I find it insulting that to this day, almost one hundred years since he published History of the Art of War, Hans Delbrueck has become a sort of god in the academic world when it comes to military thought. I don't think that I have gone by a week without hearing his name or reading about him in a publication.
Make no mistake, this was a guy who went so far as to claim that Julius Caesar outnumbered the Gallic tribes by a ratio as large as three to one! Or, look at his distinction between knights and horses in the medieval volume. If that's still not enough, what about his views on mercenaries?
Now I am sure that a lot of you are aware of my reservations for Delbrueck, even before I made this thread. I think it's about time that I post all my problems with the views given by Delbrueck in his terrible four volume work. If anything, his entire methodology in evaluating ancient logistics is totally flawed. This is the main focus of my critique, mainly centering on the first two volumes. Feel free to post comments on my thoughts, mainly in regards to ancient logistics and Delbrueck.
Ok, so where to start?
Xerxes' expedition There's a lot of problems with this calculation. In fact, I am afraid that Hans is not aware of what is to be found in the primary sources. Herodotus at 7.121 states that the Persians marched in three columns.Page 35
The army that Xerxes led into Greece is given by Herodotus as numbering exactly 4,200,000 men, including the trains. An army corps of 30,000 men covers, in the German march order, some 14 miles, without its supply train. The march column of the Persians would therefore have been 2,000 miles long, and when the head of the column was arriving before Thermopylae, the end of the column might have been just marching out of Susa, on the far side of the Tigris.
Four million and two hundred thousand divided by 30,000 is 140 “army corps.” 140 times 14 is 1,960 miles, or 2,000 miles. So it is clear that Hans was only referring to a single march column and not three as Herodotus described. Secondly, four million Persians at an interval of three feet is 2,200 miles. So it is clear from this as well that Hans was referring to a single marching column of one file, which is far short of the standards used by ancient armies.
For starters, we know from Herodotus that only 1,700,000 men of the whole army were actually soldiers. The rest were noncombatants. The noncombatants were not really bound by the road, instead they looked after the livestock and such. 1.7 million divided by three columns is about 570,000 men who are road bound. For the average ancient army, you could fit about four men in a file with spacing of 3 feet. This would mean that each column occupies, in depth, 427,500 feet of the road, or 81 miles. So the numbers given by Herodotus are not so insane after all, don't you think?
For some followers of the Delbrueck school, this is still not convincing enough. According to them, an army of 4 million plus is not only logistically impossible, but also goes against the limits of demography. In any case, they would still be wrong. In his book on Alexander the Great, J.F.C. Fuller estimates that the population of the Persian Empire was fifty million in an area of 8 million square miles. The West III stable model puts the military participation of ancient societies at 43%. Yes, 43%.
Let me make myself clear. This number:
-Does not include women
-Factors in male from the age of 18-60 (the same number range used by Congress for the draft)
Quite a while ago, Peter Brunt wrote in his Italian Manpower that Roman military participation was about 30% of the population. http://cle.berkeley.edu/wp/wp58.pdf--- Here the military participation of the age range is 75%, which accounts for those who are mentally ill, disabled, etc. So 30-40% was around the participation ratio of an ancient society. For the Persians, this would be, at the very least, fifteen million.
It's important to note that not much agricultural or industrial support was needed for men in the field.
http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/...z/gabr000a.htm (Quoting Richard Gabriel)
“In the Assyrian army the production and storage of weapons became a central feature of the army's logistical structure. A single weapons room in Sargon II's palace at Dur-Sharrukin contained 200 tons of iron weapons, and similar weapons warehouses were scattered throughout the empire.”
Even for an army of a size unmatched until the 20th century, weapons production was no problem. Remember, this quote is talking about ASSYRIA, an empire that existed well before the Persians. And there was still an output of 200 tons in just one room.
