Most Overrated Militaries

Aug 2018
160
America
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.
Again, I was being sarcastic and parodying Masterson's argument. I was pointing out that his flawed logic applied to Prussia can be applied to others as well.
 
Aug 2018
160
America
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.
I mean, Germanic political disunity which was just as bad didn't allow the Romans to get the best of Germanics. Arminius and Marbod were at civil war with each other and yet the Romans calculated it was better to leave them alone. In fact, Germanics were fighting among themselves since the time of Ariovistus. If Romans were a 10, I would say Germanics were an 8 or a 9. I would even rate them higher than the Sassanids, who only inflicted real damage on Rome two times (when they captured Valerian and when they took everything between Syria and Egypt), and those two times were after the Germanics had already severely wrecked the Romans (the former happened after Cniva killed Decius, the latter after the Goths, Vandals and others had taken possession of the western half).
 
Feb 2019
804
Serbia
Again, I was being sarcastic and parodying Masterson's argument. I was pointing out that his flawed logic applied to Prussia can be applied to others as well.
It really can't, Prussia was in a different situation. But I have to say that you've improved, instead of calling me a chauvinist every few sentences now you resort to sarcasm, still you don't bring any actual argument.
 
Aug 2018
160
America
It really can't, Prussia was in a different situation. But I have to say that you've improved, instead of calling me a chauvinist every few sentences now you resort to sarcasm, still you don't bring any actual argument.
Your argument relied literally on a single battle as if Prussia did not have a large two-century history. That's why it's appropriate to bring Adrianople. It's like using that battle and say "look, the Romans were so weak! they got defeated by illiterate barbarians who were defeated by other illiterate barbarians!". Prussia in the early 19th century is not the same as the Prussia of the later 19th century that wrecked France, unified the German states and caused fear among the British, the same Prussians who with Jakob Meckel made the Japanese military a beast that wrecked China in 1895 and Russia in 1906. The Germans virtually on their own were capable of taking on Britain, France and Russia in WWI and needed intervention from the US to be defeated. The Nazis conquered France and devastated the British economy to the point that by the end of the war the British would lose India and would keep losing territory for the next three decades until the British Empire was no more.

All of these points can be debated of course, but to say that just one battle against Napoleon proves the entirety of Prussian military power is overrated is absolutely ludicrous.
 
Feb 2019
804
Serbia
Your argument relied literally on a single battle as if Prussia did not have a large two-century history. That's why it's appropriate to bring Adrianople. It's like using that battle and say "look, the Romans were so weak! they got defeated by illiterate barbarians who were defeated by other illiterate barbarians!". Prussia in the early 19th century is not the same as the Prussia of the later 19th century that wrecked France, unified the German states and caused fear among the British, the same Prussians who with Jakob Meckel made the Japanese military a beast that wrecked China in 1895 and Russia in 1906. The Germans virtually on their own were capable of taking on Britain, France and Russia in WWI and needed intervention from the US to be defeated. The Nazis conquered France and devastated the British economy to the point that by the end of the war the British would lose India and would keep losing territory for the next three decades until the British Empire was no more.

All of these points can be debated of course, but to say that just one battle against Napoleon proves the entirety of Prussian military power is overrated is absolutely ludicrous.
I wish people would read the whole thread, I went over Prussia's wars already. It wasn't one battle, but I used that one campaign as an example. Prussia from 1806 is the same nation as Prussia in 1870, just because ''it's not the same'' according to you doesn't mean that everything before the late 19th century doesn't count (Or do you casually forget everything before it to fit your narrative?) . It's also that Prussia only has a 2-century history, their defeat in 1806 is even more significant. It can't compare to Adrianople as Prussia was in a different situation and I don't think that the entirety of the Roman army collapsed after less than a week of war and its remnants completely fell apart 3 weeks later, since people use the Franco-Prussian War to point to Prussia as militarily invincible I can point to the 4th Coalition to claim the exact opposite. Read the whole thread before posting.
 
Aug 2018
160
America
I wish people would read the whole thread, I went over Prussia's wars already. It wasn't one battle, but I used that one campaign as an example. Prussia from 1806 is the same nation as Prussia in 1870, just because ''it's not the same'' according to you doesn't mean that everything before the late 19th century doesn't count (Or do you casually forget everything before it to fit your narrative?) . It's also that Prussia only has a 2-century history, their defeat in 1806 is even more significant. It can't compare to Adrianople as Prussia was in a different situation and I don't think that the entirety of the Roman army collapsed after less than a week of war and its remnants completely fell apart 3 weeks later, since people use the Franco-Prussian War to point to Prussia as militarily invincible I can point to the 4th Coalition to claim the exact opposite. Read the whole thread before posting.
Except I was just responding to that specific point you made.
 
