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Total Generalship: Commanding Pre-Modern Armies, Part IIIb: Officers

  • 157 points
  • 12 days ago

  • @Tomte
  • Created a post

Total Generalship: Commanding Pre-Modern Armies, Part IIIb: Officers


@red_admiral 8 days

Replying to @Tomte 🎙

This blog is catnip for high-systematising people, especially ones who are also LotR fans. Highly recommended.

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@Thorentis 12 days

Replying to @Tomte 🎙

Only read part of the article, but ended up skimming the blog. Definitely saving this! This is the Internet that I love. I would never find gems like this via Google. Partly because it would not appear high in search results, and partly because I'd never go looking for it! Thank you HN, and thank you blog writer.

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@chewz 12 days

Replying to @Tomte 🎙

This is apples to oranges to kiwis...

Hoplites were mostly a citizen army, phalanx were professional soldiers and Roman legions (in classic era) were professional army with many specialists troops especially engineering.

You need different numbers of officers not for the battle but for other tasks.. War for 99% isn't battle but engineering, logistsics etc..

Just as an example Jululis Cesar in Gaul had build a bridge over Rhine twice and it took them just a few days.. Hoplites from Anabasis were just wandering around looking for an existing bridge.

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@dmichulke 12 days

Replying to @Tomte 🎙

Before reading, put a a glass and a bottle of your preferred drink next to you.

Then have a drink whenever you read "Clausewitz".

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@jerkstate 12 days

Replying to @Tomte 🎙

Really interesting, I started back at part 1 and wish the author did two things to clarify their writing: didn't spend so much time discussing how video game battles work (only to make the point that the real world was nothing like video games; so frankly, I don't care) and define words that aren't common knowledge (the term "socii allae" is linked to another blog post which doesn't mention the term until many paragraphs down). I guess every writer is entitled to their own voice though.

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@sandworm101 12 days

Replying to @Tomte 🎙

>>> "That system is a hold-over from the origins of modern military structure in Europe’s early-modern gunpowder armies: the commissioned officers (whose commission, to be clear, came from the king) were drawn from the aristocracy and often the nobility, while their non-comissioned subordinates were drawn from the common soldiery who were in turn recruited from the peasantry."

Yes, it is fun to map social structure onto armies and then be all judgmental about the inequality. Or you can study the actual practicalities of war. Top of the list: Officers need to be able to communicate with people at a distance. They need to be able to read. Until very very recently that meant they had to be from the upper classes.

Soldiers in the past also didn't do "basic training" as we know it today. If you want a soldier to obey orders then those orders better come from someone who held some sort of prior authority over the solider. Military discipline requires structure. When turning farmers into soldiers the only way to keep them in line is to utilize an existing structure, ie social class. Farmers (the bulk of soldiers) will obey orders from their landlords. They won't obey some random person just because some other random person tells them to.

Just after the soviet revolution the Russian army toyed with setting aside social class, even attempting democratically-elected officers. It did not go well. They quickly reverted to the old system.

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