History of the West

Central European History from Antiquity to the 20th Century

Month: June 2019

Chil­dren of the Less­er Men


Pre­ced­ing Blog Entry: In Aus­tria Before the War – Adolf Hitler’s Par­ents


Gnothi Seau­ton
(Know Thy­self)

The Oracle of Delphi

And love’s the noblest frailty of the mind.
John Dry­den “The Indi­an Emper­or”, Act 2, Sc. 2


The Youth of Adolf Hitler

Our prot­ag­on­ist thus enters the stage and a few remarks are in order. There is little in the avail­able sources regard­ing Hitler’s child­hood and adoles­cence that has not been sub­jug­ated to inter­pret­at­ive efforts in the fur­ther­ance of the one or oth­er psy­cho­lo­gic­al or polit­ic­al the­ory. Ian Ker­shaw observed that ...

The his­tor­ic­al record of Adolf’s early years is very sparse. His own account in Mein Kampf is inac­cur­ate in detail and col­oured in inter­pret­a­tion. Post-war recol­lec­tions of fam­ily and acquaint­ances have to be treated with care, and are at times as dubi­ous as the attempts dur­ing the Third Reich itself to glor­i­fy the child­hood of the future Führ­er.
For the form­at­ive peri­od so import­ant to psy­cho­lo­gists and “psy­cho-his­tor­i­ans”, the fact has to be faced that there is little to go on which is not ret­ro­spect­ive guess­work. (1)

That the early famil­i­ar envir­on­ment, the exper­i­ences of youth and adoles­cence, are of para­mount import­ance in the gest­a­tion of the adult mind is a com­mon­place, yet even in regard to the basics of Adolf Hitler’s fam­ily life a lot of spec­u­la­tion remains. Ian Ker­shaw, for example, arrives at a more crit­ic­al judge­ment of his fath­er Alois Hitler than many earli­er bio­graph­ers did – the ques­tion of course is what would he have expec­ted from a Cus­toms officer in the age of nation­al­ism?

Fam­ily life, was, how­ever, less than har­mo­ni­ous and happy. Alois was an archetyp­al pro­vin­cial civil ser­vant – pom­pous, status-proud, strict, humour­less, frugal, pedantic­ally punc­tu­al, and devoted to duty. He was regarded with respect by the loc­al com­munity. But both at work and at home, he had a bad tem­per which could flare up quite unpre­dict­ably. … He took little interest in bring­ing up his fam­ily, and was hap­pi­er out­side rather than inside the fam­ily home. (2)

Our know­ledge of early Hitler fam­ily affairs exper­i­enced an unex­pec­ted ameli­or­a­tion when Ant­on Joachim­sthaler pub­lished 1989 in Munich his work “Cor­rec­tion of a Bio­graphy – Adolf Hitler 1908 – 1920”. [FN1] He presen­ted many pre­vi­ously unknown or hard-to-find doc­u­ments, unearthed police files, per­son­al let­ters, paint­ings and draw­ings, pho­to­graphs of Hitler’s war and post-war friends, their activ­it­ies and much more. Of par­tic­u­lar import­ance are mil­it­ary doc­u­ments of the imme­di­ate post-war peri­od, which sug­gest that Hitler developed his polit­ic­al con­vic­tions not, as he claimed in “Mein Kampf” and some his­tor­i­ans have incau­tiously taken for gran­ted, in Vienna before the war but in post-war Munich, and second, that his ini­tial polit­ic­al sym­path­ies in this era may have belonged to the Social Demo­crats. These inter­est­ing dis­cov­er­ies will be dis­cussed in their prop­er con­text.

[FN1] Ori­gin­al Title: “Kor­rek­tur ein­er Bio­graph­ie – Adolf Hitler 1908 – 1920”. In 2000, he presen­ted an exten­ded ver­sion, “Hitler’s Weg begann in München” [‘Hitler’s Path began in Munich’], that provided addi­tion­al doc­u­ment­a­tion. See Bib­li­o­graphy for details.

Most of Joachimsthaler’s find­ings relate to Hitler’s peri­od before and after WW I in Munich, but some are rel­ev­ant to his earli­er life. Ant­on Joachim­sthaler pub­lished, for example, the Leg­al­isirungs-Pro­to­coll of Alois Hitler dis­cussed in the pre­ced­ing chapter, and there will be a few more ref­er­ences to his work before we fol­low Adolf Hitler to Munich.

At this point in our account, Baby Adolf is being bap­tized, two days after he entered this world, by Fath­er Ignaz Probst in the Cath­ol­ic Church of Braunau. His name was giv­en as Adol­fus Hitler, and is so recor­ded on the birth cer­ti­fic­ate. The fam­ily resumed life in the Gasthaus Pom­mer, com­fort­ably, as far as we know. It seems that Klara, who has been pro­moted from cham­ber­maid to nurse, from nurse to mis­tress, and from mis­tress to wife, acquain­ted her­self well. At first, she had con­tin­ued to address her hus­band as “uncle”, and remained shy for a time; but even­tu­ally she found con­tent­ment in her homely duties, her devo­tion to the eld­er chil­dren Alois Jr. and Angela, and the care for the young­er ones that arrived at reg­u­lar inter­vals. The early deaths of her first three chil­dren, how­ever, caused a crisis in the house­hold, and Klara
needed some time to over­come the suc­cess­ive tra­gedies. She did not become preg­nant for two years after Otto had died, only a few days after his birth, in the autumn of 1887.

The Braunau Cus­toms Sta­tion, Alois Hitler’s place of work.

Alois’ life revolved around the usu­al quar­ters very much: the Cus­toms sta­tion at the river bank, the inns, and the bee hives that were his hobby since child­hood. He con­tin­ued his work in good stand­ing and was pro­moted again in 1892, when Adolf was three years old. The fam­ily moved to his next duty sta­tion, Pas­sau, fifty miles down­river.

Pas­sau in 1892

The change of res­id­ence was to exert a pro­found influ­ence upon young Adolf. Braunau was a pro­vin­cial, sleepy bor­der town, which had only provided a tiny foot­note to Ger­man his­tory. Dur­ing the Napo­leon­ic wars, the book trader Johannes Palm was executed in Braunau by French troops, for hav­ing writ­ten a pamph­let crit­ic­al of the French emper­or. The tract was titled “Ger­many in the Hour of her Deep­est Humi­li­ation”; Napo­leon took umbrage, and the author was fusil­laded. The exe­cu­tion remained a fix­ture of Ger­man nation­al­ist com­plaints and was remembered with a ven­geance in 1870/71.

The former Imper­i­al town and Epis­copal see Pas­sau was of a dif­fer­ent cal­ibre. In the Middle Ages, the Prince-Bish­op of Pas­sau had ruled over the import­ant mar­ket, bish­op­ric and county at the con­flu­ence of the Inn and Danube Rivers; splen­did churches, castles and palaces bore wit­ness to the glory days of the town. Although Pas­sau was on the Ger­man bank of the river and bor­der, the Aus­tri­an Cus­toms inspec­tion was loc­ated, by mutu­al dis­pos­i­tion of the respect­ive gov­ern­ments, on Ger­man ter­rit­ory, where, by a favour­able hap­pen­stance, the inns closed an hour later at night.

Yet for the fam­ily in gen­er­al, and Alois in par­tic­u­lar, the change of post­ing seems not to have been entirely wel­come. Alois had lived sev­en­teen years in Braunau, where he had bur­ied two wives, and had developed affec­tion for the small town. There was also the fact that in Braunau he was neces­sar­ily a big­ger fish than in the much lar­ger Cus­toms office in Pas­sau, and, in addi­tion, the pos­i­tion in Pas­sau was a pro­vi­sion­al appoint­ment only, sub­ject to con­firm­a­tion by his super­i­ors.

