It Wasn't Just the Goths...

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by Jonathan Randall, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    Nope it was just one guy named Claudius Klutzius at mediocre sandal maker from South Rome, he is responsible for the whole thing going to Hell in a hand basket :)

    You pose a good question and I doubt that we will ever be able to say without question it was these particular events and no others that led to the fall of Rome, but it is an interesting study.

    However I would tend to think that it was not just one thing but there were several contributing factors as you have said.

    Pouring money into the gladiatorial games, trying to control such a vast empire, the occasional insanity of its rulers, disease, war, etc. I believe all played their part.
     
  2. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    It's pretty scary, when you look at it---it wasn't that long between the great days of the all-conquering legions and the chaotic last days right before the Visigoth occupation of Rome.... Claudius Klutzius has a lot to answer for!! :D
     
  3. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    I Know if Claudius Klutzius only made better sandals we would still be speaking latin today :)

    Something else that I was thinking about as a possible contributing factor;

    Rome was incredibly successful with the shield wall and the use of the gladius but was it still effective as a military strategy by the end of the empire?

    A modern example, and forgive the comparison to a navel battle but I think it explains what I am trying to say… hopefully

    When the Bismarck went up against the HMS Hood, the Hood was the pride of the royal navy and at one time the most technologically advanced ship on the sea. But it was far behind the Bismarck and really did not belong in the water against a ship of the Bismarck’s design and was sunk by the Bismarck

    Now is it possible that the Roman hung on to their way of war just a little too long? It was in the beginning a great advantage but did it later become a disadvantage against a more tactically advanced enemy.

    This of course is pure speculation on my part since I am far from an expert on Rome or warfare of the era.
     
  4. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    Many historians believe that the discipline of the Roman army declined, and it was the discipline that was the difference rather than the technology difference that made the Roman military strong. If anything the Romans were noted for adopting (and adapting) military traits of their opponents if it proved worthy. Take a look a the cataphracts, which the Romans adopted from the Greeks and Persians and then used them in the western empire.

    Lamont
     
  5. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    I don't care about it's a very old thread... :D
    ...
    According to those we asked and what we read, the Roman Empire used more mercenaries in and nearing it's endtime than before.
    Most of these mercenaries were from the same ethnic groups as against whom they defended. Now, a merc never has that much of heart in the fight as a non-merc has. This would give the edge to the attackers even if the two armies would be the same size. Now add the factors of unfamiliar discipline (I'm not saying that the attackers were undisciplined, I'm saying they used different methods for different goals), the growing amount of corruption, sicknesses and such... now add in the moral-lowering factor of not paying the mercenaries... the captains who would've better liked to be at the more central areas... and we got a very low quality army.
    On the opposing side, we have the beginning of the migration... huge ethnic groups pushed towards the west by stronger groups, all wanting a safe home, fearing more behind them than those before them. All this when in some areas inhabitants start to grow tired of aforementioned problems with the Romans.
    ...
    Btw the growing usage of mercs and the increasing need for them is the most likely reason of the increasing lenght of the swords. The mercs wanted to use what they were familiar with, and Romans most likely couldn't allow themselfes to ignore this "wish".
     
  6. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    Just adding that confusing mercenaries and conquered then assimilated tribes may cause problems. The separating line becomes less and less well-defined nearing the end of the empire, and there are always exceptions, but mainly those who were assimilated for a longer time tended to be equipped more like a "normal" Roman, while mercenaries or those assimilated only recently most likely wanted to stuck to weapons THEY preferred. Paying in weapons MAY have been a useful way to sate their hunger, but forcing foreign to them weaponry on them is a sure way to ensure low moral. Imagine a modern soldier being forced to abandon his beloved and fine-tuned weapon (or his favourite weapon type) for something ordered by the contractor.
     
  7. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    There are some interesting factors to consider in this whole situation. Firstly the Roman Empire was far from the politically secure beast it had beenin the 1st and 2nd centuries. There were effectively two Romes, and one didn't really care what was happening on the northern frontier. Secondly, the political realities of the empire saw a contraction of that empire. In AD410 Britain was told it could no longer rely on Imperial protection and this was just as the Saxons and company had began to harrass the province (provinces more properly as Britain had been divided into four by this time).

    The army had seriously suffered from this as it was now a locally raised beast using local men and probably local interpretations of Roman training and tactics. Combine with this the fact that equipment was being massed produced to make it cheaper and you have a very different army to that of Caesar, Claudius, or Trajan.

