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Alexander the Great was antiquity\'s greatest commander
#31
Quote:Alexander was the only man to conquer the Persian army, Leonidas as well as Alexander shamed them.
During the Third Sacred War, Chares defeated a Persian army in Asia Minor, in full battle, hailed as "the second Marathon". Reference lost, but believe me it's true. :wink:
Quote:So, I didn't see any mention in your article of Parmenion's struggle for survival on the left wing?
I think we can not know what happened in that big cloud of dust. It may be true that the Macedonian left remembered they had had a hard time, and it is certainly true that they were commanded by Parmenio, but I am not very certain that it is what really happened. My main point is that Gaugamela had already been decided before the battle started.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
My website
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#32
Quote: Alexander and Darius is not really a comparison, Alexander saw Darius as an equal, never as a rebel against his rule.
In Xerxes’ view, Leonidas was a rebel and a criminal, comparable to Spartacus in the eyes of Crassus. And his body was treated in that view – I’ve little doubt that he would have been treated similarly if taken alive.

Leonidas was a rebel and a criminal because he did not want to be a vassal of Persia....? Because that other Spartan king Demaratus was hiding with the Persians....and seems to have been an enemy of Cleomenes who was Leonida's father in law.
Rather like Hitler calling Winston Churchill a rebel and criminal because he objected to certain things Hitler was doing and declared war on him -:wink: and wasn't it Winston who coined the phase 'Heroes fight like Greeks'...!

Quote:I thought that in-between these battles, Greek armies proved to be a problem for Persian armies – the Persians were unable to defeat Xenophon’s Greeks in battle as well as in retreat, for instance. And I recall there were some naval victories too?
There was a difference: Alexander conquered the Persian army and Persia itself, he was the Great King of the Persian Empire and the Pharoah of Egypt which up until then was under Persian rule. In short, he was the Commander of the armies of what had been the Persian Empire.
Cristina
The Hoplite Association
[url:n2diviuq]http://www.hoplites.org[/url]
The enemy is less likely to get wind of an advance of cavalry, if the orders for march were passed from mouth to mouth rather than announced by voice of herald, or public notice. Xenophon
-
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#33
Quote:
Vortigern Studies:124y295b Wrote:Alexander and Darius is not really a comparison, Alexander saw Darius as an equal, never as a rebel against his rule.
In Xerxes’ view, Leonidas was a rebel and a criminal, comparable to Spartacus in the eyes of Crassus. And his body was treated in that view – I’ve little doubt that he would have been treated similarly if taken alive.

Leonidas was a rebel and a criminal because he did not want to be a vassal of Persia....? Because that other Spartan king Demaratus was hiding with the Persians....and seems to have been an enemy of Cleomenes who was Leonida's father in law.
Rather like Hitler calling Winston Churchill a rebel and criminal because he objected to certain things Hitler was doing and declared war on him -:wink: and wasn't it Winston who coined the phase 'Heroes fight like Greeks'...!

No need to defend the western view, this is how the Persian king saw it, and in his view he was the rightious one. Big Grin wink: Despite that, any teacher and any tourist guide will tell you that we Dutch stood firm for our beliefs and heroically struggled to become free from Spanish and Catholic oppression. Our freedom fighter are the other side's terrorists. I bet they teach similar stuff in Ireland about the English...

Same way with Xerxes/Leonidas, there are always two sides, and no-one needs to be wrong.

Quote:and wasn't it Winston who coined the phase 'Heroes fight like Greeks'...!
Did he? He always loved Greece, I think.
He also said this:
"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes."
(Sir Winston Churchill about the indiscriminate use of aerial bombardments and poison gas after a countrywide Arab rebellion in Iraq, 1920).
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#34
Alexander -- no doubt where he belongs on the list. I would have moved Xenophon up a little higher, mainly because in his retreat from Persia, he was actually asked to take over the formation because of his abilities. I think that speaks highly of him (or the desperation the soldiers felt given their situation). After all, how many commanders in antiquity actually got "nomintated" for their role -- overall, good analysis and I think you did an excellent job at organizing individuals. Doing so, is very tough, I'm sure.

