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Adrian Hester
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(Split from another thread (link) )

That's why, at the same time that Western scholarship would say that great ancient armies in Greece and Rome had 50,000-80,000 men, the Chinese will say they had great armies of 800,000 regularly clashing against one another (China has very little conscientious 'scholarship', so they can say whatever makes them feel good), plus they also like to point out at the list of 'achievements' that show their Ancient Chinese culture to be most superior.

What, pray tell, are some of these bogus accomplishments? And what conscientious scholarship are you relying on that invalidates so much of what passes as Chinese scholarship as feel-good stories?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Adrian, which bogus accomplishments are you referring to? If you hadn't noticed, I used the word 'achievements' in single quotes, i.e. "sic".

As to the conscientious scholarship that indicates Ancient Chinese numbers to be bogus, my whole point is that conscientious scholarship is absent in China, which is what enables them to put forth these feel good stories as true history. And what facts lead me to believe that these numbers are most likely wrong? The economics and logistics. I won't get into it here, as that's off topic, but it is literally impossible to feed and command 800,000 men, and do so not only as the Persians might have done, but to armor them all in super-heavy armor similar to Greek hoplite panopaly? Please.

If you'd like to discuss this further, please start a new thread on the subject.

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And what facts lead me to believe that these numbers are most likely wrong? The economics and logistics. I won't get into it here, as that's off topic, but it is literally impossible to feed and command 800,000 men, and do so not only as the Persians might have done, but to armor them all in super-heavy armor similar to Greek hoplite panopaly? Please.

Um, it's not impossible . . . and even fairly ancient China was reknowned for its bureaucracy and organization. Their population even in ancient days was immense, their hygiene was MUCH better than that in, say, the Middle Ages in Europe, and their primary food supply, rice, packs a lot more calories per pound in than wheat. (When it's being transported.)

In the Middle Ages in Europe, even, at battles like Breitenfeld (Tilly vs. Gutav II Adolf) there would be as many as 150,000 men under arms and often three times that number of camp followers, and attrition from disease, desertion, etc. in those armies was hideous. If they'd had any kind of hygiene I wouldn't have found 800,000 at all absurd.

If I remember correctly (I could be wrong) part of the rationale for the ban on teaching the Japanese how to make muskets and powder was that they could easily field an army that was larger than the entire population of several countries in Europe. And they were trying to conquer China (with varying degrees of success) for quite some time.

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Adrian, which bogus accomplishments are you referring to? If you hadn't noticed, I used the word 'achievements' in single quotes, i.e. "sic".

Uh, yeah, precisely. You're claiming them to be bogus accomplishments.

As to the conscientious scholarship that indicates Ancient Chinese numbers to be bogus, my whole point is that conscientious scholarship is absent in China, which is what enables them to put forth these feel good stories as true history. And what facts lead me to believe that these numbers are most likely wrong? The economics and logistics. I won't get into it here, as that's off topic, but it is literally impossible to feed and command 800,000 men, and do so not only as the Persians might have done, but to armor them all in super-heavy armor similar to Greek hoplite panopaly? Please.

You obviously know very little about ancient China. Now, the period in which such large armies are described was the Warring States period, c. 463-222 BC. In the preceding period, the Spring and Autumn Period, 722-481 BC, China was divided into a bit over a hundred states which fought among themselves and congealed into seven or so large ones by the beginning of the Warring States period. There was a large change in military service over the same time. In the Spring and Autumn period, the military power of a state was measured by the number of war chariots it could field--a very powerful state was said to have 1,000 chariots. Each chariot was accompanied by, it would appear, somewhere between 10 and 30 foot soldiers; in the earlier part of the Spring and Autumn period, military service was filled by a class of military professionals led by members of the aristocracy (basically, descendants of relatives of earlier kings of each state). In the Warring States period, the number of war chariots for a powerful state stayed at about the same level, but cavalry and large-scale infantry had become much more important. The foot soldiers were not heavily-armed hoplites, they were peasants conscripted on the off-season and armed with spears and long swords, and what had formerly been short campaigns decided by one or two battles developed into wars lasting several years that ebbed and flowed with the seasons and were very bloody, often involving prolonged sieges.

