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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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  #16  
Old 18 Jun 06, 00:26
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fav moments

not in order:
Battle of Thermopolye (spelling) The Spartan stand against the Persians slowed them down, hurt their morale and helped stop the Persians from taking Greece.
Battle of Salamis, destroyed Persian navy ending thoughts of a conquest.
these two events if they had went differently would've changed the face of civilization as we know it today.
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  #17  
Old 02 Jul 06, 23:43
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I have nothing against ancient Geece or Rome i just think that ancient china has been under-represented in this forum so this reply is dedicated to battles from anicent china

Battle of Red Cliffs - When the combined armys of Wu and Shu (only 50,000 men) defeated the vastly superiour Wei Fleet (200,000) at Yangtze River thanks to plans laid out by the Wu General Zhou Yu and Shu General Zhuge Liang.

Firstly Wu General Huang Gai sent a false letter of defection to Wei While Shu Stratigist Pang Tong was sent to advise Cao Cao (Wei's Leader) to Chain his Ships together to "prevent sea sickness".

During the battle Huang Gai's sailed towards the Wei fleet in a fire ship Wei were unprepeared for a fire attack because the wind was blowing towards Wu/Shu's fleet but Zhuge Liang had been conducting a prayer to summon a north blowing wind (this was a ruse to impress Wu Zhuge knew their would be a northern wind because of the season) The fire spread qiuckly through the fleet thanks to the combination of the Wei's Ships being chained together and the winds and Cao Cao was forced to retreat back to his Capital

Their are many other amazing battles in ancient chinese history (especially during the Three Kingdoms Era) and i suggest you read up on them as well as greek and roman
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  #18  
Old 03 Jul 06, 10:41
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Gaizun, we always welcome new information about any part of military history. Since you feal that Ancient China is under represented, why don't you start a thread about the Ancient Chinese.
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  #19  
Old 03 Jul 06, 11:07
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Sun Tzu is well known by most here. You are correct in that Chinese history has yet to be discussed much in depth here abouts & anything you might add is always most welcome.

A hearty welcome to ACG, Gaiazun!

And most especially... welcome to WTTA!

Make yourself comfortable & jump right in.

A tip I find helpful to all newcomers:

User CP > Edit Options > Default Thread Age Cut Off > Show all threads > Save Changes

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  #20  
Old 04 Jul 06, 21:10
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Thanks for the warm welcome its always good to be appreciated . I can understand why ancient China hasn't been disscused though since its not really part of the ancient/medieval/Renaissance time scale these battles are before the fall of Rome though so i'll keep posting some of my favorites in this thread.

- Changed my mind since i've been describing battles in detail and the purpose of this thread is simply to say what your favorite military period/occurences sorry 'bout that, I'll start my own thread
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  #21  
Old 14 Aug 06, 06:53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admiral
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.

Alexander was certain good but almost no scholar accepts the figures for the Persian army at Gaugamela given by the ancient sources. Generally it's considered that the Persian infantry didn't exceed 90-100,000 men and the cavalry 35-40,000, against 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry for the Macedonians. That's still almost a 3 to 1 superiority, but since most of the Persian infantry was untrained rabble, the effective supriority was much less. Also, the Persian scythed chariots were an obsolete weapon, and the Persians repeated the same mistake as at Issus by placinge the untrained and unreliable tribal levies in the rear echelon, where they were useless. All in all, I think that Alexander generalship has been somewhat overestimated.
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  #22  
Old 23 Aug 06, 18:37
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Yes Alexander has been somewhat overestimated but he still was an ingenuous general and a leader He was great because of his troops devotion to him But even untrained rabble can be a force as represented when Varius lost (I believe) three legions in Germany to the Germanian army.

On a better note my favorite moments was when Julius Ceaser Beat off three hundred fifty thousand Gauls with two legions
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  #23  
Old 23 Aug 06, 21:08
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If it were about my favorite general I think I would agree. But there is something about the moment that Alexander ceased his pursuit of Darius to instead save some of his forces that were on the verge of being overwhelmed that endeared him ever greatly to his men. Many more would surely have walked through fire for him after that.

A genuine welcome to the forums, gents!

