Print Story My old man's got a problem
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jan 09, 2021 at 11:59:37 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP, Me (all tags)
Reading: "Solutions and Other Problems", "Blue Moon", "The Rise of Rome". Watching: "Borat", "The Mandalorian", "Spider-Man: Far From Home". Me. Links.


What I'm Reading
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Illustrated book by the author of "Hyperbole and a Half". This book is a lot darker than the last one, covering some terrible events in her life. Divorce, serious illness, the death of her sister. Has some amusing stories and some touching stories. Not as light as I was expecting but glad I read it.

What I'm Reading 2
Blue Moon by Lee Child. Jack Reacher arrives in a town dominated by two rival gangs, one controlling each side, and takes on both. Decent entry in the series, not exceptional.

What I'm Reading 3
The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic War Dr Kathryn Lomas. Good history book in the same "Profile History of the Ancient" series as "Imperial Tragedy". Title is a bit misleading as it ends just before the Punic Wars. It covers the Roman Republic from what's known of its earliest days to gaining control of the whole Italian peninsula.

Bit disappointed that it didn't cover those too. There's lots of material about Rome covering the Roman Revolution which changed it from a Republic to an Empire; Julius Caesar's campaigns against the Gauls; and the collapse of the Western empire. But the important question of how Rome rose to dominate the Mediterranean region often doesn't get much attention. People have a vague picture from Caesar of sophisticated Roman legions defeating disorganised barbarians, but that doesn't explain the rise of the Republic. The Mediterranean was full of city-states that had been using sophisticated and ever-evolving tactics for centuries, up to the Macedonian sarissa phalanxes with professional soldiers who could perform sophisticated manoeuvres combining cavalry, heavy infantry, light infantry and archers. The Roman managed to generally defeat them using part-time soldier/farmers. The Romans didn't have sophisticated arms either: their swords were standard, they gave up the spear entirely partway through the Republican period, and their pilum (javelin) wasn't new technology. Roman enemies like Mithridates sometimes tried to create "imitation legions" copying their structure and tactics, but weren't successful. In Renaissance times people enthused with Roman writings tried to create "Sword and Buckler men" using Roman tactics, but didn't find a way to overcome the fundamental problem that a formation of spearmen can stab a formation of swordsmen before the sword are in reach. Basically I think there's information we're just missing about how Roman tactics actually worked.

This book doesn't cover military tactics much. It does point out the less interesting reason that the Romans were successful: massive amounts of manpower. Firstly they eagerly recruited allies to work with them. After defeating the Latins early on they signed a treaty committing them to fighting in each others interest, and sharing the loot from wars 50-50. That seems to have been something they kept up. Secondly they maintained a large body of citizens who were liable for military service. Unusually, freed slaves became citizens, allies who settled were allowed to be citizens. They founded colonies whose members were Roman cities. Unlike, say, Sparta where the numbers of citizen/soldiers diminished, the Romans had a huge depth of manpower from both citizens and allies. They were able to use this in fighting long wars of attrition.

The book is a pretty thorough look at the history, and points out the limits of our knowledge rather than make conjectures. Lomas is good at pointing out how later Romans projected their own political structure and disagreements into the past where they don't necessarily belong. That's good but we don't have nearly as much firm knowledge of things like the Struggle of the Orders as we'd like.

Where the book is good is the context of Iron Age Italy, where the archaeology gives us a pretty good idea of the mixture of Hellenic and local cultures. They seem to have mixed a great deal, not just with cultural contact but also within the same cities. Elites seem to have been pretty mobile, moving from city to city easily.

Overall a good book if you have a strong amateur interest in Ancient Rome, but might be a bit too focused on the less famous stuff for others.

What I'm Watching
Borat 2. Decent sequel, I think I preferred it to the original. Though it's more of a challenge now that Sacha Baron Cohen is so recognisable, it felt like the movie had a bit more heart with the characters actually developing.

What I'm Watching
The Mandalorian. Watched both series and liked them, though there are all few uneven episodes. Felt good to see some different parts of the Star Wars universe, the Space Western vibe is a change, and the characters are likable. The end of the second series brings in more familiar characters which I think will be a mistake: I think we've seen enough of them and it would be good if the occasional Star Wars baddie could stay dead for once.

What I'm Watching
Spider-Man: Far From Home. Adequate sequel but the high school drama with some decidedly elderly high schoolers is very formulaic.