It was per­haps only for the young­est mem­ber of the fam­ily, Adolf, three and a half years old, that the new town was an unmit­ig­ated suc­cess; he was in the impres­sion­able age in which a child leaves home for the first time and is unfail­ingly altered by the first impres­sions of the new envir­on­ment, the sight of the build­ings, the sound of the lan­guage.
For the rest of his life, Adolf Hitler would speak the dis­tinct­ive dia­lect of Lower Bav­aria that was spoken in Pas­sau. He insisted later that, from his time in Pas­sau onwards, he had always felt more Ger­man than Aus­tri­an, and the old town’s cul­tur­al and his­tor­ic ped­i­gree cer­tainly provided a dif­fer­ent impres­sion than sleepy Braunau. In all prob­ab­il­ity, he spent two care­free years in Pas­sau.

When he was almost five years old, his moth­er gave birth to anoth­er son, Edmund. Only a week later, the fath­er, obvi­ously hav­ing sat­is­fied the expect­a­tions of his peers, was pro­moted and trans­ferred again: from the pro­vi­sion­al appoint­ment at the Ger­man bor­der to a new post in Linz, the pro­vin­cial cap­it­al. Because of little Edmund, the rest of the
fam­ily remained in Pas­sau for anoth­er year, which gave Adolf, freed from paternal super­vi­sion, lots of oppor­tun­it­ies to roam about town. He enjoyed twelve months of free­dom, and it was per­haps in this pic­tur­esque town, that com­manded build­ings in Goth­ic, Baroque and Renais­sance style galore, that his lifelong interest in archi­tec­ture awoke. Since he was not yet in school, time was on his side.

In addi­tion, he had his moth­er for him­self when his eld­er sib­lings were at school. Not only the Freu­di­an fac­tion of psy­cho­lo­gists has com­men­ted at length upon Hitler’s devo­tion to his moth­er and hos­til­ity versus his fath­er. Hitler was aware of his feel­ings and nev­er thought of hid­ing them. All sources agree that he car­ried pho­to­graphs of his moth­er at all
times, until the last days of his life. In the cauldron of the final Rus­si­an attack on Ber­lin in April 1945, more than fifty years later, a framed pho­to­graph of his moth­er was the sole dec­or­a­tion of his bunker bed­room. Of his fath­er, he spoke with fury or con­tempt.

As one would expect, it has been argued that a fix­a­tion on his moth­er as the unat­tain­able ideal of woman­hood des­troyed his future rela­tions to women; that he would sub­con­sciously com­pare every oth­er woman to his moth­er and con­sequently find them all want­ing. A related the­ory held that he, unable to over­come this frus­tra­tion, would devel­op
homo­sexu­al tend­en­cies. This the­ory per­haps con­fuses his friend­ship with Erich Röhm and the latter’s pre­dilec­tion for young and slim SA men with authen­ti­city; any­way, no facts sup­port the mere­tri­cious, not mer­it­ori­ous, the­ory.
Hitler’s adult love life, as far as it will sur­face in this account, was less determ­ined by his actu­al feel­ings for the young ladies them­selves but his func­tions as revolu­tion­ary, party lead­er, chan­cel­lor and war­lord that took up most of his time. Hitler met many women, and some were his mis­tresses, one of whom he mar­ried, in the end. Most, how­ever, are
best described as his “fans”, ardent sup­port­ers of his cause and per­son, social­ites like Wini­fred Wag­n­er, Unity Mit­ford or Helene Han­f­stängl, who did him many favours and intro­duced him to the salons of the “bet­ter soci­ety”. He did go through a some­what tra­gic love affair later in his life, which will be dis­cussed in its prop­er place. Mani­festly true is the obser­va­tion that he was able to mobil­ize Ger­man women in his sup­port as they had sup­por­ted no oth­er politi­cian before him, but, then again, we don’t know how much of this sup­port was based on erot­ic or mater­nal instincts. But the female vote was one of the pil­lars of his even­tu­al suc­cess.

When the fam­ily fol­lowed the fath­er to Linz in 1895, Adolf’s care­free life drew to a close. His fath­er prac­ticed edu­ca­tion by the stand­ards of author­it­at­ive Aus­tria and based his ped­agogy on the cane – as it was the cus­tom of the age. His stern char­ac­ter clashed eas­ily and reg­u­larly with the imper­fec­tions he was wont to observe in the con­duct of his two
sons. From the spring of 1895 on, after Alois had decided to retire from His Majesty’s Cus­toms Ser­vice, and spent most of his time at the fam­ily home, he had even more oppor­tun­ity to cor­rect his chil­drens’ com­port­ment and hence fath­er and sons col­lided even more often. Alois then bought a farm about thirty miles or fifty kilo­metres south-west of Linz, in the small vil­lage of Hafeld in the com­munity of Fisc­hl­ham near Lam­bach in Upper Aus­tria. (3)

Rauscher­gut

Hafeld was a tiny ham­let of about two dozen houses and har­boured per­haps a hun­dred souls. If one remem­bers the hilly set­tings of “The Sound of Music”, one has a good impres­sion of how the set­tle­ment must have looked like. A sub-alpine vil­lage high on a crest, between trees, orch­ards and mead­ows, accom­mod­ated the nine acres of Alois’ farm on a 
gentle ascen­sion. The house, called the “Rauscher­gut” was pretty and sub­stan­tial, laid out on a slight slope; split-level, Cali­for­ni­ans would call it, and fea­tured a small apple orch­ard, stables for the cows and horses, and that great pre­requis­ite for kids´ play on a farm, a hayloft. A rivu­let com­pleted the pic­ture.

Fisc­hl­ham Church

Yet there was one prob­lem. Alois was a farm­er by heart; he was an ardent bee­keep­er, loved the phys­ic­al side of farm­ing and the hus­bandry of anim­als. But he lacked a green thumb, or, per­haps, the soil wasn’t good. One the­ory has advanced that his retire­ment from pub­lic ser­vice was less than vol­un­tary, but, again, noth­ing in the record sup­ports such an alleg­a­tion. He retired with full pen­sion rights, and there is noth­ing to con­clude that he was any­thing but a well-respec­ted man; no indic­a­tion that the move to Hafeld might have had ulteri­or motives. Yet anoth­er factor com­prom­ised the idyll for his young­er son: life handed Adolf a new chal­lenge by his enrol­ment in ele­ment­ary school.


To Be Con­tin­ued: Schooldays

(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2015/19)

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Rome – An Intro­duc­tion

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Rise and Fall

Tu regere imper­io pop­u­los, Romane, memento
(Hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere mor­em,
Par­cere subiec­tis et debel­lare super­b­os.

You, Roman, make your task
to rule the nations by your gov­ern­ment
(these shall be your skills),
impose upon them peace and order,
spare those who have sub­mit­ted
and paci­fy the arrog­ant.

Vir­gilAeneid”, Bk. 6, L. 847


Until the third cen­tury BC, the people liv­ing in the north and middle of the European con­tin­ent – mostly Celts and Ger­mans – appeared on the polit­ic­al map of the known world only by proxy: by vir­tue of the trade under­taken by the sea­far­ing people, whose com­mer­cial and mil­it­ary interests then centred upon the Medi­ter­ranean and the Black Sea. Of pivotal import­ance to this age were the great ports, for they not only provided safe havens from the volat­il­ity of the sea but served as com­mer­cial hubs or, should the need arise, as gath­er­ing points for the men-of-war.

The prin­cip­al har­bours of the East­ern Medi­ter­ranean Sea were then among the greatest and most busy towns of the age: Athens and its har­bour Pir­aeus, Eph­esos and Mile­tus in west­ern Anato­lia, the ports of Rhodos, Cyprus and Crete, Sidon and Tyr­us in Palestine, Trapezos and Cher­sonesos in the Black Sea, and always Alex­an­dria Egypta, with her fam­ous light­house and the greatest lib­rary of the world: these were the nav­al and thus polit­ic­al heavy­weights of the peri­od. At this time, the Levant and North­ern Africa were far more fer­tile than they are today: the fab­ulous wheat har­vests along the Medi­ter­ranean Africa coast and Sicily provided for many cen­tur­ies most of the grain that fed south­ern and west­ern Europe, her coastal cit­ies and hin­ter­lands.

