warfare & empire

military mondays: Why did Alexander the great never lose a battle? 

as suggested by: @knightopolis

Alexander the III of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic league, Pharaoh of Egypt, Lord of Asia, Khaleesi of the great grass sea, mother of dragons, breaker of chains, considered among the greatest commanders of all time, tutored by aristotle, given command of an army at 16, proclaimed king by 20, conquered the Perisan empire by the age of 26, and dead by 32. In terms of personality alexander was calculating, clever and charismatic, however he was prone to violent bursts of anger, impulsiveness and arrogance. Despite this Alexander never lost a battle. But how did he do this?

Citizens army - Alexander became king after his father was assisinated in 336 BC, he inherited a large army. This army was a professional army made up of macedonian citizens. This army was paid a good wage and was able to be drilled everyday. This was not a mob of peasants and conscripts, this was their job. Each company of troops came from the same area of macedon, ensuring close bonds of friendship and shared culture which lead to greater cohesion on the battlefield. 

Combined arms - Alexander made sure every possible man was part of the action. He used variety, his army could be made up of Phalanxes, archers, javelin throwers, siege towers and companion cavalry. Each unit would be assigned a job that played to their strengths and complimented the other units weaknesses. 

The Phalanx - The phalanx was often the most used unit in alexanders army. 256 men arranged 16 across and 16 deep. Each armed with a small shield and a Sarissa, this 18ft macedonian pike gave the phalanx greater reach than the spearman. This formation was a bristling hedgehog of spearpoints. Although inflexible. The phalanx was Skilled at both defense and offense. The phalanx dominated the ancient battfields of persia and asia minor. 

Hammer and the anvil - Alexanders preffered tactic and highly effective, the phalanx would pin the enemy in place either by a frontal assualt or a defense. Remember horses would not charge a row of spears. While the enemies main force was engaged. Alexander would send his companion cavalry on the flanks. This cavalry was heavily armoured and the finest in the ancient world, this is called “Shock cavalry” their frightening charge and long lances would force the enemy to retreat inward. The enemy now completley surrounded would be sandwhiched between the infrantry and the cavalry. 

Flexibility - Alexander was a clever man. Tutored by aristotle himself. This is shown most prominently at he battle of Gaugamela. Alexander faced a persian force commanded by darius III, estimates vary but the persian army was around 250,000 strong compared to the macedonian force of 40,000 men Alexander took his cavalry and rode parralel to the persian heavy cavarly. He had hidden spear throwers and skirmishers called peltasts behind the cavalry, they ran beside him, keeping up with the pace of the horses. Alexander was taunting darius and he took the bait. The persian heavy cavalry gave chase and left a hole in the battle lines, alexander did a 160 turn and poured his cavalry into the gap, his skirmishers let loose at the persuing persians, which unbalanced the perisan cavalry preventing them from turning and chasing alexnader. Alexander then cut a bloody path to darius, who fled into the mountains. The battle was won. 

Leading by example - Alexander realised morale was key. He led his personal unit of companion cavalry, 300 strong into battle. Fighting alongside the men in his army, giving them hope and courage. He suffered wounds himself in battle, and bled beside his veterans. At Gaugamela, alexander cut off his pursuit of darius and turned to rescue his friend and general Parmenion. Showing his troops he really did care about their wellbeing. 

Campaigning through egypt, babylon, and asia minor. At its height his empire stretched from greece to northwest India. 

If you have any ideas for what I should post for next military monday, it can be anything, a battle, a leader, an idea, a concept or tactic, a military unit or formation. Do not hesitate to send in your suggestions, either by message or comment.

“There is nothing impossible to him who will try” - Alexander the great 

3

Death of a Monster, April 7th, 1945

The Yamato manuevers to avoid aerial attacks, already on fire and listing heavily. Her speed dropped to ten knots when the order was finally given to abandon ship right as the fires reached the magazines and detonated. The resulting mushroom cloud was seen over a hundred miles away, and out of a crew of 3,332, only 168 survived.

