[MUD-Dev] Depth of realism

Matthew Mihaly diablo at best.com
Mon Nov 22 16:05:18 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


On Mon, 22 Nov 1999, Marian Griffith wrote:

> A couple of hundred is a fairly good estimate for medieval armies. Romans
> had a bit larger armies, but even they rarely brought a thousand soldiers
> in the field at the same time.
> My history teacher showed me  that the typical siege of a castle was done
> by posting ten or so soldiers  in front of the gate,  two of which walked
> around to prevent the defenders from slipping out of the back. The defen-
> ders rarely numbered  more than that.  The reason for these small numbers
> is simply that training a soldier was incredibly expensive.  Sword train-
> ing took years of practice and unless started young you never got good at
> it. Knights were so expensive in training and maintenance that a duchy or
> county could afford only one or two of them.  Archers were incredibly im-
> portant and so rare that they pretty much could dictate their terms (they
> were the only unit  that could deal with knights  before  they started to
> chop up the infantery).  It is also why  much of the armies  consisted of
> mercenaries. Those were the only units that could train and work together
> Levies  could be used to fill the gaps,  but they really were little more
> than a wall of flesh to slow the other army down. Archers or polearm com-
> panies and of course the knights were what decided the wars, and very few
> nobles could afford to maintain those companies from their own lands.  It
> was far cheaper to hire mercenaries.

Well, I am not a medieval history buff (Achaea is more of a cross between
the fake medival themes that D&D and most muds use, and classical times),
but as long as you're bringing the Romans into it, I'll point out that
ancient armies were quite large sometimes. Herodotus reckoned that the
army that Xerxes I marshalled to continue the war his father Darius had
begun against the Lacedaemonian greeks (athens, sparta, etc) numbered at
about 2,641,000 fighting me, and an equal number of engineers, slaves,
merchants, provisioners, and prostitutes. Herodotus is likely to have
exaggeratd some though, but even assuming he boosted the numbers by as
much as a magnitude, that's still quite a few more than 1,000. So big was
his army, in fact, that the northern Greeks, right up unto the Attic
frontier, surrendered either out of fear or bribes (aside from Thespiae
and Plataea, who told the persian scum to sod off). Similarly, and nearly
at the same time (september, 480 BC), Carthage attacked, under command of
Hamilcar, bringing 3000 ships and 300,000 men.

Other examples: Scipio Aemilianus had 40,000 spaniards in his army when he
attacked and conquered Spanish Numantia. When Caesar was trying to conquer
Gaul (and hold it), he staked everything on a seige of Alesia, where the
enemy general, Vercingetorix, had 30,000 troops. Caesar had a like number,
and then word came than an army of 250,000 gauls were marching upon him
from the north.

Again, I don't know much about medieval history itself, as I don't find
the dark ages interesting (just a bunch of wars. Very little intellectual
advancement.) However, in 1346, at the battle at Crecy between the French
and English, 30,000 men died according to Froissart's loose estimate.

In any case, while none of the above is part of the medieval age (though
there were many French knights being slaughtered at Crecy by the english
pikemen and bowmen), I am just pointing out that in older times, armies
WERE often quite large (not that historical accuracy matters to 99.9% of
muds).
--matt




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