Marines vs. Ancient Romans

After someone wondered whether a single Marine regiment could take on the Roman Empire, redditor Prufrock451 took up the challenge the best way possible: with flash fiction. [Reddit via Metafilter]


      1. Not in the beginning.  Not when he landed.  Germs came later:
        From Wikipedia:

        At the signal to attack, the Spaniards unleashed volleys of gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incas and surged forward in a concerted action. The effect was devastating, the shocked Incas offered such feeble resistance that the battle has often been labeled a massacre with the Inca losing 2,000 dead compared to five of Pizarro’s men

        1. From the same PBS/Diamond series:

          Smallpox is believed to have arrived in the Americas in 1520 on a
          Spanish ship sailing from Cuba, carried by an infected African slave.
          As soon as the party landed in Mexico, the infection began its deadly
          voyage through the continent. Even before the arrival of Pizarro,
          smallpox had already devastated the Inca Empire, killing the Emperor
          Huayna Capac and unleashing a bitter civil war that distracted and
          weakened his successor, Atahuallpa.

          I would also add that it seems like they are increasingly finding that more and more of the various empire’s disgruntled inhabitants were sick of being ruled and many allied with The Spanish. Remember that history in this case was written by Spaniards seeking to glorify themselves:

          Spanish chronicles of the conquest underplay one critical fact. When Pizarro and his
          conquistadors arrived in Peru, the Inca Empire was falling to pieces.

          It had been formed only a hundred years earlier when the Inca had spread out from
          their capital at Cusco to overwhelm the many different Indian chiefdoms of the
          region. By 1532, many of the empire’s over 10 million inhabitants were
          fed up with Inca rule and all too willing to ally themselves with the Spanish
          in a bid to break free of Inca domination.

          For the newly arrived Spanish, this was a great stroke of luck. Even with their
          huge technological advantages, they were hardly a formidable fighting force.

          EFRAIN TRELLES: The conquest of Peru was a matter of Indians fighting Indians. Indians took Cusco, Indians defended Cusco; Indians attacked Lima, Indians defended Lima.

          Now we have solid evidence.

          NARRATOR: Why was the massive participation of Indian armies in the Spanish conquest of Peru left out of the chronicles?

          JOHN GUILMARTIN: Very straightforward: the Spanish were indebted to their allies; they
          didn’t want to remember their debts.

          NARRATOR: To gain their support, the conquistadors promised their Indian allies the independence and influence they had been denied by the Inca. After the conquest, the promises were all conveniently forgotten.

          EFRAIN TRELLES: There has been a political interest to erase from the historical landscape all the indigenous elements that helped Pizarro.

          NARRATOR: The story of the Spanish alliances with the Andean Indians who fought their battles for them is the great untold story of the conquest. By a strange twist of fate, it is their victims, Mochito and the people who died with him at the siege of Lima, whose bones have borne witness to this long forgotten truth.

          1. Indeed it’s true. Stories of a handful of tough guys taking on thousands and thousands should set off anybody’s bullshit detector. They make nice movie stories though, and help bolster a narrative of superiority.

        2. The Spanish often forgot to mention at home that rebelling natives were helping them in every battle in large numbers. It is clear from archaeological evidence that this was the case. 

          1. Fair enough.  However in the context of the post, history has examples of more advanced civilizations descending on more primitive ones.  It seems to be a core premise of Doctor Who, as well (at least the reboot).

          2. I think the point here is 1 marine division without additional supplies. In history the advanced civilization always had their homeland supporting them. At least when they achieved long term success.

            I mean US vs Roman Empire is even more ridiculous. 

          3. This just in:  Archeologists in Cuzco have unearthed a strange metal head that keeps muttering “delete”, “delete”, also strange sightings of a lone Roman soldier and a big black box.

          4. It happened on the original show plenty of times, as well.  It is a British show, after all…stories involving an empire invading a more primitive nation and/or a more powerful nation facing dissolution of it’s empire are going to be cultural touchstones to some degree.
            The difference being that in Doctor Who, that primitive culture might just turn out to be the Silurians waking up, savage inheritors of a different technological empire or an evil energy being that likes to take the shape of a snake (to name a few).

