Most Overrated General

Sep 2018
31
Battlefrance
With regards to Julius Ceaser. Without doubt his victory in Alesia and in the gallic campaign overall was impressive. Yet when judgment is pronounced on strategic and tactical brilliance of any commander and generals in history, a factor to consider is the opponents they faced, how good were they? What kind of army/troops did they have at their disposal?

Not many of the commanders that Ceaser faced were really anything but impressive. Reading his African campaign arose great doubt whether to attribute his success to military brilliance or to the fact that the mostly numidian army he faced behaved quite cowardly in many cases. Not to mention fighting as light cavalry against the more heavily armoured roman infantry and gallic/germanic cavalry. In many instances the numidians could not face his especially Gallo-germanic troops in frontal assualts and hand to hand combat.

Similarly with Alexander the great. How good was King Darius III as a general? Did Alexander emerge victorius due to being a great general or was Darius simply an opponent easy to maneuver. It was hardly a brilliant military mind that Alexander faced. Perhaps generals should be judged on a relative basis.
Yes Alexander was certinantly better general than a simple minded and soft monarch as Darius.

Yes Ceaser was much superior than a cowardly numidian King, Juba.
 
Feb 2019
941
Serbia
With regards to Julius Ceaser. Without doubt his victory in Alesia and in the gallic campaign overall was impressive. Yet when judgment is pronounced on strategic and tactical brilliance of any commander and generals in history, a factor to consider is the opponents they faced, how good were they? What kind of army/troops did they have at their disposal?

Not many of the commanders that Ceaser faced were really anything but impressive. Reading his African campaign arose great doubt whether to attribute his success to military brilliance or to the fact that the mostly numidian army he faced behaved quite cowardly in many cases. Not to mention fighting as light cavalry against the more heavily armoured roman infantry and gallic/germanic cavalry. In many instances the numidians could not face his especially Gallo-germanic troops in frontal assualts and hand to hand combat.

Similarly with Alexander the great. How good was King Darius III as a general? Did Alexander emerge victorius due to being a great general or was Darius simply an opponent easy to maneuver. It was hardly a brilliant military mind that Alexander faced. Perhaps generals should be judged on a relative basis.
Yes Alexander was certinantly better general than a simple minded and soft monarch as Darius.

Yes Ceaser was much superior than a cowardly numidian King, Juba.
I hate this argument of ''They didn't face good generals so they weren't good themselves.'' In this case Caesar won and the Gauls lost. Caesar went down as a brilliant general and the Gauls as losers, it is because Caesar won against them that he is considered good in his campaign, if he lost he wouldn't be considered good. Also I wouldn't call Vercigetorix and Pompey bad generals, my knowledge on Rome is limited but judging by what I read they seem to be pretty competent if not remarkable.
 
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Sep 2018
31
Battlefrance
I hate this argument of ''They didn't face good generals so they weren't good themselves.'' In this case Caesar won and the Gauls lost. Caesar went down as a brilliant general and the Gauls as losers, it is because Caesar won against them that he is considered good in his campaign, if he lost he wouldn't be considered good. Also I wouldn't call Vercigetorix and Pompey bad generals, my knowledge on Rome is limited but judging by what I read they seem to be pretty competent if not remarkable.
Yes, defeating Vercigetorix and the gauls is not something I take away from Ceaser. Regardless his many other battles were against opponents that were not that great at all. I mean at one point in his african campaign, 30 of his gallic cavalrymen beat of a force of 2-500 numidians!

I don’t know but that doesn’t give you the impression the numidians were fierce warriors. Explainings the gauls success in this particular case was their heavy armour, physical strenght which gauls and germans were noted for and a fierce warrior culture.

You should read Ceaser’s African campaign yourself. Sorry but I was struggling to find one damn fight were the numidians didn’t break ranks at first contact and in many cases just simply refusing to come heads with the german/gallic troops and running away. Is that why Ceaser was great? Fighting enemies that run?