You have to remember too that China had a very large population. The oldest surviving census in world history is the Chinese census of 2 AD, which gives a population of around 60 million (broken down by locality, so that it's possible to get a very detailed picture of the population distribution of China at the time). The population during the Warring States period, two to three centuries earlier, must have been comparable. Moreover, China was bureaucratized by the Warring States period; the entire population was registered and tax and labor services set on the basis of those registers. In one state, Wei, the population was divided into about a hundred counties (xian), each containing 10,000 households or about 50,000 people, for example (and so a total population of perhaps 5 million), and it wasn't one of the largest states. Moreover, much of the male population was liable to conscription--all males over 15 (state of Qin) or under 60 (state of Chu), for example. By the end of the Warring States period, the scale of wars had increased stupendously and war was ever-present as the various states vied for supremacy. It's in that context that you find large armies. The figures are likely exaggerated, but probably not too much so. For example, a war in 260 BC that resulted in the defeat of the state of Zhao is credited with casualties of 450,000 (the largest number of casualties recorded for the Warring States period, I believe), but you have to keep in mind that the entire Zhao army fighting the state of Qin was massacred after surrender, and Qin had had to mobilize its entire manpower. If you're curious about all this, I'm relying on the discussion in Cho-yun Hsu's Ancient China in Transition: An Analysis of Social Mobility, 722-222 B.C., Stanford 1965, pp. 65-71, a standard work. (Hsu is probably more familiar to Americans as Immanuel C.Y. Hsu.)

This is common knowledge among Chinese and western historians of China alike; it's not just Chinese patriotism. That's why I was wondering what source you were using for your claims that armies of 800,000 are inconceivable for China at that time. Well, it turns out you don't have any, you're just speculating. You assume that the situation in China must have been identical to that in Greece and Rome, but it wasn't--the population was probably larger, the social structure was very different, and the armies were recruited differently (in China by seasonal mass conscription of peasants, in the Roman Empire by a standing army of paid professionals). Then from this one single speculation you go on to condemn Chinese scholarship as such--and you don't give any sources for your claim that Chinese historical scholarship is lax and sloppy and driven primarily by ethnic pride. That's why I asked which accomplishments usually claimed for ancient China aren't really so. I'm not talking about the mindless repetition of 2,000-year-old figures from patriotic Chinese websites, nor out-of-context factoids in popular books or propagandistic pamphlets--I've encountered some of that myself and certainly know it exists--but bogus claims widespread in contemporary Chinese scholarship. If it's so unconscientious, surely you can give us some choice examples.

(I don't think this yet requires a new thread, but if the moderators want to separate it off, I have no objections.)

Edited by Adrian Hester
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This is common knowledge among Chinese and western historians of China alike; it's not just Chinese patriotism. That's why I was wondering what source you were using for your claims that armies of 800,000 are inconceivable for China at that time. Well, it turns out you don't have any, you're just speculating. You assume that the situation in China must have been identical to that in Greece and Rome, but it wasn't--the population was probably larger, the social structure was very different, and the armies were recruited differently (in China by seasonal mass conscription of peasants, in the Roman Empire by a standing army of paid professionals).

The Roman Empire at it's height had a population of 65 million to as high as 130 million. 65 Million is considered a conservative estimate, from what I have read. In the year 0 AD China had a population of approximately 60 million (see here). Of course these are just approximations, but we can reasonably say that the Chinese did not have a larger population.

Edited by Praxus
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Adrian -- the thread is called "Are Greeks The Real Macedonians", so it doesn't matter if you feel like talking about Ancient Chinese instead. If you're going to write a detailed post, then start a thread devoted to that subject, because you are otherwise off-topic. For now the response I'll make will therefore be very short.

Jennifer, Gustavus Adolphus did not live during the Middle Ages, having lived in the 16th century. Secondly when I googled for the battle you cited, I came upon the following quote (from here):

At First Breitenfeld on 17 September 1631 Gustavus Adolphus with 30,000 Swedes and John George of Saxony with 10,000 electoral troops faced 32,000 Imperialists serving under Tilly.
That's hardly the 150,000 soldiers per army figure that you cite.

Middle Ages armies were fraught with incompetence in organization and logistics, and therefore were in pathetically small numbers. At the Battle of Hastings, one of the most important battles in history and certainly of the Middle Ages, only 5-7,000 troops were the whole armies on both sides. So I wouldn't cite anything from the Middle Ages as constitutive of anything.

