Know Your History: Scipio Africanus

Scipio Africanus

 

Although there a myriad of books on the Second Punic War, The Ghost of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic  was an awesome read.

 

Germanic Warfare

Chatti Germanic Tribe | Northern Germanic Tribes: Cherusci, Jutes, Saxons. Early Germanic warriors either first century BC or AD. The Germans east of the Rhine had a fearsome reputation and constantly waged war on their Gallic neighbours. The Gauls who lived close to the German border were considered to be the most hardened of the […]

via Germanic Warfare — Weapons and Warfare

Bad-Ass Files: Virathus, One Of The First Guerilla Fighters

So I was watching this series on the History Channel the other night called Barbarians Rising and the first episode was about Hannibal and Virathus. The Hannibal story was good, but I knew about most of it already, Having read more than a few books on Hannibal, including The Ghost of Cannae, which I highly recommend.. The second story was about this wild shepard from Lusitania (in modern Portugal) called Virathus. Talk about one tough, never say die grunt, Virathus was it! Anyways here is his amazing TRUE story. -SF

viriathus

“He carried on the war not for the sake of personal gain or power nor through anger, but for the sake of warlike deeds in themselves; hence he was accounted at once a lover of war and a master of war.”  –Cassius Dio

Even before they were an ever-expanding empire hell-bent on world domination and the unconditional submission of anything they even remotely perceived as an enemy, the Romans were still pretty colossal jackasses. While this statement can confidently be broadly applied to almost every single dealing between the time that Romulus first suckled a she-wolf and when Mehmet the Conqueror’s Turkish forces overran the last bastion of Constantinople nearly two millennia later, the Iberian peninsula is as good a place as any to focus on the good people of Latium and their crush-tastic propensity for violently ruining the lives of everyone in their general vicinity.

The whole mess started with a charming little African city called Carthage, and the fact that it’s mere existence was enough to send the Roman senate into hysterical bouts of implacable, over-the-top Lou Ferrigno-style blood rages. Much like people didn’t like Lou when he was angry, so was it with Rome, and over the years Rome and Carthage ended up embarking on some pretty epic murder-fests that left a large part of the Mediterranean either plundered, appendageless, or otherwise seriously jacked up beyond all recognition. The people of Rome were particularly upset when a Carthaginian general named Hannibal put together a huge army, stomped his way around southern Italy, and nearly demolished their entire civilization beneath the heels of a few thousand rampaging elephants, and when you’re a classical-age warrior culture you tend to have a little bit of trouble getting over a little thing like that.

Carthage was eventually crushed, burned down, and urinated on, and the earth was salted so that no crops could ever grow there again, which more or less took care of that problem. After handling diplomatic relations with North Africa in a thoroughly Roman way, the powerful Latin consuls still hadn’t satiated their kill-boners, so they decided to march into Hispania and extend their domination to the native peoples of the Iberian Peninsula – many of whom had lent their services to the afore-mentioned Hannibal and his murdergasmic marauding death force.

Well Spain and Portugal, and particularly a region known as Lusitania, weren’t really down with getting their necks stomped on by the sandaled foot of Roman-style totalitarian domination, so they decided to pick up a bunch of shiv-tastic weapons and stab anybody foolish enough to get within appropriate kidney-shanking distance. The Roman commander Sulpicus Galba wasn’t particularly interested in going toe-to-toe with these indigenous hardasses, so he approached the good people of Lusitania and offered them a deal – if they handed over their weapons and agreed to play nice, he would listen to their demands and try to work out a deal with them.

Read the Remainder at Bad-Ass Of The Week

Military History: “Removal of a Tenth”, a Bloody History of Decimation

Roman

“The practice of decimation didn’t die with the Roman Empire. Military commanders throughout history have revived the tradition from time to time as a means of punishment.”

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, Luigi Cadorna was an artless and pig-headed military commander.

Of all the traditions from ancient Rome field marshal Luigi Cadorna could have chosen to revive for the Italian army, he reportedly choose decimation.

The 64-year old field marshal was the Italian army’s chief of staff at the outset of the First World War and would go on to become the architect of some of the conflict’s most futile and disastrous offensives. In 1915 alone, his ill-conceived assaults on enemy Alpine strongholds cost his nation more than 250,000 lives. But while hopeless as a strategist, administrator and a leader of men, Cardona did excel in one area: unalloyed ruthlessness.

An inflexible disciplinarian, he callously broke the careers of officers that failed to carry out his absurd orders to the letter. Enlisted men under his command were frequently put in front of firing squads for his own incompetence on the battlefield. In fact, nearly six percent of all soldiers in the Italian army were brought up on some charge or another by the aging tyrant and more than 750 men were executed on his watch — no nation shot more of its own during the First World War than Italy. [1] It’s even been claimed (although not without some controversy) that after a 1916 mutiny by soldiers of the 141st Catanzaro Infantry Brigade, Cadorna tore a page from history and actually ordered the unit to suffer a good old-fashioned decimation.

Decimation

Decimation – Murder by Tens

Disgraced Roman soldiers faced lethal beatings from their own squad mates. (Image source: WikiCommons)

While the term today is generally equated with a massive defeat, the Latin word decimation actually means “the removal of a tenth”.

In the age of the Roman legions, army units that mutinied, fled in the face of the enemy or under-performed in combat could be singled out for group punishment in the form of decimation.

Under such a sentence, a body of troops would be divided into sections of 10 men. One soldier from each group would be chosen at random, usually through a lottery. The unlucky infantryman would then to be beaten to death by his comrades. The sentences were carried out immediately regardless of the victim’s rank, reputation or even involvement in the transgression in question. The fatal blows were typically with clubs — a practice the Romans called fustuarium.

A lethal beating in the Roman Legion was called a ‘fustuarium’.

Incidentally, individual soldiers could also suffer bludgeoning for such crimes as theft, desertion, lying to a superior or even submitting one’s self to sodomy. Interestingly enough, same-sex intercourse was perfectly legal under army regulations of the day, but only for the solider who was the dominant player in the act.

After a sentence of decimation was carried out, the surviving soldiers in the disgraced cohort would be forced to make camp away from the larger army. The reduced unit would have to subsist for several days on raw barley. It didn’t just taste terrible, but was also very hard on the stomach and intestines.

Read the Remainder at Military History Now