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  #24  
Old 24 Aug 06, 12:36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knight's_Cross
Yes Alexander has been somewhat overestimated but he still was an ingenuous general and a leader He was great because of his troops devotion to him But even untrained rabble can be a force as represented when Varius lost (I believe) three legions in Germany to the Germanian army.

On a better note my favorite moments was when Julius Ceaser Beat off three hundred fifty thousand Gauls with two legions
Well, yes but I think one can't compare the tribal levies of the Achemenid empire, which were little more than slaves fighting for a distant overlord, and the German warriors at the Teutoburg Wald, who fighted for their land and freedom, and moreover knew the terrain very well. Varus was drawn into a very clever trap.

Caesar is one of my favorite generals but I'm always a little skeptic about such figures
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  #25  
Old 24 Aug 06, 12:51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admiral
If it were about my favorite general I think I would agree. But there is something about the moment that Alexander ceased his pursuit of Darius to instead save some of his forces that were on the verge of being overwhelmed that endeared him ever greatly to his men. Many more would surely have walked through fire for him after that.

[CENTER]A genuine welcome to the forums, gents!
Thank you!
I agree that Alexander, even if he tended to act like a regimental cavalry commander and expose itself, at Gaugamela proved that he could even think to the large picture. Several ancient battles were lost because a victorious wing kept pursuing their defeated adversaries instead of supporting the rest of the army.

About the untrained Persian levies, they could have been useful as skirmishers, or to absorb and weaken the first enemy onslaught. But since most of them were placed in the rear echelon, when Alexander broke the main Persian line and Darius fled, they simply broke and fled, adding only to the casualties. A reliable force left in reserve maybe could have counterattacked, but the levies had neither the training nor the willingness to fight after seeing the king fleeing with his elite troops.
Interesting to compare it with Hannibal at Zama, who placed the least reliable and trained elements in the first two lines, and keep his veterans well behind in the third line.
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Old 24 Aug 06, 13:21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Proconsul
Thank you!
I agree that Alexander, even if he tended to act like a regimental cavalry commander and expose itself, at Gaugamela proved that he could even think to the large picture. Several ancient battles were lost because a victorious wing kept pursuing their defeated adversaries instead of supporting the rest of the army.

About the untrained Persian levies, they could have been useful as skirmishers, or to absorb and weaken the first enemy onslaught. But since most of them were placed in the rear echelon, when Alexander broke the main Persian line and Darius fled, they simply broke and fled, adding only to the casualties. A reliable force left in reserve maybe could have counterattacked, but the levies had neither the training nor the willingness to fight after seeing the king fleeing with his elite troops.
Interesting to compare it with Hannibal at Zama, who placed the least reliable and trained elements in the first two lines, and keep his veterans well behind in the third line.
As you mention the one thing that Alexander used at Gaugamela that many generals lacked was restraint. As much as he wanted to catch Darius he knew that if he killed Darius, but lost the battle, not only would he and his army be destroyed it would leave his homeland open for Persian invasion. This was a true mark of his greatness.............
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  #27  
Old 24 Aug 06, 16:33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Proconsul
Well, yes but I think one can't compare the tribal levies of the Achemenid empire, which were little more than slaves fighting for a distant overlord, and the German warriors at the Teutoburg Wald, who fighted for their land and freedom, and moreover knew the terrain very well. Varus was drawn into a very clever trap.

Caesar is one of my favorite generals but I'm always a little skeptic about such figures
Let us not forget also that Arminius had served in the Roman army and used the knowledge of Roman tactics, strengths, and weaknesses thereby gained to fashion his attack.

With respect to the Achemenid empire, I'd also argue that Darius's army consisted of more than tribal levies, although I don't have an Order of Battle handy. Weren't Greek mercenaries fighting for him? The Persian Immortals were worthy opponents as well.
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Old 24 Aug 06, 18:19
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Originally Posted by guthrieba
Let us not forget also that Arminius had served in the Roman army and used the knowledge of Roman tactics, strengths, and weaknesses thereby gained to fashion his attack.

