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Historic The ask questions about history thread.

Discussion in 'History & Military Discussion' started by Arrou, Jan 11, 2015.

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  1. Arrou

    Arrou Amature Russophile

    Do you have any questions about history that youve been wondering about recently? Any that are not major enough to start a new thread about, or any that you are just too lazy to start a thread about?
    Well, this thread is for you.

    Starting question: As someone intrested to become more knowledgeable about classical history, why was Alexander the great so..... Well, great? What made him so skilled in the art of war? Why is he looked upon as one of the greatest military commanders in history?
     
  2. What made him skilled at war? Hard to say. I mean, what does Alexander have that other leaders didn't? He had a military genius enabled by his father's previous military successes and reforms of the macedonian army. As for why he's the greatest military commanders? Well he did conquer one of the largest empires in the world in less then a decade. To be fair, I think the persian empire had been tottering for centuries before Alexander kicked it over, but it is still impressive.
     
  3. Apocal

    Apocal Alpha Technoblack Moderator

    Location:
    California
    He was very well prepared. Genius flowers early, his father Phillip is only forgotten now because his son was so successful. He prepared Alexander well and the boy was leading armies in his teens. This ties into his overwhelming personal charisma, insofar as he was very good at motivating people around him and far from being an easy skill to master. Alexander also inherited a very refined military system that produced disciplined, effective troops as a matter of course. From that starting point, Alexander refined it, using his own experiences and intuition, to being a better system than his opponents could match. His supporting cast were excellent commanders in their own, which is another common characteristic of the great captains of history; Alexander didn't have to do everything, he had a multitude of underlings who were incredibly skilled commanders in their own right.

    Also he had luck on his side.
     
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  4. poaw

    poaw Probably Not A Producer

    What prevented early adapters of systematic gunpowder production in Europe from pressing their advantage militarily? Thereoretically it should be a pretty large advantage so why didn't many (any) paradigms shifts result from it?
     
  5. all fictions

    all fictions Painted Black

    Location:
    Montreal, Quebec
    Not an expert on the history of gun use, but this is what I can remember:

    Early guns were not superior to traditional projectile weapons in every respect. They were more like crossbows, point-and-trigger (minimal training requirement) weapons with low rate of fire (and initially used a trigger mechanism borrowed from them). In fact, IIRC, an English officer seriously suggested in the late 18th century (i.e. around the time of the American Revolution) that the Redcoats go back to the longbow, for the improved rate of fire. He was ignored, of course; he had forgotten about the training issue, although the English had still been using longbows as late as the Thirty Years' War, causing enough deforestation that one of the reasons they switched was because there was hardly a yew tree left in Europe anymore.
     
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  6. Also making enough gunpowder to make it useful is hard in Europe not a lot of great saltpeter deposits IIRC

    My own question is a hmm, let me think, oh right. What exactly is the thema system in Byzantium?
     
  7. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Short answer - economics. The Black Army of Hungary was one of the first armies to adopt firearms in a major way, for example, having one in four men as an arquebusier in the mid-15th century, but the dual strain of the mercenary nature of the army, and the cost of producing gunpowder, in particular the purchase of saltpetre, proved unsustainable, despite the military successes of the Black Army.
     
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  8. Sol Zagato

    Sol Zagato senseless brute

    The Hussites took advantage of gunpowder in a big way compared to their contemporaries. I'd say they pressed the advantage as far as they could, seeing as they survived at all, being filthy heretics in the middle of pre-reformation Europe.

     
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  9. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    Where the Hussites shone was in their wagon fort tactics, allowing the rather ponderous artillery of the day to be utilised on the battlefield, drawing the enemy onto their position.
     
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  10. Slayers148

    Slayers148 Kuso-chan desu~ Hawawawa~ Commission Artist

    Location:
    Mars
    How and/or why did Japan fell into the era of shogunates?
     
  11. Turns out the guys with all the weapons can make a very persuasive case for why they should rule, even if your original leader is a descendant of the sun goddess.

    As for the how. The Minamoto established the first real shogunate after the events of the Genpei war.
    The Genpei war was a civil war fought between the Minamoto and the Taira over control of Japan. Serving as the capstone to a decades long conflict between the two clans over control of the Imperial Court. Immediately prior to the war (And arguably the pretext for it) Kiyamori Taira instituted a cloistered emperor system known as Insei which broke any real power the Emperor held directly.

