Hadrian's Consolidation - reboot

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Hecatee, May 16, 2016.

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  1. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    My understanding is that formed, disciplined infantry don't get smashed like that because horses are too smart to run into solidish objects with lots of sharp pointy things.

    What kills infantry is mounted archers who stand off out range of eg javelins / pila, and whittle down the infantry, which can't respond.

    Once unit cohesion is destroyed by that tactic, then and only then do the Lancers go in.

    No?

    Not a military historian, but that seems to be what the books I read say.
     
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  2. Derek Pullem Butterfly Killer Donor

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    Kind of. What kills infantry formations is fear.

    This can be the cumulative fear induced by casualties suffered by archers or it can be the immediate terror faced with a line of armoured men on horses trotting towards you, each weighing the best part of the ton carrying a lance longer than your spear, sword or pilum.

    Once the unit loses cohesion (and it's almost always due to fear rather than casualties) then any cavalry light or heavy can destroy infantry.

    If the infantry can stand and not break then the horse archers will run out of arrows and the cataphracts will bounce. Whilst it was heard of for Roman infantry to charge stationary cavalry on some occasions that was the exception rather than the rule. So the massive casualties shown here have to have another cause i.e the cavalry charge.
     
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  3. Avalon Well-Known Member

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    They won't naturally no, but they can be trained to as the warhorses of the past were. The temperament of biggest horses today aren't indicative of the temperament warhorse of the past as modern day horses are rarely bred for the kind of combat their ancestors would be.
     
  4. Hecatee Traveller of the pasts

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    Sources such as Arrian tell us that sometimes cavalry could achieve such breakthrough in enemy ranks, and that was the specific role the Parthian heavy cavalry played. Here they struck en masse, causing fear, but also at a point of lesser cohesion of the front (at the junction between two units, I did not go to the trouble of deciding whether it was between two centuries, two cohorts or two legions, but in any case keeping good unit cohesion with an army of 80 000 men is impossible at the time, even 60 000 was too much as shown at Cannae or Arausio, it would take the Napoleonian age to see larger armies operating...
     
  5. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    OTL Egypt and North Africa were tremendously powerful provinces and politically influential. The reason is because they were agricultural breadbaskets. Now imagine Gaul as an agricultural breadbasket as big as the two put together at least. Then consider Britannia and Germania which in the long run can easily match if not exceed them. The Mediterranean provinces will benefit far less from such agricultural innovations because of the nature of their soil. The European provinces on the other hand will benefit a lot, and thus gain a lot of sway and political power.

    The problem as I see it is mainly Italy vs the provinces. The empire was most stable when Italy was economically powerful and dominant political centre relative to the provinces. Once the provinces began to exceed Italy in influence and collective wealth, unity and cohesion began to break down in the empire. Provincial elites began fighting with each other to become emperor. No provincial elite felt he just automatically had to obey another provincial elite as opposed to the former all-powerful Italian Romans. And all this happened even as it was only the Mediterranean provinces gaining power relative to Italy. Now imagine Italy being overshadowed by the Mediterranean provinces as well as Germania, Northern Gaul, and Britannia.
     
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  6. Md139115 Bring back the Inquisition!

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    You forget that Hadrian TTL has standardized the rules of succession to the Imperial throne, and this succession is based on the consent of a Senate that is becoming increasingly provincialized.
     
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  7. Avalon Well-Known Member

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    Which is the disconnect I'm talking about, you're talking about Italy vs the Provinces while I'm discussing the Mediterranean provinces vs that of Gaul and Britannia (and possibly Germania). Your points against Italy are true I agree to that but what I'm saying there's no reason why the concentration of power will be pulled north when there's the rest of the Mediterranean pulling south and east like @Hecatee was saying.

    Modern day Egypt outstrips France in Agricultural production despite, obviously, having far less farmable land and a lesser degree of mechanisation, I wouldn't be surprised that the North African states are relatively high in if not equal to France in Agricultural Production too. On top of that, I had already compared GDPs (how much that's worth is debatable) of the UK and France to the modern OTL Western Mediterranean states.

