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Awesome Eagle
Spear of Mars
(id: awesomated88)
posted 14 February 2013 16:44 EDT (US)         
Ok, so i was thinking the other day about the many what-if? moments in history, and realised we dont have a thread for one. So to get the ball rolling, i will ask a question that is a popular one in alternate history.

What would have been the consequences of Rome not being sucked into the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and maintaining a hold over Germany? Would the area have been Romanized after a time? Would it be impossible to hold the area? Could the Empire lasted longer or collapsed earlier?

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it- George Santayana
History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are- David C. McCullough
Wars not make one great- Yoda
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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 28 December 2013 09:19 EDT (US)     126 / 142       
Had the East gone the way of the West, we would probably all be speaking Arabic or Turkic now.

For almost a millennium the Eastern Empire was a bulwark against the hordes of the Asia and the Middle East. The west needed that time to get its head out of its collective ass. It wasn't until 732- three hundred odd years after the fall of the Western Empire that Western troops first managed to stop an eastern army. And many claim that was by luck (the rumors of the baggage train being looted drew off some of the best troops and started a retreat, and the Muslim commander died trying to stop it), though some do declare it was by design and bravery.

Had it not been for the cork of Constantinople, those armies might have swept in through the Balkans in the 700s and 800s, instead of doing so as they did in the 1500s and 1600s, when the Austrians were finally able to stop their drive into Europe at Vienna. Those Austrians were not around eight hundred years earlier, which meant without the Eastern Empire, most of us would be bowing toward Mecca and get our beards caught in the carpet five times a day now.

At least that is my take on it.

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DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 02 January 2014 01:18 EDT (US)     127 / 142       
Instead of Arabic or Turkic, I think we'd actually be speaking some form of Persian.

Without the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire to oppose them, I don't think it's to far-fetched to believe that the Sassanids could've made good on their claim as "Successors of the Achaemenids" and reconquered all the old territories of the Achaemenid Persian Empire up to the Hellespont. Without a hostile power or any organized resistance to challenge them, the Sassanids would've been able to cement their rule in their new territories fairly smoothly and consolidate and expand their military forces.

Fast forward about 150 years and now instead of facing an empire exhausted by war and racked with economic collapse and religious unrest, the prophet Muhammad and his followers would instead be reckoning with a Sassanid Persian Empire at the peak of its power with an equally powerful military to protect it. With Islam failing to rise to prominence, it would instead be Zorastrianism that would emerge as the dominant religion in the Near and Middle East.

Just my 2 cents on what could've happened.

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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02 January 2014 13:10 EDT (US)     128 / 142       
Nice points, though I disagree about the conclusion.

The Persians have always done well under a strong leader. Under a weak leader, which plagued their last centuries (with an exception here or there), they fought as much against each other vying for the throne as against outsiders- very reminiscent of the Romans in that respect. Plus, the Turks and other migrants would have come against them. Your premise has the Persians uniting and consolidating their pwoer, then expanding their military. Yet that unification is what I doubt.

I think the Sassanids were doomed, no matter what happened to the Eastern empire. A premature fall of the eastern Empire might have gifted the Sassanids a few more years, but the rot was already far too evident. They fell apart rather swiftly and completely when confronting the Arab Muslims- I doubt they would have fared any better against the Turks coming in.

The Arabs and early Muslims were the original juggernaut, the Mongols and Turks the second and third. Both rolled from far away up onto and sometimes through the gates of Europe. Should Islam have failed to prevent the Arabs from becoming that first juggernaut (crushed by the Persians, for example), the other two would have bashed on through. leaving us with Turkic as the most likely.

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[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 01-02-2014 @ 01:13 PM).]

DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 02 January 2014 13:52 EDT (US)     129 / 142       
The Persians have always done well under a strong leader. Under a weak leader, which plagued their last centuries (with an exception here or there), they fought as much against each other vying for the throne as against outsiders- very reminiscent of the Romans in that respect. Plus, the Turks and other migrants would have come against them. Your premise has the Persians uniting and consolidating their pwoer, then expanding their military. Yet that unification is what I doubt.
I was mainly using 480 C.E. as the point of divergence since I took AE's latest question as to mean what would happened if the East collapsed at the same time the West fell.

