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View Full Version : Inspired By Skyrim : Norse V.S Rome



DarthArminius
2012-01-23, 02:32 PM
Rome has been busy conquering Europe and decides to conquer the barbarians known as the Norse. (Assume in this debate that Roman Legion and the Norse are both of varying eras in their history to make things interesting). With the Norse Long Boats, their interesting weapons, and occasional berserker, they are a powerful foe. (Speaking in Deadliest Warrior Narrator voice here). Also, assume that the Roman Legions have their competent military tactics, their formations and their well-known organization and efficiency, in addition to their technologies as well.

Who defeats who?

1. First of all, assume the Roman Legionares have numerical superiority, from 2-3 or more Legionares per Norseman.
2. What if the armies have numerical parity?
3. What if Rome is too busy doing other things to spare more than an outnumbered army of Legionares, numbering half or less of the native armed forces?

Gaelbert
2012-01-23, 02:43 PM
Rome has been busy conquering Europe and decides to conquer the barbarians known as the Norse. (Assume in this debate that Roman Legion and the Norse are both of varying eras in their history to make things interesting). With the Norse Long Boats, their interesting weapons, and occasional berserker, they are a powerful foe. (Speaking in Deadliest Warrior Narrator voice here). Also, assume that the Roman Legions have their competent military tactics, their formations and their well-known organization and efficiency, in addition to their technologies as well.

Who defeats who?

1. First of all, assume the Roman Legionares have numerical superiority, from 2-3 or more Legionares per Norseman.
2. What if the armies have numerical parity?
3. What if Rome is too busy doing other things to spare more than an outnumbered army of Legionares, numbering half or less of the native armed forces?

The Romans. Easily the Romans. The Romans conquered hundreds of tribes similar to the Norse without numerical superiority. The Romans would routinely defeat native tribes outnumbering their forces by 3 or more times.

Now, if the Norse had competent strategists who forced the Romans to fight on the Norse terms, then that might be a different story. But historically, that only rarely happened in the battles against the Romans.

Terraoblivion
2012-01-23, 02:51 PM
Yeah, Roman drill, discipline and coordination made them quite superior in a straight up battle. These things matter far more in a battle than either pure numbers or greater individual skill of the soldiers. Not just that, the second the Romans had a foothold in the area they began actively reshaping the terrain to their benefit, really an undisciplined army of warriors had to have the terrain on their side to have much of a chance to win and even then they'd probably need superior numbers too.

ThePhantasm
2012-01-23, 02:57 PM
Definitely the Romans. They typically only lost to barbarians when the Roman army was plagued by infighting and military coups, and typically by that era Rome was already on an irreversible downward spiral. The Romans certainly had better tactics, discipline, armor, etc.

Kyberwulf
2012-01-23, 03:03 PM
Yeah,.. Norse goes down hard in this one

Whoracle
2012-01-23, 03:09 PM
I don't think it'd be that much of a curbstomp. Consider the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Teutoburg_Forest) - The forces were roughly on par with each other, and the romans got almost literally destroyed.

The romans have historically fared pretty bad against physically much bigger, more savage enemies. Almost all of the ones they defeated were about equal in size, IIRC (may be totally wrong here, though), and the norsemen were quite a bit bigger than the average roman soldier.

Also: Depends on where they're fighting. Knowing the terrain played a big part in teutoburg forest, and knowing the lay of the land beats rearranging it almost anytime.
On their home turf the norse win. When invading roman territory, not so much, methinks.

Terraoblivion
2012-01-23, 03:18 PM
Actually, the vikings were pretty short compared to medieval and earlier iron age people. Which some archaeologists theorize is the reason for their raiding, they suffered from food shortages.

Coidzor
2012-01-23, 03:27 PM
So, what, late Republic? Early Empire? I'm assuming we're assuming post Marian Reforms and before the limitanei and comitatenses.

Norse shield walls don't really seem like they'd stand up to that, but that's not really the advantage of the Norse in terms of warfare.

I really don't see the Norse, if they're numerous enough to field an army to fight the Romans in a straight-up fight, not causing the kind of trouble all up and down the coast that would provide a similar pressure as the one that caused the legions to be divided in that way. From what I understand of Roman naval power, they would not have really been able to get at the Norse to retaliate against such raids or to fight on Nordic lands except for in Denmark, though I cannot recall whether Denmark is actually Norse is antiquity or, as the name suggests, the Norse just took it over from the indigenous people.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-23, 03:43 PM
One should point out that the Norse would be essentially versions of the enemies Rome both conquered and were stopped by. And the Norse going to be better equipped then the barbarians of Rome's day given that technology never quite stopped. Assuming men with the resources to be equipped that is.

In both cases you are talking armies that are ideally using spear and shield tactics. The Norse knew all about say shield walls and in general there are really only one variation on good tactics. You don't raise havoc and raid all over Northern Europe for long without knowing what you are doing. So there's no innate reason the Norsemen can't win.

In my book like most war this comes to resources.

Rome obviously has a superior resource base. However Scandinavia is well beyond any border claimed by Rome. And those borders can loosely be said to represent as far as Rome could go, you don't build a wall down the middle of an island to defend your territory if you can actually finish conquering the island. Rome began to contract in part because it expanded beyond its ability to maintain itself. To continue Rome would ultimately have had to have built its territories in a way it never did. Not simply rule but to assimilate territory, like China and the USA practiced. So "realistically" the Romans would not have the base to send well equipped and well supplied legions that far from home in large enough numbers to take and hold the areas.

(Oh and winter be a lot colder up there yes? That always turns out well)

If we want to magically rework geography to put Scandinavia much closer or magically make Rome sufficiently robust then yeah the Empire versus loose collection of feudal states, inevitable results follow.

Mistral
2012-01-23, 03:51 PM
I don't think it'd be that much of a curbstomp. Consider the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Teutoburg_Forest) - The forces were roughly on par with each other, and the romans got almost literally destroyed.

The romans have historically fared pretty bad against physically much bigger, more savage enemies. Almost all of the ones they defeated were about equal in size, IIRC (may be totally wrong here, though), and the norsemen were quite a bit bigger than the average roman soldier.

Also: Depends on where they're fighting. Knowing the terrain played a big part in teutoburg forest, and knowing the lay of the land beats rearranging it almost anytime.
On their home turf the norse win. When invading roman territory, not so much, methinks.

Yes, but Teutoburg Forest really demonstrates exactly what would happen even after a crippling defeat. Just five years later, the Romans would crush the Germanic tribes under Arminius and break the coalition, earning the Roman leader the agnomen Germanicus and his first triumph, and another attempt by the Chatti tribe over 30 years after that would end in a dismal failure for the Germanic tribes. Even losing three legions was only enough to humiliate Rome, but far from enough to stop them. The only reason Rome set up local puppets rather than rulers was logistics, which, assuming we're dealing with Rome at its largest territorial extent, is also the only thing that would keep the Norse from becoming the newest Roman province - it seems probable that Rome would crush the Nordic raids, likely attempt a few retaliatory measures (raze a few cities, crush an army or three), and call the job done, leaving enough forces to dissuade any further attempts by the Nords from trying again.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-23, 06:00 PM
Yes, but Teutoburg Forest really demonstrates exactly what would happen even after a crippling defeat. Just five years later, the Romans would crush the Germanic tribes under Arminius and break the coalition, earning the Roman leader the agnomen Germanicus and his first triumph, and another attempt by the Chatti tribe over 30 years after that would end in a dismal failure for the Germanic tribes. Even losing three legions was only enough to humiliate Rome, but far from enough to stop them. The only reason Rome set up local puppets rather than rulers was logistics, which, assuming we're dealing with Rome at its largest territorial extent, is also the only thing that would keep the Norse from becoming the newest Roman province - it seems probable that Rome would crush the Nordic raids, likely attempt a few retaliatory measures (raze a few cities, crush an army or three), and call the job done, leaving enough forces to dissuade any further attempts by the Nords from trying again.