I also don't understand why you compare the population or hygiene of Ancient China that of the Middle Ages. Why don't you compare it with the population and hygiene of the Roman Empire, which was unsurpassed not only in Europe but in the whole of the world, ever, until the 17th century? Same for the bureaucracy and organization -- if China is 'famed' for them, then I don't know what what books you read, because they're certainly not famed (although respected) in anything I've ever encountered in anything on ancient history. Now Roman organization and bureaucracy -- now that's famed. I don't really want to get into a contest over this, but 1) please don't compare China with anything Medieval, as the comparison will always be automatically in China's favor, and 2) words like 'famed' are inherently impossible to quantify, and thus are better off not being used by either side in the argument.

Adrian,

The foot soldiers were not heavily-armed hoplites, they were peasants conscripted on the off-season and armed with spears and long swords
Ok, well the people that I've been arguing have been telling me that Chinese have fielded hundreds of thousands of heavy-armed infantry. I'm not an expert on Ancient Chinese equipment, so I took them at their word. However if they simply fielded levy peasants, then that makes their armies basically a lot like Persian armies (and we all know what happened to those).

The population during the Warring States period, two to three centuries earlier, must have been comparable.
Really? I don't think so. If the population three centuries earlier is always comparable to the population now, then the world would always have had 6 billion people. Roman population in 1st century AD was, like Praxus said, 65 million only by conservative estimates (hardly inferior to Chinese population). So you can take that 65 million Roman conservative estimate, and compare it to 80,000 Romans during the censi taken in the 6-5th centuries BC, and you can see population growth. So no, I don't think China was exempt from this pattern.

the population was probably larger, the social structure was very different, and the armies were recruited differently (in China by seasonal mass conscription of peasants, in the Roman Empire by a standing army of paid professionals)
The population was not larger, and the Romans only introduced standing army of professionals in the 1st century BC, having a an army of citizen militia heavy infantry before that. But the social structure certainly was different, one being ruled by a republic and the other by autocratic monarchy. So I'm not surprised if the Chinese were fielding 200-300,000 men armies, because Persians did something similar, under that sort of autocratic rule. But the arguments I've encountered were of regular armies of 800,000 men, and all of these as heavy infantry -- and that still remains as ridiculous as when I first talked about it.

Now please resist the urge to argumentatively respond to me in this thread. if you have the urge to discuss this further, then start a thread and leave this one on-topic. I will not reply to any further in-depth posts about China here.

Edited by Free Capitalist
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Ok, well the people that I've been arguing have been telling me that Chinese have fielded hundreds of thousands of heavy-armed infantry.

Well, they're wrong. There was a core of heavily-armed warriors, but they weren't representative of the large armies in question.

However if they simply fielded levy peasants, then that makes their armies basically a lot like Persian armies (and we all know what happened to those).

Yep.

Really? I don't think so. If the population three centuries earlier is always comparable to the population now, then the world would always have had 6 billion people.

[sigh.] The rate of population increase in the past three or four centuries is unprecedented in world history. You might check out some of the estimates of world population for antiquity; the growth was very small between 200 BC and 200 AD, for example. And you might actually look at the graph linked to by Praxus of Chinese history over time. When there are no great advances in agricultural technology, the population of a premodern agrarian state like China doesn't grow exponentially.

Roman population in 1st century AD was, like Praxus said, 65 million only by conservative estimates (hardly inferior to Chinese population).

I've heard of rather smaller conservative estimates, such as 40 million, but they might well refer to a different century.

So you can take that 65 million Roman conservative estimate, and compare it to 80,000 Romans during the censi taken in the 6-5th centuries BC, and you can see population growth. So no, I don't think China was exempt from this pattern.

Oh, please, that's utterly irrelevant. The geographical bases for that figure are completely different--the region around the city of Rome in the 5th century BC was very very much smaller than the entire Roman empire in the first century AD.

In any case, what I'm critical of is your sneering dismissal of Chinese scholarship as such, which as near as I can tell is unfounded, and the reasoning behind it, which is faulty.

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Adrian,

My 'sneering dismissal' is based in part on the actual claims made by people (I've discussed Ancient Chinese history with many people by now, and you're the first to concede that their armies were basically like Persian armies), and also in part by the ideology of the Chinese government which, with its state-sponsored archaelogy and scholarship, promotes dominance of ideas which inflate the sense of power of the Chinese state, and encourages that sort of dishonest scholarship over something more conscientious. But also, let's not white wash the history of our discussion -- you still did claim that in one of the battles 450,000 casualties were on one side, and that is patently impossible, simply because of facts like us having a hard time supplying 200,000 troops in Iraq, and out of other considerations. I am inclined to support 200-300,000 man armies, with a small core of real troops surrounded by lightly-armed levies, and with death tolls of 10-15% -- statistics which are all attested to in the Persian empire as well.

