Rome vs Asiatic nomads, Ancient China vs Germanic barbarians

Mar 2012
1,186
Magdeburg
#1
I have seen a lot of discussion about Ancient Rome vs Ancient China, now i want to create another debate this time by exchanging the northern barbarian enemies of the two most developed(arguably) ancient civilizations.

China had Xiongnu which in my opinion was much a bigger threat than Germanic barbarians posed against Rome , literally the ancient version of modern Turko-mongolian empires ( i read in an article that even in the classical ages this nomadic confederation was able to field more than 100.000 horsemen warriors), and was defeated ultimately by China through espionage and luckily for China having just the numbers to boast same amount of cavalry in a fight against fire with fire manner.


Rome had various Germanic tribes that were serious and lesser threat time to time but ultimately brought Rome to its knees.


Opinions?
 
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
#2
Ultimately defeated by China through espionage? Um, I don't think that's what actually happened.

First the Han armies during Han Wudi's time, commanded by two brilliant generals Wei Qing and Huo Qubing, defeated the Xiongnu in several campaigns and ventured deep into Xiongnu territory. Then the Xiongnu confederacy separated into southern Xiongnu and northern Xiongnu, with the southern Xiongnu became a vassal of the Han Dynasty. The Han allowed them to settle along the upper reaches of the Yellow River as long as they helped the Han to fight the northern Xiongnu and protect the Han's northern border. The southern Xiongnu gradually became sinicized. And then we also have the rise of the Xianbei, another nomadic group from the Tungus region belonging to the Donghu branch (a different branch of nomads). The Han also allied with the Xianbei to fight against the northern Xiongnu. Finally in 91 AD, Han general Dou Xian, together with other allied nomadic tribes, ultimately defeated the northern Xiongnu.

So I would say Han's strategy was to adopt cavalry warfare and defeat the Xiongnu in their own game, and to divide and conquer by allying with the southern Xiongnu and the Xianbei (however this later had bad consequences for the Chinese).
 
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
#3
But I agree with you on the point that the threat of Xiongnu and other nomads was far greater than the Germanic tribes, and those nomads were also far more brutal and ruthless than the Germanic peoples. Throughout the ancient and medieval periods, the Asiatic nomads had always been the strongest military power on the planet, thanks to their cavalry. It was only until the 18th and 19th centuries with the sophistication of firearms that they started to fall down.

My guess is that the Chinese dynasties would fare much better against the Germanic tribes.
 
Oct 2013
4,574
Canada
#4
I have seen a lot of discussion about Ancient Rome vs Ancient China, now i want to create another debate this time by exchanging the northern barbarian enemies of the two most developed(arguably) ancient civilizations.

China had Xiongnu which in my opinion was much a bigger threat than Germanic barbarians posed against Rome , literally the ancient version of modern Turko-mongolian empires ( i read in an article that even in the classical ages this nomadic confederation was able to field more than 100.000 horsemen warriors), and was defeated ultimately by China through espionage and luckily for China having just the numbers to boast same amount of cavalry in a fight against fire with fire manner.


Rome had various Germanic tribes that were serious and lesser threat time to time but ultimately brought Rome to its knees.


Opinions?
Numbers play a role. However, there were times when the Chinese fought outnumbered, and the results were the same. The Han were quantitatively and qualitatively superior to the Xiongnu. The quality difference is noted even before the Han when the Qin tossed them out of Inner Mongolia - their homeland. The numerical advantage is reflective of superior agriculture, government, and productivity rather than any indication of a trade-off in quality.

With regards to the Germanic barbarians - my opinion is that they would be many times easier to kill off. I wouldn't give them any edge in terms of tactics, strategy, and quality. I would grant the Xiongnu a big edge in terms of organization and by extension a much greater ability to fight back. After all, Modu molded the Xiongnu people into a semi-sedentary empire stretching from "Manchuria" to Kazakhstan and Siberia to Inner Mongolia. The Germanic barbarians would also lack the mobility both the Xiongnu and Han had.
 