From the sixth to the fourth cen­tury BC, the Greek and Phoen­i­cian town states around the East­ern Medi­ter­ranean Sea engaged in a rap­id colo­ni­al expan­sion west­ward. Among many smal­ler set­tle­ments and ports, towns as fam­ous as Massil­ia, today’s Mar­seille, Neapol­is, i.e. the “New Town”, today’s Naples, and Gades, today’s Cad­iz, were foun­ded at this time. One Phoen­i­cian com­munity settled near today’s town of Tunis at the Afric­an coast, vis-a-vis from Sicily, and from this promon­tory began the eco­nom­ic explor­a­tion of the West, of Spain, Italy and south­ern France. In these less­er known parts of the Medi­ter­ranean Sea, large profits beckoned.

Twins and a she-wolf

From the fifth cen­tury BC onward, Carthage, as the new set­tle­ment became known, estab­lished her­self as the dom­in­ant trad­ing force in the west­ern parts of the Medi­ter­ranean Sea by found­ing new colon­ies that exten­ded as far as the Atlantic coast, and the Iberi­an Pen­in­sula was thus linked with the con­sumers of Greece, Syr­ia and Egypt. In the third cen­tury BC, how­ever, her ongo­ing expan­sion into the Itali­an mar­kets was checked by an indi­gen­ous oppon­ent, the young state of Rome. We know little of Rome’s actu­al, as opposed to legendary, ori­gins, although archae­olo­gic­al work recently begun on Pal­at­ine Hill may soon deliv­er clues. The primary saga of Rome’s estab­lish­ment, how­ever, is a well-known tale which draws on vari­ous pop­u­lar ele­ments of found­a­tion myths. The twins Romu­lus and Remus, sons of the war god Mars and the Vestal Vir­gin Rhea Silva, were aban­doned after birth but found, float­ing down the Tiber River in a bas­ket, by a she-wolf that nursed them to boy­hood. They were sub­sequently adop­ted by a shep­herd and his fam­ily, and, in the year 753 BC foun­ded a small set­tle­ment on the Pal­at­ine Hill, over­look­ing the Tiber River, and in the dis­tance, per­haps five leagues away, the blue waves of the Tyrrhe­ni­an Sea. [FN1]

[FN1] As usu­al, the ele­ments of the myth do not truly fit and are hardly of ori­gin­al qual­ity (Float­ing bas­ket, any­one? See Moses and Osiris). By defin­i­tion, a vir­gin should not give birth, and why a god and such an hon­our­able lady did not have the pock­et change to rear twins prop­erly, must be left to the reader’s ima­gin­a­tion. Legend says it was because of an evil proph­ecy – which promptly came true.

Aeneas killing Turnus

A some­what dif­fer­ent account tells the story that the twins des­cend from a vis­it of the hero­ic Aeneas of Troy on the shores of the Tiber, who arrived after a some­what com­plic­ated jour­ney from the cinders of his home town and a stop­over in the arms of Dido (at Carthage) in middle Italy and thus bestowed a claim of noble ances­try to the fledging vil­lage. He mar­ried a cer­tain Lavin­ia after killing her boy­friend Turnus and even­tu­ally becomes the ancest­or of the twins (see Wiki)

At an rate, peace in the ham­let foundered soon, by vir­tue of some unex­plained fam­ily busi­ness which led to the murder of Remus by Romu­lus, as in Cain and Abel. Soon after the ordeal, Romu­lus was able to wel­come new blood. To improve the pop­u­la­tion count, Romu­lus declared a zone between the two sum­mits of near-by Cap­it­oline Hill a hab­it­at for fugit­ives; and it may tell us some­thing about law and order in early Roman his­tory that Romu­lus soon found numer­ous pro­spect­ive cit­izens; men ejec­ted from their tribes for vari­ous offences.

Sabine Hills

While it seemed that crime was as pop­u­lar and prof­it­able career then as it is today, and Romu­lus exper­i­enced few prob­lems in attract­ing new asso­ci­ates, it was female com­pany that proved a rare occur­rence on the settlement’s camp­fires and many lech­er­ous thoughts were addressed at the misty hills belong­ing to the tribe of the Sabines, who were known for an abund­ance of female mem­bers. Giv­en the crim­in­al back­grounds of many of the new Roman cit­izens, it was no sur­prise that a solu­tion to the prob­lem was found only with­in the con­fines of war; when battle raged in Rome between the Romans and the Sabines, the women brought it to a close. Livy writes:

[The women], from the out­rage on whom the war ori­gin­ated, with hair dishevelled and gar­ments rent, the timid­ity of their sex being over­come by such dread­ful scenes, had the cour­age to throw them­selves amid the fly­ing weapons, and mak­ing a rush across, to part the incensed armies, and assuage their fury; implor­ing their fath­ers on the one side, their hus­bands on the oth­er, “that as fath­ers-in-law and sons-in-law they would not con­tam­in­ate each oth­er with impi­ous blood, nor stain their off­spring with par­ri­cide, the one their grand­chil­dren, the oth­er their chil­dren. If you are dis­sat­is­fied with the affin­ity between you, if with our mar­riages, turn your resent­ment against us; we are the cause of war, we of wounds and of blood­shed to our hus­bands and par­ents. It were bet­ter that we per­ish than live wid­owed or fath­er­less without one or oth­er of you.”  Livy, Ab urbe con­dita 1.13

Jacques-Louis Dav­id painted the happy end of the story, when the women inter­vene to recon­cile the war­ring parties (1799) Louvre, Par­is

Togeth­er with the poach­ing of any girl they chanced upon in the woods or the coast­line, adult enter­tain­ment was finally secured and the pro­cre­at­ive chal­lenge solved.

A Roman Feast, by Roberto Bompi­ani (1821 – 1908)

Rome’s early days as a king­dom are shrouded in the veils of oral tra­di­tion, because no records exist and only a few inscrip­tions remain. It is believed that the spot was ini­tially chosen because of a ford , where the river could be crossed, and the hills provided an eas­ily defens­ible pos­i­tion. What appears to be dif­fer­ent from the usu­al king­doms around is that the king did not reign because of his des­cent from a roy­al fam­ily or a god but by author­ity through the use of imper­i­um, form­ally gran­ted to the king by the Comitia Curi­ata with the passing of the Lex curi­ata de imper­io at the begin­ning of each king’s reign.

[FN1] see Wiki: “The tra­di­tion­al ver­sion of Roman his­tory, which has come down to us prin­cip­ally through Livy (64 or 59 BC-AD 12 or 17), Plut­arch (46 – 120), and Dionysi­us of Hali­carnas­sus (c. 60 BC – after 7 BC), recounts that a series of sev­en kings ruled the set­tle­ment in Rome’s first cen­tur­ies. The tra­di­tion­al chro­no­logy, as codi­fied by Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), allows 243 years for their com­bined reigns, an aver­age of almost 35 years. Since the work of Barthold Georg Niebuhr, mod­ern schol­ar­ship has gen­er­ally dis­coun­ted this schema. The Gauls des­troyed many of Rome’s his­tor­ic­al records when they sacked the city after the Battle of the Allia in 390 BC (accord­ing to Varro; accord­ing to Poly­bi­us, the battle occurred in 387/6), and what remained even­tu­ally fell prey to time or to theft. With no con­tem­por­ary records of the king­dom sur­viv­ing, all accounts of the Roman kings must be care­fully ques­tioned.”

