by Jefferson P. Webb
When engaged in a discussion of great military leaders of the ancient world, one cannot help but bring up the figure of Roman Consul Scipio Africanus (236 – 183 BCE).1 Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus proved to be exactly what Rome needed to break an ever increasing series of horrifying defeats at the hands of Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, during the Second Punic War, also known as the Hannibalic War. Until the war against Hannibal’s invasion of Roman Italy and Spain, the Roman army had been the masters of the battlefield.
But facing what can only be described as tactical genius in the form of the leadership of Hannibal, Rome was losing tens of thousands of men in single battles like the battles of Lake Trasimine, and Trebia, among others. What was it about the leadership of Scipio that set him apart from his Roman peers, and earned him the honor of being the first Roman titled with a place-name, Africanus, relating to the location of his masterful victory over Hannibal?
Scipio was of one of the most powerful and well respected families in Rome, the Cornelii family. This family had been very influential in Roman politics and military affairs for generations having members of its family serve as consuls and magistrates.2 The first record of Scipio’s military career was while he was in service under his father’s command in Northern Italy, engaged in combat actions against the invading Carthaginian army under Hannibal’s command.3 This action may or may not have been Scipio’s first taste of combat as seventeen year old, but he is recorded and celebrated for his heroic actions. During the battle his father’s position was encircled and his force in grave danger. Scipio’s father, also named Scipio had been wounded and was in danger of being killed or captured by the Carthaginians. Without hesitation Scipio charged the Carthaginians, for a moment alone as the soldiers with him hesitated to attack, and rescued his father.4 Scipio was held in great esteem by the Romans for his act of heroism. (more…)
By Jefferson P Webb
While the Knights Templar are famed for their courage and valor in combat against Islam in the Crusades, these famed and even legendary knights are responsible for more than just the protection of pilgrims to the holy land, or for facing off with Saladin’s forces from Syria. While there are many books and articles composed and published about the Templar Knights, some of which are quite fantastical to the point of science fiction, there are certain contributions that these knights made that have positively influenced western civilization to modern times that need due attention.
“The Order of the Temple was founded as the Order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ by a French nobleman named Hugues de Payen in 1119 in Jerusalem. Hugues de Payen led the original order of nine knights by the names of Godfrey of Saint-Omer from Picardy, Payen de Montdidier, Andre de Montbard, Archombaud de St. Aignon, Geoffrey Bisol, Roland, Gondemar, and yet a ninth knight whose name is not known. All of these knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Order was founded to protect pilgrims from robbers and bandits who attacked, robbed, and often murdered pilgrims to the Holy Land.”1 The pilgrims, “came in their droves, unaware of the dangers that lay ahead – the roads around Jerusalem were notorious for the bands of robbers that haunted them, preying on the travelers to the Holy Places. Sometimes these robbers were Saracens; sometimes they were lapsed crusaders. To counter this threat, Hugues de Payen gathered together a group of nine knights to protect the pilgrims.”2 “Together these nine knights took on the roll as protectors of the pilgrims in 1119, but the order was not officially established until 1129. “The Knights of the Temple of Solomon of Jerusalem ( Order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ) were established as a religious Order of the Latin Church in 1129, when they were officially accepted at the Council of Troyes in Champagne. They were granted Rule which urged all secular knights to hasten to associate themselves with those ‘who God has chosen from the mass of perdition.’”3
By: Jefferson P. Webb
Although Charles Martel ( d. 741)1 is one of the most noted heroes in Christianity when studying one of the many violent encounters between Christian and Muslim forces, Charles “The Hammer” Martel was no marionette of the Church. He was quite an independent and practical thinker as a military leader and as a politician.
Charles’ military abilities were already well know when he was confronted with perhaps his greatest military threat, a large invasion of Muslim Moors into Frankish
territory. The Muslim invasion would reach its climax as Muslim forces under the command of Abd ar-Raham2 faced off in a pitched battle against Charles’ Christian forces at the Battle of Tours in October of 732.3 In the period building up to this battle through its outcome, Charles would prove himself a wise and knowledgeable leader. One of the greatest assets to a successful military leader is to have good knowledge of the enemy and this is something that Charles possessed. While Charles was already on campaign in a region along the Danube, the Duke of Aquitaine who had already seen defeat against the Moors found and warned Charles of the situation.4 Though Charles was urged fervently to move immediately against the Muslim forces, his knowledge of the Muslim Armies’ habits played key in Charles’ plan of dealing with the invasion.
By Jefferson P. Webb
Although people typically conjure up
mental images of battles fought in the deserts and cities of the
Middle East during the Crusades when names such as, Templars,
Hospitallers, or Teutonic Knights come into conversation, but these
monastic knights saw combat actions in a number of other places to
include Europe. Furthermore, Crusades were not only fought in the
Middle East, but also in Eastern Europe in an effort to expand the
influence of the Church for Christianity and to convert pagan
peoples.1 While these knightly orders saw action against a
number of pagans and non-Catholic Christians, these knightly orders
along with secular knights, noblemen and the common soldier faced one
of the world’s best disciplined military forces in history. That
force was the invading Mongol army under the leadership of Batu Kahn. (more…)
By: Jefferson P. Webb
Although there are a great number of battles that have taken place throughout the great spans of history whose names are so familiar, the name, Sphacteria, does not typically ring a bell with the average person. In spite of this the Battle of Sphacteria was a paramount military engagement of the classical world where the advantages of heavy versus light forces, and combined arms forces are concerned. This match-up took place on the island of Sphacteria in 425 BC during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens1. While it would be very easy to get involved in discussing everything culminating up to the point of this battle, it should suffice to state the fact that the Spartans were concerned that the Athenians would take the island and Sparta deployed a force of 420 hoplites (heavy infantry) to the island to occupy it. What the Spartans did not count on was the Athenian sea victory around the island that stranded the 420 hoplites, leaving them effectively cut off and isolated on the island.2 Next, the Athenian forces invaded the island in an attempt to smash the Spartans’ force and themselves occupy the island. What took place was a key point in the evolution of combined arms warfare. (more…)