Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are more powerful than we can imagine.

Posts tagged ‘history’

The Encounter

Chapter 1: Beginnings

The ocean expressed a lime green. The day was clear with a blue sky that was supposed to be a reflection of the water, but God had decided today was not the day for that to happen. Still, today had been deceiving in many ways. The ocean was rough, causing the vessel to rock back and forth with more momentum than usual. It was a constant irritant in the mind of those who crewed and operated the ship heading for shore. It would be a few hours but the ship was on schedule. They had crossed through the Philippines (from his majesty, King Phillip of Spain) and as a point of reference had shadowed the coast of China, stocking and trading goods for silk to bring to Japan. In many ways, the clear ocean was a relief since there had been fear the ship would hit a storm and capsize near the coast before they even made it to their destination. A lot of crewmen had thanked God for the safe journey and made their way through the day preparing cargo to be unloaded from their crates and barrels.
“How long until port?”, one of the idle passengers asked, his back leaning against the barrister of the ship with his arms crossed and head bowed.
“You mean Nagasaki?”, the other replied, leaning forward and looking out to sea.
“Yes”, Hans replied after a brief silence. He was a stern man, stocky in height, with fair ruffled hair after months at sea. He was dressed in the traditional way a civilian from Europe would be, more specifically the Holy Roman Empire. He was from Stuggart himself but that hadn’t stopped him at any point from wanting to travel, despite the objections from his father. In the long term, it didn’t matter really anyway. He had never seen the satisfaction in living an idle life in the city, the outside called to him. In the way the world worked, there were Kings and Queens, nobles, merchants and everyone else. They were endowed their liberties and in many ways he had to find his own as well, as was given to him by the almighty. It had caused him to move out and find somewhere else to go. A tight fitting tunic clung to his body and was a vast contrast to the trousers he wore, which flared out from the waist and cut off at the ankles where tights ended the journey to the feet; the trousers were decorated with strips on top of the fabric, the strips being a maroon compared to the green which it laid upon.
“You know why you’re here, I don’t need to remind you”, the other figure said.
“I don’t know Himmel, why don’t you tell me again?”, Hans replied irritated. The other man was a taller, slender, man who had clear blond hair, balding, and softer features. In many ways, he was also better looking compared to his stout and broad shouldered partner.
“This is my second journey to Nagasaki. Hopefully like the first time we can get trading rights over the Portuguese, those Catholic bastards”. Himmel glanced at Hans before looking out to sea again.
“So, this place is interesting from what you’ve told me. Are they really like what you’ve told me?”.
“Yeah, it’s nothing like you’ve seen before, you’ll see soon for yourself. They even look different to anything you’ve seen as well”.
“They can’t be that different, we’ve crossed some weird places”.
“Nope, these people are something else; more than anywhere we’ve been anyway”. He glanced to the side of Han’s waist.
“You’re not still carrying that thing are you?”. Hans opened his eyes and looked down to the sidearm he was carrying. It was a long blade, with an elegant conforming scabbard, accompanied by a slender handle that inwardly dipped twice to accompany two hands, cutting off with an almond shaped pommel. The blade itself was broad but tapered to an eventual point and thus formed a shallow triangle. Whoever had made it had put care into it and various anthropomorphic images had been carved into both the crossguard and pommel. The cross guard itself was a simple straight line that flared outwards towards the end and was accompanied by a beautifully etched ring. It protected the grip and measured from one start of the crossguard to the other.
“It’s a bit outdated, I mean it is 1600. You could do better for yourself, there are better swords that do the job easier. After all, a bodyguard needs a useful blade”, he said, tapping the scabbard of his cutlass. It was a simple thing, a single edged cutlass with a rectangular knuckle guard that offered modest protection.
“You better know how to use that thing, I’ve seen a lot of hands get cut”.
“I’m not completely inexperienced, I have used it before”.
Hans opened his eyes and looked at Himmel while his arms were still crossed.
“Himmel, there’s a reason why you chose me to accompany you and it wasn’t to be a drinking accomplice. From what you’ve told me, this place sounds dangerous”. It hadn’t been a simple choice but the benefits outweighed the risk, the pay was good as well; he would never get anything like that working in Stuttgart or as a Mercenary in Italy.
“You might have to be, they drink as much as us as well”, both chuckled slightly. Himmel continued.
“You’ll do fine, I know the school you served. Just be careful and keep your head down when we get there. The land’s fighting a war at the moment but things apparently have calmed down since”.
Things hadn’t been great in Europe either. His grandfather had served in the siege of Munster and was one of the first to enter the gates and slaughter the Anabaptists as a Landsknecht. When Hans grew up, he would accompany his father various times, as well as attend one of the more prestigious schools in Stuggart; purely by chance as his father knew the master from their time together. That experience had taught him to be competent. He wasn’t great compared to some fencers, but he sure wasn’t sloppy either. Apart from that, things hadn’t been as bad as they were 50 years ago; though that was obviously as a point of reference. There were still brawls, duels and skirmishes every now and then but not like before when armies took to the field. He had been a witness to what was going on in France. Needless to say, it was a bloodbath. Himmel had been right about one thing though, this land they were going to had been at war for some time. Apparently, it had been brutal, as stories made their way to Nagasaki during Himmel’s time there. He was even fortunate enough to hear about heaps of bodies and even saw some severed enemy heads at one point during his travels in West Japan. That wasn’t anything new, Hans guessed. His grandfather had told him what they did to the head Anabaptists at Munster. Tortured to death and hung in a cage on top of Munster Cathedral for all to see. The rest were decapitated, hung, drawn quartered and the lucky ones were burned alive.  Both had seen their share of brutality in both the Kaiser’s Empire and the Netherlands (where Himmel was from).
“Also be weary, there’s a few bastards there who like to drink; a few good con men as well. It’s not so different from where we were”.
“You mentioned they had long swords as well”. Himmel stared at Han’s sidearm for a second.
“Well, they are long and they are swords”, both of them chuckled.
“You never did say what they’re like though, Himmel”. Himmel thought to himself for short while.
“Well, they’re kind of like your sword and mine. Like some sort of two handed messer. I’ve never seen anything like it to be honest; well, apart from a few cleavers back the Swiss own. Even then, this one’s more slender. I can’t really say anything more than that to be honest”.
“Sounds like a mystery”.
“Not as mysterious as bloody Liechtenauer!”, replied Himmel. Both men laughed before Hans turned and gazed at the clear but irritable ocean, the smell of sea salt fresh in his nostrils. Both stood in what seemed like a tranquil pause, looking aimlessly and waiting for their destination.  

The arrival of the carrack to Nagasaki had happened sooner than anticipated. Different vessels docked the city, some recognisably European with their cannoned hulls and single masts which displayed the cross of Christ, while others took on a different appearance. Some were simple fishing vessel, nothing out of the ordinary and one could obviously see their basic utility. Others were something out of the bible. Various ships circled the dock, all of them almost hulking blocks with smaller sails. Each of them were laden with troops, carrying spears and wearing weird cone hats, which Hans had never seen before. From the looks of things they were stocking up to travel, probably to another part of this land.
“We’re here earlier than expected”, Himmel said out of nowhere. “Good thing as well, last time we were delayed because of pirates”.
Hans paused in surprise for a second. “Pirates? What, like Barbars?”
“Nothing like them, they had ships like those. The bastards were loaded, we thought they were coming for us at one point, they didn’t; something must have caught their attention”.
The wait to disembark took a while, by the time they had it was afternoon; they had arrived in the late morning. Climbing down to the smaller rafts was a hassle but after a few minutes they managed with the crew, while a select number stayed on the ship. Though the water was still slightly ruff, the shores gave a clear blue rather than the unsavoury lime they had experienced at sea. The city was a peculiar place. The dock was a place made of small white buildings with thatched roofs. Behind those were narrow streets full of larger walled courtyards and businesses with firm triangular tiled roofs that curved to the centre point. In the centre was a narrow and squared building that towered, like a fortification on top of a mound, narrowing as it got taller, surrounded by trees. Han’s guess was it was some sort of fortress.
“That’s Shimabara Castle, it’s ruled by the Arima Clan”.
“It’s nothing like I’ve seen before”, Hans replied.
“Nothing you’ll see will be, these people are warlords;”.
“But it’s a city, yes?”, Han’s inquired, curious about the place.
“Yes but it’s ruled by a lord, there’s no council here”.
“That absurd”,
“Why? our lands used to be like that”, he had a point. Growing up, Hans was told stories about how great lords ruled over the land. Things were changing but there were still lords and they still held large amounts of power. The rafts finally made an abrupt halt, rocking the passengers forward and slowly each of them disembarked, Himmel and Hans exiting first. They walked a short distance on a wooden palisade before coming to the entrance into the main city, a peculiar looking man in robes Hans waited there. He had a large bald spot with a ponytail sticking out on the top; like an island surrounded by ocean. He wasn’t the only one, a lot of males walking around had the same style. He wore a navy blue robe underneath a grey overtop that covered to his waste. It looked like a jacket but was thinly joined to the waist in the front and was sleeveless as an outer garment. The trousers it was connected to flared outwards towards the feet, meaning they were not visible. Around his waist was what looked like a white sash and mounted were two handles to holstered swords. They were long, slender and curved in a shallow manner. The man looked at both men and then said something in another language, slurring and barking the words at the same time. Himmel replied similarly, barking a series of alien words. Hans managed to pick up some sentences, the journey had been long and it had given Himmel the opportunity to teach him the language.
The official, that was according to Himmel, eyed Hans up and down and noticed his longsword. After some more conversing in the unintelligible language, the man let them through.
“Sorry about that, he’s an official for the local lord. They don’t like foreigners”.
“And you tell me that now?”, Hans scoffed in reply.
“I had to stop you talking, it takes a lot for them to believe you’re my bodyguard. They don’t like the thought of us carrying weapons personally, though that hasn’t stopped us from selling to them”. He had a point, the trade from the Dutch wouldn’t have been as important had it not been for the cargo of firearms they were carrying. Unless it was sunflowers or silk, the Shogun didn’t want to know.
“Looks to me like they don’t want danger on their shores”, Himmel nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, they have a lot of Christians here. The last thing they want is to have them armed. Luckily most of our cargo’s silk”.
“That’s a bit absurd given the nature of what we’re doing”,
“That it is Hans, my friend”. Both of them glanced back to see the official taking out an arquebus out of the barrel and inspecting it. After a brief scan, he nodded at both of the crewman who picked up the cargo and carried it to the nearest warehouse.
“It’s a strange world we live in”, Himmel said after sighing, putting a hand around Hans’ shoulder.
“Do they have anything good here?”.
“You’re gonna have to see for yourself as well, it’s called sake”, Hans stayed quiet before opening up.
“Is it good?”
“Define good”.
“You could say that”. Hans stopped and looked at Himmel.
“Just a joke, Hans. It’s made from rice”.
“The hell is rice?”
“Ah, you’ve got a lot to see. Remember that drink we had from the Rum when we were in Vienna? It kind of tastes like that but like beer as well. Come, we’ll go and try it”.
“This place have a tavern?”
“Yes, just play it safe and we’ll be fine”. While they were walking, people stopped and starred. The Portuguese were one thing, the Shogun was used to dealing with them. The Dutch and Germans were another, in Japan they were a rarer breed. Peasants and merchants passing by stared at them, Japanese officials glared at them and refused to remove their eyes, all of them holstered swords at the ready.

The tavern was dingy but also warm, the weather being on good terms since it was summer. It was getting dark but it there was still remnants of daylight outside. Embers of light were being opened by torches and lanterns outside, bringing animation to the increasing darkness. A lot of the doors were sliding doors made of paper but some in the coastal city were typically wooden. The sake was good, it has a certain flavour to it which was reminiscent of fruit. Others had scents of a wheat like substance. Either way, it reminding him of the Rakia they had in Vienna except this one didn’t pack as much of a punch, though there was a different kind of push that took some getting used to. Hans didn’t mind as gulped back to ingest the clear liquid. There was conversing in the building and laughing; two Japanese men had joined them and decided to help themselves to sake as well; fortunately.
“They have to be officials”, Himmel whispered to Hans. They were funny ones at that. Many an occasion the Europeans had burst out in laughter.
‘There promiscuous, these Japanese’, Hans thought to himself; ‘more so than anything back home’. The tavern was getting crowded, the owners and their family rushed back and forth to deliver jugs of sake and food to people. Hans had helped himself to some, the dumplings were delicious, some had sweetened meat in them and others took shape of doughy delicacies. More people walked in, it must have been a busy time of week. Most men looked alike like Hans saw earlier, and robes; everyone wore robes here (apart from the few Portuguese who were unmistakably dressed like Hans and Himmel, or priests who were hooded most of the time as they made their way to the large cream church). Hans felt like he stood out, though unlike earlier people didn’t take much notice of him now. To them, he was just another foreigner from a land they had never visited. One of the officials they were with gulped their drink and suddenly fell back, crashing into a taller man with frizzy hair. Then, there was commotion. After a brief conversation, the barking got louder and increased as both men began to feverently argue.
“What’s going on?” Han’s said.
“The man’s honour’s been infringed on, our new friend spilled sake on him and he wants compensation; it’s not happening”. Suddenly, the man looked at Hans and Himmel. He barked a few sounds from his mouth but both stayed unmoved.
“I don’t think he likes either of you”, said one of the Japanese men they were sitting with.
“Why is that?”, queried Himmel in Spanish.
“He says you’re a foreign devil”.
“Tell him we’ve done nothing to wrong him, his friend did that”, Hans said to Himmel who relayed it back to the red nosed man who was clearly intoxicated. Himmel replied.
“He says you are a great liar and you will be hurt for your lies and dishonour”. The tavern abruptly went silent, everyone was starring at what was going on. The man barked some more inaudible words at Himmel before shouting in a fit of rage. Himmel reached for his cutlass but Hans stopped him.
“I’ll take care of this one”. Hans got up but before he could take action, the samurai had flipped the small table.
“Shi ga matte iru!”, the man yelled, drawing his sword while pushing his hips back to fasten the draw. Hans had no problem where this was going. He drew his longsword. The samurai assumed a stance, widening his feet and lowering the blade to his waist, holding the grip with both hands; the blade directed towards Hans. Hans stepped his right foot forward, also widening his stance and carried the weight on his front foot, with his blade slightly extended. Both paused, gauging each other’s reactions. The Samurai was the first to act. He flicked the sword upwards as a feint, causing Hans to engage with a block, before swinging down. Hans quickly hoped back while parrying the blow downwards. Accidently, his leg hit the chair behind and nearly tripped but managed to regain composure before his opponent could do anything. Again, there was a lull; shouting sounded in the background. Everyone hung to their swords, not sure what was about to happen. The samurai switch his stance to an upper one, holding the grip next to this face and grounding himself again. Hans assumed the same footwork as before, this time putting the weight on his back foot, now the left. The samurai came at him again, slicing down with a downward blow. Hans parried the blade to the right and stepped in with the right. Pushing the sword aside, he closed in quickly and thrusted the man’s chest. The blade went through and with some struggle, he withdrew it. The man dropped instantly, laying on the floor dead.
“You thrusted him?” Himmel shouted above the murmuring in the room.
“We’re not in fucking Christendom anymore, Himmel!”, Hans shouted back.
Shock dawned on most faces, anger grew on a few others. As instant as the now corpse hit the floor, several men drew their swords. Himmel arose, drawing his cutlass with his right hand. Nevertheless, three of the men on the opposite side of the room went for Hans. Not wanting to be cornered Hans fled out of the building, barging through several people. They may have threatened him but holding a weapon and being pursued, no one was stupid enough to draw on him. Running to the open street, Hans made sure to move about; the last thing he wanted to be cornered. All three warriors sprinted after him, taking similar stances to the samurai he just killed. Han’s weighted himself equally on both feet. All three rushed to attack him. From holding the sword behind, he swung the blade around, making sure to create wide arcs in the air and a semi-circle of defence. All three backed away, unsure of what to do. Hans made sure to keep swinging, deterring anyone who dared come any closer. The moment one warrior tried to flank him, he backed away pivoting both his feet and swinging his blade. Gradually his arms began to feel weighted as the adrenaline decreased, this couldn’t last forever. Suddenly, one of the warriors was struck through the neck with a clean swing before being thrusted through the back. The man screamed in agony as he fell to the ground; unsure of whether to clutch his back or neck. His cry became more silent as he gargled blood. Distracted, both men acted indecisive; one faced Himmel, the other switching between both men. This convenient distraction provided an opening, Hans rushed to the switching man. The man, noticing Hans, pointed his sword at him. Hans sidestepped to the right, sliding his sword on his opponents and in the bind whined the blade over his opponents, pushing it to the right as it stepped to the left. Flicking the blade aside, he swung sword upwards and landed a clean cut to the head; whether dead or alive, the man fell. Realising he was outnumbered, the final person left fled. No person dared approach either survivor.
“You okay?”, Himmel said to Hans after wiping his blade with the fallen man’s robe.
“You told me to keep my head down”.
“Told you they didn’t like foreigners”, Hans wondered if the pay had been worth it but before he could, Himmel directed him elsewhere.
“I know an inn we can stay in until this blows over”.
“You better be right since you lied about this”.
“What are you talking about, I saved your ass”.
“Thank god”. Both men laughed and walked down the street, making sure to holster their weapons while they did so. A few people had gathered around since the event had garnered attention but took the role of passive observers, no one dared to do anything.

The garden was as calm as the temperament of the person tending to it. He paced in a tempered and modest manner, making sure to relish and embrace each fleeting moment while he cut the branches of a small blossom tree. This one was particular and the difference stood out in an elegant manner. Surrounded by a hunching of pink, it stood clear white in conjunction with the other plants, some green, some red. This one particularly had value. Katsumoto never treated this one any differently. In a universe where all was bliss, and oxymoronically all was suffering, he saw the plant for what it was, an extension of the universe itself. Like everything else, it expressed itself in its own way just as someone may wave to him to show attention. It gave him joy, though not an outward one. It was a steady joy like a calm stream on the mountainside near Ryokan. Calm, unteathered, grown but not controlled; an undisputed expression of itself in the most magnificent and contradictory way. Controlled spontaneity, ordered spirit, the body full of life. Even in this very fleeting moment, above the voices of the two men speaking to him, it spoke to him more than the loudest words ever could. He listened patiently and headed their words but made sure to savour what he was doing at the same time. Such is a task that could not be done otherwise if a person was still distracted by the memories of the past, or the prospect of the future. Still he tended to the blossom tree, kneeling as he did, a sombre look on his face; paying attention to the fat man as he blabbered on.
“-and you see, nothing has been done yet. Why hasn’t anything been done yet? We’ve given you two months to kill this foreigner and he still walks around Nagasaki. He killed two of my best men and a son of a wealthy man. The Lord’s decided to do nothing and we’ve paid you in full, wh-”
“You must be calm, you lack composure. It is an easy way to get stressed”. The fat, bald headed, gentleman staggered slightly back from the response. Clearly he wasn’t used to getting hard feedback, either that or he was easily angered. In whichever case, he didn’t quieten but stepped forwards.
“Get stressed? Why I-”
“Reo, cut it out.”, said the taller man sternly. Immediately,  the man stepped back in silence in a manner that suggested he was supported.
“He has some good points, we’ve waited too long and some people in Nagasaki are begging for his blood. Why haven’t you done anything? Have you become too soft? Or perhaps too homely? There’s no reason why this waiting has gone on for more than it has”.
Katsumoto still sombre, still tended to his blossom tree, kneeling, unabashed. A lanky fellow, he bore a slightly bony face which suited his middle age. In this gaunt face was calculated determination and it was obvious he was not privy to innocence. Like most men, his hair was bunned in an island of baldness as was the fashion of the time and he wore clean cream robes with no decoration whatsoever.
“Those two months have not been in vain, my friend. In that time, I have been gathering information about these foreigners. All sorts of news spread around Nagasaki and this has enabled me to animate the fellow I am going to dispose of”. The fat man began talking again.
“But two months? This is absurd, this would never happen in any other circumstance”.
“This is not any other circumstance. A man, well trained in the art of combat with his accomplice, make their way to Nagasaki and kill three retainers. No one’s seen his type of sword before or anything like it. This is an exemplary case and requires attention. To know one’s enemy is to defeat him and I intend to do that”. The calm man responded. Two months had been productive. He had sent spies, listened to witnesses and even gazed at both men himself in disguised.
“And how do you intend to do that?”
“By speaking to him”.


It had been two months in this city and already it was getting on Han’s nerves. There had been delays from the customs officers in using the products and so they had been put in storage to be seen in the future, and under the grip of the local lord. They hadn’t been paid quite yet but were given accommodation and privileges for food which was good enough in any case. Both Hans and Himmel spoke in the dining area, sitting while their legs were crossed. None of them could kneel for long periods of time like the locals so they made due with sitting the way they usually did. Everything was plain and minimalist, there was nothing ordained and in a way it was peaceful. In another it was devolved of any imagination, Hans found the paradox irritating but slightly amusing.
“Any word on what’s going on?”, Hans said.
“Nothing yet, they’re adamant on waiting at the moment before they send the arms east. Apart from that, there’s little to say”. Suddenly, there was knock on the door.
“Are you expecting someone, Himmel?”
“Not today”.
Both got up and went to the front. Opening the door they saw a tall and slender man, slightly withered and middle aged.
“…….Can I help you”.
“You can. My name is Katsumoto Yamamore and I have been hired to deal with matters pertaining to both of you”.
“I was uninformed of any meetings with any officials today”.
“Oh no, I am not any official; though I have been hired. I am here to see a gentleman called Hans”. Un-used to saying the name, there was a strong emphasis on the pronunciation “a” which cut off artificially short.
“That is me”, Hans replied. “And what can I do for you?”
“That is a very good question, I have been assigned for special matters concerning you from some very important people in Nagasaki”. A look of confusion resounded on Han’s face as he looked at Himmel. His tall friend stared back with an equal expression.
“What for?”

“To kill you”.


Chapter 2 – Conversing

Both Hans and Himmel paused and stared in silence, unsure what to do with the placid looking man who still yet gracefully sipped his tea with both hands, one supporting from the bottom and the other from the side. The reaction had been both out of surprise and inconvenience, both weren’t armed. It was likely the man, if he was as skilled as he was with his sword, would cut both of them down before they could gang up on him long before he was able to do anything. Still he sipped his tea, seemly unaware of the tension he had caused. He lowered the cup onto the table slowly and elegantly.
“Do not worry, I have not come to enact this now”
“Then what have you come for?”, Hans replied. There was a weariness evident in his voice but he tried to keep composure.
“To talk to you”, the man simply replied. There was a pause in the air as both men struggled to find words to say, he spoke again.
“Would you be so kind as to let me speak with Hans alone?”, the man was calm in his voice but decisive, as if he could fell a tree with such words.
“And how do I know you won’t kill him when you’re gone?” It was a legitimate question, only the man kneeling down possessed a weapon.
“If I wanted to kill you both, I would have done it by now but I have let things pass and by my honour have come to speak to you. Please, give me this honour in return”.
Reluctantly, Hans said “fine” and as hesitantly Himmel left to another room. Now it was just both of them.
“So if you have not come to kill me yet, how may I help you?”, Hans asked with a lull of weariness in his voice.
“Do you know who I am?”, the man asked without any such weariness in his voice.
“I don’t”.
“My name is Katsumoto Furukawa, I am a hitman”.
“Hmmm, a man who kills for money”.
“It is an occupation”, Katsumoto took another sip with a savouring pace.
“So if that is the case, why  haven’t you killed me yet?”
“Indeed, most people may have but from what I have been told I had to meet you in person. Such is an honour where I am from”. Curiously, Hans inquired.
“Because as well as a hitman, people consider me a skilled swordsman with the school I am from and the teacher I trained under. To meet a fellow swordsman as skilled who has conducted himself with such deeds is an honour a rare few will ever experience”.
“If you say so…”, there was another pause. Katsumoto broke the silence.
“From what I have heard ‘Hans’, you have built quite a reputation for yourself. You slew three samurai”.
“Two, Himmel killed one of them as well”.
“I see, still it is quite a feat to slay a numerically superior force. Especially, if one of them was favoured by the local lord. It is something I am quite happy about”.
“Yes, to meet such a person is a personal honour for me. The lord and his advisors pleaded for me to kill you, they even paid me a money”.
“…. how much?”.
“A lot”. Katsumoto continued.
“But I refused, both times. To me killing someone, especially a foreigner wasn’t worth the blood on my sword. However, when I heard what you had done and with such cunning and skill, I finally decided to do so but on the condition that I met you and saw who my opponent would be”.
“…..that’s very friendly of you”.
“Indeed, it is rare one gets to meet someone who they can say are what we call a worthy opponent. One may look for one their entire lives and their life would not be wasted. I have killed many men; many stupid, foolish, men. Men who could not pay their debts, men who got involved in affairs that were too much for them, men who simply wanted to fight. It is rare I find someone who gauges my interest so. Please, would it be possible for you to sit with me and converse?”. Katsumoto read Han’s body.
“You don’t do this where you are from?”, Katusmoto inquired.
“We have respectable enemies but where I’m from, if you want to kill someone you do it. There’s no such etiquette in being an assassin”.
“Yes, well we are not where you are from”. Hans sat opposite, cross legged. Katsumoto offered some tea, Hans accepted and sipped it slowly as not to burn his mouth.
“Tell me, have you heard of a man named Miyamoto Musashi?”
“I have not”.
“You would like him. He is a master swordsman, probably one of the greatest who ever lived. It is said he killed an opponent when he was thirteen armed simply with a stick. When he grew older, many schools became jealous of him and ambushed him. He was such a skilled fighter that he took on multiple opponents, killing many of them before causing the others to flee”. A grin grew on Hans’ face.
“Oh, so you know this story?”
“Nosimila, but it reminds me of someone I have heard about. In a place called Italy, there was a man called Fiore Fernando De Liberi. They say he was so skilled in his arts that he killed five men, all who wanted to kill him because he refused to teach them. In many ways, I would have liked to have met him just to see the kind of person he was”. Katsumoto also grinned.
“He sounds like quite the warrior”.
“I could say the same for yours as well”, at that moment both chuckled.
“May I see your sword?”, Katsumoto asked.
“Only if I get to see yours”, replied Hans.
“Indeed, I wouldn’t expect otherwise. I’ve heard about this sword, no one has seen anything like it here”. He drew the holstered sword from his belt and put in on the table with elegant calm.
“I could say the same for yours as well. Give me a moment, I will go and get it”.
Hans left and after a few moments returned with it.
“Ah, so this is the sword I’ve been told about constantly. It’s one of the reasons why I came as well. The descriptions were right”.
Hans gave Katsumoto the sword and in return he held out the sword with both hands. Hans, once seated, immediately drew the sword from its scabbard.
“Interesting, it’s a very slender thing with a slight bend. Good hatchet point, it’s like the sabres we have at home”. Katsumoto scanned the scabbard, hilt and pommel before slowly drawing the sword.
“This is a remarkable piece of metallurgy if I say so myself”.
“Thank you, it was my father’s and it was a gift”.
“Are all swords like this where you are from?”
“They used to be, people don’t use them much anymore. I’m one of the last in my city to carry such a two-handed blade”.
“Oh”, simply replied Katsumoto, dumb struck with the response.
“Where I am from, such a level of detail would be highly revered. I don’t know who made your sword but if they were working here, these types of swords would never go out of fashion”.
“That’s why I kept it, my colleague keeps a cutlass but it isn’t anything like this one”.
“Cut-lass?”, Katsumoto replied.
“Here, I’ll show you”. Leaving again, he came back with the weapon, it’s basic look not comparing to the elegant longsword.
“It seems a little odd if I may say so, it’s like a long knife”.
“You’re certainly not wrong”, Hans chuckled  as he said the phrase, “Most people wear these now in Europe”.
“A fine skill wasted”, the hitman muttered to himself. He held the cutlass for a while and felt how it handled in his hand before sheathing it. After giving a final look to the longsword, he also gave it back. Hans in turn, gave back the katana.
“I guess one could cut fish with it very well”, Katsumoto said. Breaking the silence, Hans was taken about by the sudden comment and instinctively began chuckling. Katsumoto chuckled back, his wit clearly accomplished.