And yet that logistical truth remains and would only be worse for operating in Scandinavia. This war Rome just after Augustus by any measure as fundamentally healthy an Empire as it will ever be. Yet its not worth the trouble and exspense to maintain a lasting presence past the Rhine.

This would only be worse in Scandinavia because your closest points of support would be the farthest flung and least developed portions of the Empire. Rome was always a Med base empire for good reason.

Add a smattering of technological advancement (Norse swords are believed to be developed from the gladius for example) and the Norsemen should fair pretty well.

Aotrs Commander
2012-01-23, 06:19 PM
I don't think it'd be that much of a curbstomp. Consider the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Teutoburg_Forest) - The forces were roughly on par with each other, and the romans got almost literally destroyed.

The romans have historically fared pretty bad against physically much bigger, more savage enemies. Almost all of the ones they defeated were about equal in size, IIRC (may be totally wrong here, though), and the norsemen were quite a bit bigger than the average roman soldier.

Also: Depends on where they're fighting. Knowing the terrain played a big part in teutoburg forest, and knowing the lay of the land beats rearranging it almost anytime.
On their home turf the norse win. When invading roman territory, not so much, methinks.

The forces were not on a par - the numbers may have been - ish, I'm not sure (the Romans may have even out-numbered the Cherusci and co, with all the additional troops and camp followers and so on), but the Romans were at a massive disadvantage.

That battle was an ambush in entirely unfavourable terrain and worse weather, caused by the ineptitude of the Roman commander (for a kick-off, marching through unknown territory without proper scouting). The Legions didn't have time or space to form up and were badly lead by their commander, whereas the enemy had a commander familiar with Roman tactics and thus how best to deal with them. It was one of the more decisive defeats the Romans ever had.

But it just goes to show, even with the best troops in the world, if you have poor commanders, it often mean little. (See also: all too many commanders, particularly in the gunpowder and beyond era, who insisted on frontal attacks against massed enemy fire.)


Yes, but Teutoburg Forest really demonstrates exactly what would happen even after a crippling defeat. Just five years later, the Romans would crush the Germanic tribes under Arminius and break the coalition, earning the Roman leader the agnomen Germanicus and his first triumph, and another attempt by the Chatti tribe over 30 years after that would end in a dismal failure for the Germanic tribes. Even losing three legions was only enough to humiliate Rome, but far from enough to stop them. The only reason Rome set up local puppets rather than rulers was logistics, which, assuming we're dealing with Rome at its largest territorial extent, is also the only thing that would keep the Norse from becoming the newest Roman province - it seems probable that Rome would crush the Nordic raids, likely attempt a few retaliatory measures (raze a few cities, crush an army or three), and call the job done, leaving enough forces to dissuade any further attempts by the Nords from trying again.

That too.


And yet that logistical truth remains and would only be worse for operating in Scandinavia. This war Rome just after Augustus by any measure as fundamentally healthy an Empire as it will ever be. Yet its not worth the trouble and exspense to maintain a lasting presence past the Rhine.

This would only be worse in Scandinavia because your closest points of support would be the farthest flung and least developed portions of the Empire. Rome was always a Med base empire for good reason.

Add a smattering of technological advancement (Norse swords are believed to be developed from the gladius for example) and the Norsemen should fair pretty well.

And this, too. Even in an Empire as well-organised and supplied as Rome at it's height, the ability to wage war depended a lot of whether it was cost effective.

The Romans probably could have defeated the Norse on the battlefield - for a kick-off, the Romans had that really nasty tendancy to learn from their defeats, so they would have learned eventually, even if the lost the first few for some reason - but whether they could have taken and held the Norse territory is really another question (as and historically, they didn't really try, the answer is probably no).

And of course, in the late Empire, it all just sort of fell apart in the Western Empire (the sucession of fairly dismal or at least not notable Emperors towards the end didn't help, either...)

Ravens_cry
2012-01-23, 06:24 PM
There is also a basic fact that conquered people are more likely to capitulate if you leave most societal structures intact. Let their chiefs and jarls still be their chiefs and jarls, just make sure that the final authority rests with Rome. Life goes on as usual, and they also get the benefits of Roman Civilisation, excellent roads, running water, public baths and other construction, defence against other aggressors.
Basically, Rome read the Evil Overlord list.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-01-23, 06:28 PM
Teutoberg Forest was a bit of a freak occurrence. You have to consider that the Romans were not fighting an enemy, they were fighting an ALLY. The Germanic forces which destroyed them included their guides, and other allied forces. It was hardly a usual occurrence, despite it being constantly referred to as the proof that Rome had reached it's limit because they couldn't defeat the Germans. They could and did defeat the Germans, they just didn't believe it was worth the administrative and peace-keeping costs to hold the territory.

So, if it comes to a straight-up battle, or a traditional campaign, Rome wins. However, the great strength of the Nordic powers were not pitched battles and campaigns. The great strength of the Nordic powers was their naval technology and skill. With the exception of the almost-successful invasion of England, all of the Nordic campaigns involving striking unexpectedly and quickly, generally along river-routes. Normandy they won through attacking the King of France before he could react. Russia, they settled in forts, or "grads" all along the trading routes along the rivers. It was their inability to scale the walls of Constantinople that saved the Queen of Cities. Their wars in England showed the advantages of being able transport large forces by water, and unload these armies far inland.

So, while on the offensive, the Norse seem to have the advantage of mobility, limited to coastal regions and along major rivers.

Or do they? One of the main advantages of the Marian/Pre-Contantine Legion, was the system of well-maintained roads that allowed the Legion to have unparalleled mobility in Roman provinces. So, the Norse naval mobility is lessened by the Roman defensive mobility. However, the Norse still have the advantage of being able to strike without warning. And as for striking against the Norse homelands, out of the question. Rome's fleet was basically restricted to the Black and Mediterranean Seas. They weren't built for the stormy North Sea, like the Norse ships were. Besides, there had been absolutely 0 invasions of Scandinavia at the time of the Vikingr. The raids were always emanating from Scandinavia, not vice versa.

warty goblin
2012-01-23, 06:37 PM
So, what, late Republic? Early Empire? I'm assuming we're assuming post Marian Reforms and before the limitanei and comitatenses.

Norse shield walls don't really seem like they'd stand up to that, but that's not really the advantage of the Norse in terms of warfare.

Don't diss the shieldwall, those suckers were very, very hard to break by direct assault, particularly if set up to use terrain well. The evidence is fairly good for instance that despite using sophisticated combined arms attacks of cavalry far better than any Rome fielded, archers and infantry, William was unable to break Harold's line at Hastings. He only won because the English soldiers broke ranks to pursue a feigned retreat. Remember that Roman combat doctrine struggled mightily to overcome the post-Macedonian phalanx. Head to head, so far as I can tell, they basically couldn't, the phalanx simply concentrates force too well. Northern European shieldwalls are very much in that school of fighting, albeit with weapons scaled better for individual instead of formation-scale combat.

There's also the not insignificant advances in metallurgy that should not be dismissed. IIRC most Roman gear was wrought iron, which is very much inferior to the steel that would have been more commonplace for Norse warriors. And the later on one goes, the greater the preponderance of steel becomes, by the turn of the millennium apparently most fighting men were equipped in riveted or riveted/solid blend chainmail and had access to steel swords.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-23, 06:47 PM
Ironically,a lot of the advances developed from Roman technology.
For example, the typical Viking sword was a form of spatha, which was also used by the Romans, and I think, evolved from the famous gladius, the "sword that forged an Empire".

Aotrs Commander
2012-01-23, 06:53 PM
Ironically,a lot of the advances developed from Roman technology.
For example, the typical Viking sword was a form of spatha, which was also used by the Romans, and I think, evolved from the famous gladius, the "sword that forged an Empire".