Best wishes!
Gaius Tertius Severus "Terti" / Trey Starnes

"ESSE QUAM VIDERE"
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#35
Herodotos says that corpse mutilation was not a Persian custom and that it did not sit well with Xerxes subordinates.
The real reason for the mutilation was the "Molon Lave" undiplomatic to say the least, answer of Leonidas.

Kind regards
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#36
As far as I can tell, the single most important quality of these 'great generals' is a whole lot of good fortune. Some guy and his friends go on a criminal rampage, and when he isn't killed immediately we call him 'great'. What exactly did Alexander do to improve civilization? Become the new Xerxes?

Take Hannibal for example. Everything he did was extremely rash. Very often taking his troops to battle in inferior numbers with no supplies. That's not what a great general does. He stumbled into a series of unlikely victories so we assume there was something special about him other than his willingness to take huge risks and hope for devine favor. Well, guess what, his luck ran out and his culture was snuffed out for all eternity. All because of his hubris! Great commander? Not in my mind.

I strongly tend to prefer commanders who, faced with these kind of megalomaniacs on their own soil, conduct themselves with courage, wisdom and caution. I'd sooner follow Fabius Maximus or even Leonidas rather than die for Alexander's ego.
Rich Marinaccio
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#37
Quote:No need to defend the western view, this is how the Persian king saw it, and in his view he was the rightious one. Big Grin wink: Despite that, any teacher and any tourist guide will tell you that we Dutch stood firm for our beliefs and heroically struggled to become free from Spanish and Catholic oppression. Our freedom fighter are the other side's terrorists. I bet they teach similar stuff in Ireland about the English..

This doesn't have anything to do with a 'Western' view of the war.

I think what he was going for was asking how you could consider someone a rebel who had never been under the political dominion of another in the first place. Unlike the Greek cities of the coast of Asia Minor, the city states of mainland Greece had not been a part of the Persian Empire. Leonidas was the king of a sovereign state attempting to keep from being subjugated by a large power.

My point is that the term 'rebel' implies that the Greeks were previously under the political power of Xerxes's forebears and that they attempted to throw off the yoke. I agree Xerxes probably viewed the Greeks as an insect on the periphery of his empire to be squashed, but they weren't in rebellion.
Marshal White

aka Aulus FABULOUS 8) <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cool.gif" alt="8)" title="Cool" />8) . . . err, I mean Fabius

"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."
- Pericles, Son of Athens
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#38
Quote:
Vortigern Studies:2s9fkc0v Wrote:No need to defend the western view, this is how the Persian king saw it, and in his view he was the rightious one. Big Grin wink: Despite that, any teacher and any tourist guide will tell you that we Dutch stood firm for our beliefs and heroically struggled to become free from Spanish and Catholic oppression. Our freedom fighter are the other side's terrorists. I bet they teach similar stuff in Ireland about the English..

This doesn't have anything to do with a 'Western' view of the war.

I think what he was going for was asking how you could consider someone a rebel who had never been under the political dominion of another in the first place. Unlike the Greek cities of the coast of Asia Minor, the city states of mainland Greece had not been a part of the Persian Empire. Leonidas was the king of a sovereign state attempting to keep from being subjugated by a large power.

My point is that the term 'rebel' implies that the Greeks were previously under the political power of Xerxes's forebears and that they attempted to throw off the yoke. I agree Xerxes probably viewed the Greeks as an insect on the periphery of his empire to be squashed, but they weren't in rebellion.

Yes and no.

Yes, because Europeans are taught in school and later to see this conflict mainly from the Greek and European (Western) point of view, looking at the Greeks as those who defeated an unjust invader who had no claim at all. My point in this discussion is that the other side had a different view on things, as always with conflicts in history, which they were also entitled to.

Yes, I agree with you, the word ‘rebel’ indeed implies being once ruled by the other party, which technically the Greeks had not been.

On the other hand, I have some doubt that it was seen like that at the time. The mainland Greek states, while each being independent, had of course been meddling in Asian affairs because of Greeks there were seen as unjustly ruled by Persians. So indeed, these Asian Greeks were the rebels, not Athens, Sparta, Thebes etc. But they had been aided by mainland Greek states out of a cultural solidarity – Greeks aiding Greeks, right?
So, I am not sure that Xerxes et al saw the Greeks as so many different states, instead of lumping them together.

