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Old August 12th, 2011, 01:09 AM   #1
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Ashoka vs. Julius Ceasar


Rome invades India. A massive army of 100,000 men crosses Indus Valley heading towards Maurya Empire's army. Ashoka's army is equal in numbers and he has 5,000 war elephants. The Romans have a few tricks though. "Archimedes heat rays" and 1000 flamethrowers like those used by Assyrians and Greeks, will be put in action.

Who is going to win this epic clash? Will India go down or not?
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Old August 12th, 2011, 01:54 AM   #2

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1. Archimedes' 'heat rays' are completely useless in an offensive capacity: there is no practical way you could tow 3-4 giant mirrors (mirrors big enough to require a team of horses to pull), while finding perfectly level ground and position the 'deflectors' in their exact location encompassing even a small zone of the battlefield, in an offensive capacity.
Not to mention, if its not sunny, thats a lot of wasted effort and material.

2. flamethrowers would be effective for exactly 10 minutes in deployment. They will probably burn a few hundred men in a jiffy. Then the Indian commander, like any sane commander would realize the fact that these 'devilish' fire-hose things were operated by a man walking around with it and ask all his archers to lay down volley after volley of 'carpet bombing' the flamethrowers until they are all dead.

3. Roman cavalry = completely and utterly outclassed by the Indian cavalry: the Indians had stirrups while the Romans did not till 400 CE. Stirrups make cavalry a much more effective force.

4. Roman infantry would probably annihilate Indian infantry but that is where the 5000 war elephants come into effect. Make a testudo and the war elephants would crush the legionaries by charging them. Advance and the war elephants will keep pace retreating, while shooting at the legionaries with their archers on top.
5000 of them is close to 50,000 arrows per minute.
Elephants can also carry a lot of arrows.

Not to mention, since this is the Romans invading India, the Romans would have to play according to the Indians' terms: the Indians will pick the terrain/location of battle in most cases. As such, Indians will pick somewhere along the indo-gangetic plain, where vast plains exist, 100 miles in every direction. Such a battlefield would see 20-40,000 indian heavy chariots, circling the battlezone and picking off targets.

An utter and sorry mismatch.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 02:04 AM   #3

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Originally Posted by Lord_of_Gauda View Post
the Indians had stirrups
I don't think the toe-stirrup would give any real advantage to the cavalry.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 02:07 AM   #4

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I don't think the toe-stirrup would give any real advantage to the cavalry.
any stirrup is better than no stirrup, when it comes to retaining your balance and wheeling your mount around is concerned. Stirruped cavalry = more mobile than non-stirruped cavalry for similar armaments.
(and the Indians and Romans both used light/auxillary cavalry).
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Old August 12th, 2011, 02:35 AM   #5
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Archimedes heat rays will be protected by soldiers and will be put on hill tops in order to distract elephants. Each flamethrower is protected by 100 archers and thus practically invincible. Flamethrowers will burn elephants alive. Roman cavalry consists of 10,000 horses minimum. Not to mention that war elephants will be useless since the Romans are going to light hundreds of fires. Elephants, like all animals are scared of fire. They are also afraid of mice.... sometimes!



The Romans know that and brought large boxes full of mice!

Amazing as it seems, there are too many ways to neutralize elephants.


"The Romans eventually developed tactics to neutralize the dangerous elephant charges. In Hannibal's last battle (Zama, 202 BCE), his elephant charge was ineffective because the Roman maniples simply made way for them to pass. More than a century later, in the battle of Thapsus (February 6, 46 BCE), Julius Caesar armed his fifth legion (Alaudae) with axes and commanded his legionaries to strike at the elephant's legs. The legion withstood the charge, and the elephant became its symbol. Thapsus was the last significant use of elephants in the West."