A.T. Olmstead, History of the Persian empire, page 174:
“Against the inner face of this wall, small irregularly projecting rooms housed the garrison. Large quantities of bronze and iron arrowpoints, iron spearheads and sword plates, and fragments of iron and bronze scale armor sufficiently indicate their purpose. Bronze bits show here that also cavalry were quartered. But the Ten Thosand Immortals enjoyed no luxury in their barracks. Sanitation was primitive, for the little brick sewers led only into the twenty-foot-wide, open street which followed the irregular barrack lines. That the floors were rarely swept is suggested by the rapidity with which the floor level rose through a new paving or merely through an occasional levelling-off.”
Olmstead is apt to describe the fortifications at Persepolis as not “inadequate” or “tiny,” but “large.” Cook would definitely concur. He notes how there was a huge state arsenal over in Memphis with workshops.
There's a simple explanation for this. Most armaments were prefabricated, as seen by the archaeological record. Xerxes had been planning the invasion for five years, so the time was certainly there to make the weapons.
For the Romans, when the soldiers were abroad, 'barbarian' slaves and the family would tend the farm. Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus, 8.7:
“the country had been deserted by its native inhabitants, and how those who tilled the soil or tended the flocks were barbarian slaves introduced from abroad.”
Appain also relates, in B.Civ 1.7-11, that large landowners farmed their area with slaves. The Persians themselves were very active in the slave trade, often importing them from abroad. This market would allow them to manage the land while they were at war, negating any possibility for an artificial famine as well.
Lastly, feeding the troops. Today, it would be a nightmare for quartermasters to organize and feed a body of one million troops. But not for these Persians.
The expedition had 3,000 merchant ships with it, accompanied by the 1,200 triremes that guarded them. Using one credible source (Cecil Torr, Ancient ships p. 25), a merchant ship is capable of hauling, on average, 150 tons, or about 300,000 pounds. Assuming a ration of 3 lbs cerial per day, the merchant ships can carry enough grain supplies to last circa 75 days.
As for the 80,000 horses and 20,000 camels, there is a bountiful amount of fodder in Thrace itself. Crevald wrote exact figures, I do not know the precise page but there was still a lot. Either way, there was no shortage of livestock or train animals to be used for the campaign. Heraclides' list makes it clear that 1,000 animals were slaughtered each day for the 'king'. Athenaeus, 4.145c:
“One thousand animals are slaughtered daily for the king; these comprise horses, camels, oxen, asses, deer, and most of the smaller animals; many birds also are consumed, including Arabian ostriches—and the creature is large—geese, and cocks.”
And even if your common modern author states this is a exaggeration, it really wasn't. Cappadocia paid 1,500 horses, 2,000 mules, and 50,000 sheep in yearly taxes. Media did twice the size of this.
And if you are still unconvinced at this point, look at the 5 depots that were set up by Xerxes. Herodotus, 7.27:
“While these things were in progress, he was having cables prepared for his bridges, some of papyrus and some of white flax, a business which he entrusted to the Phoenicians and the Egyptians. He likewise laid up stores of provisions in divers places, to save the army and the beasts of burthen from suffering want upon their march into Greece. He inquired carefully about all the sites, and had the stores laid up in such as were most convenient, causing them to be brought across from various parts of Asia and in various ways, some in transports and others in merchantmen. The greater portion was carried to Leuce-Acte, upon the Thracian coast; some part, however, was conveyed to Tyrodiza, in the country of the Perinthians, some to Doriscus, some to Eion upon the Strymon, and some to Macedonia.”
This was standard practice for the Achaemenids. Storages had been in use for hundreds of years. (Anabasis 3.4.31, 4.2.1 for example) It's somewhat ironic how one of these storage sites happened to be located in Thrace. Varro suggests that corn could be in storage for over 50 years in the type of granaries that were used in Thrace. From: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showt...57#post1624857
“In the 19th century farmers in Crete using barrel storage regularly aimed at amassing 3 years of grain and 5 years of olive oil – they certainly seemed to think they could store grain and oil sans anything but a barrel and cool dry room (1.)
Modern test have also shown sealed pit storage to be effective for long term storage of Grain (2.)
