Army was the infantry. This was nothing new, as foot soldiers had formed the backbone of virtually every major army previously. “Taking and holding land. It’s been the job of infantry ever since one caveman took a dislike (and a leg bone) to another; and will remain so. Infan*try alone can’t do it; but no force without infantry can either” (Clonfero 2002: online). This maxim has remained true throughout the centuries. Recognizing the crucial importance of the man-at-arms, Macedon’s novel infantry was constructed as a synthesis of the best contemporary forces. Forming the core were the rock-steady heavy infantry. Taking cues from the Greek massed hoplite warfare, and especially the deep formations employed by Thebes, the heavy infantry was formed into phalanxes. These were manned by the peasantry of Macedon. Philip imposed iron discipline upon them, training them to think and act as one unit—making them a block of men that could stand firm against anything thrown at them, but flexible enough to adapt to the changing situations on the battlefield (Connolly 1981: 68).

Beyond the discipline, the phalanxes of Philip were revolu*tionized by the use of the sarissa, a long, two-handed pike. The length of the spears varied relative to the position of the man within the phalanx; the front rank held the shortest lance, while the men six ranks back held the longest, so that “five of the pikes of the men behind the first rank appeared in front of the first man” (Wintringham 1943: 35). Up to ten ranks of men were pressing behind the first six, meaning that whenever gaps in the line formed, they were instantly closed, keeping the even frontage of six pikes per opposing shield. This system allowed much more power to be projected across the front of the phalanx than ever before, and the length of the spears was such that their range was greater than other, one-handed thrusting javelins of the time.

The organization of these Pezhetairoi (foot companions, a name meant to stress their crucial relationship to the elite heavy cavalry) was just as revolutionary as the weaponry. In total, seven phalanxes of around 2,000 men were fielded at the same time, while another slightly lighter phalanx, the Hypaspists, consisted of 3,000 crack troops. These hand-picked troops arranged into three more mobile phalanxes of 1,000 men occupied the dual role of protecting the phalanx’s vulnerable flanks as well as staying flexible enough to attack the enemy where they seemed weak (Devine 1989: 108). The seemingly insurmountable odds against which these phalanxes triumphed are a little more easy to understand once one thinks of what it must have been like to face a unified front of 15,000 crack Macedonian troops, arranged 16 ranks deep, with a wall of long lances preceding them.

The infantry forces were supplemented by lighter, ranged mis*sile units. These ranged from both archers and slingers, who would frequently deploy in a skirmish cloud before the pezhetairoi, to light javeliners, who ran alongside the cavalry in order to mop up dismounted riders (Devine 1989: 110). These troops too were vital to the army plan, harassing and confusing enemy troops as they advanced, and then shielding the flanks of the battle line from light cavalry and other skirmishing units. They were frequently recruited from the empire. Indeed, as Alexander’s conquests continued, more and more troops were incorporated into the machine; from Cretan archers to Persian horse-archers these units continually evolved the shape of the modern army.

Forming the essential counterpoise to the phalanx was the famous Macedonian heavy cavalry. These companion cavalry were truly revolutionary, and constituted the first true regular cavalry force. The companions were the nobility of the Macedonian mili*tary, bound together by blood and honor. This unit was suffi*ciently well trained and armed so as to be able to decimate any opposing cavalry force opposing it, and then quickly wheel so as to strike the enemy battle line where it was most vulnerable. They were at the time the penultimate shock unit; armed with a 4 meter sarissa of their own they would charge in and deploy the lance (with great skill, seeing as stirrups would not be invented for another 600 years) and then follow with the slashing saber if neces*sary (Delbruck 1975: 177). Their discipline and mounted skill was unparalleled. Arranged into as many as 15 squadrons of 300 horses they were the armie’s scalpel, charging into battle in wedge forma*tion, slicing through enemy cavalry and auxiliaries with the skill of a surgeon. Alexander, or the squadron commander, would typically ride into battle at the head of the wedge, with the well-trained cav*alry mimicking the leaders moves (Connolly 1981: 72). Much as Rommel famously rode into battle in the first tank of the line dur*ing the novel blitzkrieg, Alexander too led his companions by exam*ple, bringing his shock troops out on to the field to create havoc and isolate the enemy infantry.

