Imperial Army ranks, concepts etc

From: Svechin_at_...
Date: Fri, 06 Aug 2004 14:20:05 -0400

I've been putting off answering the various points made on this until I had the time to do it properly.

Imperial Army ranks

The Imperial Army is no different from any other ancient army, it has a very flat organsisational structure, and this was deliberate on my part when detailing the ranking system. A multi-tiered ranking system for operational bodies (operational being maneouvres larger than tactical groupings) is a modern thing, seen with the creation of brigades, divisions, corps, armies (armies as a maneouvre group) and army groups. These all began within the last two or three centuries of our modern history and have created a series of ranks in between the army commander and the lowly regimental leader.

The creation of a staff college was also a modern invention. A staff is not just a bunch of a general's friends who help him out with logistics or the like, but a specialised trained group who train to _be_ staff. Ancient leaders had a "staff" of sorts in that there were people in their entourage who fulfilled critical roles of support and aid, but this was not a formalised staff system on the prussian Moltke model that we expect in modern armies.

I think part of the confusion here stems from the view that a 5000 man Roman legion is like a Brigade not a regiment and thus a larger collection of imperials warrants a legatus type leader. The problem is that a legatus is actually the same level of leadership as an Imperial Lunar Army Regimental leader in operational terms:

Squad leader

Squad leader
Company leader
Regimental commander

You might argue that the tribune rank was left out, but given that the tribune was a special rank that could command groups or fulfil admin roles, this is on par with the Ferershori rank of the Lunar army and all regiments of the lunar army can have Fereshori assigned to them to command vexilla away from the regiment.

Lets look at the Mongols:

Squad - 10 men
Squadron - 100 men
Regiment - 1000 men
Division - 10000 men

The division or Tumen, was also a social and political body. Except for the Khans personal Tumen, recruited from all the tumens, the placing of the tumen and its numbers were actually based more on politics and social pressures than a fixed army rank. Given its size and nature the Tumen is more like an army.

Lets look at Alexanders army

Squad - File
Company - Lochoi
Regiment - Taxis
General - Strategoi (who commanded a division or moirai but also commanded his regiment or taxis!)

Lets look at the Charpezicium theme for the Byzantines (this theme was all cavalry, did not have the usual infantry assigned to the banda and so is only 2400 strong, not 10,000 strong):

Decarch - squad leader
Pentecontacrchs - Company (banda)
Centarchs - regiment or battalion
Strategus - Theme or army

The situation in Dragon Pass

Fazzur commands the entire theatre of war, this includes Prax, Heortland, Esolria and Sartar. There are several armies with Warlords commanding within that remit. These would be in 1622:

The Army of Far Point
The Army of Sartar
The Army of Prax
The Army of Heortland

The size of these armies varies hugely but they all are commanded by a warlord. Fazzur is also a warlord but he is the appointed theatre commander on the word of the Emperor and Provincial Overseer and is thus _in charge_ not because of rank, but because the Emperor said so. If a chimp was in his place, the warlords would have to obey. Each Imperial Army is assigned regiments according to its need (and supposedly the regimental type is based on the terrain etc, but this is not always the case). If the operational level of control for an Army is too great for a general (ie he is commanding 20 regiments) then he will typically assign his comrades from his personal entourage to command a wing or vanguard or whatever. Think Belisarius and his Bucelleri. This is NOT formalised, though there are those who have done it so many times that it is expected or even desired.

At the higher levels of control - ie above regimental - rank and position is based entirely on nobility, favour, patronage and power. There are certainly generals in charge who are idiots, there are certainly generals in charge who don't even have and battle experience. Consider throughout history these situations - very common. My favourite is the assignment of the Duke of Medina to command the Armada of Phillip II. Not only did he NOT want to be in charge, but he also had only sailed on a ship once and was violently sick when he did so. He had no experience in naval warfare at all and even though he begged the King to put someone in charge who knew what he was doing in such a vast undertaking, the king said he needed a _senior_ noble to be in charge, noone else had the social standing and could thus command such a large and unruly group of nobles.

Basically what I'm saying is this:

(1). Don't get too worried about rank structures above regimental, I kept them vague because they ARE vague and mutable.

(2). The Imperial Army is not a modern army, it does not have a staff as we know it, it is nowhere near as systemised.

(3). Higher levels of power are based on nobility and position, not on rank, merit or an "earned" place. If a general happens to be a good general, then this is fortuitous but hardly to be expected. Do you think many Orlanthi heroes make good generals? Mostly not, they are heroes first and foremost, but they end up leading a lot. Orlanthi armies end up losing a lot too.

(4). When looking at rank in ancient armies, don't look at the number of men commanded by the leader and make equivalents with our own modern army size and strucutre, consider instead what the unit actually _does_ and its role as an operational rather than tactical body. This will help enormously in cutting through the plethora of names and concepts in ancient history. They are all much of a muchness anyway.

Martin Laurie

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