Also on the subject of the population -- in the Warring States period there were lots of battles, and therefore lots of people dying. So how can that period have as much population as after Chinese unification? It just doesn't make sense. I would say that the population during the Warring States would probably be 20-30% less than during the time when the 2AD census was taken.

Edited by Free Capitalist
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My 'sneering dismissal' is based in part on the actual claims made by people (I've discussed Ancient Chinese history with many people by now, and you're the first to concede that their armies were basically like Persian armies)...

I'm not conceding anything; I'm explaining why the figures aren't necessarily outrageously inflated.

...and also in part by the ideology of the Chinese government which, with its state-sponsored archaelogy and scholarship, promotes dominance of ideas which inflate the sense of power of the Chinese state, and encourages that sort of dishonest scholarship over something more conscientious.

You should be more specific then. Chinese scholarship includes work by scholars from Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, for example, who were western-trained and quite conscientious, and until the last generation were the forefront of Chinese historians; the best work in the PRC relies on their work (and the work of western scholars). Moreover, you haven't actually pointed to any scholarship or scholarly traditions as dishonest, near as I can tell, but instead are reacting to discussions you've had with people who might or might not be Chinese scholars. In any case, you haven't chosen the best example to make your case: Regurgitating figures for casualties or armies from the Warring States period is dishonest without discussing the special circumstances of the time or military practices, but the figures aren't likely to have been made out of whole cloth. (And I'll add that it would be doubly dishonest to imply that such armies were regularly fielded throughout most of Chinese history. The armies sent on expeditions outside China--to Korea or Vietnam, say, or into the steppes or to capture cities along the Silk Road--were much smaller; their size was bounded by the factors you've mentioned here of the need to support a trained, well-armed force.) Better examples would be the tendencies in history textbooks to project present boundaries of China into the past, to discuss peoples on the territory of modern China in terms implying that they were specially tied to the Han Chinese or that it was historically inevitable that they would become minority peoples in modern China, and to downplay foreign influences on Chinese culture (as in the period before the unification of China under the Sui and Tang, around 300-550 AD, when the states of north China were ruled by Turkic peoples). That doesn't disqualify historical scholarship in the PRC as irreparably tainted, however.

But also, let's not white wash the history of our discussion -- you still did claim that in one of the battles 450,000 casualties were on one side...

I guess I wasn't clear enough that those were the total casualties for both armies, and remember the defeated army was massacred after surrender. It was a noteworthy figure precisely because it was so high. Again, the figure is likely exaggerated, but probably not grotesquely so. (For example, how would such figures be arrived at? Most likely by the number of peasants lost from the registration rolls, which would include a large number who deserted and made their way elsewhere, which seems to have been common enough in the period.)

and that is patently impossible, simply because of facts like us having a hard time supplying 200,000 troops in Iraq, and out of other considerations.

If I remember correctly, the armies typically fed off the lands they were attacking, which were usually in neighboring states. Iraq's irrelevant.

I am inclined to support 200-300,000 man armies, with a small core of real troops surrounded by lightly-armed levies, and with death tolls of 10-15% -- statistics which are all attested to in the Persian empire as well.

Yes, and casualty figures of 20,000-60,000 were frequently recorded. Figures of over 100,000 were recorded only three or four times, I think.

Also on the subject of the population -- in the Warring States period there were lots of battles, and therefore lots of people dying. So how can that period have as much population as after Chinese unification? It just doesn't make sense. I would say that the population during the Warring States would probably be 20-30% less than during the time when the 2AD census was taken.