        3. Smallpox preceded him. There were only 2,000 dead because only 10,000 could show up. Yes, pizarro did what he did, but it wasn’t sheer willpower and steel that did the trick. The plague that had raged in the americas for years had sort of sapped that empires strength.

        1. Anthrax too, I believe. And just think: one HIV+ soldier could wipe out most of the Roman elite in a single tryst.

  1. A somewhat similar mental exercise constituted the plot of the magnificent Forstchen novel Rally Cry. It imagined a Union infantry regiment from 1865 transported to a world with approximately medieval European technology.

  2. Reminds me of 1632. A small to middling coal mining town in Vergenia vs the Hundred Years War.

    It does bring up a good number of issues like supply, repair, and whatnot. I mean you can ahve the better gear but if it can’t be mantained you’re hosed in the long run.

  3. I would hazard a guess once the reality of the situation dawned on the troops, they’d freak the fuck out once they realized they’d never see their families again. You’d end up with 220 troops, not 2200 within a week or so.

  4. Want to keep up with it? There’s now a subreddit dedicated to more writing. Redditors are practically begging Prufrock451 to let them pay him.

  5. Iffy. Very Iffy.

    However I still put my money on the Empire. I mean these guys would probably end up joining since you can’t slaughter them all, and Rome was the major stabilizing force of the time.

  6. I am still stunned that I got this kind of response for dicking around over my lunch hour. 6,000 people waiting for the next chapter tonight! 

    Thanks for the shout-out, Rob. 

  7. I think the Roman Empire only had something like 28 Legions, of around 5000 men each. A Marine Division, about 15,000 men. I presume including tank, artillery and air support. I’d think the Romans would be having a tough time! :o

  8. I suspect that, barring some convenient plot point introduced to keep them at each other’s throats, it wouldn’t necessarily end up being an either/or situation.

    The Romans adopted a (comparatively) relaxed and enlightened assimilation policy reasonably early back in their republican days, and a de-facto policy of being ruled by whoever the military felt like installing and not killing partway through their imperial period.

    A division of marines would certainly be dangerous enough(at least as long as the ammo and MREs hold out) that the Romans would have to be quite motivated indeed to attempt to wipe them out. On the other hand, a few thousand contemporary Americans cut off in space and time from their home and supply chain would be hard pressed to re-establish a civilization, even if they killed everybody who came by without issue.

    I’d imagine that the Romans, who knew a thing or two about wealth, decadence, and plumbing, could make a very, very compelling offer(probably the best in the ancient world) to any of the Marines who agreed to cooperate with them. On their end, the Marines would be terrifying effective complements to the legions(they’d run out of ammunition trying to stop the classical hordes themselves; but a single marksman picking off the opponent’s officers at 900 meters would be a shock to the entire ancient world… and the legions new a thing or two about mopping up.) Plus, if their complement included a few medics, gunsmiths, and people who actually remembered HS/undergrad math and chemistry, they’d also possess more knowledge of medicine, metallurgy, mathematics, and chemistry than pretty much everybody else put together. Probably not enough to recreate their native tech level; but I suspect that the Romans would be more than happy to offer you a rather nice country villa, a fat pile of loot, and a slave swarm for the results that somebody familiar with comparative low tech (black powder, aseptic technique, a mathematical system that doesn’t suck) could deliver…

    1. Nicely speculated, phisrow. 

      What if the ammo and guns didn’t run out and the scenario was more like in ‘The Guns of the South’ by Harry Turtledove, where the time machine continued to deliver goods from the future?

      I think it might be more interesting to pit the Marines against the Spartans, in hand-to-hand combat.

      1. Given supplies, they’d do a lot better, I’d bet against the Romans, assuming a sufficient motive on the Marines’ part.(the reaction of a modern American protestant with the chance to mess with the crucifiction could be… Interesting.)