I think you might be giving the Persians' penchant for ambition and infighting a bit too much clout in this case Terikel. Historically, the Sassanids enjoyed what was called a 'Second Golden Age' roughly 18 years after the Western Roman Empire fell even with the Eastern Roman Empire to oppose them. Without their archenemy to oppose their ambitions, drain their resources and cause trouble, I think the Sassanids would've prospered more and not less. Consolidation and expansion in such an environment wouldn't be too unrealistic (though it is admittedly idealistic and wishful thinking).

As for the Turks, it was my understanding that they didn't really rise to power to power until the Seljuk Era. I remember reading how they were primarily spread throughout much of the Middle East as slaves after the Muslim Conquests, but since we've "butterflied away" the rise of Islam and thus the conquests I don't believe the conditions that precipitated the spread of the Turkish people historically would exist in this alternate timeline.
I think the Sassanids were doomed, no matter what happened to the Eastern empire. A premature fall of the eastern Empire might have gifted the Sassanids a few more years, but the rot was already far too evident. They fell apart rather swiftly and completely when confronting the Arab Muslims- I doubt they would have fared any better against the Turks coming in.
I don't the believe their system of governance and rule was rotten, but rather pushed to the breaking point thanks to all their wars against the Eastern Roman Empire. Perhaps the 'alternate history' Sassanids wouldn't have been completely united against the Arab Muslims or the Turks (if they still emerged), but they would've at least been in a better state to fight against them with an adult ruler instead of the boy-king Yazdegerd III to lead them.

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"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03 January 2014 08:38 EDT (US)     130 / 142       
I think you might be giving the Persians' penchant for ambition and infighting a bit too much clout in this case Terikel. Historically, the Sassanids enjoyed what was called a 'Second Golden Age' roughly 18 years after the Western Roman Empire fell even with the Eastern Roman Empire to oppose them. Without their archenemy to oppose their ambitions, drain their resources and cause trouble, I think the Sassanids would've prospered more and not less. Consolidation and expansion in such an environment wouldn't be too unrealistic (though it is admittedly idealistic and wishful thinking).
Maybe, but realistically, the larger and more prosperous the empire, the more likely a civil war or power struggle will bring it down- or at least severely weaken it. A few like Shapur II might emerge to re-unite the wracked realm and bring strength, but others would not be so strong and a lot of infighting would occur. Hey, did this not happen before? Rome, Macedon, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, etc. All once vibrant and strong, then internal struggles and divisions and bam. No more. The Franks, however, jettisoned their weak Merovingians (who themselves were once strong) and found new life under the Carolingians, but still, it was not until the Capetians that the Franks stopped subdividing themselves back into tiny units.

You might have butterflied away from Islam failing, and while I did consider that for the sake of argument, I am not totally onboard with it. Should the united Arabs meet a revitalized Persian realm not hampered by the Eastern Empire (who says whatever grows up on those fallen bones will not be a pain in the Persian ass itself? Soissons kept going as a Roman unit for 10 years until Clovis had Syagrius killed), I feel it might be more of a coin toss than a given who would eventually survive or emerge victorious. Islam was about the spirit and the soul; Persia was about power. The faith appealed to the people- it still does. It answered deep questions better than their current religion. The adherents and converts might end up splitting off from the state religion and bringing the Persians down into civil war. Or a prince might convert to secure military might from the arabs, and in that way bring the Persians to their knees for another to strike.

So sorry, I am not yet fully convinced that a lack of Byzantium would have brought ultimate success and survival to the Sassanids, or whatever.

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[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 01-03-2014 @ 10:29 AM).]

DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 03 January 2014 13:13 EDT (US)     131 / 142       
Maybe, but realistically, the larger and more prosperous the empire, the more likely a civil war or power struggle will bring it down- or at least severely weaken it. A few like Shapur II might emerge to re-unite the wracked realm and bring strength, but others would not be so strong and a lot of infighting would occur.
Why would the rulers in this alternate timeline (ATL) be just as weak or weaker than the historical ones? The conditions that gave those weak rulers the opportunity to exist (military defeats, heavy taxation, dissatisfaction with the preceding ruler & the dynasty, etc.) wouldn't be the same. I'm not saying the ATL Sassanid kings would be paragons of virtue, but they would be ruling in an environment where they weren't constantly threatened with war or the civil unrest caused by it.