Etruscan Cul­ture
Former Etruscan walled town Civ­ita di Bagnore­gio

Around 500 BC, the town state began to change its polit­ic­al organ­iz­a­tion from a run-of-the-mill mon­archy to a repub­lic­an olig­archy. This was due, it seems, to the influ­ence of the Etruscans, a pecu­li­ar people whose pale of set­tle­ment reached from Rome north-west­ward to the vicin­ity of Pisa, and whose cul­ture dis­played no sim­il­ar­ity to any of their neigh­bours, except, per­haps, for the fact that they used an alpha­bet trace­able to the Greek.

The Ancient Quar­ters of Rome

Myth holds that four men, led by Lucius Juni­us Bru­tus, and includ­ing Lucius Tar­quini­us Col­lat­inus, Pub­li­us Valeri­us Pop­lic­ola, and Spuri­us Lucre­tius Tri­cipitinus incited a revolu­tion that deposed and expelled the sev­enth and last king Lucius Tar­quini­us Super­bus and his fam­ily from Rome in 509 BC, after the king’s son Sex­tus Tar­quini­us had raped the lovely Lucre­tia, who promptly com­mit­ted sui­cide. Bru­tus and Col­lat­inus then became the first con­suls of Rome, which sub­sequently developed her own intric­ate form of polit­ic­al gov­ern­ment (see Detour One below).

Italy around 400 BC

The Etruscans were either des­troyed or assim­il­ated by the Romans in the third cen­tury BC, yet it appears that their laws were an early influ­ence on the first Roman laws, which were writ­ten, the legend goes, on twelve clay tables some­time around 450 BC. With the Roman con­quest of the prin­cip­al Etruscan town of Veii in 396 BC, their cul­ture van­ished, and the same year is com­monly accep­ted as the begin­ning of Roman expan­sion. Incor­por­at­ing Etruscan and oth­er loc­al cus­toms and fash­ion, the Roman state developed its own cul­tur­al iden­tity.

The Vin­tage Fest­iv­al, by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema
Taberna in Ostia Anti­ca – A sort of Roman McDon­alds
A garden party ...
Tri­clin­um from Pom­peii – Roman Din­ing Room

The fol­low­ing years gen­er­ated fair amounts of loc­al hos­til­it­ies, which were some­what amp­li­fied in 387 BC by a rov­ing Celt­ic tribe, the Sen­ones, led by their chief­tain Bren­nus south­bound from Gal­lia Cis­alpina. At that time, the pop­u­la­tion of the wide val­ley of the Po River was Celt­ic as well, and for­ays along the coasts were not uncom­mon. King Brennus’s men plundered their way south­ward to Rome, which they sacked: with the excep­tion of the top of Cap­it­oline Hill, whose sleep­ing sentries were aler­ted, in the nick of time, by the chat­ter of a hand­ful of geese. The attack on the hill and its gold cache was thus deflec­ted, although the Sen­ones took everything that moved and left for fur­ther adven­tures. The geese, since then, enjoyed a pro­tec­ted hab­it­at on Rome’s prin­cip­al hill, fed well by grate­ful cit­izens – only to be slaughtered and cooked at the next hol­i­day, per­haps. Such is life.

He got the girls but not the gold – “Bren­nus and His Share of the Spoils” also known as “Spoils of the Battle” by Paul Joseph Jam­in
Sam­nite sol­diers from a tomb frieze in Nola 4th cen­tury BC

After the Sen­ones had van­ished, loc­al war­fare was speedily rein­stated and con­cen­trated upon the Sam­nites, Rome‘s south-east­ern neigh­bours. It took three cam­paigns to sub­due them [343 -290 BC], and with the sub­sequent suc­cess against Tar­entum [282 -272 BC], the vic­tori­ous repub­lic exten­ded her ten­ure over the whole Itali­an boot: from Arimin­um, today’s Rimini, in the north-east, where the north­ern pied­mont of the Apen­nines moun­tains meets the Adri­at­ic Sea, to Regi­um, at the tip of the boot. These con­quests more than tripled the size of the Roman ter­rit­ory, and the increas­ing trade volume on the coast of the Tyrrhe­ni­an Sea brought the repub­lic at length into con­tact, and soon into con­flict, with the estab­lished nav­al super­power of the time – Ancient Carthage.

Dido build­ing Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthagini­an Empire is an oil on can­vas paint­ing by J. M. W. Turn­er.
Carthagini­an Pos­ses­sions in grey

Around the year 250 BC, the Phoen­i­cian (=Pun­ic) sphere of dom­in­ance com­prised the Afric­an coast from the Great Syrte of Lybia all the way to today’s Moroc­can coast; the islands of Sicily, Sardin­ia, Cor­sica and the Baleares and Spain from the Ebro River in the north-east to the Rock of Gibral­tar, and even a few colon­ies on the Atlantic Ocean, Gades, today’s Cad­iz, being the most import­ant of them (see map, areas in grey).

Carthage was the most import­ant port in the west­ern Medi­ter­ranean

Con­flict between Rome and Carthage first centred on the island of Sicily, fab­ulously wealthy then, and in the long run scattered skir­mishes turned into open war­fare. For the first time in her his­tory, Rome had to fight a nav­al war, and it took a few attempts to get things right. It helped that around 260 BC an unknown Roman engin­eer con­ceived a mech­an­ism that enabled Roman infantry, the pride of the nation, to par­ti­cip­ate in sea battles (in which the Phoen­i­cians were repor­ted to be mas­ters). A plank (called “cor­vus”,‘raven´) that could be lowered onto an enemy ship allowed Roman legion­ar­ies to enter the oppos­ing ves­sel and fight the way they were used to, on foot, with spear and sword. In 260 BC, the Battle of Mylae, north-west of Mess­ina, brought Rome her first nav­al vic­tory.

Cor­vus

A second vic­tory, at the Ecnomos promon­tory in 256 BC, allowed a Roman exped­i­tion­ary force in the strength of four legions to set foot on the Afric­an con­tin­ent. Their advance on Carthage was checked, how­ever, by a hast­ily col­lec­ted force of Pun­ic mer­cen­ar­ies in an action near today’s Tunis, and the mauled Roman legions, which suffered from logist­ic prob­lems to boot, did not have the strength to con­tin­ue the cam­paign and were quickly forced to return. This tac­tic­al suc­cess, how­ever, could not save the island of Sicily for Carthage, which became the first Roman “pro­vin­cia” in 241 BC.

An uneasy truce ensued but last­ing peace was out of the ques­tion, giv­en the aware­ness of both sides that only the win­ner would con­tin­ue to har­vest the fruits of trade. In 227 BC Rome acquired the islands of Sardin­ia and Cor­sica from a weakened Carthage; at this time the Romans began to call the Medi­ter­ranean Sea “mare nos­trum”, our sea.

By 219 BC a new gen­er­a­tion of Pun­ic sol­diers, more famil­i­ar with land war­fare than their fath­ers had been, was ready to renew hos­til­it­ies. One spe­cif­ic young officer showed great prom­ise in all things mil­it­ary and was entrus­ted with the com­mand over the whole Pun­ic army in the twenty-fifth year of his life. As the qual­it­ies of a man are often best judged by his enemies, we shall con­tem­plate what Tit­us Livi­us, his Roman adversary, wrote about Han­ni­bal:

The old sol­diers fan­cied they saw Hamil­car [his fath­er] in his youth giv­en back to them; the same bright look, the same fire in his eye, the same trick of coun­ten­ance and fea­tures. But soon he proved that to be his father’s son was not his highest recom­mend­a­tion. Nev­er was one and the same spir­it more skil­ful to meet oppos­i­tion, to obey or to com­mand. …

He entered danger with the greatest mettle, he com­por­ted him­self in danger with the greatest uncon­cern. By no dif­fi­culties could his body be tired, his ardour dampened. Heat and cold he suffered with equal endur­ance; the amount of his food and drink was gauged by nat­ur­al needs and not by pleas­ure. The time of wak­ing and sleep­ing depended not on the dis­tinc­tion of day and night.