Would there be loss, spoilage, etc. sure, but the King was no small farmer he had cash to burn. He could afford to store more than he lost and pay to keep enough staff and presumably pet animals as well (dogs, ferrets, and cats) to protect his dumps from animal intrusion.
Pithoi and Food Storage in Neopalatial Crete: A Domestic Perspective
Kostas S. Christakis
World Archaeology Vol. 31, No. 1, Food Technology in Its Social Context
Iron Age Pits and the Lahav (Tell Halif) Grain Storage Project
John D. Currid; Avi Navon
Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research No. 273 (Feb., 1989), pp. 67-78”
If Xerxes needed to store any water, this was also the place to do it. Along the route to Greece, there was some regions that had rivers capable of supplying the whole mass for some time.
And then Persian Skudra was responsible for supplying Greece with Black Sea grain, with a sizeable surplus to export. There are references from the primary sources that relate how, not too long after the Persian invasion, Skudra had exported about 30,000 tons for the city states or something like that.
Therefore, contrary to what Delbrueck thought, the Persian operations was logistically feasible and a sound operation. His long mumble clearly had no grasp whatsoever behind it, and he failed to understand even basic logistics for the age of muscle power.
Spartan attendants Why is it an absurdity? Ownership of slaves was completely based on wealth and income, which was something the Spartans weren't short of. As Plato tells us:Page 36
Every Spartiate, however, according to him (Herodotus), had seven helots with him; one must therefore count an additional 35,000 men for this group. A ratio of 35,000 noncombatants to 5,000 combatants, considering both movement of the army and its supply, is an absurdity.
“For in this respect you have only to look at the wealth of the Spartans, and you will perceive that our riches here are far inferior to theirs. Think of all the land that they have both in their own and in the Messenian country: not one of our estates could compete with theirs in extent and excellence, nor again in ownership of slaves, and especially of those of the helot class, nor yet of horses, nor of all the flocks and herds that graze in Messene. However, I pass over all these things: but there is more gold and silver privately held in Lacedaemon than in the whole of Greece; for during many generations treasure has been passing in to them from every part of Greece, and often from the barbarians also, but not passing out to anyone; and just as in the fable of Aesop, where the fox remarked to the lion on the direction of the footmarks, the traces of the money going into Lacedaemon are clear enough, but nowhere are any to be seen of it coming out; so that one can be pretty sure that those people are the richest of the Greeks in gold and silver, and that among themselves the richest is the king; for the largest and most numerous receipts of the kind are those of the kings,band besides there is the levy of the royal tribute in no slight amount, which the Spartans pay to their kings.” (Alcibiades 123a)
Remember for the Spartans metals were used for any economic transactions so it was this that mattered most in determining the wealth of a Spartan.
The archaeological record available today (admittedly not accessible to Delbrueck) confirms the vast riches in minerals that the Spartans had. But either way, Delbrueck chose to ignore the primary sources here.
Also, as you will see later, it was not too difficult to maneuver an army of 40,000.
The Persian Empire Look here! We see for the first time Delbrueck's innovating theory, that the Persian Empire was a feudal society ruled by the “King of Kings.” In actuality, it was the opposite.Page 68
The Persian Empire, in its foundation as in its structure, has its parallel 1,200 years later in the world empire that sprang up from another oasis land, that of the Arabian Bedouins, who, like the Persians, were held together by a new religion. The Persians in their time held as little tendency to form mass armies as did the Arabs later, for large masses cannot be moved over such great distances as are to be found in empires of such breadth.
Delbrueck was afraid to tell you what “satrap” even meant. In Persian, it would be “protector of the kingdom,” indicating one unified empire. (C.F. Lehmann-Haupt, “Satrap” 82 ff.) A system of checks and balances was imposed to insure that any threat to the king's rule remained minor. The secretary, chief financial officer, and commander of the satrap garrison reported directly to the king. (Olmstead p. 59) The King's messengers were responsible for inspecting the provinces, and every satrap owed military supplies to the king.