With respect to the Achemenid empire, I'd also argue that Darius's army consisted of more than tribal levies, although I don't have an Order of Battle handy. Weren't Greek mercenaries fighting for him? The Persian Immortals were worthy opponents as well.
Yes, you are right, the Achemenid cavalry infact was very good. As for the infantry, I think ethnic Persians and Medes were rather good, even if less armored than the enemy heavy infantry. The best infantry were the Greek mercenaries, but at Gaugamela there were only a few thousands of them, since most had been destroyed at the Granicus and Issus. The 10 000 Immortals probably didn't longer exist at the time of Darius III. The king's foot guard at Gaugamela consisted only of 1000 'Apple Bearers'. Most of the infantry was bad trained and moreover lacked protective armor. The Achemenids used a lot of bows, but even if the composite bow was powerful Persian arrows were light and didn't make much impression on Greek/Macedonian cuirasses and shields.

A quite exhaustive order of battle for Gaugamela is given by Arrianus.

Last edited by Proconsul; 24 Aug 06 at 18:22..
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  #29  
Old 27 Aug 06, 02:11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Proconsul
Well, yes but I think one can't compare the tribal levies of the Achemenid empire, which were little more than slaves fighting for a distant overlord, and the German warriors at the Teutoburg Wald, who fighted for their land and freedom, and moreover knew the terrain very well. Varus was drawn into a very clever trap.

Caesar is one of my favorite generals but I'm always a little skeptic about such figures
Sorry been busy but about Ceaser I was a little skeptic at first but a couple books and the History Channel all said approximately the same numbers

And sorry if i badly compared all I knew about the Germans and Varius was that the Romans were slaughtered by an untrained German army

Thank you Admiral for the welcome
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  #30  
Old 13 Sep 06, 10:04
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Great stuff!

Call me a sucker for the romanticism, but I love reading about Alexander and Hannibal. They are only overrated if one claims they are without question the 2 greatest ever. There's no such thing, and being a great general doesn't have to require being a wizard. Look at Bertrand de Guesclin and Albrecht von Wallenstein.

With all things considered, such as the innovations of Epaminondas, the maker of a 'New Model Army' from the likes of Philip II of Macedon and Gustavus Adolphus, the tactical brilliance of Hannibal and Narses, the scope of the conquests of Chinggis Khan and Timur, the overral greatness in every facet of war on the part of Marlborough and Napoleon, the adeptness in guerilla-style warfare of Paul von-Lettow Vorbek and Mao Tse Tung, it is a good argument, in my opinion, that Alexander the Great was the towering figure of military history, from a specific view;his ability to successfully adapt strategy and tactics to virtually every branch of warfare possibly sets him apart from every other great commander. He took his army some 20,000 miles in 13 years, not once suffering a major setback, let alone a defeat. His opponent always chose the battlefield and ususally heavily outnumbered him. For what it merits, no other has successfully 'linked' the East and West, thus he was an immense cultural reformer, which is what he wanted to do. He indeed commanded an army much superior than what he faced, but he was outnumbered considerably and his battle dispositions at Gaugamela were perfectly planned to accord with what Napoleon described as 'a well reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive followed by rapid and audacious attack'. In this regard, Alexander shined as well as any other in military history (IMHO of course).

The military machine left to Alexander from Philip II was the world's first standing army and raised by the world's first universal military service. But Philip II's son took his machine and succeeded, perhaps, beyond the Macedonina king's wildest dreams. A brilliantly, scientifically-balanced constructed army is just potential; it is the commander that must lead it to victory, and advantages in troop quality and technology only produce advantages if used effectively. Alexander innovated the efficacy of combined arms to a much further degree than his great father. He also introduced the use of reserves on the battlefield that could take advantage of any unforeseen opportunities or reverses against the front lines. He also was the first great commander to use catapults tactically on the battlefield. In the Balkans, he lined the machines hub-to-hub along the bank of the Apsus River to cover the crossing of his withdrawing troops against the attacks upon him by the Illyrian tribes under Cleitus and Glaucius. Contrarily, 6 years on the other side of the 'world', he effectively used catapults to drive the Scythians from the riverbank of the Jaxartes as he conducted an amphibious assault against them. Alexander's defeat of the Scythians on the banks of the Jaxartes River was possibly, from a tactical standpoint, his greatest battle, even though the clash didn't involve huge numbers of troops. He defeated the best nomadic horse-archers of the steppes of the times, supposedly unbeatable due to their swarming tactics of encirclement and speed. I'll spare the details, or we can discuss them later, but he basically restricted their mobility and created a situation that forced them to engage.There has perhaps been no greater practitioner of a great system.