Me
Been under various tiers of lockdown for a while. Wife was away for a few weeks over Christmas so was just me and the kid on Christmas Day. Was pretty nice and relaxed in general, kid seemed to take it in stride. He got a full load of presents and a full Christmas dinner which are the main things. Pulling crackers was a bit boring though.

Wife is back now. School is doing home learning again, this time with a full timetable instead of the half day. Bit of a struggle to do that and a full time job, especially as their marking schedule doesn't allow us to do the work at weekends like before.

At work have moved to a new technology stack (React/Redux at the top), we're about the last team to move over so I'm feeling very behind. Managed to do some online courses over the holidays but not as much time as I would have liked, feels like a problem to get anything done.

Links
Sci/Tech. Wrong COVID: Timeline graphic of COVID-denialist claims against real events. How the ancient Greeks saw colour. UK electricity use since 2010. When Will Baby Yoda Grow Up?

Articles. SF writers on world-building.

< To The Emperor! | various stuffs and various things >
My old man's got a problem | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
Roman soldiers by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jan 09, 2021 at 02:37:14 PM EST
Elsewhere I read that a differentiator was training and fitness.  Roman legions trained extensively, routinely marching with double loads, knowing how to throw up a camp in a few hours, etc. 
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Depends when by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Jan 09, 2021 at 03:02:30 PM EST
By Julius Caesar's time they were probably better trained and maybe fitter than the Gauls. But in their early expansion the Romans were part-time soldiers, but many of the armies they were fighting were full-time professionals, often mercenaries, from the Hellenistic world. Seems unlikely they'd be better trained and fitter.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Logistics by Vulch (4.00 / 2) #3 Sat Jan 09, 2021 at 03:17:59 PM EST
The Legions tended not to set out on a campaign without having sufficient supplies in the pipeline. They did forage as they went, but didn't rely on it whereas most of their opponents did. After a recommendation elsewhere I went through The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 B.C. - A.D.235) back in the summer.


[ Parent ]
That book looks good! by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #6 Sun Jan 10, 2021 at 12:39:29 AM EST

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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I think the elsewhere was by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #7 Sun Jan 10, 2021 at 02:01:59 PM EST
From A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, which in turn had come from Charlie's Diary and an entry that had done it's normal post-300 comment swerve onto an unrelated topic. ACoUP did a series of articles on The Battle of Helm's Deep and The Siege of Gondor looking at the plausibility of both book and film versions including how could Saruman feed that many Orcs on the march between Mordor and the battles.


[ Parent ]
I love ACOUP! by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #8 Sun Jan 10, 2021 at 03:37:22 PM EST
I think I've read everything there and comment occasionally.

Again I'm not sure logistics explains Rome's rise very well. The Hellenistic armies seem to have had pretty good logistics too. Also the way the Romans used their huge manpower was to keep deploying normal-sized armies for years until they eventually ground down the enemy. If they had a logistical advantage I'd have expected them to deploy larger than usual armies and overwhelm the enemy quickly.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Interesting book rec by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Jan 12, 2021 at 03:57:22 AM EST
Even if the logistics angle is it, it would still leave the mystery of how Rome ran the army or the empire seemingly without an imperial bureaucracy.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
They were Agile by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Jan 12, 2021 at 06:16:23 AM EST
Daily stand-ups. That sort of thing.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Ah, it's true by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #12 Tue Jan 12, 2021 at 11:14:19 AM EST
Rome fell in the PMOs instituted the "Scaled Agile Framework to deal with the size of the burgeoning empire.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Weirdly enough, by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jan 09, 2021 at 06:43:32 PM EST
I was sick that day in my ancient history class. According to the guy I knew in the class, the Romans lost battle after battle but refused to stop fighting and eventually won (he might have been thinking of the Punic Wars), but this matches your "long wars of attrition" description.

By the Punic wars, the typical Roman legion (if such a term is correct), was as much an engineering unit as it was a combat one. They built the roads (presumably with enslaved assistance) at largely defeated Hanibal's elephants by digging a trench across the Italian peninsula.

Wumpus

Ancient Greeks seeing color by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Jan 09, 2021 at 06:55:57 PM EST
Calvin's Dad would have loved that link about Ancient Greeks seeing color. I'd have to assume that at least some anthropology studies have at least tried to test how tribes lacking modern visual media see color. Perhaps the real answer was left unpublished [multiple times] as "null data". Certainly yet another example of why we need a "Journal of Null Data".

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
with the bottle by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Jan 10, 2021 at 06:48:20 PM EST
that's the way it is ..


My old man's got a problem | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)