Roman Legionnaires Vs Han Army

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Mar 2015
6
Singapore
By 116 A.D, Roman Emperor Trajan have led his legions all the way to the east and had captured the Parthian City of Susa. Trajan planned to continue advancing, inspired by the footsteps of Alexander the Great, with the intention of marching all the way to India and turning it into another Roman province.

Unfortunately he died on his campaign before he can realised this dream. What the Romans do not know that at this furthest extent, the Roman Legions was only within a day march to the nearest Han Chinese military outpost, set up earlier by Chinese General Ban Chao, who had lead the Chinese armies furthest to the west to Parthia, were used to secure and control local region.

At that time, both Han and Roman Empires were the most powerful political entities on Earth. Both possesses vast numbers of excellently well-equipped and well trained disciplined soldiers.

The Roman legions depends on its heavily armoured disciplined legionnaries and its formations, while the Chinese uses its armoured horsemen and infantry equipped with advanced missile weapons such as the crossbow (Which the Han Chinese were already expert in using) for its advantages on field.

What I would really want to know and find out, if both armies were commandered by excellent generals, what would the outcome on the battlefield be between the seemly evenly-matched forces? Discuss
 
Aug 2014
525
Northumberland
Being neutral as my sympathies lie with victims of both empires I would be inclined to believe the Romans would come off worse.This being based on historical evidence that the Romans in this era had difficulty against mobile missile armies such as the Sarmatians,Parthians and latter the Sassanids and I suggest they would also have trouble against the Han Cavalry too.In addition to this the Roman infantry although mostly armoured and close combat equipped,had a portion that was bow armed but not in sufficient numbers to combat the mass missile fire which the Han infantry were capable of.So I also suggest the Roman infantry would have had difficulty closing with the Han infantry unless supported by their cavalry,which would already have their hands full dealing with the Han Cavalry.however,both armies artillery could be evenly matched.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
The Romans actually defeated the Parthians more often than the reverse. The capital of Ctesiphon for example was sacked by the Romans three times. It was sacked twice more by Roman armies when it served as the Sassanid capital.

Roman armies that fought Parthian or Persian armies successfully did so by supplementing their army with lots of auxiliary archers and cavalry, and avoiding battles on terrain that favored their opponents. Any smart Roman commander would do the same if facing Han troops.

Assuming the Romans are being led by a commander more like Trajan or Severus than Crassus, I'd give Rome a slight edge. I think it's a very slight edge however, and a conflict could go either way, hinging on where it was fought, the skill of the opposing commanders, the political situation in both empires or their allies, and the logistics involved.

If the Parthians are gobbled up by Rome and the Han in this scenario, effectively splitting Persia down the middle, I think any history of conflict between the two empires would not look much different than the history of conflict between Rome and Parthia or Rome and the Sassanids. Each empire would win some and lose some, with neither making any lasting expansion into the other's territory.
 
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cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,358
The Romans actually defeated the Parthians more often than the reverse. The capital of Ctesiphon for example was sacked by the Romans three times. It was sacked twice more by Roman armies when it served as the Sassanid capital.

Roman armies that fought Parthian or Persian armies successfully did so by supplementing their army with lots of auxiliary archers and cavalry, and avoiding battles on terrain that favored their opponents. Any smart Roman commander would do the same if facing Han troops.

Assuming the Romans are being led by a commander more like Trajan or Severus than Crassus, I'd give Rome a slight edge. I think it's a very slight edge however, and a conflict could go either way, hinging on where it was fought, the skill of the opposing commanders, the political situation in both empires or their allies, and the logistics involved.

If the Parthians are gobbled up by Rome and the Han in this scenario, effectively splitting Persia down the middle, I think any history of conflict between the two empires would not look much different than the history of conflict between Rome and Parthia or Rome and the Sassanids. Each empire would win some and lose some, with neither making any lasting expansion into the other's territory.
This is more or less my impression. It is a total, absolute and complete myth perpetuated almost solely because of Cannae and Carrahe that the Romans had difficulty in fighting cavalry armies...one that we have just finished debunking on yet another thread.

http://historum.com/medieval-byzantine-history/86454-why-did-romans-byzantines-not-finish-persians-whenever-they-took-ctesaphion-9.html

http://historum.com/war-military-history/82319-ancient-romans-over-estimated-25.html#post2102853

Of course, the Romans defeated Hannibal, the Armenians, Seleucid armies, the Macedonian armies, Palmyra, various Scythian, Sarmatian and Alani armies, a pan-Gallic cavalry army at Alesia, as well as any number of Parthian and Sassanid armies for 700 years. All of these depended on cavalry as their capital arm, and some fielded all-cavalry forces.

The did various things to fight cavalry...formed hollow squares...used dragoons tactics...forced fights in territory where their flanks were naturally protected...hired their own cavalry to protect their flanks....used packages of infantry fighting in conjunction with cavalry, etc.

What is more, the Chinese sometimes had trouble fielding good cavalry...hence the war of heavenly horses.

But again, this is no disrespect to the Chinese. I am a roman fanboy and will make the argument all day long, but in truth I know that the Han fielded excellent armies too. It would come down to specifics that we just don't have.
 
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Mrbsct

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
2,659
USA
The Chinese win. The Romans don't have the enough cavalry to gain strategic superiority over a vast plain, this means the Chinese will have better reconnaissance, skirmishing, and ability to just cut off enemy lines, encirclement capabilities. Any clash between the Auxiliary cavalry and the Han cavalry would be futile. The Han troops would annihalate any Mounted Celt before it got even close.

This would force the Romans to keep their cavalry very close like Caesar at Pharsphalus or Mark Antony in his Parthian campaign. The Roman army has no ranged weapon to match the Chinese crossbow besides artillery, which the Han have their own as well.

The Chinese would find the Roman Army, destroy their supply lines and encircle them like Cahrae. The Romans would bring a whole lot of slingers, archers and javelinmen to even the odds, but none are capable of matching the Chinese crossbowmen. The Romans would try to exploit their use of infantry by fighting on uneven terrain, but it won't matter. The Chinese numerical superiority just cuts down the Romans.
 

cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,358
The Chinese win. The Romans don't have the enough cavalry to gain strategic superiority over a vast plain, this means the Chinese will have better reconnaissance, skirmishing, and ability to just cut off enemy lines, encirclement capabilities. Any clash between the Auxiliary cavalry and the Han cavalry would be futile. The Han troops would annihalate any Mounted Celt before it got even close.

This would force the Romans to keep their cavalry very close like Caesar at Pharsphalus or Mark Antony in his Parthian campaign. The Roman army has no ranged weapon to match the Chinese crossbow besides artillery, which the Han have their own as well.

The Chinese would find the Roman Army, destroy their supply lines and encircle them like Cahrae. The Romans would bring a whole lot of slingers, archers and javelinmen to even the odds, but none are capable of matching the Chinese crossbowmen. The Romans would try to exploit their use of infantry by fighting on uneven terrain, but it won't matter. The Chinese numerical superiority just cuts down the Romans.
The Romans had both tension and torsion anti-personnel weapons. They found slingers most effective, which will outdo any form of bow.

Again...the cavalry thing is a pure myth.
 

Mrbsct

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
2,659
USA
The anti-personell weapons were mainly used for siege rather on the march due to the difficulty of being set up, unless you are talking about Charioballista. Either way the Chinese artillery is known to be way superior and mounted as well.

What? The cavalry is pure myth? That makes no sense....
 
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