        In terms of tech, though, modernity is damn hard. Contemporary supply chains are very long and built with machine tools that were built with machine tools that were b7ilt with machine tools…. That the classical world didn’t have. However, there are a few neat techs that were not discovered, but could easily be done without much prior tech. Hindu-Arabic numbers are readily grasped by a primary school student, but didn’t exist in the classical world. A civilization with iron and some access to volcanic products could manage black-powder weapons. You could blow Euclid’s mind with not much more than a drawing surface and the knowledge that the parallel postulate  needn’t hold. 

        And, definitely of interest to the people who invented Vomitoria, distillation… Aww yeah. Totally doable with fermentation and copper-age tech(some tinkering could probably get it working with Neolithic pottery…), but not invented until rather later. Even someone with almost no chemistry skills knows roughly how a still works, but the Romans didn’t.

        Show them a better way to get shitfaced, and the empire would flock to your banner!

        1. the reaction of a modern American protestant with the chance to mess with the crucifiction could be… Interesting.

          This is actually a plot point in Reed’s story. The time travellers work very hard to weed any Christians out of their expedition, but a few slip through and start travelling around the eastern Mediterranean preaching that the son of god is about to be born in Bethlehem.

          It does not end well for them.

    2. “On the other hand, a few thousand contemporary Americans cut off in
      space and time from their home and supply chain would be hard pressed to
      re-establish a civilization, even if they killed everybody who came by
      without issue.”

      I’ve sometimes wondered about this: what is the minimum set of knowledge, resources, and population you need to re-create civilization?
      If you dropped me into ancient rome and I managed to get the ear of anyone highly placed; I could get their interest by re-inventing some useful but simple technologies like gunpowder. Maybe kickstart them by a few centuries with algebra, calculus, classical physics, steam engines, and steel-making. If I had enough time I could teach them to mine coal and extract other metals from ores, make dynamos and electric motors. You almost certainly couldn’t rebuild the modern world in a single lifetime, but you can probably create enough change and interest to really speed things along.

      1. Simply having the ear of someone high up wouldn’t be enough. At various times the ancient world did in fact stumble upon the technologies that we would consider key to industrialization-  the steam engine, more efficient machines (e.g. a much better device for moving large bits of masonry)- but never used them, usually because there was no need to.  The steam engine remained a philosopher’s curiosity, the inventor of the whatever-it-was was thanked, given money, and asked to go away, as paying people a little money to move big chunks of rock around was a good way to keep them minimally employed and unlikely to complain about, say, some rich guy who just pulled off a military coup. (And labor was on the  cheap side, because at this point, all the little farms had been replaced by big plantations run by slaves and owned by the elite, so you’ve got a lot of people in the city with little to do.)

        Everyone jumps immediately to the empire, but a more interesting time to try and set things in motion would be the age of Cato the Elder.

  9. Reminds me of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court a bit. I second unclepete on its similarities to Pax Romana but saying the plots of the two are basically identical is going too far. I won’t elabourate to avoid spoilers. Read both of them. They’re great.

    I really enjoyed it and I hope Prufrock451 comes up with more. Don’t sweat the military accuracy nit pickers. You’re writing a story not a manual.

  10. Well if Civilization teaches us anything, it’s that a single spearman CAN take down a tank, but only if the tank is heavily damaged and the spearman is lucky.

  11. Why do you need a marine division.You could solve it with 4-5 A-bomb.

    Anyway Yes, they could, given that they will have enough bullets. And they get supplies regularly.

    Keeping the land for a longer period of time? No. In close range in several antique cities at once? On streets max 3m wide or in the German forest swords and arrows are just as deadly as bullets.

  12. That was like watching Dickens or Conan-Doyle at work.  I make no comparison of quality, just the fact that the sections are published periodically. And prolifically.

    There seem to be lots of advice about writing/publishing in the comments, personally I’d stick with Cory’s:

  13. Good storyline and thought experiment. You initially would think the marines would have no problems but never underestimate the home-field advantage. That’s where the story gets interesting.

  14. Maybe we should just simplify this question. Can a fully equipped US Marine kill ten roman soldiers if they are naked, bound and gagged?

  15. Similar fiction already exists- Avatar. :) It didn’t go well for the RDA.

    I agree this is a good thought experiment. Can sheer numbers with limited (by our standards) weaponry prevail over modern weaponry and techniques?