The possibility of civil war is always present in any empire, but if the ruling dynasty remains strong then the empire they rule will also stand firm. My recent posts probably imply I have a greater knowledge of the Sassanids than I actually do but from what I remember reading, they didn't have nearly as many civil wars and incidents of infighting as the late Roman Republic and the succeeding Roman Empire.
Hey, did this not happen before? Rome, Macedon, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, etc. All once vibrant and strong, then internal struggles and divisions and bam. No more.
My knowledge on the Franks and Ostrogoths is greatly lacking so I cannot comment on their history with any amount of confidence. I can however comment on Macedon and the Successor Kingdoms. I have a moderate knowledge of Rome, but I believe you are as well-educated in their history as I am if not more so.

  • Macedon and the Successor Kingdoms: Because of Alexander's failure to designate an heir before his sudden death, the empire he built was doomed to fall apart. Even if Alexander IV had been born before his death, it's unlikely that his generals would've followed him given their acknowledge bias against any ruler that was not a full-blooded Macedonian.

    As for the Successor Kingdoms, the three chief states were rarely plagued with civil war unless an outside party supported a usurper or a lack of confidence in the dynasty caused their subjects to champion another member of the royal family. With the exception of the 'War of the Brothers', every Seleucid civil war was caused by the machinations and intervention of either Rome or Egypt. The Ptolemies themselves also had a fair bit of infighting, though one could also credit the instability of their dynasty to be caused by their incestuous nature. As far as I can recall, the Antigonids had no major incidents of civil war, but then again their kingdom wasn't large or prosperous enough to merit such a conflict.
    You might have butterflied away from Islam failing, and while I did consider that for the sake of argument, I am not totally onboard with it. Should the united Arabs meet a revitalized Persian realm not hampered by the Eastern Empire (who says whatever grows up on those fallen bones will not be a pain in the Persian ass itself? Soissons kept going as a Roman unit for 10 years until Clovis had Syagrius killed), I feel it might be more of a coin toss than a given who would eventually survive or emerge victorious. Islam was about the spirit and the soul; Persia was about power. The faith appealed to the people- it still does. It answered deep questions better than their current religion. The adherents and converts might end up splitting off from the state religion and bringing the Persians down into civil war. Or a prince might convert to secure military might from the arabs, and in that way bring the Persians to their knees for another to strike.
    By no means am I saying the Sassanids would curbstomp the Islamic Arabs in this ATL we have going. I'm simply saying that they'd be in a better condition to face them militarily speaking.

    I'm sure there would be successor states that would emerge after the early fall of the ERE, but there'd be just as much of a chance for them to follow the lead of Alexander's Successors and fight each other over who the 'True Heir of Rome' was. It would be far easier for the Sassanids to defeat and conquer a group of smaller states hostile towards one another instead of a single, united empire like the ERE.

    As for Islam and its appeal to people of the Middle East, I don't think the conditions would be the same in this ATL to cause them to embrace it as eagerly as they did in original timeline (OTL). With heavy taxation, class disparity between nobles and commoners, disillusion with the Sassanid dynasty and the apathetic atmosphere caused by the seemingly endless cycle of war, peace, and war with the Byzantines/ERE it was only natural for the people of the empire to look towards the Prophet Muhammed and his teachings and embrace them because it gave them hope and faith that their lives could be better. In my opinion, the people in the ATL wouldn't as been disillusioned with the Sassanids because there would've been a much longer time of peace and stability between the fall of the ERE in 480 C.E. and the beginning of the Muslim Conquest in 633 C.E.

    With regards adherents and converts gaining enough strength to stage a major uprising, it would definitely be a possibility as is the one of an ambitious prince converting and rallying the Arabs to his cause but instead of the breakup and destruction of the empire in the latter scenario I think instead we'd see one similar to what Constantine I the Great did when he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. A replacing of the religion in charge if you will.
    So sorry, I am not yet fully convinced that a lack of Byzantium would have brought ultimate success and survival to the Sassanids, or whatever.
    I guess in this case we're just going to have to agree to disagree. To be honest, I think there are simply way too many variables and "what ifs?" in this ATL to make a completely believable prediction.

  • "Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
    "It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
    "My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
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    Terikel Grayhair
    Imperator
    (id: Terikel706)
    posted 04 January 2014 08:45 EDT (US)     132 / 142       
    Why would the rulers in this alternate timeline (ATL) be just as weak or weaker than the historical ones?
    Because that was the way ruling houses were. Most monarchs were mediocre, average at best (hence the term average), with only a few outstanding. Look at Rome- the period of the Five Good Emperors. Five Good Ones in a row. After that? How long until Diocletian came along to try and fix things up? Quality of leadership is not going to improve just because a great foe suddenly falls away.