[sigh.] I didn't say that. What I said is that the population was probably comparable, by which I meant 50 million or so. The reason I pointed to the population of China over several centuries was to make the point that in such states population is limited by technology and does not grow exponentially. In any case, battles with casualties of 20,000 to 60,000 didn't happen every year or throughout all of ancient China. Probably more significant than deaths in battle would be the extent to which the wars disordered agriculture, but the period also disordered the old social structures that made the peasantry little more than slaves of the nobility--the nobility effectively liquidated itself as a class in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (when a state was conquered, the nobility would be reduced to commoner status or enslaved) and greater social mobility made it possible for peasants to move elsewhere for better conditions and to keep more of their produce (though the larger, more bureaucratic states in turn often bore down more heavily in taxation, and public works continued to eat up lots of labor). How these factors together affected population growth, I don't know.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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Adrian -- the thread is called That's hardly the 150,000 soldiers per army figure that you cite.

Which is good, because that's not what I said: the book I was using approximated 150K men under arms which included all forces present. It also referred to the sixteenth century as the middle ages, go figure. :-p

You don't have to go to China for a lack of conscientious scholarship, apparently.

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Which is good, because that's not what I said: the book I was using approximated 150K men under arms which included all forces present. It also referred to the sixteenth century as the middle ages, go figure. :-p

Even if one army was 149K that's not even 1/5th of the 800,000 number that Free Capitalist was talking about. The 17th Century (1631 to be accurate) was well into the Renaissance, if not the beginnings of the Enlightenment (John Locke was born in 1632).

The book An Encyclopedia of Battles by David Eggenberger sites the same numbers as FC. I also have another book of twenty battles they claim are the most important in history and that says there are a few thousand more.

Edited by Praxus
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If I remember correctly (I could be wrong) part of the rationale for the ban on teaching the Japanese how to make muskets and powder was that they could easily field an army that was larger than the entire population of several countries in Europe. And they were trying to conquer China (with varying degrees of success) for quite some time.

I'm not quite sure I get the point of your comment about the ban on firearms. The ban on firearms was a Japanese measure, not a European one; more precisely, it was one of the measures of the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, or his successor to pacify the country. Europeans had been quite happy to trade with the Japanese, including selling them firearms after 1543 or so. That was in the period that the Japanese called the Warring States period, when many local rulers built up large militaries and made war on their neighbors. The ones who succeeded in unifying Japan (Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu), especially the last two, tried to demilitarize society--Hideyoshi led what was called the Great Sword Hunt in 1588, which aimed to remove weapons from the hands of the peasants; firearms were banned under the Tokugawa shogunate, though I don't remember at all well which year, before 1634 anyway, I think. Hideyoshi also invaded Korea as a first step to attacking China, apparently in part to unify all the local rulers in one great military exercise that would stop them fighting each other. (The war was ended by the Japanese immediately after Hideyoshi died in 1598.) The ban on firearms was one of a number of quite extraordinary measures Ieyasu and his successors took to freeze Japan in a pacified state isolated from the outside world--foreign trade with only the Dutch through Nagasaki and one or two other countries (China in particular, I think, and exports to Manila); banning Christianity and Nichiren Buddhism for contributing to social instability (in fact, Christianity was banned in part because it was seen as a threat to family values--the Christian injunction to abandon your father and mother and follow Christ did not go over well); a ban on most foreign learning; and mulcting the local rulers of much of their income and holding them and their families hostage, for example.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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Adrian,

I have been in a lot of historical arguments on Ancient Western vs Ancient Chinese military, i.e. "If Alexander hadn't stopped at the Indus River, could he continue conquering into China". I have not read many Chinese sources yet, which is why I've found it helpful to understand Ancient Chinese military in reference to Western and Middle Eastern (Persian) military history, things about which I do know about. So in the absence of time to properly investigate the sources themselves, I have come to my conclusions based entirely on the people I've had these arguments about. So far you're the only exception, because I have had these discussions with literally dozens of Chinese, or people aware of Ancient Chinese history, and have had many discussions with them regarding ancient Western vs Chinese military. And believe you me, I have seen far too many people who dismiss Alexander's chances in China out of hand, and portray the country as a land of invincible supermen, So far you are the only one who admitted that the country's military in the ancient era was largely similar to the Persian military (and thus, for instance, could be susceptible to the same flaws).

So forgive me if I've made claims that are too hasty, and instead would like to ask you what you personally think about Alexander's chances going eastward (assuming you've read at least some of the four major ancient accounts of him), and also what you think about Chinese vs Western ancient military in general.

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...instead would like to ask you what you personally think about Alexander's chances going eastward (assuming you've read at least some of the four major ancient accounts of him), and also what you think about Chinese vs Western ancient military in general.