Maybe the Persians saw all Greeks as one group, for the same reason that Greeks themselves wanted to free fellow-Greeks in Asia from Persian rule?
Also, some Greek cities had been under Persian sway before, so that could qualify all mainland Greeks as belonging to one rebelling group.
If so, then Xerxes could indeed see the European Greeks as aiding and abetting rebels or as ‘true rebels’ themselves.

In modern language, Xerxes could have called the European Greeks ‘terrorists’. His campaign to mainland Greece can be well compared to Julius Caesar’s campaign to Britain, which was in part for glory, in part to stop the oversees aid for conquered Celts in Gaul?
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#39
Quote:Yes, I agree with you, the word ‘rebel’ indeed implies being once ruled by the other party, which technically the Greeks had not been.
The Athenians gave "earth and water" (Hdt. 5.73) in the late 500's, and many other Greek nations did so after the repression of the Ionian Revolt (6.48 ). From a Persian point of view, they were rebels.
Quote:I am not sure that Xerxes et al saw the Greeks as so many different states, instead of lumping them together.
In his Royal Inscriptions, Xerxes distinguishes Yauna "on this side of the sea", Yauna "across the sea", and Yauna with straw hats (=Macedonians).
Quote:In modern language, Xerxes could have called the European Greeks ‘terrorists’.
I think that 'terrorist' is a bit overstated: it implies a different type of strategy, aimed at citizens, trying to demoralize an enemy. Although the sack of Sardes clearly fits this pattern, it is one incident in a larger context of -more or less- normal war.
Quote:His campaign to mainland Greece can be well compared to Julius Caesar’s campaign to Britain, which was in part for glory, in part to stop the oversees aid for conquered Celts in Gaul?
Yeah, that sounds plausible.
Jona Lendering
Relevance is the enemy of history
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#40
Quote: His campaign to mainland Greece can be well compared to Julius Caesar’s campaign to Britain, which was in part for glory, in part to stop the oversees aid for conquered Celts in Gaul?

I think that is a very good analogy. I sat there when I wrote the post before that for several minutes trying to think of a parallel, but nothing came to mind.
Marshal White

aka Aulus FABULOUS 8) <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cool.gif" alt="8)" title="Cool" />8) . . . err, I mean Fabius

"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."
- Pericles, Son of Athens
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#41
Herodotus provides a fairly terse description at 5.7.3. While the Athenian envoys do seem to have submitted to Darius (or rather his officials in Sardis) in order to gain the alliance they were sent to secure, their decision does not appear to have been supported by the Assembly as they were sent to only to secure an alliance, not a state of subordination.
Paul Klos

\'One day when I fly with my hands -
up down the sky,
like a bird\'
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#42
There was a war in England, which resulted from trickery and an invasion by somebody who considered himself entitled to rule here, against the wishes of the Witan and the people.
That person did not care who the 'rebellious' English wanted to rule them...and the battle of Senlac Ridge ended any choice.
History is full of 'Rebels' because they choose not to be subjected to anothers will.....
William Wallace was a 'rebel' because he wanted Scotland to stay Scottish.
The Romans killed 'rebellious' tribal peoples, who objected to their invasions.
If the whole of your town votes differently to you...that makes you a 'rebel' - you dare to be different.
If your local supermarket closes down and you are the only one to constantly complain to the huge contracting company who are building a car park on the site, because you are asked to present the townspeoples case ...that makes you a 'rebel troublemaker'
A rebel is the person who says 'look here, I am speaking for those who are too scared or do not know how to speak - I am their spokesperson'.

Of course the Persians considered Leonidas a rebel...he stood in the way of what THEY wanted...or did it not occur to them, that if the Greeks had wanted Persians in their country, they would not have been fighting them...or were they just too arrogant and big headed to accept that..?
Cristina
The Hoplite Association
[url:n2diviuq]http://www.hoplites.org[/url]
The enemy is less likely to get wind of an advance of cavalry, if the orders for march were passed from mouth to mouth rather than announced by voice of herald, or public notice. Xenophon
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#43
My gratitude all around, everyone. Thanks for all the input.