    Also, as shown in the fall of the West: Rome did not simply cease to exist. It was replaced by the Ostrogothic Kingdom (which by the way, was a huge thorn in the Eastern Empire's side). In Gaul the Franks were consolidating their power, while the Visigoths and Suebi were carving out realms in Hispana. The Vandals ruled North Africa. Roman imperial power may have disappeared, but there were other powers emerging. One would assume if the Eastern Empire fell, it would degenerate into various kingdoms and power blocs as did the West. These may or may not fall to the Sassanids, but that is a question of leadership and skill on both sides.

    As I stated orignally somewhere, I think they may have been granted some extra years (decades, maybe even a century or two), but they would eventually crumble as had their foes- either from weakening within or onslaught from without.

    We can argue fairy tales and vapors all day- but neither of us can provide evidence or proof of our views since we are indeed arguing about fairy tales and vapors. Still, twas fun, was it not?

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    Awesome Eagle
    Spear of Mars
    (id: awesomated88)
    posted 25 January 2014 07:19 EDT (US)     133 / 142       
    Great work guys- this is exactly the kind of Indepth discussion I hope for.

    Now- one scenario before I go to bed:

    If Caeser was not assassinated and actually journeyed to te east and underwent his invasion of Parthia, what do you see as possible consequences? Would he have succeeded? If he lost a few battles could his regime have collapsed?

    Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it- George Santayana
    History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are- David C. McCullough
    Wars not make one great- Yoda
    Thalassocracy
    Legionary
    posted 25 January 2014 07:53 EDT (US)     134 / 142       
    If Caeser was not assassinated and actually journeyed to te east and underwent his invasion of Parthia, what do you see as possible consequences
    He'd be sure to remind himself of dear Crassus first.

    Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
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    [This message has been edited by Thalassocracy (edited 01-25-2014 @ 07:54 AM).]

    Awesome Eagle
    Spear of Mars
    (id: awesomated88)
    posted 13 February 2014 05:42 EDT (US)     135 / 142       
    Well- that is an interesting point. Crassus was no soldier- he was a banker and property mogul. Caesar could well ignore what Crassus had done and make the same mistakes out of over- confidence. Also, how would the experienced Legionaries have fared in the Syrian desert? There is a constant theme of Legions that are based in the colder climates (Gaul, Britannia) having trouble when faced with a fight in the desert.

    Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it- George Santayana
    History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are- David C. McCullough
    Wars not make one great- Yoda
    Terikel Grayhair
    Imperator
    (id: Terikel706)
    posted 13 February 2014 08:22 EDT (US)     136 / 142       
    Crassus was not a bum of a soldier. Sure, he barely scratched the Parthian army at Carrhae, but Spartacus and his 6000 would argue quite effectively that Crassus was not a mediocre general.

    It was his bad luck and poor opinion of the horseborne cowards that brought about his demise. Evidently, the Testudo not being a wonder-formation gave him quite a shock, as did the Parthian heavy cavalry. And the Surena was bright enough to keep out of pilum range and had a wonderful resupply system to replenish his little toothpicks.

    We have ample proof in later generals that a well-planned and well-supplied expedition can indeed invade the heartland of Parthia. Did not Avidius Cassius burn the capital Ctesiphon?

    I rest my case.

    As to Caesar versus the Paerthians... he would have won. It might have been bloody and start off poorly, but once he had a measure of Parthian tactics and the like, he would have crushed them utterly, leaving them to wondder just what the hell happened.

    Sorta like what he did in Gaul...

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    DominicusUltimus
    Legate
    posted 01 April 2014 23:13 EDT (US)     137 / 142       
    *Breathes life into old thread and Total War History forum*

    I agree with Terikel's opinion that Caesar would've eventually emerged triumphant in a war against the Parthians. True, it would've been a rough start since he was facing a completely new military doctrine and tactics that he'd never faced before in his military career but Caesar was nothing if not adaptable and innovative. Once he'd learned to have short and secure supply lines, a large compliment of archers, slingers and other assorted light infantry and to fight the Parthians on rough or broken ground to negate their cavalry advantage he would've carved through the Parthians like a freshly sharpened gladius through a sacrificial pig.

    *****

    Here's a new Alternate History scenario that I've been pondering for quite awhile: How different would the Hellenistic Age have been if Antigonus I Monopthalmus and Demetrius I Poliorcetes had defeated (and perhaps killed) Seleucus I Nicator and Lysimachus at the Battle of Ipsus? Could the Antigonids have possibly consolidated and reunited some of the scattered remains of Alexander's empire and rebuilt it into a more compressed and stable empire than any of their historical rivals?