The conversation drew on for hours as both men got to know each other and after tea, came sake. More was drunk as both men got to know each other. Both spoke about countries and both marvelled at what was each other. Katsumoto marveled at Han’s descriptions of the Empire and this large cities with walls. Parallel, Hans marveled at stories of fields of trees that produced pink blossoms; the concept was alien to him. No subject was left off the table as both men became more and more drunk.
“So, who do you worship then?”, Han’s said, his face pinkish.
“Me? Why me and my people worship our ancestors. I’ve read about your God, I’m not impressed if I’m honest”.
“Why not? How can you worship your ancestors when they don’t help you? All you do is worship dead men”.
“And how can you trust one god to do everything? And if this god of yours is so powerful, why does he not come and help you stop all the wars in your land?”
“He gave us choice to solve our own problems”.
“Bah, rubbish! My ancestors would beat your god in any case!”
Both starred at each other and then began howling in laughter.
“Hans you are a good man and an honourable one”, he exhaled a sigh.”It is a shame I must kill you”. The atmosphere calmed and the mood settled as both men realised the reality they faced, their positions in society and customs making them conform to such a world.
“Where am I to fight you?”
“Where is convenient for you?”. Hans looked up in thought.
“Hmm, I always enjoy fighting in an open plain”.
“Then that’s what shall happen, shall we say midday? Tomorrow?”.
“That sounds good. If it had been any other way, we would have been friends, good companions even”. Katsumoto nodded in agreement, the feeling close to his heart as well.
“Maybe, I’m sure we would have. There is an area on the outskirts of Nagasaki that is perfect. It is a flat plain on the backdrop of a forest where no one will bother us. I think it’s perfect. I’m sorry, I’m afraid I must go now. Thank you for the drink”.
“The pleasure was all mine, thank you Katsumoto”.  With a solemn bow, Katsumoto left. While leaving, Katsumoto bumped into Himmel. With another bow he gave thanks and exited.
“I see you both got on”.
“He’s a fascinating man. It’s a shame he still wants to kill me”.
“Would you like me to come along?”.
“No, it’ll be fine. He’s an honourable gentleman”.
“That’s fine, I will come and watch.


Chapter 3 – The Duel

It was as Katsumoto had said, the area was a wide plain on the outskirts of the city. A flat plain and with the backdrop of a forest, Hans and Himmel arrived. Waiting for them was a small party with Katsumoto at the front. He wore different robes to the cream ones he wore on his visit. A blue-ish tunic covered with a black overall, he seemed identical to the others around him who wore similar attire. As soon as they were in distance, Katsumoto called out.
“Ah, there you are and I see you have bought your friend”.
“And I see you have bought yours, Katsumoto”. A few men were behind him, all serious and dead faced”.
“These were the people who paid me to kill you and they have come to watch the duel”.
“That is fine by me”, Hans simply replied. There was a silence as Hans was not sure about what to do next.
“Shall we begin then?”
“Let’s”. Both Hans and Katsumoto walked forwards, l approaching each other until they were two arms lengths apart.
“It’s a shame this has to happen. You would have been a good friend but now what needs to be done must be done”.
“I agree”. Katsumoto gave a final grin, straightened up and bowed. Unsure what to do, Han’s also bowed as well. In a fleeting moment, the grin had disappeared from Katsumoto’s face, though it was still light. Han’s drew his sword and, putting his left foot in front of the other, held his blade down to the ground. Katsumoto gripped his sword in his scabbard with one hand, the other on the scabbard, and slightly bent at the knees. With a slight nod from Katsumoto, the duel began. Han’s walked forwards cautiously, making sure to keep composure, the sword in the same position as it was when he was still. The hitman stood still, silent, before taking a few half steps forwards; his right leg always forwards. As both approached, there was a silence. Han’s felt Katsumoto’s gaze as he felt the man was reading him. Closer, they drew. Hans calmly baited his sword outwards as he approached forwards, his back pivoting forwards as he did so. Suddenly, the hitman drew his sword out, knocking Han’s blade to the side and ran forwards, his sword sliding against the longsword. As he ran, Han’s quickly stepped back, drawing the blade back as he did so. Suddenly, in the run, Katsumoto slipped and fell to the floor. A few moments passed and Han’s drew back his sword, giving the hitman time to get back up.
“Thank you”, Katsumoto replied.
“Whenever you are ready”, Han’s replied. Katstumoto gave a bow before smirking, the same smirk Hans had seen the night before when they had been drinking. Hans smiled back an in courtesy both straightened themselves out before resuming their stances. Then the smiles disappeared. Katsumoto assumed a high stance, the sword close to the right side of his face, all the time his face looking at Hans. Hans drew his right leg back and turned his body to the side. His sword fell behind him and stabbed behind him to the ground from his leg. Simultaneously, both attacked. Katsumoto fell his sword with a downward stoke struck at Hans. Han’s, immediately bringing the sword forwards, parried it out of the way and thrusted to Katsumoto’s neck. The hitman sidestepped, maintaining contact with the blade and pressed against the blade while falling back. There was a aura of silence. Again, their blades found each other. Katsumoto pushed the blade aside with the flat of his and, moving to an inwards step, thrusted at Han’s face. Immediately Hans threw his grip up, causing Katsumoto’s blade to slide near his cross-guard. Letting go with his right hand, he let his pommel rise, drooping over the hitman’s blade and letting the sword pass. Han’s went to grab his arm with his free hand but, knowing where this was going, Katsumoto also grabbed Han’s free hand. After a brief struggle, which seemed like an eternity to both, Katsumoto landed a knee to Han’s ribs. Han’s wheezed as the air left his body and as he was distracted, in a miniscule measurement of time, Katsumoto freed his blade and bought it down. Instinctively, Han’s thrashed the blade aside with a swipe as he back stepped outwards in somewhat of a leap.

Moments came and moments passed as the intensity died down to a rush of impulses from both sides. Both neared in and out of distance, putting their blades forward to feel the other’s and measure distance. Weary of what the other was capable of, each ventured close feeling their opponent out by their weapon and with each jilt, the other would back away. This struggle continued for some time until both seemed to be a comfortable distance. Han’s started. He feinted with a left and as his opponent went to parry and swung with the right, inverting the blade so the rear would strike the hit man’s head. Taken aback by this surprise, Katsumoto quickly back stepped in the opposite direction, making sure to parry the blow aside, just. Still, that did not stop him. With the parry, he rushed forward swinging the sword forwards. Han’s tried to bring back the sword to strike but Katsumoto stanced low and struck to his stomach, charging forwards as he did so. Immediately, Han’s dropped his blade and side stepped while grabbing the blade at the same time. Another struggle as Han’s attempted to take control of the blade while Katsumoto resisted. With his right hand, he grabbed the hitman’s shoulder, charging in and pivoting his hips against his in an attempt to shoulder throw him. Katusmoto saw this and dropped his sword and as Hans charged into him and turned away, he grabbed Han’s leg and pulled up, causing the German to collapse on the ground. As Hans hit the floor, the hitman drew his short sword, the slight curve emulating the Katana he carried, and lunged after him. Hans held both arms, pushing away Katsumoto who closed in on him with increasing weight and pressure. The sword drew closer to his neck, the pushing intense. There was much gasping and struggling and both pushed too and fro, Han’s trying not to die and Katsumoto trying to seal his fate in sorrow. At that moment, there was no peace in the hearts of men, only basic survival and instinct. All words, concepts and patterns disappeared as both men threw such things away. In the void, Hans could only think one thing: if that thing reaches me, I’m a dead man. In a moment of panic, a chord struck in his mind within the minute of struggle. Using the pressure, he shrimped away to the right and pushed the knife outwards to the left. Then with an instinctual rhythm, he landed a clean head elbow. Katsumoto lunged back, not expecting the blow and in that opening, Hans closed in, levered the man under and grabbed the short sword from his hand. Grabbing the bottom of the handle he pulled it upwards, forcing it to leave Katsumoto’s hand. By the time he had realised what had happened, Hans was on top of him with the knife to his throat. The look he received as a petrified one, naked vulnerability from a man who had tried so hard, had been paid even, to kill him and sever his head from his body. The same person’s life was in the balance, it was the final step of the duel. Everything that had been done, all decisions and strategies and instincts boiled down to this: the choice. It was his and he was at liberty to choose what the outcome would be. But to kill such a skilled man? Who had worked his way and proved himself by action? What this worth taking from, and denying in, the world? Slowly. Hans withdrew the blade and stood up, exhausted.
“You- You’re not going to kill me?”, said Katsumoto unsure about what was going on.
“You’re right, I cannot kill you. The fight is over”. He patted his clothes and Katsumoto went on his knees.
“Please, kill me. You have defeated me, you have proven that you are worthy of defeating me. This is not honour, this is not courage. You must give me this”. He struggled to speak.
“At least give me my sword so I may end my life”.
Hans starred at the man for a second with a glint of some disbelief in his eyes. Katsumoto had told him about the ways of the samurai and the customs of suicide. When the blade entered a man’s gut, he showed that he took action to regain his honour before being beheaded, and righteousness in the world would be reclaimed again.
“My friend, you are an honourable man and have shown that today and it is for that reason why I cannot kill you, I respect you far too much. If I am to kill you, all the skill and arts you have gained would be lost forever, never to show to the world again. That for me is dishonourable, which is why I must let you live”. There was silence, cold-dead silence that was only put off by the sound of the wind and the breeze which shuffled the trees. Witnesses looked with solemn on their faces.
“If there was no honour, it has now been returned. That is my decision”. Putting out a hand, Hans lifted Katsumoto up to standing and handed him his short sword.
“For you”, he handed the weapon, the handle facing towards Katsumoto, with a bow. Katsumoto paused for a moment and instinctively returned it. Everyone else gazed, silent and dumbstruck, at what had happened.


The Nature of Roman/Eastern Roman Martial Arts

Within the HEMA community, at various lengths explanations have been given about the absence of treatises to do with combat, more specific forms of Martial Arts, in the Roman World. For a vast Empire and a culture which endured for nearly 2000 years, there is little information in the way of showing how warriors individually fought. This is not to imply that an absence of evidence is an evidence of absence. We have a wide range of Strategic Treatises from the Imperial Period up to the Komenian Period in the 11th Century; these often highlight the changing circumstances the Empire experienced and the means in which it dealt with those circumstances militarily. However, in many ways this illustrates a premise that is taken for granted when it comes to the matters of the Romans, mainly a presupposition about combat; with the explanation that the Empire relied heavily on strategic combat for coherent units then any sophisticated techniques. This is largely something which will be revised in conjunction with the evidence that we have. The purpose of this article will be to assess the evidence that we have in showing that though there is an absence of treatises on Roman Martial Arts,  individual forms of combat were very much evident in the Roman world. Section 1, Issues and Presumptions of Material, will illustrate the inconsistencies of how people have assumed Roman Martial Arts took place and how Roman sources, the ones which do survive, need to be cautiously interpreted. Section 2, The Nature of Duelling in the Roman/Eastern Roman World, will show that duelling took a judicial form during Gladiatorial Games however with the exception of this, was confined to a military role. Finally, Section 3, Roman Treatises, will attempt to explain the absence of such material and how it may have become absent, in comparison with Western Europe in the Medieval Period.


  1. Issues and presumptions of material and wider context

It is often assumed that in the world the Romans (and later Eastern Romans) inhabited, there was a lack of context to the writing of any information when it came of combat. In a sense, this is correct both on a logistical and simply and socio-economic basis. For the majority of the Empire’s existence, there was a reliance on a large amount of manpower, being:

  • Conscription in the Republican to Late Republican Period,
  • A Professional Army after the Marian Reforms (with a main body of Auxiliary troops) during the Imperial Period.
  • A period of Professional Armies in the Late Roman Empire (for sons of serving veterans and soldiers), with aspects of conscription in periods of emergencies (and only expanded to include son of peasants, as opposed to town-dwellers). In the Eastern Roman case, this usually consisted of professional soldiers.
  • The Thematic System from the 7th Century, whereby men were recruited as semi-professional soldiers based on the reward of coin and land. This was also supported by the contingents of small-professional regiments called Tagmatas.
  • The Tagmatic army from the 9th Century onwards that consisted of professional regiments, with a decreasing role of once larger Themes.
  • The Komnenian period which relied solely on mercenary regiments and Tagmatas until the Sacking of Constantinople in 1204.
  • Post Latin Empire after 1261, which relied on mercenaries and city militias due to a lack of funding

The periods illustrate an immensely diverse set of periods too broad to cover in this article, however for the purpose of this article these are simply indications. What it indicates is an extended period of time in which a large amount of manpower in proportion to the population of the Empire (or Empires) was either trained or armed martially; which reached 442,000 during the 1st Century.[1] With this in mind, it is understandable why a culture so heavily militarised such as Rome would take for granted a lack of documents recording any Martial Arts. To get a better perspective, one must make a comparison with Europe in the High/ Late Middle Ages.

The earliest record we have for European swordplay is I.33 which is produced at some time around the 1320’s, the next manual which is Fiore’s treatise (The Flower of Battle) dates 1404. During this time there are various factors which contribute to the increasing literacy of Martial Arts. The increase of literacy in Europe in the Late Medieval Period coincided with a greater stride to distribute written literature.[2] This may coincide with the economics caused by the Black Death, which is said to have wiped out an estimated 45-60% of the European population[3]. The death toll, which in some places such as Italy amounted to 75-80%,[4] meant a loss in a large portion of the population and therefore the necessary knowledge that comes with Martial Arts. For many, that also meant the preservation of certain Martial forms which were falling out of popularity or were no longer used. Mair (1517-1579) illustrates this in his treatises, stating the reconstruction of Martial Arts which no longer existed; therefore the creation of treatises come into play when orally passed information can no longer be taken for granted. From these prospects, one theme links in conjunction with all these factors being the commonality of passed down information, both due to illiteracy and because it was common knowledge to the people living at this time. Therefore, it was not necessary to note down information that was taken for granted. It is therefore understandable as a common skill for the illiterate.

In the Roman case, one would be tempted to draw a similar conclusion. For an Empire/Empires that were so militarised it makes sense that it would not a necessity to write down information that was simply taken for granted. However, this provides inconsistencies in various cases that would suggest otherwise. For example, surrounding Empires who were as educated as the Eastern Romans noted down their expertise. A surviving example we have is the military treatise of Munyatu’I-Guzat which covers cavalry techniques and another treatise archery, dated from the 13th Century. Even earlier, the Agni Purana covers Indian Martial Arts in its work, dating from the 8th Century. Not only would these cases be non-existent if the similar case was compared to the European one, it is inconsistent when seeing Western European cases being compared to the Roman ones. Indeed, the Romans even in the Dark Ages displayed a literate population; though small, was larger in proportion to other European Kingdoms and Empires until the 13th and 14th Centuries, especially with a constant time-frame of capable and well-educated officers, scholars, clergy and bureaucrats.[5]

The comparatively high literacy and scholarship of the Roman World (both in Antiquity and the Medieval Period) also displays the obsession the Romans had with recording everything. For example, our knowledge of Classical educated Latin (and it’s pronunciation) survives in 18 volumes of works on practical usage of Latin, such as Comenius’ ‘Vestibulum’ and Orvis Picus, the main summaries for these can be found in works such as W.Sidney Allen’s Vox Latina and Bennet’s work The Latin Language: A Historical Outline of its Sounds, Inflections and Syntax. In all things, the Romans were obsessed with introspectively discussing and noting down their works and more importantly the methodology of those works, as a way of emulating the Hellenic fashion and displaying their definition of what encompassed Culture and civilisation. A similar case can be applied to Martial Arts as well.

The evidence we have is minimal for the Roman/Eastern Roman case, however there are indications that such Martial Arts existed and were documented. The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus is a fragmentary 2nd Century AD Greek Wrestling manual that existed at the time of Roman Rule in Egypt, well after the fall of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This emphasises a lineage and tradition of wrestling that was adopted by Roman institutions and encouraged; something which would have continued well after the Justinian Period and may have even integrated with Ottoman Folk wrestling styles after the end of Roman influence in Anatolia. Other works are mentioned however are either lost or no longer exist. For example, Pliny the Elder states he wrote a manual on the use of the javelin and mentions that persons engaged in other contests of quoiting, running, leaping, wrestling and boxing. When quoting the javelin, he states “Those who use the javelin are well aware how the horse, by its exertions and the supple movements of its body, aids the rider in any difficulty he may have in throwing his weapon”.[6] This indicates Pliny’s firm understanding of the biomechanics linked to the Javelin by connection between rider and horse; the issue is a lack of technical detail that exists in the Javalin manual that no longer exists. Others such as Julius Caesar are also said to have patrician families to train his best gladiators, which indicate certain families promoted their own style of Martial Arts that may have been well documented.[7]  These indicate a complex and diverse mix of Martial Arts that existed in Antiquity and most likely were inherited by the Eastern Romans after centuries of assimilation. This probably took the form of different styles that were amalgamated and, with the as over-reliance of the military, institutionalised.

Other works such as Vegetius, comment on the use of the Roman Legionary in combat. Vegetius states that legionnaries “were likewise taught not to cut but to thrust with their swords….. A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are defended both by the bones and armour. On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is general fatal.”[8] However despite the technical detail given, Vegetius seems to be following a tradition that was commonplace throughout the scholarship in the Empire; a harkening back to classical warfare and the “triumphant” past of the Empire, something writers such as Tacitus frequently did with comments on the political role of the Senate.  His descriptions are based on the Roman Military from the mid to late Republic and the Early Empire, a far distance from the Late 4th Century Vegetius lived in. Furthermore, Vegetius has neither military experience or ever seen any Roman soldiers in action and like many Roman sources, complies material from all ages, regardless of the statements made.[9]  According to his own statement, the sources used were Cato the Eldar, Cornelius Celsus, Frontinus, Paternus and the Imperial Constitutions of Augustus, Trajan and Hadrian. This conforms with a tradition that was evident also in the writing of Roman Military Manuals which, with exceptions of works such as the Strategikon of Maurice which provide a realistic insight into the Roman military due to codifying experience in the Balkans and Persia; manuals before and afterwards would follow the tradition of idealistically harkening back to a more classical form of warfare. For example, Tactica of Emperor Leo VI the Wise drew heavily on earlier Hellenic authors such as Onasander and Aelian, and therefore does not draw on realistic experiences the Eastern Roman Army faced in the 9th Century.[10] This illustrates such limitations that come to the fray when discussing Roman sources.

With the information stated, in what form did the Roman Martial Arts take shape? And if there is a clearly recognisable way to see a Roman ‘tradition’, how did that take shape?


  1. The nature of dueling in the Roman/Eastern Roman world

The context of duelling takes multiple dimension in the Roman and later Eastern Roman world.  As will be discussed, this covers a wide period that is both vast and dynamic.

2.1 Judicial Duels

Judicial duels took a pseudo-legal role in the Imperial era of the Roman Empire until the 5th Century, which took to form of Gladiatorial combat. After all, in many ways a Gladiator was bound entirely by their legal standing: in the words of gladiator’s oath as cited by Petronius “He vows to endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword” (Satyricon 117). Furthermore, gladiators, whether voluntary or non-voluntary were legally enslaved because it involved their potentially lethal submission to a master.[11] In Roman Law, anyone condemned to gladiatorial schools was considered to be under the sentence of death unless manumitted, which was seldom absolute.[12] However, those who did achieve manumission were prohibited from performing as to do so would endanger their life.[13] This displays how gladiator games took form until their demise. Though death was considered the proper outcome for combat in the earliest games, this came to halt in the Augustan period due to gladiators exceeding supply and the increase in popular demands for “natural justice”. This is also evident by Emperors such as Caligula and Claudius who refused to spare popular but defeated gladiators, which slumped their popularity. Nevertheless, a Gladiator could be spared if they fought well.[14]. However, contrary to popular belief, it was rare for the crowd to decide whether or not a gladiator should be spared.[15] Suetonius comments how in a Gladiator games by Nero, no one was killed “not even noxii (enemies of the state)”.[16] By the 5th Century however, Gladiatorial games had declined compared to their popularity in the 1st Century AD, from a combination of both Christianity, which perceived such games to be murder and a product of pagan sacrificial rituals, and a decrease in popularity in favour of other events such as public hunts and chariot racing. In terms of a comparison with Judicial duels in Western Europe during the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period, this conforms to a mixture of both entertainment and an enactment of law which at times was done as a public spectacle.

Gladiatorial games however seem to the be the only context in which judicial duels take place, the similar case of judicial duels in the Medieval/Early Modern period being quite alien to the Romans. Culturally, dueling outside the confines of what was socially acceptable was not the norm and certainly not valued in the Roman World. To do so, both in the Roman and Eastern Roman worlds was a symbol of the uncultured. Put simply, dueling solely for judicial reasons was seen as a product of the barbarian and what the Romans perceived to be as an uncivilised system. The Roman legal system provided a framework that clearly supplemented any means in which to settle disputes; in this case it was through the common law (and later civil law) that modelled itself on the Hellenic model of oratory skills, rhetoric and debate. According to Rosenstein the Romans: “believed that their system had developed over generations through the accumulating wisdom of their ancestors, not through a single act of legislation” and that provides a firm basis when the Roman political system is looked at.[17] This is not to suggest violence in Roman society was absent, indeed there are countless amount of cases. However, there had always been a social/cultural standard in which a Roman would be expected to conduct themselves when dealing with legal matters.

Also, within the Roman world  there emerged a clear divide between the civilian and military sphere during the Empire. Even beforehand when citizens were conscripted to serve the Republic, and later when the rural populace were conscripted in times of emergencies, there is always the distinction that combat did not take a legal dimension. This was ideally linked to the idea of the Politeia, the idea of a civic community where polity was the embodiment of the people’s will. In other words, it took the form of the “Republic” in the classical sense. An Emperor or King could be a “Republican Emperor/King” if they were ones to embody the living community, and as a result society would operate via a social contract. Cicero wrote similar ideals in his work Res Publica and emphasises the higher obligations of the person, in comparison with the community and the application of stoic thought by applying law to all people at all times.[18] In many ways, the ideal behind civic and political identity was Roseau-like and indeed, Roseau was heavily inspired by this ideal that had been evident in Antiquity. In the 6th Century on the frontier with Persia, Roman troops mutiny in north-eastern Anatolia. The priest of the city the soldiers were stationed in appealed to their faith in God but when not listened to, he asked them instead to appeal to their politeia and was successful in doing so.[19] This illustrated a clear identity when it came to civic/political identity, one which differed to a military one. The political and civilian framework, supported by an inherited legal system, satiated the need for determining legal matters via duelling. What is clear is with the exception of duelling for entertainment in accordance to Roman law, judicial duels were alien and would not have been experienced by inhabitants of the Empire throughout its lifetime.

2.2 Non-judicial duels     

From the previous section, it is clear that the Romans did not engage in duelling for judicial reasons, and such a context was seen to be out of the ordinary. However, that does not imply that duelling itself would not have been alien to a Roman, either as a social function or a military one. After all, like their Hellenic predecessors in events such as the Olympics, the Romans and Eastern Romans would have engaged in Martial Sports as a social function in conjunction with preparing for war. It is clear that these continued on, well into the existence of the Eastern Roman Empire who inherited these Martial Institutions. At the Battle of Dara in 530, one of the personal assistants of Bouzes, one of Justinian’s Generals,  duelled two Persian champions and succeeded due to his practice in the wrestling school.[20] According to Court Historians, Basil is said to have won a wrestling match against a boastful Bulgar in the 9th Century.[21] There is a continuity of theme that illustrates dueling was seen as the norm in military conflicts in the Roman World, or at least on campaign where it was expected such Martial Arts would be used. Such use could serve practical functions. Skylitzes narrates that the Emperor John I Tzimiskes proposed to Sviatoslav I of Kiev to decide the outcome of their battle in single combat; arguing that the death of one man would settle their dispute.[22] This demonstrated that, contrary to the West, dueling were not a part of a Chivalric culture and either aimed to undermine the morale of the opposing army or to save the lives of the soldiers on both sides.