What time was left from busi­ness he devoted to rest, and this was not brought on by either a soft couch or by quiet. Many have often seen him, covered by a short field cloak, lying on the ground betwixt the out­posts and sen­tinels of the sol­diers. His cloth­ing in no wise dis­tin­guished him from his fel­lows; his weapons and horses attrac­ted every one’s eye. He was by long odds the best rider, the best march­er. He went into battle the first; he came out of it the last. He served three years under Hasdrubal’s supreme com­mand, and left noth­ing unob­served which he who desires to become a great cap­tain ought to see and do.” (1)

Legend has it that Hannibal’s fath­er Hamil­car had obliged the son to swear by oath to remain at all times an enemy of Rome. Under the son’s com­mand, Carthage decided to carry the war to the opponent’s own turf, and the gold of the state was lib­er­ally spent on the equip­ment of a fresh army. Carthage opened the second round of hos­til­it­ies by attack­ing and seiz­ing Saguntum, a Span­ish town that was an ally of Rome, and the Roman sen­ate con­sequently declared war [Second Pun­ic War, 218 – 201 BC]. Han­ni­bal now faced the stra­tegic choice wheth­er to attack Rome by land or by sea.

The inva­sion of a defen­ded coast from the sea is one of the most dif­fi­cult mil­it­ary man­oeuvres, and since Han­ni­bal could not ignore how quickly and effi­ciently the Romans had adap­ted to nav­al war­fare, he judged the inva­sion of Italy from the sea an enter­prise doomed to fail. The only oth­er way to reach the enemy on his own turf was by land, through Spain and France; a route fraught with the obstacles of the Pyren­ees and the Alps. The advant­age of the strenu­ous approach, how­ever, was of tac­tic­al nature: it prom­ised sur­prise, the most cher­ished of mil­it­ary com­mod­it­ies.

Cross­ing the Alps

The newly assembled Pun­ic army, includ­ing not only the stand­ard infantry and cav­alry units but a corps of thirty-sev­en ele­phants as well, set out for Italy in 219 BC. The first part of the exer­cise was the easi­est and most com­fort­able, with the excep­tion of a little mal de mer it brought on for the land­lub­bers: by ship from Carthage to Mastia [later called “Carthago Nova”, today’s Cart­agena]. There the land cam­paign began. For the great­er part fol­low­ing the coast lines, Hannibal’s forces marched over 1,000 miles, or 1,600 kilo­metres, to their des­tin­a­tion. Hav­ing hugged the sea­shore as far as Nar­bonne in south­ern France, they changed dir­ec­tion at the Rhone River, which they fol­lowed north­wards. When they reached the con­flu­ence of Rhone and Isere, they branched out east­wards and passed today’s Gren­oble and Fre­jus in tra­vers­ing the French Alps, touch­ing Itali­an soil when they des­cen­ded into the val­ley of the Po near today’s Torino.

Han­ni­bal, by Fran­cisco Goya
‘Han­ni­bal Cross­ing the Alps on an Ele­phant,’ a paint­ing by Nic­olas Poussin.

Alas, the exer­cise proved costly: of the 60,000 troops that had left Mastia, only 26,000 were left to greet Italia; more than half of the horses and six­teen of the pre­cious ele­phants had per­ished in the jour­ney. Nev­er­the­less, For­tu­na was on Hannibal’s side: when he des­cen­ded the Alps with his dam­aged force, he encountered a con­greg­a­tion of Celt­ic tribes who had their own bill to square with Rome and Han­ni­bal was able to add about fif­teen thou­sand Gauls to the com­mon cause. Sur­prise was fully achieved. The Roman legions were pro­tect­ing the beaches of Sicily from Pun­ic inva­sion, not the rocks of the Alps, and had to be rushed north at best speed. Their hec­tic advance led them straight into an ambush Han­ni­bal had laid at the Tre­bia River (218 BC) , north-east of Gen­ova, and the Romans were soundly beaten. This vic­tory and the advance of winter, in which cam­paign­ing was impossible, per­mit­ted the Pun­ic army and their allies to rest, re-equip them­selves and stock up sup­plies, and allowed their com­mand­er a thor­ough plan­ning of the next engage­ment.

In the spring of 217 BC, a well-replen­ished Punic/Gallic force began its drive towards Rome. Around the halfway mark of the march, near Lake Trasi­mene (217 BC), they encountered anoth­er hast­ily approach­ing Roman army, and a second ambush drove the legions into dis­ar­ray and retreat. The second defeat in a row aston­ished the Sen­ate and People of Rome, who had been too long accus­tomed to hear good news only from the bat­tle­fields. Recog­niz­ing the qual­it­ies of their oppon­ent, cau­tion was urged and obeyed. A reor­gan­iz­a­tion of the avail­able forces res­ul­ted in the estab­lish­ment of a new army in the strength of four­teen legions; alto­geth­er over 70,000 men, the largest armed body Rome had ever sent into the field. The com­mand over the forces of the repub­lic was entrus­ted to the patri­cian sen­at­or Quin­tus Fabi­us Max­imus Ver­ru­cosus, who was in addi­tion appoin­ted to the office of “dic­tat­or”, which gave him not only unlim­ited “Imper­i­um”, the power of com­mand, for six months, but also indem­ni­fied him, a pri­ori, from any leg­al con­sequences of his actions or omis­sions.

The Gaul Ducar decap­it­ates Flaminus at the Battle of Lake Trasi­mene by Joseph-Noël Sylvestre

Fabi­us advanced cau­tiously, being informed by his spies of his opponent’s every move, up to a point where his van­guard could barely see the Pun­ic out­posts, yet he was sure that their advance­ment would be repor­ted to Han­ni­bal. At this point he ordered the legions to stop for the day and erect the stand­ard for­ti­fied overnight camp, almost in sight of the enemy. Fabius’s lieu­ten­ants, aware that they out­numbered the oppos­i­tion, recom­men­ded vari­ous plans of attack for the com­ing day, which were all denied.

Since it had been the habit of Roman armies for cen­tur­ies to attack the enemy once con­tact was estab­lished, and Han­ni­bal was aware of this fact, Fabius’s unortho­dox beha­viour baffled the Pun­ic cap­tain. He decided to break up his own pos­i­tion and move a few miles away, there to reor­gan­ize his army for the battle he expec­ted for the next day. But the battle nev­er mater­i­al­ized: Fabi­us shad­owed Hannibal’s every move, but any­time the Pun­ic army pro­ceeded to leave camp and close ranks in anti­cip­a­tion of battle, the Roman legions moved a few miles away and built anoth­er god-damn camp. It was very frus­trat­ing. The same thing happened the next day, and the day after. For weeks and months the game pro­ceeded, and Fabi­us acquired the not so glor­i­ous nick­name of “Cunc­tat­or”, the “Hes­itater”. While his “Fabi­an” tac­tics, as they are still called today, did not earn him a vic­tory, he did not suf­fer defeat, either.

Con­sequently, noth­ing much happened in the next six months, and when his imper­i­um ran out, Fabi­us handed the con­trol of the legions to his suc­cessors, the chief magis­trates of the year 216 BC, con­suls Lucius Aemili­us Paul­lus and Gaius Ter­en­ti­us Varro. These men and their lieu­ten­ants, aware of the fact that they com­manded the finest army Rome had ever fielded and that they vastly out­numbered the invaders, were only too cog­niz­ant of the glory that the suc­cess­ful deliv­ery of the coun­try from Pun­ic evil would entail. Sub­sequently, they set out to chase Han­ni­bal down and to com­pel him to battle. Rumour had it that the Pun­ic army was some­where near the south­ern Adri­at­ic coast, and the legions began their approach. Han­ni­bal was indeed dis­covered in Apulia, about fifty miles north of the “spur” of the Itali­an boot, in the vicin­ity of a small town called Can­nae.