The spatha was a slightly longer gladius used primarily by the cavalry, so yes, that would not surprise me. The Romans knew what they were on about! Notably, entrenching tools as far forward as WW2 were not dissimilar to Roman designs, except the later ones had folding handles.

warty goblin
2012-01-23, 06:56 PM
Ironically,a lot of the advances developed from Roman technology.
For example, the typical Viking sword was a form of spatha, which was also used by the Romans, and I think, evolved from the famous gladius, the "sword that forged an Empire".

The gladius however is believed to have originated with the Celtierians of Iberia, not the Tiber valley of Italy. Like chainmail, it's probably Celtish in origin.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-23, 07:00 PM
The spatha was a slightly longer gladius used primarily by the cavalry, so yes, that would not surprise me. The Romans knew what they were on about! Notably, entrenching tools as far forward as WW2 were not dissimilar to Roman designs, except the later ones had folding handles.
Dirt don't change.
The Roman Legionnaire could give a US Marine a run for their money in how much supplies each individual soldier they lugged around.
On foot, marching miles per day.
Up hill, both ways.

The gladius however is believed to have originated with the Celtierians of Iberia, not the Tiber valley of Italy. Like chainmail, it's probably Celtish in origin.
That's the Romans for you, they don't give a crap who makes it, as long as it works.

Aotrs Commander
2012-01-23, 07:01 PM
The gladius however is believed to have originated with the Celtierians of Iberia, not the Tiber valley of Italy. Like chainmail, it's probably Celtish in origin.

The Romans also were not at all above nicking other people's great ideas...!

Which, to be fair, wasn't that common at the time.

warty goblin
2012-01-23, 07:05 PM
Dirt don't change.
The Roman Legionnaire could give a US Marine a run for their money in how much supplies each individual soldier they lugged around.
On foot, marching miles per day.
Up hill, both ways.

And then after that they built a goddamn fort.


That's the Romans for you, they don't give a crap who makes it, as long as it works.
This is very true.

edit: although in the case of the gladius/spatha/Scandinavian sword descent, there really is some significant innovation along the way. The transformation of the pummel in particular is very noteworthy.

Yora
2012-01-23, 07:12 PM
Ironically,a lot of the advances developed from Roman technology.
For example, the typical Viking sword was a form of spatha, which was also used by the Romans, and I think, evolved from the famous gladius, the "sword that forged an Empire".
Well, they were seperated by a time span of about one thousand years. Technology travels far in ten centuries.

The big question is, why the Norse would even engage the Romans in a field battle.
Even more plausible would be the Romans invading Sweden, but given how much trouble it was to get across the Rhine and that they never conquered the Picts and Gaels, I can't imagine the logistical nightmare of establishing supply routes across the Baltic.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-23, 07:22 PM
And then after that they built a goddamn fort.

Yep.

This is very true.

This is what I love about the Romans, their practicality.


edit: although in the case of the gladius/spatha/Scandinavian sword descent, there really is some significant innovation along the way. The transformation of the pummel in particular is very noteworthy.
Which makes sense, as the shields and other equipment used were different in each case.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-23, 09:17 PM
There is also a basic fact that conquered people are more likely to capitulate if you leave most societal structures intact. Let their chiefs and jarls still be their chiefs and jarls, just make sure that the final authority rests with Rome. Life goes on as usual, and they also get the benefits of Roman Civilisation, excellent roads, running water, public baths and other construction, defence against other aggressors.
Basically, Rome read the Evil Overlord list.

Here is something of consideration. Mind you this is way too big an issue to tackle but one of the theories for the decline of Rome was that in the end they didn't do quite enough to intergrate their territory and export their empire into becoming a greater culture.

Generally you are invited to compare and contrast China here.



The big question is, why the Norse would even engage the Romans in a field battle.
Even more plausible would be the Romans invading Sweden, but given how much trouble it was to get across the Rhine and that they never conquered the Picts and Gaels, I can't imagine the logistical nightmare of establishing supply routes across the Baltic.

Well the most plausible source of conflict likely begin the other way around, as everywhere the Norsemen liked to raid was would be strictly Roman stomping ground. Something that isn't easy to stop or defend against.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-23, 09:34 PM
Here is something of consideration. Mind you this is way too big an issue to tackle but one of the theories for the decline of Rome was that in the end they didn't do quite enough to intergrate their territory and export their empire into becoming a greater culture.

Generally you are invited to compare and contrast China here.

Hmm, that is an interesting point, definitely one to think about. Mind you, I believe the Aztec had a similar policy in some ways and, until the Europeans came along, seemed to be doing pretty well in their imperial aspirations.

t209
2012-01-23, 09:40 PM
How about Eastern Roman Empire? They got vikings for legionnaire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varangian_Guard).
P.S
Skyrim's empire is started to look more like Byzantine (beat down version of Romans) in political sense.

Neo_Leviathan
2012-01-23, 09:44 PM
Much as I love the Norse compared to the Romans, the Romans had a disciplined army and the Norse were much less organised (raiding parties rather than a standing army).

I have no doubt that the average Norse could crush the average Legionnaire, and that a raiding party could probably do quite well against an equal sized Roman patrol, but army vs army the Norse would be in dire straights.

Although, are we talking Norse invading, or the Romans invading?
If it's the latter the Norse would probably have a very good chance of taking out Roman ships in the water before they could land, which would drastically even the odds.

That said we're talking about the mighty invading force that reached Alba (Scotland) and went "Too bloody cold, we're declaring this the edge of the known world and building a wall to keep the barbarians out".
If the Romans decided to invade all the Norse would have to do is bait the Roman legions into the snows and then bugger off, letting them either freeze to death or run home before they died to frostbite :)

Tavar
2012-01-23, 10:23 PM
Hmm...the real issue of the Roman Navy would be the conditions: it wasn't designed to be an open water navy, so it likely wouldn't function well in the environment it would be fighting in. That said, the Roman naval module might work well against the viking one: they basically tried to make it a land battle, where their infantry could make up for their weaker naval skills. And, it seems the vikings would be doing the same, thus it's probably a draw.

On the ground...the Decline of the Vikings was, if I remember correctly, at least partially due to the fact that their enemies started to become more organized, as well as better equipped. Basically, as raiders they were exceedingly effective, but as an army, they weren't. So, I think it might very well go in the Roman's favor, at least in a whiteroom battle.

Terraoblivion
2012-01-23, 10:28 PM
Except if they invaded Denmark or southern Sweden, both regions substantially warmer than Scotland. I mean, the idea of Scandinavia being buried in snow is heavily overestimated, something that especially applies to Denmark, but also to large areas of Sweden and Norway. Now, the region was colder back then that it is today, but to our knowledge it was warmer than when systematic weather measurements began in the 19th century and even back then you wouldn't generally find frost in December in Denmark. Even the warmest parts of Sweden and Norway are colder than that, but they still aren't the frozen land of winter people imagine. Central and northern Sweden is and so is northern and inland Norway, but around Bergen or Gothenburg? Not all that cold, actually.

Coidzor
2012-01-23, 10:59 PM
Much as I love the Norse compared to the Romans, the Romans had a disciplined army and the Norse were much less organised (raiding parties rather than a standing army).

I have no doubt that the average Norse could crush the average Legionnaire, and that a raiding party could probably do quite well against an equal sized Roman patrol, but army vs army the Norse would be in dire straights.

Now there's a question. What the hell did Roman security forces look like? I know that towards the end, large land owners and merchants basically had small private armies of mercenaries. They had some concept of something like a constabulary for keeping law and order in settlements, IIRC. But as far as I know, during the sort of period we're looking at, the legions basically stayed in one big piece except for in cases where they had to detach cohorts and send them to be grouped with other cohorts from other legions into a temporary force that wasn't as tied to a geographical area on the borders, which is what eventually lead to the division into limes and non-limes forces...