Indeed, in the Roman Empire before Christianity, there was a mentality of gaining glory and one’s honour for the legionary on the field of battle. This was because Roman soldiers were bound by their Virtus which was the specific virtue that represented a soldier’s valour, manliness, excellence, courage and general honour. To do so was to perform outstanding deeds in battle that would lead others to glorious victory. In Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, he comments how two Centurions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo who, due to personal rivalry, charge the Nervii in the heat of battle and support each other before falling back. It’s safe to say their deeds not only accustomed the rivalry between both centurions but also played the role of preserving honour and encouraging others. This applies more importantly to dueling; as well as a way of undermining enemy morale, victory via dueling could also succeed in enhancing a person Virtus. In the lost history of Claudiu Quadrigarius, Titus Manlius, a legionary tributne, was challenged to single combat by a Gallic Champion and, not bothering with elaborate swordplay, hit the Gaul with his shield repeatedly and threw him off balance. As the opponent stumbled back, Manlius stabbed him in the chest, shoulder and then decapitated him. In 222 BC, Claudius Marcellus dueled Viridomarus, King of the Gaesati at the battle of Clastidium. After contemplating retreating his army, he was challenged to single combat. Being a renowned duelist, he accepted and charged at the king; thrusted his lance (which pierced Viridomarus’ cuirass), impacting him with his horse and dealt multiple blows that killed him. In 217 BC, Roman consul Gaius Flaminius rode to death, at the battle of Lake Trasimene, wearing a helmet adorned with a long haired scalped he had acquired from  a Gallic chief. Indeed, headhunting and taking the scalp of enemies was a sign of prowess for Roman warriors. At the eulogy of Lucius Caecilius Metellus, one of the objects that marked him out was having been a warrior, bellator, of the first rank. Though acts of subordination were certainly punished, such as Manlius who was executed by his father for breaking an order not to engage in combat, Romans of all classes were obsessed with proving their worth as warriors, which was not only encouraged but recorded and commemorated.

After the Battle of Manzikert and the loss of a large pool of manpower resulting from civil wars and military setbacks, Emperors such as Manual I seems to have adopted Western customs such a dueling and jousting; even participating in jousting himself due to his enthusiasm.[23] However, even in this sense, the Eastern Romans were reluctant to duel in a social context. Alexios by the time of the Crusades, was well aware of the attitudes of Western Knights and when challenged to single combat by one of them ‘seeking adventures’, was quick to avoid confrontation and not adopt their chivalric practices.[24] Indeed, duels stayed in the confines of campaigns. For example, in 1139 in a battle between the Eastern Roman army and the Turkish Danishmedids around Neokaisareia, a Eastern Roman Emperor requesting his nephew John to hand his horse over to a distinguished Italian Knight. In this case, John did not like the order and instead challenged the Knight to single combat.[25] Though judicial in nature, over possession of the horse, we do not know if this was chivalric in nature; though it does point to some Western influence in the Eastern Roman Army.

What does become evident, is how chivalric duelling becomes aware in the Eastern Roman Army. This becomes an trend which shows a mixture of admiration and an integration of customs from the mercenary Tagmatas that served the Emperor. The case of John shows a hurting of John’s pride. Nevertheless John’s case is a unique one that may have had more to do with rivalry that illustrated tension between the Eastern Romans and Crusaders. In other cases, duelling is both non-personal on the battlefield and is confined to Western Mercenaries. According to the Niketas Choniates chronicles, the Eastern Roman Army was besieging the Cicilian fortress of Baka. Constantine, an Armenian nobleman who was inside the stronghold, insulted John’s wife with obscenities.[26] Moreover he challenged  any Eastern Roman troops to a duel. After hearing this abuse, John ordered his generals to find an opponent for Constantine among his soldiers. After a duel with swords, Constantine was slain with no real change in the siege. This also demonstrated the use of duelling that was still limited to a military environment and despite the custom of social duelling in Cilicia (as a result of the First Crusade), in this case a soldier was chosen to duel who was presented with gifts afterwards, rather than John fighting himself.[27] It implies that whereas Western practices had certainly impressed the Eastern Romans, duelling in the Western sense was not adopted and this suggest interaction between the Eastern Romans and Western Mercenaries was limited. For the majority of Eastern Romans, duelling was a matter entirely settled on the battlefield.


  1. Roman Treatises

Duelling was expected to be commonplace in some circumstances, contrary to the belief that the Romans did not partake in single combat. However, this does provide the dilemma of availability, particularly in the realm of usage. A large number of Roman manual on strategic matters exist, which go into careful detail, however a minuscule amount provides some idea of how a Roman soldier may have technically fought at any one time. Put simply, why are there treatises for strategic but not individual combat? For this, other examples would need to be looked at which provide a basic theme towards the end of the Roman Empire in antiquity.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was the epitome of what embodied the ideal Roman politician. In his life (from 106 B.C to 43 B.C) he was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order and is of the greatest orators and prose stylists in Roman history. With this in mind, it is surprising to find that a large number of his works exist, both on letter writing and philosophy. For many scholars in the Early Middle Ages, his works was considered the master of Latin prose as well as the epitome of articulating oneself in writing. Augustine of Hippo credited Cicero’s lost Hortenius for his eventual conversion to Christianity in his work Confession and was greatly admired by Early Church theologians, especially on natural law and innate rights. His works, and thus information on the Late Republican Period, have been preserved is also due to the use of his work in letter writing, which was used as a framework to correspond in the Medieval Period and later was manifested further in the Renaissance with the re-emergence of Classical works.[28] It is for this reason that after the fall of the Roman Empire, Cicero’s works were deemed “rightful pagan” and therefore could correspond to Christian theology and doctrine. For the clergy, stateman and aristocracy, Cicero works found a practical use which provides the basis for letter writing today.

In a similar case, the status of Roman military manuals were preserved due to their usefulness for those who needed military guidance or to emulate tactics in the art of war. Vegetius’ De Re Militari became a popular manual on warfare in the Middle Ages despite some information becoming unsuitable for later time periods.[29] For example, the work became important in the late Carolingian period through Hrabanus Maurus (856 AD), who used the text for his own manual De Procincta Romaniae Militae.[30] Similarly, the work was preserved through the Medieval period as a way of practically applying military tactics on the battlefield. With this in mind, it is applicable to see military manuals as of a higher importance than ones which deal with technical combat. For a general or nobility who sought to utilise works on combat, having information on how to applying tactics on a strategic level, logistics, engineering, siege works etc, was far more valuable when going on campaign. Treatises which deal with individual combat in this context would bear little application on the use in state affairs. Specific techniques may not conform to the same equipment and weapons of the time period, meaning for warriors going to war there would be large inconsistencies. This also would have discrepancies in a feudal environment, which did not fit into the same structures as those of the Roman Empire. It would not be until the 11th Century when the Empire, out of necessity, adopted pseudo-feudal practices as a means of survival.

In parallel with Western Europe, it would be simple to conclude that there was a greater emphasis on the importance of strategic manuals, rather than technical ones. In various cases, similarities can be observed in parallel with the Eastern Roman Empire despite the differences mentioned. The growth of Christianity resulted in the burning of many pieces of valuable literature, such as the remnants of the Library of Alexandria at the end of the 4th Century. Furthermore, numerous works were probably destroyed as a result of war and the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 in which the Library was Constantinople was destroyed. In that time period, there existed a greater literacy in the Empire compared to Western Europe until the High Middle Ages as well as a multitude of works which are no longer available to us. For the argument that there was a lack of technical works on combat, this falls flat due to the tradition of Roman writings which continued in fashion until 1453. Therefore, one cannot conclude that the absence of such writings give way to a more generalistic or simplistic way of fighting. For example I.33 shares many similarities in its stances and biomechanics as the depictions on the ‘Byzantine’ Ivory, of stances and warriors engaged in combat. By the tenth Century, the Holy Roman Empire came to be one of the Eastern Roman Empire’s enthusiastic clients; especially when Roman noblewoman Theophano became the wife of Otto II in 873 and military contact became more extensive, especially with the use of mercenary troops by both Empires.[31] To the Historian, this gives way to an institutional structure of Martial Arts that was both sophisticated and practiced when not on the battlefield.


  1. Conclusion

In the atmosphere of lacked treatises and the evidence we have, it is easy for one to conclude that this implies a simplistic Martial Art; applied only to the battlefield. However, the Romans amalgamated and adopted a means in which to duel and engage in individual combat. The difference to Western Europe is a matter of context. Though dueling in Western Europe (depending on the location) was used as a legal and social mechanism to solve disputes, such mechanisms was alien to the Romans. Though Gladiatorial fighting can be seen as a means of judicial dueling based on the framework of Roman common law, in other contexts dueling was seen as acceptable practice only in the form of both sporting (as with Basil I and wrestling) or more importantly as a military application. To do so was to serve a function of both undermining the enemy’s morale and also as a way of preventing bloodshed. In the pre-Christian Empire as well, it sought to enhance a warrior’s Virtus which was achieved in battle and, more importantly, individual combat. Even with the influence of Western Europe during the 11th Century and the Crusades, duelling still stayed as an entirely military affair. Outside of the battlefield, Roman law satiated any disputes through the Hellenistic tradition of rhetoric and types of laws; which also was linked to the Greco-Roman political and civilian idea of the politeia which created a firm divide between civilian and military affairs. Nevertheless, Martial Arts and duelling served a function in the Roman world that was both dynamic and sophisticated, as well as institutional, and any knowledge  of how this played out is unavailable due to a lack primary source material existing anymore. As a result, it will be the work of experimental archaeologist who will attempt to reconstruct Roman Martial Arts based on the evidence we have.



Primary Sources

Constantine Paparrigopoulos, History of the Greek Nation, Db, 121

Delphi Complete Works of Pliny the Eldar, (Delphi Classics: UK, 2015), Chapter 65

John Skylitzes, John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811-1057: Translation and Notes, Ed  John Wortley (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010)

Niketas Choniates, O City of Byzantium: Annuals of Niketas Choniates. Ed, Harry J. Magoulias (Wayne State University Press, Detroit)

Procopius, History of the Wars, Ed Lillington-Martin , 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013  Book 1, Chapter 13

Source: Book 1 “Not to cut, but to thrust with the sword”, De Re Militari: The Classic Treatise on Warfare at the Pinnacle of the Roman Empire’s Power (LEONAUR: UK, 2012).


Secondary Sources

B. Poliakoff, Michael, “Wrestling, Freestyle” from Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present, eds. David Levinson and Karen Christensen (Santa Barbara Inc, 1996)

Charles Hamilton, Albert, The Spencer Encyclopedia (University of Toronto Press: London, 1990)

Fagan, Garrett, The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2011)

Febvre, Lucien and Henri-Jean, Martin,  The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800 (Verso: London, 1997)

Futrell, Alison, A Sourcebook on the Roman Games (Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2006)

G.R Watson, The Roman Soldier (Aspects of Greek and Roman Life) (Cornell University Press, 1993)

J. Andrew Borkowski and Paul J du Plessis, Textbook on Roman Law (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2005)

Kaldellis, Anthony, The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome (Harvard University Press: Harvard, 2015

Lintott, Andrew, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion (New York: Oxford university Press, 2008)

MacMullen, Ramsay, How Big was the Roman Army? KLIO (1979)

Mouritsen, Henrik, Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic ( Cambridge University: Cambridge, 2007)

N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, (Medieval Academy of America: Cambridge USA, 2013)

N. Luttwak, Edward, The Grand Strategy of the Eastern Roman Empire (Harvard University Press, 2009)

N.P. Milner, Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science (Liverpool, 1993)



Benedictow, Ole, ‘The Black Death: The Greatest Catastrophe Ever’, History Today Volume 55 Issue (3 March 2005)

Alex Rodriguez Suarez, The Western presence in the Eastern Roman Empire during the reigns of Alexios I and John II Komnenos (1081-1143), (King’s College: London, 2014)

Bernard S Bachrach, ” A ‘Lying Legacy’ Revisited. THe ABels-Morillo Defense of Discontinuity.” Journal of Medieval Military History 5 (2007)

Timothy Dawson, The Walpurgis Fechtbuch: AN Inheritance of Constantinople, Arms and Armour, Vol. 6 no. 1, 2009, 79-92,


Audio Sources

Daileader Philip , The Late Middle Ages, (The Great Courses: Washington DC, 2007)



[1] Ramsay MacMullen, How Big was the Roman Army? KLIO (1979), p. 454.

[2] Lucien Febvre and Martin, Henri-Jean, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800 (Verso: London, 1997).

[3] Ole J. Benedictow, ‘The Black Death: The Greatest Catastrophe Ever’, History Today Volume 55 Issue (3 March 2005).

[4] Philip Daileader, The Late Middle Ages, (The Great Courses: Washington DC, 2007).

[5] N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, (Medieval Academy of America: Cambridge USA, 2013), pp. 1-2.

[6] Delphi Complete Works of Pliny the Eldar, (Delphi Classics: UK, 2015), Chapter 65.

[7] Henrik Mouritsen, Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic ( Cambridge University: Cambridge, 2007) p. 97.

[8] Source: Book 1 “Not to cut, but to thrust with the sword”, De Re Militari: The Classic Treatise on Warfare at the Pinnacle of the Roman Empire’s Power (LEONAUR: UK, 2012).

[9] G.R Watson, The Roman Soldier (Aspects of Greek and Roman Life) (Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 25f.

[10] Edward N. Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Eastern Roman Empire (Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 305.

[11] Alison Futrell, A Sourcebook on the Roman Games (Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2006), p. 157.

[12]J. Andrew Borkowski and Paul J du Plessis, Textbook on Roman Law (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2005) pp 11-12.

[13] Ibid, p. 95.

[14] Alison Futrell,, pp 144-145.

[15] Ibid, p.101.

[16] Fagan, Garrett, The Lure of the Arena: Social Psychology and the Crowd at the Roman Games (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2011), pp. 217 – 218, 273, 277.

[17] Ibid, p. 257.

[18] Andrew Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion (New York: Oxford university Press, 2008), p. 233.

[19] Anthony Kaldellis, The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome (Harvard University Press: Harvard, 2015).

[20] Procopius, History of the Wars, Ed Lillington-Martin , 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013  Book 1, Chapter 13.

[21] Michael B. Poliakoff, “Wrestling, Freestyle” from Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present, eds. David Levinson and Karen Christensen (Santa Barbara Inc, 1996), Vol. 3, p. 1193.

[22] John Skylitzes, John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811-1057: Translation and Notes, Ed John Wortley (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010) pp. 307-308.

[23] Constantine Paparrigopoulos, History of the Greek Nation, Db, 121

[24] Alex Rodriguez Suarez, The Western presence in the Eastern Roman Empire during the reigns of Alexios I and John II Komnenos (1081-1143), (King’s College: London, 2014) p. 233.

[25] Ibid, p. 237.

[26] Niketas Choniates, O City of Byzantium: Annuals of Niketas Choniates. Ed, Harry J. Magoulias (Wayne State University Press, Detroit),  pp. 22-25.

[27] Alex Rodriguez Suarez, p. 234.

[28] Albert Charles Hamilton, The Spencer Encyclopedia (University of Toronto Press: London, 1990), p. 434.

[29] N.P. Milner, Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science (Liverpool, 1993), p. xiii.

[30] Bernard S Bachrach, ” A ‘Lying Legacy’ Revisited. THe ABels-Morillo Defense of Discontinuity.” Journal of Medieval Military History 5 (2007), P. 182.

[31] Timothy Dawson, The Walpurgis Fechtbuch: AN Inheritance of Constantinople, Arms and Armour, Vol. 6 no. 1, 2009, 79-92, p. 87

The issue with HEMA

The issue with HEMA

Ever since the “HEMA is dying” period that struck the community, it has bought to my mind another subject. Unlike the prior mention, this one is going to have specific backing with source material.

Before I begin, I want to clarify: I have a Masters in History. This isn’t to seem stuck up or show some game of one-upmanship. Through my studies, that you can only get with a Masters, you learn specific things about History; ways to interpret sources, how reliable they are and you begin to see History as a weaved intricate pattern, everything mixing in with everything else and these aspects (if they can even be called that) can’t exist without one another. You can’t exclude anything from anything else and everything plays in this pattern; it’s something so difficult to describe in words.

Alas, there’s something that has been bothering me quite a bit with the community. It’s not anything specific or anyone but more the mentality to approaching HEMA is general and interpreting context. Get ready for it….

HEMA is too scientific.


Yes, you heard me correctly.


Within the community there is this mentality of applying things scientifically. “Should I swing to this many degrees, within this angle to get this?”, “should I apply X, Y and inevitably I’ll get Z?”, “If I attack from this position within this measurement of time, will I get this result?”, “should I copy the treatise exactly in this position to overcome the bind like this?” The short answer is these question are irrelevant.

Let’s put aside the fact that it’s a Martial Art, not a science (which creates issues in itself) or the frailty of artistic depiction, even within the treatises due to the dimensions being placed or the wording, even when it has nothing to do with the techniques. Fiore does this a lot and that coincides with the method of legitimising oneself, for example naming predecessors or successors which follows a very ingrained legal tradition. From what’s said, we don’t actually know the extent other than what Fiore says. In many ways, it’s salesmanship, “If you want to know how to learn the ultimate martial art, come to me and I will teach you”. Martial Arts do this nowadays, how else are you going to sell a fighting form if not on the premise of self-defence?



Let’s put that aside and get to the basics when it comes to interpreting History, and it’s essential difference between itself and Science. Science is built on the premise that all knowledge is not only universal and accessible, but is based on replicating results. For example, if I do X and Y I will get Z in the majority of cases, if not in all cases. That has implications for the way people perceive certain things. In today’s age it would be discredited to think that people, for example, lived without a head and that is a valid point (to an extent, research has shown that the stomach is the only part of the body that is not subsistent on the brain operating).

History, in a nutshell, is the assessment of change through time. What this means is the study, art, discipline (whatever you want to call it) is non-scientific. In fact, it’s anti-scientific; it’s a group of assumptions about events that no longer exist that the majority of academics more or less think happened. That is based on sources but firstly; those sources might not be reliable and secondly; to actually learn about the sources isn’t to simply look at them. Think of it like reading a book by Tolken or Pratchett, you aren’t just looking at a bunch or words, you’re looking at a bunch of words from a whole other reality because the people at the time saw reality like that. The way people look at things changes through time and the fact the majority of people perceived the world in such a way means their reality needs to be taken for granted.

Let’s go back to using techniques as an example. Often it’s taken for granted that doing a technique in such a way is so obvious, it’s even scientific. Body mechanics mean the body can move in such a way, right? Well, yes and no. The concept of science didn’t exist at the time, there was no idea of a set of universal principles so the interpretation of how people saw the world also needs to change.

So, how did people see the world say in 16th Century Italy or Germany (which didn’t exist as countries)? Without getting bogged down in context (which could take a whole book), there are several indicators. There are practitioners, like Agrippa, who look at things specifically to do with measurements e.g. if I lunge, I need to do this according to this precise measurement. However these aren’t scientific, they’re based on mathematical principles. It’s no coincidence the 16th Century is the time of the Renaissance and that means a revival of classical learning which went beyond scholarly opinion. Techniques you see rapier practitioners doing are also used on things such as architecture. This is based on the principle of the ‘perfect measurement’. For example, if I measure a brick as the length from the longest finger to the wrist, that is the perfect measurement, the same goes for measuring the lengths of walls for architecture, which were usually by multiple amount of length for a certain body part. Since, according to classical learning the body indicates the perfect form, this is a justifiable reason in the eyes of those who are doing the measuring. Saviolo does this with Rapier lengths and advices that the whole length should stretch from ones hand to their opposite shoulder (something borrowed from the Spanish tradition).  Even then, a lot of this derives from philosophical principles of Aristotelian thinking. People may argue that Aristole was the basis of scientific thinking phiolosophially, but in many of these cases these are misjudged. A lot of it is related to spirituality and that also applies to other cultures which may seem “scientific”. For example in India (considered today Geographically), mathematicians were able to calculate the age of universe and, in conjunction, calculate it’s span. That seems very scientific, however in it’s context it is a spiritual endeavour. The reason for doing so falls in the context of Hindu spirituality as in the religion the Universe destroys itself every 3 million years and is reborn. This is the case with many scientific basics in Antiquity, even those as emperical as Aristotle who theorised in relation to Platonic philosophy.

Then there’s the practice of Alchemy and the Occult which came before Science. Unlike Science, Alchemy works on the principle that there are certain esoteric forms of knowledge that can only be grasped by a few learned men and these come from God or the Universe. It may use mathematical or philosophical principles but only as a means to acquire said mystical knowledge. A good example is the knowledge of turning any material into gold in the Holy Roman Empire and the desire to find the eliquer for immortality in China, which resulted in the discovery of gunpowder. This is why a lot of alchemy writing is either highly riddled or so worded as to be incomprehensible. Well, the same can be applied with some practitioners who wrote in in poetry when referenceing swordplay. There’s all these descriptors and creatures and symbols and all of these share that similarity with other practices; leaving the reading highly confused. Indeed, many practitioners would throw fits if they discovered ‘common folk’ (such as Fiore) practicing their martial arts and these were specifically designed for certain readers, they weren’t inclusive writings and this is basically the definition of an occult. Even when techniques are obvious, the context behind them is not. Going back to Fiore, the moves performed as indicative of an experience swordsman because the moveset is assuming that the reader already knows what they’re doing. Again, Fiore does not aim his work towards the common fencer and advices that the peasantry not read it. This is hardly the universal thinking we have in mind today.

Another example is numerology, the study of numbers and how each numerical value has a specific symbolic or legal meaning. This derides largely from Jewish spiritual thinking that was also very legalistic, indeed that’s why the amalgamation of different numbers would result in something spiritual or access to certain spiritual knowledge that couldn’t be attained by others. That’s why if you’re going to read the bible, learn numerology. A good example is Fiore, Fiore has 12 basic stances for a two-handed sword and arguably one is filler material, why? Because there were 12 disciples at the last table, there are 12 months in the year etc. This was widely held in Medieval and Early Modern Western Societies, that such numbers held sacred properties that could access oneself to higher knowledge of the divine and it’s seen everywhere at the time; it’s not simply symbolism. To many, a combination of certain numbers (if used foolishly) was enough to summon spirits.

Science as a thing didn’t exist. If you spoke to someone about it at the time, they would look at you weird. Indeed, assuming so would be seen as an act of idiocy (unless theologically justified). To an extent it didn’t even matter due to the basic premise of ressurection.



What I’ve just said can be applied to reconstructing. Hayden White’s “Metahistory” is really good if you want to read about this issue. He uses the example of a Historical reenactment of a festival and uses different levels to represent different understandings.

On a superficial level, one would look at it and say “wow, this is how the things actually used to be in the past”. On another, one would see the criticisms but through those come to their own conclusions, but those conclusions themselves can be detrimental to reconstructing the event or art.

By the end, the position to take is one that varies according to perspective that White uses to frame how people look at History. Is it of satirical Rankian thought? Or tragic Marxist thought? Don’t worry if you don’t understand what these mean. The point is even to provide a framework is an issue within itself and all people can do is put piece together like a forensic puzzle, which is basically what history is. However, what it also shows is our perspectives on History and those of the people that lived through the time period are different and that in itself defies the reality. In many ways, that has a detrimental effect on the way people thought, felt and performed physically every day. This isn’t only in the context of diet, nourishment etc but also in the culturally specific place itself.


Interpreting: Using a historical Example.

“But Nicholas”, you may ask. “What of Biomechanics? Everyone can only hit in certain ways, right?”. Thanks for reminding me about that. Yes and no, let’s use an example that’s become prevalent when looking at fighting in History; emotions. Lindybeige (Lloyd) did a video about this and how human don’t really want to kill each other, or from a look of terror one is unable to kill. The reasoning was that based on the statistics for US soldiers who shot-to-kill in World War Two and the Vietnam War, people didn’t want to kill their enemy; also, all there are cases, such as Che Guevara who couldn’t execute people at the front because the look of terror on their faces showed the dominating person had one (unless they are a psychopath). I will show various cases and issues with looking at a ‘universal’ idea of emotions to show why this point is problematic.

Before I begin, for a long time there has been a dichotomy between ‘constructionists’, who believe that things are culturally specific and things are uniquely different everywhere, and ‘universalists’, who believe that certain principles are universal no matter where in the world you go. At the moment, we have gone past this but it provided the basis for much discussion in the 20th Century and a lot of the academic work that’s outdated still does. In fact, in many ways it’s frustrating how slow research reaches the public eye because all the theories being applied to HEMA in the way people fight emotionally and psychologically are outdated. In short these are inductive approaches which attempt to take the complexities of the past and confine them to a few generalising subjects, such as “all wars are caused by religion” (an extreme example but one still quoted). I will briefly look at three case studies as an example of this.


Case one: fight or flight

The favourite that everyone likes to bring up is “fight or flight”, which is a theory coined by Joseph Ledoux that is linked to the wider understanding of a ‘two roads to fear’ theory. Basically, a stimulus passes down the amygdala within 12 milliseconds where a rapid decision is made by the higher cognitive functions whether the perceived thing is a threat. This instils the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction, either the body stands down and returns to normal or gears itself up for survival. It’s a two path road; one involving the subcortical region of emotions which on the evolutionary scale is very old and the other a cortical region where cognition occurs.