Urf, I'm one of the last people to ask about military questions like that, especially on the nuts and bolts of different tactics and strategies. That said, I don't have a strong feeling either way. Chinese armies were defeated and Chinese states conquered by foreign invaders often enough throughout history, especially in periods when China was fragmented. My impression is that the various Chinese states focused so much on the threats the other Chinese states posed that their military techniques grew more and more inbred in order to defend against and prevail over the others, so that a foreigner with a well-trained army and different tactics, strategies, and techniques would have a great advantage. Alexander's era was just such a time. Add to that that Alexander was a masterful general, and I don't see any reason to think he would have been outclassed.

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what a fascinating thread. I am somewhat of an amateur historian (I research for purely entertainment purposes only) so if you guys don't mind, I'd like to participate.

the conjecture between China and Persia raised an eyebrow with me. It is my understanding that Persia was a huge Steppe region, with vast expanses of wilderness. Troops, therefore, needed to be mobile, because such a region would allow for large troop maneuvering. So an army favoring speed would be lightly armed and equipped.

My understanding of Chinese topography only comes from research that was centered on studying modern Chinese economics. You have a woodland central and eastern region, jungles in the south (towards the indochinese regions.) Mountains towards Tibet, and Steppes towards Mongolia.

So besides the basic idea of raising a large army of cheaply maintained peasant conscripts, where do you correlate any similarities between China and Persia?

And I agree with you, Free Capitalist, on the impracticalities of arming an army that numbers in the 100,000s in comparable equipment to the Greek Hoplite or the Roman Legionnare. The economic implications are tremendous.

And if anyone knows, how were ancient Chinese militaries led? One of the innovations of Alexander was making his army leadership independent but cohesive, allowing the army to continue functioning without depending entirely on Alexander for leadership, whereas the Persian one was very hierarchical, and any break in the chain caused mass confusion. My understanding is that Alexander knew this, and used it to great effect in his battles. Would the Chinese have been similarly vulnerable to this, or would have Alexander had a more difficult time breaking their backs?

Edited by the tortured one
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Persian army was not aimed for mobility, because if it was they would have had a lot more cavalry in their armies than they did -- what they had was a great number of lightly-armed levies plus a core armed force. An argument similar to the one you made could be said for the Roman Empire, which one would think would need massive numbers of cavalry to patrol their enormous border, and yet they had infantry troops patrol that border.

So I would say that the primary factors that determine the choice of troops in the army are not some environmental circumstances, but first and foremost the moral outlook of the soldiers/generals, and secondly the economical corollaries of that outlook. For example, the Greeks and Romans chose a smaller-sized heavily armed force of infantry which was required to pay for its own equipment. That was considered the most worthy aspect of the army, not to shoot at the guy from afar, or to surprise him with ambushes, but to face him straight away, to stare him down during face-to-face combat under formation held only by extreme military discipline. The military roles of the very poor (skirmishing and archery), were despised, and the military roles of the rich (cavalry) were viewed with suspicion as being prone to impetuousness and lack of discipline. In fact very often, at least earlier in Roman history, the rich would arrive to the battle astride a horse, but would then dismount and fight with the rest of the citizens in united formation. The Greco-Roman army, then, was first and foremost an ideological army, the army of the men of property who had things to fight for. The poor were ostracized to shameful roles, and earlier in history outright excluded from fighting altogether.

Now the Persians had no such compunctions -- they levied all men and forced them to fight. Plus based on the principles of who ruled and who was being ruled, the men of property were very few, and were part of the ruling class (with the king at the very top). So they had no reason to fight together with the rest of the army, and this explains a large degree of stratification in the Persian army. The rest of the soldiers were simply grabbed from the countryside, handed a wooden spear and a wicker shield, and ordered to follow. That is why the Persian armies were filled with low-armored levies, and the Greco-Roman armies were not. The Persian army was an ideological army as well, but of an entirely different ideology.

Also think about this, the Greek hoplites chose a style of fighting that really relied on large flat plains -- a huge formation of tightly packed men, so tightly packed that any battlefield disturbances such as even a single tree could cause problems in the formation. The mainland Greece is extremely hilly and mountainous, and yet that is exactly the style of fighting they chose, despite all of that. By comparison, other people, living in other mountainous areas, chose a skirmishing/ambushing lightly-armed style of army rather than fighting their enemy hand-to-hand, face-to-face -- that choice being ideological as well. See for example Xenophon's description in Anabasis of mountainous guerilla warfare against the Kurds ("Carduchi"), who never chose to face the Greeks straight out, but instead inflicted heavy casualties through ambushes (book 4). The Greeks 'till the end never chose that kind of fighting.