This governmental system went hand in hand with the method of conscription. Shareholders had to comply with any mobilization plan, and although tenant farmers provided their own supplies, there was plenty of help around. Xenophon refers to some of the garrisons as misthophoroi, which is a form of salaried troop who receives payments for rations. (Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander p. 405) If you wanted to obtain the rations at camp, there was dealers who accompanied the army. They would be very glad to make business with the troops. (Anabasis 1.5.7)
And if feudalism was really the reason for small Persian armies, how come the Persepolis Fortification tablets give numerous examples of large scale labor movement? Allocating workers thousands of miles to construct canals and bridges would only have been possible with a centralized system of government.
Naval Warfare For want of provisions? Of course the trireme itself could not carry supplies aboard, but you could easily find what was needed ashore on an island. J.S. Morrison, The Athenian Trireme, page 95:Pages 101-102
It is perhaps well to recall that not only large land armies but also large fleets are hard to maneuver. The complete fleet with which the Athenians moved to Sicily in 415 B.C. Was 134 triremes and 2 penteremes strong, and had in addition 131 cargo ships and a number of volunteer trading vessels. This fleet did not sail as a single squadron, but was divided into three divisions, “so that they might not, by sailing together, be wanting water and ports and provisions where they landed, and so that they might, in other matters, be more orderly and easy to control...”
“Going ashore for meals and bivouacking for the night was regular practice with the crews of trieris on long voyages. This is implied by the account in Thucydides (3.49) of the famous non-stop voyage (of about 184 sea miles, 340 km) under oar from Piraeus to Mytilene in Lesbos (map 10).”
Some people confuse merchant ships for being extremely vulnerable to triremes, so supplying a land force was very difficult. And it was pretty much impossible to conduct any decent blockade against a port. James Ashley, The Macedonian Empire, page 85:
“A trireme was not very effective against merchant ships. The sturdy construction of the merchant ship and the fragile nature of the trireme sometimes mitigated against the trireme's survival after a successful ramming. Under sail with a fair wind, a merchant ship might make for the open sea and expose the fragile trireme to severe weather damage or swamping if either the winds should increase or a storm brew up.
The maximum daily range of the trireme was about 30 miles from its home base. (32)At that distance, it became extremely difficult to conduct an effective blockade against a port. This limit was determined by the sailing time needed from its land beachhead, where crews ate their meals and slept at night, to their patrol station and back. The voyage had to be made during daylight because triremes did not sail at night. Under normal circumstances a round trip at extended range might consume twelve hours of daylight, during which time enemy naval forces could freely exit or enter the so-called “besieged” port.
(32)Lane Fox 1974, 143; Morrison and Coates 1986, 103.”
Armies on the march Here it becomes clear that Delbrueck was trying to deliberately deceive his readers. He wants a 2 men wide marching column when his calculations on page 35 use an input value of one man in width.Pages 118-119
Modern armies march only in four-man ranks, so that half of the road may remain open, and furthermore a considerable interval is always maintained between companies, battalions, regiments, and divisions. According to Hauvette, the Persians knew nothing of all this. Xenophon in the Cyrpaedia, on one occasion, has a cavalry unit of 10,000 men forming a square 100 men wide by 100 men deep. The Persians of Xerxes could have marched in similar formation.
The width of a marching column depends on the width of the road. If the road is too narrow for the column, even at only a few places, that still creates a march disruption that builds up progressively toward the rear and finally becomes completely intolerable...The Persians must have marched with a column, not 100 men wide, certainly often not even 4 men wide, but only 2 men in width, using quite naturally at the same time, whenever possible, several parallel roads.
Even in a narrow passage you could fit about three men in width. Ashley, page 274:
“He had built a wall across the pass and remained concealed until Alexander had marched about halfway through the canyon, the narrowness of which could accommodate only three men marching abreast. (240)
(240)Dodge 1993, 402.”
