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From: 22Michael Alexander <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: REPLY: Gallic manpower 2nd - 1st Century BC Date: March 25, 2010 8:09:05 AM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <email@example.com> Some comments on previous posts on this topic: 1. There is a lot of good material in the post by Kara D Vuic (or is it by John McGrath?) dated 3 March 2010. However, I had to step back when I read the following: “A Roman of the era (as would a modern observer) could not tell the difference between a German and a Gaul, …”. In context, this amounts to a claim that the Romans could not distinguish between Cimbri and Ambrones from Jutland, Aedui from the Rhone-Alpes region, and Arverni from the Auvergne region. In fact, the ancient accounts show that the Romans well understood the distinctions. 2. Louis Capdebosq followed with a post that made a number of good points, in particular the Roman advantage in political and military organisation and logistics. However, the claim by Louis and others that the Romans had a “technological advantage” over the Gauls doesn’t convince – it is based only on an advantage in one particular area, being siegecraft, and there is little evidence that this was a technological advantage, as opposed to one of training, organisation and doctrine. 3. He also writes: “This accounts for the very lopsided victory ratio (note that other German generals did just as well against similarly disorganized barbarians).” [I assume “German” should read “Roman”]. Lop-sided – which way? Prior to Gaius Marius’ victories at Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae (102-101 BC), Roman forces suffered at least five major defeats by the Cimbri coalition, including Arausio where six legions and numerous auxiliary formations were annihilated – the Romans probably lost 80,000 troops in one day. 4. Walter James Macintosh states in response to John McGrath “I would take great issue with those statements [by John McGrath that the Romans were not technologically superior to the Gauls]. Take for example Caesar's bridge across the Rhine….”, In siege warfare, the Romans definitely had an edge. However, (a) there is little or no evidence that their superiority in siege warfare was one of technology; and (b) superiority in one area (siege warfare) does not amount to a general superiority. An army can be superior to its foe in one particular area yet have no superiority at all in other areas. 5. Someone wrote: “Even under Vercingetorix , a very able leader for the Gauls the contest was essentially between a professional army and a band of guerrillas.” I don’t think the evidence supports this. Take for example Vercingetorix’s conduct of the Gergovia campaign – this indicates an organised and well-equipped Gallic force, which was capable of out-manoeuvring and out-fighting Roman legions. In the final battle of this campaign, the Gauls probably inflicted 10 times the casualties they suffered. 6. Mark Hall wrote: “Actual, their swords were overall of a better quality of low to medium carbon steel than their Celtic counterparts. The evidence of this comes from the passage in Polybius where he details how they Celts had to withdraw to straighten their swords and metallographic study. The Celts had a tendency to make theirs of iron or low-carbon steel….” Actually, the “metallographic study” is much more complex than this. There is a wide range of quality found among celtic swords AND among Roman swords. Secondly, Polybius does not actually say the swords bent because the metal was of bad quality – the swords seem to have bent because they were *long*. Note that Polybius makes the same comparison with the long swords of the Carthaginians, who certainly did not have a metallurgical deficit compared to the Romans. In other words, the Romans don’t seem to have been any better at making long swords than the Celts – rather, they had standardised on the shorter Spanish sword and modified their tactical doctrine and other equipment to minimise its disadvantages such as shorter reach. Thirdly, note that Polybius is describing the battle of Telemon which is separated by 1,000 miles and 150 years from Caesar’s contest in Gaul – why on earth would anyone assume that the technology of the two forces would be the same, simply because they were both “celtic” (whatever that means)? 7. Louis Capdebosq states in a later post: “That the Romans managed to lose one army to the Germans just goes to illustrate that sometimes, the barbarians will win. The Romans had defeated plenty of German armies - and would go on doing so for a while - it just wasn't enough to rid them of the threat.” The Romans did not “lose one army to the Germans”. They lost numerous armies to the Germans. They would go on losing them after this. John McGrath’s point was that there was no clear technological superiority of the Romans over the Gauls or the Germans. With the single particular exception of siege warfare (which is more a matter of training and logistics than technology) I have to agree. Roman superiority was mainly due to (a) better statecraft (as Louis Capdebosq rightly pointed out), (b) better political organisation and will, (c) logistics, (d) superior training and (e) greater reliance on doctrine (note that I am NOT suggesting that Gauls or Germans were entirely lacking in any of these). Each of these is quite distinct from a technological advantage. 8. Finally, any claim that the Roman victory against the Gauls was “inevitable” needs to be proved. In my view, the evidence points clearly in the opposite direction – a number of factors could have led to the Romans losing the war, or achieving much less success than they did. There was nothing inevitable about it. Regards Michael Mitchell _________________________________________________________________ ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----