Frankish Empire vs Tang Empire

Frankish Empire vs Tang Empire

  • Franks win

    Votes: 8 20.0%
  • Tangs win

    Votes: 31 77.5%
  • draw

    Votes: 1 2.5%

  • Total voters
    40

Guaporense

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
5,050
Brazil
How about this? Two contemporary superpowers of the 9th century. One is the dominant power in the western end of Eurasia, another in the easternmost end, both empires have comparable amounts of arable territory under their control by the early 9th century. Assume that Q (for the trekkies) makes the distance between the two disappear and that both fight. Which one wins?







Let's see:

Technology

In terms of technology both were about the same: the set of basic technologies available to both empires were the same: the wheel, bronze and iron working, spears, bow and arrow, etc.

Logistics and organization

Here I think that the Tang may enjoy an advantage in organization, as it's high degree of centralization enabled better command and control while the Frankish armies were raised under the promise of booty, thus making them poorly organized fighting forces compared to the Tang.

Physical condition

In 9th century Europe people were historically tall. The low population densities made 9th century Europeans tall by reducing the ecological pressure on land, as result people could hunt for food, could eat more fruits, etc. While the Tang empire was overpopulated, with a huge population of 80 million by the 9th century living on a comparable quantity of arable land to the Frankish kingdom, thus Tang soldiers were probably 5-6 inches shorter than Frankish soldiers (160 centimeters to 173-5 centimeters, see: Men From Early Middle Ages Were Nearly As Tall As Modern People).

So while Tang had an advantage in organization/logistics, but the Franks had bigger soldiers.

Morale

Frankish armies fought also for religion: they wanted to convert others to Christianity. As result Frankish armies had an ideological drive that Tang armies didn't have.

Performance

While Tang and Frankish armies have never met, Tang armies have fought enemies that the Franks also fought: the Arabs. In 732 AD, Frankish armies defeated a force of 50,000 Arabs, while in 751 AD Arabian armies defeated Tang forces and conquered central Asia from the Tang Empire. So, this small set of two observations apparently suggests that Frankish armies could be formidable against Tang armies: they defeated what defeated them.
 

Guaporense

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
5,050
Brazil
Both empires were not of very different territorial size:



The Tang Empire had a larger territory overall, but the proportion which was arable was smaller, thus the ecological resources of both empires were comparable.
 
Mar 2012
1,039
New Hampshire
The only battle between the Tang and Arabs was a Tang defeat because a large portion if not the majority of their force were local allies who turned against them for whatever reason. Hardly a trustworthy measure of the actual combat effectiveness of Tang troops. This battle would surely be a Tang victory because the Tang have superior organization to the Franks and better weapons and armor. The best armor Franks had was mail, and most soldiers couldn't get that much, whereas a great many if not most Tang troops would at least have lamellar armor, which is better than nothing, and armor for officers would be even better. By this time I think the Tang had created mountain-scale armor, a sort of steel scale armor that's both strong and light, and has less weakness than normal scale. And their weapons were also of superior make, the Tang had created what would later become the katana. The famous Japanese katanas evolved from Tang swords that Japanese smiths started giving curved blades to, but the basic design and creation process is the same, learned from Tang smiths.

