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Old February 23rd, 2017, 04:59 AM   #1
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Julius Caeser vs the Huns of Central Asia


Let's say that Caeser crosses into Gaul with his 60,000 strong veteran legionaries and auxiliary units during the same time of the Gallic war. After inflicting a huge defeat on the Gauls at Alesia there is a sudden Hun invasion. The horse lords have crossed the danube river with a large force of 100,000 cavalry with a desire to conquer the Roman Empire and its territories. It turns out that the man leading the Huns is infact Atilla. Who will come out on top in this battle?

Caesar's men have the Lorica Segmentata, gladius, scutum and pilum supported by auxiliary cavalry, archers and slingers
Atilla's have the Hunnic composite bow, leather lamellar, maces, daggers, lances, javelins and nets and pickaxes, pretty much a mix of horse archers and heavy cavalry

The elite Legions commanded by Romes greatest general or the ruthless conqueror Atilla and his hordes of horsemen?

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Old February 23rd, 2017, 05:56 AM   #2

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Okay let's get something straightened out first: military equipment.

1. The Late Republican Legionnaire:

Helmet: Montefortino-Type or Mannheim-Type Coolus Helmet (Robinson Classification, but it works). Maybe a few "Celtic" style helmets like the Port Bei Nedau

Cuirass: A mix of Lorica Hamata (with doubler, sleeveless, upper thigh/crotch-length) and lorica squamata (roughly the same dimensions). Some men would have worn quilted gambesons (Thorocomachi) or gone unarmored. The ratio of armored men in a Principate Legion was about 50-70%, and it was lower in the republic and late empire (about 50%).

Weapons: Gladius Hispaniensis, 2 Pila, likely many with slings

Shield: Fayyum-Type Scutum

2. Auxiliary forces:

The majority of these men would have had no armor. Maybe about 25% would have been supplied with armor at the most (don't take that figure as law). Roman Skirmisher cavalry would have been low in number, armed mostly with javelins and short spears or swords, not long cavalry lances. Auxiliary infantry archers and slingers would have been using the Qum Darya-Type Composite bow if they came from the East, which is what the Huns used.

3. The Huna

The average Hunnish horseman was unarmored or wore a quilted wool kaftan. He carried about 30 trilobate-headed arrows in a Gorytos style bowcase with two cylindrical quivers, and used a Qum Darya-Type Composite Asymmetric bow, a long 12 foot lance, and if he could afford it, a narrow langseax or semispatha.

Wealthier Huns would have used maille, scale, or metal hanging lamellar, had Spathas, and helmets usually of the bandhelm, spangenhelm, or lamellenhelm types (segmenthelms have also been found).

Leather lamellar was only used for horse neckguards in the middle east in the 3rd century. We have no evidence for it west of the Tarim basin otherwise.

Second point: Army sizes

You give the Huns 100,000 men. I sincerely doubt they would have even been able to field from both halves of their kingdom 20,000 Hunnish horsemen at its height, based on the recent works of Katalyn Szensky on the Hungarian plain.

Most of the Hun army was Germanic infantry, which was at this point comparatively armed to the average Roman soldier, although typically lacking the training and armor of the Roman Comitatensian infantryman. There would be some Germanic cavalry as well, but most German cavalry fought as mounted infantry.

At Chalons the Huns probably fielded 60,000-80,000 men total (I'd have to look back over my estimates), which was an extreme for late antiquity (Chalons was arguably the largest battle of Late Antiquity, barring maybe Adrianople (324) or Mursa (353) which were civil wars.)

For the sake of simplicity, let's really narrow this down to something far more feasible. Say something the size of the army sent against Boudicca: about 12-14,000 men (2 legions and about 4 auxiliary cohorts). The Huns could realistically match that during their height.

Third point: Lance and Bow Warfare

We'll assume Caesar and Attila are relatively equally matched commanders.