It is incredible what Hannibal achieved at Cannae in 216 B.C. The amazing 'reverse-refusal' he administered with his infantry maneuver constituted a giant trap. His center was deployed in a convex manner, so as to entice the advancing Romans (aggressive by nature) to attack them, and the placing of 2 strong blocks of African infantry on either wing and further back meant not only would the enemy tend to suck into the center, but if things went amiss fugitives from his Celtic and Iberian units would also be funnelled into the center where they could bunch and slow the Roman advance - even if they didn't want to. Hannibal personally commanded the center, as he intended his troops at this point to stage one of the most difficult maneuvers a unit could be asked of by their commander to pull off in battle - they were to fall back under the pressure of the Romans' advance, but not break. In these battles of antiquity, most of the casualties were suffered as the defeated fled in rout. Of course, those who fled first had the best chance of getting away. For an army to fight effectively, particularly under these circumstances, each soldier had to trust that his comrades would not leave him in the lurch. This paramount level of trust was tested to its fullest when thier battle line started to bend backwards. Amazing leadership of polyglot contingents. His unusual placing of the more numerous shock cavalry on the confined flank near the Aufidus River, with the Numidians on the other side, actually slightly outnumbered by the Roman allied cavalry, meant that the Roman contingent would most likely be checkmated by the maneuverable Numidians, while the heavy cavalry would dispose of the Romans easily on their side, and be available for other tasks. Varro, the Roman consul, should be at least credited for realizing the right bank of the river was less suitable for cavalry, but Hannibal came up with an answer. The only way to significantly seduce Rome's allies was to destroy Roman armies, not just best them. No victory could have been greater for this purpose. But in the long run, Cannae simply cemented the loyalty of Rome's core allies - something nobody could predict without applying such a test. Part of Hannibal's genius lay in his ability to transcend the traditional ability of many soldiers of Iberian and Gallic heritage etc.

In final defeat at Zama, Hannibal showed he had lost none of his touch. He knew he was finally outclassed in cavalry, and up against a great general in Scipio. Though our sources don't imply this, he probably deliberately sacrificed his horsemen to lure the Romans and Massinissa off the battlefield, where he had greater chance with his infantry. By using his cavalry units as decoys, however, he was taking a risk by doing so, because it still involved their defeat, exposed his flanks, and the Roman/Numidian cavalry could return before he had finished off Scipio's smaller but better body of infantry. But he had to do something, and I don't think if they had held their ground they would have lasted long. The fact it was pretty close later shows Hannibal made a viable decision. Furthermore, Scipio had superior cavalry and proved his adeptness with 'boomerang' style tactics before. Hannibal was a student of war, and a master of simple and even 'double' bluff. He also knew his history, particularly that of the Hellenistic kingdoms (he had Greek tutors). He knew what happened to Antigonus when his son, Demetrius Poliorcetes, went off in pursuit of Seleucus' cavalry at the great battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C. It has been suggested that Seleucus did indeed have his horses feign retreat. But, unlike Hannibal, he had 400 elephants that day, so he could deploy some in reserve in case Demetrius returned. He never did. Did Scipio order his cavalry to merely ride out and ride back in the manner they did? Why didn't Scipio try a flank maneuver with his cavalry, as Hannibal had done at Cannae? He was certainly capable, and with superior material at his disposal. Scipio doubtless did not wish for the complete departure of his own cavalry. Having driven the enemy away, he no doubt counted on them to attack the flanks of the main Carthaginian body, instead of pursuing a fleeing foe. He has been justly praised how well he handled the elephants at Zama, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Hannibal certainly knew all about the tendencies and contingencies of elephants in battle. He surely hoped they would do their stuff, but he easily could have known they would do exactly what they did do - swerve out to the flanks and disrupt things, which would aid his cavalry deception. It is impossible that Hannibal thought things would go smoothly with recently levied war elephants, and it is possible they didn't do as much harm to his cavalry squadrons as the ancients imply (I stress 'possible', OK?) We have a scholarly point of view from H.H. Scullard, from his terrific Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician pg. 150,