What about Alexander the Great? Darius the III, you’re kidding me? He simply relied on superior numbers, hoping thereby to simply outflank his macedonian opponent. Nothing more than that. As soon Alexander turned further and further right he simply gave orders to his cavalry division to chase him, thereby nulilifying his advantage to outflank the macedonians and even creating a gap in his lines.
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,822
Ohio, USA
Yes, defeating Vercigetorix and the gauls is not something I take away from Ceaser. Regardless his many other battles were against opponents that were not that great at all. I mean at one point in his african campaign, 30 of his gallic cavalrymen beat of a force of 2-500 numidians!

I don’t know but that doesn’t give you the impression the numidians were fierce warriors. Explainings the gauls success in this particular case was their heavy armour, physical strenght which gauls and germans were noted for and a fierce warrior culture.

You should read Ceaser’s African campaign yourself. Sorry but I was struggling to find one damn fight were the numidians didn’t break ranks at first contact and in many cases just simply refusing to come heads with the german/gallic troops and running away. Is that why Ceaser was great? Fighting enemies that run?

What about Alexander the Great? Darius the III, you’re kidding me? He simply relied on superior numbers, hoping thereby to simply outflank his macedonian opponent. Nothing more than that. As soon Alexander turned further and further right he simply gave orders to his cavalry division to chase him, thereby nulilifying his advantage to outflank the macedonians and even creating a gap in his lines.
You really didn’t address the main point he was making.
 
Mar 2019
52
Belgium
I would say Hannibal. He was a tactician genius but a very bad strategist. He didn't know how to manage his victories and this is the reason why he failed in against Rome
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,654
I would say Hannibal. He was a tactician genius but a very bad strategist. He didn't know how to manage his victories and this is the reason why he failed in against Rome
I donlt think he was that bad, he was working against a lot of factors, the Romans, were strategically pretty good. Not saying Hannin=bal was that strategically strong, but I think "very bad" is going a bit far.
 

Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,327
Australia
Regardless his many other battles were against opponents that were not that great at all.
Ah, so opponents like his former lieutenant Labienus or Pompey the Great were "not that great at all"? Can you provide reasons to substantiate that claim?

I mean at one point in his african campaign, 30 of his gallic cavalrymen beat of a force of 2-500 numidians!
Care to defend that claim? Provide the relevant passage. And if you can, the stance of scholars on that alleged event.

I don’t know but that doesn’t give you the impression the numidians were fierce warriors. Explainings the gauls success in this particular case was their heavy armour, physical strenght which gauls and germans were noted for and a fierce warrior culture.

You should read Ceaser’s African campaign yourself. Sorry but I was struggling to find one damn fight were the numidians didn’t break ranks at first contact and in many cases just simply refusing to come heads with the german/gallic troops and running away. Is that why Ceaser was great? Fighting enemies that run?
I have read the African campaign, and it's arguably his best, as Napoleon himself thought. One of the main reasons is because he had to operate against his former lieutenant Labienus, who is an extremely underrated general. He gave Caesar more than his fair share of trouble on multiple occasions in Africa. Delbruck:

His [Labienus'] operations were extremely energetic, well thought out, and decisive. If, nevertheless, he did finally go down to defeat, it was not that he was facing only Caesar but also Caesar's troops, against whom his newly formed African legions could not measure up.

-Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity, 557.

On the "fierceness" of the Numidians, you're failing to take into account military traditions. Africa didn't lend itself to infantry-focused armies at all, or for that matter, hand-to-hand combat. As the Persians did, as the steppe peoples and many other cultures, their environment and traditions shaped the way they fought. The Numidians fought as skirmishers, this does not necessarily discount their "fierceness". Labienus was able to tactically outmaneuver Caesar at Ruspina using the Numidian horsemen and skirmishers, placing Caesar in a terribly awkward position. Many historians believe that only nightfall saved Caesar.

Labienus knew the strengths and weaknesses of the forces his faction had assembled, and he commanded accordingly. The Numidians were not trained, equipped or even traditionally inclined to hand-to-hand combat; so then why would we fault them for it? Their strengths lay elsewhere. On top of that, they were also vastly numerically superior to Caesar's cavalry. The obvious preferred method would be whittle them down and tire them via forcing them to repeat charge again and again to stave them off, thus tiring them and rendering them ineffective against the sheer number of missiles being thrown at them.