I don’t want to get into too much detail because it’s very long but Ledoux’s theory has either been disproven since it was made, or has been modified. For example, the amygdala has been shown to not be especially sensitive to visual stimuli. Also, there’s the question whether there is a ‘fast road’ via the amygdala or if there’s any temporal difference at all in the emotional response triggered by emotional stimuli. From further neuroscientific studies, it’s clearer that the amygdala is not responsible for ‘quick and dirty’ functions but instead is more like a switchboard from which various inputs are distributed and from that we get fight, flight, flee, befriend, submit and quisling (where one becomes so dominated they associate themselves with the dominator, like Stockholm Syndrome).

Even then, this theory is being shown to be discredited the more research we do into how the brain works. Indeed, a lot of new theories such as neuroplasticity; the brains ability to form new neuro- pathways in one’s lifetime. It also begins to shift the paradigm of the brain as a constant with specific parts doing specific things, to a network of pathways which all are contingent on each other. For example, in previous experiments where the amygdala was removed (such as patient SM), there was no fear in exposure to rpevious fears such as snakes and spiders and other typical fear inducing experiences. However, with the destruction of the Amygdala they experiences in their early life, came other aspects such lack of recognising depth when it came to personal space, having difficulty ascertaining the trustworthiness in others and lack of recognisition of negative emotions. What it showed was that certain parts of the brain no longer simply have certain functions and the brain will often form newer pathways to reconcile any damage. In other words the hardware of the brain changes during the lifespan of the person, based on experiencing whether they be traumatic, cultural, psycadelic. All of these leave traces in the architecture of the brain. More importantly, it shows the brain itself is susptible to change, something unprecedented in Neuro-science. This shows that things aren’t so universal and even the brain, what we’ve seen as a constant is now becoming perceived more and more as something tangible, which is having an interesting and existential change for the Scientific community.


Case two: Facial recognition

Another one is facial recognition, as demonstrated by Lloyd in the video mentioned earlier to do with ‘a look of terror’. That is the work of Professor Paul Ekman who was regarded as a dominant figure in neuroscience in the 90’s and early 2000’s but not so much now, in fact his work has become a subject of much frustration among many academics. His theory was that certain emotions could be universally demonstrated by certain facial expression. This was related to Darwinian thought when it came to evolutionary theory. I mean, when someone smiles they’re happy, right? Well, not really.

His experimentation consisted on getting models to pose for long periods of time with certain expressions, representing certain emotions and he would take pictures of these. He applied this to people in Central America also applied a similar principle to by using certain cultural facial types for the Dani in West New Guinea. Another was used by showing disturbing scenes in a cinema to both an American and Japanese audience, and those results found for example that the Japanese were more prone to smiling when they did experience disturbance.

In short, these results were not only inconsistent but incredibly bias. The people in Central America often had linguistic issues when interpreting certain facial features and had problems interpreting the facial features themselves. In the case with the Japanese members, many of them smiled due to knowing they were being experimented on, which destroyed any validity to the experiment or any prospect of replicability. It wasn’t the case that certain emotions can be shown by certain facial expressions, indeed research has shown being angry or being happy doesn’t mean you have to look like those emotions.

In terms of the Dani, there was no only no empirical proof to display these emotions in the people being studied but also certain linguistics we have couldn’t be translated into concepts that were understandable.


Case three: Anthropology, the Icelandic Sagas, the Maori and relating it to History

When looking at emotions in past, questions need to be asked such as; where are the centre of emotions located in the body, such as the heart? The brain? The gut? Are they located in the body at all, do they come externally? Also, there’s the issue of how they work. Do they boil and hyperventilate until they explode? Do they possess a person for a certain period of time and then subside? Is the person seen as responsible at all for their emotions? These are all valid points and apply to different cultures.

In the Icelandic Sagas, there’s descriptions protagonists swelling up. When in the Brennu-Njals Saga Thorhall Asgrimsson finds out about the murder of his guardian, ‘his body swells up, blood flows from his ears, and he faints’. A 12-year-old in the Laxdaeta Saga is ‘swollen with grief’ every time he thinks of his murdered father. Is that a sign of emotion? It would be difficult for us to imagine, though there’s good historical evidence to suggest people didn’t literally ‘swell up’. However they are valid indicators of how the Vikings saw their feelings articulated. In many cases, these play a more important role than utterances. In this case, emotions took a life of their own and possessed people once they were named. This indeed is a completely different image to how we would see emotions today.

Another case is that of the Maori. Jean Smith, an Anthropologist, did a study into how the Maori experienced self and Experienced emotions. She shows that Maori tribes, when constantly at war with each other, perceived emotions entirely differently. If a Maori warrior showed physical signs of fear before a battle, such as trembling, it was said he was possessed by atua, a kind of spirit that had been angered by the infringement of tapu, a canon of social rules. There was a ritual for ridding oneself of this possessed state: the warrior had to crawl between the legs of a standing Maori woman of superior social status. The organs of the woman, especially the vagina, had special powers which could free the warrior of atua. If the warrior crawled between the woman’s legs without shaking then he was freed of atua, and went off to battle liberated by fear.  But if he still shook, the ritual cleansing was judged a failure and the warrior could stay at home unpunished. Apparently no one thought it was possible for someone to be afflicted with atua during a battle; and so we can assume that Maori warriors did not feel fear. From this, we can see that the fear of the Maori warriors is one that locates it outside the body. Fear originates not in the ‘soul’, or the ‘psyche’ or the ‘brain’, but instead in a transcendent sphere of tapu norms and higher beings.

This shows us what Barbara Rosenwein (an professor on the History of Emotions) would call ‘Emotional Communities’, whereby different groups in certain societies have different Emotional Norms and Values that differ from each other and over either overarch with other groups or differ completely (and this can often cause conflict within oneself if these values conflict too much). These are hardly universal but at the same time aren’t unique. I agree with her conclusion that there are things which are ‘hardwired’ however how those ‘hardwired’ things are articulated is like drinking an ocean with a fork.


A quick note about Neuro-placidity

In the previous section I mentioneh is thd Neuro-placidity, whice study conducted on the brain that shows that within a person’s life based on their experiences, new neuro pathways are formed. This can range from traumatic experiences such as abuse or war, to religious beliefs to psychadelic experiences with drugs.

As Jan Plamper has shown, this has caused a conflict within the Scientific community because the brain for a long time was though of as a constant with perfectly definable sections and features and the research conducted has bought this assumption to doubt. The brain is no longer a constant but is suspetible to change through time, uniquely for each individual. This brings into question whether these can be measured reliably.


Historic Examples. Case 1: the Roman Empire in the 2nd Century

For a Roman Soldier in the 2nd Century, there are testimonies about the way a Legionnary perceived their body and how it was to be used, from the Historian Sara Elise Phang. The Roman perception of the body in the Empire, for Legionaries, was one of a tight bow or ballista; the bow needs to be tightened all the time until it is let loose and this carried on into their daily lives. In other words, a legionary would tense up themselves very rigidly until they ‘let go’ like a tight bow being released. So if reconstructed, attacks would start often with a lot of tension on the body followed by a quick, explosive, cut or thrust. It would have meant a lot of tension for the individual. This is clearly different to what’s said today where it is shown that we should relax the muscles; even that in itself is an Eastern teaching which was imported to the West in the 1950’s and 60’s with famous Martial Artists like Bruce Lee.

Historic Examples. Case 2: Central African Martial Arts

In what is considered Angola today, there was the porecursor to Capoeira which was called N’golo (pronounced Engolo). Even the older form of Capoeira is called ‘Capoeira Angola’. In this martial art, there was little use of the hands and an emphasis on kicks, headbutting, dodging and atheltic/ aerobatic abilities. Before I start, I want to emphasise that this did work. A lot of people assume that such Martial Arts Aren’t practical however masters who practiced in Central Africa, and then in South America, were reverred fighters who often took a bloody toll on their opponents and they often fought multiple opponents at the same time. Unlike Capoeira now, this was accompanied by a machete in Brazil however kicks still played an important part, and Masters went to war doing this.

This is intrinsically linked with how Central Africans perceived their bodies in relations to ther religious experiences. Essentially, as with many African Religious beliefs, reality was understood like a cross in which above was the land of the living and below was the land of the dead. In this context, the land of the dead was opposite to the land of the living and the spirits of the ancestors inhabited this. For example if a person practising N’golo was very good, he was said to inhabit the spirit of his ancestor. In this religious belief, Ancestor spirits could possess bodies and therefore provide a bridge between the living and the dead. If a master was spectacular at this art, there were testimonies of him being possessed by a master who lived hundreds of years ago. This was a bridge between the living and the dead and was known as Kalunga. With this in mind, if a practitioner were to make a certain twist with his head or walk on his feet he would summon and manifest the spirits of the underworld as a result. This is the reason why a lot of capoeira is done on the hands and emphasises kicks.

This also applies to other African Martial Arts which take on anthropromorphic qualities and mimick the behaviour of animals, such as in Sudanese Wrestling or Central African headbutting.

This brings a completely different context of martial arts, one which should be respected. In comparison with European Martial Arts, the concept of biomechanics as we understand it becomes unrecognisable as does the concept of centered balance and distance to the enemy. It brings in a different perception to the body based on religious/spiritual beliefs which have an overriding result on the martial arts is conducted.


Historic Examples. Case 3: Ancient Egyptian Tahtib and combat

In Egypt, North Africa and in places like Ethiopeia and the Sudan, there exists a form of stick fighting called Tahtib, which originates from Ancient Egypt. There is the living tradition which has been translated into a folk dance that exists today and Historic tradition which is seen in depictions such as the illustrations from the sarcophegus in Abbis Abba.

In both these, there is a gearing towards spear play however the interesting aspect of the combat is all the blows taught are to the upper body. There are no blows directed below the shoulders or waist. This is also seen in the depiction of water-polo which is either head or upper body shows, but not beneath the upper chest. This is also apparent in the Equipment Ancient Egyptian soldiers used. There are no depictions of Ancient Egyptian soldiers wearing metal helmets an in many cases there is no head protection at all. Even the most important figures such as the Pharoh only wears a felt-leather cap. Even then, there’s a priority more on armour when it becomes prevalent and little on the skull which people would assume is the most important part of the body. I mean, it’s vital right? Why not wear head protection?

Again, as is the case in N’golo, there is a religious/spiritual dimension which isn’t taken into account. In the Ancient Egyptian Religion, the heart was seen as the centre of intelligence, emotion and spirituality in the body; similarly to how we would perceive the mind today. As a result, there is no effort to protect the head as well as the chest and this explains why blows to the lower body wasn’t encouraged or depicted in Tahtib, which was used as training for soldiers as a way of physical fitness and for spear usage. It may have differed in combat however from this it is evident that this had an effect on the way the Ancient Egyptians perceived their bodies an that had a direct effect on how that applied to the Martial Arts they practiced.


Conclusion, what do these cases show and how can they be related back to HEMA?

If you’re interested in more, I’d suggest reading Jan Plamper’s “The History of Emotions” which covers all these case studies and Barbara Rosenwein’s “Generation of Feelings” which talks about ‘Emotional Communities’.

The issue, relating back to HEMA, is it shows things aren’t as universal as people think they are. If human emotions, that people think are universal, aren’t then so are the perceptions of the body and the so called ‘biomechanics’. It becomes the case that not everyone swung in the same way because there’s only so many ways you can swing a sword.

I’m going to take a page out of Barbara Rosenwein’s work, “A community of Feeling”, and say that the current trend for emotions is that some things are hardwired but articulating what those ‘things’ are is like trying to drink the ocean with a fork; so it’s neither a constructionist nor universalist.

The same can be applied to Martial Arts. Yes, the body can only move in so many ways but that’s not as important as people say it is. It’s not about the fact the sword is swung downwards but how it’s swung and each culture does swing downwards but has its own way of doing so, whether Italian or Persian. That’s the important part; it’s neither universally scientific, or culturally specific that it becomes meaningless.

Just because it’s a swing downwards doesn’t meant it’s the same everywhere. For example, in Middle Eastern Traditions there is an emphasis on the ‘wrap around the head’ before going into a downward stroke both due to the design of the scimitar/ sabre but also because it culturally suits the style as well as the weapon; use determines function. A British officer in the 19th Century could pick it up and use it but due to its culturally used wouldn’t use it as well and it might end up being detrimental to the officer.

When we look at for example, the duel between Andreas (a bath slave who had stepped forward) and the Persian Champion at the battle of Dara in 530 AD, Andreas crashed into the Persian Horseman with his own, floors him and slits his throat with a knife. Are we to assume that he did it in the same way a knight would have in the 14th Century? The answer is no and the fact there’s no descriptions for doing so is problematic in itself. In fact, if it wasn’t for manuals descriptions of combat would suck due to the way fighting styles are taken for granted. When an observer sees a warrior do a downward cut, all we know is the person has done a cut downwards and it’s either hit or hasn’t; that’s the issue with source material, it doesn’t tell us how. However, from the evidence we do have, it’s guaranteed that within each culture (and sub-group) it’s going to be different.

In other words, there are some things which are hardwired but how they are articulated is an amount that’s beyond comprehension and come out looking different. There is literally a innumerable amount of ways one can perform one attack as the huge variety of cultures, empires and societies have shown.


More Importantly

In HEMA, the ‘art’ part is the one that often gets pushed out. According to the Oxford Dictionary, art is “Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or teachnical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beuty or emotional power”.

In this context, is it not easy to see how Martial Arts vary, sometimes drastically? That it’s not simply a case of saying “x and y equals z”? More importantly, it’s a matter of seeing the art for what it is, art, and like itself it differs from piece to piece. If this were a conversation a scientist would focus on the words being said, an artist the sound. Both are opinions on how to approach the issue but, more importantly, both are as valid for doing so. The Historical mindset of how someone thought their body and emotions worked are as valid as someone who wants to strike in the shortest amount of time. Is that not what’s important? And is that not makes the Martial Arts beautiful?


The real conclusion   

So after all this rambling, what is the point of this? Well:

1) People often look at HEMA too Scientifically and apply anachronistic principles to it. That’s not only non-historic but doesn’t look at things in their context. Science is useful as a tool to gain an understanding but people often treat it as if it’s a way of life and that’s really not its intention. Science can’t be a way of life. It’s actually counterproductive and needs to be stopped.

2) As a result, people often take what’s called an ‘inductive’ approach, which means that they think History can be summed up by a few universalising principles, we see it all the time. Religion, politics, and wars are something that someone might point out. However in History, they’re not simply those things. To the people living at the time, they’re so much more than those things where the categories we placed become meaningless. Indeed, these people would have taken those steps in the first place. In other words, coming to those conclusions is what someone in the 19th Century would have thought, so it’s about a century outdated.

3) People use the two points in HEMA. “Of course they did it like this”, they will say; or “Of course they hit like this” but firstly, we don’t know that and secondly, learning that means having to learn the life these people lived. What is the concept of even throwing a downward strike in the eyes of the 14th Century practitioner? Answer is we don’t know but the content and sources gives us some indication and so do the way perceived their bodies and reacted emotionally.

4) Different interpretations of the body in History has a detrimental effect on how people used their bodies and that has a direct effect on the Martial Arts they practiced.

These would have been somewhat in the mind of the practitioners at the time, this was the world they lived and took for granted.

Sometimes I think that gets lost on us.


Books as a reference:

Jan Plamper’s “The History of Emotions”.

Barbara Rosenwein, “Generations of Feeling”.

Sara Elise Phang, “Roman Military Service: Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Early Principate”

Hayden White, “MetaHistory”.

TJ. Desch- Obi, “Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World”.

Race: The issue and coming up with a solution

Before I begin as a disclaimer: it is not my intention to cause any controversy but simply provide insight, based on my own experiences, affairs through my life as well as current affairs and other people’s experiences and how they understand the world around them. I want to say I have a well-balanced perspective on subject, without coming off a pretentious or condescending. I’d like to think with the educational background I have, it’s affected the way I critically analyse subjects.

For me, the issue of race has always been weird and convoluted one and I’m lucky to be at a position, intellectually and emotionally, where I am at the capacity to understand it. Race has always been a subject that I’ve been somewhat confused about and to this day, struggle to understand it in terms of the controversy, feelings and harm it causes. I want to emphasise this is not out of ignorance or the sense of privilege or being ‘better than anyone else’ (whatever that means). Throughout my life, it seems to have always stood out in some way or another. Growing up as a Greek Cypriot in a diverse area, it would always provide a unique perspective on matters that seemed to deviate, and mediate, between different perspectives and that’s a lot to do with cultural, historical understandings and simply how I was treated.

An important aspect to emphasise as well is, importantly, I grew up in London which I guess was an education in itself as much as a geographical location. It’s not simply a matter of being in a diverse area. Growing up, terms like ‘black’ and ‘white’ were never emphasised and were always seen as something predominant in America. People from different ethnic backgrounds rarely ever referred to themselves as ‘Black’, ‘Brown’, ‘Asian’ or ‘White’ and these only became relevant as I entered adulthood from my teenage years. In Britain, communities have always taken pride in their ethnic backgrounds without generalising, and always been contextual; people would always refer to themselves by their country of origin rather than skin colour or ethnicity. Nigerian, Ghanaian, Caribbean, Pakistani, Indian, Turkish, Irish, English, Scottish, Kenyan, Congolese, Tartar, Egyptian were what people would say (and many other locations). It never occurred to me that generalisations like these existed the way they did, for example, in the USA. In fact, within Britain the opposite effect has occurred today whereby people are beginning to stubbornly say “I’m British” or “originally my parents were from x but I’m from London”. For me, that always had a way of deconstructing things and meant it was easier to create dialogue and access people’s testimonies and cultural experiences. The main point is things would always be looked at, and emphasised, contextually. I mean the only time it was ever referenced was in jokes and banter but even then, it never serious or consequential. That’s always provided an advantage because it stops any attempt to force generalise on a base level.

Most importantly (and on a single note) within Britain compared to the USA, divisions emphasised have always been class rather than race and that forms a better idea of how prejudices are mounted in the UK. People have always been discriminated more for their working class background and even then, things are ambiguous to say the least. In many situations, ethnicity often intermixes with class however as more people from ethnic backgrounds diversify out of areas like East London (where people are predominantly African and Caribbean), that link will start to degrade and eventually weaken. It’s already been witnessed now with better opportunities. On that note, there are prejudicial cases such as institutional racism in the police still, and ‘random’ stop and searches however my hope is eventually these will die out as London’s police begins to represent its population.

Being Greek Cypriot I guess also provided a unique perspective on things. There’s always been a stereotype that Greeks consider themselves unique players in the world and there’s some validity to that historically. Perspective wise, Greeks culturally consider themselves a continent unto themselves when I was growing up; the border between East and West. We were never ‘White’ but at the same time never ‘dark’; we were always considered ‘olive skinned’. Historically, with Ancient Greece, the Hellenistic Empires, the Eastern Roman Empire and being under the Ottomans (which really depends, being Greek ethnically is still a very recent concept), made us stand out as was the case with many Eastern European countries, especially in the Balkans. Being part of the Ottoman Empire, during the slave trade and colonialism (apart from the ‘Magna Greca’ idea which lasted until 1923 with genocide on both sides and even then it was within a small geographical area, as well as the Second World War) meant we were never really part of that history and, in a way, were isolated. In that context, we were never considered part of the ‘West’ as countries such as the UK, France, Germany and Italy are; though we were somehow venerated in them. Even my parent’s backgrounds emphasised that point further. My mum grew up in the north of the Congo where her father owned a series of supermarkets (before the civil war broke out in the 1960’s). Even that, the fact there were Greeks in the Congo (as in many different areas of the world such as Australia) was a product of colonialism and being what would be considered an ‘ethnic group’; a middle party that was neither for or against in the European empires. The Greek community in that sense was always an economic and mercantile group (similarly to Jewish communities in history).

It struck a paradox that enabled me to mediate between different groups of people culturally and ethnically. It also struck me growing up as a teenager. In secondary school, I was often mocked for being Greek from English, Irish, African and Caribbean backgrounds (with examples such as being the basis for homosexuality in history). In situations such as those, it’s easy for people to fall back on their backgrounds as a clear form of identity in situations of uncertainty and that’s what I did. In many ways it meant I wasn’t the centre of a large group and that enabled me to go between groups and get to know different people; empathising with them. I think that’s ultimately important; it was a way of making me a middle party, a social nomad who could travel and associate himself with all different kinds of people; who could humour, charm, debate, argue, mimic and create dialogue. To be in such a position meant getting such an insight into how other people feel and their perspectives, and gave a vast amount of social freedom to pursue and interact. Even today it is still relevant, though with over-sensitivity to ethnicity it is more difficult to open those dialogues (but still possible).

With what’s occurred or happened in the United States, it is easy for any person to turn to the matter and say “well, why don’t they just sort out the matter?” or “why don’t blacks get the independence they deserve?” and I say it’s not that easy. In the United States, it’s not a simple matter of people getting on their own feet, in many cases it’s physically denied by state institutions, the police (due to institutional racism, macho culture and competition with targets) and on a local level. In the UK, racism has always been confined within a class issue and, through 19th and 20th century history, was more imposed by the wealthy and higher strata’s of society; support for ethnic minorities often came from working and lower middle class backgrounds. Indeed, lower class racism stemmed from the United States during the Second World War and was imported along with American products. In that sense, in the United States, race is a literal issue and not just academic contemplating, political correctness or a matter of over-sensitivity. The division between ‘black’ and ‘white’ is felt on very serious terms and constantly pushed onto people (who may not want those definitions pushed onto them). There are constant questions as to how to solve the crisis with a lack of perspective or insight; with a lack of innovation or creativity. People seem to treat the issue of race like a puzzle whereby all the pieces are available and it’s simply a matter of moving the pieces in correct places. However, I would say there is no puzzle; this is a problem that requires new solutions.

Put it this way, on a very personal note, with everything I have learnt about ‘Black’ people in history it both frustrates and infuriates me that people could be treated harshly for such a long period of time, even after slavery. The nerve to have this injustice and be treated this way still is something to get angry about. Of course, with context, the situation is a lot more complicated. However the general and continual theme of treatment and inequality is not a promising one. Throughout history, people who have been oppressed have risen up, formed their own countries on the basis of freeing themselves. For example, Greece constantly emphasises “Freedom or death” and many countries follow this theme in Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East. With everything I have learnt about the treatment of Africans and Caribbeans, if I were in their situation I would have either risen up (which isn’t surprising since for example 9 out of 10 slave ships revolted and there were constant uprisings in mainland America), founded my own country or moved if I had the opportunity. In many cases these were hampered by strong forces and lack of education (due to segregation). Given the violence towards these ethnicities, it is understandable that sentiments are strong and, given the USA, it seems the idea of founding an equal society and the American dream has failed. Even the term ‘black’ was made by ‘the white man’ (just like the term ‘Indians’). For people who consider themselves ‘black’ it is a game that was lost the moment it started. It was a fixed game.

I could continue but I don’t feel the need to and, to an extent, it’s not going to solve anything. My aim is to constructively come up with a solution to this problem. The issue is that both terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ have a problem whereby they over-generalise large groups of people. In that way, these terms are social-constructions, they are inventions, they are illusions, they have no application to reality unless they are enforced so. My solution would be to disintegrate that. However, this isn’t a matter of simply being politically correct or ‘not talking about it’; both issues don’t address race directly or constructively.

The solution would be to bring ethnicities into tangible terms and the answer comes through science. DNA tests have enabled people to come to terms with what areas of the world they originate from. This would give the opportunity to do that for 10 million people. If people reconciled the identities taken from them historically, it would provide a means for contextual dialogue. Put simply, it would no longer be a case of saying ‘black’ or ‘African American’. It’s now a matter of well, which part of Africa specifically? Africa is a continent with a diverse range of cultures and to categorise it as one identity is quite frankly insulting. I’m surprise this definition has existed for so long. If this works, it would no longer be the case for people to say otherwise; instead they will say “well actually I’m Ghanaian-American”, or “Mozambique American”. For those with different origins, it would be an opportunity to say “well, I’m from a mix of different backgrounds; Egyptian, Congolese and American”. By doing this, you are denying fuel for the fire and not abiding by this language game; a language game built upon forcing huge groups of people under one term in the name of segregation and oppression. That doesn’t make sense.



Did we do a good job in Afghanistan?

So Nato forces are officially out of Afghanistan after ten years. A lot of people ask “was it worth it in the long run?” and though I can’t provide a definitive answer, a comparison to provide some perspective might bring some insight.

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and occupied it for 10 years and, like the Bush administration, the same rhetoric was used: to prevent Islamic terrorism, battle ‘international terrorism and rebels’ and prevent Islamic fundementalism from spreading (in the USSR’s predominantly Muslim populated areas). The USSR, like the U.S, had invested the equivalent of billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s infastructure, government and Army. It conducted joint operations with the Afghan army and attempted to secularise it’s society; it also attempted to impose a communist government (as ISAF has attempted to impose a Democratic government).

However, that’s really where the similarity ends. Three huge differences stand out, which suggests the war in Afghanistan has been successful compared to the way we peceive it. 1) Militarily, 2) Treatment of the population and 3) The political process.
1) In military terms, Afghanistan has been relatively successful for ISAF forces. It had a standing of 41,124 ISAF personnel and 352,000 Afghan security personnel. In terms of casualties, 3,479 military personnel have died (the majority being the United States Army), 23,000 have been wounded (though there is no detail on what sort of incarsertations). With private contractors and the Afghan Army, casualties have ammoutned to 14,859 which is not particularly high compared to previous occupational wars fought in the past. It has also managed to maintain Afghan national forces and delegate complete control to them by early 2014. It also has the backing of the international community.