Primary sources speak regularly about road maintenace. And there is a clear distinction between what was a military road (via militaris) and a civilian road, some of them being “wheelworthy” for any passing chariots. Surely, it was the army's job to maintain the conditions on roads. Cyropaedia, 6.2.36:
“You superintendents of the engineering corps have here from me a list of the spearmen, the archers, and the slingers, whose names have been stricken from the roster. You must require those of them who were spearmen to carry on the march a woodcutter's axe, those who were bowmen a mattock, and those who were slingers a shovel. With these tools they are to march in squads ahead of the wagons, so that, in case there is any need of road-building, you may get to work without delay, and so that, if I require their services, I may know where to find them when the time comes.”
Xerxes had his army deforest local forests so that there would be a suitable road to traverse. So we can dismiss the claim that armies could travel in two men wide following the road width as fantasy.
Julius Caesar and the Gauls Indeed, Hans is exaggerating the extent of the baggage which needs to be carried by the soldier himself. Instead of “Bread, crackers, flour,” grain was issued and from that you could make something to consume on the march. Cheese and most other foods were more of a garrison ration.Page 425
On the question of the individual load carried by the Roman soldier, I simply accepted, in the first editions of this volume, the findings of Stoffel, and only in the second volume (Book IV, Chapter IV), in discussing feudalism, did I treat this subject more thoroughly. Stoffel rejects as impossible the suggestion that the legionary carried provisions for 16 or even possibly 30 days. More recently there has appeared the very significant study by Stolle in which the author seeks again to prove that, although the 30-day figure was indeed false, the 16-day estimate was definitely corroborated by the sources, and not as an exceptional situation nor on the basis that the load became smaller each day, but simply as the normal thing.
He reduces somewhat the weight of the flour that was carried by showing that the soldier had some of it in cracker form. His estimate is as follows:
Bread, crackers, flour 11.369 kilograms
Wine or lemonade .327
Total provisions 14.369 kilograms
Total baggage 26.796 kilograms
Weapons (minimum weight) 14.463
Total load (minimum) 41.259 kilograms
Stolle does not overlook the fact that this is a very heavy one, and he seeks to explain it by showing that the Romans made only short daily marches (See below, Book VII, Chapter III, Conclusion.)
One must concede, of course, that under special circumstances the soldier can carry 4.5 kilograms, and even more; but it is a question here of the normal load. In my discussion in the second volume, which, unfortunately, Stolle was not familiar with, I have pointed out how drastically a load of more than 31 kilograms reduces the soldier's march capibilities. Is it to be supposed that, in order to eliminate the need for 300 mules for a legion, the Romans actually deprived their armies of the possibility of making longer marches- say over 15 kilometers? Statements by Cicero and Ammian are not sufficient to make this point credible- in Cicero's case because he can be suspected of rhetorical exaggeration, and in Ammian's case, even though he was militarily knowledgeable, because by his time the disciplined troops had long since disappeared and barbarian mercenaries were the least willing of all to have evidence from the period following the fall of the Severians. Even at the time of the Roman Republic, when the discipline had already become lax, the legionaires were so anxious to lighten their load that they privately secured an orderly or a pack animal (Sallust 45.2; Plutarch Marius, Chapter 13). The evidence of Cicero and Ammian is all the less convincing in that it is directly contradicted by the evidence in Josephus, History of the Jewish War 3.5.5, according to which the soldier himself carried provisions for only three days.
The problem with having wine included in the list by Hans is that wine was weak, a lot like vinegar. For example, if you added the wine to a local water supply, it would kill microbes. Most likely, wine was something you bought off the merchant with the army and in the market rather than something you would carry. It was a much more efficient method of supply.
Also, I'm not very clear what “equipment,” and “tools,” Delbrueck would be referring to here. Both of these, coupled with the weapons, were probably carried by the servants. I'll look for references to that later.
