Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘logistics’

Care And Feeding Of Swords

I came across this blogpost on the Austin Bujinkan Tanemaki Dojo (Texas, USA):

One paragraph is especially interesting:

Corrosion from perspiration, skin oils, blood, and exposure to the elements are the problems we need to know well. In the case of carbon steel, these culprits can cause severe discoloration and rust very rapidly if neglected. I own swords that literally will rust before your eyes if left un-oiled. During a take giri (bamboo cutting) demonstration my students and I were performing, I had a drop of my perspiration land, unnoticed, on one of my Rapier (thrusting sword) blades. In just a few minutes, I was shocked to see a bright orange spot of rust on my hand-polished sword. This is a very serious problem the martial arts student must know how to combat. Even breathing on an un-oiled sword blade can begin the dreaded process of corrosion. The edge is the thinnest part of a cutting implement and the most vulnerable to neglect. If allowed to rust, a razor-sharp weapon will become dull in a short period of time. Genuine katana [are] famous for their polish and [mirror-like] finish. This is not for merely cosmetic appearance. Steel has microscopic surface irregularities that can collect moisture and corrosive elements. A finely polished blade has smaller irregularities and sheds blood much more easily than an unpolished one. Hence, the more corrosive agents that collect in the pores, the more tarnish and rust will accumulate.

The entire article is worth reading.

War Was Made to Pay for Itself Through Pillage

…Raising money to pay the cost of war was to cause more damage to 14th century [C.E.] society than the physical destruction of war itself. The governing fact was that medieval organization by this time had passed to a predominantly money economy. Armed forces were no longer primarily feudal levies serving under a vassal’s obligation who went home after forty days; they were recruited bodies who served for pay. The added expense of a paid army raised the cost of war beyond the ordinary means of the sovereign. Without losing its appetite for war, the inchoate state had not yet devised a regular method to pay for it. When he overspent, the sovereign resorted to loans from bankers, towns, and businesses which he might not be able to repay, and to the even more disruptive measures of arbitrary taxation and devaluation of the coinage.

Above all, war was made to pay for itself through pillage. Booty and ransom were not just a bonus, but a necessity to take the place of arrears in pay and to induce enlistment. The taking of prisoners for ransom became a commercial enterprise. Since kings could rarely raise sufficient funds in advance, and collection of taxes was slow, troops in the field were always ahead of their pay. Loot on campaign took the place of the paymaster. Chivalric war, like chivalric love, was, as Michelet said of the whole epoch, double et louche (a provocative phrase which could mean “double and squinting” or “equivocal” or “shady” in the sense of disreputable). The aim was one thing and the practice another. Knights pursued war for glory and practiced it for gain.

Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, p. 84

Emphasis mine.

Cavalry is an Expensive Military System

The cavalry revolution originated in the Middle East about 900 [B.C.E.] and had several implications. First, making war from a galloping horse was a dangerous occupation. In order to be effective, the warrior on horseback needed both hands free to wield a weapon; yet letting go of the reins seemed to guarantee that the fighter would end upon the ground, bruised and helpless. The only alternative was to guide the horse with one’s feet and legs, perhaps using the voice to direct a trained horse. Training both horse and rider took time and practice.

Moreover, a horse was expensive, and not everyone had the leisure time to practice. A horse could consume as much grain as 6 to 8 persons, and the owner was responsible for mating and training the animal. Furthermore, the horse was not very useful aside from its war-making capabilities: its meat and milk could not compare to the cow’s, and it could not pull a plow until the Europeans invented the horse collar about 1000 [C.E.] Therefore, civilized societies that utilized the horse extensively tended to have specialized fighters. In some cases, the warriors might be aristocrats, in others, slaves; but always the big question was how to pay for such an expensive military system.

William Wayne Farris, Heavenly Warriors, p. 15

Seljuk Fiefs Were Not Hereditary

The Seljuk empire depended for its functioning on the granting of land, or the revenue that could be raised from that land, in return for annual tribute or military service to the Sultan. The fief, or iqta as it was called, was seen by the ruler as payment for services rendered and the grant was nothing like so absolute as in Western feudalism. The fiefs could be swapped around and all that mattered was that the changes should not be brought about in a way to cause anyone to lose face or, what amounted to much the same thing, money.

P. H. Newby, Saladin In His Time, p. 28

A More Varied Diet Means a Healthier Population

We can dimly make out what seems to have been an agricultural revolution in al-Andalus during this period [circa 1000 C.E.]. An increase in productivity was made possible by more intense exploitation of the land. Irrigation, in particular, enlarged the growing season of the year—you can raise four vegetable crops a year on well-tended irrigated land in Mediterranean Spain—and eased dependence on unpredictables such as the weather. Higher and more stable incomes were the result, and with greater prosperity came greater confidence….

More varied crops did more than just diversify gastronomy. (Think of the bleakness of a world without lemons or spinach.) A better, more varied diet means a healthier population. Hard wheat, the main constituent of pasta, grows in drier conditions than soft (bread) wheat and stores for a prodigiously long time because of the low water content of the grain. Al-Razi (d. 955) tells us that around Toledo it would keep in store without decay for upwards of sixty years; it was transmitted in inheritance from father to son like other property. Crops such as this helped to stave off the threat of famine. Prosperity meant earlier marriage, larger families, diversification, opportunity, leisure.