  16. I don’t think they would run out of ammo so fast.  With a little ingenuity, they could reload their spent casings and use larger shells as sources of powder for bullets.  If they rationed fuel, they could still use tanks and aircraft sparingly while they searched for raw materials: coal, oil, lead, iron, etc.  With a few takeovers, they would have a source of money in the form of taxation and could buy whatever they couldn’t make, as they re-developed modern technologies essential to war.

  17. Good stuff, though I don’t buy the chaplain committing suicide. Wouldn’t he want to go see Jeebus?

  18. You cant fire modern weapons with black powder. And no marine will ever start making modern gunpowder from scratch. Also No marine will ever be able to locate and mine raw materials especially they wont make modern weapons out of them.

  19. How is this a debate?

    If the Marine goal is to eliminate the Roman empire through any means necessary, then they win. The only way they could “lose” is by assimilating instead of killing everything.

    The marines have armor that can stop anything a legion throws at them, weapons that can accurately kill from a mile away, war machines that cannot be beat by the worlds technology and travels faster than a horse, better medicine, and tactics especially effective against rank-and-file armies. There is no possible way for them to lose unless their current supplies are extremely limited (especially fuel).

    Hell, the intimidation of that first battle would cause Romans to claim them some kind of God. I’m pretty sure they could carve out Italy, find themselves a good following of locals, and manage to establish a civilization that Rome ignored quickly. If the Huns can do it, I imagine some marines WITH GUNS AND VEHICLES can manage to.

    1. What defines ‘winning’? I suggest that, as with other, more modern conflicts, ‘killing them all’ is neither desirable or possible.

      1. Winning would be carving out a chunk of land to call your own or toppling Rome – neither of which requires killing everyone (though many would die). So either roman government would give up (like they did with the Huns), or the marines would capture Rome by taking key locations (easily held with modern weapons – and only need to be held briefly). I mean the guys will not exactly be kings of diplomacy, but I see it being the more likely option when the Romans first get slaughtered by automatic weapons without understanding the limitations of the weaponry and not being able to lay siege to the marines.

        That plus most Marines would probably adopt a “don’t change the future” rule with time traveling since that’s what TV taught them.

    2. Of course if The Bactrians got involved then the Marines would be screwed.  They’d be looking at a 10+ year war with no clear exit strategy.

  20. If the marines does not have additional supplies than after the first 500km they walk. Each marine has around 120 bullets and when they run out of ammo they are weaponless. They are not trained in fighting in lines. So maybe but they wont keep what they conquer.

  21. The problem with a thought exercise like this is how many details can affect the outcome…and how specific the outcome actually needs to be to successfully answer the question.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that the modern marines have the advantage of technology or training.  But the degree to which those factors matter is based on the scenario.  Consider: where do 3000 marines poop?  How do they survive highly virulent diseases from the past for which they have no innoculation?  How the Romans survive the disease strains THEY bring from the future?  Are they attempting to conquer the empire, destroy it or destroy its standing armies?  How much geographical data do they have access to?  How hampered are they by a near complete lack of paved roads?

    There seems to be a common assumption that the Romans will take one look at a Huey and fall to their knees in terror, wetting themselves before dying of fright.  Yet if someone was to suggest that alien battlecruisers suddenly appeared in the sky, the marines wouldn’t do the same thing.  I would expect some would in both camps, but the greater majority would not suddenly become competely ineffectual.  And if there’s one thing human beings are good at, it’s getting jaded.  Native Americans adapted to European technology like guns very quickly, for example.  Much of the third world accepts and uses technology they don’t understand very well (and honestly, how many people actually know how a cell phone works, really)?

    If the Romans adapted quickly (and we have no reason to assume they wouldn’t), then they might just have to outlast their opponents.  Those humvees and helicopters lose a lot of their potency against untamed old growth forests, for example.  This isn’t modern europe, it’s ancient Rome.  The same tactics that worked for the Gauls and Germanic tribes would work for the Romans, too.

    In short, I could easily see situations being developed where either side has the clear advantage or victory.

  22. Marines are currently the only US armed forces trained to use bayonets; i.e., short pikes. They are also trained extensively in unarmed combat. I think the small-unit tactics have improved over the years.