...But what would a patrol have looked like? What would a group of legionnaires smaller than a cohort do? :smallconfused:

Yora
2012-01-24, 07:21 AM
What period are we talking about exactly? I think I saw at least three or even four mentioned so far.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-24, 08:47 AM
What period are we talking about exactly? I think I saw at least three or even four mentioned so far.
Too true. I mean, the common perception is the big red* rectangular shield with the lorica segmentata, "these Romans are crazy" legionnaire Roman Empire, but, yes, the equipment and even makeup of the army varies quite significantly by era. By the time you get Late Western Empire, the kit is starting to look quite medieval, with much more cavalry I believe.
I admit I am no scholar of Ancient Rome and am only piecing together bits and pieces I've learned here and there, so please inform me of my errors.
*We don't even know if they were usually red.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-01-24, 09:14 AM
Well, I'm considering this as being the period between the Marian reforms, which took the 3 lines of troops of the Camillan and Polybian Reform era, the Hastati/Principes/Triarii line, and replaced it all with one infantry group, and the Constantine reforms, which created 2 armies, a stationary force of militia to garrison forts and guard the frontier, called the Limitanei, and a mobile force of professional soldiers, based on the legion, called the Comitatensis.

Scarlet Knight
2012-01-24, 09:46 AM
I imagine the Norse raid Roman territory, sparking the movement of the Legions. Overconfident, the Romans get ambushed. The Romans regroup, and the Norse, now confident that each of them is worth 10 of those weaklings from the south, wake up to find hell raining down upon them as the Legions appear the have walked the length of Europe over night ( and that's while stopping for Snow Cones in Helvicia).

However, before the tribes can surrender, the crazy emperor becomes suspicious of the conquoring general, orders him back to Rome, where he is executed and everything returns to, as the Romans like to say: status quo.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-24, 11:54 AM
Too true. I mean, the common perception is the big red* rectangular shield with the lorica segmentata, "these Romans are crazy" legionnaire Roman Empire, but, yes, the equipment and even makeup of the army varies quite significantly by era. By the time you get Late Western Empire, the kit is starting to look quite medieval, with much more cavalry I believe.
I admit I am no scholar of Ancient Rome and am only piecing together bits and pieces I've learned here and there, so please inform me of my errors.
*We don't even know if they were usually red.

I'm no expert either but having poked around the issue before yeah there's some pretty major shifts. Even in the periods we know it was used there is debate on how widespread the lorica segmentata was. Later troops almost entirely wore mail and also used smaller shields. Visually not that different from what a fully equipped Norseman would use.

Also Rome outsourced a lot of its military and did so increasingly as time goes along. Originally I understand the legions were all citizens in the Roman sense but always with auxiliaries from the various ruled people. These not only increased over time but eventually were granted full citizenship and even barbari were recruited, this being well into the Decline. And the later one goes the more loyalty to Rome gets dubious.

Part of the culture argument I brought up, Rome never truly integrated its populace into itself as a single nation until too late. .

Aux-Ash
2012-01-24, 12:26 PM
There is no simple answer to this question. Even taking into account that "Rome" as a entity spans well over 800 years and the "Norse" consists of a lot of peoples in another 800 year and that these two eras only overlap in one another's extremes.

It's a very fundamental question really... which Rome do we talk about? The citystate? The etruscan vassal? The Kingdom? The Early republic? The punic wars rome? The marian rome? The triumvirates? Ceasar's? The Julio-Claudian Dynasty? The Flavian? Nervan-Antonian? The Severan's? 3rd century? Constantine? 4th? The Byzantine Empire (And which of -those- dynasties)? The Frankish Empire? The Holy Roman Empire? The sultanate of Rome (Ottoman empire)? Russia?

The same question really applies to the Norse. Are we talking Jutes? Angles? Saxons? Danes? Norwegians? Swedes (suiones)? Geats? Gutes? All of them? Early Rus too (if they qualify)? What about sami and finns? The Danelaw? The Norse-Gaels? Normans?
Which century?

Or perhaps just the vague (and incorrect) popular notions of what norse and romans are (at which point any quasi-historical analysis goes out the window)?

Even if we narrow it down we hit a number of problems. Can we assume Rome can bring it's full might to bear against Scandinavia? If so then we have to assume a fictional Rome because historical Rome have always been forced to spend the majority of it's resources protecting it's own borders and provinces (or fighting against itself).
It's comparatively plausible to imagine them sending a handful of legions, but sending all of them is plain unfeasible.
But even then supply, morale, goals and leadership have to be taken into account.
And of course, if we pick norse and romans from different periods then there's actually a risk that it's the norse outgunning the romans (paradoxically) since the norse adopted a lot of roman technology very quickly (a lag of a couple of decades, but not much longer).

But if we boil it down to a single battle all things being equal in a complete vacuum. Only then does the answer become easy:

The ones, who at that very point, manage to make the best use of their advantages. That might be the Romans. That might be the norse.


Interesting trivia though. I saw a documentary last night about the 4th-6th centuries Öland, and recent archeological evidence suggests that youths from that region took part in the gothic raids and wars against Rome in Pannonia (Hungary) and got very very rich doing that.
Which perhaps could qualify as Norse taking part in beating the Romans?

DarthArminius
2012-01-24, 01:01 PM
There is no simple answer to this question. Even taking into account that "Rome" as a entity spans well over 800 years and the "Norse" consists of a lot of peoples in another 800 year and that these two eras only overlap in one another's extremes.

It's a very fundamental question really... which Rome do we talk about? The citystate? The etruscan vassal? The Kingdom? The Early republic? The punic wars rome? The marian rome? The triumvirates? Ceasar's? The Julio-Claudian Dynasty? The Flavian? Nervan-Antonian? The Severan's? 3rd century? Constantine? 4th? The Byzantine Empire (And which of -those- dynasties)? The Frankish Empire? The Holy Roman Empire? The sultanate of Rome (Ottoman empire)? Russia?

The same question really applies to the Norse. Are we talking Jutes? Angles? Saxons? Danes? Norwegians? Swedes (suiones)? Geats? Gutes? All of them? Early Rus too (if they qualify)? What about sami and finns? The Danelaw? The Norse-Gaels? Normans?
Which century?

Or perhaps just the vague (and incorrect) popular notions of what norse and romans are (at which point any quasi-historical analysis goes out the window)?

Even if we narrow it down we hit a number of problems. Can we assume Rome can bring it's full might to bear against Scandinavia? If so then we have to assume a fictional Rome because historical Rome have always been forced to spend the majority of it's resources protecting it's own borders and provinces (or fighting against itself).
It's comparatively plausible to imagine them sending a handful of legions, but sending all of them is plain unfeasible.
But even then supply, morale, goals and leadership have to be taken into account.
And of course, if we pick norse and romans from different periods then there's actually a risk that it's the norse outgunning the romans (paradoxically) since the norse adopted a lot of roman technology very quickly (a lag of a couple of decades, but not much longer).

But if we boil it down to a single battle all things being equal in a complete vacuum. Only then does the answer become easy:

The ones, who at that very point, manage to make the best use of their advantages. That might be the Romans. That might be the norse.


Interesting trivia though. I saw a documentary last night about the 4th-6th centuries Öland, and recent archeological evidence suggests that youths from that region took part in the gothic raids and wars against Rome in Pannonia (Hungary) and got very very rich doing that.
Which perhaps could qualify as Norse taking part in beating the Romans?

I'm interested enough in this thread that I'll just say, other than the City-State or Kingdom Period, what about "Any Rome" v.s "Any Norse"?

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-24, 01:08 PM
I'm interested enough in this thread that I'll just say, other than the City-State or Kingdom Period, what about "Any Rome" v.s "Any Norse"?

