Author Archives: Loki

Death to the Foam! (Final Project)

            For my final project I wanted to demonstrate the weapon styles of the Roman Legionary. I figured that we hadn’t gotten to really destroy anything in class, so I better take advantage of this to get in a little bit of fun. The research was unsurprisingly difficult, many of the books would only mention things in short passages, but not with a lot of detail to really get a solid feeling for how the Romans truly attacked.

             I watched a lot of youtube videos in order to see what re-enactment groups would do, even though that was less fruitful than I had hoped, but it gave me a start.

            I was able to easily find information about the Roman Legionaries formations, the tortoise, and the spear formations were the most readily available and were also simple enough to describe in class with only one of me (Keppie). The entire Roman fighting system was designed around using the shield and sword as a unit, combined with your fellow soldiers. Once I started putting things together I realized how powerful this army would be against other ancient forces.

            For the weapon strikes I simply had to copy what I had seen, however I did pull information from the class also, especially in regards to the piercing style of striking. Using the shield as a level the Gladius was lethal in close combat. While it was wielded with one-hand, the shield gave the ability to maintain on target and strike harder at your foes. Because it was a short sword it was not meant for slashing as much as piercing because the internal organs are better protected from slashes than from piercing, and if you want to drop your opponent, you take those out (Milner).

            The other strike that I found was to go after the knees by quickly lifting the shield up at an angle to your opponent and then a quick, stab at the knee in order to cripple your opponent and then easily finish them off.

            I had a lot of fun with this project and I hope it came across in class. I do not have any of the pictures from the demonstration at this time to include on the blog, but I do believe everyone was there still.

Veni Vidi Vici!!!!

Works Cited

Bishop, M.C. Roman Military Equipment: from the Punic Wars to the fall of Rome. Oxbow: Oxford, 2006. Print.

Bosworth, A.B. Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Web.

Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army: From republic ot empire. Lawrence: University of Oklahoma press, 1984. Print.

Milner, N.P. Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993. Print.

 

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Blood Diamond

I watched the movie Blood Diamond over the weekend. I had heard of it in the past and pretty much ignored it because I just wasn’t interested at all in the movie. I decided to give it a shot for the extra credit and found myself wondering how in the hell humans can be so vastly different, yet the same.

The genocide in Africa seems to be such a constant event that it becomes so normal that it is just ignored, I have even thought in the past that it is odd when they aren’t killing each other, an attitude that is very disconnected from the problem.

In this movie the genocide is not what we normally think of with one culture wiping out another. This movie it is rebels within the country of Sierra Leone killing other tribes folk in the country and forcing them into slavery or soldiering. This movie shows how the diamonds are gotten through slave labor and then sold in order to obtain weapons to fight the “gubmint” as they are called in the movie.

This was allowed to perpetuate because people in more “civilized” countries simply wanted the diamonds for their own purposes and not caring about the people who are hurt in the process. This allowed the rebels to overthrow the government and run amok in the country.

The solution from this movie was awareness and desire of the rest of the world to stomp out the “blood diamond” trade. Stop purchasing these diamonds and stop putting money into the hands of rebels or others who would exploit and murder for their own greed.

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Things that make you go…..BOOM

In the Dark Ages warfare was a constant state of life. With this constant fighting new ways to defend from attacks created Castles. Once castles and fortifications began changing warfare new methods to overcome these defenses were formed. Siege weapons were the order of the time to defeat castles and similar fortifications. One of the many forms of siege weapons was one of the most feared, and psychologically damaging, sappers.

Imagine for a moment you are on top of a wall fighting against an opponent when there is a low guttural rumble under your feet, suddenly your whole world is turned on its head as the section of wall you were standing on is now crumbling into a gaping hole in the ground and strewn across the castle grounds and surrounding areas, if you were lucky enough to survive.

Example of tunneling under a wall.

Sappers were one of the best weapons for causing mass havoc and ending sieges. These troops would dig tunnels underneath the walls of the castle that was besieged, create large voids, or caves, that were supported by wooden pillars as the earth was removed. Once the caves were large enough the caverns would be filled with combustible materials and then ignited. These fires would destroy the supporting timbers and then, boom, down comes the wall.