Furthermore, while the Franks might have some religious motivation, Tang armies were more highly disciplined. And their soldiers trained to a higher standard, most Frank soldiers would be levied men carrying a shield and spear and little else, whereas the bulk of the Tang army would consist of trained militiamen who had duties to report and serve regularly or regular professional soldiers. A typical Tang army of 20,000 men would have 4,000 cavalry, 10,000 infantry, and 6,000 support troops. IIRC, the bulk of the infantry would be bowmen and crossbowmen, with some spearmen to protect them. The archers however would have double-duty, when they're done shooting they'd use a sword-polearm to bring the fight to the enemy and when the infantry is engaged the cavalry would join in. At least that's a simplified summary of Tang military tactics. Suffice to say, they are more advanced than the typical Dark Age European force, even the Carolingians.
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,553
While the Tang empire was overpopulated, with a huge population of 80 million by the 9th century living on a comparable quantity of arable land to the Frankish kingdom, thus Tang soldiers were probably 5-6 inches shorter than Frankish soldiers (160 centimeters to 173-5 centimeters, see: Men From Early Middle Ages Were Nearly As Tall As Modern People).
Tang food output per acre was very high for the time period, I thought you knew that. 1 acre of Tang land had much higher productivity than the average acre, as mentioned multiple times from previous discussions. Anyway, from the Chen-yu slips the prior Han dynasty had an average height of ~170 cm, while military men prior to Qin-Han periods were required to be at least 155 cm in height to be of service. Although I don't have information about the Tang military minimum height standards, I do have information that by the Song dynasty the minimum height for military service was 172.2 cm. Although I believe Song standards were not enforced so rigorously. Setting a minimum height that is around or above the average height would be too picky, especially if the country becomes embroiled in a war of attrition.

I admit I'm not an expert on the Frankish empire, but I do have information on the Tang army. Their organization is as follows:

1 platoon = 10 men
1 company = 5 platoons
1 division = 200 infantry companies and 80 cavalry companies, with an additional 6000 men for logistics

1 division = 7 regiments
1 Centre regiment of 56 companies: 400 crossbowmen, 400 bowmen, 1000 cavalry, 500 jumping sweepers, and 500 odd troops
1 Left Flank Scout regiment of 38 companies: 300 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 500 jumping sweepers, and 500 odd troops
1 Right Flank Scout regiment of 38 companies: 300 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 500 jumping sweepers, and 500 odd troops
2 Left Flank regiments of 37 companies each: 250 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 400 jumping sweepers, and 400 odd troops
2 Right Flank regiments of 37 companies each: 250 crossbowmen, 300 bowmen, 500 cavalry, 400 jumping sweepers, and 400 odd troops

Note: Crossbowmen and bowmen also doubled as close-combat infantry
 
Last edited:
Dec 2009
579
According to the Arab traveler Suleiman the 4 great Empires of the world in the 9th century
were the Tang Empire of China, the Rashtrakuta Empire of India, the Arab Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire.
The Frankish Empire wasn't even mentioned by him even though
the Arabs knew about the Franks. So the Tang Empire, the Rashtrakuta Empire and the
Arab Caliphate were superior to the Frankish Empire.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2012
1,039
New Hampshire
According to the Arab traveler Suleiman the 4 great Empires of the world in the 9th century
were the Tang Empire of China , the Arab Caliphate, the Rashtrakuta Empire of India and the Byzantine Empire.
The Frankish Empire wasn't even mentioned by him even though
the Arabs knew about the Franks. So the Tang Empire, the Rashtrakuta Empire and the
Arab Caliphate were superior to the Frankish Empire.
Yeah, the Franks were the most impressive people in Western Europe at this time, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn't compare to the Golden Ages of China and the Middle East.
 

heavenlykaghan

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
4,486
Tang empire was overpopulated, with a huge population of 80 million by the 9th century living on a comparable quantity of arable land to the Frankish kingdom, thus Tang soldiers were probably 5-6 inches shorter than Frankish soldiers (160 centimeters to 173-5 centimeters, see: Men From Early Middle Ages Were Nearly As Tall As Modern People).
The Tang in the 9th century probably had no more than 50-60 million people, declining from over 80 million in 755 after An Lushan's rebellion. Each acre of Tang farmlands in the north were 2-4 times more productive than Frankish lands while the wet rice farmlands of the south was around 8 times more productive.