In contrast, some 620,000 Soviets served in the 10 years of occupation. Out of those, 75,000 were killed, 469,685 became sick or wounded from malnourishment, disintery and combat and 10,751 became invalids. Among the equipment lost were 118 jets, 333 helicopters, 147 tanks, 1,314 APCs, 433 artillery pieces and mortars, 1138 communication vehicles and 11,369 trucks. Comparatively, ISAF losses are minute and unlike the Soviet Army, all of ISAF’s military objectives have been completed. By 1989, the Afghan army was still suffering from mass desertions and constant sabotages from inside by Mujahadeen fighters. At it’s peak, the Afghan army numbered 55,000 but was constantly having to stabalise itself. The Soviet Army also, as well as treating the Afghan population brutally, treated its own personnel with the same level of brutality.
2) Treatment of the population has been relatively mixed (due to public perception) but overall things have been successful. Though there have been cases of suspects being terrorized, being sent to quantanamo bay, bombings in civilian areas etc (the ugly and inhumane part of the war), these have been relatively small. According to United Nations reports, 76% of civilian casualties have been from the Taliban and this has been due to using civilians as human shields, deliberately targeting civilians and both IED’s (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombings (which has been massivley condemned by Islamic communities in the West as un-Islamic). Civilian casualties are estimated to have been 16,725–19,013 with none displaced. Treatment wise, Nato has adopted a “winning the hearts and mind’s” approach as well as delegating control for Afghanistan to conduct their own operations and be self-sufficient. Treatment by the Taliban has been brutal, esepcially for ISAF soldiers captured. Often soldiers have been tortured or beheaded.

The Soviet Invasion was anything other than a success. The war can be generalised as a war of oppression and terror. Though that was not the intention, it became the outcome from the early years of occupation. Deprivation in the Soviet Army meant soldiers often pillaged and looted from the local population. The Soviet doctrine of ‘imposed control’ meant a show of force was implemented where it was never needed. For example, though Afghans initially welcomed the invasion, the Soviet Army illustrated indescriminate torture and killings. Prisoners of war were often killed or set alight with gasolene or thrown off helicopters as many of the soldiers couldn’t be bothered to take them back to base. These killings were also accidental and through the war, Soviet soldiers and pilots often dismissed caution. In one account, a caravan was shot up which turned out to be a marriage procession. In another, miscommunication meant villages were destroyed by helicopters before pilots realised their mistakes. Thousands of Soviet mines were laid which incacerated a lot of Afghans killed or incacerated and still pose a problem today. Whole villages and town were destroyed by the Soviet Army and airforce indescriminately because they suspected Mujahadeen fighters were there (rather than any of the attacks being based on intelligence). Brutality was also characterised by the weed and heroine addiction of many of the soldiers which exaggerated brutality further. It was a strategy to pummel the Afghan population into submission and was a failure. The Afghan Army were constantly plagued by desertions and soldiers would usually join the Mujahadeen, taking their weapons with them.

Afghanistan’s losses were staggering. Roughly 1.3 million Afghans were killed. A third of the pre-war population of 5.5 million people had fled abroad and another 2 million were internationally displaced. By the end of 1989, the whole of the Afghan population (with the exception of the Army, the government and administration personnel) were either fighting the Soviets or housing fighters. Soviet soldiers were skinned alived, tortured or forced to convert to Islam and fight their own army (beheadings on came when the Taliban rose to power).
3) For ISAF, the political process has been favourable. Many members of the Afghan government make up former Mujahadeen members who fought the Soviets. ISAF has always had the advantage of former Mujahadeen who have fought the Taliban during the Afghan civil war (the Mujahadeen hate the Taliban, it’s leader Massoud was killed a day before 9/11 and the remnants have formed the Northern Alliance which provide the modern political structure for Afghanistan’s government today). That has been tremendous help and it seems the hearts and minds of the majority of Afghanistan’s population have benefitted from it due to political stability after ISAF left in early 2014. Literacy has grown drastically in an otherwise illiterate population and now there is a greater calling for the education of women and equal rights, something that was unimaginable 10 years ago.

The Soviets were never as successful in forming a stable government giving control over to the Afghan government. Before the invasion, the communist leader Amin was in power and was characterised as a brutal and shrewed politician, often purging his own party and indescriminantly killing what he considered were ‘political enemies’. His brtuality sparked the formation of mujahadeen resistance and his forcing of secularisation on a largely traditional Islamic society caused conflict. His modernisation policies such as collectivisation also caused farms to be destroyed (something the Soviet war also caused) which meant farmers supplemented their former crops with poppy’s, leading Afghanistan to be the number one supplier of heroine in the world.

From this, I conclude the war in Afghanistan has been an overall success. There’s probably information to say otherwise and I think we like to point the finger the majority of the time and say “the war was immoral, we tortured and killed the population and it’s an illegal war”, but to what extent? (in the most dispassionate way possible) that children get an education, women get equal treatment and don’t have the fear of having acid thrown in their faces? That slowly but surely Afghan society will become stable and able to defend against Islamic extremism? That they will be able to provide their children with a rich and encouraging future and soon we may see more Afghans around the world prospering from the global economy like we do?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a whole list of problems that stretch all the way to the British coast and that’s undeniable but I like to think (compared to previous wars), with the resources and military we have and the results, we have made a positive impact that will have long term effects that can’t be imposed on Afghanistan as many powers as many have attempted to in the past.

I don’t know what the future has but I like to think we did a good job. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Surrender in the British Expeditionary Force during August 1914

In the hot summer of August 1914, the British Army was in retreat. Against a German army group twice its size, it desperately struggled to fall back. Since the end of the First World War, it has been popularized that the British Army managed to escape through superior quality of its men and training. This romanticising of the British Army, which is still embedded in popular memory, has left the assumption that the British army was an extremely disciplined and well-skilled army from its experiences in colonial wars. However, recent evidence of the BEF’s conduct has brought to light fundamental flaws in this interpretation. One aspect in particular makes this evident which is that as the Historian Alexander Watson has pointed out, the surrender to death ratio of the BEF during 1914 was I : 0.65, with 19,915 British soldiers being taken prisoner. This was larger than 1915 (I : 5.64), 1916 (I : 6.92) and 1917 (I : 5.67).[1] It is only in 1918 when large scale surrenders occur again (I : 0.75). The question the thesis will attempt to answer is why in 1914 was there such a loss of men to surrender in the opening stages of the First World War?

The interpretation that the British Army was a fantastic and glorious fighting force has long been ingrained in British historiography. This has been understandable due to the early nature of sources that fed into this assumption. Historians, such as John Terraine,[2] and John Gooch[3], who spent their careers studying the BEF in detail have been held in high regard for their use of regimental diaries and firsthand accounts from senior personnel (such as Sir John French and Kitchener). Other historians such as Edward Spiers,[4] Richard Homes,[5] and Adrian Gilbert,[6] have adapted a similar framework through the 20th century and added to it, which has validated the generalised claim more that the BEF was heroic during the retreat from Mons. This is understandable because the sources Terraine and Gooch have sited have been from institutional sources (Regimental and High military ranking accounts) which display the underlying theme of the ‘British Bulldog’ tradition of bravery under overwhelming odds. Even to this day, this perception remains prevalent; popular Historians such as Allan Mallinson have justified that the British Army, though inadequately prepared, escaped through bravery and discipline alone.[7] However this viewpoint has been questioned in recent years. Compared to other European Armies the nature of the primary, regimental and scholarly sources of the British Army have excluded the subject of why large surrenders took place in 1914 and why it became a problem. Current historians such as Alex Watson and Alan Kramer have begun to show that surrender was an issue predominantly in the British Army. They have posed the question: If the British Army has been proclaimed as inexhaustibly great by British Historians, why was the loss of men so prevalent in 1914?

Using a mix of primary sources (in the form of personal and regimental diaries and institutional investigations into surrenders); secondary sources (in the form of regimental diaries) and scholarly sources as a point of reference, it is assumed that a balanced perspective can be provided. However, the sources used in this thesis will carry the same dilemmas that previous historians have experienced and are not without their problems. The most predominant is the sources hold a range of underlying biases towards the events of 1914. For regimental diaries positions of responsibility, as to what happened, have always been ambiguous because the causes of surrender have always been attributed to fatalistic conditions. For example, the History of the Irish Regiment went as far as to deduce that surrender had been caused by a lack of trenching equipment.[8] As a result, responsibility is drawn away from the participants to denote that these situations were beyond the army’s control. This also becomes apparent in high ranking-officials who constantly emphasise acts of valour, which hold little significance to the outcome of battle, over so called ‘cowardly’ ones. In this way, it is inevitable the surrenders would be stigmatised. The point is furthered by investigations into captures which implement a moral bias against the captured. For example, Colonel Elkington of the 1st Warwickshires and Colonel Mainwaring of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who attempted to surrender themselves and their men at St Quentin were court-marshalled and discharged for cowardice. Even on a basic level, there are inherent biases within the diaries of soldiers and officers who experienced the retreat personally. For the soldiers, the sources are often non-descriptive and many of the writings simply state the events unfolding and what action was taken in reaction; overall there is a lack of emotive writing. Officers on the other hand are better able to articulate their feelings on paper in order for the reader to empathize with them. The discrepancy between both illustrates an educational bias between the soldiers and their officers, which means whereas the soldiers would have had difficulty in expressing themselves; officers hold a better vantage point to express their opinions and their perspective is more likely to be taken for granted. Nevertheless, the limitations of the sources are acknowledged and it essential to take these biases for granted when analysing the evidence because of the abundance of primary and secondary sources. The sheer volume of referencing will succeed in providing a dynamic and diverse range of perspectives that will enable better empathy with the events that unfolded during August 1914 and this will give the reader a greater feel for the people experiencing it.

From the previous points, it is clear where the dissertation is leading. Unlike the static nature of trench warfare, the early months of the First World War were illustrated by dynamic and mobile warfare. At any point during the fight, soldiers would have been attacking, counter-attacking or retreating and this tested the soldier’s physical and psychological fitness. As a result, it is more difficult for commanders and officers to keep track of units during battle and surrender is more likely, as is the possibility of soldiers willing to give themselves up to the enemy. However, questions need to be asked about the nature of these surrenders. Was it simply that the conditions and demands of modern warfare were harder for British Military Personnel? Or does it illustrate fundamental flaws within the British Army that led to surrender? The thesis will point to the later. But then this displays a further problem; if the British army did have fundamental flaws how did these take form? And how did they relate to surrender? The thesis will therefore be valuable as it will uncover un-studied ground, which will provide a base work for future historians to further analyse this relatively esoteric phenomenon.

The thesis will be split into two parts. Part one, The BEF on the Battlefield, will put the BEF’s surrenders into context and analyse the demands of modern warfare that the British Army faced, which will illustrate that battlefield conditions made surrender more likely. Part two, The British Army in 1914, will analyse the BEF’s structures and its fundamental flaws within the officer corps, which laid the foundations of ill-trained staff. It will point the dissertation to conclude that though the conditions were important in contributing to surrender, it was the officers on the ground who ultimately gave themselves up as prisoners of war.


  1. The BEF on the Battlefield

1.1 Context

To gain an informed perspective, it is vital that context is provided for the events which occurred during August 1914. The British Army declared war against the German Empire on the 4th August and began to land troops in the French ports of Boulogne, Le Havre and Rouen by the 9th. Troops were continuously unloaded until the 20th and then orders were given for the BEF to march to Mons. The journey was 138 miles over a two day period. On the 23rd, The BEF engaged the Imperial German Army for the first time and by the afternoon it was given the order, By Sir John French and Sir Smith Dorrien, to fall back. Suddenly the British Army was in a full scale retreat. For three days, while fighting rear-guard attacks, it travelled 42 miles where it was finally reinforced by reserves. On the 26th Smith Dorrien organized a joint counter-attack with the French Army under General Joffre at Le-Cateau, after which the BEF retreated a further 91 miles to the Marne River where a successful counter-attack was launched which finally halted the German Army. It set an allied victory and forced the Germans to abandon their plan to capture Paris. Instead they retreated northwest, setting the stage for four years of static trench warfare. Altogether the series of events including the march to Mons stretched a distance of 271 miles over ten days, something which displays the long and exhausting journey for British military personnel that required both physical fitness and constant endurance.

With context given, it is easy to empathise with how the strenuous conditions of modern combat (exhaustin long marches and retreat) led to surrender. However two revealing cases have shown that conditions, though important, were not as significant as the military personnel on the ground. Both of these are revealing in the fact they create a direct correlation between officers and capture; these are the near surrender 1/ Royal Warwickshire’s and the 2/ Royal Dublin Fusiliers at St Quentin and the surrender of the 500 1/ Gordon Highlanders, 2/ Royal Scots and 2/ Royal Irish at Bertry. At St Quentin, both regiments found themselves exhausted and unable to go on under Colonel Elkington of the Warwickshires and Mainwaring of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Having retreated with a sense of confusion as to where the rest of the BEF were located, they planned to organize some evacuation of exhausted soldiers after finding that the town train station (that was promised by Sir John French to evacuate soldiers) was abandoned. After consulting with both non-commissioned officers and soldiers, both were persuaded that resistance could still be mounted. The prospect of surrender was dashed after the Mayor of St Quentin proclaimed that both Colonels needed to surrender in order to save the town. This, coinciding with the idea the men needed to be saved from pointless killing, compelled both Colonels to unconditionally surrender. The surrender was prevented at the last moment by Major Tom Bridges of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guard who instructed both Colonels to re-organise the men and inspired the men by playing a tin whistle and drums from a local toy shop. This miraculously inspired the men to march out of St Quentin. In the aftermath both Elkington and Mainwaring were court-martialled.[9]

The Surrender at Bertry also displays similar themes. On the road to Bertry, Colonel Gordon and Colonel Neish of the Gordon Highlanders realised the three regiments were left behind and marched back to Bertry. During the night, on the 26th August at midnight, the column ran into French civilians who told the officers the main body of the BEF had come the same way earlier in the day. Shortly, these were discovered to be German soldiers disguised as French civilians and after a scuffle, German ambushers opened a volley of fire into the column. Some resistance was mounted but this was stopped by Neish who ordered the column to surrender in order to prevent loss of life, after which both accompanied by several officers attempted to flee on foot. During this time, Neish compelled the other officers to go back for reasons of duty and honour and this succeeded. However by the time they returned the column had unconditionally surrendered. After the war, an inquiry was launched into how the retreat occurred which concluded that cowardice of both Gordon and Neish was the main factor.[10]

Both cases display similar themes. Firstly, there is a turning point in both cases where officers advocate the least line of resistance. Secondly, this compelled the organized formations with recognizable chains of command to surrender because these formations saw no reason to defy their superiors. Thirdly, it displays situations of isolation where the British formations are separated from the main body of the BEF. Smaller situations such as these permeate throughout the retreat from Mons. For example on the 27th August at the village of Etreux, 3 companies of the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers, part of 1st Division’s rearguard, did not receive the order to retreat and were cut off. The death of the Munster’s commander Major Paul Charrir during a counter-attack destroyed morale and lack of relief, coinciding with isolation, meant the companies needed to go through a German corp in order to get back to their parent division. Around 9pm 4 surviving officers agreed that duty and honour had been fulfilled and two hundred and fifty men of the companies surrendered.[11] It displays the same underlying factors which contribute the surrender in the BEF as well as the fashion in which units gave themselves up.


1.2 Battlefield Conditions

The demands of a modern war meant the BEF needed to rapidly adapt to new battlefield conditions that it was not prepared for. The case for this is varied and play a large and integral part in contributing to large loses of men as prisoners. Mass exhaustion, fatigue, escape from a highly determined enemy and a seemingly endless culmination of problems contributed greatly to the context in which surrender took place.

The key element when considering the retreat from Mons is fear of the German Army during the retreat and this is best represented in the of scale, which brings into context how outnumbered the British Army was compared to its German counterpart. In 1914, the British Army number 118,000 and comparatively this was minute in the face of the European Armies. The Imperial German Army on the other hand fielded a standing army of 1,318,000.[12] Between both, the BEF was hopelessly outnumbered in the face of German offensives. During the Battle of Mons, the British Army was not at full capacity and numbered an estimated 80,000 men 300 guns. It faced the German First Army under General Von Kluck, an army that numbered 160,000 men and 600 guns and gave the German army a 2:1 advantage in manpower and weapons.[13] Thus, it is easy to empathise with the sense of inadequacy that the British Army felt against the relentless, and seemingly limitless, attacks the German Army was able to mount. It contributed to the constant sense of hopelessness that permeated throughout the British Army. According to Niall Fergusson, an army only needs to perceive that defeat is imminent in order to surrender, rather than actually be inflicted physical damage.[14] Thus it is understandable that the perception of an aggressive German Army catching up and destroying the British Army caused panic amongst the soldiers and officers; for them fear and anxiety of being captured or killed, by a foe which could not be located, stretched them to breaking point. For example in St Quentin, Captain N.P. Clarke expressed anxiety and fear about the fact they would eventually have to fight the Germans at any moment who had: ‘unknown strength in unknown places at any time’.[15] This context of uncertainty created ideas of hopelessness and was reflected by the officers and the men who followed them. John F. Lucy described how officers encouraged their soldiers to move forwards desperately, saying capture would result in death or 4 to 5 years or torture in a German fortress. [16] Colonel Elkington at St Quentin was only to keen to unconditionally surrender for the reason of sparing innocent lives in the wake of inevitable German destruction. [17] This sense of uncertainty of what was to come was further exacerbated by battlefield conditions such as night fighting, where sight is scarce. For example the Surrender at Bertry was stimulated by an ambush during the night, which caused Colonel Neish to surrender within a small period of time:


Heard Lt. Col Neish say “oh this is aweful”… He then said “I have surrendered; Col. Gordon is gone and says the officers are to save themselves but I say that the officers are to stay with the battalion. Is that you Fraser? Come here” I went up to him and stood there and after a few minutes he sent me to tell the enemy that we had surrendered.[18]


The mixture of uncertainty, an overwhelming enemy and the perception that defeat was imminent was a dominant factor in surrender for many of the officers and the men who followed their orders and therefore was an overbearing concern for isolated British officers and their units.

Modern battlefield conditions require precise communication between units. Though the BEF was superbly disciplined in relaying information, the means to communicate between command on strategic and tactical levels were inadequate. In this way, organizational difficulties were intrinsically linked to communication. Messages were hand written or orally passed down. These were inadequate when dealing with modern battlefield conditions such as fast-moving units and deafening noises of gunfire. Such cases meant it was impossible for units to keep coherency and mis-communication had a detrimental effect as various units who were left behind. For example, Captain G.A. Eliot of 2nd Royal Irish Rifles illustrated the terrible intelligence on the ground, being informed: ‘30,000 French Cavalry were coming to reinforce us from Arras… having received no instruction that the rest of our brigade had retired’.[19] Such false information had the effect of blurring the lines between fabricated and factual information of what was occurring around units, coinciding with paranoia of German aggression that was heard from French soldiers and civilians. For example Major C L Brereton, having spoken to an American journalist was made paranoid by the fact the people around him had suspected the man of being a German spy.[20] Mis-communication went so far as to effect individuals as well as units. For Captain Owens, after halting for two hours, he received orders to rendezvous with his battalion but had found they were nowhere in sight and none of the soldiers at the ordered location knew anything.[21] Similar accounts like these, of messages of units that were not in their designated locations or individuals who found themselves stranded and unable to return to their units, were commonplace throughout the BEF and many of them became confused during the fighting as to where they needed to go.

If lack of communication illustrated anything it was that the sense of isolation was an underlying factor which motivated capture for officers. Like communication problems, isolation created confusion among the men and their officers; reinforced the fear and anxiety of being captured as well as ignorance pushed military personnel to breaking point. If situations where units are reinforced is analysed, cases of surrender are avoided due to units being connected back to the main body of the British Army. In the situation of St Quentin, Major Tom Bridges gave an ultimatum to rally the men, ‘giving them half an hour’s grace…but letting them know that I would leave no British soldier alive in St. Quentin’,[22] and the use of the tin whistle and drums had an obvious effect on morale: ‘They sat up and began to laugh and even cheer. I…made them a short exhortation and told them I was going to take them back to their regiments. They began to stand up and fall in’.[23] This is also observed in minute cases. During the battle of Mons, a platoon was spotted retiring without orders. The Battalion CO was furious and threatened to have the sergeant shot. When being ordered back, the men under him ‘did not seem to mind coming back in the very least. The CO asked no questions then, but the sergeant was left missing after the action and so nothing more was said about it’.[24] Like Bertry, Captain R Whitbread’s unit had been ambushed at night but was saved due to reinforcements.[25] Thus, the sense of isolation for the soldiers permeated feelings of helplessness in the wake of German aggression. For many, that sense of helplessness contributed to officers giving their units up in order to save their units integrity.

In order for an army to complete military operations, it needs to be able to transport men in order to attack and react to dynamic conditions on the battlefield. Without the use of transports an army simply marches. Though motorized transport had been used to transport soldiers to the British coast, much of the transport for supplies was still horse drawn and for the soldier marching was the standard method of travelling. In terms of marching, a drastic transition to long distances can result in physical exhaustion if soldiers are not physically trained to do so; it also further contributes to deteriorating morale because it provides an endless collective doubt whether the unit will reach their destination. Inadequate physical fitness posed a huge burden which was due to the condition of the soldiers themselves. Reservists alone accounted for 61.8% of all personnel on mobilisation due to the fact battalions were linked with their over-sea battalions.[26] This meant a reliance on personnel who had not seen active service for years and only received 6 days worth of training to become physically fit again. Within this context, the consequences were diminishing morale and precarious expectations as to where the soldiers were going to end up. For example, Samuel Knight of the Welsh Regiment records:


We are off again: marching, marching, marching. Nobody seems to know our destination… we halt to go to billets; a meal and prospects of a rest. Will they be realised? Again the order “fall in” is given. Wearily we move off…….Is it possible for us to march another 30 miles?…… Few words are spoken: legs move mechanically: dust and perspiration begrime our haggard and bearded faces.[27]


Another private, Walter Bentham described a march of 38 miles with no rest.[28] Such long distances seemed to disintegrate any hopes of survival on the battlefield and, more importantly, it would contribute to the perception that British soldiers were unable to continue marching. For example St Quentin, which had been a staging area for stragglers and the wounded, had turned into a safe-haven for exhausted soldiers. For the officers overseeing them, it seemed as though it was pointless for the men to continue because it meant their men would be sacrificed needlessly (with the added concern of civilian casualties). When Elkington ordered the unconditional surrender, he remarked:


It was Thursday afternoon; I had not slept since Monday morning; I had seen villages burning and others shelled….The consequences was that when I came to sign the paper I felt my duty was to make our purpose quite clear… as I wrote the words I paused; but the state of my brain was such that I felt if I argued as to the conditions it might leave an opening for the Germans to shell the town and kill the civilian population…Prostrated with Mental and physical exhaustion, I wrote these words.[29]


For the soldiers, the constant physical exertion deteriorated the will to go on and the officers witnessing this confirmed this. The difference was that whereas the British soldiers failed to analyse this failure within a wider military context, the officers provided a framework (on a tactical level) in which the surrenders could be understood: for them, wasting valuable men who were exhausted physically in battle was the final straw and was the determining factor for many of the officers who let their units be captured.

Physical fatigue is also a factor that contributes to mass exhaustion. Put simply, physical exhaustion, coinciding with sleep deprivation, leads to a decrease in physical performance and a complete breakdown for those who are not physically capable. The underlying consequences for the soldiers were sleep deprivation and in many cases, soldiers lost consciousness while marching. For example, Lucy described the effects of extreme fatigue on his comrades: ‘Men slept while they marched, and they dreamed while they walked….Commonplace sensible remarks turned to inane jibberings. The brains of the soldiers became clouded…Our curse was loss of sleep’.[30] Even for non-reservists such as Lieutenant Colonel J V Ramsden, marching whilst having only 45 minutes sleep in 36 hours was too much.[31] For those not marching, the sudden relief of having temporary rest had a detrimental effect because it gave them the opportunity to stop permanently and due to this, it is understandable that units were left behind in an attempt to escape from the enemy. Indeed fatigue formed the majority of cases where troops found themselves suddenly behind enemy lines. For example, at Estree fifty men of the Royal Welch Fusiliers were left behind due to sleep and only managed to scatter away in scarce time.[32] Lieutenant Loyd of the Scots guard reported that two Officers of the Irish Guard, ‘were left behind and awoke to find themselves surrounded by Germans holding the town. They crept out of their house and along garden walls, across some meadows’.[33] For many men, the prospect that they could rendezvous again with the main body of the BEF was futile. For example Gordon, though adamant later in expressing his contempt for surrender, expressed his doubts to Neish about escaping with the 500 men after waking up to find the main division had left his battalion and himself.[34] Thus fatigue became an underlying reason as to why officers considered the least line of resistance for their men after not having the physical determination to continue.