    The Minamoto were content to let this stand and be Shoguns forming the Kamakura Shogunate which would last until the immense expense of preparing for the Mongol invasion combined with a revolt by the Emperor to regain his power, weakened the Shogunate enough for the Ashikaga to take over with their own Shogunate.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015
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  12. Ironanvil1

    Ironanvil1 Riding a metaphorical pony Magistrate

    Location:
    Luton Airport
    As world history, and indeed present events, demonstrate, it can be a pretty delicate balancing act to keep military power subordinated to civil authority.
     
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  13. Mental Omega

    Mental Omega Shadow Cabal Heir of Hope

    Location:
    Sunslamming
    What exactly was Baron Strenberg hoping to accomplish after taking Mongolia?
     
  14. Sushi

    Sushi Melancholy

    This is exactly what I need, because I have a ridiculously specific question I've had no luck with:

    Were APHE / APC-HE / APCBC-HE shells at all effective against infantry with their small HE filler? I speak mostly of tank-sized rounds, WW2 and such.
     
  15. Ivan the Not-so-Terrible

    Ivan the Not-so-Terrible AH MEW CHEEKI BREEKI I V DAMKE

    Not really.
     
  16. Emperor Heraclius, allegedly, divided the empire into geographical districts, each to raise, train and supply a set number of troops for the army. This was necessary after the near disastrous Persian War that almost destroyed the Empire and the Arab war that almost destroyed the empire essentially destroyed what had remained of the older imperial army and halved the manpower pool. It was pretty effective, producing high quality and discipline d troops in sufficient numbers and lasted for a long while (starting to fall apart before manzikert), but towards the end began to become to feudalized, with troops becoming loyal to their supposed to be non hereditary leaders. Manzikert killed most of the army and the civil wars after killed the rest, along with Turkish invasion capturing the most productive themes.
     
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  17. Soverihn

    Soverihn Kanye 2020

    The themata was a series of administrative divisions in which government owned land was given out to farmers in exchange for a part time military service. Its important to note that technically this was a contract, not a grant and the soldiers did not own the land; they were allowed to develop and manage the plots, and reap the benefits of the land and sell the crops, but they could not sell the land without government approval. Nor was the land automatically given as inheritance. Sons of soldiers had to renew the contract to the government and serve as soldiers in order to keep the land they worked on. Farmer-soldiers working the land were expected to train in militia groups and take part in nearby campaigns when the government called them to work. Big notice: The government divided up land by space, not by any specific territory. This made it less of a legal headache when the state wanted to shuffle people from inland Anatolia into the Balkans and settle that frontier, or vice versa.

    Anyways the themes were managed by a military commander called a strategos, who in addition for being responsible for the militia managed much of the civil administration. This wasn't unique; precedent had been set with the Exarchs of old (Ravenna and Carthage) but one must note the strategos did not dictate policy within his theme, merely enforce the laws set forth by Constantinople, so all themes had uniform laws, taxes, etc.

    Eh I wouldn't say that. Towards the end the Themata started to be replaced by wholly professional armies called Tagmata (which on average were more effective on the field than the themes) which brought back the ancient Roman problem of charismatic generals having more influence on their troops than the state. The Themes started to fall the wayside as it was more economically beneficial in the state's view allow farmers greater control over the lands they worked and focus on being full time farmers or diversify their crafts and invest in their little businesses rather than having spend several months out of your year out on the field campaigning. Unfortunately, that meant trading in your first line of defense which, during the chaotic years after the Macedonian dynasty, was a terrible idea in hindsight.
     
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  18. Minow

    Minow sucking it down

    Location:
    Limbo
    APHE for use against tanks would have a fuze of specific sensitivity that only detonates after it's felt a sufficiently hard shock -- so that, say, a thin screen of additional armor won't render shells useless. This means that if you fire those shells against infantry out in the open, the round is either not going to detonate, if the ground is soft enough, or only detonate after it's dug itself into the ground -- and ground-penetrating HE is far and away the *least* lethal sort of ammunition used against infantry. You want air-bursting shells for maximum effectiveness. On top of all that, the HE fillers for these rounds usually ranged from something like a hand grenade to even smaller (with the exception of truly huge AT guns), and hand grenades aren't very lethal either. It was the close confines of a tank interior, as well as spalling from the initial penetration, that made this amount of shrapnel deadly.

    Overall... well, it should be evident why a useful HE round was considered one of the crucial components of a good WWII tank design.
     
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  19. Arrou

    Arrou Amature Russophile

    This one i have been pondering on for a while, why did the age of sail happen? What advance in shipmaking made the designs steer away from oars and rowing towards many enormous sails? I presume it was more efficient, but it would be nice if someone more informed on the subject could enlighten me.
     