    Marines are trained to fight AND run with a combat load exceeding 40Kg. Marius’s Mules were only trained to march with that load, since they would drop the majority of in to the rear in order to fight.

    1.  Whereas the Romans marched, ate, lived and fought in 40lbs of bronze and leather.  They’ve had to walk everywhere their entire lives and have to do everything manually.  The average roman soldier would be about even with a Marine for strength and stamina. 

      When it came down to hand to hand combat when the bullets run out, Romans win – the pilum is two feet longer than a gun with a knife stapled to the end.  They also have shields which are the ultimate in close combat defence and doubles as a weapon that can break a man’s jaw/arm/neck.  They are also trained in how to fight an armoured opponent, whereas the average Marine might only have some basics in training that is never used because they never fight anyone wearing armour, much less someone who is wearing armour and who is used to using that armour to their advantage to deflect blows.

      Nope; Marines win at range, but up close they are dog food.

  23. These sorts of thought experiments are just as silly as asking whether Ultraman could beat Godzilla.  And just as fun.

  24. Full-on combat would be the stupid way. The easiest approach would be for the Marines to just tell everybody that they were deities sent directly from Olympus and would be running things directly from now on. Any Legionnaire who voiced skepticism would be immediately struck down by a thunderbolt (in the form of a sniper bullet).

    Note: this plan would work best if at least one person in the regiment spoke latin.

    1. You underestimate the Romans, who had a very practical turn of mind. These are people who, before besieging a city, tried to bribe the city’s gods to defect to their side. Religion was more like some civic function, like trash removal.

  25. But what about the Prime Directive? Isn’t that carved in the bedrock of the universe like the Three Laws of Robotics?

  26. Reminds me of a novella published in Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine some years back where a bunch of time travelers take three cruise liners full of people and equipment back in time and conquer Rome during the time of Caesar and Mark Antony. Within a few decades they’ve upgraded society to the point where the amphitheaters have become cinemas – but they do have the advantage of years of planning and preparation and three floating factory/warehouses to back them up.

    Ah! Veritas by Robert Reed. Published in the July 2002 issue.

  27. Just expanding on what many others have said…without a steady source of supplies, the Marines would beat one legion, maybe two or three, but not the five or ten that followed.

    And consider: To knock over the Roman Empire, you’d have to take Rome. The Marines start in Afghanistan, and desert conditions play havoc with equipment maintenance. So they’d have to march from Afghanistan through the Middle East to the Mediterranean. Then they’d either have to cross by sea to Rome, or fight their way past Constantinople and through the Balkans before reaching Italy and turning south towards Rome.

    I don’t think they’d make it out of Afghanistan.

    1. They’re in the time of augustus, right? Constantinople as you’re thinking of it won’t existfor several centuries. But good point, I suppose.

  28. What I really liked about Prufrock451’s flash fiction is the cultural depth – for example, the Emperor visits the Marine’s camp and sees a black Marine, a Latino Marine, and an Asian Marine, and more than the weapons and armor, THAT’S what freaks him the fuck out, because he immediately believes that whatever country these guys are from, it’s in command of a vast empire that rules peoples from all over the globe. THAT’S a writer!

  29. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the 1632 (or ring of fire series) in which a small mid western town is teleported into the past right into the middle of the 30 years war – and they impact they have.

    Of course in many way’s it’s the polar opposite to this example – these people lack a miltiary force – but have at least some infrastructure with which to work.  There also dropped into a chaotic situation – rather then this secenario when they find themselves facing a single organised opponent. 

    One of the characters is found bemoning the fact that they did not get to include a nearby army base which would have rather changed the equation in there favour…..

    I suspect the simple fact is the Marine’s could defeat any force put up against them in the short term – and could almost certainly take Rome – doing sufficent damage that any central control would be broken and the Roman Empire broken.  But they could never hold more then the area there in – so could only really destroy the Roman Empire not build a new America…….

  30. Assuming the Marines had a fair amount of supplies with them (ammo, food, etc…) and that there was some sort of conflict they could not resolve without fighting, the Marines would beat the Romans hands down.