Really, Hans? This is even more off base than your comments on the Persian empire and its organization. Before I start, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with a migratory tribe, not a modern one.Page 461
Caesar states that the men of the Helvetii was made by a total of 368,000 individuals, who carried along with them provisions for 3 months. Estimates which Napoleon III caused to be made resulted in a figure of 6,000 wagons, each drawn by 4 animals, which would have been necessary to transport flour alone; and assuming 15 kilograms of baggage per person, 2,500 additional wagons would have been required. A total of 8,500 wagons on one road, 15 meters to the wagon, would cover some 77 or 78 miles. (2) These figures are based on an assumed load by 500 kilograms per draft animal. I have more recently become convinced, however, and have stated my proof for this point in Vol. II, Book IV, Chapter IV, Excursus, “Provisions and Train,” which I have looked at below that this load is between two and three times too high for the conditions existing in ancient times. The assumed wagon train would therefore have been not 77 or 78 miles long, but some 180 miles. As we imagine the roads in the Gaul of those days, it would have been very seldom that the wagons could travel in several parallel lines abreast if each other. If there were a narrow stretch at just one place along the route, the column would necessarily be held up, even if it were possible elsewhere to spread out across the fields. March discipline was certainly minimal, accordion action frequently caused jams and extended intervals, and the wagons were drawn principally by oxen. Such a movement certainly requires at least from 40 to 55 minutes to cover a mile. Even in midsummer, when it would be possible to start the march at 3 A.M. And the end of the column would not need to arrive in camp before 8 PM, and even if the day's march is limited to about 4.5 miles, not more than 2,500 wagons could make the march. Fifteen hours would be available (from 3 A.M. Until 6 P.M., where the last wagons would have to start the march), and in each 3-hour period 500 wagons would move out. Even if we reckoned with only slightly over 25 minutes to the mile, still only 250 wagons could start out each hour, so that with a total march time of 16 hours (from 3 A.M. Until 7 P.M.) 4,000 wagons could move about 4.5 miles forward. (3) Now our column, however, does not consist merely of wagons- and surprisingly Napoleon does not speak of this- but we also have the entire mass of persons, including women and children, and in addition to the draft animals also the herds, the young animals, and the smaller domestic animals.
According to Caesar's account, the march column of the Helvetii, decreased somewhat by the splitting off of the Tigurini at the Saone, (4) moved in some 15 days from their crossing point (somewhere between 9 and 18 miles north of Lyons, near Trevoux or Montmerle) to the vicinity of Bibracte (near Autun). That is a straight-line distance between 63 and 72 miles and consequently meant a daily march rate between 5 and 7 miles. Only at the start did the route follow the broad Saone valley; thereafter the movement was through the mountainous region of the Maconnais and the Carolais, where certainly the carts would often have been forced to travel in single file. Even if some of the provision wagons were already emptied, the Helvetii undoubtedly still did not drop them off; wagons are valuable articles, and they needed them for the booty that they were gathering and for replenishing their provisions.
(2)Clausewitz, too, estimate in this way (10:66).
(3)The trains that followed the Prussian army at Olmuetz in 1758 were made up of almost 4,000 wagons, most of them drawn by 4 horses, and had a length of almost 2 days' march.
(4)Not by a full fourth, as is often said; the quarter of which Caesar speaks refers only to the Helvetii in the narrower sense. The allies were already across, and Caesar also does not say that the quarter was still there when he attacked, but rather, when his scouts observed it.
So why four animals to each wagon? All the sources I have next to me indicate that two draught animals was the norm for pulling transport wagons. For example, White's study on Roman farming cites a few pictorials of two oxen drawing a cart. I don't think there was one of four draught animals.
But you can't be serious when you say “15 meters to the wagon.” All other estimates of the length of ancient carts give figures which are much lower than this. A while back, C.W. Roring published a book on all the archaeology, literature etc. about ancient wagons. As this article (http://www.humanist.de/rome/rts/wagon.html) citing him as a source:
“The dimensions of the Wardartal wagon also give us some idea of the actual size of Roman wagons - this traveling wagon has a width of 1.80m.(nearly 5.9 feet) and a length of nearly 3m.( almost 10 feet)-see Fig. 22.”
These figures are probably close to what the size of the Helvetii cart actually was. George Raepsaet's study confirms that. As for intervals you'd probably need around 5 feet spacing. Which is a conservative estimate on my part. Therefore, the wagon train would extend for 68,000 meters, or 42 miles, not 180 as Hans assumes.