Most Overrated Militaries

Aug 2018
160
America
#91
I'm well aware of what the sources say. To equate the crusaders who took Constantinople to the Germanic peoples of antiquity is a bit extreme. Social systems and identity had changed massively in the eight-ish centuries that elapsed between Adrianople and 1204. Labelling both as "Germanics" obscures far more than it helps explain.
I mean, by that logic we should not be talking about "Romans" either, a proposition you would not accept (the "Romans" of the Byzantine Empire after all no longer lived in Rome, were Christians, spoke Greek and had abandoned the Latin alphabet). They either kept calling themselves by their original tribal designation (Franks for example), spoke a Germanic language, spoke a Germanicised Latinate language or called themselves a variant of the word "Teuton". Many even kept living in the same lands they came from (the Low Countries, Germany and Scandinavia), or in lands directly neighbouring them (like France). They can easily count as Germanics (a word with which they never identified with by the way, it's the Romans who identified them as such).
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#92
I mean, by that logic we should not be talking about "Romans" either, a proposition you would not accept (the "Romans" of the Byzantine Empire after all no longer lived in Rome, were Christians, spoke Greek and had abandoned the Latin alphabet). They either kept calling themselves by their original tribal designation (Franks for example), spoke a Germanic language, spoke a Germanicised Latinate language or called themselves a variant of the word "Teuton". Many even kept living in the same lands they came from (the Low Countries, Germany and Scandinavia), or in lands directly neighbouring them (like France). They can easily count as Germanics (a word with which they never identified with by the way, it's the Romans who identified them as such).
"Germanic" is a linguistic and ethnic term, too broad and vague to be of much use other than in vague generalization. Roman here is an ethno-religio-political term tied to a particular polity, its national* group, and their religion. If we're speaking about the twelfth-century crusades, peoples of Germanic descent and language certainly participated, but that did not define their overlapping identities and loyalties. Roman, on the other hand, is a distinct political unit and people group here.


*I'm still a little uncomfortable with Kaldellis' use of the term, but I don't actually have any particularly good arguments against it.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,547
Florania
#93
I agree Ottomans are overrated after mid 16th Century. They were facing and defeating reasonably small or medium Balkan or Eastern European princedoms or states in West and winning battles but not decisevely against Iran and Akkoyunlu in East and only decisely smashing Memluks and conquering Egypt till then with reasonable sucess of one season campaigns. After they faced centrally controlled and revisioned European kingdoms and Empires (Austria Holy Roman Empire, newly created Russian Empire , Polish , Prussian kingdom , Venetian state and Genoan kingdom) especially after they united ibn common strategic goal in an Alliance , once each sides took a measure of opposite sides , Ottoman military sucesses became fewer and and fewer with much less decisive outcomes till defeat in Second Siege of Vienna.

French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars era French Army is also too overrated and romanticised (like German Empire and Third Reich afterwards). French had a few novel revolutionary revisions like mass mobilisation (Lazerne Carnot is the architect more than Napoleon for French military expansion and triumphs between 1793-1814) , meritocracy in officer corps borne out of desperation against numerically superior enemy coalitions. The new artillery tactics of Baron du Tot existed before revolution. Until rest of Europe (mostly Austria Hungary , Prussia and Russia) trying to understand , learn and catch them in these new methods , tactics and organisational methods , relatively easy French victories again in one season campaigns created a romanticised triumphal image of French military in shape of Napoleon.

Same with Germans. Just because they knocked down Austria in 1866 and then France in 1870-1871 in relative ease and quick one year long campaigns made Prussian based methodical organisation of Second Reich military seem on top of world in all things militarily. That over confidence caused German rash decision to blunder into war in two fronts in 1914 without anything other than a short one season campaign strategy plan (Sclieffen Plan) and once that failed they had no idea what to do and constantly changed their strategic priorties accordingly. That did not end well in 1918. When newly formed revitilased Wehrmact with support of best organised air force again in one season campaigns after another run amok between 1939-1941 (in 1939-1940 five of the eight countries were neutrals with weak military , smaller economies and resources and caught complately in suprise under German onslaught without decleration of war same with Balkan countries in 1941) with best operational and organisational methods so far , it created a myth of invincbility with an auro of Teutonic war deity in shape of German military prowness and National Socialism. Same problems from 25 years ago persisted though. No proper long term strategy , inefficiency to use existing resources or technologies , inability to prepare for a Total War until too late etc. Once they blundered into snowly plains of Russia , limits of German methods of operational efectiveness no matter how good they had been , were plain as well as limits of German resources. Once "one-campaign-to knock out opposition and force them to surrender" strategy failed , again German political and military leadership were at loss what to do except repreat same strategy over and over again after 1942 only to fail each time. (this is the definition of madness in strategy , trying to do same thing over and overe and expecting outcome different without changing the varibles) Only huge depth of strategy defence territory they conqured until 1942 from shores France to Caucaus (which took time and enormous resources to re capture for Allies but also caused over extension , dispersion of German military resources and made German defence efforts harder) and faster rate and increased fireppower of modern weaponary delayed inevitable fall of Third Reich till 1945. After that just like Napoleonic France a century ago , wartime propaganda and post war romanticised military effectivess myth by literature for Cold War priorties crearted a super invincible German military legend.
When and how did the Ottoman decline begin?
As far as Napoleonic French and Germans from 1871-1945, the military innovations became less surprising in the later stages. We know that the USA stopped at the Mexican cessions without annexing Mexico, and this was proven a sustainable strategy.
Could Napoleonic France and Germany from 1871-1945 have done similar?
 
