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Thread: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

  1. #21
    Vladyvid's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    What point am i missing? That army funding and military organization are two different things?

  2. #22

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    The loyalty of the army. The professional soldiers of Rome were not loyal to the state of Rome, but to the individuals that paid them.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  3. #23
    Vladyvid's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Fine, but loyalty is something unrelated to military organization, yes? All soldiers are generally expected to be loyal and follow commands, no matter what type of military organization they are from. I dont see anything inherently wrong with professional army organization that would cause soldiers to be exeptionally disloyal compared to levies or tribal/feudal warriors.

  4. #24

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Quote Originally Posted by Vladyvid View Post
    Fine, but loyalty is something unrelated to military organization, yes? All soldiers are generally expected to be loyal and follow commands, no matter what type of military organization they are from. I dont see anything inherently wrong with professional army organization that would cause soldiers to be exeptionally disloyal compared to levies or tribal/feudal warriors.
    Again, missing the point. There is not one post that states that professional soldiers are less organised/disciplined/effective. Roman professional soldiers were loyal... to the people that paid them.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  5. #25
    Vladyvid's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    I dont understand what is your point. So they were loyal to who payed them, as it is today, so what? How it stands in this comparison of different military organizations?

  6. #26

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    They were supposed to fight for and be loyal to the People and the Senate of Rome, not the individual generals that paid them. That's the trouble.
    Today, the state pays the army, as it should.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  7. #27
    QuintusSertorius's Avatar EBII Hod Carrier
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    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    The loyalty of troops is a pretty fundamental facet of their effectiveness.

  8. #28
    Vladyvid's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Supplies are also fundamental, but i dont see people discussing that here. What is the point discussing loyalty here, what difference does it make in relation to the subject of this topic? How is loyalty of troops better/worse in one type of army organization compared to another? That is what this topic is about in my understanding. Advantages or disadvantages of those specific types of military organization. Where is loyalty in all that? Seems to me you are off topic.

  9. #29

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    The topics of the subject are the advantages and disadvantages of various military systems. One of the possible disadvantages of a professional fighting force in the hellenistic period is that they will obey the wrong authority, as long as that authority pays them.

    Let's say that you are the Senate and you are in a war with some Gaulish tribe. Instead of paying for the required legions yourself, you refuse to do it and let the elected general pay for those legions. Are those legions going to listen to you? They should. They are Roman citizens in a Roman army. However, they will not. They will do what their paymaster tells them to do. He is the one feeding them, paying them and making sure that they get land and money when the retire. The general in question might listen to you and march his troops into Gaul to fight the enemy tribe. However, that is completely up to him, because he has a loyal army and you don't. He might decide to stay in place and do nothing. He might decide to attack another tribe that wasn't in war with Rome. He might march on Rome itself. The professional army won't be very effective if it's not fighting the enemy, especially so if it marches on its own city.

    I hope it's clearer now.
    Last edited by Rad; May 24, 2019 at 06:54 AM.

  10. #30

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    I think that we are overestimating professional status in military here in some respects. That is probably because we are interpreting many qualities of professional militaries as results of their professional status and not outlying factors. I am under the impression that professional forces do not have such a good track record of fighting superior enemies and facing the likelihood of considerable casualties. I can identify two problems with positing too much faith into a professional military.

    The first one is morale; very few people are actually willing to die for money while others sit relatively safe at home, unless they have some religious or quasi-religious ethos towards personal sacrifice in warfare (as some nations in the antiquity admittedly seemed to have). That is why professional militaries thrive against weaker opponents. Citizen army can fare very well if they have some or most of the same qualities as the professional army: proper equipment, training, technology, and numbers. Those, barring perhaps numbers, are probably easier to attain for a professional force than a citizen army, but ultimately it all comes down to how much resources and effort are poured into the military.

    That brings us to the second point. Skills needed for effective fighting do not take that long to train. Someone who has served 5 years does not equal 5 individuals who have served one year each*. After that, it is about logistics, sanitation, leadership, equipment, and ultimately morale which itself is the result of a myriad of factors.

    Whether the Romans, for instance, were professionals or well-trained citizen reservists, many of their winning qualities had to do with their superior organization, military knowhow, and cultural disposition towards self-sacrifice. Eventually, gladiator games and public executions would serve as a constant reminder that a deserter or coward forfeited all of his rights as a human being. That is not tied to professional status per se.

    *In fact, when I moved to the paid force after spending one year in very intensive unpaid conscript training, I felt that I lost some of the edge in some fighting skills as I was no longer running in drills day and night but minding a lot of everyday tasks.