OK. Let's take a look.

Myhtos_Ruler:
Quote:Love the article...reading Pressfield's...
Thank you Michael. I have heard of Pressfield, but haven't seen any of his work; will do.

caiustarquitius:
Quote:In fact, it's Bengtson, not Bengston. Smile
Thanks Christian. Some respect is in order, as his name is spelled Bengston in some bibliographies of English history books. I fixed it.

conon394:
Quote:...So why does Leonidas deserve to be in TIER 3
Well, you answered that yourself in your subsequent posting, Paul:
Quote:...he was at best competent...possibly quite a bit less than competent
I strongly doubt he was less than competent. His actions of solidifying the Phocian Wall and securing his supply lines was strategically sound: he scorched the vicinity between Thermopylae and Lamia at night, thus the locals (war sadly spares no one if in the way of the procurement of a strategic end) could not inform the mighty invader of the smallness of the force that lay in its path. Not only would Xerxes' advance forces not be availed any sustenance from the land they had to pass, making them practically entirely dependent on their fleet, but the raiding established an immediate supply-dump for Leonidas and his men; they already had the village of Alpeni, a little to the east, as their main supply-base. Moreover, his chosen position was one which would provide the most security and viability for his hoplites to inflict damage upon the enemy. Tactically, he lured them in over the first two days, causing them to break ranks, and thoroughly mauled all attacks, whether from the Medians, Cissians, Susans, or the 'Immortals'. Leonidas rotated his limited forces to economize as best he could his strength.

Basically, the strategy devised by the Congress at Corinth was to delay the Persians on land for as long as possible, while the Persian navy was defeated, thus the land forces would be isolated and starved. It was practical, and Leonidas' conduct showed, seemingly, that he could have held out for quite a while if not for something that affects all of history - circumstance.

TIER 3 is quite 'generous'; amid my knowledge, one has to be paltry (one who fought in famous campaigns), or to never had achieved any success at all. For example, Jaime later asked why Marcus Antonius was a 'great' general. He wasn't - but he was probably quite competent, evidenced by the distinction he displayed in command as a cavalry leader in Palestine for the governor there in the mid 50s B.C., one Aulus Gabinius. Perhaps a decade later, he was suppressing riots engineered in Italy by the senator Marcus Caelius Rufus, and was instrumental in crushing the republicans at Philippi in 42 B.C., along with Octavian. His lack of meeting logistical needs in his vast Parthian expedition resulted in disaster, but a couple of years later he siezed Armenia, defeating Artavasdes II, who betrayed Antonius in mid-camapaign in Parthia. Certainly not a great general, but not a hopeless one, either.

Leonidas, indeed, can only be judged by his conduct at Thermopylae, of which our knowledge is too slight to know without much conjecture of the degree of his tactical and strategic ability. Heroism and devotion, however, count for something, and Patton was hardly ever faced with such a task, and didn't command a core unit of men who had consecrated themselves by the laws of their tradition to 'stand and die'. Perhaps Leonidas attempted to surround Hydarnes' outflanking force, when he divided his remaining 2,300 men or so (including the Helots). If so, he failed. But more likely, his decison to stand and die, affording more time, though little, for the rest of Greece to get ready, was influenced by the the pronouncements of the Delphic Oracle - a Spartan king must die for Greece's survival. Remember, he selected as his esprit de corps Spartiates who only had sons, thus no family line would be extinguished. It also possible Leonidas had been complicit in the death in prison of his half-brother Cleomenes. Perhaps he had more than one thing to die for - a guilty conscience. Regardless, in my opinion, Leonidas displayed competent and efficacious leadership in the pass, from the information we have to pass judgement.
Quote:...all Leonidas had to do was hold up the Persian army in an ideal position, after Marathon had already shown that the mainland Greek hoplite phalanx was better than the best infantry the Persians had in a close fight (ie, a frontal infantry fight, not some running battle).
He did, quite stoutly, and in an ideal position before the pass was turned - certainly an inevitable action, but achieved much sooner thanks to Ephialtes: the reasons why they were here at Thermopylae were because it was realized that the original strategy, to fight as far north as possible, was not as tenable to hold at the only pass up there, on the coast of Tempe (near Mt. Olympus), not only because that pass could easily be turned by two routes, but because the tribes up there in Thessaly would not co-operate; the local Aleuadae were 'medised', and Alexander I of Macedon had no intention of involving himself in what he thought was certainly going to be a Persian victory. As far as these northern Hellenes were concerned, better the Persians pass swiftly through their lands. Also, the geographic proximity of Thermopylae and where the allied Greek navy, under the nominal command of a Spartan, one Eurybiades (albiet Themistocles was the brainchild behing all the naval strategy), was located at Artemisium, was perfect for a connected point of dual action of land and naval forces; the Persians could be at least checked on land and sea in defensible and enclosed areas. Everything was hoped to be at least a successful, huge holding action, and Eurybiades did not want to fully engage the Persian fleet. But Themistocles hoped to outright defeat the Persians in the constricted waters of the two channels on the western and northern coasts of Euboea.