Algeria's Tribute To Hannibal's Army With War Elephants, Battle of Cannae | www.3833.com


"To announce the start of battle, the Romans blew horns that terrified the elephants. The elephants turned on Hannibal's left wing. Some elephants found their way to the interstitial Roman velites, but they stuck the elephants with darts and gave way. The elephants then turned back on the other wing of their own cavalry and during the Carthaginian confusion, Scipio's men pressed upon Hannibal's men, destroying the first line." Battle of Zama - About the Second Punic War Battle of Zama

Horns, fire, mice etc. can neutralize elephants.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 02:46 AM   #6
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War_elephant War_elephant


"War elephants had tactical weaknesses, however, that enemy forces often learnt to exploit. Elephants had a tendency to panic themselves: after sustaining painful wounds or when their driver was killed they would run amok, indiscriminately causing casualties as they sought escape. Their panicked retreat could inflict heavy losses on either side. Experienced Roman infantry often tried to sever their trunks, causing an instant panic, and hopefully causing the elephant to flee back into its own lines. Fast skirmishers armed with javelins were also used to drive them away, as javelins and similar weapons could madden an elephant. Elephants were often unarmoured and vulnerable to blows to their flanks, so Roman infantry armed some sort of flaming object or with a stout line of pikes, such as Triarii would often attempt to make the elephant turn to expose its flank to the infantry, making the elephant susceptible to a pike thrust or a Skirmisher's javelin. The cavalry sport of tent pegging grew out of training regimes for horsemen to incapacitate or turn back war elephants. One famous historical method for disrupting elephant units was the war pig. Ancient writers believed that "elephants are scared by the smallest squeal of a pig", and the vulnerability was exploited. At the Megara during the Diadochi wars, for example, the Megarians reportedly poured oil on a herd of pigs, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy's massed war elephants. The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming squealing pigs. The value of war elephants in battle remains a contested issue. In the 19th century, it was fashionable to contrast the western, Roman focus on infantry and discipline with the eastern, exotic use of war elephants that relied merely on fear to defeat their enemy. One writer commented that war elephants "have been found to be skittish and easily alarmed by unfamiliar sounds and for this reason they were found prone to break ranks and flee."




Obviously Lord of Gauda puts too much faith in elephants. Any clever general can completely and utterly neutralize elephants, once he knows enough about them....
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Old August 12th, 2011, 02:57 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by Thessalonian View Post
Archimedes heat rays will be protected by soldiers and will be put on hill tops in order to distract elephants.
1. 9 out of 10 battles in India, against foreign forces have occured on vast plains. No hilltops. According to your O/P, the Romans are invading India, not the other way round.
2. To find precise tolerances, where a few feet of precision are required over a mile or so distance (a tolerance of 99% precision level), on perfectly level ground, is simply impractical to get going. It won't be set-up for hours of tinkering and they don't have hours.

There is a good reason why 'archimedes heat rays' never saw the light of day in a single offensive campaign: it is completely unworkable without modern vehicles and suspension system, in a mobile capacity.


Quote:
Each flamethrower is protected by 100 archers and thus practically invincible. Flamethrowers will burn elephants alive.
1. Romans will lose an archery fight with the Indians. a) they were not as skilled at archery, given that archery was not fundamental to their warfare and not given such high precedence as it was in India. b) they did not have bows that could compare to the bamboo longbow in range c) higher grade steel (wootz steel) gives a greater armour piercing capability to the Indians.

2. Flamethrower surrounded by his own archers ? how is he supposed to do damage ? shoot fire for 100s of metres without burning his own men in the front ? Flamethrowers can't hang back with the archers and be effective- they either have to get up close and personal at the frontline to burn enemies or they are going to be outside their own combat range/burn their own people.

Quote:
Roman cavalry consists of 10,000 horses minimum. Not to mention that war elephants will be useless since the Romans are going to light hundreds of fires. Elephants, like all animals are scared of fire. They are also afraid of mice.... sometimes!

Mythbusters: Are elephants afraid of mice? - YouTube


The Romans know that and brought large boxes full of mice!