Persians chose infantry despite living on the steppes, and their neighbors the Parthians chose horse archers as their method of fighting. So it's not the environment that determines the layout of an army, but the way the soldiers view themselves and the nature/purpose of war. The same goes for how the Chinese, and every other people.

P.S. The innovations of Alexander in partitioning his army are actually not his at all, but are his father Philip's, and in fact go back as far as the Athenian Militiades at Battle of Marathon, who divided the army into three semi-autonomous parts (the thin middle and two thick independent flanks). Alex's innovations lie in different areas, such as in how he personally led his army, quite unlike anything the world has ever seen before or since.

Edited by Free Capitalist
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interesting. As one who has studied modern and future warfare more than old warfare, I caught the flaws in my thinking.

I am a cadet at a military college, and have studied and researched the fighting power of different military units based on environment. Take the 10th mountain division, the Navy SEALs, etc. America's armed forces do extensive research into topography when training, and everyone involved with ground forces, even basic infantryman, can navigate land to an extent. American soldiers, from the division down to the fire-team level, are given a large degree of autonomy, and training in specific terrain plays a large part in this.

Further specialized troops recieve extreme wilderness survival training, and some troops train specifically for a certain type of environment. SEALs, for example, are trained to view water not as an obstacle, but a maneuverable type of terrain. Not to mention the War Colleges and the Pentagon, who endlessly wargame every concievable type of warfare should such conflict arise.

Says something about America's war philosophy, no?

So I would say that the primary factors that determine the choice of troops in the army are not some environmental circumstances, but first and foremost the moral outlook of the soldiers/generals, and secondly the economical corollaries of that outlook.

Interesting conclusions, ones I would like to elaborate on. Having focused more on economics in my college education, I am inclined to say the second factor as more important (an army can only function so long as it has the capital to support it.) I'm sure if they had the economic resources, the Persians would have outfitted all of their men in high quality armor, but the economic implications would have been too great to be practical.

and as much as I would like to further elaborate on those two factors in western civilization, the thread is titled "Ancient Chinese history" so I will keep it there. You said

So it's not the environment that determines the layout of an army, but the way the soldiers view themselves and the nature/purpose of war. The same goes for how the Chinese, and every other people.

How does masses conscripted infantry formations correlate with the Chinese philosophy of war, which was based on the writings of Sun Tzu, as explained in other threads in this message board? Admittedly I know little of Chinese style of warfare, from tactics to armaments, hence why I am asking. Having seen pictures and descriptions of the Terra Cotta army, I can conclude that they were moderatly armed and armored, but I realize that's like saying all samurai ran around with their Katanas or all Legionnares with their Gladius. What do you conclude the Chinese war philosophy as being, and how is that integrated in their military organization?

Edited by the tortured one
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The Tera Cotta Army appears to be very lightly armored, most likely leather. This would mean they are less defended then the Persians who, according to Herodotus, wore chain-mail. They have no heavy breast/back plate(s) like the Greek Bronze Breast Plate or Roman Lorica Segmentata. Nor do they appear to be wearing greaves or helmets.

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/peter.fairweather/docs/qin1.jpg

http://www.jasminechina.com/Images/army2.jpg

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torturedone,

Having focused more on economics in my college education, I am inclined to say the second factor as more important (an army can only function so long as it has the capital to support it.) I'm sure if they had the economic resources, the Persians would have outfitted all of their men in high quality armor, but the economic implications would have been too great to be practical.
Well you should remember that the Persians chose to have 300,000 soldiers against Alexander's 50,000 at Gaugamela. Why? I mean of course, if some bounty falls from the sky then sure all soldiers can be dressed up in the best armor. But that's not the issue, the issue is choosing your form of warfare given the amount of wealth that your nation currently has. The Greco-Roman approach was to create a heavy infantry soldier, and organized him into a tight and coherent heavy infantry formation. Why? Because the Greco-Roman society was a society of citizens, men with rights to life, liberty, and property. So they, given their limited resources, chose to armor themselves in the heaviest armor, and organize themselves in the heaviest and most ordered formation.

It was completely different for the Persians, so they given their limited resources chose to instead recruit hundreds of thousands of troops, and thinly spread the government money on as many men as possible. Even in the Roman Empire, after the Republic had collapsed, the government still chose just a few heavily armed soldiers, over hordes of lightly armed peasants running around.

So economics are important in warfare, but still not as important as the moral factor of the soldiers themselves -- how they view themselves and the nature of war. Given limited resources on both sides, each side chose to allocate those resources differently, because of other factors. Besides, the Persian empire was enormous and enormously opulent, whereas the Greeks only had the money to outfit some dozen thousand heavy hoplites. So economics is still only secondarily important.

as much as I would like to further elaborate on those two factors in western civilization, the thread is titled "Ancient Chinese history" so I will keep it there.
Well if talking about the Persian empire for example helps understand the Chinese, why not? That's the only reason I'm doing it, because everything I say about the Persians is usually directly applicable to the Chinese as well, because their society and thus their military was built in a very similar way.

Having seen pictures and descriptions of the Terra Cotta army, I can conclude that they were moderatly armed and armored, but I realize that's like saying all samurai ran around with their Katanas or all Legionnares with their Gladius.
Actually all legionaries did have a gladius, even in the Republic when they had to pay for it themselves. But the question you should ask yourself is -- how representative is the terracota army of the general Chinese troop equipment? For example the Persians did use chain-mail as Praxus said, but only maybe the Immortals, i.e. the 10,000 core soldiers, in an army of 200,000-300,000. The entire Persian army didn't really have chain-mail, or even a helmet. They just had a layer of clothes, a wicker shield, and a spear, usually. So these descriptions must be taken in context. Edited by Free Capitalist
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Actually all legionaries did have a gladius, even in the Republic when they had to pay for it themselves.

the point that I was making was that I was making a conjection based on my limited exposure to the field of ancient Chinese military outfitting :glare: Legionnares are famous for their gladius, but it was a secondary weapon, as the sword was throughout it's life as an applicable military tool. Same with the Katana, which was a companion weapon to the Samurai's primary arms, the Yari and the longbow, despite the Romanticized cult of the sword that developed during the relatively peaceful Tokugawa Shogunate. :lol:

Persian proto-philosophy was definatly a throwback to the tribalism of the rest of the world, unlike the egoism of the Greek culture, and it reflected in their prefered style of warfare. However, the Chinese had always been innovators in technology, even in ancient times.

Of course Europe eventually eclipsed them when Aristotlean logicism returned during the Renaissance, but the point remains that, when compared to other independently developing civilizations, such as the African tribes and the American empires (the Incans, Mayans, and Aztecs) China was very advanced.

How do you reconcile their innovative nature with a philosophy which you assert shares similar properties to Persian philosophy, which existed in the same petrified state as the regional civilizations that preceeded it?

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the point that I was making was that I was making a conjection based on my limited exposure to the field of ancient Chinese military outfitting :glare: Legionnares are famous for their gladius, but it was a secondary weapon, as the sword was throughout it's life as an applicable military tool. Same with the Katana, which was a companion weapon to the Samurai's primary arms, the Yari and the longbow, despite the Romanticized cult of the sword that developed during the relatively peaceful Tokugawa Shogunate. :lol:

The Gladius was never a secondary weapon for the Legionnaires. The only time a short sword was used as a secondary weapon was when they used the Hopllite (modified Xiphos) and the Falcata (modifed Kopis). Both of these weapons were used during early Roman history when they still fought as hoplites in a phalanx. Their primary weapon was, of course, a pike.

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My understanding is that Roman legionnares marched into battle carrying short spears or javelins, and only drew their swords after they had expended their spears.

Yes, they had what was called a "pilum". It was a short throwing spear that bent in half when it hit the enemies shield (or body). It's primary purpose was to disable the shields of the enemy, leaving them open to attack by sword. So it's role was essentially secondary. If you read Vegetius, he talks about how these spears were seldum used during his time (390 AD): As to the missile weapons of the infantry, they were javelins headed with a triangular sharp iron, eleven inches or a foot long, and were called piles. When once fixed in the shield it was impossible to draw them out, and when thrown with force and skill, they penetrated the cuirass without difficulty. At present they are seldom used by us, but are the principal weapon of the barbarian heavy-armed foot. They are called bebrae, and every man carries two or three of them to battle.

Edited by Praxus
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