What about Alexander the Great? Darius the III, you’re kidding me? He simply relied on superior numbers, hoping thereby to simply outflank his macedonian opponent. Nothing more than that. As soon Alexander turned further and further right he simply gave orders to his cavalry division to chase him, thereby nulilifying his advantage to outflank the macedonians and even creating a gap in his lines.
Again, wrong. Darius' army wasn't vastly numerically superior. Furthermore, Darius' plan for Gaugamela was competent, and played to his strengths. He almost routed Alexander's left flank, and his army was severely limited in tactical flexibility against the Macedonian army.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
Darius' army wasn't vastly numerically superior.
Do you have a source - that isn't biased in favour of Persia - that proves Darius' army was not vastly numerically superior? Even the most conservative and critical assessments of the battle tend to give the number disparity as around 40,000 at the very least.
 

Duke Valentino

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,327
Australia
Do you have a source - that isn't biased in favour of Persia - that proves Darius' army was not vastly numerically superior? Even the most conservative and critical assessments of the battle tend to give the number disparity as around 40,000 at the very least.
For one, there's never one all-proving source giving an infallible figure for the Persian army; though I've come to be disenchanted by a lot of claims on the size of the Persian armies in all three battles. Most of the modern minimalist sources claim a 40,000 strong cavalry force at Gaugamela, though I'm not sure how such a concentrated force was supported and fielded for an extended period of time. Delbruck, to whose more critical eye I tend to follow, claims no more than 12,000 cavalry. I'm not entirely convinced of either point, but I know for sure that the Persian cavalry force was likely between the two extremes. As for the infantry, Darius had very little Greek mercenaries left. Delbruck elaborates quite eloquently on this point:

It is hard to imagine Darius' infantry. Archers—the old arm of the Persians—can only be drawn up a few ranks deep in order to be effective. It was useless to draw up loose-knit groups of an unmilitary people against a hoplite phalanx, and the Persians understood the art of war well enough to know that and to prefer to use all their strength for the reinforcing of the cavalry, instead of involving themselves in insuperable supply difficulties through useless mass levies. [...] Consequently it is quite possible that the Persian army, aside from the cavalry, elephants, and scythed chariots, had only a relatively small number of foot soldiers—that is, certainly not more than the Macedonians, and probably fewer.

Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity, 212.

The Greek/Roman sources tend to follow the traditional inflation of the armies of eastern despots, thus Tigranes and Mithridates are depicted as having masses of infantry and cavalry that were not possible to field. Even in the Napoleonic era, where mass mobilisation and conscription was beginning to develop, cavalry forces rarely reached such concentrations on a single battlefield. One would rather have a well-trained and drilled force of 20,000 cavalry that is easier to maneuver around the battlefield to accomplish a tactical plan and respond to changing circumstances efficiently, than 40,000. More numbers doesn't necessarily equal better, and this is true not only for mass infantry, but also cavalry and overall tactical flexibility. Communication is something generally disregarded by armchair strategists. It actually took a tremendous amount of effort, especially in antiquity, to enact large scale tactical maneuvers, especially if not pre-planned, during a battle. As Delbruck says, the Persians knew enough about the art of war to focus on their strengths: chariots (which had a proven success against phalanx infantry in the past), Greek heavy infantry, light infantry and deadly cavalry drawn from the Persians and among the eastern garrisons, such as the Scythians and Bactrians. In many ways, the Persian army was quite identical to the Macedonian one.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
Consequently it is quite possible that the Persian army, aside from the cavalry, elephants, and scythed chariots, had only a relatively small number of foot soldiers—that is, certainly not more than the Macedonians, and probably fewer.
Absolute nonsense. I've literally never seen anybody claim that The Macedonians and Persians were even equal in number, let alone the Macedonians outnumbering the Persians. This is actually so daft it's laughable. I would be very interested to see what his sources are for reaching such a ridiculous conclusion.