    The Germanic tribes, however, had always frightened the Romans. If you look at the shape of the Empire, it stopped at the Danube. They never really tried to push past that line. Those few occasions when they did the Germans crushed them. A combination of terrain and appropriate fighting techniques made the forrests north of the Danube a no-go zone for Rome.
     
  8. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    Yep, Rome made a huge number of errors. :)
    However, mass-produced equipment is not really a bad thing given the stage of technology of the Romans, especially that the gladii was seen by them as a tool rather than an object with spiritual links. The decline of the level of organization, the growing number of mercenaries (see Machiavelli), the loosening of central control and the growing level of decadency had more to do with the decline of army quality.

    "The Germanic tribes, however, had always frightened the Romans."
    Partially that's what I meant at not forcing Roman equipment on foreign mercenaries is a wise idea. You don't want to upset those Germans who would join, especially not if they are not positioned on the borders.

    A few years ago at a LARP event we were playing mercenaries and the contractor forgot about this very good idea. We got angry (they wanted us to use shortswords and shields instead of our poleaxes and dopplehanders and they tried to show themselves much more intelligent than they really were), and "killed" everyone at the area. The disparity of force was much smaller than in the Romans/Germans case. Now if that particular alliance would have been better organized with a standard, well-drilled army, we wouldn't be able to easily massacre them.
    Funny how often you find LARP cities and alliances follow real-world patterns and commit real-life errors with having the knowledge and possibility not to do so. This I think is true for some real countries as well, but that's politics which I don't like. :D
     
  9. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    I think the point I was trying to make about mass-produced weapons was that shoddiness crept into manufacture. Compare the quality of the equipment from Tiberius' armies to those of Constantine. Armour, in particular, suffered. Weaponry had become regionalised so they are difficult to compare effectively.
     
  10. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    Decline of armour quality was something I never could understand... I mean, if I'm working like a madman, I can pump out 2 functional (that's to mean it can stop an arrow from 10 meters) lorica segmentatas daily even with my minimalistic workshop, but making for example mail is much, much slower and the resulting armour is inferior in many aspects... Do you have any ideas why did they abandon it? I don't have any and I'm confused at this since... well, since I knew they abandoned it. :)
     
  11. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    I understand it had to do with the difficulty of getting consistent sheet metal in iron. It's "easier" to hire someone to draw wire than pound Iron into sheets.

    Sheet metal became popular again after they learned more about metallurgy and steel.
     
  12. tellner

    tellner Senior Master

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    There are mercenaries, and there are mercenaries.

    One of the problems with using Free Roman Citizens as legionnaires is that they have to go home and plant in the Spring and harvest in the Fall. If you want to get into world conquest in a serious way you need to either make a bunch of slaves to handle the farmwork or hire someone else to do the fighting. The Romans did both.

    Two of the most important groups were the Sarmatians and the Parthians or Scythians depending on exactly which dialect and time you're talking about. The Sarmatians were the model for the later Western mounted Chivalry. They had heavy armor, heavy horses and favored the lance. The Scythian/Parthian/whatever were classic horse nomads. They had lighter armor, lighter faster horse and used the bow primarily, the lance and sword secondarily.

    The mounted archer style of warfare was without a doubt the best and most successful in history up until the widespread adoption of firearms. Their weapons and tactics conquered almost the entire Old World. When it wasn't geography or microbiology that beat them (cf. Japan and Indonesia) the only people who effectively resisted did so by adopting their techniques and equipment (Korea, the joint Christian/Arab defeat of the Horde in the Near East). No infantry force ever stood against them. Heavy cavalry was slaughtered.

    Hiring Scythians was a very rational decision even from what the Ancients would have known.

    If we want to get into the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire there are many. We haven't even touched on balances of payment, inflation, changes in the political and economic system, environmental changes, the speed of communications compared to the size of the Empire or any of a number of other things. But they aren't nearly as fun and sexy as weapons, armor and the Purity of Roman Fighting Manhood :shrug:
     
  13. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    I have only one thing to add, Tellner. My ancestors relied heavily (almost exclusively) on mounted archers, yet at some time around 1000 (I could cite exact dates, but I don't really want to unless someone is very interested) we have been defeated on more than one occasion. We were defeated to the level where our only chance of survival as a nation was to take up Christianity, get papal approval, and try becoming a European nation as much as possible.

    Of course reasons of our defeats were almost as complicated as the reasons behind the fall of Rome, but the bottom line is this: we likely had the best light cavalry in Europe in the 9-10th century and in the end they were slaughtered by heavy cavalry regardless of the individuals' skills.