    While Egypt and North Africa were massively politically influential they certainly didn't draw the political centre away from whatever the capital was at the various points of time and they didn't decide imperial policy because while all they - if we are going on that population and agricultural production are the only political deciders - produce would strengthen their province it would also strengthen all the others as they are all interconnected and the Egyptians couldn't eat all they produced themselves.

    To go back, yes, Italia vs all the provinces is most likely not in its favour but its never going to be Italia vs all the others it will be balanced by alliances, interests and as @Hecatee said the ability of the Romans to make everyone at least feel Roman, to give all a stake in the empire.
     
  8. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    Well I tend to think monotheism will always win out over polytheism in the long run because it's a superior in terms of cohesiveness and ideological consistency, and just more appealing than non-rigid Greco-Roman polytheism/syncretism. Polytheism needs to be reformed like Hinduism to become more ideological to stand a chance. Or I would expect monotheism to make a comeback, OTL the more persecuted they were, the more viable they became in the long run. Jizya seems to be effective at dealing with the problem of the remaining Jews in the empire, better than threatening execution and risking revolts, more lucrative as well. Plus with the new eastern often Zoroastrian subjects, that might be a solution. (not sure whether Zoroastrians would consent to sacrificial rites to the emperor)

    My concern with revolts is that splitting the provinces won't stop one famous/influential general from gaining support from all the regional troops of multiple provinces, especially if he promises them increased pay/benefits/power...

    I also have a concern with the Romans preventing any travel across the Tigris. That is a recipe for mass revolt among local subjects who are used to trading and travelling across the river, and might have family/relatives across the line...

    Although Romanization was effective, it ultimately brings everyone Gauls, Germans, Spaniards, Syrians, Africans on the same level plane. Which means more potential for civil war between provincial elites...

    Turning deficit provinces into surplus provinces won't make them more dependent on Rome, it will decrease the dependency. It was the rich eastern provinces historically that broke off to form the Eastern/Byzantine Empire, because they/eastern provinces no longer needed the west. Gaul and Britannia was more firmly attached to Italy/Rome precisely because they were deficit provinces. If you make all the provinces self-sustaining and rich by themselves, able to support themselves and take care of local security, then why do they need the empire? Better infrastructure/improvements also would lead to more local/regional self-sufficiency as opposed to being attached to Italy and faraway provinces. Better roads/canals would lead to more trade nearby as opposed to across the Mediterranean. Better machinery would produce more local food self-sufficiency, and more local trade and production for local consumption.

    OTL, Rome became less and less important as power moved to the provinces. How is that expected to be different TTL if the empire is even larger making it even less sensible to administer everything from Rome?

    The Senatorial/Equestrian role distinction as outlined is viable and seems effective for administering the empire. It gives Senators far more power and influence than they ultimately ended up with OTL.


    For preventing revolts might I make a few military reform suggestions.

    1) Make the Praetorian Guard an all-cataphract cavalry force (20,000+) in emulation of the Parthians. This gives the emperor a fast, mobile force/central army that punches above its own weight in numbers. Even though it would be ruinously expensive.

    2) Reinstitute the Imperial German Bodyguard to protect the emperor and reduce the influence of the Praetorian Guard, this would reduce the chance of plots and assassination attempts by the Praetorians.

    3) Institute a Byzantine Theme System for the Auxilia. Distinctions between citizen and peregrini are disappearing and that removes the incentive for military service as well as distinctions between Legions and Auxilia. The Auxilia will have to be paid more, given more generous retirement stipends like the Legions which will ruin the Empire financially. On the other hand, give landless subjects state land to farm on, in return each extended family on a plot of state land has to always supply one man in the Auxilia. The soldier won't have to be paid as being allowed to farm on the land would be the compensation. The soldier's descendants will continue to serve in the Auxilia creating a military class loyal to the empire first. The soldier will be less likely to rebel, mutiny, participate in civil wars because that would mean the confiscation of the land from his extended family. Soldiers will be sent far away from the province where their theme is located. Situate the themes in frontier provinces to supply additional trained manpower/ex-soldiers during military emergencies.