We can probably narrow things down to somewhere at the Empire's height and widest exspansion and the Norse of the Viking Age.

Otherwise for certain values of Rome and Norse we could be putting Romans with bronze swords against modern military hardwar.

(Modern Icelanders can read the sagas and are genetically isolated, how are they not Norsemen?)

Talya
2012-01-24, 01:25 PM
Except if they invaded Denmark or southern Sweden, both regions substantially warmer than Scotland. I mean, the idea of Scandinavia being buried in snow is heavily overestimated, something that especially applies to Denmark, but also to large areas of Sweden and Norway. Now, the region was colder back then that it is today, but to our knowledge it was warmer than when systematic weather measurements began in the 19th century and even back then you wouldn't generally find frost in December in Denmark. Even the warmest parts of Sweden and Norway are colder than that, but they still aren't the frozen land of winter people imagine. Central and northern Sweden is and so is northern and inland Norway, but around Bergen or Gothenburg? Not all that cold, actually.


yeah, considering how far north they are....

Toronto (the closest major city to where I live) is at a similar lattitude as Marseilles (both at 43 degrees north), on the French Mediterranean. Yet it's colder than Copenhagen, by far. Europe gets all the best warm currents. :smalltongue:

Aux-Ash
2012-01-24, 01:48 PM
Hmmm... The tricky part is choosing a norse period that does not have significantly superior technology. Once the norse starts packing steel weapons, heavy cavalry and powerful bows most of our possible "any Rome":s starts to have significant disadvantages. At the same time... if it's too early we'll know next to nothing about the norse.

Unfortunantely... this also puts us in the 4th or 5th century and the Roman empire is slowly disintegrating and a rather dysfunctional state.

The scandinavian Iron Age leading up to the viking era is certainly a viable substitute for the actual vikings (it even has raiding!) but even then... what we know of the pre-3rd century norse is... sparse.

If we do put iconic Romans versus iconic Vikings, we run into a big problem. Namely that most of the techniques, equipment and tactics the Romans are so famous for are obsolote or well known. So the what is supposed to be the true edge of the Romans turns in the norse's favour instead. Which I assume turns everything on it's head?

pffh
2012-01-24, 02:00 PM
Otherwise for certain values of Rome and Norse we could be putting Romans with bronze swords against modern military hardwar.

(Modern Icelanders can read the sagas and are genetically isolated, how are they not Norsemen?)

Except you know we Icelanders don´t have modern military hardware considering we don't have an army. I guess we could field the Special Unit of the police which would be max 55 blokes with shotguns or small machine guns.

Lamech
2012-01-24, 02:17 PM
We can probably narrow things down to somewhere at the Empire's height and widest exspansion and the Norse of the Viking Age.

Otherwise for certain values of Rome and Norse we could be putting Romans with bronze swords against modern military hardwar.

(Modern Icelanders can read the sagas and are genetically isolated, how are they not Norsemen?)
I approve of modern Norse v bronze Romans. So can 55 police officers fight off a roman legion with modern weapons?

Eldan
2012-01-24, 02:50 PM
That entirely depends. In the Kingdom, the term "Legion" apparently referenced the entire army.

That said: a legion is around 5000 soldiers. I doubt they have that much ammo, personally. :smalltongue:

Eldan
2012-01-24, 02:51 PM
That entirely depends. In the Kingdom, the term "Legion" apparently referenced the entire army.

That said: a legion is around 5000 soldiers. I doubt they have that much ammo, personally. :smalltongue:

Ravens_cry
2012-01-24, 03:08 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Ancient Romans, at least around the Late Republic, had steel weapons. I think I remember reading that Julius Caesar noted the Celts had to break from battle to beat their softer iron swords back into shape.

Spiryt
2012-01-24, 03:16 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Ancient Romans, at least around the Late Republic, had steel weapons. I think I remember reading that Julius Caesar noted the Celts had to break from battle to beat their softer iron swords back into shape.

They pretty much had steel weapon since at least ~ 300, so had Celts.

In fact I'm not sure that either ever used bronze weapons on wider scale, La Tčne culture was certainly pretty much Iron from definition, with Celts inventing mail, being great smiths and so on.

Bending swords could occur from a lot of reasons, and they didn't have to be iron for that.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-24, 04:45 PM
Except you know we Icelanders don´t have modern military hardware considering we don't have an army. I guess we could field the Special Unit of the police which would be max 55 blokes with shotguns or small machine guns.

That's what I get for going off of just memory of NATO membership. Hmm can subcontracting via alliance count? Though looking NOW I see you apparently have a little more then that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_Iceland).

Though heck from a good defensive position I totally back any sort of repeating firearm armed force against as many foes that don't. Though having 100:1 is probably a bit you wouldn't need to kill an entire legion to send 'em running.

pffh
2012-01-24, 04:50 PM
That's what I get for going off of just memory of NATO membership. Hmm can subcontracting via alliance count? Though looking NOW I see you apparently have a little more then that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_Iceland).

Though heck from a good defensive position I totally back any sort of repeating firearm armed force against as many foes that don't. Though having 100:1 is probably a bit you wouldn't need to kill an entire legion to send 'em running.

Well that's 3 small boats and I'm not sure if we even have ammunition for their guns. The aircraft are rescue helicopters and I don't think the sailors on the boats carry guns since small arms are very much illegal here.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-24, 05:01 PM
Well that's 3 small boats and I'm not sure if we even have ammunition for their guns. The aircraft are rescue helicopters and I don't think the sailors on the boats carry guns since small arms are very much illegal here.

You'd know better then me. Though tell me though is the real defense plan is to fling hákarl at people?

pffh
2012-01-24, 05:08 PM
You'd know better then me. Though tell me though is the real defense plan is to fling hákarl at people?

Who needs an army when you are a nation of vikings :smallcool:

Coidzor
2012-01-24, 05:26 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Ancient Romans, at least around the Late Republic, had steel weapons. I think I remember reading that Julius Caesar noted the Celts had to break from battle to beat their softer iron swords back into shape.

Eh? Last I checked iron was brittle and didn't really bend so much as break unless it was specifically wrought, whereas steel would bend before breaking.


You'd know better then me. Though tell me though is the real defense plan is to fling hákarl at people?

Hakari? Isn't that fermented rotten fish?

The Romans used that as a condiment the way some Americans use ketchup on everything.

Beowulf DW
2012-01-24, 05:40 PM
My bet's on the Norse. They routinely wiped the floor with organized and regimented militaries. Additionally, the Roman formations were designed for fighting primarily on open fields. Whenever they had to fight in thick forests, or difficult-to-traverse mountains (like in Scandinavia) they're lines broke more often than not.

Additionally, I recall an account of an Arabian lord observing some Vikings in battle and commenting that he'd rather have one of their warriors than a hundred of his own men.

Top cat
2012-01-24, 05:47 PM
When you realise about three quarters of your knowledge on the Roman military comes from Rome: Total War...

Also, the Romans would win, except in the scenario where they're outnumbered. But they probably wouldn't be able to keep scandinavia.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-24, 06:06 PM
Hakari? Isn't that fermented rotten fish?

The Romans used that as a condiment the way some Americans use ketchup on everything.

There are many types of fermented fish products.

Garum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garum) I'm inferring was only bad in production after which it was no more dramatic then a variety of products. While Hákarl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakarl) is so bad in both production and final product it originates from a midwinter festival to honor Thor and wish for spring. Translation: eaten to prove you are a man and because back in the day it was one of the few bits of "food" left.

pffh
2012-01-24, 06:11 PM
There are many types of fermented fish products.

Garum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garum) I'm inferring was only bad in production after which it was no more dramatic then a variety of products. While Hákarl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakarl) is so bad in both production and final product it originates from a midwinter festival to honor Thor and wish for spring. Translation: eaten to prove you are a man and because back in the day it was one of the few bits of "food" left.