Caesar has no idea how to counter Lance-and-Bow warfare and Carrhae shows how poorly the Romans fared against predominately cavalry armies. The Huns would tear apart the Romans rather quickly, smashing their meagre skirmishing cavalry support and outflanking them. Or lure them into a series of feigned retreats. The majority of the casualties would have taken place in the Roman retreat, since the Huns were well known to ride down and slaughter their enemies relentlessly.

Last edited by Flavius Aetius; February 23rd, 2017 at 06:51 AM.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 06:56 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flavius Aetius View Post
Okay let's get something straightened out first: military equipment.

1. The Late Republican Legionnaire:

Helmet: Montefortino-Type or Mannheim-Type Coolus Helmet (Robinson Classification, but it works). Maybe a few "Celtic" style helmets like the Port Bei Nedau

Cuirass: A mix of Lorica Hamata (with doubler, sleeveless, upper thigh/crotch-length) and lorica squamata (roughly the same dimensions). Some men would have worn quilted gambesons (Thorocomachi) or gone unarmored. The ratio of armored men in a Principate Legion was about 50-70%, and it was lower in the republic and late empire (about 50%).

Weapons: Gladius Hispaniensis, 2 Pila, likely many with slings

Shield: Fayyum-Type Scutum

2. Auxiliary forces:

The majority of these men would have had no armor. Maybe about 25% would have been supplied with armor at the most (don't take that figure as law). Roman Skirmisher cavalry would have been low in number, armed mostly with javelins and short spears or swords, not long cavalry lances. Auxiliary infantry archers and slingers would have been using the Qum Darya-Type Composite bow if they came from the East, which is what the Huns used.

3. The Huna

The average Hunnish horseman was unarmored or wore a quilted wool kaftan. He carried about 30 trilobate-headed arrows in a Gorytos style bowcase with two cylindrical quivers, and used a Qum Darya-Type Composite Asymmetric bow, a long 12 foot lance, and if he could afford it, a narrow langseax or semispatha.

Wealthier Huns would have used maille, scale, or metal hanging lamellar, had Spathas, and helmets usually of the bandhelm, spangenhelm, or lamellenhelm types (segmenthelms have also been found).

Leather lamellar was only used for horse neckguards in the middle east in the 3rd century. We have no evidence for it west of the Tarim basin otherwise.

Second point: Army sizes

You give the Huns 100,000 men. I sincerely doubt they would have even been able to field from both halves of their kingdom 20,000 Hunnish horsemen at its height, based on the recent works of Katalyn Szensky on the Hungarian plain.

Most of the Hun army was Germanic infantry, which was at this point comparatively armed to the average Roman soldier, although typically lacking the training and armor of the Roman Comitatensian infantryman. There would be some Germanic cavalry as well, but most German cavalry fought as mounted infantry.

At Chalons the Huns probably fielded 60,000-80,000 men total (I'd have to look back over my estimates), which was an extreme for late antiquity (Chalons was arguably the alrgest battle of Late Antiquity, barring maybe Adrianople (324) or Mursa (353) which were civil wars.)

For the sake of simplicity, let's really narrow this down to something far more feasible. Say something the size of the army sent against Boudicca: about 12-14,000 men (2 legions and about 4 auxiliary cohorts). The Huns could realistically match that during their height.

Third point: Lance and Bow Warfare

We'll assume Caesar and Attila are relatively equally matched commanders.

Caesar has no idea how to counter Lance-and-Bow warfare and Carrhae shows how poorly the Romans fared against predominately cavalry armies. The Huns would tear apart the Romans rather quickly, smashing their meagre skirmishing cavalry support and outflanking them. Or lure them into a series of feigned retreats. The majority of the casualties would have taken place in the Roman retreat, since the Huns were well known to ride down and slaughter their enemies relentlessly.
The reason i put the numbers quite high is because it's not impossible that they could've raised soldiers in the hundreds of thousands, since they were a nomad cavalry force who could live off the land and supply themselves efficiently so one would feel that 100,000 might be possible, ancient reports for the Hun armies were pretty high some even go as far as saying they had half a million when they arrived, although that claim is probably exaggerated, but it would've been a good 80-100,000 atleast.