    As for place names, instead of using modern day references (Basra), here's a map that will help you see all the ancient day equivalences. It also shows provincial borders, all urban settlements in the empire, where all the mines are located, oases, historical river names, and travel times by ship across the empire. Super detailed.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  9. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    That's true. Hopefully the Senate retains enough legitimacy to solve succession issues. But what happens if an emperor does a poor job, becomes unpopular with the troops and the equestrian class, yet retains the support of the Senate? Or contrary what if a successful general was supported by the troops and equestrian class but the Senate supports another candidate as the next emperor?
     
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  10. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    Well at first the rich provinces produced emperors. Then as the provinces became more influential, the empire split in two, and Rome was no longer the capital. Byzantium/Constantinople was a compromise for the eastern rich provinces, including Egypt, being closer than Rome. Mediolanium was chosen instead of Rome cause it was closer to the Western provinces. So the provinces did draw the political centre away from the capital gradually over time. They also produced competing emperors with competing imperial policies that favoured certain provinces over others.

    The key to making everyone feel Roman is trade and long distance travel as well as common language and in the long run religion. Problem is I feel the future economic developments to come are not conducive to (Mediterranean) unity because of the things I mentioned. Plus language will become more regionalized and Latin more "vulgarized" over time. Descendants of Roman settlers in faraway provinces will forget their Italian roots and be loyal to their locales. And since Christianity is butterflied, there won't be a unified single dominant religion in the empire in the foreseeable future.
     
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  11. Avalon Well-Known Member

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    Each of the provincial emperors would, in the end, seize and/or have the Italian capital (Rome, Ravenna etc) as the centre of their rule no matter where they were from. Constantinople was partially a project to move the capital away from Rome due to security concerns and partially a prestige project for Constantine. Rome really lost its status as the political capital not because the provinces were drawing on its political power but because there was a need of successive emperors of different origins to be closer to the frontier for quick reaction to any threats as time went on.
     
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  12. Icee Well-Known Member

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  13. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    Partially that's correct. But it still doesn't explain the need for a capital away from Rome. Emperors always spend most of their time on the road, campaigning with the army, they rarely even need to visit Rome/or any other capital. So why move the administrative capital to Northern Italy, except to weaken Rome's position of power overall?

    I feel successive emperors effectively leveraged the support of the provinces against opposition from Rome/the Senate, and used that to stay in power. Which ultimately cost Rome the position of being the empire's centre/undisputed capital.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  14. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    One of the problems with Gaul as a breadbasket is transportation. From Egypt, you boat the grain down the Nile, and ship across Med. North Africa, the grain growing area is really close to the sea, so easy shipping.

    Gaul? The area right near the Med, or in the Rhine flood plain? Sure. Paris area? Not so much.
     
  15. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    Not a breadbasket for Italy. A breadbasket for itself, that's the whole point. Gaul will be the most fertile and populous region in the empire in the future. Italy may have a hard time keeping it under control, along with Britannia and Germania.
     
  16. NthBelisarius Well-Known Member

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    Gaul is not a single province though, it's several (4?). Divide et Impera.
     
  17. Avalon Well-Known Member

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    Well, Milan wasn't really the capital strictly speaking - it was more like a forward command centre. Trier, on the Rhine, served a similar function. The capital was wherever the Emperor happened to be. And the Emperor, during the late-Empire, was much most likely to be close the troops, which were located on the frontier. This made it much easier for the emperor to react to any crises or invasion. Secondly and probably even more importantly, being with or close the troops served to reduce the chance of any usurpation.

    Rome was simply too far away from the frontier. Also, residents of Rome, once the key constituency in Roman politics, had lost most their influence. The most important constituency was now the army on the frontier, not the provinces they were in.