Amazing as it seems, there are too many ways to neutralize elephants.
If there were too many ways to neutralize elephants, they wouldn't have been invincible till the cannons in large numbers. Pretty sure mice is all it took to beat elephants, the mongols would've annihilated the Indians, considering they brought the bubonic plague with them and they had no dearth of mice over millions of sq. kms of their empire.
Reality is, a lot of mice on the ground = a lot of trampled mice on the ground. Not to mention, mice are just as afraid of people as people are of tigers. Ever seen a mouse hanging around the room with a few people ? Well what makes you think they are going to hang around a field with thousands of men ? they are going to crawl off into the nearest crevice and hope to come out the next night.

As far as lighting fires go- it is not a terrible problem for the elephants. Romans can't just show up, light a fire under the elephants nose and retreat. There are hostile guys between the Romans and the elephants. So what are the Romans going to do ? carry all that wood and tinder to light fire on a field ? so what ? the field of combat is a plain that is 50kms in every direction. you light a fire, my elephant side-steps the fire. Your guys have to side-step the fire too, since humans arnt fire-proof. Now what ? you carry around all that tinder and wood- only to inconvinience you and me. Not to mention, random fire-hazards and no-go zones are more detrimental to a formation-driven army over an army not as dependent on formation. Indian infantry will not lose as much combat potency as trying to side-step these fires as the Romans would, losing cohesion.

Quote:
"The Romans eventually developed tactics to neutralize the dangerous elephant charges. In Hannibal's last battle (Zama, 202 BCE), his elephant charge was ineffective because the Roman maniples simply made way for them to pass. More than a century later, in the battle of Thapsus (February 6, 46 BCE), Julius Caesar armed his fifth legion (Alaudae) with axes and commanded his legionaries to strike at the elephant's legs. The legion withstood the charge, and the elephant became its symbol. Thapsus was the last significant use of elephants in the West."

Algeria's Tribute To Hannibal's Army With War Elephants, Battle of Cannae | www.3833.com
This is because the Romans/Greeks/Carthaginians did not know how to use elephants well: it was not native to their lands (Carthage did not have sufficient elephants and to import them, there is also no longstanding evidence of carthage using elephants in previous battles) and they are not skilled at handling such an intelligent and long-lived creature.
Romans were able to neutralize the elephants of Hannibal and other foreigners using imported elephants, because none of those guys positioned an archer on top.
Indian war elephants came with archers on top. With longbows and the best steel arrowhead of antiquity.
As such, Indians don't NEED to charge the Romans with elephants,except when the Romans are not looking/in disarray: an elephant can out-run a human and the guy on top can shoot at you all day. That is all they need to do while mounting the occasional limited charge to completely annihilate the legionaries.


Quote:
"To announce the start of battle, the Romans blew horns that terrified the elephants. The elephants turned on Hannibal's left wing. Some elephants found their way to the interstitial Roman velites, but they stuck the elephants with darts and gave way. The elephants then turned back on the other wing of their own cavalry and during the Carthaginian confusion, Scipio's men pressed upon Hannibal's men, destroying the first line." Battle of Zama - About the Second Punic War Battle of Zama

Horns, fire, mice etc. can neutralize elephants.
Horns wouldn't work on Indian elephants- the Indians always blew horns and conch shells in unison to announce battle- their elephants were used to it/normalized to it and hardly bothered by it.
Hell, all one has to see is the temple elephants of India during a religious festival- all decked out and in midst of ear-splitting noise. They are not bothered by it because the elephant, as most intelligent creatures are, can be habituated to a thing.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 03:02 AM   #8

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Originally Posted by Thessalonian View Post
War elephant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