Can­nae

A few days after his spies had informed him about the strength and com­mand­ers of the Romans, Han­ni­bal ordered his troops to deploy and the day of con­front­a­tion dawned. He arranged his out­numbered force in a slight cres­cent, but pla­cing his cav­alry, a few lightly armed but swift foot-sol­diers and the few remain­ing ele­phants at the flanks of the arc. When the Roman infantry, per­haps amused over this silly arrange­ment, formed a wedge and struck right into the heart of Hannibal’s pos­i­tion, the Phoen­i­cian centre retreated, which fur­ther inspired the attack­ers’ con­fid­ence. When the full weight of the Roman attack was poised upon the midst of the Pun­ic line, Han­ni­bal ordered his centre to retreat a bit more, which drew the Romans fur­ther in. When the legions were thus fixed in the midst of his infantry, he ordered the flanks to pro­ceed for­ward-inward and trapped the whole Roman army in a double encirclement.

Ini­tial Deploy­ments
Destruc­tion

In the sub­sequent slaughter, tens of thou­sands of legion­ar­ies expired on the field of Can­nae and only a very mod­est frac­tion of the great army, less than ten thou­sand souls, made it back to Rome to report. Livy wrote, “Forty-five thou­sand and five hun­dred foot, two thou­sand sev­en hun­dred horse, there being an equal num­ber of cit­izens and allies, are said to have been slain.” As a res­ult of these losses, Rome could not deploy forces big enough to chal­lenge Han­ni­bal for years to come, simply because there were not enough men of the required age and pos­ses­sions left. At this time only prop­er­tied Roman cit­izens, who had to pay for their own weapons, armour and sup­plies, served in the legions. Most of these men were now bur­ied at Can­nae.

The Death of Aemili­us Paul­lus at Can­nae by John Trum­bu­ll, 1773
Han­ni­bal, by Gio­vanni Batista Tiepolo

Nev­er when the city was in safety was there so great a pan­ic and con­fu­sion with­in the walls of Rome. I shall there­fore shrink from the task, and not attempt to relate what in describ­ing I must make less than the real­ity. The con­sul and his army hav­ing been lost at the Trasi­menus the year before, it was not one wound upon anoth­er which was announced, but a mul­ti­plied dis­aster, the loss of two con­su­lar armies, togeth­er with the two con­suls: and that now there was neither any Roman camp, nor gen­er­al nor sol­diery: that Apulia and Sam­ni­um, and now almost the whole of Italy, were in the pos­ses­sion of Han­ni­bal. No oth­er nation surely would not have been over­whelmed by such an accu­mu­la­tion of mis­for­tune.” – Livy, Ab Urbe Con­dita, xxii.54, on the Roman Senate’s reac­tion to the defeat.

Theodore Ayrault Dodge wrote:

Few battles of ancient times are more marked by abil­ity... than the battle of Can­nae. The pos­i­tion was such as to place every advant­age on Hannibal’s side. The man­ner in which the far from per­fect His­pan­ic and Gal­lic foot was advanced in a wedge in ech­el­on... was first held there and then with­drawn step by step, until it had the reached the con­verse pos­i­tion... is a simple mas­ter­piece of battle tac­tics. The advance at the prop­er moment of the Afric­an infantry, and its wheel right and left upon the flanks of the dis­ordered and crowded Roman legion­ar­ies, is far bey­ond praise. The whole battle, from the Carthagini­an stand­point, is a con­sum­mate piece of art, hav­ing no super­i­or, few equal, examples in the his­tory of war.” (1a)

Hence, Rome could not afford to go back to the offens­ive for more than a dec­ade, and was restric­ted to employ defens­ive meas­ures, deny­ing Han­ni­bal rein­force­ments and sup­plies from Carthage. This worked to a degree, and for the next thir­teen years, 216 to 203 BC, the Pun­ic army meandered around the Itali­an coun­tryside, without any oppor­tun­ity to strike a decis­ive blow at the enemy. Rome’s defens­ive policy bore its first tender fruit when an exped­i­tion­ary corps was able to recon­quer Sicily, the import­ant grain source, and a second detail wiped out the Pun­ic towns in Spain. The lat­ter force was com­manded by the young Pub­li­us Cor­neli­us Sci­pio.

Pub­li­us Cor­neli­us Sci­pio Afric­anus

A scion of the noble Cor­neli­us fam­ily, Sci­pio had joined the mil­it­ary at an early age and soon dis­tin­guished him­self in battle. At the scan­dal­ous age of only twenty-six years, [FN2] in 210 BC, he was giv­en com­mand in Spain, which he conquered and turned into a Roman province. He was elec­ted con­sul in 205 BC, at the age of thirty-one, and developed a plan to cir­cum­vent Han­ni­bal by attack­ing Carthage dir­ectly. He invaded Africa suc­cess­fully via Sicily and was able to beat a small Pun­ic corps in the Second Battle of Tunis, 203 BC. As a con­sequence of the Roman threat to Carthage, Han­ni­bal was recalled in the same year with the rem­nants of his force and ordered to pre­pare for a show­down with the Roman wun­der­kind.

[FN2] Mil­it­ary com­mand in the early Roman repub­lic was a prerog­at­ive of the con­suls, who were mostly in their forties or older and had already col­lec­ted mil­it­ary and polit­ic­al exper­i­ence in oth­er pub­lic offices.

Move­ments before Zama

The sub­sequent Battle of Zama, about a hun­dred miles south-west of Carthage, decided the Second Pun­ic War. The Roman prodigy revealed that he had learned from his pre­de­cessors’ mis­takes at Can­nae, and used an envel­op­ing manœuvre of his own design to defeat the enemy. Han­ni­bal had to flee Africa and spent the rest of his life in Gre­cian and Asi­an exile. Carthage capit­u­lated and was forced to accept a chok­ing peace in which they had to cede Spain and lost all ships, mer­chant­men as well as men-of-war, to con­fis­ca­tion. Repar­a­tions were fixed at 10,000 gold tal­ents, more than 100,000 kilo­grams, or sev­enty times the amount of the world’s annu­al gold pro­duc­tion.

Battle of Zama, by H. P. Motte,
... and by Cor­neli­us Cort

The pro­trac­ted Iberi­an and Pun­ic wars had changed the eco­nomy, and hence the whole soci­ety, of the win­ner. Scipio’s suc­cesses had added two provinces to the realm, Near­er and Fur­ther Spain, which proved par­tic­u­larly valu­able for the copi­ous amounts of metals yiel­ded by its mines; cop­per and sil­ver in par­tic­u­lar. The two new provinces were to be gov­erned by praet­ors, magis­trates ranked just below the con­suls, of which an addi­tion­al two had to be elec­ted each year just for this pur­pose.

The exten­ded war had also neces­sit­ated the estab­lish­ment of a prop­er arms industry, some­thing Rome had not pos­sessed at a time when every legionary’s equip­ment was cus­tom-made. The new weapons industry largely depended upon slave labour, which for the first time amoun­ted to a major­ity of the Roman work­force. Slave labour was also the eco­nom­ic found­a­tion of the newly evolving lati­fun­di­ae, huge farms which, in the­ory, belonged to the Roman people as a whole but were in fact let to patri­cian fam­il­ies for neg­li­gible rents under an absent­ee own­er­ship sys­tem. Although Carthage’s days as a com­pet­i­tion for Rome were over, its spectre provided a use­ful bane for fear mon­ger­ing Roman politi­cians. A case in point was Cato the Cen­sor, one of the most obnox­ious men of Roman his­tory, if we believe the his­tor­i­ans.