2

The Mongol hordes and their empire 

The Mongol empire was only 700,000 metres short of being the biggest empire the world has ever seen or will continue to see. It stands as the second biggest empire in the world. When you consider the first biggest was a bunch of well trained dudes with rifles (British) and the mongols were a army of horse riding nomads with swords. They did well for themselves 

The Mongol hordes began from the unicification of all the mongolian tribes under the leadership of Genghis Khan who was proclaimed Great Khan in 1206. Genghis khan was one of the most ruthless leaders in history. He led genius invasions into china and the surrounding areas however this millitary skill was nothing compared to his brutality. Victories were often followed by wholesale slaughter of the civilian population. Genghis intended to butcher so many civilians that the enemy in the next battle would be too scared to fight them. This worked and armies were fleeing from the battlefield before the battle had even begun. By the great khans death, the mongol empire had taken China, Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan and krygistan. 

well the mongols were lightning fast warriors who awalys rode horseback. They would attack and leave as soon as they arrived. The empire managed to incorporate archers on horseback and they’re light armour made them fast when attacking cities. The Mongols did not settle or organise government. They lived in tents and slept from place to place gathering supplies. Their need to not gather supplies made them even faster. 

When Genghis died his empire was divided into 4 khanates with each one being given to his sons. The Mongol machine kept on rolling into russia. 

Keep in mind nor hitler or napoleon managed to conquer russia. 

the mongols did

The Mongols elected Ogedei Khan as their new great khan and like the cool aid man he burst onto the scene in europe invading the baltic states. However when he died. His son was chosen as his sucessor. He suffered the first mongol defeat ever and he reigned for only 8 uears before kublai khan won the throne. A desecendant from a rival mongol family. Kublai khan managed to keep the other families following his orders. By the time he died, the empire had broken into four who each pursued their own interests. 

The empire had completley fractured and dissolved and china would rise again. In its wake. 

Aníbal “Soldier Millions” Augusto Milhais, Portuguese soldier of WWI.

Aníbal stood up with his machine gun during the battle of La Lys and alone bested the assaults of two German regiments, causing an amazing number of casualties.

His defense was so intense that Germans thought they were fighting an entire regiment.

He fired in all directions and stayed at his post until he ran out of ammunition.

Finally, the Germans decided to go around and Aníbal found himself alone in the rear of the enemy lines, where he stayed for three days, until he managed to return to base.

Aníbal was the most decorated Portuguese soldier of World War I and the only Portuguese soldier awarded the highest national honor, the Military Order of the Tower and of the Sword, of Valour, Loyalty and Merit on the battlefield - instead of the usual public ceremony in Lisbon.

A permanent exhibition remembering his achievements can be seen in the military museum in the city of Porto in Portugal.

Furthermore, a statue in his honor was erected in his hometown, as a national tribute and as a symbol for Portugal.

HMS Vanguard photographed at anchor in the Solent for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Royal Fleet Review of 1953. Four King George V-class battleships were at the time in a state of preservation, placed in reserve in June 1950, but only Vanguard remained at sea. She was a remnant of Nelson’s day, the last descendant of Dreadnought, the last big-gun brawler; undoubtedly she was the most powerful British battleship ever built.

2

Hannibal of Carthage and the punic wars (264BC - 146BC)

The Punic wars were a series of wars fought between the Rapidly expanding Carthagian Empire in North Africa and the Roman republic. The carthagian Empire held the isle of Sicily off the cost of Rome. Long story short the Roman republic sanctioned an attack to retake sicily and stop the exspansion of the Carthagians. 

Unlike most civilisations the Romans had a trained and battle hardened veteran core of troops. The legions numbered at about 30,000. Carthage had to rely mainly of Mercenaries and the indigenous tribes. However the Carthagians had a huge navy and the Romans had to build one fast. Subsequently the romans were defeated and realised the traditional naval warfare tactics of raming and stone flinging would not work. The romans attached the Assualt bridge to their warships, this meant that legionaires and Auxillary could board the carthagian ships. Rome went through an nearly unbroken string of victories at sea and in sicily. The carthagian mercenaries fled the battlefields 9/10 times. Carthage sued for peace in 241BC. 

Carthage was forced to pay a sum in silver for the 8000 african Prisoners of war. However Carthage would not return the captured legionaires. The Carthagian king Hannibal pursued the defected troops and attacked a Roman town they were hiding in. The Carthagians refused to hand Hannibal over to the Romans for trial. Rome declared another war on Carthage.

Hannibal intended to cross the famous alps with siege engines and elephants. Over the course of the 3 year war, Hannibal won notable victories against Rome at the battle of Trebia and the battle of Cannae. Hannibal eventually did cross the alps but was hesitant of Romes defences. At he same time the Romans cut of trade routes and his army began to starve. Rome then launched a counter attack and Hannibal attempted to split his army but was deafeated at the battle of Zama. This basically ended Carthage. The city of Carthage was soon sacked and burnt to the ground and the Romans took even more of Africa. Hannibal himself commited suicide.

