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Roman General vs. Medieval General

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  • Roman General vs. Medieval General

    I've had this question bugging me for a while and I was wondering whether on average who had the better Generals, the rome era or the medieval era?
    I'm not reffering to any specific general (I don't know that many famous generals from the medieval times) but in an all out battle who would come out on top?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Knight's_Cross View Post
    I've had this question bugging me for a while and I was wondering whether on average who had the better Generals, the rome era or the medieval era?
    I'm not reffering to any specific general (I don't know that many famous generals from the medieval times) but in an all out battle who would come out on top?
    Good questions. I think on average the Roman generals were probably better than most medieval generals. But having said that, I think it's more like because Romans had military institutations that trained such generals, while kings depended on vassals, lords, and barons to provide troops, of dubious quality.

    Nevertheless, if a Roman army had met a medieval army, medievals still had a good chance of slaughtering Romans if only because they were in fact more technologically advanced than Romans! One thing still worth remembering is that far too many people have pictured medieval armies as wild animals yelling and crashing into each other just for the sake of fun. This isn't true, medievals, if they had money and means, could take time to study strategies and taking care of understanding the battle terrain and how to use it properly to their advantage.

    Yes, medieval era was still a sort of Dark Age in terms of lost information and history preserved during the Roman era, however, in its own way, it still flourished and prospered. Therefore, in some ways, medieval generals were better than some Roman generals, however, in other ways, medieval generals never managed to equal some legendary Roman generals like Pompey, Caesar, Constantine, Arelius, Fabian, Scripo Africanus, and others. But it's not fair to some good medieval generals due to different political and social climates taking place in their era.

    In all, it depends on who you're asking of, because really, it's more of a viewpoint and based on nothing, but strong opinions.

    Dan
    Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

    "Aim small, miss small."

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    • #3
      agree with Cheetah.

      Rome from Marius onwards (say, until the Hunnic invasions) had a professional army and officers, trained in warfare and strategy, well versed in the arts of manoeuvre, siege, naval warfare, etc. very efficient and also commanded armies of vast sophistication (you probably have to go to the napoleonic are to find again such scale of armies and degree of complexity).

      plus Roman troops were also of higher standards of training.


      but of course one could argue that "Romans" were still going strong in the Dark Ages, as Constantinople's army still had some legacy from there... and some great generals of the Muslim conquests were in the Dark Ages too...

      and as for Asia, the Mongols were not too bad either!
      "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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      • #4
        Originally posted by piero1971 View Post
        agree with Cheetah.

        Rome from Marius onwards (say, until the Hunnic invasions) had a professional army and officers, trained in warfare and strategy, well versed in the arts of manoeuvre, siege, naval warfare, etc. very efficient and also commanded armies of vast sophistication (you probably have to go to the napoleonic are to find again such scale of armies and degree of complexity).

        plus Roman troops were also of higher standards of training.
        On the issue of standards of training, you'll get no argument from me, however, I disagree with your notion that the complexity of warfare wasn't seen until Napoleonic wars. I think if medieval empires choose to not depend on lords and barons to provide troops, and tried to keep their professional armies small and reasonable, as long they didn't get into one too many wars, the complexity of warfare would have grown incrementally. I think that is what England tried to do in the medieval era, but after Magna Charter (1215, I think), the situation changed and delayed England's opportunity to field a truly professional army with higher standing than most continential European armies. Although one might argue the battles of Agricourt and Hastings proved England right in building a professional army of longbow men.

        I think back then, a lot of medieval kings would have liked the idea, but because of political and social climates, the opportunities never appeared. It took them the Age of Exploration to force themselves to start think in terms of fielding professional armies to manage their extended empires more efficiently. And the receding of Muslim power did help to move the issue a little quicker as the Europeans saw a need to fill in technogical gaps and military logistics as their commerce improved a lot.

        but of course one could argue that "Romans" were still going strong in the Dark Ages, as Constantinople's army still had some legacy from there... and some great generals of the Muslim conquests were in the Dark Ages too...

        and as for Asia, the Mongols were not too bad either!
        That is correct, I too have often wondered what if Mongols could get into North Africa had not a Muslim army stopped them cold in a truly epic battle in Egypt? This is one of the forgotten battles not often commented upon in the Western civilization history.

        As for Byzantium, how could I forget that? I like to think it was the empire that never developed along the concept of feudalism, probably due to long warfare with Muslim Turks, thus retaining professional armies to fight them. Unfortunately, by that time, Byzantium had no longer resources of competent generals, as this is strange to me, I've always thought that constant warfare would mean a country or empire would have found plenty of competent generals to lead and fight. Moreover, Byzantium was forced to hire mercenaries to supplement the dwindling numbers of its standing professional army. That was how the first Crusade started, when the Pope turned it into the battle to save Western civilization, which was actually true, but not in the way Byzantium intended it to be.