Mar­cus Por­cius Cato

Mar­cus Por­cius Cato [234 – 149 BC], known as the “Eld­er Cato” or “Cato the Cen­sor”, became a prom­in­ent Roman politi­cian against all odds. He had served in the Second Pun­ic War under Sci­pio, and, by mar­ry­ing a rich and noble if ugly daugh­ter of good fam­ily, qual­i­fied for the Sen­ate des­pite his inferi­or ped­i­gree. Dur­ing his youth and adoles­cence, he had been dread­fully lam­pooned by the status- and ances­try-con­scious sons of Roman nobles because of his rur­al ori­gins: his fam­ily were farm­ers at Arpin­um, a small town south-east of Rome known for its cheese but not much else.

He made up for these frus­tra­tions by ded­ic­at­ing much of his later career as cen­sor to retali­ation against his former tor­ment­ors. The office of cen­sor inves­ted the hold­er with the author­ity to let state con­tracts for build­ing or tax farm­ing, a duty in which cor­rup­tion was hard to avoid. But it was the second duty of the cen­sor on which Cato had cast a long­ing eye: the cen­sor con­trolled access to and mem­ber­ship in the Sen­ate. There was a means test which required every sen­at­ori­al can­did­ate to show a min­im­um for­tune of a mil­lion ses­terces or an equit­able area of farm­land, and a sen­at­or who once fell short of the min­im­um for any reas­on could be evicted from the august body – although sen­at­ors grav­it­ated to fisc­al, if not polit­ic­al, solid­ar­ity and it rarely occurred that they allowed one of their own to be dis­qual­i­fied. But the cen­sor could also dis­miss a sen­at­or upon a show­ing of unac­cept­able mor­al con­duct, and nobody was truly sur­prised when Cato declared prac­tic­ally all con­duct eth­ic­ally unbe­com­ing. He houn­ded the arch-aris­to­crat­ic Cor­neli­us fam­ily relent­lessly, and when he was able to ruin Scipio’s broth­er Asia­genus, the hero was said to have died of a broken heart.

Except for his ter­ror­iz­ing the nobil­ity, Cato’s main con­tri­bu­tion to the polit­ic­al debates was an undy­ing hatred of Carthage – or per­haps of man­kind in gen­er­al – which he pro­moted by invari­ably end­ing his sen­at­ori­al ser­mons with the phrase “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse del­en­dam” [‘In addi­tion, I think that Carthage should be des­troyed.’]. He trampled on everybody’s nerves like an ancient hybrid of Rush Limbaugh and Ral­ph Nader until the Sen­ate in 147 BC resolved to des­troy Carthage.

The sub­sequent “Third Pun­ic War” was little more than a com­pletely unne­ces­sary slaughter of a defence­less people. Carthage had nev­er recovered from the Second War, and was no threat to any­body save for Cato’s hys­ter­ics and the jeal­ousy of anoth­er mem­ber of the Cor­neli­us fam­ily, a grand­neph­ew of the hero of Zama, who saw in a third cam­paign a risk-free oppor­tun­ity to crown him­self with mil­it­ary glory.

The Pun­ic Wars – Over­view

His full adult name was Pub­li­us Cor­neli­us Sci­pio Aemili­anus Afric­anus Numantinus, and his name told much of his bio­graphy. He was born in 185 BC as a son of Lucius Aemili­anus Paul­lus, a fam­ous gen­er­al and states­man, and adop­ted into the Sci­pio branch of the Cor­neli­us clan. Like his grand­uncle, he was elec­ted con­sul while tech­nic­ally being under­age, in 147 BC, and was entrus­ted with the com­mand against Carthage, whose defence­less people he mas­sacred and build­ings he razed in 146 BC. For this hero­ic act he received the addi­tion­al cogno­men of “Afric­anus”, i.e. con­quer­or of Africa. He was re-elec­ted to the con­sul­ship in 134 BC, and con­vinced the Sen­ate to send him to one more cam­paign. The adversary, or per­haps the vic­tim, was the Span­ish town of Numan­tia, the last former ally of Carthage. The town had res­isted Roman attacks for over fifty years, but after a siege of eight months, Scipio’s army breached the walls, and the dis­grace­ful spec­tacle of Carthage was repeated. Sci­pio had the males killed without excep­tion and the females sold into slavery, and sub­sequently received anoth­er cogno­men, that of Numantinus, des­troy­er of Numan­tia.

J. M. W. Turner’s The Decline of the Carthagini­an Empire, 1817
Sci­pio Aemili­anus before the ruins of Carthage in 146 BC

Such a man could not avoid mak­ing enemies, even in his fam­ily. When his broth­er-in-law, the fam­ous tribune Tiberi­us Sem­proni­us Grac­chus attemp­ted to intro­duce a land bill in the sen­ate – see below – which would give impov­er­ished vet­er­ans a small piece of land to retire on at the end of their ser­vice, Sci­pio turned out his most bit­ter oppon­ent. When Grac­chus was found dead soon there­after, Sci­pio could not dis­pel sus­pi­cion, and when he sud­denly died in 129 BC, aged only forty-six, his wife, Tiberi­us Gracchus’s sis­ter, was believed to have poisoned him.

While the polit­ic­al and social struc­tures of the repub­lic had been rel­at­ively stable in the cen­tur­ies between 500 and 130 BC, the fol­low­ing hun­dred years, until 30 BC, brought great social change amid geo­graph­ic­al expan­sion and, in the
end, beheld the replace­ment of sen­at­ori­al rule by the prin­cip­ate of Augus­tus and his suc­cessors. Because many insti­tu­tions, des­ig­na­tions and cus­toms of the Roman Repub­lic and early Empire were to exer­cise influ­ence on polit­ic­al mod­els of the next two thou­sand years, they shall be briefly reviewed before we pro­ceed.


Detour One: (Sep­ar­ate Blog Entry): https://jvpalatine.com/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-the-forum/ Polit­ic­al Pro­ced­ures of the Roman Repub­lic


Detour Two: (Sep­ar­ate Blog Entry): https://jvpalatine.com/the-power-of-command/ Pot­est­as, Auct­or­itas and Imper­i­um – Forms of Com­mand


In addi­tion to the polit­ics described in the two posts above, anoth­er applic­a­tion of the Roman sense of organ­iz­a­tion could be observed in the realm of the mil­it­ary. A large part of Alexander’s tem­por­ary mil­it­ary superi­or­ity had res­ul­ted from his innov­at­ive use and the tac­tic­al flex­ib­il­ity of the Mace­do­ni­an “phalanx”, an ori­gin­ally Greek form of infantry deploy­ment. The fight­ers of a phalanx formed a com­pact body with over­lap­ping shields, from which long spears pro­truded. The reg­u­lat­ive geni­us of the Romans inven­ted a sim­il­ar form­a­tion but went a step fur­ther; they cre­ated a unit, the legion, which included all the men, instru­ments, and sup­plies to fight a war on its own, and became the pre­de­cessor of the mod­ern “divi­sion”.

A legion was com­posed, as far as act­ive sol­diers were con­cerned, of ten “cohorts”, each cohort con­sist­ing of six “cen­tur­ies”, which numbered, con­fus­ingly, eighty men, not a hun­dred. One cohort thus accoun­ted for 480 men (6 x 80), and a legion of ten cohorts hence totalled 4,800 com­batants. It employed, how­ever, also non-com­batants: artis­ans, smiths, engin­eers, cooks, med­ics and the like in a strength of about 1,200 heads as well as an artil­lery unit but not, sur­pris­ingly, much cav­alry. Rome nev­er deployed as much cav­alry as oth­er nations did, mind­ful of the sup­ply prob­lem; Caesar, for example, in his con­quest of Gal­lia, used Ger­man cav­alry, not Roman riders. If there was a cav­alry unit attached to a legion, it was fielded by allies and had its own tac­tic­al com­mand.

The decis­ive geo­stra­tegic factors which coun­ted for much of Rome’s mil­it­ary superi­or­ity, how­ever, were the roads, which had been built with mil­it­ary neces­sit­ies in mind. They ran as straight as pos­sible over bridges, passes and tun­nels. Roman infantry was used to a daily march of about six­teen miles or twenty-five kilo­metres, but could make forty kilo­metres a day in a pinch. The legions hence enjoyed the advant­age of the “inner lines” more often than not; they could move troops and thus pro­ject force in a province or at a bor­der faster than the enemy could.