  20. HMS Sophia

    HMS Sophia Trans Skate Witch

    The primary advantage of sail power is that you're no longer relying on human power. Seems obvious, no? This is important because it allows you to conduct longer journey's across wider stretches of water. Galleys and other rowed vessels are generally restricted to the near-coast areas, whereas sail ships can go much further. Of course, combination sail and rowed ships existed, but considering they were generally single masted as compared to two or three masted brigs and the like...
     
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  21. Nothing in particular, it's more a matter of location. Galleys were always more of a Mediterranean thing, and even then sails were a pretty core part of their propulsion. Longships had oars, but it was more for precision maneuvers and coastal/riverine operations, not for use on open seas.
     
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  22. Apocal

    Apocal Alpha Technoblack Moderator

    Location:
    California
    Go and row a boat sometime. Then go back to shore, put boxes full of metal on-board and then go out and row it for twice as long.

    The next morning your muscles will tell you everything you need to know.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
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  23. Minow

    Minow sucking it down

    Location:
    Limbo
    Sailed and rowed ships existed contemporaneously all the way up until steam engines displaced both at once. As @HMS Sophia and @DeltaV11.2 noted, it's always been a question of ship type and geographic location. The quick and easy response is that the Age of Sail happened because the Age of Exploration did.

    The (relatively) calmer seas and shorter distances of the Mediterranean or similar areas favored oared propulsion -- if you could afford the human cost of manning the decks. That's why Roman and Greek warships were oared -- but quite often, their merchant ships weren't, or at least had far fewer banks of oars. The cost margins of a merchant vessel were much tighter; typical cargoes didn't give enough profit for the slight increase of speed from extra oars being worth it. Similarly, while Scandinavian longships were usually mixed-mode as well, they would be using their oars far more when loaded down with men, and not cargo; and the types made primarily for cargo tended not to be optimized for oar use. Rowed ships tended to put ashore every night, because the rowers absolutely HAD to rest (see @Apocal's witty explanation!), whereas a sailing ship confident of its course could continue on. Over long distances, sailing was the only efficient method; even a rowed warship with a huge pile of rowers would preferentially use its sail whenever possible.

    Oared, cannon-armed galleys were used in the Mediterranean all the way up through the Napoleonic wars -- and probably for at least a short while after as well, although I'm not sure. Although they tended to mount relatively few cannon compared to ships of the line they could be dangerous opponents in the wrong sort of wind conditions -- as, unhindered by the vagaries of the wind, a rowed warship could maneuver itself into a favorable position more consistently.

    What specifically made Northern and Western European shipmaking leave oars behind almost completely was the growing long-distance trade among North Atlantic nations, using ships like the cog. The cog was better optimized for carrying large cargoes long distances in poor weather, under conditions where oars weren't a great choice of propulsion but sails worked just fine. The hull shape would have made rowing awkward to begin with, although they sometimes used them still in early designs; but as desires for larger cargoes grew it was easier to simply expand the hull and add yet more sails -- and so ever-larger sailing ships like hulks, carracks, and caravels were born.

    These were also much more capable of long-distance exploration, being larger and tougher and better at handling bad weather for months across the Atlantic, so as the Renaissance unfolded and the New World began to be explored, everyone with any stake in exploration at all began to build nothing but big long-distance sailing ships. Once fully committed to this sort of design, it was nearly impossible to add oars of any sort to the ship, especially on warships where the broadside was completely occupied by ranks and ranks of cannon; and the complex rigging of the sails meant that you needed a large crew simply to work the sails -- none could be spared to work oars as well! Thus, huge fleets of French, British, and Spanish sail warships and merchantmen, with heavy cannon armament and incredible range to fight over colonial possessions around the globe.

    As a final note, even Age of Sail warships would occasionally end up rowing themselves the old-fashioned way. If caught in a situation with no wind at all, it was common practice to send out rowboats with tow ropes in front of the warships to drag them (hopefully) into areas where there was a wind to pick up. In fact, a situation like this was part of the USS Constitution's nail-biting chase by a British squadron.
     
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  24. It's of interest that the majority of the naval fighting between Russia and Sweden during the Great Northern War saw the use of galleys on the Russian side - the Russians built a hell of a lot of them in the using Venitian help for designing and building.
     
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  25. Sushi

    Sushi Melancholy

    Did the barrel shroud on the Lewis gun actually work to cool it effectively (and in turn, does it work on the Pecheneg machine gun?) How did that compare to heavy-barreled designs and water-cooling? Did it negate weaknesses of a fixed-barrel design?
     
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