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
#5
The quality difference is noted even before the Han when the Qin tossed them out of Inner Mongolia - their homeland.
Even before the Qin, the Zhao general Li Mu and the Yan general Qin Kai had already defeated Xiongnu and Donghu, respectively.

The Zhao was the first state in China to adopt the nomadic style cavalry.
 
Dec 2011
558
Texas
#6
I have seen a lot of discussion about Ancient Rome vs Ancient China, now i want to create another debate this time by exchanging the northern barbarian enemies of the two most developed(arguably) ancient civilizations.

China had Xiongnu which in my opinion was much a bigger threat than Germanic barbarians posed against Rome , literally the ancient version of modern Turko-mongolian empires ( i read in an article that even in the classical ages this nomadic confederation was able to field more than 100.000 horsemen warriors), and was defeated ultimately by China through espionage and luckily for China having just the numbers to boast same amount of cavalry in a fight against fire with fire manner.


Rome had various Germanic tribes that were serious and lesser threat time to time but ultimately brought Rome to its knees.


Opinions?

I know general things about the ancient Germans but however I can tell you this that the ancient Germans were very good fighters were they were at, even the Huns did adapted tactics and had Germans to fight the Romans due to terrain. I think it was the Teutons or another Germanic tribe that had heavy cavalry and all. They did fight a lot with cavalry (including some mounted archery) in the eastern parts of Europe. The Germans been know to be very fierce combatants; hints their very name the Romans gave them "Germans" (meaning spear-men or worrier), the Germans main downfall at these times was that they failed to unite successfully into one fighting force under one command like the Romans or the Huns did.

There was even many Germans in the the auxiliaries.


I would say the Germans were very divided and posed a great threat when their was a united force of them.



But I agree with you on the point that the threat of Xiongnu and other nomads was far greater than the Germanic tribes, and those nomads were also far more brutal and ruthless than the Germanic peoples. Throughout the ancient and medieval periods, the Asiatic nomads had always been the strongest military power on the planet, thanks to their cavalry. It was only until the 18th and 19th centuries with the sophistication of firearms that they started to fall down.
Such a over statement, something like the black army of the 1400s could very easily deal with those nomads.

Terrain dictates tactics, I really doubt any of the Asiatic nomads would fare so great in a place like Western Europe more so by the time of firearms & plate armor of the early 1400s or let alone how things were in the late 1100s. Hell, if they were that as you said they were than Otto the Great would not have stopped a Asian nomads that settled in modern day Hungary (they are Hungarians) also how a few very early medieval armies defeated what was left of the Huns in Europe.



My guess is that the Chinese dynasties would fare much better against the Germanic tribes.
It's not that simple the Romans would have simply conquered them all.
The Germans would simply adapted to the new terrain maybe mix to some of the old with the new tactics.

I am looking at a book called "Ancient Germanic Warriors..." and it seems the Germans were pretty organized and fought better & more in order than what most people think. The Romans say that the Germans were better than the Celts in war. It just seems that the Germans at the time just failed to unite successfully into one fighting force, this did help Rome win so many of the battles. Now the even if they did unite, the Romans could still win but under one hell of a cost, I think they would just have had one pretty big Germanic Empire of the north and maybe establish trade & possibly alliance with the Romans.

I may use this as a paper topic in the ancient military class. Buuut I sure can still learn more about the Romans (I think the topic of Rome is coming up). Anyways I got to get back to my studies. (I am happy I am off tomorrow & the weekend)
 
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Jan 2015
955
EARTH
#7
Ancient China always beat their surrounding sedentary civilizations in the end. This is why Ancient China occupied territory on subcontinental scale. But they always had trouble with nomadic Empires that could move its power base to impossible logistic distances and did not fight with sedentary warfare methods. It had no population centers that would otherwise allow easy disruption of their war machine. It had no important agrarian centers. You can not siege the nomadic empires. You can not beat or eradicate their population centers without ridiculous state expenditure. You can not count on the same kind of political maneuverings and you can not starve them to any effective degree. There are no cities to take, no pillaging to be had, no riches to be rewarded, and no significant staging points to make. It is a completely unprofitable enterprise.