It's not that bad. Sure it's an aquired taste and most people (yes even those used to eating foul tasting food) throw up after tasting it and it used to be prepared by pissing on it in a hole... I'm not making a good case for it am I?

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-01-24, 06:33 PM
It's not that bad. Sure it's an aquired taste and most people (yes even those used to eating foul tasting food) throw up after tasting it and it used to be prepared by pissing on it in a hole... I'm not making a good case for it am I?

Man, and I used to want to visit Iceland...

warty goblin
2012-01-24, 06:44 PM
Eh? Last I checked iron was brittle and didn't really bend so much as break unless it was specifically wrought, whereas steel would bend before breaking.


That depends entirely on the iron. You can have very flexible iron, the problem is that it doesn't tend to have much spring to it - it won't shatter under flexion, but will bend. Not really a good quality in a sword because they have to flex a lot when hitting something, but probably slightly ahead of the sucker shattering in your hand. Shattering swords are quite dangerous, little bits of sharp metal flying everywhere and all that.

To make a really good ferrous sword of any real length, you need your steel to be hard so it'll hold an edge, strong so it won't shatter, and with significant shape memory so it won't bend when you cut somebody's arm off. Until around 1000 AD my understanding is that in Europe they did not really have the ability to smelt large enough pieces of steel with a consistent enough carbon content to do this, hence pattern welding.

Lamech
2012-01-24, 07:14 PM
When you realise about three quarters of your knowledge on the Roman military comes from Rome: Total War...

Also, the Romans would win, except in the scenario where they're outnumbered. But they probably wouldn't be able to keep scandinavia.
Well based on my knowledge of Rome total war, the Romans would win do to the fact that they can produce gladiators, and those are complete bad-asses. Plus they have two hit points.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-24, 09:17 PM
Even when outnumbered, the Romans facing a disorganized foe with an individual warrior ethos compared to an organized army tended to kick every kind of tail. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Watling_Street)

MLai
2012-01-24, 10:11 PM
Rome because it has computer-guided giant laz0rs.
http://www.canvasstorehouse.com/image/archimedes_burning_mirror_device_used_at_the_siege _of_syracuse_215-212_bc_1642_1230528.jpg?pvw=1247&opt=55http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/files/imagecache/news/files/20061130_antikythera.jpg

warty goblin
2012-01-24, 10:12 PM
Even when outnumbered, the Romans facing a disorganized foe with an individual warrior ethos compared to an organized army tended to kick every kind of tail. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Watling_Street)

Unlike popular perception however, at least by the later part of the Viking age, the Norse often fought in very good order. They also are unlikely to have been forced to disarm in the years preceding, which helps.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-25, 03:25 AM
Unlike popular perception however, at least by the later part of the Viking age, the Norse often fought in very good order. They also are unlikely to have been forced to disarm in the years preceding, which helps.
Which is why the question of era is so important.

Sweetie Welf
2012-01-25, 09:01 AM
Rome would win. maybe not because of better armies, but because of better logistics. We shouldn't forget that the strength of the Vikings mostly resulted from the weakness of their victims; Britain was split up in countless kingdoms, France was in a period of conflict between the central power of the king and the local lords, and Germany was also attacked by the Hungarians. And Germany and France wasted resources against each other. They simply couldn't set up a effective border defence. A unified Rome with its efficient administration and trained armies would have never let the Vikings become the threat as their medieval successor did.

Gullintanni
2012-01-25, 01:09 PM
Additionally, I recall an account of an Arabian lord observing some Vikings in battle and commenting that he'd rather have one of their warriors than a hundred of his own men.

In Constantinople, this practice was actually put into place. The early Varangian Guard was almost exclusively Norse, and they were trusted as the personal entourage of emperors bygone. By the decline of the Byzantine empire and the defeat of Constantinople, the group had grown far more ethnically diverse...but still, the vikings made the Guard legendary.

Socratov
2012-01-26, 08:48 AM
i guess I'm gonna repeat a lto of the points made, but at least these are my 2 cp.

the first and foremost principle to decide voctory for any party is the style of war they wage.

For that Romans it's open battle. The romans most famous tactic (the one where they march forward with their pilums in front and themselves behind their towershields) is only usable in the open field. Even their scorpio's and archers were most effective in the open field.

for the Vikings/Norsemen (roughly the same, only origin is slightly different) their preferrred tactics are hit-and-run. that means that in a forest area or any other area where hitting and hiding (DnD 3.5's Scout battle style) is possible they will have the upper hand. It's a well known fact that the people in Frisia (currently in the norht of the Netherlands) and scandinavians alike were great in stopping the romans by killing them off in raids. even when pillaging through europe the Vikings were only that good because they went in, swooped the bait/raped/murdered, got out. By constantly doing this they kept the enemy weak and without resources so the enemy couldn't really strike back or launch a campaign against them.

On the topic of gear:

Teh romans wore quite heavy armor (plating and chainmail is quite heavy). along with that they had towrshields (which weigh a lot too) but with surprisingly easy to handle weapons (the gladius is a shortsword, double edged, and surprisingly easy to handle for a person roughly the shape of Vin Diesel). The technology of smithing wasn't fully deeloped yet, so the swords were comparably simple... they did have mroe resources liek catapults, scorpio etc.

The Vikings wore leather armor (sometimes even studded armor or chainmail) with swords and waraxes. this was meant to be light so the Vikings could raid easily and quickly without too much tiring. One thing though: the vikings were quite the smiths. they had uncovered teh secret of making tough and hard carbonated steel, even mimicking the japanese way of making sword (i.e. soft core, hard edge), which gives way for light weapons even firhter improving the skirmishing

In teh open field the romans have a clear equipment advantage: their equipment can pretect from more damage then the Vikings'. However, when in the woods that equipment wil slow you down. the vikings have their equipment tailored to this task since it's lighter thus leaving more mobility.

Stamina: both parties are bad asses. the romas had a hellish training regime, the whole of scandinavia is a tundra half of the time, if that doesnt at least make you a bit tougher then I don't know what would...

Tactics:
Yes, the romans had some great tacticians (and not only Julius Ceasar, many others as well). But don't underestimate the vikings. they may seem like a bunch of ax crazy idiots, but that's only the fighters, they often had superiors who could actually (gasp) think, plan and reason. their boats (Drakars) are testiment to this, as are their navigational skills (first ever to sail over the atalntic anyone? yes that was a viking). Not only were they a technologically advanced people (compared to the romans) they had developed a maximum profit, minimum loss strategy (those peslky raids).

TL;DR
It depends on the situation they meet eachoter in: open field: romans, forest/bay/big city/etc. Norse

Vitruviansquid
2012-01-26, 10:06 PM
I imagine that, despite the Norse access to superior technology (in this very hypothetical situation we're discussing), the typical Norse warrior would have been a farmer levy who was expected to provide his own armaments, which would have been limited to a shield, a spear, maybe some kinds of ranged weapons (maybe bow or javelins), and a sidearm (an axe or a large knife). When we're talking about the advanced Norse weapons and armor, only a small faction of the wealthy or noble parts of the army would have them.

So, as for the technological advantage, I might give that to the Romans who, despite having inferior weapons and armor to what the Norse were capable of making, would have shown up with the entire force of fighting men in some kind of metal armor. What I'm interested in is how many Roman citizens and slaves were in the background contributing to the taxes that paid for each individual Legionnaire's equipment and training. When we suppose 5000 Roman soldiers going up against 5000 Norse soldiers, are we, effectively, actually supposing a much larger Roman economy fueling this army and a much smaller Norse economy?