Aug 2018
160
America
#94
"Germanic" is a linguistic and ethnic term, too broad and vague to be of much use other than in vague generalization. Roman here is an ethno-religio-political term tied to a particular polity, its national* group, and their religion. If we're speaking about the twelfth-century crusades, peoples of Germanic descent and language certainly participated, but that did not define their overlapping identities and loyalties. Roman, on the other hand, is a distinct political unit and people group here.


*I'm still a little uncomfortable with Kaldellis' use of the term, but I don't actually have any particularly good arguments against it.
Well that settles it.
 
#95
Sorry, I thought you were the same person I replied to originally.

Still one has to argue how overwhelming and superior the Romans really were in comparison to Germanics. Germanics reached far deeper into the heart of Rome than the Romans ever got into the heart of Germanics (Scandinavia), and in fact did so twice before the third century (the Cimbri invasion and again with the Marcomannic invasion). They also did not conquer the Germanics while the Germanics were the ones who ended up conquering them, including even the Eastern Roman Empire for half a century.
In addition to Kirialax's important criticisms, you're in danger of thinking of the Germanic peoples as a unified group. I doubt an Alemannic tribesmen would agree that Scandinavia was their homeland. The Alemannic homeland existed to the east of the Upper Rhine and the north of the Upper Danube, and it was indeed invaded by Romans. The same can be said for the Frankish homeland beyond the lower Rhine, the Carpic homeland beyond the middle Danube, the homeland of the third-century Goths beyond the lower Danube, and so on. All were invaded as part of punitive expeditions, most of the time with success. The Romans weren't at war with whatever peoples lived in Scandinavia.

As for Germanics conquering Rome, if you have the fifth century in mind, bear in mind that Rome's greatest enemy was itself. Political disunity was a major factor in the crises of the third century, the distintegration of the western empire in the fifth century and the sack of Constantinople in 1204. In the case of the third and fifth centuries climatic change was also an important factor, as were the Persians (third century) and Huns (fifth century). And in the fifth century the distinction between Germanic and Roman was pretty blurry. There were Germanics in the Roman army, many of the Roman generals were Germanic, and the Germanic armies were by and large armed like Romans. The reality is that one could easily be both Roman and Germanic, since Roman was in part a political term that, long before the fifth century, had come to encompass so much more than just central Italians.
 
Likes: Fiver
Nov 2011
4,766
Ohio, USA
#96
Right, but this isn't my point. I remember someone (I think the now-suspended WhatAnArtist.) writing a pretty nice overview of Prussia's military history from the Great Northern War to the Franco-Prussian War, concluding that they had some high points such as the Franco-Prussian War and the 2nd Silesian War and some low points such as the 4th Coalition, in the end their record was mixed.

I will write my take on it, but keep in mind that I know more about certain periods than others, as such there might be some errors:

Scanian War- Also known as the Swedish-Brandenburger War in German historiography is the war that I consider as Prussia's first real ''major'' war. Here their most famous action was the Battle of Fehrbellin and is considered to be the battle that shattered Swedish military invincibility. However it was a mere skirmish and only had a few hundred casualties with the Prussian ones being only somewhat lower than the Swedish. The main actions were fought by Denmark, which achieved naval supremacy and defeated the Swedes at sea but was stuck in a stalemate in Scania, taking some heavy losses at Malmoe and Lund. Prussia was limited to some limited operations by the coast and while Sweden somewhat lost the war, being saved from heavy losses by a French intervention, Prussia really didn't display much exceptional performance.

Great Northern War- Prussia joined in long after Sweden was decisively beaten and was at this point outnumbered. Prussia again did some cleanup in Pomerania and fought in battles as part of a larger Coalition against outnumbered Swedes with nothing impressive happening. Something to keep in mind is that they were still building up their army and wanted to keep out of larger engagements.

First Silesian War- The first war of Frederick the Great, it went pretty well and Prussia defeated a much larger power. However Austria was primarily fighting France and was stretched thin. When the Prussians encountered the Austrians at Molwitz they struggled with Frederick fleeing the field and the casualties being somewhat equal, still they won but with great difficulty.

Second Silesian War- An excellent performance by Frederick with a stunning victory at Hohenfriedberg, I agree with the general consensus here.

Seven Years' War- This is considered as the pinnacle of Prussian skill, but like WhatAnArtist before me I see this war as a very mixed affair. Frederick held out against 3 Great Powers at once and had some legendary victories such as Rossbach, Leuthen or even Zorndorf, but also had some heavy defeats such as Kolin and Kunersdorf. The Prussians fought well against great odds but committed some straight up stupid operations such as their incursion into Bohemia and the failure to envelop the coalition army at Kunersdorf, in the end getting their capital occupied and very much saved by luck.