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, pp. 19-20

Three-Tier System of Administration for Military Orders

In the years immediately following foundation, a [Christian] military order [like the Knights Templar] consisted of a small group of brethren under the leadership of a master. At this stage little governmental machinery was needed. As property and recruits were gained, it became the norm to establish subordinate convents, both in frontier regions and elsewhere. If expansion was considerable, an intermediate tier of government between convents and the order’s headquarters was soon needed, as it became difficult for masters to supervise distant convents. Also, a system was needed by which resources and recruits could easily be channelled to frontier regions from other convents. Orders which fought on several fronts also required a military leader in each district. They adopted the practice of grouping the convents of a region into what were called provinces or priories. Although there were variations in detail, the leading orders adopted a three-tier system of administration.

Jonathan Riley-Smith (editor), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, p. 204

The Immense Wealth of the Persian Kings

[The Persian quisling] Tiridates led Alexander [the Great] into a large building behind the palace of Xerxes [at Persepolis] that served as both an armory for the royal bodyguard and a repository for the king’s wealth. Diffused light filtered through a series of openings in the roof above and washed gently over the tons of gold and silver bullion that had been neatly and methodically stored there. Within the treasury building were 120,000 talents of bullion, the largest single concentration of wealth to be found anywhere in the ancient world.

Darius I had imposed a tribute of precious metals in addition to a tribute of goods on his satraps and on the subject nations of the empire. Instead of converting that tribute into coins that could then have been put into circulation, Darius and his successors had it melted and then formed into ingots of gold and silver. The bars were stored in the palace treasury, and when the kings of Persia needed to finance particular projects, wars, or adventures, the precious metals were cast into coins. It was Darius who had introduced the coining of money into the empire; hence, the Persian coin became known as the Daric. Until that time, the empire had been administered largely on the basis of barter.

Successive generations of Persian kings had dipped into the treasury and spent vast sums on themselves. Over the years, they had spent great amounts on administering and expanding the empire and had dispensed large sums in fighting, hiring, and bribing the Greeks. Yet no matter how much money the kings spent, every year at the New Year ceremony more came in to replenish and add to the royal coffers. In the treasury building at Persepolis, Alexander was shown the full measure of how wealthy the Achaemenid kings of Persia had been and how wealthy he had now become.

John Prevas, Envy of the Gods, pp. 18-19

For comparision, Alexander started his invasion of the Persian Empire with a war chest of only 70 talents of gold.

Assyrian Warfare: Iron, Organization, and Espionage

The army relied mainly upon archers and pikemen, some very lightly armored, some protected by a cuirass and a conical helmet, and carrying a short sword for close fighting. Coordinated with this infantry was the cavalry, which at first fought from chariots. Later on, when the warrior rode the horse (about 700 [B.C.E.]), he had the infantryman’s bow and spear. Still later came the most original Assyrian contribution to the art of warfare, siege artillery. No fortified city could withstand the assault of Assyrian engines. A choice body of troops fought beside the king, but it was the foot-bowmen who wrought havoc on the enemy.

The Assyrian army’s power cannot be entirely explained by the bravery of the individual soldier, the competence of the king-general, or the sheer numerical strength so easy to attain in a country where every able-bodied man was subject to military service. Perhaps it is better explained by the theory that the Assyrians used iron extensively. Indeed something like a revolution in the metal industry apparently took place under Sargon II (722-705 [B.C.E.]) when he invaded Urartu and exploited its iron mines. Cunning, too, aided Assyrian armies: an efficient espionage and intelligence service was conducted by the royal governors and bureaucrats in the provinces and centered in the king’s palace. Frequently when the troops entered a country they were aided by carefully organized fifth columns.

Vincent Scramuzza, The Ancient World, p. 89-90

Emphasis mine.

Money and Manpower Wins Wars

In Book I of Thucydides’ history Pericles outlines the limitations of the Peloponnesian adversaries. They had no capital. Unlike the Spartiates, most of the allies in the Peloponnesian coalition were agrarians who needed to farm at precisely the time it was best to fight. In contrast, Athens was a sophisticated polis with vast sums of coinage in both circulation and as specie on reserve. Pericles’ adversary, King Archidamus of Sparta, agreed, and so warned his rural Peloponnesians that they were not equipped to fight a long, multifaceted war with even a seasonal militia. This new conflict, he warned, was quite different: “War is not so much a matter of men as of monetary expense.” He proved absolutely right.

The great irony of the war was that the very requisites for victory—an enormous fleet, money for rowers’ pay, and officers deployed overseas for long periods of imperial service—were inimical to the historic assumptions of rural and isolated Sparta, which heretofore had had no monetary economy. Persia finally filled the void, gave Spartan generals untold amounts of gold, and made up losses in men and materiel almost immediately. As long as Greeks were killing Greeks, the satraps of the Persian Empire were happy to subsidize the carnage.

Yet in the war’s aftermath, with the Persian subsidies gone, the implosion of the Spartan empire was directly attributable to its new financial responsibilities of administering a fleet and distant subject states that were so at odds with its old insular moral code. Money and manpower, not always just courage and class, quite literally won wars. The Peloponnesian War offered another bitter lesson, one that would also arise during the transition of Rome from republic to empire. Consensual government started in Greece as a limited enterprise. These constitutional states were predicated on a civic militia cloaked in amateurism and localism, and determined to protect the property of a minority of its citizens. But as the invective of Athenian conservatives from Plato to Aristotle illustrated, war over decades and across thousands of miles required mobilization, weaponry, and capital—and only the new resources of a more centralized and powerful state could meet those vast burdens.

Victor Davis Hanson, A War Like No Other, pp. 303-304

Emphasis mine.