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-01-26, 10:18 PM
Well, metal armour was only guaranteed between the Marian reform, and about 200, 250, 300 AD. Before that, only the rich had armour, as they supplied their own weaponry, and after that, the state couldn't afford to equip everyone anymore. And even in the period between the Marian reforms and the decline, only the legionnaires themselves would be equipped, not necessarily the auxiliaries.

Arminius
2012-01-26, 10:53 PM
+1 it depends on the period.

I think the Romans would win, unless we are talking about the absolute tail end of the (Western)Empire. The Romans can field a massive army. The Vikings could probably pull up a decent sized army too if they tried, but the Romans can absorb horrific casualty rates and keep fighting(again this is dependant on era). Unless we are talking of the Empire at the tail end, I think they would be able to win by weight of numbers.

For those talking about the Teutoberg Forest, it is also good to note that Arminius was actually trained as an officer by the Romans and had Roman citizenship(the historical Arminius, I don't have Roman citizenship or army training:smallwink:). So he was far from ignorant of how the Roman army fought, and was able to tailor his plans accordingly. The Roman commander, Varus, was kind of arrogant and overconfident. He also thought Arminius was a loyal Romanized German(see army training and citizenship), and used him as a guide and advisor. Bad things happen when you use the enemy commander as a guide and advisor to defeat that commander's army.

Of course, the Vikings could just throw Lutefisk at the Romans and nauseate them into submission.:smallbiggrin:

Ravens_cry
2012-01-26, 10:59 PM
I don't know, the Roman Garum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garum) (AKA liquamen) sounds pretty nasty as well. It is literally a fish gut sauce fermented for three months.
In the sun.
I doubt lutefisk would have much effect on such constitutions.

Vitruviansquid
2012-01-26, 11:12 PM
I thought we had already decided to limit conversation to after Marius and before Constantine and the Viking age for the Norse. >_>

Anyways, if we're talking about the time when the terms "Hastatus" and "Triarius" were relevant, I'd give it to the Norse, given they had the same kinds of military organization (mainly heavy infantry in dense formations and each soldier provided his own equipment), only the Norse have the advantage of being a few centuries ahead in technology.

I am much more ignorant of what a "Roman army" might have looked like toward the end of the empire.

Aux-Ash
2012-01-27, 01:58 AM
The Vikings wore leather armor (sometimes even studded armor or chainmail) with swords and waraxes. this was meant to be light so the Vikings could raid easily and quickly without too much tiring.

No. Leather has never been a majority component in any norse armour ever (nor the rest of Europe for that matter). We don't have the soil for large scale pastures.
A viking would wear a coat of chain, a sword as a sidearm, an axe or a spear (the latter more likely) and a large round shield as a main arm.

In fact, given our abundance of iron. The chaincoat is probably cheaper than equalient made out of leather.
If for some reason they couldn't show up in metal (which suggests they couldn't prepare), then I'd guess they'd just show up in thick but normal clothing.


he whole of scandinavia is a tundra half of the time,

It is? *Looks out window* :smalltongue::smallwink:

No, Scandinavia is forests, mountains, forests, more mountains, water, more forest and at worst some open moors and bogs. But there's no permafrost even in the most northern parts (which was colonized by us much later). There's no tundra whatsoever in any part of scandinavia except possibly the northern coastline of Norway.

Nor is it a metaphorical tundra. It simply isn't that cold.


I imagine that, despite the Norse access to superior technology (in this very hypothetical situation we're discussing), the typical Norse warrior would have been a farmer levy who was expected to provide his own armaments, which would have been limited to a shield, a spear, maybe some kinds of ranged weapons (maybe bow or javelins), and a sidearm (an axe or a large knife). When we're talking about the advanced Norse weapons and armor, only a small faction of the wealthy or noble parts of the army would have them.

This is a correct assesment. Mind however that we're talking free farmers (ie rich men) here, as they'd be the warriors. The ones who couldn't afford the weapons would only be part of the army if they and their homes were directly threatened.
We wouldn't face a large host with a few people having access to good weapons. We'd face a small host but with excellent equipment.

If we assume otherwise, then we should also assume the romans bring a majority of untrained slaves with them to fight and only a small fraction of their army would be legionnaries.

For the sake of the argument, let's assume both sides actually are prepared for the war? And thus it's legions + support (auxilia + allies) vs. an army (armies) + support.


I think the Romans would win, unless we are talking about the absolute tail end of the (Western)Empire. The Romans can field a massive army. The Vikings could probably pull up a decent sized army too if they tried, but the Romans can absorb horrific casualty rates and keep fighting(again this is dependant on era). Unless we are talking of the Empire at the tail end, I think they would be able to win by weight of numbers.
But can the romans afford that? Both in terms of money but also in terms of peace? Will the parthians/sassanids, the goths, the arabians, the germanian tribes or the britons/picts/caledonians sit idly by if Rome drains itself of troops to fight the norse? Will the pretenders forgive the emperor for such a massive loss of prestige and not seize the moment to take the throne? Will the absence of troops mean the christians/pagans not riot against one another or what they percieve as unfair laws?

Scandinavia's worst enemy at the time was itself. For much of the era it was a "rule-of-the-strong" society. But it had few outward enemies.

The question was never what Rome could muster in total. The question is what Rome can spare.

Arminius
2012-01-27, 11:19 AM
But can the romans afford that? Both in terms of money but also in terms of peace? Will the parthians/sassanids, the goths, the arabians, the germanian tribes or the britons/picts/caledonians sit idly by if Rome drains itself of troops to fight the norse? Will the pretenders forgive the emperor for such a massive loss of prestige and not seize the moment to take the throne? Will the absence of troops mean the christians/pagans not riot against one another or what they percieve as unfair laws?

Scandinavia's worst enemy at the time was itself. For much of the era it was a "rule-of-the-strong" society. But it had few outward enemies.

The question was never what Rome could muster in total. The question is what Rome can spare.
Once again, this does bring the issue of when and who is leading the Romans. Different Emperors would have different capabilities in foreign diplomacy and internal control. The Empire had standing forces of about 30 legions. That is just standing. They could probably raise more if they felt the need. Assuming decent diplomacy, they should be able to ensure peace on at least one front. Germany would probably be easiest to establish a peace with owing to the fragmentation of the various tribes. I would guess about 3 legions, maybe 6 would be dispatched. Caesar conquered Gaul starting out with 4 legions, though iirc, he took advantage of Gallic disuinity, and recruited a lot of Gallic auxiliaries. Does anyone actually know what a reasonable army size for the Vikings would be? The largest army I can find is the great heathen host the Danes invaded England with, and the numbers seem incredibly vague, but maybe a few thousand? If it is safe to assume parity in manpower and competent commanders on both sides, it may be a 50/50 match. The Romans are probably more organized, better supplied, and have a larger population to recruit from but the Vikings wouldn't just be undisciplined savages either, they also fought in formations, and might have a slight tech advantage. You mention the disunity of the Vikings at the time, that might help the Romans a lot too. A competent Roman commander might start out by taking advantage of any conflicts between various kings and warlords, just like Caesar did with the Gauls.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-27, 10:40 PM
I don't know, the Roman Garum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garum) (AKA liquamen) sounds pretty nasty as well. It is literally a fish gut sauce fermented for three months.
In the sun.
I doubt lutefisk would have much effect on such constitutions.

Poking with a little more detail:

The sauce was generally made through the crushing and fermentation in brine of the innards of various fishes such as mackerel, tuna, eel, and others. While the finished product was apparently mild and subtle in flavor

Emphasis mine. Its not say rotten fish, its pickled fish spread. While the production was evidently vaporous enough to be banned within city wall, there are other production processes that are nasty without the result also being so. And well banning the production of but loving the result certainly implies the result was both pretty mild, and that the Romans wouldn't like the umm more brisk smelling varieties of hideous Scandinavian fish creations.

