what was the ancient battle really like????? - Page 4

January 4th, 2007  
This is one fascinating subject indeed. I am not an expert in this field, but what little knowledge I have, I will share - One must never think that an old (pre gunpowder) battle is a single, huge, bloody fight, that can be resolved quickly, no - it is more like 20, 100, 1000 small fights, 2 - 10 minutes long. The big picture, battle, can easily rage on an area of several square miles (I don't know the accurate figures, maybe much bigger areas) and take (if lucky) hours, or days to finish. Usually, a meleé (a fight, of, say 1000 men) ends when one side simply breaks off, and retreats in order to fight another round: this happens normally because the enemy formation can't be broken at the moment, and prolonged meleé would only result in casualties and fatigue. Meleé combat is seldom conclusive, and retreat maneuvers are carefully drilled, and normally the enemy can't give a chase without breaking their own formation, or giving away their strong position (high ground, a chokepoint, etc.). Ancient battles are mostly just a matter of which side can keep their formations together, and break their enemies formations, after which, they can be chased and slaughtered by cavalry or such. Once broken, a formation is simply said: broken! Useless. If an unit can't hold it's formation, it is next to worthless, no matter how experienced the soldiers are. It is ironic, indeed, that many cultures used to fight in "broken" formation. Imagine a broken mob (gauls, germans and such) of 1000 against a shield wall of 200. Assuming that the shield wall isn't flanked, and that the soldiers are well trained, well fed, well paid (<--IMPORTANT!!) and not too tired, they are quite likely to hold, and when the frustrated mob notes, that they can't break the wall, they retreat, and try take a breahter, then rush in to the fray again. If they are chased by cavalry, they are likely to panic, however. The controlled retreat turns into a panic. The panic spreads, and soon the whole enemy army is on the run. Light cavalry is generally used to chase down these routers, and capture or slaughter them. This is where most of the casualties are inflicted upon the enemy - after the formation is broken. Battles themself are normally inconclusive. Imagine how hard/slow it is to actually to kill a man with a sword, spear or a greek pike or such - from the front, that is, and as a part of a battleline. A sword, a sharp piece of metal, that is as fast as your arm is, and as strong as your technique, training, and yes, your arm is. Now imagine, that there are, what, 3 spots where your opponents armor can be pierced, and without letting your own defense down. Imagine, that you can't move, because you are flanked by friendlies from sides and behind, and the enemy in front of you is equally stuck - neither can do what they want. They can only stand still, and wait for the order to retreat, and see if the enemy is stupid enough to follow. Killing? Hard. Imagine the same scenario when your enemy has turned his back, and possibly dropped his shield and helmet in panic. Something has happened, perhaps the stench was just too much? Just make sure you don't see his eyes, or you might pity him. Killing? Easy. It is the rout that is bloody, but many examples exist of battles, where ground and maneuver were beatifully used in order to deny opponents ability to fight in a formation, and great many casualties were inflicted upon the enemy without a rout. (Gaugamela and Cannae, two battles that are always worth studying). And this talk about people being physically different 2000 years ago? True. But it's not the genes, but the fact, that many people worked in the fields and otherwise, with their bodies, rather than their minds. They were used to being cold, hungry, scared and frustrated, and yet do heavy work or risk a beating or mutilation from their superiors. Average day in the legions was mild compared to average day in the fields, or such - hard work, harder discipline, no food. Hard drills, harder discipline and reasonable food, in the legions. In the few battles (if any, many soldiers never saw a major battle, or a battle at all) they participate, they would mostly march around and hold the line, and when the enemy is tired enough, attack in force along with cavalry and missile support.

It is no surprise, really, that a soldier who is trained in modern, western mobility and "press button" warfare has trouble understanding how old warfare works.

(This is only my vision of how old battles were fought. If you see anything to correct or add, please do. I'm quite interested in the subject myself, and would love to see some conversation.)
November 22nd, 2007  
Mainly you actually saw the guy you were fighting and saw his face as you killed him.
November 23rd, 2007  
Del Boy
And vice-versa.
September 26th, 2008  
First, humans have not devolved into a smaller and weaker species over last 4000 years or so, evolution takes much longer time for any such dramatic effect.

It is known from historical records, that hoplite battles took about an hour, while roman legionaries could fight for a whole day. This difference was caused by two things - Romans relied more heavily on missile troops (each soldier in first two lines had two pila) AND roman legionaries in the front line of the manipul didn´t stay there for more than few minutes, then they were relieved by another man. So they basicaly tired the enemy until they broke.¨

About Rome: Total war, its a wonderfull game and I love it. Though I must note, that it does not portray battles entirely accurately (though its is probably the best one on the market). Apart from Rome, it would not be possible to control individual units, rather the whole formation would move without splitting. This was especially true for phalanx formations. Of course, the game would suck that way, so its good we can control each unit separately.
July 31st, 2009  
No, we haven't evolved into a weaker species, but we have invented a vast array of labor-saving devices.
Pre-industrial daily life was much more physically demanding. The average man in, say, 50 BC would be much more physically strong than the average man today, simply because he would have had to do things himself, without the aid of power tools and the like.
An earlier poster mentioned the Theban Sacred Band. This elite unit was made up entirely of pairs of gay lovers. The idea behind this unusual arrangement was that a warrior would fight harder and not act in a cowardly way, because he didn't want his lover to be ashamed of him (or be killed because of him).
Definitely a far cry from Don't-ask-don't-tell!
October 3rd, 2009  
"This is one fascinating subject indeed. "

Indeed, very much so.
March 16th, 2010  
Originally Posted by WARmachine88
lol, another ROme total war fan? maybe we can play a couple games together sometimes.

Rome total war is by far the most accurate re-enaction of ancient warfare among all other games and movies made (this game is even used by History channel for the programs talking about ancient wars).

but I still have doubts about how is it possible that my legionaries running around and fighting for whole day without exhausting themselves to death.
I'm not too fond of Rome total war.....I can have maybe four armies at maximum for my entire nation....and the enemy can have four armies for the defense of a small city!?!????? What the hell?