Again, the Persians would have eventually flanked Leonidas, but perhaps not for another few days (or longer?) if not for the infamous treachery, each day giving Themistocles precious time to hold up the faster Persian (Phoenician, really) vessels in the constricted waters. Remember, Themistocles' withdrawal was due to the destruction of Leonidas and his holding force.

I do, for the most part, agree that it was more at sea where Greece would fall or not, as the Persian land-and-sea power would eventually isolate Hellas, facilitated by the fact that most of the surrounding islands were medised, and if they weren't, they would easily be rendered ineffective for defence. But it's easy for the Athenians to advocate a policy centered around naval action - they had ships to sail to even Sicily if need be; the Spartans and other Peloponnesians, with hardly a good amount of ships, were compelled to fight on land. The fleet was afforded some protection by Leonidas, and vice-versa. Both elements of the Persian invading force needed to supplement each other, due to the size of both. Moreover, a terrible storm did not aid the Greek cause as much as been surmised (in my opinion); the Persians re-grouped and continued relentlessly, hardly suggesting a shattered fleet. They did not lose 400 vessels, as has been claimed. But the delay which was forced upon the the Persian fleet also caused the land advance upon Leonidas to be delayed, too.

Moreover, it had been hoped that the small force of about 7,000 which arrived at Thermopylae would have been larger; the Peloponnesian and Boeotian allies, most notably the Thebans, helped out grudgingly in comparison with others, such as the Locrians and Phocians, whose manpower was much more limited. Herodotus implies that the Thebans' sympathy was with the enemy. That's probably a stretch, but some Thebans ultimately surrendered and were spared. Herodotus was certainly pro-Athenian in condemning the Thebans, but their final submission may have been done out fo hope their city, soon in line southwards for the Persians, would receive some respite.