    I dealt with this in my first reply where I show despite the political issues that went on in our timeline Egypt is still more populated than France. There is also no assurance that as it must surpass anyone in population and like all important breadbaskets most the food Gaul (which as I have said and has been said above again is made up of 4 provinces at the least) produces will move outside itself and aid in the bolstering of the entire empire, not just itself. There's a greater pull east than north when to comes to Rome and in most situations where the empire is stabilised and at peace the 'capital' can always be moved back to Rome (assuming it recovers)
     
  18. oca2073 Well-Known Member

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    You fail to understand my point. If a forward command centre can be anywhere, then Rome could have remained the capital. The emperor never has to actually be in the capital, he can be in any forward command centre he chooses. A capital is mostly symbolic and the fact that Rome was not it, suggests how far its political stock had fallen. Clearly the provinces were now more important than Rome itself, for Rome to no longer be capital of the empire. Since troops were almost entirely from the provinces, that just reflects the power of the provinces...

    Your points about modern day GDP and population Egypt and North Africa vs Europe is completely irrelevant to the discussion as they are the result of modern day dynamics and economic differences that resulted in differing birth rates. These differences did not apply in the 2nd century. What matters is agricultural potential. The idea that agricultural potential does not drive population and demographic trends because of empire-wide trade patterns is absurd.

    The only way Gaul would remain underpopulated relative to the Mediterranean provinces if the heavy plough/three field rotation is introduced is either war or massive Roman grain requisitioning. Otherwise, Gaul produces increased surplus grain from increased yields, Italy doesn't need any more grain, so it is consumed at home. Immigrants flock to Gaul, urban cities grow in size as its more efficient to grow food in Gaul and consume it in Gallic cities producing manufactured goods than to ship it halfway across the empire.

    The idea that splitting regions into provinces makes them any less a potential threat is absurd. Previous usurpers always gained regional support and used nearby troops to guarantee that support. Imagine a general winning support in Germania against a candidate backed by the Senate in Rome, using German troops to take Gaul, wins the support of several governors in Britannia. Sort of like the OTL Gallic Empire + Germania. Next imagine these regions had undergone an agricultural revolution. Next tell me how difficult it would be for the Romans to reconquer these regions using solely troops from the Mediterranean.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018 at 3:28 PM
  19. Avalon Well-Known Member

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    Except in antiquity that's what a capital was, a forward command centre. As I said before the reason the 'capital' even moved the need of late emperors to be close the troops, which were located on the frontier. This made it much easier for the emperor to react to any crises or invasion. And again, secondly and probably even more importantly, being with or close the troops served to reduce the chance of any usurpation.

    The modern GDPs and agricultural output are extremely important because they serve as our anchor in any such discussions like this. Me bringing up France and Egypt is to show that despite the starkly different 'fates' of the two provinces Egypt still manages to put out a greater agricultural surplus. I brought up GDP to show that in our world as well the Mediterranean states at least balance that of France and Britain. To ignore our timeline in any alternate historical discussion makes no sense as we are discussing from our point of view.

    On the terms of population that of Italy and France today are close enough despite our middle ages because the population size does not solely depend on agricultural output but on a myriad of factors. The point of food production going straight back into the province makes no sense as what would be keeping it there. If the farmers who sell to Italia get a better price than at home they will sell to Italia. Once subsistence level is met there is no need to consume more and if it is needed somewhere else it will go somewhere else such as Egyptian and, more relative to this point, North African grain did to Italy.

    Even with larger populations in pre-modern warfare the amount of people you have doesn't have as much weight as the number of people you can raise. You're thinking through our modern view of warfare but in the armies of antiquity and the middle ages what matters most is training, supply, equipment and actually applicable manpower. The first, third and last of those coming from wealth most likely gotten through trade (i.e. the eastern provinces) and the second one gotten through good supply routes (e.g. the Mediterranean). If military conflict in the pre-modern age was decided purely by population then Rome shouldn't have had a problem with Persia, France should've always crushed England 'at home' and Russia would've been consistently ascendant in Eastern Europe.

    One thing I would like to ask is for you to give me estimated population numbers from your scenario so I can visualise what you are positing.
     
  20. Praetor98 #TeamWhite

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    Perhaps that idea of the Theme system of military districts could be introduced by the Roman Army. Each legion has a corresponding district, and from this area it does its recruiting and deploys with supplies prepared by this district?
     
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