Accompanying the heavy horse into battle were assorted light cavalry. These were typical of the cavalry forces that had been fielded in Asia Minor for years. First and foremost among these more conventional mounted soldiers were the Thessalian Cavalry. Long considered the finest horses in Greece, they were molded and perfected by Jason of Pherae, who armed them with javelins and trained them in diamond formation (Devine 1989: 107). In this way they retained the mobility needed of light cavalry, but could also be used as shock troops if necessary. The more historical job of light cavalry skirmishing fell to the Prodromoi, and Paeonian and Thra*cian horse. The Prodromoi (scouts) were armed with sarissa and were frequently employed as army advance guards, scouting ahead and then harassing the enemy. The Paeonian and Thracian cavalry were also armed with javelin or short lance, and frequently served the role of protecting the Companion or Thessalian cavalry’s flank (Connolly 1981: 72). The flexible nature of the light cavalry made them very well suited to the fluid, aggressive style of the Macedon*ian tactics. Indeed, as the campaigns of Alexander moved farther east the army gained from the addition of more and more Asiatic light cavalry.

Also of important note in the Macedonian arsenal were mobile artillery units. Light tension-catapults were used for more than just sieges. This artillery could either fire large bolts or bags filled with stones meant to burst apart upon impact, serving as shrapnel (Ger*ald 2002: online). While the technology behind the catapults was very old, the armies of Macedon were the first to employ them in this tactical way across the battlefield. The manner in which they were deployed and used is reminiscent of the use of “shock” or assault artillery throughout the twentieth century, the aim being the suppression and disruption of the enemy formation.

Each of these branches served a vital part in the Macedonian military process. While each was superior and effective in their own right, the genius of the combined arms tactical system employed them in such a manner that each would support the oth*er’s weaknesses while capitalizing upon the rapid, shock tactics of the cavalry and the superiority of the Macedonian phalanx against all other heavy infantry. The tactics were an evolution of those used by both Greece and Persia. The Persian military had histori*cally been superior to the Greek in horse. However, they did not have the ability or discipline necessary to fashion powerful heavy infantry, and instead relied on extremely effective bowmen and light infantry. A typical Persian set-piece battle consisted of the light cavalry driving off the lighter infantry of the enemy with mis*sile fire, and then engaging the enemy’s infantry in the flanks with missile fire and harassment techniques. This was intended to slow or halt the advance of the slow line while massive amounts of ranged infantry in the center of the Persian line could pour volley after volley into the enemy infantry.(Jones 1987: 21).
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Old 25 Feb 06, 05:08
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Caesar's battle at Alesia with the Gauls.

He built fortifications that surrounded and besieged the town of Alesia and then built fortifications facing the opposite way to defend against a force of 250,000 men coming to relieve the siege.

I own both the Avalon Hill and GMT versions of the boardgame of this battle. Awesome games!
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Old 26 Feb 06, 01:48
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I've considered the question since I posted it and I have concluded that Alexanders defeat of Darius at Gaugamela. His use of manuever to cause Darius to react moreso than initiate an original act not considered by Alexanders forces.

Consider...200,000+ defeated by 35,000+/-...

It must have been an awsome sight to behold.

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Old 27 Feb 06, 09:11
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One of my favorites is the Spartan response to a Corinthian message that said, "If we come to your country we will leave no stone unturned."

The Spartans replied, "If".
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Old 01 Mar 06, 14:18
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In no particular order:

Battle of Teutoburger Wald
Battle of Chalons
Battle of Thermopolae (I'm a sucker for last stands)
Marcus Aurelius's campaign against the Marcomanni
Last years of The Savior's life
Sacking of Roman by the Goths
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.N. Armstrong
One of my favorites is the Spartan response to a Corinthian message that said, "If we come to your country we will leave no stone unturned."

