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huns vs romans

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Subotei View Drop Down
Janissary
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  Quote Subotei Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: huns vs romans
    Posted: 04-Mar-2005 at 17:19
when huns appeared were the romans still using legionarres etc or did there style of fighting change,what battles were fought between rome and huns and why did the huns lose the battle of Chalons..
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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2005 at 18:19

Good topic, subotei.


Between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan the Roman Army
perhaps reached its pinnacle. It is the army of this time which is
generally understood as the classical Roman army. However,
this was not the army which was eventually defeated by the northern
barbarians.The Roman army evolved, changing in time, adapting to
new challenges. For a long time it didn't need to change much as it
held supremacy on the battlefield. And so until 250 A.D. it was still
the heavy armed infantry which dominated the Roman
army.Demands of border warfare wrought many changes. Defensive
systems along the Rhine, Danube and Euphrates Riversheld off
opponents with large permanent camps placed along these borders.
For a long time this system worked efficaciously, as barbarians who
crossedinto Roman territory would not only need to make their way
across the defences and locally stationed auxiliary forces, but face
the nearest legion which would march up from its camp and cut off
their retreat.


But in the 3century it could no longer cope. The old legions
became gradually more disorganized, having unitsdetached and
sent to various places to fill breeches in the defences.A whole host of
new cavalry and infantry units had been created in desperate times
of civil war and barbarian invasions.One of the most significant
differences between the old army system was that the
EmperoroCaracalla in the early third century A.D. bestowed
Roman citizenship on all the provinces. With this the ancient
distinction between the legionaries and the auxiliary forces had been
swept aside, each now being the same in their status. In their
desperation the embattled emperors of the third century A.D.had
recruited any military forces which were readily available.


With the 4 century the shift toward cavalry and away from heavy
infantry continued. The old legionary cavalry completely disappeared
in the face of the emerging heavier, Germanic cavalry. Yet
throughout the reign of Constantine the Great (early4 century)the
infantry still remained the main arm of the Roman army.


The big blow came in 378 A.D. at Adrianople (modern Bulgaria),
where Fritigern's Goths annihiliated the army of the impetuous
Valens. It was the advent of the cavalry cycle; the point
had been proven that heavy cavalry could defeat heavy infantry in
battle, and for all intents and purposes, the Western Roman Empire
was doomed.


Chalons, it is said, marked the real beginning of the Middle Ages.
Attila had established his dominance over the other central
European tribes.


Flavius Aetius, commanderof the Romans in the West, allied
himself with the Visigoths under Theodoric I, who deemed
Attila the worse enemy than Rome.The combined armies
drove Attilaawayfrom Orleans in a northeastern direction and
fought a massive pitched battle with him on the Catalaunian Plains
(nort-centralFrance). The key to the Roman victory was the Visigoth
horsemen, heavier than their opponents, outdueling Attila's
cavalry opposite them. Theodoric was killed. Aetius' wing
held firm but the center, the Alans, started to break. It seemed
Aetius was going to attempt a Cannae-like maneuver, but
Attila, suffering heavier losses, withdrew across the Rhine.
Though a Roman victory,Aetius did not dismantle the
cohesion of the Hunnic army. It is stated that as many as 165,000
men died in the battle.


Chalonschecked the invasion of Gaul by Attila and
prevented him from dominating western Europe, but it hardly
vanquished him. He died (he was probably poisoned by Roman
agents) before his impending invasion of Italy. His sons divided his
power and immediately proceeded to fight amongst themselves.


After the Gepids defeated the Huns in 454 A.D., the
remainingHuns, now totally isolated,dwindled in the lands which
would become Hungary.


Attila's defeat also helped the Roman Catholic Church
become the dominant political and religious force in Europe. Papal
power dates from this time.


Spartan (JKM)



Edited by Spartan
"A ship is safe in the harbor; but that's not why ships are built"
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Mangudai View Drop Down
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  Quote Mangudai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Mar-2005 at 07:26

Spartan, I don't agree with the description of Adrianople 378. Although the battle traditionally has been viewed as the advent of the cavalry cycle you mentioned, modern military historians are questioning that simple view. I strongly recommend Simon McDowalls' Adrianople 378: http://www.ospreypublishing.com/title_detail.php?title=S1478 &ser=CAM

McDowall skilfully debunk several myths regarding Adrianople, including the otherwise accepted hypothesis that the battle simply was won by heavy cavalry. As McDowall shows, that view is grossly exaggerated. Fritigerns cavalry did perhaps deliver a crushing blow to the roman flank, but their greatest task was to rout the roman cavalry, not the legionary infantry. In fact, it was the gothic infantry who finally broke and routed the legionaries - the horsemen were too few to decide the outcome of the battle alone. The battle didn't change the art of war as popularly thought - actually, infantry continued to dominate western european warfare until the 11th century, when feudal knights became popular.

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  Quote Spartan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Mar-2005 at 11:31
Very credible assessment, Mangudai. Thanks for the
recommendation. Theories abound about these things, and from
what you say regarding McDowall, it certainly sounds
plausible.

I simply described the common theory I have read, which is the role
played by the cavalry was extremely decisive. Indeed, the battle
displayed no innovation in tactics or armament, and it wasn't simply
won by the heavy cavalry, as you stated. They swooped down at a
later stage in the battle. But there is no questioning the significance
that was perpetuated by the crushing cavalry blow. Cavaly blows
were hitherto hardly a novelty, though.
I think Valens attacked the Gothic wagon circle before the
arrival of Gratian, a risky move, because he thought their
cavalry was furthur away than it actually was (a truce was being
negotiated). There may have been faulty reconnaisance.
The initial Roman cavalry assault, a disorderly one, did fail.

One of the most decisive battles which did change the role of heavy
cavalry was Edward III's great victory at Crecy in 1346, with the
advent of the longbow, a machine-gun for its time. Men-at-arms in
a defensive position would begin to defeat heavy cavalry.

Spartan (JKM)
"A ship is safe in the harbor; but that's not why ships are built"
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