    And yes, these reasons are more interesting than those you mentioned (of course this isn't true, I simply know almost nothing about them :D)
     
  14. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    thardey: uhh, yes, most likely you're right. It's just strange to me that they used the same amount of steel in an inferior design.
    Consistent quality... well, pre15th century armours were inconsistent in steel quality as well, ranging from extremely good heat-treated high-carbon steel to cheap and extremely low quality... things. But even the latter had more chance against an arrow or a sword than mail, otherwise they wouldn't have used it.
    Or it's simply my too modern mind that causes lacking areas in my understanding. :)
     
  15. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    I think that Thardey has covered the essential reason for the move away from the lorica segmentata, but I would like to add something. Rome had been using mail (lorica hamata) since the early Republic (a 'gift' from the Celts along with the gladius hispaniensis). Julius Caesar's legions were equiped with mail as it was the best available before the lorica segmentata became available. The point is that mail production was something that occurred throughout the western empire so there would have been plenty of people to carry out the tedious manufacture.



    This is likely a large part of the reason behind the increase in the number of auxilliaries in the army. Poorer citizens who signed on for 25 years and didn't have anywhere else to go. Of course, they were never stationed in their home lands, that could cause a revolt or something.

    Interestingly in Britain in the 3rd, 4th, and early 5th centuries the majority of troops manning Hadrian's wall were auxilliaries. Most of them came from Europe but there were some interesting stand outs. Cavalry from Syria (the Sarmatians had served in the same region in the 2nd century), infantry from Bulgaria, and, most interesting of all, boatmen from Mesopotamia.

    Hows that? An Iraqi contingent in the occupation of Britain. Weird huh?
     
  16. Ahriman

    Ahriman Green Belt

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    "Hows that? An Iraqi contingent in the occupation of Britain. Weird huh?"
    Now THIS part I understand... one of the very few good things under communist rule here was the good organizing of police. They served totally elsewhere than where they lived. This way relatives, friends, local guys and the like didn't have any effect on their work, so their work became what it was - a work. No chance to help your family otherwise than sending money, no chance to put someone one didn't like into jail. Worked well.
    Oh, and they were sent to different areas about twice a year to avoid getting friends there.
    ...
    Now if you place soldiers at a place where they don't even really understand what the local population says... and even if they understand, they have nothing in common with them... it becomes even better. In theory, that is.
     
  17. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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  18. Darth F.Takeda

    Darth F.Takeda Blue Belt

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    By the time of Ciaus Julius Caeser, the Roman army was a professional force, with the standard enlistment being 16 years (a few Legions went well past that, due to the Civil wars. Octavian set enlistments for 20 years and later it became 25 years.
    When looking at the Roman army, their were 3 phases and its easy to confuse them, people make generalizations about them, it would be like saying "The American army did this" well what period?
    Army of the Republic- Citizen force, this was the way they were set up from the founding of the Republic through the Punic wars and the invasion of Macidonia and Greece (these were largly the vets of the Punic wars, so the standards were as high as the later professional army.)
    The army went through a change due to Marius allowing the poor to join the Army asnd by the time of Sulla, they were a full on professional army.
    Army of the Principate- The Army of the Ceasers or the Imperial Army
    and then the Army of late Antiquity.

    Adrian Godlsworty's The Complete Roman Army, Caeser Life of a Colossus and Stephen Danoo-Collins' Caeser's Legion, The History of the X Legion (Legio X) are great factual resources, that are also great reads.
     
  19. Darth F.Takeda

    Darth F.Takeda Blue Belt

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    Of coarse I was not trying to step on your great point about the Auxilliary or Ala forces of the army. It's amazing how these guys got around.

    The more I learn about the Roman Army, themore I want to learn.
    It's why I start Western Civ 101 this fall and start my long , slow climb to PhD in History, I want to study them and their similarities to our History.
     
  20. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    Its a good point to make as it goes to the heart of equipment development for the Roman legions.

    The citizen legions of the early and middle republic had to supply their own equipment which meant that they were rank according to both age and wealth. Age produced the classic division of principes, hastati, and triarii, while wealth produced the velites and accensi (auxilliaries deployed behind the triarii) which were made up by poorer citizens.

    Later as the army became more important the state supplied equipment so it became standardised. You see the troop distinctions disappear because wealth stopped being a factor and the qualification for being an auxilliary became non-citizenship.

    Then in the late empire, when everyone had citizenship the distinction between legionaire and auxilliary became quite blurred and equipment started to standardise across that distinction, but equipment was also locally produced using faster, cheaper methods which led to quality inequalities.123
     

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