Discussion in 'The War Room' started by Harbinger Supremus, Dec 21, 2013.
Ancient Rome vs Mongol Empire. Both at thier prime.
Mongols. Not even an competition.
The only thing Rome has that most of the other Mongol enemies hadn't is staying power. In true Roman fashion they will just throw armies at the problem. But unlike most of Rome's foes the Mongols won't just go away. Well, at least unless the Khan dies at the worst moment. The Mongol rule of succession could bite them in the arse here. But militarily they will defeat the Romans.
Also depends on WHICH Roman Empire you are talking about, Ceasars, (late Republic) or Trajan's (late Emperial at their height) if the later the fight could be close depending on several external factors, Trajan's Rome had LOT's of experience fighting numerous steppe cultures (Bosporians, Iazyges, Roloxani, Scyths and Alans among others) as well as Persians and hardnosed Germannic tribes as well s Dacians and heavy armored cavalry from Armenia. Trajan's Empire military wise was likely the highpoint of the entire Roman empire and culture and the time where they had more experienced veterans than at any other point in their history (Which says a LOT)
Note that while more displined than other steppe cultures, the only real technological invention the Mongols bring with them is the stirrup and experience with gunpowder, also depending on what time in the Mongol timeline their engineers and siege train would be second to none until the late 16'th hundres.
When I meant in their prime it meant that both nations are at their largest.
fair enough, it is just that some people can in doubt WHEN the Romans where at their height since different factors played out at different times.
Like, for example, if you count tributary nations that where all but part of the empire...
And semi-modern military thought & operational mobility.
The Romans have no way of winning this. They won't lose quickly by virtue of their enormous size, but they will lose consistently and ugly.
As much as I like the Romans, the Mongols take this pretty easily.
I agree with Zor. The Mongols might be marauding uncivilized barbarian hordes, but they are amazing at uncivilized horde warfare.
My understanding is that the Romans were very weak to cavalry attack, but never really encountered enemies who had resources equal to them at the time and used cavalry a lot. The Mongols employed cavalry almost exclusively. The Mongols are also a millennium ahead of the Romans timeline wise, so there's that too.
Mongol warfare was not at all uncivilized though, if anything you could compare their organization to the organization found in a roman army.
I'm going to go with the consensus here. Given the issues the Romans had fighting steppe peoples like the Huns and Avars (not that they never faced them successfully), the Mongols are going to chew through a substantial portion of the Trajan-era Empire.
This is worse than Han China vs Rome. At least that one has a fighting chance.
Well it helps when there isn't more than a millennium difference between the two forces.
And one conquered more in a man's lifetime in the opposite's entire existence. Also the Mongols have the one Roman weakness, horse archers combined with competent leadership and proper military structure. Take the Persians for example, before the Sassanids, the Romans usually beat the Parthians if the commander is smart enough but when the Sassanids came to power and introduced a disciplined army, it became a stalemate.
Uh, no, the Mongols were civilized, nor were they a horde.
Uh, hello, my name is the Parthians and Sassanids? Both of whom the Romans regularly defeated?
Yeah the Partians lost a lot and won little but the Sassanids were impossible to conquer and often stalemated the Eastern Romans because they had a disciplined army and land changed hands multiple times.. If the Empire was unified however(with no barbarian problems), i'm sure the result would be different.
You have no idea what you're talking about. The Mongols practised an extremely organised and sophisticated method of warfare that Europe basically didn't equal until the Napoleonic Wars. You might consider that fact that they regularly and consistently smashed armies equal to or larger than their own; the association we have between the word 'horde' and 'huge numbers' is a really successful propaganda trick by medieval and early-modern Europeans to justify how they got their arses kicked up between their ears every time they tried to face the Mongols in open battle. As for their being barbrians, they were brutal, even by the standards of the time, but they also did things like build infrastructure, schools, sewers and generally administered their conquered territories in a manner that a Roman would associate with 'civilised' people rather than barbarians.
The Romans, meanwhile, spent plenty of time dealing with cavalry foes, and while they weren't exactly fantastically amazing at it, the same could be said about lots of things; the Roman Army did heavy infantry really well and was mediocre at everything else in the period in question. In fact, the Romans lost battles a lot more regularly than the Mongols ever did. The Roman trick was not always winning battles, it was bouncing back from losses and always having more replacement troops.
On top of that, the Romans are operating on the bad side of a thousand year technical disadvantage. That's not quite as decisive as it would seem to us, but the fact remains that warfare has moved on from Roman methods at that point. In fact, the Romans changed their own methods with the times; the medieval Romans were very heavily cavalry based, much like the Persians had been. However, Rome is also large, and has the ability at this point to just keep generating armies and throwing them at the Mongols. This is not something that, in and of itself, guarantees victory; the Song did pretty much that exact thing, on a scale the Romans couldn't match in their dreams, and eventually lost, after all. However, the Song were right next to the heart of Mongol power, whereas Rome is half a world away. It's possible that the Mongols might give it up as a bad deal and just settle for pillaging whatever the fuck they wanted, as they did in their later incursions into Eastern Europe; the fact is, the Mongols can't field an extremely large army and they're too far away to really be able to hope for rapid reinforcement. They certainly can't hope to actually occupy the Empire. So, the likelihood is that size and distance, rather than military power, is what saves Rome if anything does.