  11. #31

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Quote Originally Posted by Septentrionalis View Post
    I think that we are overestimating professional status in military here in some respects. That is probably because we are interpreting many qualities of professional militaries as results of their professional status and not outlying factors. I am under the impression that professional forces do not have such a good track record of fighting superior enemies and facing the likelihood of considerable casualties. I can identify two problems with positing too much faith into a professional military.
    Most of us probably do overestimate the fighting capability of the ancient pros, in varying degrees. I believe that all other things being equal, a professional force would rout a levy force of the same size. It would also be able to win against numerically superior enemies, but I don't presume to know how many enemies it could reasonably be expected to fight. What I want to say is that skill, stamina and discipline are force multipliers, just like organization, tactics, terrain etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Septentrionalis View Post
    The first one is morale; very few people are actually willing to die for money while others sit relatively safe at home, unless they have some religious or quasi-religious ethos towards personal sacrifice in warfare (as some nations in the antiquity admittedly seemed to have). That is why professional militaries thrive against weaker opponents. Citizen army can fare very well if they have some or most of the same qualities as the professional army: proper equipment, training, technology, and numbers. Those, barring perhaps numbers, are probably easier to attain for a professional force than a citizen army, but ultimately it all comes down to how much resources and effort are poured into the military.
    I believe that ancient professional soldiers were more disciplined and were less likely to run from battle than their levy counterparts.
    Why? They were better trained, their gear was usually of better average quality. Also, they fought together with other professional soldiers who were similarly well trained and equipped. They were for the most part led by capable officers. All of that instills confidence in people. Combine that with the fact that professionals derive their livelihood from fighting and that employers aren't likely to hire known cowards, you got yourself troops who won't run on the first sign of trouble.

    Quote Originally Posted by Septentrionalis View Post
    That brings us to the second point. Skills needed for effective fighting do not take that long to train. Someone who has served 5 years does not equal 5 individuals who have served one year each*
    I consider this to be true for modern(ish) warfare, where the average soldier fights with a gun. One of the reasons that firearms eventually supplanted bows was that it was considerably faster and easier to train people to use guns. I'd argue that training to fight with melee weapons such as spears and swords takes up a lot more time as well - one needs to be physically and mentally prepared to face an enemy close up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Septentrionalis View Post
    Whether the Romans, for instance, were professionals or well-trained citizen reservists, many of their winning qualities had to do with their superior organization, military knowhow, and cultural disposition towards self-sacrifice.
    All true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Septentrionalis View Post
    *In fact, when I moved to the paid force after spending one year in very intensive unpaid conscript training, I felt that I lost some of the edge in some fighting skills as I was no longer running in drills day and night but minding a lot of everyday tasks.
    I respect the service you did for your country. That being said, I believe it's not the best comparison. You served in a modern army equipped with modern weapons. Also, unless I am terrribly wrong, Finland does not expect to go to war against anyone anytime soon. Those two factors make your time spent as soldier different from the experience of an ancient Roman professional soldier, who would most certainly have to go to war in distant place and had to be physically and psychologically prepared for it.

    Conscription in my country is abolished, I did not serve in the army. I have no experience being a soldier and I could be terribly wrong. However, I did my best to try and look at the issue rationally.
    Last edited by Rad; May 28, 2019 at 07:54 AM.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  12. #32
    QuintusSertorius's Avatar EBII Hod Carrier
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    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Forget the Romans when talking about the value of professionalism, and look a little earlier than our period. Namely Philip of Makedon, the father of Megas Alexandros. When he came to the throne, Makedonia's army consisted of an essentially worthless citizen levy called up in times of crisis.

    He used the gold from the mines in Aigai to turn them into a full-time, professional force, dual-trained as both pikemen and skirmishers. With this he beat all the various powers of Greece, including the Thebans who were rated as the best. This was so potent and established a force that Alexander was able to inherit it wholecloth and use it to conquer the most powerful nation of the age.
    Last edited by QuintusSertorius; May 28, 2019 at 09:38 AM.

  13. #33

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    The Romans are a good example because more people are familiar with their military. That being said, the 180 degree switcheroo the Macedonians did is a great example.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  14. #34

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rad View Post
    However, I did my best to try and look at the issue rationally.
    I studied the points you made carefully and I appreciate them. There is very little I disagree on, and I understand how my personal experience lacks in relevance in the ways that you mention.

