Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Bouncing Ideas

   If you liked my post yesterday (and I hope you did), then you will enjoy this discourse. Otherwise, you probably won't. I love simple logic like that.

  Oh, and anything in brackets is my own addition, usually a further thought I have had while putting this post together, or a clarification of what is going on from previous posts if you missed out on them.

 So, building on yesterday's ideas...

ME: Can't you just see the disciplined legions marching forward, and the indians in a horde of skirmishers, loosing arrows and javelins and then running off... For my money, the legions walk over them. Easily. You could fight out the battles in Fields of Glory. I don't see the native light infantry standing up to Roman heavy infantry. Push the warriors out of the way, burn the towns, enslave the captives, and breed a new generation of Romans.

ELI: In an open fight, the Legions would do well, but the natives could easily pick them off, bide their time, pull a Tutelberger an ambush them on the march. The biggest issue I can see is replacements and supplies. Foraging is okay, when you know the plants and the animals. Replacement metal for reparing weapons and armor might be difficult but it's also unlikely that their equipment would suffer much more than dents from stones and the occasional nicks in blades from hitting bones or terrain. Fortunately the Romans were wordly enough that they had no real hesitation in mixing with other cultures. The Lost Legion would likely use locals as auxilia as well as support staff. Native guides would be recruited to educate the legion i n the new land. Roman's weren't stupid and I'm sure any commander with a little political sense (most of them did) would use a little savvy in dealing with the locals in the immediate area.

ME: Don't forget that the conquistadores, who had essentially the same equipment (well, except for the arquebus, which was of dubious assistance) whipped much larger native forces. Metal armor is a massive advantage. Oh, and a typical legion also had an artillery train of about 60 ballistae and onagers. [And about 600 artillerists].

ELI: Alright, how do we get them [the Romans] there [North America]? The best theories are, in order of historical likelihood -
  1. Legion Lost - A flotilla bound for Britain is blown off course and ends up having to eek its way along the coast of Greenland and into america, effectively following Erikson's route.
  2. Exiles - Exiled from the Empire a Roman leader takes himself and his loyalists across the sea.
  3. Western Expansion - Rome decides to expand beyond the western ocean following tales of strange new lands.
 ME: I like the Lost Legion, personally. I always like a good lost legion.

ELI: Would a Lost Legion be a sustainable Roman population?

ME: Figure about 1,000 men for a late Imperial period legion. Add in crew from the ships, perhaps another 200 men [total guess there]. Auxiliaries, camp followers, etc. - maybe another 1,000 total [actually, probably closer to 2,000]. I think they could establish themselves quite securely. Follow the old scheme of "conquer and absorb the natives" by giving citizenship to the nobles of the tribes conquered in exchange for their cooperation in the system. Marry natives and start breeding yourself more Romans. They might not be Latins, but they'd be Romans.

ELI: A full Legion is like 4000+ men. I imagine support personnel would move with them, though the Legions tended to be their own support.

ME: Depends on the era. Later empire legions were much smaller than Republican legions.

ELI: The Lost Legion is certainly romantic but it does invite some problems in the whole chain of logic. It actually requires more "bending" than it would to justify a planned expidition. Any Legion blown off course and deposited in the New World would be relatively depleted in numbers and bereft of supplies and equipment. Perhaps it is easier to justify a planned expedition blown off course. They would still have legionary support, but with more resources.
ME: A move to, say, conquer Hibernia (Ireland)? [And colonize, naturally!]
   And so ends this afternoon's episode of "Occidentally Roman," brought to you by the generous support of Kalva Soap, and viewers like you. (Bonus points if you know the book Kalva Soap appears in. Hint: Tim Hamner owns it.)


  1. You may want to read CONQUEST: The Roman Invasion of Britain by Jon Peddie - it's very good on the logistics side of things.

    Each ship carried 80 men - a maniple essentially. Whilst cavalry was carried in Turmaes of 30 horses/men. 60 ships would carry the infantry element of a Legion. Approx 1 ton of supplies could be carried ina supply vessel and the Romans needed 3lb of grain per man per day. etc etc etc


  2. I'd also point out that the tactics used by the Picts to successfully keep the Romans out of what is now modern Scotland mirror very closely the sort of tactics I imagine a First Peoples tribe adopting to fight the advancing legions: night attacks, firing tents, slitting throats, burn't earth tactics, "native guides" leading century's into traps and so forth.

  3. Hardest thing to figure is how you get a large enough force over there through anythign other than a planned expidition and then if you do that, why?

  4. To be convincingly blown off course without subsequently turning back you'd need one heck of a long, consistent contrary blow, and the prevailing winds are against you. Maybe one could come up with some volcano event or shift in ocean currents that reverses the winds for a season -- but once you get to that point of messing with the world I'd be inclined to have the current shift caused by the rise of Rlyeh or Atlantis. You don't want them sailing deliberately in that direction for narrative reasons? I think they're biggest problem will be drinking water: transporting enough for 2 months is hard. But they could be exploring deliberately and just deeply wrong about their destination. Round Earth theories are certainly old enough. They could be pursuing an enemy or following rumours of an ally. They could be seeking the Basques or on a paranoid emperor's errand to stop mythical reinforcements from a secret rival Empire of I dunno, Phoenicians or Carthaginian exiles or bull-men or anything.

  5. Run it as an established colony, using harsh conscription to maintain an understrength legion supported by client Amerindian tribe auxiliaries, seeking better/more agricultural land.

    I would have to fast forward to the Seven Years War, though, so I could have the Gaul, Indian and Roman war.

  6. I like that "seeking Carthaginian refugees" idea.


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