Leonidas obviously expected a massive assault, and he wisely chose a place (the 'Middle Gate') that, though wider than two other options (one to the east, the other to the west), was located with a more transparent wall of rock on their left (south) flank; they had the sea to their immediate right. Thus, Leonidas chose a spot most conducive for his hoplites to fight on a limited amount of flat ground, which almost neutralized the immense Persian advantage, quantitatively speaking, but one with enough space so they could fight effectively in a defensive position. We must remember that many Persians could fight in mountainous terrain more skillfully than hoplites could. They had no chance here, if at all, for a quick success. Also, the location chosen by Leonidas was well-placed to utilize the Phocian Wall, which needed some repairing. We could go on and on with the debate of Thermopylae, but I'll add one more important thing which Paul brought up.
Quote:...Tactically everyone of course knew there were ways of turning the pass; I would tend to say a good general puts reliable troops with the covering force - the Tegeans or Thespians to support the Phocians...
Sure, if Leonidas had the manpower at his disposal to do so. There was no 'secret' of the Anopaean Pass, but the immediate area south of Leonidas' position was part of the summit of Mt. Kallidromos (an anachronistic name). It was not a spiny ridge, but one with two parallel raised areas, between which lay a mountain plain fringed with dense forestry. Leonidas certainly knew of this, even though he was out his homeland, as he would have had the Phocians deeply apprise him of the topographical nature of the surrounding region, particularly the patch of land directly beneath his chosen position. He could not compromise Thermopylae, which was the strategic line with Artemisium and the fleet. But he had to place a watch-dogging force on the path that could be used by the enmy that would otuflank his position. Indeed, Spartiates would be the most skillful for such a task - men who had been trained, among other things, to hunt down seditious Helots in their hideaways, including doing so at night; they could judge the approach or passing of an enemy by the rustling of the grass. But Leonidas, faced with somewhat of an impasse, made the strategically sapient decision. He had only 300 of his Spartiates, and could certainly not afford to deplete his minuscule ranks of his crack hoplites; he would need them to sheriff the rest of the men who would stay behind. He sent the 1,000 Phocians to watch-dog the Anopaean Pass, the very men indigenous to the region; at the time the decision was made, these men would certainly serve better than any other contingent for this task, and would be the least useful in the 'Hot Gates'. They should have been perfectly capable, 1,000 of them without any support from Thebans, Tegeans, or Thespians - men no better suited under the conditions - to deny the passage of an enemy advance force long enough for the news to reach Leonidas that the route was being used. Not only did the Phocians know this area intimately, but had proven their resolve by joining Leonidas against the mighty enemy of the Great King. Moreover, they feared the Thessalians, their northern neighbors, thus their resolve with Leonidas must have been genuine; it was their lands, along with the Locrians, that would suffer terribly if northern Greece was abandoned or lost. Leonidas knew the Persians could eventually force their way through, but we can't blame him for thinking they wouldn't get through without a struggle. Without the treachery of Ephialtes (or whomever he or they actually were) and the subsequent egregious and pusillanimous display of the Phocians, the Persians might have been held up for many, many days. Once Xerxes sent Hydarnes around under the guidance of Ephialtes, the Phocians had posted no sentries, and were asleep when the Persians appeared close to them. We cannot blame Leonidas for expecting the Phocians to resist the advancing force with an organized and determined resistence in the narrow area, giving him ample time to dispose his forces to meet an envelopment; they were going to be ultimately overwhelmed, but could hav etaken many more of the enemy with them, over a few more days, if not for unfortunate circumstances; the Phocians fled immediately, some without their armor, to the safety of higher ground. But 'circumstances' work both ways throughout military history, and Hydarnes can be credited for moving quickly.

Speaking of the infamy of Ephialtes, we must keep in mind that the daring plan of the Persian navy to outflank and bottle up the Greeks in the Euripus Channel, with some 200 ships, was revealed to Themistocles by one Scyllias, a renowned diver of his time, who had been hitherto helping the Persians. He also told the Greeks of the state of the Persian navy after the terrible storm, which certainly affected their thinking. Remember, the most valuable commodity is information.

Arthes:
Quote:Greetings,
I agree with Alexander as the greatest Commander of antiquity and even modern times - nobody can compare or come close...

...nearly everybody knows the names of Thermopylae and/or Leonidas...whereas most could not tell you the name of the Spartan commander at Platea...

It was Leonidas's stand that inspired them to fight and win...
That would be Pausanius, Cristina. I think, if one must be chosen, Alexander was the greatest of all time; but I don't agree any one man, in any endeavor, is incomparable or in a singular class (maybe Shakespeare is about as singular a person has ever been, in any field). It's a good argument about the stand. It is likely Thermopylae raised the stakes of everything that would ensue, and much of Hellas, particularly in the north, had already given up. Xerxes was crucially delayed, being horrendously beaten up for the three days; he saw how high the price of victory would be, if he could pay it at all. What next? Another couple of such 'victories' could ruin him, perhaps losing 20,000 men each time, and the Spartans would be coming again, now with the festival of Carneia over (if he knew about that). His men were willing to die for him, but found they were faced against an extremely efficient killing machine, fighting them in their territory. Again, many Persians were not unaccustomed to the mountains, but the Greek hoplites, much better equipped for close-fighting, could fight ideally in the narrow valleys throughout Greece. A huge Persian army in Greece had to be supplied by sea (even in peacetime, Greece itself largely depended on commerce for food), and if the Greeks united, which they did more than ever in the late summer of 480 B.C., they could defeat any Persian navy under the conditions that Themistocles clearly foresaw - in restricted waters around the rugged coastline, with fighting taking place in channels etc. It's possible that Greece could never be conquered by force; it would require subtlety, something Xerxes didn't seem to advocate.