Even with personnel that are not physically fit, exhaustion and fatigue are preventable if armies are well supplied. If not, soldiers and officers are unable to obtain the energy to go further. In the context of 1914, distribution of food was a major concern and continually posed a problem; it also commented on inadequate levels of organisation in the BEF. For example, on average the British soldier carried two days worth of rations and “Iron rations” which consisted of an emergency supply of bully beef, jam and biscuits; a staple diet which had been relied on in colonial wars. However the demanding burden of long distance walking resulted in many of these supplies being finished during the march. Private H.D. Bryan of the Scots Guards expressed frustration after his rations had been used up during the march to Mons, ‘we were told that dinner would be up in 2 hrs time… & great was our disappointment to find that instead of a good dinner waiting for us there was only hot water with which to make tea…the Interpreters are our great friends and also prove invaluable foragers’. [35] The adequate means of keeping up supplies resulted in two means of acquiring food. The first was the food that was piled on the roadside in desperation, by Royal Engineers, which worked to an extent because soldiers were able to pick up any food that was needed and to a degree this had a psychological effect. According to Loyd, ‘An A.S.C. (Army Service Corps) Depot of dumped food for the 1st Div. Proved a great benefit and were filled surreptitiously our haversacks from the supplies piled by the roadside. We needed food’.[36] The Second alternative was scavenging from the local French population. Though soldiers managed to obtain the necessary supplies to continue on, this negatively affected the troops psychologically by firstly creating the obligation they could sanction the taking of local supplies and secondly, in many cases alcohol was distributed which severely destroyed any will to continue. A good example is Dunn’s testimony of an officer who forcefully requisitioned a shop’s food, ‘During the short halt I was sitting in a doorstep when the door opened and a large jug of beer was passed out…they must have thought we were winning’.[37] The long period of food deprivation and the sudden over-consumption of food and alcohol led to soldiers permanently stopping, as was the case with German Soldiers during the Ludendorff offensive in 1918. As a result, discipline and unit coherency deteriorated rapidly. Upon entering St Quentin, Captain Arthur Osburn, the medical officer of the 4th Dragoon Guards commented:

The whole square was thronged with British infantrymen standing in groups or wandering about in an aimless fashion… Some few, obviously intoxicated, wandered about firing in the air at real or imaginary German aeroplanes. The great majority were not without their arms but had apparently either lost or thrown away their belts, water bottles and other equipment.[38]

Such chaos, coinciding with a lack of energy from mass exhaustion and fatigue, for the officers meant units became more susceptible to capture because deprivation diminished willpower and for the officers witnessing their unit’s deprivations it reinforced the sense of hopelessness on the ground.

The effectiveness of an army is reflected in the way it is utilized and directed on the ground, both from a strategic and tactical level. It illustrates the pragmatic and initiative of ‘command and control’ which directs the flow of battle. For the BEF, this two distinct command styles succeeded in having detrimental effects on performance and morale. British military thinking highlighted two contradictory military philosophies: ‘restrictive control’ (to follow an officer’s order unconditionally) and ‘umpiring’ (when a commander abdicates his responsibilities by letting his subordinates use their initiative). The polarized opposite means of ordering soldiers on the battlefield often meant officers stubbornly held on to one method or ambiguously switched between both. For example, Wollocombe recorded how constant switches between orders during enemy shelling at Audencourt resulted in casualties because of the fashions in which the orders were distributed.[39] In many ways the indecisive switching between both command styles represented officers as being a beacon of moral authority rather than practical force; this coincided with the fact subordinates were nervous of using their initiative because it was culturally assumed that higher ranks denoted more knowledge than a junior rank and were de facto superior.[40] For example, before the surrender at Bertry, disputes broke out between Neish and Gordon about seniority and whether there could be a retreat without written orders; Gordon arguing that he was entitled to full authority being the regimental officer.[41] It illustrated the un-prepared nature of the officer corp in coping with the dynamic conditions of the Western Front that stemmed from lack of practical training; in practice a commander was a subordinate for discipline rather than a director of soldiers.[42] For example, Colonel Stevens and Major Jones of the 37th (Howitzer battery), surrendered after having no orders to retire, coinciding with the sudden arrival of retreating horse teams; all of the soldiers he commanded immediately did so afterwards.[43] Thus, the inability to command on a tactical level by officers resulted in indecision and a better likelihood of being captured. However it is important to emphasize that whereas battlefield conditions made surrender more probable, responsibility still falls on the officers who made the decision to do so.




  1. The British Army in 1914

The previous section has brought to light the conditions that led to elements of the British Army giving themselves up to capture. Though it is valid to claim that the rigours of modern battlefield conditions contributed to this occurring, it is also a reflection of an army’s combat effectiveness. An army can have well-trained soldiers with experience but if not directed properly in battle, this can have a detrimental effect on its performance. With this premise in mind, it is understandable that surrenders originated from fundamental flaws in the British Army that took shape through the officer corp. Differences in performance, between officers and soldiers, can be deduced from German field intelligence reports in 1914 which usually spoke with admiration on the conduct of British soldiers, as well as their resentment at being taken prisoner, their unwillingness to co-operate and their mental resilience.[44] For example, Brigadier- General Gleichen of the Cheshire’s (who had been captured on the 24th August), recorded: ‘The Germans were astonished at their rifle fire, and owned to very heavy loses. They asked whether we trained our men to fire at the enemy’s balls, as most of their men were hit thereabouts’.[45] This was in stark contrast to reports of the Territorial Force, ‘Kitchener’s Battalions’ or British conscripts who were seen as deprived of masculininity.[46] Therefore, the factors contributing to surrender lie with the inefficient command system that was separated between lower and senior officers.


2.1 Lower Officers: Command on a tactical level

The BEF in 1914 had been quoted to be ‘incomparably the best trained, best organized, and best equipped British Army that ever went forth to war’,[47] and it is understandable how the statement is accurate. In terms of training and discipline, the British army was ahead of its European counterparts. This is because the system of training was made to be rigorous and disciplined. From the moment the British soldier woke up, his day was set by a rigid framework that the regimental system provided and training was strictly conformed to timetables. For example from 6am to 12pm, British Soldiers abided by a routine that included physical training, long marches, drilling and target practice.[48] Emphasis on discipline is supported by the fact between 1902-1913 the rate of soldiers court-martialled dropped to only 30 per 1000 each year, compared to 77 per 1000 between 1868 and 1893.[49] Training also reflected previous lessons learned on the battlefield. Though the last major war Britain fought was the Boer War from 1899-1902, experience gave it the benefit of how to effectively utilise tactics on the battlefield. The Boer war ended the tactic of mass volley fire and marching in close ranks. After the Haldane reforms of 1905, training drastically changed to emphasise marksmanship and use of cover and space. Soldiers were often encouraged to utilise this to its full potential by meriting higher wages to soldiers who had better marksmanship skills.[50] Even for reservists who were mobilised in 1914, their regiment was not just a military organization, it was a self-contained society. It formed a daily hierarchal life where the individual was never to forget for a moment they were not part of their regiment.[51] Therefore the emphasis on training and discipline denoted that British soldiers were trained to be combat effective on the battlefield.

For officers, inefficiencies in combat were intrinsically linked to training. Like British soldiers, officers went through similar training and discipline that was physically and mentally demanding. For example, officers were governed by same standing orders and took extraordinary amounts of preparation. This is emphasised by the idea of ‘lead by example’ that many of the officers embodied; it was believed not doing so would have a detrimental effect on the soldier’s morale.[52] However, despite this the British officer was hopelessly inexperienced. For example, annual military manoeuvres were very limited. An officer spent a total of six weeks of which four days were actually spend on the field, meaning that in active service sixteen days were spent on testing military tactics.[53] Even for experienced officers who had served in colonial wars, the conditions on the Western Front were overwhelming. For example, at Bertry, the sudden volley of fire into the column immediately caused Neish and Gordon (veteran officers) to issue the order to surrender. [54] The effect of this was monumental because unless the officers were in the field, they had little simulation of battlefield conditions; it showed many lacked sufficient a mixture of leadership training and instructions which intended to make officers psychologically cope with battlefield conditions, making them more susceptible to panic than the soldiers under their command. For example, both cases at St Quentin and Bertry represent situations where leading officers become incapacitated by indecision. At St Quentin, the mayor’s demand that the British officers give out of fear of civilian deaths and soldiers unnecessarily dyingwas the final straw that panickedElkington and Mainwaring into unconditionally surrendering.[55] Thus, lack of preparation for real combat on the battlefield meant officers were unable to deal with extreme situations their positions demanded.

Lack of any real training also coincided with the burden of administrative and executive duties that constantly plagued officers. The effect was a diversion away from any real training and signified the officer as a maintainer of discipline rather than an effective leader. For example, the quarter-master general as well as being in charge of troop movements was also in charge of logistics.[56] The cost of this was also evident compared to other European Armies. Multi-skilled personnel increased the cost of maintenance. To mobilise just two corps of infantry, the treasury needed to pay an annual budget of £14.5 million whilst Germany fielded 19 corps for £19 Million because German Staff focused exclusively on military matters (and conscripts on the European Continent were paid significantly less than British soldiers).[57] Thus, the overbearing administrative job that being a British officer embodied diverted them away from their military roles and hampered any possibility of focusing on a higher level of leadership.

Lack of preparedness for combat was also due to flaws in British officer selection. After 1906, the British Army had attempted to centralise itself and emphasise selection by merit. For example, British High Command put in place policies which would assist officers by organizing lectures which taught strategy and military history. In 1908 Major General. W. E. Franklyn, organized an ad hoc ‘War School’ For forty officers. It was run by his General Staff officers, lasted for two weeks and consisted of a mixture of lectures and practical problems.[58] On the other hand, the selection for British Officers made little headway in the eyes of the older generation of British officers. For example, by 1914 British regimental officers recruited most of their officers from public schools that placed ‘character’ above intellectual attainments, or technical performance, and many reports about performance were either unduly favourable or so vague as to be practically useless. For example, the CGS Sir William Nicholson rejected the idea of merit outright based on the cost it would entail but there was a lack of any real evidence to support his assumption.[59] For regimental officers, battalions tended to send their badly performed staff preferring stubbornly to keep talented personnel. This was because the regimental system, with its glacially slow rate of promotion, failed to promote professional zeal. It produced officers with little commitment to taking their profession seriously or, at best, an inward-looking professionalism that encouraged them to believe their regiment was the centre of their profession. Statistically on average, a subaltern in a line infantry regiment became a captain when he was 39, and majors did not become lieutenant-colonels until they were 47.[60] Even if the British officer did go to Cadet College to be an officer, there was no guarantee they would be selected by performance. For example, up to a third of entrants to staff college were guaranteed their places due to patronage, arms of service or pay rather than ability and this undermined the status of the officer corp.[61] Brigadier –General Sir James E. Edmonds found that examiners were instructed to compulsorily fail 5% of all candidates regardless of marks in entrance exams even though by 1913 the ratio of applicants to places at the staff college was between four and five to one, with 185 applicants for 36 places.[62] Though there had been intellectual requirements for recruiting staff, these tended to be bypassed because the pass mark was too high and by 1913 it was scrapped so there was no measurement of empirical progress.[63] From the evidence provided, it is understandable how the transition to higher rank for many officers was not incentivised by merit or experience. In 1908, of seven infantry generals at the War Office, only one had commanded a battalion. Colonel Elkington only managed to gain his position because his father had been a Major-General and unlike his father, he had no experience of war.[64] Therefore, the selection process only succeeded in dampening any prospects of well trained officers who took their role seriously and this had a psychological effect. Once officers were confronted with situations they had not experienced in training, the possibility of panic and giving up was substantially higher.

The mixture of inadequate training, patronage and poor officer selection had a cumbersome effect on the battlefield which drastically increased the possibility of officers willingly giving themselves up, and their units, to the enemy. This was further exasperated by battlefield conditions in 1914. A mixture of exhaustion, fatigue and a breakdown in communication meant the command structure of the BEF began to fall apart; this took the form of a breakdown between officers and arguments over authority. Neish recalls how he received no instructions from Gordon.[65] Gordon later justified this by implying his position was a ceremonial one (which contradicted his claim beforehand that a ceremonial position have him greater authority): ‘Lt. Colonel Neish, asked me to issue orders… I invariably pointed out to him that my positions did not warrant me taking this responsibility because so long as General Doran did not become a casualty, I remained merely a Regimental Officer and could not possibly assume the position of commanding’.[66] Therefore, a breakdown in command warranted indecisiveness which put British soldiers and officers in a state of real danger, which was reinforced by fear of being overrun by the German Army.


                 2.2 Senior officers: command on a strategic level

The success of battlefield operations are determined by the way in which command and control is able to act and react to situations in the theatre of war. In this case the stakes are higher because the scale of operations becomes larger from regimental (2000-4000 men) to corps (20,000-40,000) size units. The BEF was no different and cases of surrender are contributed to fundamental flaws within high command. The unexpected retreat from Mons was the signifier that British Army was outnumbered. It also showed conflict between command styles. The conflict between direct control and ‘umpiring meant senior officers only enforced their orders with a degree of moral authority than demanding expectations.[67] In many ways this lack of control represented the idealistic and disconnected attitude of the General Staff in reference to what was going on, on the battlefield. The stubborn regimental tradition, and the sense the regiments had not been beaten, fed into the emotions of the General Staff witnessing the retreat from Mons. General Smith Dorian, for example, outlined his feeling of optimism at the sight of battered, exhausted and fatigued British soldiers: ‘It was a wonderful sight. Men smoking their pipes, apparently quite unconcerned… no formation of any sort and men from units mixed up altogether. I likened it at the time to a crowd coming away from a race meeting’.[68] On the other hand, onlookers who also witnessed the retreat expressed the opposite opinion. General Joffre’s (of the French Army) liaison officer, witnessing the same event, expressed his doubts to Joffre. Joffre was appalled at his report:

The situation is extremely critical. For the moment the British Army is beaten and is incapable of any serious effort. The third and fifth divisions are nothing more than disorganised bands, incapable of offering the smallest resistance. Conditions are such that for the moment the British Army no longer exists.[69]

It confirmed the opinion of onlookers that the British Army was on the verge of collapse and the naivety of the Generals is reflected towards surrender. For example, Field Marshal Haig vaguely suggests that surrender was unequivocally an act of cowardice rather than factors such as fatigue or isolation.[70] It confirmed that Generals of British High command simply did not understand the situation on the ground and that lack of understanding did little to prevent surrender from taking place when it was preventable.

The naivety of British Generals towards the situation on the ground can be seen from their general bias towards who was responsible for surrender. The denials that surrender was due to voluntary actions meant senior officers excluded the possibility that surrender was possible in the British Army (and if it was, it needed to be categorised as cowardice). This is understandable because Senior British officers adopted a passive approach to suggest they played little part in the battles and suggested failure was due to external events (as a way of maintaining their own careers and absolving them from any blame). Descriptions of isolated heroic acts, for example, were given prominence to the outcome of battle. When commenting on 5th Division’s retreat, Dorian concluded Major Yate of the Yorkshire Light infantry was responsible for holding the Germans off by sacrificing himself.[71] According to Colonel Bond’s report, Yate’s charge had no effect on British defence.[72] This also appealed to the cultural mentality of British officers, which emphasized heroism. This is further shown by regimental diaries which blame surrender on circumstantial factors. In the case of Bertry, the regimental diary of the Gordon highlanders states that they were overpowered by superior numbers.[73] Other perspectives at Bertry have said otherwise. Captain Fraser commented, ‘I think if we charged the column in the village we should probably have scattered them and taken the village’.[74] Captain Stewart had immediately, on being fired upon built a strong firing line.[75] It was only the decision of Gordon and Neish surrender occurred. At St Quentin, for the officers, the soldiers were in a semblance of order and could be directed onwards and some groups of riflemen were formed as a rearguard.[76] It is this bias towards surrender by senior officers and their absolution of blame that prevented measures, to deal with capture, from occurring and that was exacerbated by conditions o on the ground. Thus, the naive mentality of senior command contributed greatly to large numbers of soldiers being captured.

Direction of troops on a strategic level requires large amounts of experience. Like lower ranking officers, problems on the battlefield were directly caused by lack of preparation or training. The purpose of the army is to fulfil its political objectives. In the case of the BEF, the objectives set were ambiguous. For example, Britain’s war aims under Sir Edward Grey were not certain, as was the strategy of how to defeat Germany. Even when war did break out, political policy of Edward Grey was ‘business as usual’ and British strategic thinking revolved around a purely naval strategy; the BEF was seen as a ‘Projectile to the fired by the British Navy’.[77] Indecision was exemplified by the fact at the outbreak, the cabinet to sent just four infantry divisions and cavalry divisions to France on the 5th August. It was only when Kitchner was recalled from Egypt did he send the last remaining divisions to France on the 3rd September.[78] This was also emphasised by lack of training; only one of the nine members in the Great General Staff had any combat experience and the war council itself consisted of four civilian ministers and a civilian chief of staff. Furthermore, there was little preparation for senior officers for the battlefield. At any one time, an officer could only command a battalion during the 4 days of manoeuvres which meant there was no real practical sense of how to direct large formations in battle.[79] From the beginning of the BEF’s conception there was always confusion on how it could be used in a European War. Ergo, It is arguable that from the start, the lack of decisiveness in the BEF’s role proved to be a major disadvantage and that indecisiveness was carried on to a tactical level that displayed all the problems lower-ranking officers faced.



Observing surrender in the BEF in August with a simple explanation, one would conclude that battlefield conditions played a significant part. A combination of mass exhaustion and fatigue exhausted British personnel, who were clearly unprepared for the long and cumbersome march that the retreat caused. Lack of supplies increased exhaustion and this was emphasised by lack of communication between units due to outdated methods of relaying messages. A combination of these factors means surrender can be attributed to the demands that modern combat entails. However, this explanation is simplistic. A valuable question that can be asked then is why did the rest of the BEF refuse to surrender? In the general retreat from Mons, the majority of the British Army managed to stay intact. The coherent effect of the regimental system and physical hegemonic presence of the army together, played a significant part in keeping the BEF together. It also means that the cases of surrender need to be analysed with cautious eyes. After the retreat, the British army managed to re-organise itself successfully, with its French allies, halt the German Army completely. With counter-offensives at the Marne and Aisne, the trenches were dug and German plans for taking Paris were halted permanently. This would also support the claim that surrender was contributed to psychological factors that British officers and soldiers experienced during the retreat. Fear of being enveloped by a much larger, and aggressive, German army played a domineering factor for British officers giving themselves up. For them, the idea of wasting their men needlessly to a determined enemy was not worth the sacrifice. This coincided with the sense of isolation and confusion that the drastic nature of the retreat caused; the sense of being cut off from the main body of the British Army and being killed at any place at any time by an unknown number of troops pushed the anxiety of officers to breaking point.

All of these points suggest two key factors: Firstly, that surrender circulated in the mind of officers rather than soldiers. Even for reservists, who had not seen military combat for years, experience in colonial wars, training and disciplined life of the regiment was more than enough to make them believe surrender was not a viable option. In these cases, it is only when British soldiers suddenly found themselves individualistically behind enemy lines that surrender occurs. Secondly, responsibility points to both senior and lower ranking officers which highlights fundamental flaws within the framework of the British Army. Progression through patronage, lack of combat simulation training and administrative duties failed to put officers in the mindset of war. It resulted in indecisiveness for many officers in extreme conditions (coinciding with conflicting command styles) something their training was supposed to gear them towards. As a result, in these situations British officers simply broke down and gave themselves up and the well disciplined nature of the battalions under them meant they too easily followed the least line of resistance. On a senior level, the inability to apply large scale strategic thinking in training meant Generals simply were not able to prepare for a European War. This was the result of political indecisiveness as to the BEF’s role, lack of experience personnel and naivety of officers. The combination of all three factors meant surrenders were often stigmatised, and isolated acts were glorified, as a way for senior officers to absolve responsibility. Ergo, this thesis concludes that lack of preparation and inexperience in the officer corp, due to flawed means of choosing viable officers, was an overriding factor in surrender. Though this was exacerbated by battlefield conditions, it is the position of army leaders to train themselves so situations such as these do not occur in battle.

[1] Alexander Watson, Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2008), p. 145.

[2] John Terraine, Mons: Retreat to Victory (London: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2002).

[3] John Gooch, The Plans of War: The General Staff and British Military Strategy, C. 1900-1916 (London: John Wiley and Sons Inc, 1974).

[4] Edward Spiers, Army and Society 1815-1914 (Detroit, Addison-Wesley Longman Limited, 1980).

[5] Richard Holmes, Riding the Retreat: Mons to the Marne 1914- Revisited (London: Pimlico, 2007).

[6] Adrian Gilbert, Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (Oxford: Osprey, 2013).

[7] Allan Mallinson, 1914: Fight the Good Fight, Britain, the Army and the Coming of the First World War (London: Bantam Press, 2013).


[8] Stannus Geoghegan, The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment: Volume 2, From 1900 to 1922 (London, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1927), p. 150.

[9] Peter T. Scott, “Dishonoured”, The “Colonels’ Surrender” at St. Quentin, The Retreat From Mons, August 1914, (London: Tom Donovan Publishing Ltd, 1994), p. 6.

[10]TNA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ).

[11] Alan Kramer, ‘Surrender of soldiers in World War 1’ in How Fighting Ends: A history of Surrender, ed. By, Holger Afflerbach and Hew Strachan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 279-308 (p. 281).

[12] Watson, p. 157.

[13] D. Lomas, Mons, 1914 (Wellingborough: Osprey, 1997), p. 19.

[14] Niall Fergusson, ‘Prisoner Taking and Prisoner Killing in the Age of Total War: Towards a Political Economy of Military Defeat’, War in History, 11 (2004), 148-192 (p.152).

[15] Captain N.P. Clarke, “Through German Lines” in BlackWood’s Magazine (June, 1915).

[16]J.F. Lucy, There’s a Devil in the Drum (London: Faber & Faber, 1938), p. 147.

[17]Lieutenant- Colonel A.E. Mainwaring, A Statement [by] A.E.M. N.p.,N. d, p. 7.

[18] Captain Fraser, Gordon Highlanders, NA, WO 339/22031, p. 135.

[19] Captain G. A. Elliot, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, in NA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ), p. 136.

[20] Private Papers of Major C.L. Brereton, IWM Documents. 2615, p. 5.

[21] Private papers of Captian H.B. Owens, IWM Documents. 4788, p. 18.

[22] Lieutenant Colonel Sir Tom Bridges, Alarms and Excursions (Harlow: Longmans Green, 1938), p. 87.

[23] Mainwaring, p. 8.

[24] Lieutenant-Colonel T.S. Wollocombe, IWM Documents. 130 p. 51, IWM

[25] Private Papers of Captain R Whitbread, IWM Documents. 4460, p. 5.

[26] Martin Samuels, Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918 (London: Frank Cass, 1995), p. 119.

[27] Private papers of Samuel Knight, Welsh Regiment, IWM, Documents. 7061, p. 12.

[28] Private papers of Walter Bentham, IWM Documents.15272, p. 4.

[29] Mainwaring, p. 7.

[30] Lucy, p. 147.

[31] Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel J V Ramsden, IWM Documents. 482, p. 4.

[32] Captain J.C. Dunn, The War the Infantry Knew 1914-1919 (London: Penguin Group, 1989), P. 30.

[33] Diary of Geoffrey Archibald Loyd- Lieutenant, Scots Guards, IWM Documents. 7631, p. 8.

[34] TNA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ) ‘Testimony of Colonel W.E. Gordon.

[35] Private papers of H.D. Bryan- 1st Battalion Scots Guards, IWM, Documents. 138331, p.4.

[36] Loyd, p. 8.

[37] Dunn, p. 30.

[38] Arthur Osburn, Unwilling Passenger (London: Faber & Faber, 1932), p. 78.

[39] Wollocombe, p. 45.

[40] G. J. De Groot, Douglas Haig, 1861-1928 (London: Unwin Hyman. 1988), p. 51.

[41] Lieutenant Colonel Neish, NA CAB 45/197, p. 55.

[42] Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London, Strand, London (KCL). Brigadier- General Sir James E. Edmonds paper. Papers, III/7, p. 15.

[43] Henning, NA CAB 45/ 196.

[44] Gilbert, p. 256.

[45] Gleichen, letter to Smith Dorrien, NA CAB 45/206.

[46] Joanna Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History (London: Virago Press, 2005), p. 8.

[47] J.E. Edmonds, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Military Operations France and Belgium 1914, Vols I and II (London: Macmillan, 1922, 1925), p. 2.

[48] Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army and the British People, C.1870-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 102.

[49] Ibid, p. 182.

[50] Mallinson, p. 80.

[51] Anon, The Standing Orders of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1934), p.4.

[52] Gilbert, Challenge, p. 157

[53] Edmonds paper. papers, III/7, p. 15.

[54] Captain A.D.L. Stewart, Gordon Highlanders, p. 13.

[55] Lieutenant- Colonel A.E. Mainwaring, A Statement, p. 7.

[56] Captain O. Wheeler, The War Office: Past and Present (London: Methuen, 1914), p. 252.

[57]Edmonds, Brugadier-General J.E., General S. H. E. Franklyn, Brigadier C. N. Barclay and Major D. M. A. Wedderburn, “Four Generations of Staff College Students- 1896 to 1952”, AQ 65(1) (Oct. 1952). p. 46

[58] David French, Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army and the British People, C.1870-2000, p.159.

[59] Ibid, p. 151.

[60] Ibid, p.150.

[61] Ibid, p. 47.

[62] Edmonds paper, III/2. p.7.

[63] Edmond papers, III /2, 4 and III/5, pp. 14- 16

[64] Peter T. Scott, “Dishonoured”, The “Colonels’ Surrender” at St. Quentin, The Retreat From Mons, August 1914, (London: Tom Donovan Publishing Ltd, 1994), p. 6.

[65] Lieutenant. Colonel Neish, p. 8.

[66] Major and Brevet Colonel W.E> Gordon, V.C.A.D.C. Gordon Highlanders in NA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ)

[67] Samuels, p. 49.

[68] Terraine, p. 138.

[69] Ibid, p. 148.

[70] Brian Bond, Nigel Cave, Haig- A Reappraisal 70 Years On (London: Pen and Sword, 2009), p. 122.

[71] Horace Smith-Dorian, Memories of Forty-Eight Years’ Service (Murray, 1925), p. 407.

[72] R.C. Bond, History of the KOYLI in the Great War (P. Lund, Humphreis, 1926) p. 95.

[73] Cyril Falls, The Life of a Regiment Volume IV, The Gordon Highlanders in the First World War, 1914-1919 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1958), p. 168.

[74] Captain Fraser, Gordon Highlanders, p. 25.