That being said Caesar was a very well trained and generally careful tactician. He would probably seek to avoid a battle if he could do it at all against such a foe as the Huns, and rely on terrain advantage, field battlements and supply control to outmaneuver the Huns. Attila could probably win if he was able to force a decision like threatening Italy or Caesar's supply routes but the most likely outcome is a Hunnic defeat, not because of the superior fighting power of the Legionaries but because of their superior soldiering skills.

Caesar's force was a war machine that could adapt succesfully to almost everything. Caesar was a better tactician than Attila. The Huns were only able to take advantage of the Empire at it's weak point and not when it was at it's full strength. The Romans of Caeser's reign wouldn't have folded as easily as the Eastern Empire did.

Last edited by TheMilitaryHistoryAddict; February 23rd, 2017 at 07:02 AM.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 07:11 AM   #4
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When was the spatha invented? Would the Huns have spathas before the Romans had them?

Carrhae is a good example of Roman failure against horse archers in that time frame. The only differences are that Crassus was a lesser commander than Caesar and the terrain and climate of Gaul is very different than the deserts of Syria. In hilly, forested terrain it would have been more difficult for the Huns to hit the Romans with their arrows, but I agree the Huns would still have the advantage. Depending on source or expert, wet bowstrings could be disastrous for archers. If Caesar could have attacked Attila on a rainy day... But assuming Attila did not make any major mistakes he could just as easily avoid battle until drier weather returned. Advantage Huns.


Good points though about Caesar being a more adept strategist and being better able to defeat the Huns through indirect means, without battle.

Last edited by Chlodio; February 23rd, 2017 at 07:14 AM.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 10:45 AM   #5
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I'm not going to say much, because this thread is on the wrong board (go to the military board, or alternate history). All I'll note is that:
a) the Roman record against the Parthians and their horse archers is actually good, aside from the very first battle against it. Rome dominated their wars against Parthia, a subject discussed in many threads here.
b) Caesar could have deployed field artillery, as he had done before and intended to do against Parthia.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 11:04 AM   #6

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Quote:
When was the spatha invented? Would the Huns have spathas before the Romans had them?
Spatha just means sword. The Roman Spatha developed out of the Celtic blade beginning in the 1st century BC, and a definitive Romano-Iranian blade developed out of the Lauriacum-Hromovka type in the 2nd century AD to the Illerup-Whyrl in the 3rd-4th centuries AD.

The Huns were using longswords on the steppes since they had been in Mongolia.

Quote:
Good points though about Caesar being a more adept strategist and being better able to defeat the Huns through indirect means, without battle.
He'd have to beat them the same way Aetius beat them: to outlast them. The Huns could only campaign for so long because they didn't have Roman logistics.

The Battle of Chalons, the River Utus, etc. shows that set piece battles against the Huns were disastrous.

Quote:
a) the Roman record against the Parthians and their horse archers is actually good, aside from the very first battle against it. Rome dominated their wars against Parthia, a subject discussed in many threads here.
Parthia was notoriously disorganized due to fighting between its noble houses and didn't have proper lance-and-bow tactics. They were a settled culture, while the Huns were semi-sedentary nomads. The Romans were forced to increase the size of their armies by 1/3+ as soon as the highly organized Sassanids established themselves and started kicking the Romans' asses repeatedly. Even then, the Sassanids were vassalized by the so-called "White Huns" in 458.

Quote:
b) Caesar could have deployed field artillery, as he had done before and intended to do against Parthia.
So? The Romans had ballistas that could shoot over a kilometer in the 5th century AD and it didn't make a rat's ass.

Quote:
Caesar's force was a war machine that could adapt succesfully to almost everything. Caesar was a better tactician than Attila. The Huns were only able to take advantage of the Empire at it's weak point and not when it was at it's full strength.
441-443: Attila destroys the Illyrian (technically Moesian) field army and sacks most of West Moesia.