    Granted it would be a war of attrition, and the Emperor/ Senate would most likely sue for peace long before the Marine’s ammo and supplies ran out.

    If the Marines did run out of ammo, their bayonets/ knives would do nothing against Roman spears and a shield wall.

  31. Don’t sell Marines short, guys.  We are very good at adapting to new situations.  Upon realizing that they are cut off from logistical support (assuming Terminator-type time travel back in time to the Roman Empire), it is a good bet that the Marines would conduct limited engagements only when there is a decisive victory to be had.  Once the regiment has defeated the Roman leadership and crushed the Romans’ will to resist, the most logical course of action would be to keep the Roman military and police on hand, assert dominance, retrain them to understand that they are now working for new rulers and use them to do all the dirty work.  This would allow the Marines to avoid wasting precious resources and maintain control in the long term.

    1. There are, what … 2200 Marines in this scenario? Average age, about 20, maybe a little older. In 20 years time there’s going to be maybe 100 left alive, in 30 years time maybe 10 of them. Meanwhile, within a month most of their technical kit is going to be worthless, and within a year practically all of it is going to be deadlined. Caterpillar aren’t going to be doing service callouts to fix that engine, and Shell aren’t going to be sending tankerloads of fuel.

      Meanwhile there are several million Italians, all shit-scared of the Marines, but all with equipment perfectly well suited to the milieu, and all of it with complete logistic support. Granted the equipment is primitive, but next year it’ll still be working, and the year after that, and the year after that.

      Best bet long term for the Marines is to win a battle quickly while their stuff still works, then forget about being Marines, assimilate rapidly and become Romans.

  32. I think you all are missing a few key aspects of this.

    First, the Marines are TRAINED to take on larger forces. It is role in the US military. They have proven themselves more than capable of this, in situations where they are cut off from resupply, isolated, etc at places like Iwo Jima in WWII and Khe Sahn in Vietnam where 5,000 Marines held off, while under siege, over 40,000 well armed, well supplied Vietnamese that had the odds strongly on their side.

    Combine that with the moral busting affect of a modern Marine with modern armaments on the Roman Legions, I think you’d find that most Legionnaires would probably tuck tail and run. If you consider that an M4 being able to kill a Roman soldier at 300+ yards would have an extreme psychological effect on them. The ranks would fall quickly. Those that stayed would not be much of a match against the superior weaponry and a few centuries of combined fighting knowledge combined in to Marine combat training. 
    The only advantage the Romans would have is numbers. But that has been proven time and again to not be the deciding factor in battle. 

    I would wager on the Marines. It has been their role throughout their history to take the odds and crush them mercilessly.

  33. Greek was the lingua franca of most of the Roman Empire, and most of the officers should have known that.

  34. Came late to this fray; actually read the Prufrock Chapters before seeing it here by only a few hours, so felt ‘connected’ nonetheless…and that’s the stuff!  Nice writing…

    Romans man, dig the Romans…I’m reading Ed Gibbons D.&F. of the R.E. so you don’t have to: It’s awful depressing.  Be ready for a litany of Horrible Pathetic Inbred EgoManiacs that rued and ruled the Empire for 400 years, Ruinous Policies and Abhorrent Violence seemed to be a prerequisite for the job.

    And though there was a period of about 80 years when Trajan and Hadrian were building arches and walls and Roman citizens had Jove-loving jobs for Mithras-sake; otherwise the History of The Empire is filled mostly with pusillanimous eunuch listeners and inveterate lascivious layabouts…big surprise you couldn’t keep the Empire you Greek-thieving circus-inventors: Don’t sleep with your sisters!!!  Patrician blood my lilly white arse: “yes, the fieldhands work from dusk till dawn without pause, and the local wenches are so healthy: but my wife had two die in the first year, the baby has a cleft palate and the eldest is So Angry sometimes; we haven’t seen the cats in weeks…”  

    Why/How could they ignore that some of their kids were SO F-D?  Poor Clau-clau-claudius was a good example: raised and surrounded by the greatest, richest and most powerful in his day: the only way he never got kilt in intrigues was because he was so sickly and jacked-up looking..He gave the Empire a breather when he got placed in the big seat, but Nero, Tiberius…Caligula?  Those were the Emperors that surrounded him.  Most anyone would look pontifical in such terrible company.