While Tang and Frankish armies have never met, Tang armies have fought enemies that the Franks also fought: the Arabs. In 732 AD, Frankish armies defeated a force of 50,000 Arabs, while in 751 AD Arabian armies defeated Tang forces and conquered central Asia from the Tang Empire. So, this small set of two observations apparently suggests that Frankish armies could be formidable against Tang armies: they defeated what defeated them.
This simplistic summary ignores the numerous encounters between the Arabs and the Turgis who were Tang vassals in Central Asia, and often lost against them. The battle of thirst in 723 for example saw the Turgis driving the Arabs almost completely out of Sogdiana besides Samarkand and Buckara. In fact, the Arab re-conquest of these regions would have been impossible if it weren't for the Tang defeat of the Turgis in 736 and the final subjugation of the Tugis in 738. There was also a small skirmish in 717 between a Tang force composed of the Turks and an Arab force where the Arab force, allied to the Tibetan, were defeated.

Moreover, if a single skirmish at the peripheries of both empires can measure the strength of the two states, then the kingdom of Nanzhao has annihilated two Tang armies totalling 150,000 people. Would that make Nanzhao a greater power? The Burmese have beaten the British in a Skirmish in the 1810s, does that make Burma a comparable power? This is even more ludicrous than saying Vietnam was a greater or even comparable power than the US because the later lost the war(and not just a battle).

Also a correction, the Arabs never conquered Central Asia from the Tang. Tang control over the Turgis actually strengthened as a result of this battle. Turfan Manuscripts showed that when Gao Xianzhi was attacking Talas, he also asked Xuan Zong to dispatch a force from the Wu wei army from Shi Bao city in Qinghai to Suyab city in fear that the Turgis would rebel. This implied Tang power over the Turgis was at its height after killing their Khan a year before.) Apparently, even after the battle of Talas, Talas was still under Turgis control(who were Tang puppets) until the Qarluqs took over the region in 756. This means that Gao Xianzhi's campaign against Tashkent in 750 wasn't nullified by the battle of Talas, since Talas was returned to Turgis hands and Tashkent never regained its former power.

Ce Fu Yuan Gui shows that the Tang position in Sogdiana was exactly the same as before. For example in 753, the Tang bestowed title to Tashkent: “天宝十二载十月,封石国王男邦车俱鼻施为怀化王”。Either the Arabs already lost influence over Tashkent, or Tashkent never really submitted to the Arabs in the first place. Central Asian states continued to request aid from the Tang against the Arabs in spite of Talas and hence in 754, all nine kingdoms of the west again sent petitions to the Tang to attack the Arabs: “In the eleventh month of the thirteenth year of Tianbao(754) The Eastern kingdom of Cao, She a and the vice king of An kingdom Ye Jie and the various hu kingdom of the 9 kingdoms(sogdiana) all sents petitions asking permission to attack the black cloth arabs" 天宝十三载闰十一
月,东曹国王设阿及安国副王野解及诸胡九国王,并遣上表,请同心击黑衣,辞甚切至” and the Tang continued to deny such requests as before: “帝方务以怀柔,皆劳赐,慰喻遣之,以安西域” 《册府元龟》卷97
In fact Wang Xiao Fu thinks that Tang influence continued to grow in central Asia after Talas since these requests by central Asian states after the battle was even more frequent and on a larger scale than before, showing that Islamic control is highly precarious. Meanwhile the Tang also wrestled little Balur from the Tibetans, so its central Asian expansion was at its largest after 753. Wang dates the height of Tang expansion in central Asia to 755, right before An Lu Shan's rebellion instead of 750.
 
Last edited:

kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,409
Are we suggesting a meeting between the Tang Dynasty heroes (ie the Monkey King) and Charlemange? That would be an intersting story.
 

emperor of seleucid

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
2,374
Arche Seleukeia
Wow you seriously posted this?

Tang would destroy them. Tang had a standing army of half a million and maybe one million near the end while the Franks only had an army of 30,000 at tours.
[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tours]Battle of Tours - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

Tang was 5.4 Million KM2, with vassals, that's 11 Million km2
Frankish was 1 Million KM2

Your map is a projection. It distorts sizes just how Alaska looks bigger than the US.