One of the best accounts of how effective sappers were comes from a monk who wrote “… after the top of the wall had been somewhat weakened by bombardment from petraries, our engineers succeeded with great difficulty in bringing a four-wheeled wagon, covered in oxhides, close to the wall, from which they set to work to sap the wall” (Historia Albigensis – Pierre des Vaux de Cernay, 53).

 

Works Cited

Cernay, Peter of les Vaux de. Historia Albensis. 1218. Print.

http://www.medievalwarfare.info. 2010. 4 April 2012.

Marvin, Laurence W. “War in the South: A First Look at Siege Warfare in the Albigensian Crusade,1209–1218.” War in History (2001): 373-395. web.

 

 

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Legatus

Legatus.

Legate being saluted

The man in charge of the Roman Legions.

The role of Legatus was considered the highest rank that a legionary could strive to gain, while then it was still usually granted to a senator more often than a soldier who worked his way up through the ranks.

The Legatus was in charge of overall military strategy and campaigning. The Legatus would need to lean heavily on the other staff officers that would be surrounded by him, the business of day-to-day operations was run by these officers.

There were a few different “ranks” of Legatus in the Roman Army. There were Legatus in each province, in charge of their own regional legion, who would protect regional interests unless called upon by the Empire to go to battle, which was a common occurrence in the Roman times. (Milner)

One of the most important roles of the Legatus was to know when to press war upon his foes, and when it was time to hold back. In many cases the wisest Legate would listen to the senior “non-commissioned” soldiers who would almost always have the truest feel for what the soldiers were feeling and whether pushing the fight was wise. Vegetius was quoted, via translation, as saying that :

One should find out how soldiers are feeling before battle. Explore carefully how soldiers are feeling on the actual day they are going to fight. For confidence or fear may be discerned from their facial expression, language, gait and gestures. Do not be fully confident if it is the recruits who want battle, for was is sweet to the inexperienced. You will know to postpone it if the experienced warriors are afraid of fighting. An army gains courage and fighting spirits from advice and encouragement from their general, especially if they are given such an account of the coming battle as leads them to believe they will easily win a victory. (Keppie)

One of the largest dangers of the rank of Legatus is that they were subject to the displeasure of the Emperor. If a Legate has a bad campaign, they may not be long for the rank.

Works Cited

Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army: From republic ot empire. Lawrence: University of Oklahoma press, 1984. Print.

Milner, N.P. Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993. Print.

 

 

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Roman Military Tech at the Battle of Zama

The Battle of Zama was fought in October of 202 b.c.e. which was the deciding battle in the Second Punic war and brought Carthage under Roman control. The battle was fought in North Africa near Carthage. The forces involved were Hannibal and his 51,000 troops and 80 war elephants for Carthage against Scipio Africanus and his 40,000 Roman soldiers. The battle was a decisive victory for the Romans with casualties on the Carthaginian side over 20,000 and the same number captured. The Roman force suffered 5,500 casualties in comparison. (Wikipedia)

The military technology used at this time was the standard load-out for the Romans. From the Archeological and Documentary evidence found for this time period the following weapons and armor are assumed to have been used by the Romans:

Gladius Hispaniensis: The basic short sword used by the Romans that was adopted from Spain.

Gladius Hispaniensis

Pila: The throwing weapon of choice for Legionaries.

Pilum

Pugio: The dagger that was the fallback weapon when all else had failed.

Also used at this time was Artillery that threw heavy pieces of debris or other pieces of material. The exact information regarding the artillery pieces are sketchy at best due to the lack of physical evidence to verify what they did exactly. The artillery was constructed with information gathered from Defectors from the Greek forces of the time thus enabling the Romans tech without the pain of trial and error. (Bishop)

The standard armor kit for the Roman soldiers at this point was a Chain or Ring Mail. This was light enough for desert campaigning while also providing the protection needed for close combat. The last piece of protective equipment that was used was the Scutum, or large shield that provided the protection needed to wage war in the Phalanx formations that Romans favored. (Zhmodikov)

Possibly the most telling information we have regarding the military tech of this time is summed up in the following statement:

“Our ignorance of the equipment and garb of Republican Soldiers is almost total: for not only is the archaeological evidence lacking, but also there is hardly any representational material to help fill the gaps.” (Bishop)

 

Works Cited

Bishop, M.C. Roman Military Equipment: from the Punic Wars to the fall of Rome. Oxbow: Oxford, 2006. Print.