        But I'm getting ahead of myself...

        Dan
        Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

        "Aim small, miss small."

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        • #5
          Byzantium had some very good generals, but was plagued by... byzantine politics! and that weakened their empire so much until western christiendom finally destroyed it as surely as the later Turks.

          what I meant by logistics, is that medieval armies, except for the crusades, were really very small. very rarely above 10'000 men.

          Roman generals had to rely on a logistical system (roads, baggage train, etc.) to supply armies of 50'000 and up to 100'000 troops (again from Marius reforms to the 3rd century) or even more, with full siege weapons, cavalry, encampments, etc. that we did not see in Europe until Napoleon.
          think Caesar's gallic wars, for a classic on how he managed different armies, each of many legions and auxilliaries and reinforcements across enemy land for 4 years.
          "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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          • #6
            I'd guess the Roman generals would be superior to most Medival commanders. Theres always exceptions, but on the average better schooling.

            The Imperial Roman leagion had its extremly flexible orgaiization into maniples, cohorts, & centurys. Its weapons mix was also flexible & able to deal with a wide variety of tactical situations. Finally the Roman legion had a broader tactical repitoire and was always well drilled. Medival combat units tended to be fairly good at a couple of tactics needed for the campaign at hand, but were often lost when faced with something unexpected.

            Medivial commanders frequently attempted to reproduce Roman methods. These were often sucessfull in a very narrow sense, but gailed in general. Usually they would only train & equip for one part of the Romans tactical kit.

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            • #7
              actually it is interesting to see games like Rome:Total War as while ahistorical (in numbers and units), it show the wide type of units available int he roman army

              balearic fronders (sp?)
              spanish archers
              gallic cavalry
              light infantry
              heavy infantry (infantry)
              ballistas
              catapults
              etc. etc.

              managing all these units carefully, with the communication means of the times, must have been a tough exercise.

              that said, the coordination of some medieval armies in large scale must have been tough, although once the battle started, as Medieval leaders were still fond - contrary to Roman ones, hence showing their professionalism - of leading charges and going into combat.

              you wouldn't want a brigade general going with a sqad on patrol... last to do that was Rommel..
              "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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              • #8
                I think it actually depends on the scale and location of the conflict. Famous medieval commanders were good at guerilla warfare and chevauchée, while the Romans sought a decisive battle to destroy an enemy's army. Tacitus wasn't foreign to Medieval commanders, as it was read throughout France by the chevalry. Unfortunately, some of the tactics that suited Roman commanders weren't what was needed when fighting an enemy with prepared field defenses. The decisive field battles -- that we know of -- in the medieval time, like Cortrai, Bannockburn, and the 100 years war battles, were in the defender's favor. The mounted Knight probably had a far greater use than most commanders seemed to understand.
                I'd actually like to know of good examples of a Knight's charge at the critical moment. Given the power of heavy cavalry in later years, I don't think similar soldiers would have been useless hundreds of years before.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Swampwolf View Post
                  I think it actually depends on the scale and location of the conflict. Famous medieval commanders were good at guerilla warfare and chevauchée, while the Romans sought a decisive battle to destroy an enemy's army. Tacitus wasn't foreign to Medieval commanders, as it was read throughout France by the chevalry. Unfortunately, some of the tactics that suited Roman commanders weren't what was needed when fighting an enemy with prepared field defenses. The decisive field battles -- that we know of -- in the medieval time, like Cortrai, Bannockburn, and the 100 years war battles, were in the defender's favor. The mounted Knight probably had a far greater use than most commanders seemed to understand.
                  I'd actually like to know of good examples of a Knight's charge at the critical moment. Given the power of heavy cavalry in later years, I don't think similar soldiers would have been useless hundreds of years before.
                  good points.

                  heavy cavalry in the Middle East and later in Europe has always been a very interesting asset in battle (and in more recent times as well), if used correctly, to break an enemy formation at a key poitn and a key time in battle and to "shock" the enemy both physically and morally. (The a-historical fantasy movie "braveheart" shows exactly how not to use heavy cavalry in battle! lol - but it was a good movie...)

                  I think that most field battles involving Normans (I think of their conquet of Sicily occupied by arabs) show that Cavarly was used to separate the enemy forces in small groups and surround it so that infantry could then mop them up.
                  "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Speaking of the Normans, I think the ascent of the Knight and its tremendous effect at the battle of Hastings are overlooked because of how important that battle was. It is also important to note that they did so well with the help of a well trained, almost professional corps of archers who had much more importance than the archers on the English side. So it really could be the decisive blow, but the battle itself relied on a good combined arms factor as well. It's kind of like the power of the Tiger tank, which was undisputed, being made useless in the last of the war in the west if our Artillery had already killed all of the infantry support.

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