The Spartans replied, "If".
Spartans are also involved in my 'favourite moment': which are the events leading up to the defence and last stand of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae. It alternately made my blood boil and gave me goose flesh every time since I read it at age 15. Then and now I thought it the most beautiful story in Antiquity: the hoplites of King Leonidas were so brave in such an epic event, holding out against the army of the Great King, even defeating the 10.000 'Immortals' , but in the end were betrayed by a fellow Greek who showed the Persians a goat path around them.
Allthough the 300 heroes were offered generous terms and could have withdrawn, as many of their allies did, who were initially with them in the pass, they stood firm and died where they were ordered to hold, which resulted in the most moving epitaph I know of.

A couple of years ago Stephen Pressfield managed to capture the atmosphere of Termopylae beautifully in his 'Gates of Fire'
and again I was deeply touched by what happened 2500 years ago.
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Old 03 Apr 06, 06:20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captainsennef
A couple of years ago Stephen Pressfield managed to capture the atmosphere of Termopylae beautifully in his 'Gates of Fire'
and again I was deeply touched by what happened 2500 years ago.
It's a great telling of the Spartan's tale of sacrifice. I just read a line in a book I'm reading words to the effect of "they who had the least freedom died so that others could enjoy it", since democracy, still new in Greece then, was unheard of in heavily regimented Sparta.

The movie should be out soon -- I look forward to seeing it.
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Old 14 Apr 06, 14:11
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reading the topic, at first i thought 'heh, that's an easy one...' yet, as i went through reading the other posts on my way down to get to post my reply i found myself at a loss...

which one to pick? and why (there's the rub...)? i needed to make a decision that trully defined me (in a way).so, here it is...

the battle at Thermopylae

why?
first the obvious reason...it is part of my heritage

secondly, almost every aspect of the savagery and grace of the warrior soul is represented in its duration, but, what trully fascinates me is their devotion to their laws and customs. also, their love and utter loyalty for their king.

this battle was faught by men not simply following orders...they needed to be there and stand firm for themselves, for their loved ones and most importantly for the one standing next to their hoplon/shield...

and by far the most dramatic moment is their fight to regain the body of their fallen warriorKing Leonidas...

[sidenote: appart from its obvious heroic aspect, this battle greatly tilted the balance in favour of the greeks by forcing them to unite, for quite a few city-states (if not all) and especially Sparta herself were ashamed/inspired by the last stand of Leonidas and his thousand hoplites (3oo spartans + 7oo thespians). not to mention the lingering effect it had in later encounters with the persian infantry - notably at Platea - where the invading army was confronted by the full might of sparta (5ooo approx) had lost heart when they remembered how costly it was to them to defeat just 3oo...]

hm..seems i could go on and on, so it's best to stop here!
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Old 14 Apr 06, 15:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janos
In no particular order:

Battle of Teutoburger Wald
Battle of Chalons
Battle of Thermopolae (I'm a sucker for last stands)
Marcus Aurelius's campaign against the Marcomanni
Last years of The Savior's life
Sacking of Roman by the Goths
I completely agree with these listed above, with the possible addition of the battles of Salamis and Zama.

And good response Rixanos, and a hearty welcome to the forums

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The Punic Wars, at its end it made Rome the only superpower in the ancient world.
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Old 28 May 06, 13:44
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The migrations- for whatever reasons. Allows the imagination great room for manoeuvre.

World turning events not to mention eventually producing my favourite language...
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Old 29 May 06, 19:03
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My favourite period is the Roman civil wars from about 65 to 30 BC. The history is filled with interesting and dominant characters who made alliances with each other as appropriate. All of them (except the winner, Augustus) died violently. The chaos unfolding in the streets and how each person appealed to different elements of society makes you wonder what would happen if that took place now.
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Old 05 Jun 06, 23:48
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Gaius Popillius Laenas vs Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Antiochus IV of the Selucids invaded Ptolemaic Egypt in 170 BC and again in 168 BC, conquering all but Alexandria. In response, Rome sent a single official, Gaius Popillius Laenas, who confronted Antiochus and told him to quit Egypt. Antiochus wanted to consult with his council, but Laenas drew a circle in the sand around him and told him to decide prior to leaving the circle. Antiochus decided to quit Egypt.

That is power - a single patrician, representative of the Roman Senate, confronts a powerful king and gives him a ultimatum. The king backs down.
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