Formal Debate Challenge - Pompey v Caesar

Jul 2016
8,658
USA
Might as well add this, not only for a point of interest but to further highlight how advanced Delbruck was for the time [and not a hack simply lying intentionally to get a certain point across]. The late Emilio Gabba, who was a strong scholarly authority on the Republic [he wrote, for example, the chapter for the Social War in the CAH], attributes Delbruck with first understanding or suggesting that the reforms to the Roman army during the time of Marius were actually part of a longer and gradual change, rather than the sudden revolution or change that was commonly accepted in the day [and given by the ancient sources]:

"As a result, the dilectus of 107, as Delbruck has already tentatively surmised, takes on a meaning somewhat different from that which has been commonly accepted, and seems less of a revolution or an innovation..."

Gabba, Emilio. Republican Rome, the Army and the Allies. Translated by P. J. Cuff (California: University of California Press, 1976), 1.

The quote from Delbruck is provided by Gabba himself, which runs as follows:

"Delbruck had long ago set it in its true form:
The essential distinction is whether in the second century the composition of the Roman army was fundamentally restricted to the sons of the middle class, or whether it was already in essence a professional army which only in practice (in so far as the proletarii would have gone into the fleet if there was recruitment for it) retained a certain peasant-proprietor character. In the former case Marius' reform would have set the army on a quite different basis and would have introduced something quite new; in the latter it would have provided only the form to correspond with the reality which had already existed, for whatever remained of the peasant-proprietor character was not completely removed even by Marius but can only have gradually died out.
[...] To repeat the words of Delbruck and to sum up, the Marian reform of the levy 'provided the form to correspond with the reality that already existed'."
Gabba, Republican Rome, the Army and the Allies, 12.

This is a pretty important innovation that can't be attributed to a man who apparently skimmed through the sources quickly to create an agenda based work, nor does the fact that he personally went out of his way to gain topographical reports of battlefields or even visit them himself really help your argument. Delbruck was extremely influential to multiple areas of military history, the main two probably being the case for lower army numbers and critically evaluating the sources, the other as Keegan himself notes, that Delbruck actually surveyed the battlefield.
Let's try this: Which modern secondary source created the term Marian Reforms? It sure as heck wasn't anyone in the ancient and medieval period, its a modern term. Before you state that Delbruck was the first to question it, find out who first wrote about it, and, more importantly, when.
 
Jul 2016
8,658
USA
We merely have to look at authors like Smail in his Crusading Warfare 1097-1193 "[Delbruck was] one of the greatest of all military historians" (p. 8), and spending two full pages talking about Delbruck's influence on the topic of medieval warfare; or Keegan in Face of Battle, of which he writes,

"It might seem a safe guess that the figure who bestrides the military historian's landscape is the great nineteenth-century Prussian, Hans Delbruck​
[...]​
the pioneer of the modern ' scientific ' and 'universal' approach to the subject.​
[...]​
But it is, in the last resort, none of these things which serves to disprove Delbruck's formative influence on British and American military historiography.​
[...]​
Hans Delbruck in Germany in the last century, demonstrated that it was possible to prove many traditional accounts of military operations' pure nonsense by mere intelligent inspection of the terrain..."​

Especially the last point has been very telling for his study of Marathon and Issos. We can't therefore simply dismiss him offhand. I don't agree with everything he says, but I don't see very much issue on most of his antiquity book in general. Is there a specific chapter or something that you want to discuss or are thinking about?
At what point did I say to dismiss him? I said to treat him like any other person making a claim to support a pet theory, take it with a grain of salt. Use some caution.

What Delbruck did is help create the modern concept of history, where sources aren't just repeated and memorized, but analyzed heavily. Especially in Germany, especially with the study of military history (which was the domain of the military officer class, specifically the general staff, which Delbruck was not a member, but an enemy). So in that, I applaud him, because there is little that Delbruck did that many on historum do on a daily basis, analyze and debate the actual meaning, truth, and reasoning behind the sources.

But that doesn't mean he's correct on anything.
 
Jul 2016
8,658
USA
One of the major things Delbruck proved specifically about the Persians is that they didn't field mass armies, but quality armies.
These sorts of generalizations are dangerous. You're talking about an empire that existed for 200 years, who in that time launched countless wars by numerous royal commanders, some who were competent warrior kings, some not. To include a number of highly divisive/destructive civil wars leading to pretender kings, etc.
 
Jul 2017
2,261
Australia
So then, we are in agreement that he was influential in multiple fields of military history, and how we analyse the sources, but that we should view parts of his work with extreme caution? Furthermore, he simply wasn't a guy who read the primary sources "quickly", this doesn't explain how he was so influential to military history. Perhaps if he didn't only survey the sources quickly, one could imagine the strides he took if he made a more thorough study? Smail, an author who demonstrated that medieval warfare was far more advanced than believed regards Delbruck highly, as do a number of influential military historians. I can understand that bias plays a factor, and I understand your point.

I disagree with a lot of what he says, but also a lot of what he says makes sense and is now a consensus today.

Do you actually have any of his works/have read then? Do you have any quarrels with his Antiquity volume, for example?
 
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Jul 2016
8,658
USA
So then, we are in agreement that he was influential in multiple fields of military history, and how we analyse the sources, but that we should view parts of his work with extreme caution? Furthermore, he simply wasn't a guy who read the primary sources "quickly", this doesn't explain how he was so influential to military history. Perhaps if he didn't only survey the sources quickly, one could imagine the strides he took if he made a more thorough study? Smail, an author who demonstrated that medieval warfare was far more advanced than believed regards Delbruck highly, as do a number of influential military historians. I can understand that bias plays a factor, and I understand your point.