I apologize for being misinformed. I'm not exactly a historian and I know when to admit I'm wrong.
It's ok you have the right attitude some don't have. Especially on the internet
Rome actually did pretty well against cavalry armies, particularly during Trajan's time, what with stomping the Parthians flat all over mesopotamia.
It's not that the Romans are weak against cavalry, it's that the Mongols are atypically good for a steppe people, utilising a vastly higher level of discipline, organisation, and diplomacy than is usual for them.
And with more experience- and less 'Pay the senate munnies for a cozy job to earn honour' based officer corps.
Anyway. The Mongols are deprived of some of their advantages here - there's no-one it can ally with against Rome like they did against the Jin (Allied with the Song), Kara-Khitan (Allied with Khwarezem), Khwarezem (Allied with the Caliphate) or the Caliphate (Allied with Armenia).
Rome's resource-base and stability are arguably greater than the Jin's, if still inferior to the Song - and both of these conquests took decades, while at the same time featuring easier logistics for the Mongols.
Rome's habit of dotting the landscape with fortifications and indeed, to build field fortifications for the night as a matter of principle is a huge boon - while the Mongols can take fortifications, a siege train not only slows them down, it also can't be everywhere at once. And it's worth noting that the Mongols' SOP with regards to even relatively simplistic field fortifications was 'Lets wait for a week before doing anything. Makes them nervous'. See Mohi.
Basically, it wont be the fastest of campaigns. Still, Mongol discipline and organisation, and their near-infinite patience that lets them just... Travel the country for several weeks with an enemy in hot pursuit until they feel they're in a decent enough position to give battle are huge assets (Though Trajan's Rome would arguably be the Mongol's most competent opponent, with only the Song being a potential match).
The stirrup and the opportunities it afford to the Mongols are a killer in open field battles - less so because of arrows (That's a trick the Romans are familiar and can deal with) and more on account of cavalry charges with lances, which the Mongols did totally engage in because arrows, while wonderful for breaking morale and formations, aren't actually all that great at actually killing people. And you can run out of them. Even with Roman-height competence and experience, I don't see them winning in the field.
Fortresses on the other hand, are another matter, and Rome has the labour pool and experience to dot its landscape with even more of the damn things than it already had, anyway, within relatively short timeframes.
In the end, I can't say I see Rome holding on to Anatolia, the Levante and Egypt, and at least some of the Balkans are likely to be a lost cause, too. Nonetheless, with Trajan-era competence and experience and Rome's resource base, taking and securing these areas will take some time - with a bit of luck, enough time to secure Italy and Gaul.
How long till the Empire adopts the stirrup? Because the longer Rome holds out the more Mongol tech is going to be in Roman hands.
I'd see the Mongols winning the majority of the battles, but the Romans being the polity left standing afterwards, due to strategic distances and the durability of the two systems.
Well they had sub divisions that had somewhat similar names.
Better and more interesting match might be medieval Roman Empire under Basil II or John I Tsimisces. On the one hand you have Basil who was usually slow but very steady in grinding down opponents over long periods of time in his campaigns or the impressively devastating and rapid results of John I. Could also throw in Nicephorus I as he was a superb general. Have it under reign of Romanus II and you get both John and Nicephorus. Plus these Romans will have better cavalry to draw upon. Mongols would still prove a problem but at least more of a chance for the Romans.
I can actually totally see Rome holding Anatolia, if only because they just won't fucking quit, the Mongols are operating a long way from their centre of power and the Romans are fighting in their own back yard. There's a reason the Mongols never really permanently gobbled up the Middle East, even though they pounded the Muslims flat; it was just too far away to be convenient. I totally agree that if Rome was in the place of the Song, they'd be fucked, but they aren't, and the Romans only really need to get lucky once.
This isn't China. The Mongols can't afford the losses of taking fortified towns and cities that are defended with determination. They can certainly do it, but they're months - possibly years - away from home with no way to replace losses. This worked fantastically for the Hungarians during the second Mongol invasion of their country, for example, because they'd built forts everywhere; the result was that the Mongols rode around burning villages for a bit and then went away when nobody bothered to go out and make a fight of it and instead just sat on top of their fortified food supplies. On top of that, they have the problem of the rest of the Empire that they can't easily reach constantly generating new armies to chuck at them and, again, the Romans only need to get lucky once to screw over any plausible army the Mongols can field. We're talking a few tens of thousands of troops total, here.
Essentially, it doesn't matter if the Mongols consistently win in the field, because to take control of Anatolia or the Levant from Rome, they need to take the towns and cities, and then hold them, which they lack the numbers to do against an opponent who can carry on after one or two lost battles.