I mean, Germanic political disunity which was just as bad didn't allow the Romans to get the best of Germanics. Arminius and Marbod were at civil war with each other and yet the Romans calculated it was better to leave them alone. In fact, Germanics were fighting among themselves since the time of Ariovistus. If Romans were a 10, I would say Germanics were an 8 or a 9. I would even rate them higher than the Sassanids, who only inflicted real damage on Rome two times (when they captured Valerian and when they took everything between Syria and Egypt), and those two times were after the Germanics had already severely wrecked the Romans (the former happened after Cniva killed Decius, the latter after the Goths, Vandals and others had taken possession of the western half).
Roman political disunity and Germanic disunity are different things. The Romans suffered from an unclear system of imperial succession that was vulnerable to over-powerful generals, powerful provincial aristocrats and a trigger-happy army. But it was a distinct political entity with a single ruler or college of rulers. The disunity tended to revolve around who would be that(those) ruler(s). The Germanic peoples of the Roman imperial period were literally politically distinct from one another. That's what I mean about attempting to compare heartlands.

The question of why the Romans didn't press further into Germanic lands is an interesting one, and I think good points were made on the thread How Important Was The Varian Disaster For The Future of European History, which you're familiar with. But I think it worth noting that, once the Romans decided they would no longer be pressing further into Germania, and would be retaining the Rhine and Danube as their frontiers, they encouraged disunity among the Germanics (Alemanni vs Burgundians, Marcomanni vs Vandals, etc) not so that they could conquer their lands but so that enemies couldn't form alliances and penetrate into Rome's provinces. They no doubt did the same in the Augustan period when they were hoping to press further into Germania, and in that sense I concede that we'd be talking about divide-and-conquer in an aggressive rather than defensive capacity.

On the third century I think you're selling the Persians short. In 231 they destroyed Severus Alexander's southern army, his two other armies suffered major casualties as well, and even before Ardashir's advance there were mutinies on the eastern frontier. Then in 244 Gordian III's army was defeated by Shapur I, he himself died (probably from an injury sustained during battle), and Philip was forced to pay a ransom and a major indemnity. The financial and manpower drains on experienced manpower would have already been significant, and such defeats also undermined confidence in the emperors and their claims of military legitimacy (claims of Virtus (manly courage), Victoria (victory), etc). The increased movement of armies would have also caused depredations along the main roads by Roman soldiers, with some tax-paying villages abandoned, as indeed happened under Gordian. Meanwhile, a lack of confidence on the eastern frontier caused local notables to take matters into their own hands, beginning with Pacatianus, and then later Uranius Antoninus and Odainath. Enter the Goths. Now, to the Goths' credit they inflicted two defeats on Decius and his army, the second of course being the catastrophic defeat at Abrittus. They also sacked Phillippopolis (which would indeed not be the last city to be sacked by third-century Gothic and Herulian marauders - e.g. Athens, Nicaea, Nicomedia, Ephesus, Trebizond). Clearly Cniva was a better military leader than Decius. But a suitable Roman response is then derailed by a) Shapur's second campaign against the Romans, in which a major Roman army is defeated at Barbalissos, Antioch (the most important city in the Roman east) is sacked, fortresses in Roman Mesopotamia fall, Syria and Cilicia were raided, etc. The Franks and Alemanni then started raiding Gaul, Italy and on one occasion even Spain. The Heruli and Black Sea Goths also started raiding Asia Minor. And then in 260, in Shapur's third major campaign against the Romans, he defeated Valerian's army, captured the emperor, sacked Antioch again, and raided Syria, Cilicia and Cappadocia. Eventually the Romans pulled themselves up by the bootstraps. For example, Odainath defeated the Persians, Postumus defeated the Franks, Gallienus defeated the Heruli and Goths at Nessos and the Alemanni at Milan, Claudius defeated the Goths at Naissus and the Alemanni at Lake Garda, Aurelian defeated the Goths of Cannabas/Cannabaudes (possibly a Romanization of Cniva, as some have suggested) and the Alemanni and Iuthungi at the Metaurus and at the Altar of Fortuna, Probus won victories over Franks, Vandals and Burgundians, Carus defeated the Persians (sacking Ctesiphon), and Galerius then decisively defeated the Persians, forcing on them an unfavourable treaty, whereby he took Roman Mesopotamia and annexed for Armenia seven lands east of the Tigris. His fellow Tetrarchs fought with success against Alemanni, Franks, Saxons, Sarmatians and Carpi, as had Galerius himself. Against the Germanic peoples Aurelian's victories appear to have been especially decisive, since the Alemanni would not enter Italy again until the fifth century, and the Goths north of lower Danube would not be a problem again until Constantine's victory over them in the 320s (although the Black Sea Goths and Heruli continued to be an issue for Asia Minor until Tacitus' victory over them in 276). The internal instability and climate issues must be partly to blame for what happened, but David Potter (2014: The Roman Empire at Bay AD 180-395, 2nd ed., Oxford & New York) also argues that the Roman military establishment had to re-learn how to deal with so many threats at once, since they had not done so in centuries. In contrast, De Blois (2016: Rome and Persia in the Middle of the Third Century AD (230-266), in D. Slootjes & M. Peachin (eds.), Rome and the Worlds beyond its Frontiers, Leiden, 33-44) has argued that the Persians above all else were responsible; namely, that their successes from the 230s onward set in motion a temporary downward spiral.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2017
2,313
Australia
I'm not saying Prussia/Germany should be number 1, but I also don't like the nitpicking; any culture/nationality can be nitpicked for terrible/disastrous military campaigns and outcomes.
 