"War elephants had tactical weaknesses, however, that enemy forces often learnt to exploit. Elephants had a tendency to panic themselves: after sustaining painful wounds or when their driver was killed they would run amok, indiscriminately causing casualties as they sought escape. Their panicked retreat could inflict heavy losses on either side. Experienced Roman infantry often tried to sever their trunks, causing an instant panic, and hopefully causing the elephant to flee back into its own lines. Fast skirmishers armed with javelins were also used to drive them away, as javelins and similar weapons could madden an elephant. Elephants were often unarmoured and vulnerable to blows to their flanks, so Roman infantry armed some sort of flaming object or with a stout line of pikes, such as Triarii would often attempt to make the elephant turn to expose its flank to the infantry, making the elephant susceptible to a pike thrust or a Skirmisher's javelin. The cavalry sport of tent pegging grew out of training regimes for horsemen to incapacitate or turn back war elephants. One famous historical method for disrupting elephant units was the war pig. Ancient writers believed that "elephants are scared by the smallest squeal of a pig", and the vulnerability was exploited. At the Megara during the Diadochi wars, for example, the Megarians reportedly poured oil on a herd of pigs, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy's massed war elephants. The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming squealing pigs. The value of war elephants in battle remains a contested issue. In the 19th century, it was fashionable to contrast the western, Roman focus on infantry and discipline with the eastern, exotic use of war elephants that relied merely on fear to defeat their enemy. One writer commented that war elephants "have been found to be skittish and easily alarmed by unfamiliar sounds and for this reason they were found prone to break ranks and flee."




Obviously Lord of Gauda puts too much faith in elephants. Any clever general can completely and utterly neutralize elephants, once he knows enough about them....

These are records of war elephants, used by Romans/Greeks. People who had very little experience in training, interacting and studying the elephant, given that the elephant is not native to their lands and basically, incompetent at using elephants.
Yes, they had problems in using them and abandoned the usage of elephants because of their ineptitude.
Their records mean nothing. The Roman/Greek perspective on elephant is akin to a taliban's perspective of the microchip: an alien thing which they have no idea on and will see only limited usage without any seriously innovative or credible usage attributed to it.

What matters is how civilizations who lived with elephants and as such, had the chance to observe elephants, train them, interact with them, etc. viewed the elephant.
Civilizations such as the Indians, Thai, Burmese and the Khmer. And lo and behold- they all held the elephant as the apex war unit they could get their hands on.
That will suffice- people who had elephants native to their land, grew up observing, interacting and studying them, valued them highly. That matters far more than a bunch of ignorant people who imported elephants from far off lands, had very little clue to long term elephant study or training viewed them.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 03:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Lord_of_Gauda View Post
These are records of war elephants, used by Romans/Greeks. People who had very little experience in training, interacting and studying the elephant, given that the elephant is not native to their lands and basically, incompetent at using elephants.
Yes, they had problems in using them and abandoned the usage of elephants because of their ineptitude.
Their records mean nothing. The Roman/Greek perspective on elephant is akin to a taliban's perspective of the microchip: an alien thing which they have no idea on and will see only limited usage without any seriously innovative or credible usage attributed to it.

What matters is how civilizations who lived with elephants and as such, had the chance to observe elephants, train them, interact with them, etc. viewed the elephant.
Civilizations such as the Indians, Thai, Burmese and the Khmer. And lo and behold- they all held the elephant as the apex war unit they could get their hands on.
That will suffice- people who had elephants native to their land, grew up observing, interacting and studying them, valued them highly. That matters far more than a bunch of ignorant people who imported elephants from far off lands, had very little clue to long term elephant study or training viewed them.

Obviously your reply is completely irrelevant: No matter how you train an elephant, it can always be neutralized by the enemy, if he is clever enough.
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Old August 12th, 2011, 03:20 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by Thessalonian View Post
Obviously your reply is completely irrelevant: No matter how you train an elephant, it can always be neutralized by the enemy, if he is clever enough.
they can neutralize 100 or so war elephants. maybe even 300.
but without war elephants and cannons, there is no counter to 5000+ war elephants in a field of battle.
This is why none of the Indian empires during pre-cannon ages, collapsed from outside invasion. Persians/central Asians didn't have elephants in mass numbers. Mauryas, Nandas, Kushans, Guptas, Palas, Gurjaras, etc. did not lose to an outside invader in a pitched battle with thousands of elephants.
Simply impossible to stop them- they can charge, they can neutralize horses, they can fire missiles all day and nobody without a really long spear is going to confront them successfully.

if it were so easy to neutralize war elephants, we'd not have to wait till cannons to make them obsolete.
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