Germanics were sedentary, and I see no reason why they would be exceptional to all the other sedentary, be they southern, northern, western or eastern barbarians/states/civilizations Ancient China faced. It seems Rome was never that serious about conquering Germania in the first place anyway.
 
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Aug 2014
1,832
Huntington Beach CA
#8
I know general things about the ancient Germans but however I can tell you this that the ancient Germans were very good fighters were they were at, even the Huns did adapted tactics and had Germans to fight the Romans due to terrain. I think it was the Teutons or another Germanic tribe that had heavy cavalry and all. They did fight a lot with cavalry (including some mounted archery) in the eastern parts of Europe. The Germans been know to be very fierce combatants; hints their very name the Romans gave them "Germans" (meaning spear-men or worrier), the Germans main downfall at these times was that they failed to unite successfully into one fighting force under one command like the Romans or the Huns did.

There was even many Germans in the the auxiliaries.


I would say the Germans were very divided and posed a great threat when their was a united force of them.





Such a over statement, something like the black army of the 1400s could very easily deal with those nomads.

Terrain dictates tactics, I really doubt any of the Asiatic nomads would fare so great in a place like Western Europe more so by the time of firearms & plate armor of the early 1400s or let alone how things were in the late 1100s. Hell, if they were that as you said they were than Otto the Great would not have stopped a Asian nomads that settled in modern day Hungary (they are Hungarians) also how a few very early medieval armies defeated what was left of the Huns in Europe.





It's not that simple the Romans would have simply conquered them all.
The Germans would simply adapted to the new terrain maybe mix to some of the old with the new tactics.

I am looking at a book called "Ancient Germanic Warriors..." and it seems the Germans were pretty organized and fought better & more in order than what most people think. The Romans say that the Germans were better than the Celts in war. It just seems that the Germans at the time just failed to unite successfully into one fighting force, this did help Rome win so many of the battles. Now the even if they did unite, the Romans could still win but under one hell of a cost, I think they would just have had one pretty big Germanic Empire of the north and maybe establish trade & possibly alliance with the Romans.

I may use this as a paper topic in the ancient military class. Buuut I sure can still learn more about the Romans (I think the topic of Rome is coming up). Anyways I got to get back to my studies. (I am happy I am off tomorrow & the weekend)
If you decide to use this as a paper topic, look into population estimates for Germans. The Germans had a problem with low populations even if they did unite. Check out the population of Germans including Suebi, Vandals Gotones (Goths) and Suetones (Swedes). One of the problems that the Germans had was that there was little land that was arable with the farming technology available at the time (the hoe plough). German populations were limited until the combination of the horse collar and the mouldboard plough in about the 500s. At which point German population began to take off.
The Xiongnu (or for that matter the Yuehzi) could have been a formidable opponent for Rome, particularly if one of the other enlisted the Sarmatians as allies rather than destroying them. Steppe in Europe extends all the way to the Hungarian Plain and it is less than 100 miles from Panonnia to Veneto across the low Julian Alps. From there to Rome is not difficult. We're talking conquest across Mediterranean lands not Germany and France as the Mongols would have had to do.
 