[75] Captain A.D.L. Stewart, Gordon Highlanders, p. 36.

[76] Scott, p. 52.

[77] Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 55.

[78] Ibid, p. 167.

[79] W.S. Hammer, The British Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1885-1905 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), p. 140.









Primary Sources

Imperial War Museum

Diary of Geoffrey Archibald Loyd- Lieutenant, Scots Guards, Documents. 7631


Private papers of Captian H.B. Owens, Documents. 4788


Private Papers of Captain R Whitbread, Documents. 4460


Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel J V Ramsden, Documents. 482


Private Papers of Lieutenant-Colonel T.S. Wollocombe, Diary, Documents. 130


Private Papers of Major C.L. Brereton, Documents. 2615


Private papers of H.D. Bryan- 1st Battalion Scots Guards, Documents. 138331

Private papers of Samuel Knight, Welsh Regiment, Documents. 7061


Private papers of Walter Bentham, Documents.15272



National Archives, Kew

TNA, WO 141/ 37 (‘Inquiry into the surrender of the 1st Gordon Highlanders Intelligence reports and prisoner interrogations’ (GHQ)

Fraser, Captain, Gordon Highlanders, NA, WO 339/22031

Gleichen, letter to Smith Dorrien, NA CAB 45/206

Henning, NA CAB 45/ 196

Neish, Lieutenant Colonel, Gordon Highlanders, NA CAB 45/197


Liddel Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London

Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London, Strand, London (KCL). Brigadier- General Sir James E. Edmonds paper. papers, III/7, III /2, 4 and III/5




Memoirs and first-person accounts

A.E. Mainwaring, Lieutenant- Colonel, A Statement [by] A.E.M. N.p.,N. d


Bridges, Tom, Lieutenant Colonel, Alarms and Excursions (Harlow: Longmans Green, 1938)


Edmonds, Brigadier-General J.E., General S. H. E. Franklyn, Brigadier C. N. Barclay and Major D. M. A. Wedderburn, “Four Generations of Staff College Students- 1896 to 1952”, AQ 65(1) (Oct. 1952).

Horace Smith-Dorian, Memories of Forty-Eight Years’ Service (Murray, 1925)


J.F. Lucy, There’s a Devil in the Drum (London: Faber & Faber, 1938)


Osburn, Arthur, Unwilling Passenger (London: Faber & Faber, 1932)


  1. Wheeler, Captain, The War Office: Past and Present (London: Methuen, 1914)


N.P. Clarke, Captain, “Through German Lines” in BlackWood’s Magazine (June, 1915)



Secondary Sources

Regimental histories

Anon, The Standing Orders of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1934)


  1. Bond, History of the KOYLI in the Great War (P. Lund, Humphreis, 1926).


Falls, Cyril, The Life of a Regiment Volume IV, The Gordon Highlanders in the First World War, 1914-1919 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1958)

Geoghegan, Stannus, The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment: Volume 2, From 1900 to 1922 (London, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1927)




Academic Sources

Bourke, Joanna, Fear: A Cultural History (London: Virago Press, 2005)


  1. Lomas, Mons, 1914 (Wellingborough: Osprey, 1997)


De Groot, G. J., Douglas Haig, 1861-1928 (London: Unwin Hyman. 1988)


Edmonds, J.E., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Military Operations France and Belgium 1914, Vols I and II (London: Macmillan, 1922, 1925).


Ferguson, Niall, The Pity of War (London: Penguin Books, 1999)


French, David, Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army and the British People, C.1870-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)


Gilbert, Adrian Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914 (Oxford: Osprey, 2013)

Holmes, Richard, Riding the Retreat: Mons to the Marne 1914- Revisited (London: Pimlico, 2007).


John Gooch, The Plans of War: The General Staff and British Military Strategy, C. 1900-1916 (London: John Wiley and Sons Inc, 1974).


Mallinson, Allan, 1914: Fight the Good Fight, Britain, the Army and the Coming of the First World War (London: Bantam Press, 2013)


Samuels, Martin, Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918 (London: Frank Cass, 1995)


Spiers, Edward, Army and Society 1815-1914 (Detroit, Addison-Wesley Longman Limited, 1980).


Terraine, John Mons: Retreat to Victory (London: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2002)


  1. Scott, Peter, “Dishonoured”, The “Colonels’ Surrender” at St. Quentin, The Retreat From Mons, August 1914, (London: Tom Donovan Publishing Ltd, 1994)


Tuchman, Barbara, August 1914 (London: Constable, 1914).


Watson, Alexander, Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2008)


W.S. Hammer, The British Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1885-1905 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970)




Articles and Chapters

Fergusson, Niall, ‘Prisoner Taking and Prisoner Killing in the Age of Total War: Towards a Political Economy of Military Defeat’, War in History, 11 (2004), 148-192.


Kramer, Alan, ‘Surrender of soldiers in World War 1’ in How Fighting Ends: A history of Surrender, ed. By, Holger Afflerbach and Hew Strachan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 279-308.






What was the role of provincial governors, during the Late Republican period, and to what extent was this position specialised militarily?

  1. Introduction

In the Late Republic, the relationship between military and political roles was often a common theme. The dissertation will argue that this theme was a defining role for provincial governors, which enabled them to gain both the allegiance of their men and political influence. The dissertation will be split into three sections. Part one, Context, Will outline the politics and military of the Late Republic. Part Two, Historic cases, will focus on Cicero‘s letters to friends and the senate and Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, which will be used as case studies to assess the relationship between Roman politics and the military. Part Three, Provincial Governing and the Roman Military, will examine the political obligations and power a provincial governor faced and how that linked with their military jurisdiction.

  1. Context


2.1   Roman Politics and constitution

The Roman political structure during the republic had been constitutional however its constitution was not formal. Rosenstein illustrates framework by defining the Roman constitution as: “the set of rules and principles, written or not, which defines what is permitted or forbidden within the established framework of sovereignty”.[1] Essentially, these frameworks were based on a long legacy of traditional customs. Like British constitutionalism, these customs were assimilated over a long period of time.[2] According to Rosenstein the Romans: “believed that their system had developed over generations through the accumulating wisdom of their ancestors, not through a single act of legislation” and that provides a firm basis when the Roman political system is looked at.[3] Roman constitutionalism was not based on a single document but on different voting assemblies which dealt with specific matters, for example the Comitia Centuriata dealt with military matters. Unlike modern constitutionalism, the process was largely un-institutional in the sense political position held multi-requirements that covered social, political and military boundaries.[4]

Roman politics and constitutionalism was a democratic process however there are many aspects which would be deemed ‘un-democratic’ today. This is because political system operated in a wider socio/economic context. Alexander Yakobson’s summarises this context by coining the term “iron Law of Oligarchy”, whereby political and military power was bestowed on wealthy aristocratic members of Roman society.[5] However, this was perceived as valuable to the Roman socio-economic order. These values are recognised today as patronage (support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another in return for favours)[6] and clientelism (A social order that depends upon relations of patronage; in particular, a political approach that emphasizes or exploits such relations),[7] which were used to create economic and social ties when institutions were absent.[8] These procedures created a way of communicating between different social classes however the process solely depended on the relationship between the patron and the client. For the client it meant social and economic stability. For the Patron, it increased their chances of acquiring wealth and without it, a Roman noble could find themselves socially naked.[9]

The late republican political system comprised of different magistrates. The highest elected was the consulship and two consuls were elected to make military, civil and legal legislation. They also had the power to veto each other which was a political mechanism that attempted to prevent autocratic rule and both consuls shared power. Consulate power was also limited to a yearly term but could be extended in circumstances such as war. As well as legislation, many of the obligations a consul faced were also based on traditional customs. For example consuls had to serve their term outside of Rome to gain practical experience however, towards the end of the republic, this was not enforced. The only position which was legally higher than the consuls was the censor who was responsible for maintaining the census and overseeing financial matters. Underneath the consuls were the praetors who were commanders, replacements when the consuls were absent and were delegated legal duties such as judicial cases. The Curus Aedile was responsible for the maintenance of buildings and public order. The lowest position was the junior magistrate the Quaestor who supervised financial affairs and was a starting point for politicians who wanted to start their careers. These formed the Cursus honorum (course of honors : succession of offices of increasing importance).[10]

Exceptional positions also existed in the Roman political system which magistrates were dependant on, being the Roman senate and the position of dictator. The Senate was a debating council which was an advisory body to the magistrates. Though senators were not executive magistrates, the magistrates participated in it and therefore the senate had an active political role. The political role of the senate also came from their corporate authority, such as the legionnaire’s wage, and could decide which provinces would be consulate provinces. These regulatory powers meant they it was politically necessary for the magistrates to listen to the senate.[11] The emergency position of dictator would temporarily be issued imperium in order to restore order in times of a crisis or rebellion.



       2.2 The Late Republican Roman Military

To outline the Roman military, it is important to underline what is meant by the military today. In its basic form, the military is defined as “Members, of an armed force”.[12] The definition implies that an organisational and hierarchal structure exists in times of war. The ambiguity of the term also means that it is a subjective, which is relative to specific historical periods or geographical locations. For example, the Ottoman military was largely based on a feudal organisation of and nobles, with a professional body of forced religious converts called the Janissaries. Therefore the military can also be a comment of the society they derive from.

Today’s idea of the military consists of a body of full time professional soldiers whose occupation is separate from the rest of society, which takes place in an industrial and post-industrial context. This is because the industrial revolution resulted in greater innovations to meet demands for supplies on the battlefield. These coinciding technological advances and European colonisation of the 19th century meant militaries became largely standardised. By putting the military into a framework, a referencing point has been formed which the Late Republican military can be compared to. Compared to today’s military, the Roman military differed according to legality, structure and logistics and these are the three categories which will be used.



Legality and discipline

The separation between society and the military today is dictated by a separation between military and civic law. However the soldier is still held accountable for both. When a citizen enlists in the military, they still subject to the regulations and laws that citizens abide by and additionally they abide by military law which incurs a greater amount of obligations, which universally regulates all personnel. The law can shift between civic or military depending on context, for example if a riot was to ensue soldiers would need to abide by civil laws when dealing with rioters and, if disproportionate force is used, they or their commander are liable to be judged in a civil court.[13] This is the relative basis which shows the military is dependent on the society it derives from, and that it develops over time. For example, British Military Law in times of peace did not developed until the first mutiny act of 1689 and before military law only existed in times of war.[14] Therefore the military is subordinate to the law of the land.

The legality of the Roman military differed extensively. In overview, this was an inter-related system for civil and military matters.[15] In order to join the Roman military, the main requirement was to be a free citizen, which constituted being a patrician (an aristocratic member of Roman society) or a plebeian (land owning Roman citizens) though the relationship between the two was not equal. Socially, the patricians viewed the plebeians to be an inferior class because of their inability to assert political influence.[16] However, through prolonged struggle, the plebians began to hold higher political and social positions and filled the positions of the diminishing Patricians.[17] Non-citizens, such as peregrini, were able to serve in the Roman military but as auxiliary troops who would be granted citizenship after their service.[18] However greater social mobility meant military authorities did not adhere to distinctions between citizen and non-citizen as these distinctions became increasingly blurred. In the late republic, the command of troops was based on the influence of powerful individuals.[19] This meant the military of Rome were shaped by its people and loyalty was regulated through traditional customs such as patronage. This is evident from the fact many politicians depended on clients rather than soldiers.[20] The idea of advancing through the social ladder could also be a motivation for many plebeians and many centurions retired with the title of equite and the right to sit on Rome’s judicial tribunals. In many ways, this showed that the Roman army was not bound by laws but by customs and gifts; embodied by short-lived pride.[21]

A similar case can be applied to discipline. In today’s society, discipline is largely based on non-physical punishment. In the late republic, punishment greatly varied and was applied in the empirical sense. Capital and corporal punishment was commonplace, which varied according to social standing. Roman of higher class birth and honestiores (more honourable) were legally exempt from punishment whereas ordinary legionnaires were perceived to not deserve this privilege. The purpose of punishment was to serve as a wider commentary about honour and social status. To discipline a legionary, in front of his peers, was to deny him his honour and lower his reputation. However the punishments that were dealt would be severe, such as decimation of a legion if it deserted.[22] Promotions were based on the actions of the person and rewarded with highly physical appearances and honours which were acted in front of the military as a motivation for other legionaries to aspire. For example heroes were presented with gifts, such as the military crown for those who were the first to climb the walls of enemy cities.[23] Therefore discipline and promotion, according to Sara Elise Phang, were relative, never fully rationalised and remained subject to the commander’s jurisdiction and personal whims.[24]



Structure and logistics

The structure of the Roman military commented on the structure of Roman society but the Marian reforms had re-structured it into an administrative system. Nevertheless, the social and political structure stayed the same and its evolution was reactive rather than proactive.[25] The patricians still formed the body of Roman cavalry (the equites) and ideologically this was based on factors such as wealth, political power and privileges.[26] The social standing of patricians meant they were able to lead Roman armies and this coincided with their educational backgrounds. Because politicians were obligated to command legions for reasons of prestige and legality, it was essential for these leaders to need military experience to enter a higher political office.

Compared to today’s military, the logistics of the Roman military differed entirely. The inability to mass mobilise supplies meant the supply of arms and food was limited to each campaign. Though armour and weapons were standardised, commodities, such as horses, were still being paid for by equites based on wealth. As was the case in ancient warfare, supplies came from ‘living off the land’ which consisted of pillaging and in times of stationing, legionaries would raise cattle to keep an adequate supply of food. Since the Roman military lacked today’s institutions for pay, wages were sometimes inadequate and corruption was always a problem because legionaries would extract money from provinces.[27] However when pay did come, it would be paid to the legions in coin. Personal wealth in the Roman military was agriculture which enabled governors to equip their own troops.[28] The Marian reforms rewarded legionaries by allocating land to veteran soldiers and this would be one of the factors which for Rome’s geographical expansion because politicians became motivated to give land suitable for retired legionaries.

Patronage was also a constant factor because legions increasingly began to align themselves to their military commanders, rather than Rome. This is because troops attributed their loyalty to commanders based on trust and experience, which was evident during the classical republican period. For example in the 2nd century BC, troops gave their trust to their tribunes who dealt with the majority of administrative matters. Even the commander of the allied and foreign troops (the praefecti sociorum) retained the position of tribunes and gained favour from the men underneath.[29]


     2.3 Provincial Governors in the Late Republic

It is important to emphasise that provisional governing depended on the size of the Roman Empire. When Julius Caesar was murdered, the number of provinces was fifteen but this grew as the Empire expanded under Augustus. By the time Trajan was emperor in AD 117, the number of provinces had increased to forty-seven. The increase in territory meant provincial governors were delegated more political power, which originated from the 4th Century BC when the republic faced a shortage of experienced commanders and began to give political figures military authority.[30]

A provincial governor’s occupation was complex because the position’s obligations and tasks cannot be categorised by modern standards. There were no clearly defined institutions that represented political individuals, like in the 19th century colonial era.[31] Therefore the position was very fluid because the provincial governor had to abide by Roman legislation but also had to use their own initiative in province they ruled. They also had to reside with other delegates, who were appointed by the senate, which could use their positions to cause political conflicts.[32] A good example is the Publicanus who were privately hired citizens that collected taxes and the provincial governor could allocate a percentage of tax that they could keep.[33] If seen to be unjust, the publicanus could use legislation to charge provincial governors on legal grounds such as corruption, if they were disliked. This illustrated the precarious situation provincial governors found themselves in if they did not moderately balance their power and relationships with the people underneath them.

Regulation in the provinces also took form in how the Roman legal system operated culturally. For example pre-existing urban cities already existed in the Hellenic East and therefore had some form of autonomous status. In the West, urban self governance did not exist before Roman colonisation, most communities were tribal and therefore lacked any special status.[34] Provinces also categorised its inhabitants according to different social classes which fundamentally boiled down to four categories: Roman citizens, Latini (free non-citizens), peregrini (free men who were not Roman citizens) and slaves. These different types of social classes determined how the provinces were ruled because Roman rule fundamentally depended on cultural domination over un-Roman or un-Hellenised people.[35] This mentality of superiority is summarised by Andrew Lintott who states: Such was what the Romans termed a foedus aequum, a reciprocal agreement in which the contracting parties appeared to be on the same level, even if the interests of the greater power, Rome, would tend to prevail”.[36]


Diplomacy also played a key role in the provinces, especially on the frontiers. This is especially seen with the republic’s relationship with client states, which can be summarised as pragmatically applied.[37]As mentioned before, this depended on the geographical location, for example the Western areas relied on Roman rule but the Urban Hellenic East ruled semi-autonomously (though were regulated by Roman figures).[38] The rule of the client king’s could also be specifically engineered by Rome in order to keep good relations with the republic. A good example is King Herod of Judea who granted the title of Philo-Roman for his assimilation of Roman and Hellenic culture. Monarchs like these were specifically chosen from neutral political backgrounds, so there was a lack of political rivalry. Cicero’s letter to his friends and the senate outline this practice: “And I have been all the more studious to inform you because I believe I have seen in King Ariobarzanes such evidence of character, intelligence, loyalty and good will towards you as appear to justify the care and concern you have lavished upon his welfare”.[39]



  1. Historical Cases


     3.1 Cicero and Cicero’s letters

Marcus Tullius Cicero was the epitome of ideal Roman politician. In his life (from 106 B.C to 43 B.C) he was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, constitutionalist and one of the greatest orators and prose stylists in Roman history. He was also the first man of his family to be elected to a magisterial office in Rome; something which was unprecedented at the time which meant he became revered as Homo Novus. He sought a political career in the Cursus Honorum and it paved the way for an aspiring political career because he was regarded as one of the youngest males to do so; and did so in the time span of twelve years. His political career also obligated him to have military experience because it included at ten year military service into as an equite, during the social wars, from 91 BC to 88 BC, which would be needed if military situations were ever to arise again. The link between military and political positions Cicero experienced can also be seen from his legal career afterwards. For example he defended Sextus Roscius for an account of patricide and in 80 BC he travelled to Athens and accused Lucius Cornelius Chrysogonus, whom Sulla put in charge of proscriptions and corruption.

The main primary sources that represent Cicero’s role as provincial governor are his political letters to his brother Quintus, friends and the senate during his provincial governorship in Cilicia. Cicero’s letters were express the ideals of Roman governance and his fears of Parthia invading Cilicia; his requests for military support and his political protection of the Cappadocian client-king Ariobazanes Eusebes, who fears that his family members are conspiring to overthrow him. His letters are orientated towards providing a picture of the situation that was unfolding in Cilicia and attempting to gain political assistance.


In order to gain an understanding of Cicero’s letters, it is important to comprehend Cicero’s writing style as well as the context of his writings. Cicero’s writing style is in many ways the epitome of Roman rhetoric because it took a precautionary style; to not be used as a political tool by opposing Roman politicians. The emphasis is on Cicero’s ability to encompass the events surrounding himself, whether they are the most trivial or determining points.[40] Understanding Roman oratory is arduous, however for the purpose of this dissertation the key aspects of Cicero’s writings will be outlined; which requires some understanding of his philosophical writings. Cicero’s writings can be embodied by his search for Otium, or leisure, in the sense of pursuing a Roman life which relished maintaining a political status (by the quality of favour from others) to ensure his writings represented his historical importance; as writers, such as Plato, had also established themselves. Cicero strove to cite his account like that of previous Greek Scholars by attempting to fill the gap of their legacies.[41]

In his Letters to friends and the senate, his philosophical ideal was applied to the political situation of the time and is foreshadowed by his exile due to the execution of four conspirators of Cataline under his consulship. It also coincides with his fear of a Roman dictatorship from the Triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, though Cicero seems to have politically sided with Pompey out of the preservation of the republic. During this time, there is an imagining of Cicero’s public image by the potency of his writings. During his provincial governorship in Cilicia in 51 BC, there is an emphasis on narrating for the sake of narrating and a distinction on how Cicero views himself compared to the reality of events which unfold around him. For example, Cicero’s letters to his brother Quintus from 60 BC to 59 BC are far more concerned with his own relationship with Pompey and Caesar.[42] His work therefore is often affiliated to his own subjective points of emotional writing and this is necessary in understanding his deep political alignings.

Cicero’s writings can be shown in the way he dilutes the distinction between fact and fiction. The mentality of Cicero was that one should neither venture to say anything false but, at the same time, fail to venture to say anything true.[43] This is understandable because the inadequate means of establishing reliable sources and records meant accuracy was determined by the potency of one’s language; the distinction between right and wrong was not as relevant as today’s world and this ethos surrounds Cicero. In Cicero’s letter to his brother Quintus, he tries to advice the principle that his brother must rule with all efficiency, moderation and a greater stoic personality; contrary to the overwhelming long serving experience Quintus held as provincial governor.[44] The example displays a sense of Cicero altering the reality of Quintus experience and altering reality to suffice his own ideals. Ergo the purpose of Cicero’s rhetoric was to observe reality and inductively make it relative to his own logic.

Nevertheless, unlike the Roman political writings of the time, which emphasised formality, many of Cicero’s works are largely informal in their nature. In his letters, the intention is to make his work self-verifying by making the rationale speak for itself. For example, in a letter to the Senate, Cicero’s advises that his protection of King Ariabarzanes was almost accidental to illustrate the fortunate nature of his governing. His style envisioned distributing his political writings for all people to view, for political support, (the letters to the senate) which differed from his personal emotive letters (the letters to Quintus). Much of this is summarised in Cicero’s philosophical writing, res publica which emphasises the virtuous idea of Roman constitutionalism; similar to the constitutional debates in Plato’s the republic. Much of it emphasises the higher obligations of the person, in comparison with the community and the application of stoic thought by applying law to all people at all times.[45]



3.2 Cicero’s letters and relating to Cicero’s role in provincial governing

Cicero’s letters, during his provincial governing highlight his ideals of Roman politics. The Letters to Quintus had illustrated Cicero’s motives in creating an ideal figure, which the Greeks would relate to as self-controlled to reflect their previous veneration of Hellenic Kings.[46] This also coincided with his ideals of de republica where he is informative of his military and diplomatic actions in the name of the community.[47] However this emphasises the idealistic bubble that Cicero inhabits. For example, in his letters to the senate, he expresses his concerns about the subjects who are under his jurisdiction when he arrived in Tarus and the political enemies that may exist; however Cicero fails to give an adequate level of detail, such as the legal cases that would have occurred under his rule.[48] Many of the other details are cases which emphasise Cicero’s fears rather than concerns about the wellbeing of Rome’s allied king. In his letters to the senate, he expresses his intention to gain more cohorts to defend Cilicia against the Parthian threat, which were speculated.[49] It was not in reaction to any detail of any tangible threat.

Cicero’s provincial governing orientated around military matters. Caesar had waged military conquest for political prestige but Cicero had to used military assets in situations where it was necessary to protect the frontiers of the Roman Republic.[50] He viewed that military action was motivated by casus belli, which is supported by the fact Cicero was never a military enthusiast. Though Cicero had been given imperium, he had no enthusiasm for the task and this also coincided with his frustration at being away from Rome’s political centre of events. In fact, the only reason he had been appointed as provincial governor was because those who never administered a province were obliged to take the position, which Cicero had to fill.[51] Thus the military position of Cicero as a provincial governor had been a legal obligation but it also illustrates the fact Cicero had military experience and used that experience when necessary.

The weight of military responsibilities Cicero faced, as a provincial governor, should not be understated. Sherwin White creates this emphasis by stating Cicero was responsible for the internal security of the region but also of the Cappadocian Kingdom, which was in the hands of an inexperienced Client king.[52] This responsibility coincided with the units that Cicero oversaw which consisted of a garrison of two depleted legions, supported by inadequately trained auxiliary units. It took Cicero’s appeal to the senate and magistrates, with the excuse that Rome’s economic assets in the East were in jeopardy, in order to gain some form of military support in the form of fully trained and equipped cohorts.[53] The idea of appealing to Rome showed that, although Cicero’s authority did contain imperium, it was nothing without logistical support. The underlying urgency in Cicero’s letter to the senate outlines this logistical need:The present situation is this: Unless you send to these provinces without loss of time a grand army… there is the gravest risk that all the provinces on which the revenues of Rome depend may have to be given up”.[54] Imperium was limited to the logistical assets available in the province and Rome could easily leave a provincial governor to their own devices. Therefore experienced military governors, such as Cicero, were essential because military experience could be used as a means of political control and this enabled him to successfully wage a military campaign in Anatolia against the Parthians.

Cicero’s role in diplomacy also illustrated that the military was an integral part of his job as provincial governor. For example Cicero quotes the Galatian King Deiotarus as a faithful ally because he trusted Cicero with military units; doubled the amount of troops available to Cicero and carried the title Philoromaios with full respect. At the time, client kings would prove to be valuable assets in experience and resources;[55] This would come in handy, especially for Cicero who had no military experience since the time of the Social Wars and because the Cappadocian territory formed an area of space where Cicero could manoeuvre his soldiers logistically.[56]

Provincial governorship and command of Roman and non-Roman soldiers also illustrated Cicero’s political power. Cicero’s concerns about King Ariobarzanes and the inter-domestic rivalry in the Cappadocian royal family meant there was always a possibility the king would be overthrown and Cicero’s influence would prevent that. This is expressed in Cicero’s letter to the senate and the magistrates: ”I had your resolution charging me to take good care of King Ariobazanes Eusebus and Philo-rhomaeus to defend his welfare security and throne, and to protect king and kingdom”.[57]Cicero’s obligation was to use the Roman garrison at his disposal in order to keep Ariobazanes Eusebus in power. In other words, command of the Roman military coincided with the necessities that the Roman frontiers called for; it meant that provincial governors were able to assert political power based on the amount of troops they commanded. In cases like Cicero’s, the men under his command would be loyal to him rather than Rome and Client kings would diplomatically look to him for support.