Actually, if I may correct you Paul,
Quote:...His death was very inspiring, after the Greeks won, but at the time I don’t see the Greeks being all that cheerful about it. The navy at Artemisium was not exactly cheering when it left and Herodotus describes it as a disaster (8.27).
It is Thermopylae Herodotus describes as the disaster, in the context of telling us how the Thessalians were going to exploit the vulnerability of the position of the Phocians. Earlier in Book 8.11, Herodotus describes the clash at Artemisium as an even fight, one unexpected by both sides, with the Persians sailing to Aphetai and the Greeks to Artemisium. True, though, I don't think the Greeks were cheering upon their withdrawal south, on land ot sea; the situation was grim, but the heroic stand certainly gave them hope.

That very unity of Greece was indeed spurred by Leonidas' sacrifice. True, the battle was lost, and it has become a romantic and golden story down the ages. But it's quite possible, romanticism aside, that without Leonidas' stand the events that followed would not have taken place. There would have been no Salamis or Plataea, resounding Greek victories on sea and land, without the inspiration triggered by Thermopylae and Artemisium - battles that were technically losses (a draw at Artemisium) but illustrated that beyond doubt, under the conditions here at home, the Greeks could defeat anything Xerxes threw at them. Paul mentioned the battle at Eurymedon River - that was in Asia Minor, won by an invading Greek expedition under Cimon, the son of Miltiades. True, this victory bound the south of Asia Minor to the Delian League, and ended any fighting between the antagonists for another 60 yeasr, but I would argue that Persian morale and confidence, in terms of an offensive against Greece, was shattered, probably inexorably, 13 years earlier at Plataea and Mycale.

But Persia would later attempt upon Greece with economics what they failed at militarily; the civil strife amongst the Greek states was exploited upon by Persian money. They all took Persian gold for their enterprises, which in the long haul was going to benefit only Persia. The Persian Empire was like a great black hole, sucking in the life of the small Greek city-states by economic gravity, so to speak. Philip II's hegemony negated the need for Persian money, and Alexander transferred military and economic power from Asia to Europe, among other things.

L. C. Cinna:
Quote:...Septimius Severus for example, it's not quite clear what was actually his achievement, militarily, and what was his generals'...
Indeed, he had good subalterns, but it seems he was always in the field, whether in Syria, winning a decisive victory at Lugdunum (Lyons), capturing Ctesiphon, or campaigning as far up as Scotland. He administered reforms, which conciliated his soldiers, and Rome itself was never so powerfully garrisoned as it was under his reign, and he strenghtened the Praetorian Guard.
Quote:...The information on Traian's campaigns are also very limited
Well, Michael, maybe as far as acute tactical details, but we know his greatest military achievements lay in his operations in Dacia and on the eastern frontier. His invasion of Dacia in 101 A.D. reduced it from a major threat to client status, then a province, after Decebalus being defeated again by Trajan in 105 A.D. Trajan was initially impressive in the east, but overextended himself, as he had stripped the other frontiers of too many men. But his policy of restoring his new provinces in Parthia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria to the status of kingdoms patched things up fairly well. It was his subordinate, one Quietus Lusius, who efficiently kept open his line of retreat once the Persian Gulf had been reached - clearly 'out there' too far. Frontiers have to exist somewhere, and this great empire, unlike Alexander's, was already established, and needed to be administered. Hadrian understood this fully, and secured the frontiers, not attempting any expansionist approach; the Roman Empire could not get any bigger in 117 A.D., and Hadrian, not a military commander, wrought in a long period of stability and security. But it is probable that none of this militates against Trajan's military skill.