"...Since it would take longer to convert a nominal into an actual flight than to drive a defeated enemy off the field, and since in fact the Roman cavalry only returned in the nick of time, it seems more probable that the Carthaginians deliberatley drew them away. After getting rid of the Roman cavalry, though with little hope that his own could rally against them, Hannibal would throw all his weight against Scipio's numerically inferior infantry. The elephant charge, with which he had hoped to confuse his foe, miscarried somewhat, partly through Scipio's foresight in leaving gaps in his line for the animals to run through, partly because they were always of rather doubtful quality, and here fell afoul of the Carthaginian cavalry. However, they cannot have done great harm to their own side, since their drivers had the means of killing them if they got out of hand...".

Scullard, more than any scholar of this period we're discussing, wrote a book about elephants in ancient warfare. I would like to believe he wasn't far-fetched with his research.

Moreover, Polybius only mentions it was Hannibal's left flank that was disrupted by elephants sent out of control. On the right flank he tells us that the scattered elephants that didn't charge down the lanes created by Scipio's dispositions, "...fled towards the right and, received by the cavalry with showers of javelins, at length escaped out of the field. It was at this moment that Laelius, availing himself of the disturbance created by the elephants, charged the Carthaginian cavalry and forced them to headlong flight...". What confusion, Polybius, if the elephants escaped out of the field? How did Gaius Laelius so easily send the Carthaginian cavalry, though green but not outnumbered (assuming Masinissa's 4,000-strong was not interdispersed with the Romans), into flight? The flight seemed immediate. The answer is they quite possibly were ordered to give ground.

His infantry dispositions at Zama were also unusual, probably becuase he knew he was at a disadvantage here too. He surely wasn't going to try to repeat his tactics at Cannae against a brillaint general who had been there as a 17 or 18 year old, thus wouldn't be taken in. Moreover, Scipio favored flank attacks with his best troops. Hannibal adopted a Roman triple-line, but with his best unit, his veterans, the one unit who could match Scipio's troops, at a further distance than the one between the 1st and 2nd line - a 'true reserve'. Scipio could not do to him what he had so easily done to the other Carthaginian generals the past 7 years. Hannibal absorbed Scipio's legions, tiring them in the process, hoping to beat him head-on. It wasn't to be, as Scipio was too good not to lose his advantage, as Polybius said, and his army was too well-organized and well-drilled. But who knows what might have been if the 1st 2 lines hadn't turned on each other and Massinissa and Gaius Laelius hadn't returned 'providentially', as Polybius also said.

Judging by his actions from when he first arrived in 218 B.C., a march on Rome itself never formed part of his plans. Assaulting Rome could only be practical with the total dissolution of the confederacy. For Hannibal, the swiftest and most economical method of taking a city was by treachery, something inconceivable in the case of Rome, as the Senatorial class was far too patriotic. Despite Roman scaremongering, there were plenty of troops for the immediate defence of the Capitol. 2 city legions had been raised at the beginning of the year, and Marcellus had a legion of marines at Teanum, as well as 1,500 men at Ostia, who would be sent to Rome. A considerable force was raised from the slave and criminal population (14,000 men), and 2 legions were to the north under one Postumius, whose army would be ambushed and destroyed the following late winter/early spring by the Boii in Cisalpine Gaul. The Romans were still dominant at sea, and the Tiber provided a source of supply, thus they would easily have returned many, many troops from Sardinia and Sicily to hemm in a besieging army - one which had no immediate siege machinery.

The Second Punic War was a fascinating crossroad of history - a great general coming up short against a great republic, who changed the rules by never acquiescing when many others would have (probably).

But let's keep in mind no man is infallible, and every military action will, or should, be corresponded by a military re-action of adaptation etc.

Thanks Spartan JKM

Last edited by Spartan JKM; 13 Sep 06 at 14:00..
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