War of Bavarian Succession- This was a ''War Over Plums and Potatoes'' or so some call it. Militarily it was a small affair with little to write about, lasting for less than a year and with disease taking far more lives than combat, no real notable moves were made by either the Habsburgs or the Prussians. It mostly consisted of raids and ended inconclusively with the most notable raid at Zuckmantel seeing an Austrian army of some odd 3.000 men rout a Prussian army of 10.000 men with minimal losses.

War of the First Coalition- Prussian involvement was somewhat minimal with their main army turning back after the skirmish at Valmy and some limited actions at certain points, not much detail to write on here either. France still won despite being surrounded which is something to consider.

War of the Fourth Coalition- This was an utter disaster in every sense imaginable. The Prussian army was decent but the staff was divided with several different battle plans being changed. The Prussians botched their defensive placements in Saxony allowing the French to pick off some small armies and pass through the Thuringenwald practically unopposed. When Napoleon stumbled into the Prussian army at the 14th of October the Prussians were soundly crushed and at Auerstedt, despite outnumbering Davout's isolated III Corps by over 2:1 (60:000 Prussians vs 27.000 French.) and Bernadotte not reinforcing Davout the Prussians were annihilated, after just 6 days of war their army was obliterated and the rest swept aside after less than a month with some limited actions being conducted alongside the Russians. All in all one of the greatest military disasters in all of history in my opinion.

War of the Sixth Coalition- Prussia entered the war after the French disaster in Russia yet still suffered heavy defeats at Dresden and setbacks in Germany. Their actions at battles like Leipzig were achieved when they outnumbered the French as part of a larger coalition army and thus were not particularly impressive. Their main action was Katzbach which was impressive but is countered by the utter disaster that was the Six Days' Campaign.

War of the Seventh Coalition- The war was brief but the Prussians suffered a heavy defeat at Ligny despite outnumbering the French by 20.000 or so, they very well could've been destroyed or at least driven away if it wasn't for Napoleon's stupidity and him sending Grouchy too late in the wrong direction. The Prussians managed to reform quickly and reinforced Wellington at Waterloo but I don't find this feat all that impressive considering the French situation.

First Schleswig War- Another small affair without much to write about, Prussia technically lost and took considerable casualties against little Denmark while being a part of a larger coalition of the German Confederation states.

Second Schleswig War- A very one sided conflict with Prussia again fighting Denmark, nothing impressive about it really.

Austro-Prussian War- This was an excellent performance all around and I again agree with the general consensus.

Franco-Prussian War- In my opinion Prussia's greatest victory that is textbook example of a quick war, though France had less railroads and infrastructure to mobilise, still I agree with the general consensus of Prussian great victory again.

Conclusion: I find Prussia's record to be more mixed than positive and at some points they were excellent and others where they were disastrous, this post was in part inspired by this though I don't agree on everything @WhatAnArtist said: Prussia-Germany VS Romans — Were both sides "equally great" in the European military history ?
Agree with much of this, especially the stuff about the Seven Years' War and Fourth Coalition/1806, but I would recommend reviewing various works by Michael Leggiere if you find Prussian efforts in 1813 and 1815 unimpressive. I think that impression takes a lot of things at face value, relying purely on numbers etc., without considering all of the contexts, and particularly the difficulties from the Prussian perspective.
 
Oct 2016
1,137
Merryland
#97
what militaries do we think are the best? general consensus (in loose chronological order); Sparta, Rome, Ottomans, Napoleonic France, Prussia, Germany.

all took their lumps. Sparta lost to Thebes, Rome got gobsmacked by Hannibal, etc.

I guess I'll be devils advocate. WWII Germans crushed Poland, the low countries, Norway, and finally France. say all you want about how poor was Poland, small were other countries, undermanned was France, the krauts still kicked ass. like the Ravens beating the Dolphins 59-10 yesterday; sure the Dolphins aren't very good, but you don't hang 59 point on an NFL team unless u got skillz.

I concede France didn't do a good job but you don't steamroll a large modern country with a major military in weeks, unless you're very very good.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,081
Connecticut
#98
People thought the Iraqi military was a lot more powerful than it really was before the 1991 Gulf War.
Long before then, the Iraqi military was well-known to have issues. It performed pretty poorly in Syria in '73 and in Iran in 1980-82. Just about everyone expected a rather quick US victory in '91.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,081
Connecticut
#99
I would put Rome as a whole, including the Republic and Imperial Rome. They are often held as some sort of discipline and military innovation and there is some truth to this, but they are vastly overpraised and I would argue that just Adrianople, where their army was effectively crushed with the Roman emperor killed by a band of wandering primitive horsemen, disqualifies them from any form of place as the ''greatest military.''
Any army can get slaughtered if it is run by an incompetent. Two other points: I believe by 378 the Roman army was in decline or had morale issues, and the gothic army had already proven it could be tactically quite effective over a century earlier.
 

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