Marius_Ursus:
Quote:...I would love to see more information about Sargon, but there is very little available.
Indeed, but it seems we can deduce that Sargon (Sharru-Kin) came to be the leader of a Semitic people, centered around the city of Akkad (Agade), and he adopted the bow for warfare, which had seemingly been used only for hunting by the people he subjugated along the Euphrates. It seems he levied from his Sumerian subjects, but he created a 'professional' force of 5,000+ men. His army was flexible enough to operate in different kinds of terrain, and against opponents of varying styles of fighting. If we knew the details, we might find that the scope of his conquests were huge, spanning over 30 wars in his over half-century of rule. Perhaps he was the creator of imperialism; he would conquer lands, but leave his own governors in control to administer things, which facilitated further expansion. His empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean, and was rife with trade, culture and governmental bureaucracy. We must wonder who or what influenced his actions; every other great had something or someone that preceded him to draw upon.

Legend (oral tradition) has it that Sargon, a child of a gardener and a prostitute some 1,000 years before Moses, was placed in a basket of reeds and set in the Euphrates. He rose up the ranks in the kingdom of Kish.

See Stan Russo' The 50 Most Significant Individuals In Recorded History (Pgs. 84-85), Yigael Yadin's The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, and Sir John Hackett's Warfare in the Ancient World.

I'll stop there; the next post by Johnny necessitates, from my values, more expounding: B. H. Liddell Hart's strategic narrative reveals why Scipio was a tremendous commander. However, the tendentious context when comparing Scipio to the other greats is quite arguable.

Thanks, James Smile
"A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are built for."

James K MacKinnon
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#44
Going totally OT here:

Quote: Sargon (Sharru-Kin) came to be the leader of a Semitic people [..] We must wonder who or what influenced his actions; every other great had something or someone that preceded him to draw upon.

You know, sometimes when I read about such people who are not just innovators but GIGANTIC innovators, I believe that time travel will one day be invented. 8)
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#45
Quote:As far as I can tell, the single most important quality of these 'great generals' is a whole lot of good fortune. Some guy and his friends go on a criminal rampage, and when he isn't killed immediately we call him 'great'.

Good description! Sounds like the history of the rise of Rome! :lol:

Quote:Take Hannibal for example. Everything he did was extremely rash. Very often taking his troops to battle in inferior numbers with no supplies. That's not what a great general does. He stumbled into a series of unlikely victories so we assume there was something special about him other than his willingness to take huge risks and hope for devine favor. Well, guess what, his luck ran out and his culture was snuffed out for all eternity. All because of his hubris! Great commander? Not in my mind.

Would you say the same of Robert E. Lee? He, too, took on an enemy he knew to be able to field more men, to have a far superior logistical postion and which he would have to fight on its own ground. He, too, ran rings round said enemy until the combination of the loss of his best commanders, incompetence in his subordinates and the unreasonable behaviour of his superiors drove him to conduct the war in a way he would not have chosen. It's interesting to note, too, that Lee was effectively undone at Gettysburg by a failure in his cavalry, much as Hannibal's tactics were brought to nothing at Zama by the defection of his. So is Bob crap, too?

The Romans were famous for their implacable and ruthless pursuit of those who offered them most resistance or gave them the worst scares; their persecution of Hannibal measures their respect for his generalship.

Quote: I strongly tend to prefer commanders who, faced with these kind of megalomaniacs on their own soil, conduct themselves with courage, wisdom and caution. I'd sooner follow Fabius Maximus or even Leonidas rather than die for Alexander's ego.

Fabius Maximus did a great job. His behaviour also reflects his respect for Hannibal's generalship. The Carthaginian may have been a megalomaniac, but there's plenty of reason to see him as someone who recognised the ruthless opportunism of the Romans and the inevitability of a conflict to the death between the two civilizations. Unable to persuade the Carthaginian senate of the need to beat Rome to the punch, he acted independently. It was Carthage's failure to follow up energetically on his success which led ultimately to his withdrawal from Italy and the defection of his North African allies. Again, the Romans recognised his genius by making the arrangement of said defection a primary aim of their policy.
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