Though lutefisk doesn't sound as bad as the previously discussed hákarl.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-27, 11:33 PM
Yeah, but the only people whose word we have of it being mild and subtle are the Romans themselves.
But yes, Rotten Greenland shark sounds even worse.

Beowulf DW
2012-01-31, 02:34 PM
In Constantinople, this practice was actually put into place. The early Varangian Guard was almost exclusively Norse, and they were trusted as the personal entourage of emperors bygone. By the decline of the Byzantine empire and the defeat of Constantinople, the group had grown far more ethnically diverse...but still, the vikings made the Guard legendary.

Wow, didn't know about that. Viking Kickass Squadron, Go!

Top cat
2012-01-31, 06:08 PM
I think the real question is vikings vs dunmer at the time of their annexation by the empire, no tribunal, no numidium. House hlaalu (and w/e others) still cba to fight back. Magic's still allowed.

Avilan the Grey
2012-02-01, 02:15 AM
As far as I remember, the fall of Rome was initiated by betraying and abusing the Goths to a point where they got pissed beyond belief and eventually sacked and burned Rome. By that point all major armies had learned and adapted to Roman tactics. Of course that was later, AFAIR.

There is this idea that the Vikings were unable to use proper military tactics, etc. Their big problem were their lack of numbers, not strategy, tactics or equipment. (Also, as tempting as it is, the Goths were not Norse. There is some weirdness about what they were, since a lot of the Goths themselves claimed to come from "up north", but Scandinavia, and especially not Gotland (the island ouside Sweden, "the land of the Goths") did have that much of a population that several tens of thousands of people from several tribes could have left the peninsula and well, Scandinavian history still happening).


Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Ancient Romans, at least around the Late Republic, had steel weapons. I think I remember reading that Julius Caesar noted the Celts had to break from battle to beat their softer iron swords back into shape.

Yes but this is far from what the Norsemen had. Viking steel was one of the absolutely best steel up until the modern (17th century. In fact, Swedish 17th century steel was one of the best in the world at that time, too... pattern here somewhere? :smallwink:).

In short, the Celts were not Vikings. And lived several hundred years earlier.


It is? *Looks out window* :smalltongue::smallwink:

No, Scandinavia is forests, mountains, forests, more mountains, water, more forest and at worst some open moors and bogs. But there's no permafrost even in the most northern parts (which was colonized by us much later). There's no tundra whatsoever in any part of scandinavia except possibly the northern coastline of Norway.

Nor is it a metaphorical tundra. It simply isn't that cold.

Exactly. To go back to the OP: Most of Scandinavia, especially if untouched by modern day agriculture, would look something like the area around Riverwood, with the exception that the mountains would be much much older and therefore not as steep.

Trixie
2012-02-01, 02:21 PM
Don't diss the shieldwall, those suckers were very, very hard to break by direct assault, particularly if set up to use terrain well. The evidence is fairly good for instance that despite using sophisticated combined arms attacks of cavalry far better than any Rome fielded, archers and infantry, William was unable to break Harold's line at Hastings. He only won because the English soldiers broke ranks to pursue a feigned retreat. Remember that Roman combat doctrine struggled mightily to overcome the post-Macedonian phalanx. Head to head, so far as I can tell, they basically couldn't, the phalanx simply concentrates force too well. Northern European shieldwalls are very much in that school of fighting, albeit with weapons scaled better for individual instead of formation-scale combat.

Um... Shieldwall is indeed hard to break, like Phalanx. And? :smallconfused:

The thing is, Romans would never try to break it from the front. Legion was far more manoeuvrable, Romans would simply maneuver so long until wall would break from overextension, commit forces into gap, cut down fleeing enemies as whole enemy formation come crashing down. There's a reason why Romans abandoned phalanx themselves and crushed enemies using it, rigid formations never work against anyone using flexible organization without some kind of massive advantage.


There's also the not insignificant advances in metallurgy that should not be dismissed. IIRC most Roman gear was wrought iron, which is very much inferior to the steel that would have been more commonplace for Norse warriors. And the later on one goes, the greater the preponderance of steel becomes, by the turn of the millennium apparently most fighting men were equipped in riveted or riveted/solid blend chainmail and had access to steel swords.

Inferior. And? Qualitative advantage in weaponry means noting if you can't fight on equal terms, and when superior Roman drill, leadership and discipline ensures these terms are anywhere but equal as you were outmanoeuvred before battle even started...

Romans fought enemies with superior weapons, result was almost virtually always the same, weapon was added to Legion armoury after said enemy was crushed. Late Legions used almost exclusively weapon patterns copied from many defeated foes.


Dirt don't change.
The Roman Legionnaire could give a US Marine a run for their money in how much supplies each individual soldier they lugged around.
On foot, marching miles per day.
Up hill, both ways.

Fun fact - Roman columns of Caesar during conquest of Gaul moved faster (on average) than US Army in 1944.

Fully mechanized units, that is.

Using modern highways :smallamused:


I don't think it'd be that much of a curbstomp. Consider the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Teutoburg_Forest) - The forces were roughly on par with each other, and the romans got almost literally destroyed.

The romans have historically fared pretty bad against physically much bigger, more savage enemies. Almost all of the ones they defeated were about equal in size, IIRC (may be totally wrong here, though), and the norsemen were quite a bit bigger than the average roman soldier.

Teutoburg was freak accident where Roman troops fought Roman troops. For something more representative of such conflict, how about Battle of Alesia? Crushing numerical disparity, and yet...


However, before the tribes can surrender, the crazy emperor becomes suspicious of the conquoring general, orders him back to Rome, where he is executed and everything returns to, as the Romans like to say: status quo.

Huh? :smallconfused:


My bet's on the Norse. They routinely wiped the floor with organized and regimented militaries. Additionally, the Roman formations were designed for fighting primarily on open fields. Whenever they had to fight in thick forests, or difficult-to-traverse mountains (like in Scandinavia) they're lines broke more often than not.

Mountains? Like, say, these inhabited by Helvetii (modern Switzerland)? In Alps, larger than any mountain in Scandinavia? :smallconfused:

Um, you might want to check balance of forces in, say, Battle of Bibracte and who in the end considered it crushing victory?

Ravens_cry
2012-02-01, 04:57 PM
Yes but this is far from what the Norsemen had. Viking steel was one of the absolutely best steel up until the modern (17th century. In fact, Swedish 17th century steel was one of the best in the world at that time, too... pattern here somewhere? :smallwink:).

In short, the Celts were not Vikings. And lived several hundred years earlier.

Yes, but the point of that was how the Romans had steel as well, not that the Norse didn't. Bog Iron was an interesting resource that certainly gave the Norse certain advantages in that department mind.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-02-02, 01:37 AM
As far as I remember, the fall of Rome was initiated by betraying and abusing the Goths to a point where they got pissed beyond belief and eventually sacked and burned Rome. By that point all major armies had learned and adapted to Roman tactics. Of course that was later, AFAIR.

Given that why Rome fell is Serious Business among people that study it for their career we probably aren't going to resolve this here.

Most of them though kinda discount the outside invasions as something that would have been dealt with had Rome not more serious issues. Then there's the point of view it never really declined, but simply contracted to the more profitable core it should have been in the first place. Or that if it wasn't for a plague on scale with the Black Death... Rome might have been patched back together good as new.

Avilan the Grey
2012-02-02, 02:50 AM
Given that why Rome fell is Serious Business among people that study it for their career we probably aren't going to resolve this here.

Most of them though kinda discount the outside invasions as something that would have been dealt with had Rome not more serious issues. Then there's the point of view it never really declined, but simply contracted to the more profitable core it should have been in the first place. Or that if it wasn't for a plague on scale with the Black Death... Rome might have been patched back together good as new.

Oh I agree with your fist statement, but history being what it is... if we start with the "what if" things we can also just imagine an outcome where Attila wasn't stopped... :smallamused: