Han vs. Rome: Military Comparisons
Posted 29 December 2004 - 12:39 AM
Posted 29 December 2004 - 07:24 PM
Chinese soldiers had no classification such as the Romans. Instead, they had their own form of chains of command. Remember, China had to face enemies different from the Romans, and thus had to develope strategies of their own.
i am still waiting for anybody who are well verse...in chinese history...
to have a comparative study of the soldier classification and the corresponding weapons and shields,and the soldier battle position.
This Website has some info that you seek.
I will pull a few excerpts from it.
At the end of the reign of Emperor Ling, the facade of civil government remained intact. In formal terms, immediately below the ruler, the Three Excellencies (san gong), with rank expressed by a nominal salary of Ten Thousand shi of Grain (wan shi), and the Nine Ministers (jiu qing), rank/salary of Fully Two Thousand shi (zhong erqian shi), headed the administration, while the office of the Masters of Writing (shangshu), the imperial secretariat, drew up and circulated the edicts and orders with which government was carried out. Outside the capital, provinces (zhou) were headed by Governors (mu) or Inspectors (cishi), and these were divided into subordinate commanderies (jun) under Grand Administrators (tai shou) or states (guo), nominal fiefs of kings (wang) which were in practice ruled by Chancellors (xiang). Commanderies and states were in turn divided into counties (xian), the basic level of Han government, ruled by Prefects (ling), Chiefs (zhang) and equivalent officers. All local units were responsible for police work and basic control of banditry and other minor troubles, but there was also a military establishment to guard the person of the emperor, to maintain the frontiers, and to quell disturbance within the empire.
Each of these leaders mentioned above had their own force. There is no set number. If a province has more troops then another, then that Governor will command more men then the other. Its that simple. Generals can command as many soldiers as their superiors give them. Nothing is set because of the unpredictability of war. One day, a general might command 1,000 troops. Another day, he might command 10,000.
Here are some more important excerpts
We have noted that the two units of Gentlemen of the Household Rapid as Tigers and of the Feathered Forest were probably cadets in training for military commissions. Other troops on the frontier were recruited locally or came through one of three depots: the Camp at Yong ?¼l in Youfufeng, west of Chang'an; the Tiger Tooth Encampment (huya ying) near that former capital; and the Camp at Liyang in Wei commandery by the Yellow River in the west of the North China plain. This structure for recruitment and training had been maintained all through Later Han, and the troops who manned the garrisons and base camps on the frontiers of the empire were trained and competent.
The command structure of the armies raised to deal with these internal disorders followed the formal pattern of Han and the hierarchy we have described for the army at the capital. The highest field command was that of general, often identified by a special prefix either in literary style or indicating the campaign for which the officer was appointed. As warfare spread, a multitude of generals were appointed or proclaimed themselves, and there are occasional references in the records to Lieutenant-Generals (pian jiangjun) and Major-Generals (pi jiangjun), though neither post is listed in the regular system of Later Han.
The usual appointment below the rank of general was General of the Gentlemen of the Household, initially, as we have seen, the style of an officer in charge of guards at court, but later used for commanders on active service outside the capital. Thus Generals of the Gentlemen of the Household took part in operations against the Qiang in 115 and in 162, against the Xianbi in 177, and against the Yellow Turban rebels in 184., while from the outbreak of civil war, officers with that title frequently hold command in the field.
Under Later Han, appointment as Chief Commandant of Cavalry (ji duwei) had normally been a sinecure, without subordinates or particular duties, but with rank/salary Equivalent to Two Thousand shi, the same as a General of the Gentlemen of the Household. From the time of the Yellow Turbans, however, officers with that title appear on active service. It appears from context that their troops were not necessarily restricted to horsemen, but the status of the office was not quite so high as that of a General of the Gentlemen of the Household.
As in the Northern Army at the capital, an army in the field was organised into regiments (ying) commanded by colonels (xiaowei), with battalions (bu) under majors (sima), while there was provision for appointment of senior Majors with a Separate Command (biebu sima). We are also told of companies (qu) under captains (hou), and platoons (tun) under chiefs (tunzhang), though these lower units and appointments are seldom referred to in the texts.
According to The Art of War and commentaries, the number of soldiers a commander can lead depends on his qualities.
Now, you may think that a Han force is disorderly compared to a Roman force. But let me ask you, would you send lines of troops against a machinegun or will you scatter them to make them harder to hit? I will scatter them. The Han crossbow and other projectile firing mechinisms were fast firing and could pierce Roman armor easily. Therefore, shooting a few thousand arrows at a column of advancing infantry would be like my machinegun annalogy. The Roman armor was not a match, and would get slaughtered. However, if the reverse was true, Han soldiers were scattered and could avoid a mass of arrows. They could fall behind cover when they want and could move in whatever direction they wanted. In truth, as The Art of War said, "An army must move like water." The ridged Roman lines will be pincushions before long.
Sun Tzu found alive!
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Posted 30 December 2004 - 04:22 AM
Your reply could be consider verily a well research,and i consider
it worthy of a good comparative study.
as i take notice, there is a way to compare it. please give me time.
my number one consideration, is to study the chinese military history,
not or never to reach conclusion who is best or better.
if you will take note, The Art of War , is well known in the world of
military and historian alike,unluckily most of knowledge is only passing
and by quote by other books and article.
the Roman Legion battle way is called the Conventional War. Versus
the Chinese Han battle way is called the Unconventional War.
both have Advantages and Disadvantages.
Posted 30 December 2004 - 11:30 PM
I might offer a little in defense of the Romans comparitive ability however, despite me not being one of the experts on it I have read enough of the experts discussions on other forums to know a little!
Bear in mind
Han were never so militarily strong to dominate even Xiongnu confederancies, and the punitive 100, 000 man expeditions by Wudi were generally short and very draining (figures for amount of grain sent to the front compared to amount of grain arriving at the front show a huge transporting cost, something like 20 tonne=1 tonne). These costs were prohibitive, and so tribute, trade and marriage were used as well to keep Xiongnu quiet. The problem never went away, other nomad tribes continued grief in later times. Former barbarian allies established their own kingdoms at the northern borders and the Mongols were the culmination of this endless stuggle with the Steppes people.
Wudi by his very reign-name may perhaps mask the fact that the military solution was not entirely successful there. This is not to say it was not a period of expansion and strength for Han (ie, silk rd and southern expansion) but that it is not question of outright domination. (This Han military pressure may explain the much later appearance of the group know as the ‘Huns’ moving eastwards from the steppes and causing the later Romans such trouble)
I do however think the crossbow of the Chinese would cause trouble to the Romans, as these were a very advanced weapon at the time. The Parthian example is valid.....Europe had nothing like this.
Also the Chinese masses availible are signifigant too, when coupled with disipline and good generalship all harshly learnt during the Warring States period.
Elsewhere it has been suggested the crossbow allows conscripted soldiers to be effective for missile fire much quicker than training a bowman so Chinese armies could be bulked out with these troops and a core of skilled infantry and cavalry performing the business end. Han both had scale armour (not laminar it seems) and shields and apparently even light armour can make a difference in stopping arrows and weapon blows.....so the Han don't fare too badly compared to the half naked (but fierce) Celts and Gauls the Romans had put to flight.
It seems tight formations and control of massed troops is also an element of war by Han times......any idea that Han formations were fluid or loose seems wrong to me.
Elsewhere on this forum somebody described a quote which outlined how tight formations were controlled by Zhou times…by watching the line each soldier positioned according to the man beside…and during Qin they wouldn’t let anyone retreat or advance as an individual.
So the idea the Roman formations would be a disadvantage is quite wrong, or that the Chinese didn’t work as a similar mass is equally wrong.
All in all both Roman and Han were capable military machines....because they had to be! Any fight would be bloody as each had lethal abilities...
Now Romans. Yes, their armour didn't stop the crossbow so they would of recieved a shock and such from this. European plate that could stop medieval crossbows (even more powerful than Han era devices) came much later, so they were at risk.