Dec 2011
558
Texas
#9
If you decide to use this as a paper topic, look into population estimates for Germans. The Germans had a problem with low populations even if they did unite. Check out the population of Germans including Suebi, Vandals Gotones (Goths) and Suetones (Swedes). One of the problems that the Germans had was that there was little land that was arable with the farming technology available at the time (the hoe plough). German populations were limited until the combination of the horse collar and the mouldboard plough in about the 500s. At which point German population began to take off.
The Xiongnu (or for that matter the Yuehzi) could have been a formidable opponent for Rome, particularly if one of the other enlisted the Sarmatians as allies rather than destroying them. Steppe in Europe extends all the way to the Hungarian Plain and it is less than 100 miles from Panonnia to Veneto across the low Julian Alps. From there to Rome is not difficult. We're talking conquest across Mediterranean lands not Germany and France as the Mongols would have had to do.
I may not us it as a paper, doing something ells, I may use it some other time.

Anyways, but the thing is the German population was not as small as one thinks for the time that is. Yes, it was not as big as it is now or even the Medieval era, however it was not just a few people in the woods ether. But one combined force is a pretty big number of people. It also seems that they fought well and well enough to catch the Roman eyes.

The thing about the Xiongnu is that their tactics will not do nay good in a place like Western Europe, there hills, alps, a bit rocky, trees all over and there are even such thick forests that even modern armies had to go around them. The Xiongnu will ether say at the steppe parts of Europe or adapted the Roman or German way of war or just combined them. But even than it seems what was left of the Huns in Europe faled to adapted and were defeated by Germanic tribes

Keep in mined in Roman's strongest the Roman military did well against steppe attics using heavy infantry and combined arms, the Romans were very, very good in adapting.

If most of the German tribes were in China than the same thing would happen. Ether they would adapt a Chinese or steppe way of warfare or stay at the rocky and heavy forest parts in Asia were they can fight very well at, or maybe combined them adding their own way of war to the mix. Keep in mined the Germanics tended to be big people (even today).



Ancient China always beat their surrounding sedentary civilizations in the end. This is why Ancient China occupied territory on subcontinental scale. But they always had trouble with nomadic Empires that could move its power base to impossible logistic distances and did not fight with sedentary warfare methods. It had no population centers that would otherwise allow easy disruption of their war machine. It had no important agrarian centers. You can not siege the nomadic empires. You can not beat or eradicate their population centers without ridiculous state expenditure. You can not count on the same kind of political maneuverings and you can not starve them to any effective degree. There are no cities to take, no pillaging to be had, no riches to be rewarded, and no significant staging points to make. It is a completely unprofitable enterprise.

Germanics were sedentary, and I see no reason why they would be exceptional to all the other sedentary, be they southern, northern, western or eastern barbarians/states/civilizations Ancient China faced. It seems Rome was never that serious about conquering Germania in the first place anyway.
Ancient China was not one unified nation yet and some times had one unified Empire yes, but it was the smaller Waring stats that helped expand China as well or maybe more so.

Ummm, most of the Germanics were not exactly "sedentary" ether they did move around a lot too. I think the Romans were more worried about other Empires near them, but in the sometime there is nothing to take from the Germanic people ether and they did what you describe the "nomadic empires". Keep in mined that most of the Germanic people were not all like what is almost always portray in popular media, the Germanic people were much more advance than the Zulus. There was a nice amount of arms & armors that the very Romans adapted, and the Germanic did fight fearlessly and pretty well even to the Romans.

Most (not all) of the Germanic people were like a sami-nomadic people them selves that often moved around to place to place.
 
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Mar 2015
682
Southern Brazil
#10
This makes no sense, germanics were a forest people and the asiatic tribes were steepe people.

Just read some ******* Engels and Marx, stop proposing anti-realistic things.

This is speculative history not stoned history.

EDIT: Should the germanics migrate from Scandia into Asian steepe and adopt steepe life, while Mongols migrate from Mongolia into Germania and adopt forest life, we would see a Frenkish Empire stretching from China to Russia and a Mongol Empire that becomes Holy Roman Empire. DUH.

EDIT2: Should they change positions without changing lifestyles, they get conquered by Rome and China. It's like a Russian fighting on tropical forests and a Vietnamese fighting in Siberia.
 
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