Feb 2016
4,426
Japan
Your argument relied literally on a single battle as if Prussia did not have a large two-century history. That's why it's appropriate to bring Adrianople. It's like using that battle and say "look, the Romans were so weak! they got defeated by illiterate barbarians who were defeated by other illiterate barbarians!". Prussia in the early 19th century is not the same as the Prussia of the later 19th century that wrecked France, unified the German states and caused fear among the British, the same Prussians who with Jakob Meckel made the Japanese military a beast that wrecked China in 1895 and Russia in 1906. The Germans virtually on their own were capable of taking on Britain, France and Russia in WWI and needed intervention from the US to be defeated. The Nazis conquered France and devastated the British economy to the point that by the end of the war the British would lose India and would keep losing territory for the next three decades until the British Empire was no more.

All of these points can be debated of course, but to say that just one battle against Napoleon proves the entirety of Prussian military power is overrated is absolutely ludicrous.
Prussia did not fight WW1 practically single handed.
In 1918 it was about 4.5 million men strong.
(But remembered the Prussian army was now mostly non Prussian.. being made of Saxons, Hanoverians, Brunswicker, Hessian etc) as well as including the separate Bavarian army (at its peak I think it was about 7 million around 1915/6)
The Austro-Hungarian army was 7.5 million in 1917.
The Ottoman Empire 2.5 million.

So they were ONLY able to fight the Entente Powers because they were not single handed or alone.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,081
Connecticut
On the third century I think you're selling the Persians short. In 231 they destroyed Severus Alexander's southern army,
This is possible but the army may have been just stopped and mauled, sort of like Gordian III's army about a dozen years later, and gave as good as it got, which would explain the lack of a Persian followup operation for over a decade. Btw I was under the impression the battle took place in 232 or 233. :)


his two other armies suffered major casualties as well
Many of the losses of the northern force were due to frostbite on the way back.

Then in 244 Gordian III's army was defeated by Shapur I, he himself died (probably from an injury sustained during battle),
This is by far the most likely version. Good thing we have the RGDS or the nonsense versions would've retained an even stronger influence...


The financial and manpower drains on experienced manpower would have already been significant,
Sure but remarkably, not even the severe losses due to defeats and plague prevented the comeback of c 268-299.

and such defeats also undermined confidence in the emperors and their claims of military legitimacy (claims of Virtus (manly courage), Victoria (victory), etc).
Very understandably, after incompetents had cost many thousands of lives around mid third century, the latter century soldiers made good generalship a key criterion for supporting an emperor or would-be emperor.

Meanwhile, a lack of confidence on the eastern frontier caused local notables to take matters into their own hands, beginning with Pacatianus, and then later Uranius Antoninus and Odainath.
Pacatianus was along the Danube and Odainathus's authority was recognized by the emperor.

Enter the Goths. Now, to the Goths' credit they inflicted two defeats on Decius and his army, the second of course being the catastrophic defeat at Abrittus….But a suitable Roman response is then derailed by
The do-nothing Gallus. He agreed to pay the victories goths a subsidy, and may not have planned to avenge Abrittus.

In contrast, De Blois (2016: Rome and Persia in the Middle of the Third Century AD (230-266), in D. Slootjes & M. Peachin (eds.), Rome and the Worlds beyond its Frontiers, Leiden, 33-44) has argued that the Persians above all else were responsible; namely, that their successes from the 230s onward set in motion a temporary downward spiral.
Sassanid successes were not really devastating until 252-60. I think the massive deterioration in the situation was mainly due to the increased barbarian threat, compared to most earlier periods. Note for example, Shapur's depredations of 252 came after Forum Terebronii and was an exploitation of it. On a number of previous occasions Parthians or Sassanids had caused trouble, requiring European legionary reinforcements in the East. Forum Terebronii mate this temporarily impossible, which was tantamount to a green light for Shapur.
 

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