Wikipedia. Battle of Zama. February 2012. Web. February 2012.

Zhmodikov, Alexander. Roman Republican Heavy Infantrymen in Battle. Verlag, 2000. Web.

 

 

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Alexander the Great: Siege of Gaza

The siege of Gaza occurred in 332 B.C.E. at the city of Gaza. Gaza is a coastal city on the Aegean coast (Fig. 1). Gaza posed a significant challenge because it is located on a plateau that rises up to 60 feet over the surrounding areas. The siege was between Alexander and his 45,000 strong force of Greeks against Batis, King of Gaza and his 49,000 soldiers of the Achaemenid Empire.

 

Around October of 332 B.C.E. Alexander the Great was on his march south to Egypt in order to secure his flank before marching across the Middle East on his mission of World Conquest. Alexander wanted to shore up his rear In order to avoid having issues behind him so that all of his focus would be in front of him. One of the cities on his path was Gaza, which was ruled by Batis, who was loyal to Egypt.

Alexander arrived at Gaza and quickly spotted the southern walls as the weakest point in the city. Thus he set his siege sights on that part of the city. He quickly built up mounds from which siege weapons would begin to batter the walls. Batis knew that Alexander was coming for Gaza and had therefore provisioned his city in order to withstand a long siege, hoping for the arrival of the Egyptian army to meet Alexander in open battle.

It took 3 unsuccessful attempts to capture the city before Alexanders forces stormed the city and was able to finally bring the city to its knees. When the city fell the men were “put to the sword” and the women and children sold into slavery.

This was the last major obstacle on the Aegean coast for Alexander. After the city fell Alexander was able to successfully claim Egypt and begin his march across the known world.

 

Bosworth, A.B. Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Web.

Wikipedia. Siege of Gaza. February 2012.

 

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Tactics and Strategies at Marathon

The battle of Marathon was fought in 490 b.c.e. between the Athenians and their allies against the mighty Persian army. The great Datis and Artaphernes, leaders of the Persian force, chose to fight on the coastal plain approximately 25.4 miles south of Athens (fig.1) due to the plains being ideal for use of the cavalry that gave the Persian force the advantage in many battles (Evans).

 

(fig. 1)

The Persian army brought somewhere between twenty-thousand and one hundred-thousand infantry to go along around one thousand cavalry, given by modern estimates. This force was at a minimum twice the size of the Athenians who could only field nine-thousand to ten-thousand troops along with one thousand plataens.

However the numbers were tilted, the Athenians showed both strong tactical and strategic movements that were able to undo the might of the Persians. Firstly, the Athenians pinned down the two main exits from the plains, not allowing the Persians to get out into Greece and run rampant. The hoplites that the Athenians fielded were superior to the Light Infantry that was the main body of the Persian force.

The second reason that the Athenians were able to sweep the Persians from the field was an incredibly unorthodox, but ultimately successful charge. The Athenians formed a line that was very weak in the middle ranks, yet very heavy on the wings. When the Athenian force charged the Persians it caught them unaware and according to Herodotus many Persians thought that the Athenians were crazy and had a death-wish. This ultimately worked in the Athenians favor. (Herodotus)

As the Athenian force collided into the Persian army the Persians focused on breaking through the middle of the Athenians force. They were successful in breaking the middle of the line, only to have them fall into the trap that the Athenians had setup. With the middle broken and the Persians attempting to pour through the hole it created, the Athenians swung the heavy wings down on the Persians and routed them in a pincer move. (Herodotus)

With the Persians soundly defeated the Athenians chased the Persians back to their ships on the coast and managed to capture seven vessels before the Persians could sail away. The only glimmer of positive for the Persians was that many famous Athenians were killed in the attacks on the ships.

The Athenians, while greatly outnumbered only sustained approximately 192 casualties to Athenians and 11 plataens. On the other side the Persians lost approximately 6400 soldiers and 7 ships. A resounding victory for the Greeks and a painful sting to the Persians. (Evans)

 

Works Cited

Evans, J. A. S. Herodotus and the Battle of Marathon. Sitz Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1993. web.

Herodotus. The landmark Herodotus: the histories/a new translationby Andrea L. Purvis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007. print.

Wikipedia contributors. “Battle of Marathon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

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