    So…The title of this exercise was ‘can a Marine regiment Defeat the R.E.’ but the stated objective was to -Kill Augustus- (as I recall anyway)

    Yes of course to the latter but no not really to the former.  History shows that anybody can be killed if somebody wants it enough, and to kill one man, on horseback…(or cowering in a marble palace; it matters not) with artillery, snipers and good old american know how: Caesar the Most August will get his cap peeled back.  I don’t care how many pilums you throw.

    But, really: why him?  Trust me: he was a top-notch Emperor (as far as it goes)…the other guys were  dressing like Hercules and/or getting killed and replaced every few months.  But the author of the question that started this was annoyed by the scheming lad on HBO’s ROME: I would advise that series over Masterpiece Theatre’s I, Claudius unless you care about the job-creating Romans even more than me…

    But: (I realize this has all been well argued here and at Reddit, still gotta put in my .02 sesterces)….in any case: Can a limited army with a compromised supply yet superior firepower win a war?  You might win every battle.  But not the war.  Some places/cultures you cant beat: you want to attempt a land war in Russia?  China? Go ahead: in the short term you might make some advances…

    But in Mother Russia…war wins you.  

    How many small arms rounds does a Marine regiment carry?  Thousands, tens of thousands….but attrition must eventually rule the day.  Swords never need reloading.

    Besides: Victory is fleeting.  Where will the Victorious Regiment go?  What more need they accomplish?  They can control, and by proxy rule…for awhile.  In two generations, needs must their progeny will be mixed with and assimilated with the blood of the ancients.  And the deeds of the Fathers lost to the mists of Time.  And the home folks go back to living how they did generations previous.

    (Shout out to Prufock: great stuff (and slight spoilage …but why would the Latin expert be the first to off himself?  It, just, dont seem right.  Make him address some adversary in rude, crap ass Latin and have him cloven in two for disrespect, or Something….let’s see that Latin nerd try, not just die.

    And the common, stepped on folk gotta be represented.  See (I’m thinking cinematically here) if it’s just a battle between Marines vs Romans; the best you can hope for is Saving Private Ryan meets Spartacus.  Sort of like Black Hawk Down with horses and pointy bits…

    BUT: use the relationships to tell a story.  Show the common folk getting screwed.  End with a mighty kick-ass battle that shows that battles are bad…

    Now, that’s a 100 million dollar movie right there!  Just make sure you show the awesome trade value of MRE candy: you could probably get a catapult for a few packs of M&Ms!)

    1. Really, Gibbons? Why not read some modern, not entirely debunked scholarship? The elites were not necessarily representative of rome as a whoel, and furthermore, you can’t take people like seutonious and tacitus at their word: they had axes to grind. The Romans were actually kind of prudish – which is why the moralists were always going on about orgies and such. No different than any modern fire-and-brimstone preacher today.

  35. The question of whether they can is one of supplies, especially ammo. I expect that, given unlimited ammo, a single platoon of marines (or any competent, well-trained modern soldier) could take out the Roman Empire if they wanted. If they have more bullets than the Romans have soldiers, they can simply massacre their way to victory. Of course unlimited ammo is a silly scenario, but I’m pretty sure that as long as they have ammo and manage to maintain discipline, they’re pretty much invulnerable.

    The big question is whether they will. Both for them and for the Romans it’s much more attractive to adopt the modern soldiers as fabulously pampered elite soldiers, or even their new ruling class, gods, or what have you. Give them everything they desire in exchange for not toppling the empire and instead toppling whatever enemies the empire has. Of course once all credible enemies are out of the picture, the marines will become the prime target of lots of internal political infighting and corruption. Every noble who can afford it will want his own squad of marines. Maybe some marines will decide to get involved in those politics themselves. Pretty soon, you’ll risk getting infighting between the marines. It all depends on whether the commander of the marines will be able to maintain discipline, and as long as he does, he’s a god.

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