446-447: Attila destroys the entire Danubian defensive limes after they were refortified and the fleets rebuilt in 444-445, annihilates the Thracian and Praesental Armies at the River Utus, and then destroys them at the Chersonesos near Kallipolis. He then sacks almost every city north of Thermopylae.

I haven't done detailed analysis of the Eastern Notitia. But the approximate losses are... assuming each field army numbered between 20,000 and 30,000 men, in the vicinity of 200,000-250,000 men. Which is why the Romans couldn't send forces to retake Africa in 468.

So I'd hardly say that he attacked the Romans while they were weak.

Quote:
The reason i put the numbers quite high is because it's not impossible that they could've raised soldiers in the hundreds of thousands, since they were a nomad cavalry force who could live off the land and supply themselves efficiently so one would feel that 100,000 might be possible, ancient reports for the Hun armies were pretty high some even go as far as saying they had half a million when they arrived, although that claim is probably exaggerated, but it would've been a good 80-100,000 atleast.
It's called exaggeration. And classicization. Again, modern authors clearly indicated the Huns could field about 10,000 men themselves, and the rest of their army was Germanic vassals. I'd say no more than 80,000 at their absolute height.

Under Justinian 7,000 Huns were a serious threat anyways, which pretty clearly indicates the military effectiveness of the organized Hunnish State.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 12:00 PM   #7

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Caesar has no idea how to counter Lance-and-Bow warfare and Carrhae shows how poorly the Romans fared against predominately cavalry armies.
No, it doesn't.

It shows how a single roman army without the necessary supporting troops under a commander of questionable quality fared against a pure horse army in a desert plain.

I might as well take the Battle of Mount Gindarus and say how it shows the Romans could easily defeat armies with huge numbers of cavalry.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 12:16 PM   #8

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the romans defeated the Huns, and then the Western Empire was on its last legs.

The late Republic under Caesar was not that strong, but still would have had little difficulties.

Largely the Romans only ever lost due to extraordinary circumstances, like Teutoburg.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 12:17 PM   #9

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Yeah cause the Romans were grouped up on the high ground (always heed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi) and the Parthian commander was retarded.

If we assume "equal terms" (flat ground, open plain, clear skies, etc. etc. etc.) the Huns wipe the Romans out. The Romans don't have the missile capacity or cavalry capacity to counter the Huns.

Quote:
the romans defeated the Huns, and then the Western Empire was on its last legs.
The Romans never defeated the Huns in a set piece battle. Felix repelled some raiders in 426-427 but that likely didn't amount to anything more than skirmishing. Chalons was a massacre, the notion of a victory is mostly Gothic propaganda. Nobody won that battle.

Last edited by Flavius Aetius; February 23rd, 2017 at 12:22 PM.
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Old February 23rd, 2017, 12:27 PM   #10

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Yeah cause the Romans were grouped up on the high ground (always heed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi) and the Parthian commander was retarded.

If we assume "equal terms" (flat ground, open plain, clear skies, etc. etc. etc.) the Huns wipe the Romans out. The Romans don't have the missile capacity or cavalry capacity to counter the Huns.

The Romans never defeated the Huns. Chalons was a massacre, the notion of a victory is mostly Gothic propaganda. Nobody won that battle.
That's not equal terms. That's just a particular geopraphy, battles do not have to take place one place or the others, they take place where it's suitable. This reminds me of this passage:

"‘Pompaedius Silo, the most impressive and powerful of his opponents, said to him, “If you are a great commander, Marius, come out and fight.” To this Marius replied, “If you are a great commander, make me fight even though I don’t want to.”’

And who is to say the Romans don't have the missile capacity or cavalry to face the runs? Caesar could aquire troops from the entire mediterranean region, there were a many great number of slingers, archers and cavalry there. We know a Roman army will have heavy legions, but for the rest of the troops you can play around. Not to mention, you can also ask if the Huns would have the missile capacity to disrupt the Romans.
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