HOWEVER, this comes down to brains and generalship. Having assumed Romans survive an encounter, or learn of this weapon they were magnificient engineers so mobile screens, earthworks, ditches, all may have been thrown up before the infantry. They also had their own archers as well, perhaps they would engage crossbowmen with these first and keep the infantry back until the 2 forces close to a range they can charge and engage. Romans used military slings as weapons to, not doubt shorter range than a crossbow but were said to be very accurate and able to strike to the head with cast lead projectiles. In missile fire it could come down to numbers here, and attrition (the Chinese would again have an advantage in trading casualties).
In an infantry fight it is impossible to say, but the Romans were certainly at their best at close quarter and very tough and focused as a formation.
Lets not forget the Roman ballista bought to battle on a mobile cart, firing over the ranks and pinning the enemy to trees behind them. The could fire at range into formations......I know the Song dynasty had heavy crossbows like artillery manned by a team...but did the Han had a comparable portable field weapon like the ballista then?
There must be some way to negate the crossbows advantage, or position yourself so the effect is reduced, and a good leader will have to figure it out quickly.
Now, the deficiency of Roman cavalry. It is not so simple. The bulk of a Roman force at their empires height were not Legionarres at all. They were auxiallaries...much like the Han used from the Xiongnu in north, so allies fought which used their own cultural abilities, or else as roman equipped but lighter armoured infantry that were taken from 'pacified' people/cultures and fought inside the Roman army. They were never legionarres in citizenship, heavy equipment, or rights.....but they fought alongside with ability. Auxialaries acted as cavalry also. (The problem Rome had with Goths later is that they dwelt inside the Empire and were outfitted and trained in Roman military ways, any early superiority Rome had on the battlefied against these tribes was shared with them).
There were certainly effective Roman cavalry, and they were used in the Gaulish uprising. The could outflank, and pursue. Again it might come down to numbers...and how well they were employed by the general. Perhaps the Chinese would outnumber again (and we will assume Chinese by now all have the larger 'celestial horses' the Han encounter around 200BC), but it is all down to brains with employing cavalry to effect, and both sides are capable.
On the numbers issue, the manpower available to Rome and China needs clarifying. Most histories I have read say the Han were contemporary and equal or greater than the Romans in territory and population……without precise numbers this is good enough for me, but the Roman forum link posted above might suggest the Romans might surpass these Chinese figures in % of world population at Romes height. Perhaps for a clash of armies a census isn’t so important as the armies capabilities……take the Mongols for instance who were never numerous and employed a majority of non-Mongol soldiers at the later stages.
So, lets say Chinese & Roman met half way in Eurasia while both Empires were laying claim to a Persian empire collapsing due to a hypothetical internal disaster. The Romans march out to secure the frontier in the quest to secure borders via control and expansion, and the Chinese head out through the silk road to secure it from banditry and lay claim to a crucial economic route.
And lets say the initial response is to take and hold the territory from the other instead of just trading across the new frontier (bearing in mind the huge appetite for Chinese silk in Rome, and that the Han imported Roman glass and recieved coinage as well).
No nation would ever conquer the other. Han expeditions to the steppes almost bankrupted the dynasty, and Rome never took Northern England or Ireland. There are limits to how far one can project power.
However if they decided to test their strengths, and if the forces there were equally numbered and lead by anonymous generals, I would roll a dice.
Each side is lethal, and they both know what they are doing and are good at it.
It would be a grand contest!
Posted 31 December 2004 - 02:57 AM
Rad: I will give a example, from the Zhou dynasty there was a very clear rule of army organization much like modern day, IIRC Wu 伍 is the basic organization (say 5 solider as the name suggest) and 5 Wu forms a bigger group etc etc.. and the biggest organization grouping was a army "Juin 軍" i belive the Zhou number for a Juin is around 10 thousand men or so... these sort of classification based on a fixed number of solider is still in use today for modern armies.
The Han's basic army organization is probably based off this sort of grouping too as almost all Warring States army system (including Qin) were based off the Zhou (and iirc Romans were like this too, Centrunians were the leader of 100 men ) whle the different weapon/formation arrangements will change with the need of each battle, but the execution and command system remain the same.
Kenneth: the Han definately used closed formation too espically for any frontal confrontations, however it also used many loose formation in different situations and terrains, such as ambush/seige/raids or if speed and manuverability decrees the need, the saying during the Han times was 八陣 or 8 formation (though some say this may just mean many formation instead of 8) showing that during this time the Han already rely on various different formations for various needs, however little record is left on how exactly these formations work, though we can probably tell from some accounts of battle, that the most basic formation was the 方陣 square formation (aka phalanx or legionary type formation) while there was also pretty vivid account of 圓陣 the circular formation, which is basically a purely defensive formation with range and melee supporting each other in a circular formation in the case that they are surronded / outnumbered etc.. also implementing carts or whatever else they can find as makeshift fortification (usually more useful vs nomadic calvary on the stepps and the main account i'm quoting this from is from one such battle)
The Han dynasty crossbows were really not much more inferior to most medieval crossbows until the later really big onces (which were mostly used only in seiges anyway like iron arbalest) and plate armor did not gaurentee protection vs crossbows either depending on range and angel of strike. although the big shields of the legionary definatly provided good protection vs such a threat, when using such a shield formation their manuverability becomes extremely limited. And as most true army clashs have told us... outmanuvering ur oppenet is almost always more important than outfighting him head on.
Posted 31 December 2004 - 09:18 AM
the Roman Empire have a normally standing Army of 30 Legion.
180,000 thousand , the fixed forces, not included the militias,
and the allies auxilliary, which normally are more or less the same number to Legion.Rome maintain 3 Army group of 10 Legion each.
One case study: The Great Hannibal have 50,000 thousands
Hannibal always defeated the Roman in many great battle.
the First 10 legion is in the frontage of the enemy.
normally just a day to 3 days from enemy distance.
but the Roman always kept the Second 10 Legion
in Far Safe distance.to avoid any ambushed type engagement.
but near enough to employ Rear threat to the enemy.
normally weeks from the enemy distance.
the Third 10 Legion mostly the most veteran.
are kept in other country or in the enemy entry or exit point,
in Hannibal case ... Spain.
if the first 10 legion is defeated...as Hannibal have done many times,
Rome simply build another 10 Legion in emergency.to take the
Second Position of the 3 Army formation.
but the Roman prevented at all cost any form of reenforcement.
So after 16 long years without reenforcement , Hannibal force dwindled,
and the rest are history.
The Roman Wargame Legion Thesis
in normal time, there is 1 Legion in every country as occupation force.
if there is a threat, they put 3 Legion in that place.
and if the Rebellion is successful.
The Roman 10 Legion Army Formation will be send.
as in the Judea case.
in Julius Caesar case
he begin with 3 Legion,
then 6 legion,
and at the Battle of Munda, he have 10 Roman Legion.
on Chinese Military History
i already read the article in the link given.
But my real interest, because i am a gameboard inventor,of wargame,
was on military organizational structutre,battle array formation ,soldier classification with their designated weapons, shield and armor.
so i am using only my in-depth know how of the Roman Wargame.
as my reference point. and use as comparative study material.
my opinion: on Roman Military Structure
is they are using the Numbered Nine Formation principally.
i will detail it later.
as i know and believe, the Chinese Military History Use
the 4 or 8 Corps Military Formation. Any comments on this please?
Posted 31 December 2004 - 11:16 PM
without getting too sidetracked from the Rome vs Han theme let me explain what I meant about the Chinese crossbow.
When I first purchased some Warring States bronze arrow heads from a knowledgable Chinese antique dealer I had commented to him that the Chinese invented the crossbow in the seventh century BC, and this weapon wasn't being used in the West until almost 2,000 years later. He said matter of factly that ther Chinese crossbow was not so powerful as the European device.
Now I didn't actually believe him for a time, and not out of pride as I am not Chinese, but because reconstructions from original Han dynasty mechanisms had the draw weight at 60lb, and capable of up to 100lb. An English longbow might be around 100lb or so, and this is very hard for a novice to even draw let alone fire. That weapon would knock somebody down and pin them to the ground, and even pierce 2 Frenchmen so the English might be reminded on meat on a spit.........
However, the later European devices would often exceed 150lb, which is the reasonable maximum muscular power could draw (repeating 60kg lifts each load would get tiring!), so even a footmans crossbow (not a large war machine) would be drawn by a metal winch into firing position. If a Han device could be cocked by leg pressure, or by the sling that came into use later then obviously the draw weight is less than the medieval versions.
No need to doubt this, we are talking about a 2,000 year difference! and at the time of the Romans the Chinese still had that advantage in being able to use 60-100lb crossbows that are more powerful than a comparitevely trained bowman can handle. Being able to aim a bow while drawing and holding that pressure requires much more training, unlike a mechanical crossbow, and this is why the crossbow could offset the Xiongnu cultural advantage with archery.
I show a few Chinese bronze arrow heads on the sword forum, I provide a link under this forums topic 'China;Art of War;Polearm images' post. Once I had been told of the medieval crossbows power I understood what this informed antique dealer meant. I hardly think it makes the use of the crossbow by the Chinese so much earlier any less a lethal device.
As for the crossbow piercing armour...that is a huge debate, but the ability of metal plate to stop even longbows has been demonstrated by experiments in Britian. It seems to depend on the arrows point design mostly but at anything other than an optimum strike angle solid metal can deflect quite well, buckle the point, or shatter the wooden shaft.
A crossbow would certainly have the best chance at the time of piecing plate, but my comment was basically that legionarres armour didn't stop them and that armour that COULD was not around till medieval plate turned up (although padding and chain is said to stop missiles fairly well also, it is all relative to what sort of bow etc.)
Although Roman armour didnt stop crossbow bolts I notice that even Chinese heavy infantry are not fully armoured to all locations so would not be totally immune to bowfire from even medium bows.
As for loose Han formations, I am sure the Roman military machine was versatile and knew when to split forces, manuovere, or present a solid mass. The whole battle might come down to leadership, previous intelligence on the enemy, positioning and advantageous terrain.
There isn't much point saying 'the Romans would be slaughtered' as other seem to. That's the kind of thing a General might say just before they get surprised and find their unthreatening foe pops up either side of them and cuts a path into his startled troops. No shortage of the mighty falling to the capable in history after all. Alexander took a mixed bag of small allied states into enemy territory and repeatedly routed enormous masses. What about a few hundred Spartans holding off 10,000 enemy at a pass? Or the Parthians destroying a larger confident Roman force of course?
Still wondering about the Ballista too.....it might be able to engage Chinese formations at greater range than crossbows, and be carted away as the Chinese form up to approach them. The Romans routinely threw up light earth works while pausing on the march (some are visible in Britian from aerial photographs), and they showed adaptivity when marching in to what in now know as Rumania (as in Rome). The 'barbarians' there used a horid sickle like sword with an inturned point that could pierce the Roman helm. Before marching against them blacksmiths forged extra iron strip reinforcement to the helmets to reduce the chance of a killing blow in combat.
It sounds like the General who faced the Parthians was too confident and didn't know his enemies abilities. Another Roman general may have summed them up better and chose to fight at another locality, or avoid battle and force the Parthians to assault Roman fixed positions by harrasing settlements or fortifying important routes.
So many posibilities, but it isn't always down do just equipment or numbers...otherwise Qin may not have ever conquered the other warring states. Strategy & military discipline counts for a lot too.
Posted 01 January 2005 - 12:01 AM
About the population of the Roman Empire, the best information are the works of Kenneth W. Harl and J.C Russel. They say that the population at 350 AD was:
Gaul and Rhin 5
Sicilia, Sardinia and Corsica 0,25
África, Numidia and Mauretania 3
Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia and Dalmatia 3
Moesia and Thrace 2,5
Greece and Macedonia 3,5
Asia Minor (Anatolia) 15
Syria, Palaestina and Mesopotamia 6,5
Total: 56,5 millions of persons
But we must remember that in that time, since 200 AC, the Roman Empire suffer a horrible crisis. The population at the Principate time surely was more high.
For the Republican time, i remember that Claude Nicolet show us numbers for Italy; his sources are other authors and the roman census.
At the Second Punic War: 4 millions and 350.000 soldier (i don't know the word, ummmm movilize... movilize..., men in age of fight and have the minimun property)
At the time of Julius Caesar: 7 millions and 950.000 soldier.
An other subject.
The siege weapons of the han army was more powerful that the roman weapon. Well. Had the Han army use artillery in the battlefield? I couldn't read the Osprey that explain the chinese siege weapons, sorry.
Thank you, I read since two weeks in this forum (and All Empire) and now i discover the power of the Han Army; i knew the campaign of Han but ignore the fight's style of their army. But in all the discussions about the theme the people forget the roman field artillery (Kenneth don´t forget it) and don't talk about the use of chinese artillery in the battlefield
The imperial roman legion (since Caesar) had 70 artillery pieces (10 heavy ballista + 60 light ballista) (There is caos about the name of the pieces) This weapons had two greats advantages:
1. One shot=many deads
2. Range: 300 m (light ballista) to 500 metres (heavy ballista)
And i thik that had a disadvantage: slow
Well, and i repeat my question Had the Han army use artillery in the battlefield? I don't say that this element give the advantage to romans; only want contribute with new information.
ok thanks for the attention
pd. uff, two hour writing four lines
Posted 03 January 2005 - 01:30 AM
did , not only once, but many times and on great battles.
But the Empire need is to win the War, and not the many great battle.
so weapons , shields , armour , artillery , and sinews of war ,
and the rank and file , the men and the general , are only pawn of war.
Octavian never win any great battle...but win the War.
by means of Political and Military manuever and strategy.
and Julius Caesar is right in choosing him as heir.
the Art of War says...it geater to win a war without battle.
Posted 03 January 2005 - 08:58 AM
Well, actualy the battle of Cahrrae proved otherwise.
although the big shields of the legionary definatly provided good protection vs such a threat,
Did you mean Crassus? Because many roman generals tried to conquer Parthia such as Marcus Antonius, and emperor Trajan. Marcus Antonius, as Crassus ended up beaten in Parthia, but Trajan did well. Crassus was over confident about his military skills if there were any. He wasn't able to adapt to Parthian tactics of horse archery and his legionaries ended up pinned down. By the way, there were Gaulish cavalry during Crassus' campaign (Caesar's Gaulish cavalry), they fought desperately and bravely but they didn't do so well, the situation might be too overwhelming for them.
It sounds like the General who faced the Parthians was too confident and didn't know his enemies abilities.
Hi Ikki, welcome to CHF, where are you from? By the way, is you nickname "Ikki" by chance be "一辉"?
Therefor, its existence is a crime, and the punishment is death - thirdgumi
Posted 03 January 2005 - 05:57 PM
oh is that thethe symbol for Ikki? very complicated
I'm from Spain, love history, love the oriental cultures and have a very poor english, don't worry if you talk me about horse and i say that my dogs eat fish
Posted 03 January 2005 - 06:14 PM
This topic is becoming very interesting, but the military technicalities have shown me that it should be moved to the Art of War section
Posted 03 January 2005 - 06:46 PM
Posted 03 January 2005 - 07:35 PM
Therefor, its existence is a crime, and the punishment is death - thirdgumi
Posted 04 January 2005 - 03:47 AM
here is the Roman legion Centuria line formation:
each no. means one person,1 means junior,higher no. means senior.
1-9 means the contubernium under the decanus
left platoon under the triplecarius
center platoon under the centurio
right platoon under the duplicarius
the 0 means the 3 senior officer
0 0 0
i will try to do the Full Legion on the next post.
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