Hannibal is often regared as a Brilliant millitary commander. He managed to win battles while scaling a mountain range with a half dead army and some elephants against the mighty Rome. He is compared with Napoleon and Julius Caesar at times. 

Queen Elizabeth Fires Across Gallipoli Peninsula

Queen Elizabeth at the Dardanelles.

March 5 1915, Gallipoli—Since the beginning of the naval attacks on the Turkish Dardanelles forts on February 19, the Allies had been making considerable, if slow, progress up the Dardanelles.  In the intervening time, a combination of naval bombardment and landing parties of Marines had largely knocked out most of the Turkish guns at the mouths of the Straits, though the Marines ran into heavy resistance on March 4 and were evacuated. Attention now turned to the Turkish positions within the Straits themselves.  These would be more difficult targets, as the fleet could not simply bombard from the safety of the Aegean, but would have to sail up the straits, where they would be under threat from mines, guns brought up on both sides, and torpedo attacks.  Most of the force was composed of obsolete pre-dreadnought battleships diverted from being scrapped, but Churchill had managed to divert the newest super-dreadnought, the Queen Elizabeth, for the effort as well.  Much of the Navy was not happy about this, but had agreed on condition she not unduly wear out her guns or put herself at risk.

As a result, the Queen Elizabeth was forbidden from entering the Straits with the rest of the squadron.  However, her guns had such a long range that another option was open to her—she could sit on the Aegean side of the Gallipoli peninsula and fire over it, hoping to hit the Turkish positions on the other side.  As the Turks were not expecting or defending against shells from (in their view) the landward side, the Queen Elizabeth had the potential to do serious damage.  On the other hand, this also meant she would not have a view of the target, and would be completely dependent on spotters. One set of spotters were in Sopwith seaplanes launched from the Ark Royal.  The observer in the first seaplane, Lt. Cmdr. H.A. Williamson, recalled:

It was a perfect day, with just the right amount of wind for taking off from the water, and we were soon in the air. It was an exhilarating moment.  There below was the Queen Elizabeth with her eight 15-inch guns ready to fire and trained on the coast.  The conditions were ideal; stationary ships and stationary target, only eight miles apart, and perfect visibility.  I was filled with confident expectation.  We soon reached 3,000 feet and were ready to cross the peninsula to the target.  Then it happened.  In a moment the machine was out of control and we were hurtling towards the sea.

Apparently, their propeller had broken up mid-flight; both Williamson and his pilot miraculously survived. The second plane fared little better; failing to ascend to appropriate altitude, the pilot was wounded by Turkish rifle fire and forced to return.  A third plane only spotted one single shell of Queen Elizabeth’s.

Additional spotting was provided by the pre-dreadnought Irresistible in the Straits.  However, she were at a right angle to the line of fire (as they did not want to enter Turkish minefields or get hit by Queen Elizabeth’s shells by mistake) and therefore could not reliably tell whether Queen Elizabeth’s shells were landing to the left or right of their target.  They could tell whether they were falling short or long, however, but this information was ignored by the Queen Elizabeth, which kept firing 3,000 yards over the target despite Irresistible’s repeated signals.  Meanwhile, a small Turkish gun on the Aegean side of the peninsula began to fire at the Queen Elizabeth; although it was of too small a caliber to do significant damage, it did take out the ship’s bakery.  Overnight, the Turks brought over the peninsula a larger gun, which was able to force Queen Elizabeth out of range.

The use of the Queen Elizabeth to fire over the Gallipoli Peninsula had shown some ingenious thinking, but was hampered in practice by the poor use of spotting, and it did little damage to the Turkish positions.

Sources: Richard Hough, The Great War at Sea 1914-1918; Arthur Banks, Atlas of the First World War; Peter Hart, Gallipoli; Winston Churchill, The World Crisis (Volume II); Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel.

9

Collection of some of the armors and uniforms used by Portuguese soldiers in the wars and confrontations Portugal participated through out the centuries. 

This is not the full collection.

