Skills of Ancient Versus Modern Generals

Sep 2017
769
United States
What are the different kind of skill sets one looks for in an ancient (for this I'm going dawn of organized warfare to about the end of the Pike-and-Shotte era) versus modern (by modern I mean today's generals, so last 20-30 years or so).

Obviously there's a lot of baseline skills that apply for all.

But, there is certainly differences too. Caesar was noted to have rode into battle where lines were failing to rally and encourage the troops, which meant probably having to get up close and personal a few times.

As for today, I don't really think it would be practical for a general today to go into a firefight in Afghanistan.

Campaigning and the very nature of warfare was a lot different as well.

So, what are the different skills one would have if he was an ancient versus modern general?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,580
Dispargum
Communicating with the troops - ancient generals needed a big, powerful, long carrying voice. Modern generals need a certain amount of media sophistication.
Modern generals do not need to be expert horsemen.
Modern generals must be able to adapt to rapidly changing technology. Ancient generals not so much.
Ancient generals rarely performed joint operations (more than one branch of the military). Modern generals must be able to cooperate across service lines.
Modern generals are more likely to be micromanaged by politicians and must therefore know how to manage them. Ancient generals had more freedom from interference.
 
  • Like
Reactions: macon
Oct 2015
367
Belfast
I think Julius Caesar would've been delighted to be a General in the 1991 Gulf War. Many of the logistics, tactics and strategy would've been familiar to him as the C in C of the Roman army. But what he would not have liked is. No burning of population centres and no killing and/ or enslaving enemy prisoners of war and civilians.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,184
Sydney
in olden days a general could run a campaign and a battle , now a staff of hundreds is needed
 
Jan 2016
471
Macedonia
Ancient generals (with few exceptions) didn't have the experience of fighting in winter. Campaigning season started in March or April and ended in November.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2017
769
United States
I think Julius Caesar would've been delighted to be a General in the 1991 Gulf War. Many of the logistics, tactics and strategy would've been familiar to him as the C in C of the Roman army. But what he would not have liked is. No burning of population centres and no killing and/ or enslaving enemy prisoners of war and civilians.
I don't necessarily agree. I mean, I'm sure he'd love it with all the awesome technology he's never seen and such. But I feel as though warfare wasn't similar enough for him to be comfortable.
 
Sep 2017
769
United States
Communicating with the troops - ancient generals needed a big, powerful, long carrying voice. Modern generals need a certain amount of media sophistication.
Modern generals do not need to be expert horsemen.
Modern generals must be able to adapt to rapidly changing technology. Ancient generals not so much.
Ancient generals rarely performed joint operations (more than one branch of the military). Modern generals must be able to cooperate across service lines.
Modern generals are more likely to be micromanaged by politicians and must therefore know how to manage them. Ancient generals had more freedom from interference.
Also, a lot of ancient generals were politicians and furthered their career that way. From kings, to consuls, to senators, to emperors, to chieftains... in a lot of ways politics was one in the same with war.

Nowadays you do have veterans and such, but it isn't nearly as important. But, yes, politicians manage warfare much more (especially who can be attacked; won't see any punitive expeditions into Mexico any time soon!)
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,184
Sydney
For a denizen of the US of America to state that generals are distinct from politicians make me smirk
Sorry mate ,
I count 12 who made it to the presidency and an equal number who like MacArthur tried ,
 
Sep 2017
769
United States
For a denizen of the US of America to state that generals are distinct from politicians make me smirk
Sorry mate ,
I count 12 who made it to the presidency and an equal number who like MacArthur tried ,
Should've clarified.

Political office and war aren't intertwined the way they once were. Generals cannot this day and age launch campaigns to fill their coffers and boost their public image. It would be near impossible for a U.S. general to overthrow the president and make himself president. Serving in the military isn't the principle way into public office anymore, and being a politician doesn't give you an army.
 
Oct 2015
367
Belfast
After the 1991 Gulf War, General Norman Schwarzkopf admitted he'd used a tactic developed by Hannibal Barca at the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C. Fool the enemy into thinking that your centre line is weak. Allow them to push at it and then outflank them on two sides. The ultimate aim would be to surround the enemy completely. The Iraqi Republican Guard certainly were outflanked