     3.3 Julius Caesar and The Gallic Wars

Gaius Julius Caesar had been Roman general, statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose but, unlike Cicero, he came from a long standing aristocratic background. His family (Jens Julia) was a traditional family which would provide the foundations for a prestigious career since it was one of the longest serving patrician family’s that pre-dated the late republic. In many respects, he too embedded the Roman idea of a politician because he linked military and political roles together. From 100 B.C. to 44 B.C, he held a variety of different governmental positions which also gave him military experience. In his early career, Caesar served under Marcus Minucius Thermus, the provincial governor of Asia and Servilius Isauricus, the provincial governor of Cilicia, which provided the political and military experience he needed. His stationing in Asia, where he repelled an attack by Pontus with auxiliaries, enabled him to be elected as military tribune. Military tribune enabled him to move on the first political steps on the Cursus Honorum like Cicero. As aedile he brought allegations against the officials who had benefitted from Sulla’s proscriptions, many having key military roles. After praetor he was appointed to govern Hispania Ulterior and conquered the tribes of the Callaici and Lusitani in 59 B.C and was hailed imperator by his troops. All these cases show an intertwined nature between the political and military authority and would form the basis for his conquest and governing of Gaul.

Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars is far more ambiguous than the political rhetoric of Cicero’s letters. His work centres on his conquest of Gaul and his justification to protect Rome from the so called ‘barbarian’ Celtic tribes. The main reason for Caesar’s ambiguity is his political and personal agendas are not clear. His work is one of the only written accounts he produced and this creates a range of methodical factors which will be detailed in this section.

It is important to understand the context of when the Gallic Wars was written and finished. As Caesar conquered Gaul, he adapted his writing to the rhetoric of the time and was more along the lines of ‘instant feedback’ than a request.[58] The dynamic politics of Late Roman Republicanism and the First Triumvirate had created a power relationship whereby Julius Caesar was able to pursue the conquest of Gaul to advance his political prestige. However his work in 58 B.C (the start of the Gallic wars) differed to that of 50 B.C (the war’s end). The beginning of the conquest had pushed this political prestige further but any military endeavour was likely to destroy his political career as it was to increase it. However by 50 B.C, manipulation was in the art form of cautious oratory; as was with Cicero. The text cannot just be analysed as merely a political writing. It needs to be seen as Caesar’s own expressionism which took form in a verbal and written context. Since the Roman perception of rhetoric was to be performed to an audience, the often written and non-written would be intertwined and, in the time of the late Republic, the changing nature of Roman politics meant Caesar could not outright fabricate his personal accounts and this coincides with the growing difficulty of Caesar’s career towards 51 B.C. as, by Roman law, his acts were becoming seen as less justifiable in the eyes of the senate.

The Gallic Wars is a text which essentially highlights a contradiction in logic: it strides to provide an account in Roman Stoic thought but is embellished with the personal testimony of Caesar’s accounts. He needed to use the entire verbal and written skills that were available to him to appeal to people and he strode to use a personal account to influence those who did not already have hard-set political views. Thus the purpose of the text was to sway intellectuals and aristocrats who Caesar knew would take an undecided and pragmatic position.[59] It also suggests that Caesar’s writings are themselves pragmatic as he would need to adapt and alter his work to suit his audience as the conquest of Gaul changed over time. For example, in the context of fighting the Nervii in 57 BC, Caesar writes in Book 2 that he wipes out the tribe but in 51 BC, in Book 5, the Nervii altogether number sixty thousand.[60] Also among Books 1 and 2 there is a pre-assumption that the tactics of Gallic tribes are repetitive in warfare but in Book 3 Caesar alters his claim that the tactics employed varied, which as a result promoted Caesar’s ingenuity as a military in varying circumstances.[61] This example shows Caesar’s method of modifying his previous claims to justify any changing circumstances to glorify his own actions.

The constant ability of Caesar to change his writings, and the fact his work was not one compiled text but a series, further implies the nature of Caesar’s opinions in military and political matters. Caesar’s description of Gaul as a disunited 3 tribes rather than a homogeneous force in Book 1 indicates Caesar’s ability to play each tribe off one another and illustrate his contribution to a greater military victory.[62] The ability to utilise his own account, from his political position, meant Caesar was able to manipulate his self-advertisement. As the position of consul suited his style of oratory and literary style, he was able to regulate when his works could be produced. It is true Caesar did not entrust the final production of his work to any other colleagues and he waited for the end of his period of office/ provincial sovereignty to publish them.[63] This specific publishing strategy enabled Caesar to justifiably proclaim himself as Roman Imperator and therefore placed less emphasis on the role of other political figures who were given more trivial roles. For example, in book one, Titus is the only named Legate,[64] and other figures, such as Publicus Crassus, a prefect of the equites, are only minimally mentioned.[65] The purpose of this method was to integrate the effort of the Roman army in the overall context of Caesar’s greatness.[66] The end result was a text that portrayed Caesar’s achievements as a product of providence, which would immerse appeal to popular memories and audiences of intellectual and political Romans (whose support he depended on).



     3.4 The Gallic Wars and relating it to Julius Caesar’s role in provincial governing

The problems that The Gallic Wars produced are basic but essential to understanding the military obligation of Caesar’s governing. The largest danger the text poses is it’s culturally bias because it illustrates the ‘barbarian’ other as well as Caesar’s personal prejudices. The text shows his political naivety, whilst engineering harsh military justifications as answers to often complex ethical dilemmas. In many cases, Caesar appealed to the self-pity of common Romans killing Gauls and did it to ensure that Roman moral standings were justified by his account of events, such as massacres. For example in Book 3, it was Caesar’s military absence that created the possibility of Gallic rebellions and it was his tactical genius that subsequently led them to being crushed as a result.[67] The creativity of Caesar’s literary and rhetorical skills made it possible for him to justify a range of Casus Belli by presenting situations that only he could solve. For example, he considers both the Celtic and Germanic tribes to be lesser fighters than Roman soldiers, links their inferiority with a lack of tactical variation and often puts the blame of military incompetence to his petty officers.[68] Stigmatisation also coincides with Caesar giving important oppositions to auxiliary soldiers and barbarian aristocrats if they showed ideals of Roman goodwill.[69]

As a primary source Caesar links military and political responsibilities as provincial governor and in all cases he considers both to be the same. In this specific case, The Gallic Wars was used as a means of promoting Caesar’s career by illustrating that taking a military role was Caesar’s choice, rather than a necessity in the case of Cicero. In Caesar’s career, military campaigns could be conducted as a means of gaining prestige, wealth and greater political influence. In this case he used the fear that the Gallic tribes would ransack Italy; his motive being to pay back the debt to his creditors as well as having the potential to raise legions and gain victories and rival Pompey.[70] Political campaigns would cost a fortune and so this would be paid back in the spoils of foreign wars.[71]


Like Cicero, Julius Caesar’s military responsibility was vital to political goals. However what differs from Cicero is Julius Caesar’s conquest was a personal ambition to expand Rome’s frontiers. His proconsulship in Spain shows this common theme of Caesar attempting to carve his own political destiny: “Many of the characteristics he would later display during his governorship in Gaul were already in evidence during his time is western Spain and Portugal…Caesar showed the same energy in administration that he had shown on the battlefield.”[72] The easy access to these military assets, due to his political standing, meant he was able to gain resources from other politicians such as Crassus. The political influence implies imperium was relative, based on the amount of resources and military assets a provincial governor could acquire and, in the case of Caesar, this was through political patron-client relations.

Caesar’s position implies a cyclical relation between the military and politics; being provincial governor stereotyped his opportunity to gain control politically through the Roman military. The positioning of four legions in the provinces of Illyricum and Cisalpine Gaul enabled him to gain the basis of a major recruitment centre.[73] Lawrence Keppie illustrates that in nine years Caesar had increased his army from four to twelve legions which consisted of long-serving legionaries, each legion having strength of about 5000 men. The conquest of Gaul meant that from 58 BC to 50 BC Julius Caesar had a large standing army of military personnel that far outweighed the experience or numbers his co-consul Pompey could muster.[74] The conquest of Gaul underlined how, through military action, a provincial governor could effectively gain popularity with the Roman people and assert influence in the Roman political arena.[75] In the end, the amount of logistical and military support from the imperium Caesar was delegated culminated in his crossing of the river Rubicon and his march on Rome. It showed if a provincial governor had enough power, they could de facto step out of the bounds of their own legal power.[76]



  1. Provincial governing and the Roman Military


4.1 Provincial Governors and the Roman Military: an assessment

The Roman military was essential in shaping the identity of provincial governors and it is evident that both aspects were inextricably inter-related.[77] For example, in most cases, many of the provincial governors were Praetors and this position was especially important in overseeing both the province and the Roman military; as illustrated by Corey Brennan: “the magistracy expected to cope most readily with the developments in the Roman attitude toward administration, warfare, law and empire”.[78] It also coincided with an increase in their numbers to cope with the workload the Republic demanded geographically.[79] As the Roman Republic expanded its boarders the need for experienced military personnel also expanded; therefore the responsibility of pro-consuls arose out of a shortage of delegates and ‘pro-consul’ became a blanket term for a Roman Governor who served in a Roman province and who was delegated legislative power.[80]

The hands of Roman power were legally given to provincial governors and were often determined by imperium. Eric Cline provides an explanation for the responsibilities of provincial governors which would often be a combination of formal and informal mechanisms which widely determined how power was distributed.[81] As indicated during Pompey’s naval campaign against pirates in the Aegean Sea, he was given the authority to commandeer supplies of: 6000 talents, 120,000 troops, 500 ships and the right to appoint twenty-four legates to deputy commanders.[82] The result was provincial governors such as Caesar, were trusted, by the senate, with larger resources based on their military experience, such as in the pacification of Hispania.[83] This enabled military figures to be more eligible for provincial governing.

Military experience could also dictate how provincial governors could determine their own political fate. For governors such as Crassus or Pompey, war provided the opportunity to acquire a fortune and that influenced the politics in Rome. According to Nathan Rosenstein: “war was a consul’s primary road to riches seems beyond question”.[84] Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome and was one of the few individuals in the republic who had effectively bought his position because of his influence politically.[85] Even though military authority was the same for each provincial governor, de facto power lay in the imperium of provincial governors who were allocated the most resources and military assets, which they would spend and increase their power more. In cases, such as Verres in Sicily, rising politicians borrowed huge sums of money with realistic expectations that they could pay it back, which usually came out of exploiting the provincial population.[86] Since long term planning and budget were non-existent, the power of creating taxes also created the possibility of governors to solve the problem of cash flow.[87] This represents a cyclical process whereby militarily experienced officials were more eligible to be provincial governors and, in turn, manipulated the Roman political process. Figures such as Julius Caesar, having imperium enabled him to gain resources during the Gallic Wars and exercised his power by using taxes to raise legions, as well as a growing sense of unity between Caesar and his legions.[88] The power also enabled him to exert political influence by using these legions to secure a range of political supporters.[89]

The different degrees of military power testified to how important the roles of provincial governor were in the Late Republic and how their roles could be expanded to encompass a full time military position than governing such as in the case when Caesar was delegated naval architects, ship wrights and naval personnel, by the senate, to combat Gallic pirates.[90] In Cicero’s letters to the Senate, Cicero comments how he’s governorship enabled him to acquire material support, and auxiliary units from King Deiotarus which he used to repel a Parthian invasion of Cilicia.[91] It can also be illustrated by Cicero’s presence in Cilicia where a lot of the intelligence militarily was based on his own judgement and power, rather than Rome’s, and the service of allied scouts.[92] Once provincial governors were given the responsibility to commit military action in expanding or defending the frontier, the allocated resources and authority was vast. The professional nature of the Roman legion meant long term morale and increasing indifference to Rome enemies and thus was a valuable asset to have for any provincial governor wanting to assert their political authority, for example Caesar managed to gain political favouring by creating a personal horse guard which arose out of experience and payment.[93] An increase commands to deal with specific problems, such as Octavian’s creation of provinces which were militarily necessary after the civil war, also meant an intricate link between Republic and Empire as Rome became an ever increasing geographical power.[94]



       4.2 The role of the Roman military in assisting provincial rule

It is useful to understand the Roman military and its role to gain a more contextual perspective. Since the military power of provincial governors was based on the backbone of seasoned troops, it is only necessary that provincial governors would be dependent on these troops to establish Roman legitimacy.[95] Reliance on the Roman military coincided with necessity of the army to have other skills such as experience in various kinds of terrain.[96] The knowledge of military personnel meant provincial governors depended on these people. Wilkes maintains a good percentage of auxiliaries came from their home provinces and contributed to building infrastructure.[97] Education in the Roman Army also proved to be a valuable asset because education was a highly regarded value at all levels of society; the Roman army depended on a high degree of competence and literacy from officers.[98] The Roman army had an important part in non-military roles because of its ability to regulate services in the provinces; especially when authority from Rome was absent.

Recruitment also plays a large part in illustrating the authority of provincial governors. Little primary evidence exists; however since provincial governing changed little during the Late Republic and Empire, it is reasonable to assess that Imperial governors would have held similar experiences. Pliny the younger’s letters to the Emperor Trajan from 111-113 AD illustrates this case however the emperor’s judgement had replaced Roman legislation and provincial governors had to balance this authority with theirs. In the case of Pliny, he dispatches two equites and six armed men to escort procurator Maximus to collect grain.[99] It suggests that recruitment and allocation became largely part of a wider context but was expected to operate independently from central Roman authority. Authority fell to the provincial governor however the way the authority was conducted was contextualised as a military compromise between Roman legislation and the decisions of the provincial governor. Since Pliny is ruling over one of the Urban Hellenic provinces, not only were recruits given the Roman system on enlistment but most of the enlistments were Romans who had settled in the provinces by heritage.[100] The case of the recruitment process indicates geographical separation in terms of method and illustrates if in the right province, a provincial governor was able to recruit a large number of soldiers using imperium in the republican period.



  1. Conclusion

The role of provincial governor militarily formed a solid basis in Roman politics. This is because the imperium of the provincial governor formed a de facto power which enabled them to be delegated independent military power. If the provincial governor was in a situation where he could acquire the resources, it would be a means of gaining political influence. This underlines a key theme in Roman politics. There were a small number of men who were able to command large professional military groups and who could influence Roman politics more directly as a result. It is this theme which eventually leads to Caesar seizing power in Rome by forcibly marching on it. Military authority of the provincial governor was specialised to the point where it played a vital role in the way provincial governors operated as the Rome away from Rome and were the product of a long line of governors who fully immersed themselves in the Roman military.



[1]Nathan Rosenstein and Robert Morstein-Marx, A Companion to the Roman Republic, (London: John Wiley and Sons, 2010). p. 256

[2] Karl Loewenstein, The Governance of Rome, (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1973). p. 42

[3] p. 257

[4] Clifford Ando, Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire, (California: University of California Press Ltd, 2000). p. 19

[5] p. 386

[6] George A. Miller. 2012. The Definition of Patronage [online]. New Jersey: Princeton University [Cited 2nd November 2012]. Available from World Wide Web: (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).

[7] Farlex. 2012. The Definition of Clientelism [Online]. Huntington Valley [Cited 2nd November 2012]. Available from World Wide Web (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Clientalism)

[8] Brenda Longfellow, Roman Imperialism and Civic Patronage, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). p. 5

[9] Wallace Handrill, “Patronage in Roman Society: From Republic to Empire” in Patronage in Ancient Society, ed. Wallace Handril, (New York: Routledge, 1989), p. 65

[10] Noah Webster. 2012. Definition of Cursus Honorum [online]. Massachusetts, Springfield [Cited 14th November 2012]. Available from World Wide Web: (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cursus%20honorum)

[11] Pat Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, (California: ABC- CLIO Inc, 2006). p. 61

[12] Farlex. 2012. The Definition of Military [Online]. Huntington Valley [Cited 7th January 2013]. Available from World Wide Web: (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/military)

[13] A.V. Dicey. Introduction to the Study of The Law of the Constitution, ed. (Liberty Fund: Indianapolis, 1982). p. 195

[14] British War Office, Manual of Military Law, (London: War Office, 1929/1939). p. 8

[15] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 77


[16] Erich S. Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, (California: University of California Press, 1974). p. 358

[17] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 51

[18] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 71

[19] Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, 371

[20] Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, 377

[21] Rosenstein et al, A Companion to the Roman Republic, 294

[22] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 147

[23] p. 151

[24] Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, 150

[25] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 245

[26] Sara Elise Phang, Roman Military Service: Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Earl Participate, (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2008). p. 13

[27] pp. 172- 174

[28] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 70

[29] Michael Dobson, The Army of the Roman Republic: The Second Century BC, Polybius and the Camps at Numantia, Spain, (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2008). p. 53

[30] Rosenstein et al, A Companion to the Roman Republic, 408

[31] Andrew Lintott, Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration, (New York: Routledge, 1993). p. 24

[32] E. Badian, Publicans and Sinners: Private Enterprise in the Service of the Roman Republic, (Dunedin: John McIndoe Ltd, 1972). p. 95

[33] Rosenstein, Nathan. And Morstein- Marx, Robert. p. 410

[34] pp. 36-40

[35] David Bederman, International Law in Antiquity, (Cambeidge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). p. 45

[36]pp. 16-17

[37] W.T. Arnold, The Roman System of Provincial Administration to the Accession of Constantine the Great, (Oxford: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. Limited, 1903). p. 12

[38] Lintott, Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration, 21

[39] CLF. 105, XV.2.

[40] Andrew Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion, (New York: Oxford university Press, 2008). p. 3

[41] P. 216

[42] CLQ. 1.2

[43] Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion, 3

[44] CLQ. II.9

[45] Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion, 233

[46] p. 254

[47] p. 234

[48] CLF. 104, XV.1

[49] CLF. 105 XV.2

[50] Richard Sullivan, Near Eastern Royalty and Rome 100- 30 BC, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990). p. 189

[51] Magnus Wistrand, Cicero Imperator: Studies in Cicero’s correspondence 51-47 B.C, (Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1979). pp. 3-4

[52] Sherwin- White, A.N, Roman Foreign Policy in the East, ( London: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1984). p. 291

[53] p. 294

[54] CLF. 105, XV.2

[55] Stephen Mitchell, Anatolia: Land, Men and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume I: The Celts in Anatolia and the Impact of Roman Rule, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). p. 34

[56] Sullivan, Near Eastern Royalty and Rome 100- 30 BC, 175-176

[57] CLF. 105 (xv.2)

[58] Kathryn Welch and Anton Powell. Julius Caesar as Artful Reporter, ed. (Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 1998). P. X

[59] David McLintock, Caesar, (London: Fontana, 1995). p. 253

[60] Welch, Julius Caesar as Artful Reporter, 2

[61] JCGW. Book Three. 28

[62] JCGW. Book One. 1.1

[63] Welch, Julius Caesar as Artful Reporter, 86

[64] JCGW. Book One. 1.10

[65] JCGW. Book One, 1.52

[66] Rice Holmes, Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul: An Historical Narrative, Ed. (University Of California: Macmilan, and Company Ltd, 1911). p. 228

[67] JCGW. Book 3, 29

[68] Holmes, Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul: An Historical Narrative, 24

[69] p. 101

[70] Nic Fields, Warlords of Republican Rome: Caesar versus Pompey, (Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2008). pp. 110-111

[71] Richard A. Billows, Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome. (New York: Routledge, 2009). p. 111

[72] Michael M. Sage, Roman Conquests: Gaul, (Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2011). p. 24

[73] p. 25

[74] Lawrence Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, ed. (London: Routledge, 1998) p. 99

[75] QST. P. 21

[76] QST. Pp. 23-24

[77] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 44

[78]Correy Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic: Volume I, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). p. 3

[79] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 65

[80]Ando, Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire, 313

[81] Eric Cline and Mark Graham, Ancient Empires: From Mesopotamia to the Rise of Islam, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). p. 246

[82] Michael Pitassi, Navies of Rome. (Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2009). p. 156

[83] Peter Greenhalgh, Pompey: The Republican Prince, (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd, 1981). p. 59

[84] Hans Beck et al. Consuls and Res Publica: Holding High Office in the Roman Republic, ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).p. 133

[85] William Smith and Leonard Schmitz, The History of Rome by B.G. Niebuhr: Volume Third, (Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1908). p. 23

[86] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 55

[87] p. 71

[88] p. 150

[89] Arthur Keaveney, The army in the Roman Revolution, (New York: Routledge, 2007). p. 43

[90] Pitassi, Navies of Rome, 160

[91] CLF. 105. XV.2

[92] Rose Mary Sheldon, Rome’s Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand, (Middlesex: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010). p. 51

[93] Michael P. Speidel, Riding for Caesar: The Roman Emperors’ horse Guards, (London: B T Batsford Ltd, 1994). p. 12

[94] Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, 57

[95]Rosenstein et al, A Companion to the Roman Republic, 293

[96]L. De Blois, The Roman Army and Politics in the First Century B.C, (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1987). p. 13

[97] p. 5

[98]Denis Saddington, “Paaideia, Politeia and hegemonia”,in Literature, Art, History: Studies on Classical Antiquity and Tradition. In honour of W.J. Henderson, ed. A.F. Basson and W.J. Doninik. (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2003). p. 324

[99] PLT. Book X, 27

[100] A.N. Sherwin White, The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966). pp. 601- 602










Modern Scholarship


A. Billows, Richard. Julius Caesar: The Colossus of Rome. (New York: Routledge, 2009.)


Ando, Clifford. Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire. (California: University of California Press Ltd, 2000.)


Andrew Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion, (New York: Oxford university Press, 2008.)


Arnold, W.T. The Roman System of Provincial Administration to the Accession of Constantine the Great. (Oxford: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., Limited, 1903.)


A.V. Dicey. Introduction to the Study of The Law of the Constitution, ed. (Liberty Fund: Indianapolis, 1982.)


Beck, Hans., Dupla, Antonio., Jehne, Martin., Polo., Francisco. Consuls and Res Publica: Holding High Office in the Roman Republic, ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.)


Bederman, David. International Law in Antiquity. (Cambeidge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.)


Brennan, Correy, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic: Volume I, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.)


British War Office. Manual of Military Law. (London: War Office, 1929/1939.)


Cline, Eric and Graham, Mark. Ancient Empires: From Mesopotamia to the Rise of Islam, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.)


Dobson, Michael. The Army of the Roman Republic: The Second Century BC, Polybius and the Camps at Numantia, Spain. (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2008.)


E. Badian, Publicans and Sinners: Private Enterprise in the Service of the Roman Republic. (Dunedin: John McIndoe Ltd, 1972.)


Elise Phang, Sara. Roman Military Service: Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Earl Participate. (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2008.)


Fields, Nic. Warlords of Republican Rome: Caesar versus Pompey. (Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2008.)


Greenhalgh, Peter. Pompey: The Republican Prince. (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd, 1981.)


Handrill, Wallace. “Patronage in Roman Society: From Republic to Empire” in Patronage in Ancient Society, ed. Wallace Handril, (New York: Routledge, 1989)


Holmes, Rice. Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul: An Historical Narrative, Ed. (University Of California: Macmilan, and Company Ltd, 1911.)


Keaveney, Arthur. The army in the Roman Revolution. (New York: Routledge, 2007.)


Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, ed. (London: Routledge, 1998.)


L. De Blois. The Roman Army and Politics in the First Century B.C. (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1987.)


Lintott, Andrew. Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration. (New York: Routledge, 1993.)


Loewenstein, Karl. The Governance of Rome. (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1973.)


Longfellow, Brenda. Roman Imperialism and Civic Patronage. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.)


Mary Sheldon, Rose. Rome’s Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand. (Middlesex: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010.)


McLintock, David. Caesar. (London: Fontana, 1995.)


Mitchell, Stephen. Anatolia: Land, Men and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume I: The Celts in Anatolia and the Impact of Roman Rule. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.)


M. Sage, Michael. Roman Conquests: Gaul. (Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2011.)


Pitassi, Michael. Navies of Rome. (Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2009.)


P. Speidel, Michael. Riding for Caesar: The Roman Emperors’ horse Guards, (London: B T Batsford Ltd, 1994.)


Rosenstein, Nathan and Morstein-Marx, Robert. A Companion to the Roman Republic. (London: John Wiley and Sons, 2010.)


Saddington, Denis. “Paaideia, Politeia and hegemonia”,in Literature, Art, History: Studies on Classical Antiquity and Tradition. In honour of W.J. Henderson, ed. A.F. Basson and W.J. Doninik. (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2003.)


S. Gruen, Erich. The Last Generation of the Roman Republic. (California: University of California Press, 1974.)


Sherwin- White, A.N. Roman Foreign Policy in the East. (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1984.)


Smith, William and Schmitz, Leonard. The History of Rome by B.G. Niebuhr: Volume Third. (Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1908)


Southern, Pat. The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History. (California: ABC- CLIO Inc, 2006.)


Sullivan, Richard. Near Eastern Royalty and Rome 100- 30 BC, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.)


Welch, Kathryn and Powell, Anton. Julius Caesar as Artful Reporter, ed. (Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 1998.)


White, A.N. Sherwin. The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.)


Wistrand, Magnus. Cicero Imperator: Studies in Cicero’s correspondence 51-47 B.C. (Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1979.)


Web citations

George A. Miller. 2012. The Definition of Patronage [online]. New Jersey: Princeton University [Cited 2nd November 2012]. Available from World Wide Web: (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)


Farlex. 2012. The Definition of Clientelism [Online]. Huntington Valley [Cited 2nd November 2012]. Available from World Wide Web (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Clientalism)


Noah Webster. 2012. Definition of Cursus Honorum [online]. Massachusetts, Springfield [Cited 14th November 2012]. Available from World Wide Web: (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cursus%20honorum)


Farlex. 2012. The Definition of Military [Online]. Huntington Valley [Cited 7th January 2013]. Available from World Wide Web: (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/military)