Ram’s Head Dagger

India (likely Jaipur), Mughal, 18th or 19th century

Hilt: Gold, enameled and set with precious stones; kundan technique Blade: steel

Often tucked into a sash or horseman’s boot, daggers in Mughal India displayed the wealth and power of their owners. An intricately patterned ram’s head pommel adorns the hilt of this dagger, made in the kundan technique in which gems are set into malleable pure gold foil, allowing them to be arranged in any pattern or density over curved surfaces. In this dagger, pieces of quartz adorning the cross guard are surrounded by raised borders of gold which form the curved lines of a flower. The ram’s head is decorated with a floral scroll and is separated from the hilt grip by a quartz collar, also in the kundan method.

This dagger bears a striking resemblance to another dagger posted recently.

Military mondays: Battle of Alesia 52 BC

as suggested by: @deerskin-suitcase

Julius Caesar had finished his consulship,a very controversial consulship, in which caesar had forced his co consul to become housebound because of the humiiation he had been put through. A consulship in which he had made senators fear for their lives and a consulship which probably meant the beginning of the end for the roman republic.

After a consulship ends an ex consul was given governorship of one of Romes provinces, this term as governor was to last for a year. The senate had tried to get Caesar to look after the countryside of rome after his consulship but this would not do for caesar. After his consulship ended he managed to secure. The Provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine gaul (Southern France) and The Governorship of Illyrium (the Balkan countries) for 5 years compared to the traditional one, he was also given command of 4 legions (20,000 men). This was unprecedented power. To pay off his debts and further his own political career he invaded gaul, (now modern day France) and aspired to turn it into a roman province. 

The Gallic tribes were already at eachothers throats and caesar easily defeated the divided and undisciplined gallic tribesmen. However a young nobleman by the name of vercingetorix lead a revolt among the subjigated gauls, slaughtering every roman settler in site and taking on a scorched earth policy, the gauls gave caesar nowhere to resupply and won some minor victores. Although Vercingetorix had the bigger numbers his troops were less well trained, he decided to retreat to the fortress of alesia and wait for reinforcements. Caesar now faced a huge problem, Alesia was a strong hilltop fortress, assualting it would take time and cost many men, however if he waited too long he would have to face two armies. This is were caesars genius really shows. Caesar decided to build a fort around vercingetorix’s army. 

Romans carried their forts with them and could throw these things together in a matter of hours, by the next day caesar had built a defensive structure around the gallic forces. When placed in an impossible situation, caesar had created a third option. Genius 

Sooner or later the gallic relief force came and it was huge, estimates are between 150-250,000 and vercingetorix still had 80,000 camped in alesia. Casear had 60,000. On the first day the gallic reinforcements arrived they launched a heavy cavalry charge on the fort, concealing hidden gallic archers. Caesar met vercingetorix with his own cavalry, although gallic cavalry was superior to romes cavalry in every way, romes cavalry gained the high ground and drove the gauls away, but recieved nasty arrow fire. Vercingetorix just sat on the hill watching from a distance.

The following night the gauls launched a suprise attack on a concentrated point along the eastern wall.This section of the wall was commanded by a young mark antony, he valiantly held the line while waiting for reinforcements, while being attack from both sides. Caesar knew talent when he saw and from this point on Antony would be caesars right hand man. 

The next day the gallic reinforcements seized the high ground and assualted a weak point along the wall, at the same time he sent individual companies of men all along the roman line, vercingetorix then sent his men to a concentrated position on the roman wall, now caesar was fighting for his life. 

Now they were being attacked on all sides, soon the gallic relief force broke through on the western wall, gauls poured in, caesar mounted his horse and raced through the lines, dodging arrow and spear. he picked up any man he thought could be spared, casesars rag tag band of reinforcements threw themselves at the gallic breakout, forming a shield wall to keep the invaders in place, then caesar rode back and took control of his remaining cavalry who proceeded to punch through an attacking gallic squad on the south east wall. Then he wheeled around and hit the gallic invaders on the west wall in the rear. the gallic attack fell to pieces. 

the Gallic reinforcements were utterly defeated and fled. Vercingetorix surrendered to Caesar the next day. Riding up to him personally and laying his sword at his feet. Vercingetorix would be executed in prison. As for caesar by the time he returned to rome, civil war had begun. Some of caesars generals during this battle, fought for pompey, others took part in his assassination, Mark antony would wage a war with emperor octavian against caesars assassins and would commit suicide alongside his lover cleopatra.

If you have any ideas for what I should post for next military monday, it can be anything, a battle, a leader, an idea, a concept or tactic, a military unit or formation. Do not hesitate to send in your suggestions, either by message or comment.