    I find it hard to make a meaningful contribution in this topic because of the conceptual complexities involved. To give an example, a levy could mean any group of people, possibly reluctant to serve, who are given minimal training and equipment and cannot function cohesively (cohesion is very, very important; a disciplined force has a great advantage over an angry mob). That kind of a unit will have next to no chance against a serious professional force, all other things being equal. A levy could also refer to a non-professional force of citizens who engage in regular training, may own weapons of their own, and have great morale through culturally instilled sense of honor and martial spirit (such as the Germanic tribes or much of pre-Marian Romans, if I am not mistaken).

    The same goes for conscription; it can mean forcing previously untrained men into an existing war as the need for manpower grows (e.g. the First World War or US in Vietnam), or it can mean all men being expected to learn military skills regardless of international relations with varying levels of commitment over the years and then called upon when needed. Those are very different things and, for morale, the important thing is that in the latter case everyone is expected to participate in the effort one way or the other.

    A unit may also be highly regulated and homogenous or not regardless of professional status. Professional status is surely going to contribute to that if the military culture and leadership is sophisticated enough. The Romans and their highly effective building of forts is a great example of that, although the culture of discipline and organization that made it possible probably had its roots in the pre-professional era. I guess the point that I tried to make, but communicated poorly, is that only because a professional force would usually correlate with better training and economic investment into the military force, it is not the professional status itself that defines effectiveness.

    As for my personal experience, I have seen people acquire very complex skills and high levels of group cohesion over a fairly short time while being in training myself and later as a trainer where there is an established military culture and regulated procedures for doing things. I have not been in a war myself. However, acquaintances who have fought in actual wars (I am not referring to peacekeeping missions alone) have never reported that they felt badly prepared because of having only a year-long conscript training under their belt or the equivalent. Also, committed active reservists from various nations fare very well against fully professional teams in peacetime international military skill competitions.

    That said, I do not dismiss your points on the differences in between today and the violent and up-close nature of warfare in the classical antiquity. Although the nerd and the Fallout fan within me is dying to point out that "War. War never changes".
    Last edited by Septentrionalis; May 28, 2019 at 01:00 PM.

  15. #35

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    It seems that this topic is plagued with, firstly, a lack of definitions - and so people are talking past each other at some points - and secondly, an anachronistic and modern-like way of categorization and means to understand periods that we should, if we are to be transparent, admit that we have little information from, relatively speaking. Military practices could reform and/or change in a matter of a few years and we might not have records of all the times it did happen and in what peculiar ways reforms and changes took place.



    Many have mentioned things like "Professional Army", but I see a lot of people interpreting it differently. Some people see Professional as an adjective for "well drilled" or "well trained", others see it related with payment for military service, and all of those characteristics arent even mutually exclusive or necessary elements to compose what we could call "Professional". It also doesnt make an army good or bad because it is that way.


    Then there's also the problem when these not so clear cut categories overlap, or when cultures would have systems that wouldnt fit these cookie cutter types. What if a warrior aristocracy is well drilled and paid for its service, is it then a Professional Warrior Aristocracy? Or if the levies are composed of the aristocratic/citizen class which is numerous enough to make up an army, and then is also paid for the service and drilled; do we then have a Professional Levy Aristocracy? What is even "Aristocratic" for all intents and purposes? Since this mostly falls under the definitions of Political Theory and not necessarily Military History. Is a greek "polites" an aristocrat, or would this term be derived from those the hellenes called "aristos"? Or is our reference for Citizen/Aristocrat derived from more modern works such as Monstesquieu when he analyses ancient constitutions?


    If the "Professional" attribute is defined by the fact that the soldiers are "paid" and have military service as their "job", what would payment even mean? Isnt looting and pillaging a form of payment? Grain and spices? Or do we have to strictly think of metal coins? Also, what about land and slaves to settle and work in, would that not constitute such payment?

    Many armies under the "levy" conception would then have to belong to the "professional" class, since soldiers could be mustered, work for years in campaigns as soldiers, get paid/rewarded with some looting and land to settle in, and then work that land. Unless we are only going to name "professionals" those who had a lifelong comitmment to a military, which would then be a minority of people who fought in most cultures, and it would also make things complicated because a lifelong commitment doesnt imply payment necessarily: so people of a serf status who spent most of their lives in military action and campaigns would not necessarily be "paid", depending on what you would interpret by "payment" ("payment" could very well mean just not being killed or expropriated?).


    Some people are already poisoning their whole perception when they aim to understand things in a "rational" way; history isnt a science and its agents and events werent a set of laws or operations really "rational" all the time or even at all, depending on what the hell some of you even mean with that. The ways and methods of various armies could have a symbolic and sentimental or religious value to these cultures that could not really be rationalized, and that wouldnt necessarily operate, like modern militaries, with an utilitarian cost-effective mentality. Even in modern times you can see armies not always operating under the most optimal and rational conditions (for example, many people here defend that cultures in that time "borrowed" from each other and had a quasi proto globalization were if the romans saw a culture using something they would adapt it to their armies and if the rest of the world saw the greeks using linothorax, then everyone, from the northern europeans to the syrians, would borrow it from them, when in actuality, even in modern and more globalized times, just because the AK-47 was a much durable and less defective rifle than the M16, doesnt mean the US would just adopt it in the Viatnam War or many other instances, and if it doesnt work that way in recent ages, then its doubtful it did in ancient, non third industrial revolution times).
    Last edited by Achilles Lacedaemon; June 02, 2019 at 05:09 AM.

  16. #36

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Professional - engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as an amateur.

    Levies aren't professionals. Their primary job is to produce goods and services.
    Aristocrats aren't professionals. Although they are tasked with the defense of their lands and people, their primary job is to govern - unless we're talking about an extraordinarily warlike society.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  17. #37

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rad View Post
    Professional - engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as an amateur.

    Levies aren't professionals. Their primary job is to produce goods and services.
    Aristocrats aren't professionals. Although they are tasked with the defense of their lands and people, their primary job is to govern - unless we're talking about an extraordinarily warlike society.
    I like your definition of professional, though I dont think your aristocrat example is the best one. In several cultures at different times in history aristocracy main dedication was war. No need to go for very specific examples. Nobility in europe in the high middle ages was aimed that way. The land and people they were given to rule was more the payment in exchange of their military service in times of need through personal involvement as the elite force (often times the only mounted one) and organisation/leadirship of any levies they could muster. Only with time they lost the military predominancy focusing more on actual administration.
    They were often not called proffesional though because despite their dedication they lacked qualities often attached to the "proffesional" army concept. As is often said they were the best warriors but they made poor armies.

    We will either find a way, or make one.



  18. #38

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    The crucial term for warrior aristocracy is, in my opinion, retinue. In these systems, higer nobility is tasked, besides governing, to keep a retinue of warriors, who are armed, trained and fulltime employed by the lord. Retainers were not professional soldiers, who would be drawn from all strata of society in adulthood, but mostly lesser nobility-in itself a warrior class, trained for combat since childhood. Thus, compared to professional army or militia, they would be much fewer in number, but extremely well equipped, trained and motivated. While feudal Europe is most clear-cut example of this, such organization existedin antiquity.

  19. #39

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jervaj View Post
    In several cultures at different times in history aristocracy main dedication was war. No need to go for very specific examples. Nobility in europe in the high middle ages was aimed that way. The land and people they were given to rule was more the payment in exchange of their military service in times of need through personal involvement as the elite force (often times the only mounted one) and organisation/leadirship of any levies they could muster. Only with time they lost the military predominancy focusing more on actual administration.
    I am going to argue against that, at least when it comes to the middle ages. For example, a knight in England was only obliged to do military service 40 days per year. 40 days out of 365 days. That's next to nothing, especially if you take into consideration the time needed to travel and the fact that knights weren't tied down by agricultural work.
    Furthermore, a knight could even buy his way out of doing those paltry 40 days by paying a tax known as scutage.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  20. #40

    Default Re: Professional Armies vs Warrior Aristocracies vs Military Levies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rad View Post
    I am going to argue against that, at least when it comes to the middle ages. For example, a knight in England was only obliged to do military service 40 days per year. 40 days out of 365 days. That's next to nothing, especially if you take into consideration the time needed to travel and the fact that knights weren't tied down by agricultural work.
    Furthermore, a knight could even buy his way out of doing those paltry 40 days by paying a tax known as scutage.
    What time/century are we talking? Still dedication is not only measured by the active service but also by the preparation time devoted.

    Either way that was just an example, and Im guessing theres bigger differences than I expected then. On iberian kingdoms there was an obligation to come to the king's call in moments of war, and while there was a tax to "avoid" it called "fonsada" o "fonsadera" it worked kind of the opposite way. More like a fine if you wish. If you didnt answer the call you had to pay it afterwards, and it was seen as extremely dishonourable and shameful to have to pay it. In fact often those who paid it were those that couldnt really go to war due to lack of equipment or physical conditon. This could be applied to common men too that were called (and it is indicated that those were more often the payers of this tax).

    Of course Im sure that due to power struggles some times this call was ignored without any kind of retribution but at least on paper the obligation was there.

    We will either find a way, or make one.



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