I disagree with a lot of what he says, but also a lot of what he says makes sense and is now a consensus today.

Do you actually have any of his works/have read then? Do you have any quarrels with his Antiquity volume, for example?
I don't have quarrels with his antiquity books as a whole, I just don't agree with every printed word. More so, when it comes to troop strengths, at this point in my studies I'm automatically cautious with anyone who discounts historical sources by any means and tries to replace those number with their own. Say there were almost surely less then reported. I'm fine with that. Replace one number with their own, they're full of crap. And that's where Delbruck comes in. I was doubtful of the authenticy of his works, especially when I read more about ancient logistics as a whole and what they were actually capable of doing. When I find out later that one of the key individuals, who basically invented the modern art of ripping to shreds the accuracy of historical sources, had one of the biggest biases there ever was, as not only his own reputation hinged on him believing he was right, but the future and safety of his nation, then I become doubly doubtful.

Remember the account of Caesar bridging the Rhine? 19th century historians utterly discounted it as complete rubbish, impossible. Until it was proven it was capable. These same individuals discounted Troy (until it was found), and a thousand and one other ancient sources, all because they personally didn't want to believe something was possible that they couldn't imagine.

Also, whatever Delbruck was, professional military historian, academic lecturer extraordinaire on modern politics, strategy and operational thinking, he wasn't a classicist whose education focused on antiquity. Like everyone back then, he received the standard classical education, which included Latin and Greek, allowing him to read the sources in the original language. He had access to some very in depth secondary sources as Germany in the 19th century was the hotbed of analyzing Roman history. But it was an entirely separate field from what he studied, taught, lectured, wrote about.

And to be honest, anyone who reads the original ancient sources, which make little mention of Marius' military reforms besides a few blatant ones, is not going emphasize the revolutionary aspect of Marius, that's a modern invention by modern historians. I have a feeling another German is responsible for that one some time in the 19th or early 20th century, a trained classicist, someone published and famous, who everyone else has been repeating to the point that anyone who discounts it seems like a heretic or a genius. Me included. After getting "bit by the bug" of Roman history, I started reading about ancient Rome on internet forums while reading various modern secondary sources (Goldsworthy, Connolly, etc). It was only after I started reading the primary sources themselves that I realized that many modern historians are flat out wrong in conclusions they make.

That would actually make a great journal paper. Track the history of the modern concept of the Marian Reforms, to the point of trying to find where the crap that is on the Wikipedia page originated.
 
Jul 2017
2,261
Australia
Agreed, we should treat modern interpretations with care. For one, I'm quite critical of Goldsworthy - from time to time. He seems to have a bias towards Caesar, including claiming that Caesar crossed to Greece with 7 legions that numbered 15,000 men, which is ridiculous, because that would give an average legion strength of about 2,000, whereas Caesar himself states that at Pharsalus, two legions were combined to make a full legion (5,000 men), hence it was the exception in his army, not the rule.

Are there any points in his antiquity book that you strongly oppose? I would be interested to hear.

NB: Delbruck needs to be treated with care, but even you can't deny the immense influence he's had on modern military history. He does remain, however, way too conservative. Even then, he does not argue that bigger armies defeat smaller armies all the time. This is most evident from his analysis of the Second Punic War. He agrees that the Romans heavily outnumbered Hannibal at Cannae, yet Hannibal won. Hannibal outnumbered Scipio at Zama, yet Scipio won.
 
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Jul 2016
8,658
USA
Agreed, we should treat modern interpretations with care. For one, I'm quite critical of Goldsworthy - from time to time. He seems to have a bias towards Caesar, including claiming that Caesar crossed to Greece with 7 legions that numbered 15,000 men, which is ridiculous, because that would give an average legion strength of about 2,000, whereas Caesar himself states that at Pharsalus, two legions were combined to make a full legion (5,000 men), hence it was the exception in his army, not the rule.

Are there any points in his antiquity book that you strongly oppose? I would be interested to hear.

NB: Delbruck needs to be treated with care, but even you can't deny the immense influence he's had on modern military history. He does remain, however, way too conservative. Even then, he does not argue that bigger armies defeat smaller armies all the time. This is most evident from his analysis of the Second Punic War. He agrees that the Romans heavily outnumbered Hannibal at Cannae, yet Hannibal won. Hannibal outnumbered Scipio at Zama, yet Scipio won.
I definitely don't deny Delbruck's contribution in the reform of the study of history. Even if he was wrong in his interpretation and theories, the manner in which he analyzed history instead of just blindly accepting it (which had been the historical method) is something I heartedly agree with and is the core of modern historical study. But with analyzing anything personal bias plays a big factor and Delbruck certainly had one, in all aspects of his writings.

Another example that I can think of off the top of my head who did something similar is Marx, who rewrote history in order to justify his political theories for the future of mankind. I don't much care for what he did as a whole, definitely don't agree with is conclusions in history or politics, but Marx also had a longstanding effect on the study of history as well.
 
Nov 2011
972
The Bluff
There are days when I think that Delbruck is the only author in Duke's library! Aggienation is right: no matter how good historians are, there is always bias of some description. Peter Green said it best in that all historians see the past through the prism of their times. Thus for Tarn Alexander was a philosopher in arms civilising the barbarians as had the British Empire. Badian wrote a paper on Rome and Antiochos III which neatly paralleled the Cold War of his time. As has been pointed out, one needs to ask what a bloke like Delbruck is setting out to validate.
 
Jul 2017
2,261
Australia
I never questioned that, my main issue was that Aggie attempted to argue that Delbruck was someone who did a "quick" reading of the primary sources - yet he somehow managed to influence multiple areas of military history in an apparently quick and biased study.
 

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