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    Terikel Grayhair
    Imperator
    (id: Terikel706)
    posted 02 April 2014 12:26 EDT (US)     138 / 142       
    Intersting topic.

    I had to look up the battle and find out what was going on, to be honest. It strikes me as a bit odd that if Seleukos did have 300-400 elephants lying about, why did he not use these to simply trample the Antigonid phalanx from the flank, instead of inserting the mass of pachyderms between Antigonid cavalry and the phalanx battle? That strikes me as very odd indeed.

    Had Antigonos won, though... Hmmm.... Methinks the Ancient World would have been much, much different. At least for a while. Rome was already on the rise by then, and would soon be battling Pyrrhus to a standstill. The lessons learned from those battles helped shape Roman military thinking and led to refining reforms and other improvements. But would those battles have happened had Antigonos emerged victorious at Ipsus?

    One of two things could wreak havoc on the future there: Antigonos lives, and keeps Pyrrhus at home. No battle then, but the Romans would learn those lessons in other battles later and eventually triumph. Or, Antigonos secures the Macedonian realm in its entirety and sends forces like those of Pyrrhus, only stronger, to conquer westward. This would induce massive changes to history.

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    posted 03 April 2014 13:14 EDT (US)     139 / 142       
    It strikes me as a bit odd that if Seleukos did have 300-400 elephants lying about, why did he not use these to simply trample the Antigonid phalanx from the flank, instead of inserting the mass of pachyderms between Antigonid cavalry and the phalanx battle? That strikes me as very odd indeed.
    From what I can remember of the top of my head, most of the battles fought by the Diadochoi weren't fought with the goal of destroying the opposing troops but to kill the opposing commander and afterwards bring as many men to their side as possible. A dead soldier has no use, but a live one, even if he is of doubtful loyalty, can bolster your ranks, be used to garrison dangerous outposts or serve as a military settler in a newly founded city. Seleucus in particular preferred to win battles by luring enemy soldiers to his side or convincing them to abandon their commander. The most notable example was his last conflict with Demetrius Poliorcetes, where despite having tactical superiority he refused to do battle and approached the Antigonid troops alone to urge them to his side so that he would not be forced to kill them. The ploy worked and the Antigonid soldiers defected en masse, leaving their commander to be captured and eventually die ignominiously in an alcoholic binge of epic proportions.
    One of two things could wreak havoc on the future there: Antigonos lives, and keeps Pyrrhus at home. No battle then, but the Romans would learn those lessons in other battles later and eventually triumph. Or, Antigonos secures the Macedonian realm in its entirety and sends forces like those of Pyrrhus, only stronger, to conquer westward. This would induce massive changes to history.
    If Pyrrhus was able to venture westwards with the considerable manpower that could be provided by an Antigonid Empire, then I can very much imagine him coming very close to achieving victory over the Romans. The Romans would undoubtedly make a fight of it though so I wouldn't count them out immediately, but faced with Pyrrhus, or a similarly capable commander, backed by resources comparable or greater than those possessed by Rome it would probably only be a matter of time.

    "Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
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    Terikel Grayhair
    Imperator
    (id: Terikel706)
    posted 04 April 2014 05:02 EDT (US)     140 / 142       
    That would seem logical.

    As to Pyrrhus, what ended his dreams of an Italian empire was the horrendous losses he took in defeating the Romans. Had he the resources and reinforcements from an Antigonid empire behind him, declining manpower would no longer be a problem and he could then grind the Romans down.

    But would Antigonos let an underling have such power as an independent command? That becomes the question, as well as what would Pyrrhus do with an Italian Empire, nominally under overlordship of a Macedonian?

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    posted 13 April 2014 01:52 EDT (US)     141 / 142       
    Regardless of the degree of power Antigonos granted Pyrrhus, I think he would have recognised the value of Magna Graecia and tried to hold onto it, and even try to expand his territory. If Pyrrhus was clever, he could have played on this to gain influence
    Terikel Grayhair
    Imperator
    (id: Terikel706)
    posted 13 April 2014 04:25 EDT (US)     142 / 142       
    I think he would have recognised the value of Magna Graecia
    Please define the 'he' in that statement. The previous line mentioned both Antigonos and Pyrrhus.

    |||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
    |||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
    |||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
    Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
    Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
    Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
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