Last not least, edu­ca­tion mattered. While Rome was nev­er giv­en to invent much philo­sophy and schol­ar­ship, and nev­er made school­ing a leg­al oblig­a­tion, it appro­pri­ated Greek cul­ture and spread it over the west­ern parts of the known world, which had nev­er exper­i­enced the Gre­cific­a­tion of the East that Alexander’s empire had provided. The sons of the bet­ter Roman fam­il­ies were schooled by Greek ped­agogues who delivered a two-step edu­ca­tion: the first part was called the trivi­um [“the three ways”], and taught the found­a­tions of what Rome con­sidered civ­il­ized human inter­course: gram­mar, rhet­or­ic and logic, and the suc­cess­ful can­did­ate would be awar­ded the char­ac­ter of a bac­cha­laur­eatus, a bachelor’s degree. The trivi­um exists until today in the sense that basic know­ledge is held to be “trivi­al”; it should be known to every­body who claims an edu­ca­tion.

Relief found in Neu­magen near Tri­er, a teach­er with three dis­cip­uli (180−185 AD)

The second part of the cur­riculum was com­posed of the quad­rivi­um [“the four ways”] and con­sisted of the study and mas­tery of arith­met­ic, music, geo­metry and astro­nomy and astro­logy, which were a single field of study then. Upon com­ple­tion of the stud­ies, the pupil would be awar­ded a degree of magister arti­um, mas­ter of the arts. The teach­ings of Pla­to, Socrates and Aris­totle were stud­ied in Rome, Athens and Alex­an­dria for cen­tur­ies, until the East­ern Roman Emper­or Justini­an I decreed the clos­ing of all academies in AD 529. The advent of a new reli­gion, Chris­tian­ity, caused the replace­ment of edu­ca­tion with dogma, and Edward Gib­bon angrily noted that “in the revolu­tion of ten cen­tur­ies [AD 500 — 1500], not a single dis­cov­ery was made to exalt the dig­nity or pro­mote the hap­pi­ness of man­kind. Not a single idea has been added to the spec­u­lat­ive sys­tems of antiquity, and a suc­ces­sion of patient dis­ciples became in their turn the dog­mat­ic teach­ers of the next servile gen­er­a­tion.” (2)

Indeed, not only intel­lec­tu­al stim­u­la­tion decreased with the even­tu­al tri­umph of Chris­ti­an doc­trine, so did pro­gress in gen­er­al. With the excep­tion of Alex­an­dria, Rome was unsur­passed in her infra­struc­ture and remained for cen­tur­ies the best organ­ized com­munity on the shores of the Medi­ter­ranean Sea. Her houses were built, two thou­sand years ago, with con­crete as their prin­cip­al mater­i­al, and apart­ment blocks called “insu­lae” (islands), reached heights of up
to a hun­dred feet. Aque­ducts car­ried fresh water from the moun­tains into the city, which had an under­ground sew­er sys­tem and offered dozens of com­mun­al bath­houses and pub­lic lat­rines on major street corners.

The mar­kets of Rome offered goods as var­ied as spices from Taprobane, today’s Sri Lanka, rugs from Per­sia, amber from Ger­mania or sheep wool from Brit­an­nia. Roman banks used cheques and money trans­fers, sold com­mun­al oblig­a­tions, and leased or fin­anced goods on cred­it very much like today. It was said that Juli­us Caesar’s good friend Mar­cus Licini­us Crassus, immor­tal­ized in the Eng­lish lan­guage as the god­fath­er of the word “crass”, employed fifty scribes alone to tally his pos­ses­sions. In many respects, the achieve­ments of Imper­i­al Roman civil­iz­a­tion would not be sur­passed until the second half of the nine­teenth cen­tury.


Detour Three: (Sep­ar­ate Blog Entry): https://jvpalatine.com/heist-of-the-millennium/ One adven­tur­ous patri­cian pro­con­sul, Quin­tus Servil­i­us Cae­pio (Con­sul 106 BCE), loses more men than had per­ished at Can­nae, after he had stolen more gold in Gal­lia than Rome ever had in her treas­ury.


100 BC

As briefly men­tioned above, civil strife began to plague Rome from 130 BC on, con­cen­trat­ing on the rela­tions between rich and poor. The trouble had begun with the Grac­chi broth­ers, rel­at­ives of the Cor­neli­us clan. Their ances­try was as pat­ri­ot­ic and fam­ous as it could be: their moth­er Cor­ne­lia was the daugh­ter of Sci­pio Afric­anus, the hero of Zama, and Aemil­ia Paulla, sis­ter of the con­quer­or of Greece; their fath­er was Tiberi­us Sem­proni­us Grac­chus, con­sul in 177 and 163 BC and cen­sor in 169 BC. Their sons, how­ever, dis­played shock­ingly ple­bei­an tend­en­cies. The eld­er, Tiberi­us, stood for and was elec­ted a tribune of the plebs in 133 BC; he brought in a law to change the way Rome handled the ager pub­licus, the lands taken from enemies after defeat, which were leg­ally the prop­erty of all Roman cit­izens. In con­tra­ven­tion of the law, afflu­ent sen­at­ors had estab­lished a hold on these areas, which they ren­ted for little money from the cen­sor and added to their lati­fun­di­ae, the great farms that oper­ated on slave labour. Tiberi­us Grac­chus brought a law in the Comitia Plebis that would par­cel out these lands to vet­er­ans or even the poor. The aris­to­crats were con­vinced that he had gone mad, com­mun­ist, or both, and when he tried, against the cus­tom, to run for a second term of tribune­ship, a gang of sen­at­ors behav­ing badly clubbed him to death on the steps of the sen­ate house.

The Grac­chi by Eugene Guil­laume

His broth­er Gaius, ten years young­er, suc­cess­fully ran for the tribune­ship ten years later, in 123 BC. He was not only will­ing to give his brother’s land law anoth­er try; he had his mind set on a com­pre­hens­ive reform of the Roman com­mon­wealth. His pro­pos­als envi­sioned free grain for the poor, a reform of mil­it­ary ser­vice, pub­lic works, a new judi­cial sys­tem, Roman cit­izen­ship for the allies and tax reform. It was a chal­len­ging pro­gram, and the patri­cians, who felt their power threatened, pulled out all the stops they had, leg­al or illeg­al, to ward off the reforms. Gaius, like his broth­er, had to run for the tribune­ship again, in 122 BC, but unlike Tiberi­us, he did get re-elec­ted and con­tin­ued the reform pack­age. The sen­at­ors had figured him out by then, and in his third cam­paign defeated him by hand­ing out unpre­ced­en­ted bribes. As soon as they began to dis­mantle his laws, Grac­chus tried to putsch, was defeated, and com­mit­ted sui­cide. All his reforms were then recalled.

Gaius Grac­chus

Yet it proved impossible to push the tooth­paste back in the tube. Twenty years later, Lucius Appulei­us Sat­urninus, anoth­er three-time tribune elec­ted in 103, 100 and 99 BC, rein­tro­duced Grac­chi­an ideas to the legis­lat­ive debate, and asso­ci­ated him­self early with Gaius Mari­us over the ques­tion of secur­ing land for Marius’s vet­er­an legion­ar­ies. At the end of 100 BC, insuf­fi­cient grain har­vests in Sicily and Africa caused wide­spread fam­ine around the Medi­ter­ranean coasts and pub­lic uproar in Rome. Sat­urninus used the riot­ous assem­blies to run for tribune yet again and was elec­ted. He swiftly passed a grain law in the Comitia Plebis, which entitled the ple­bei­ans to receive free grain from the state.

Lucius Cor­neli­us Sulla Felix

The prob­lem with the law was that abso­lutely no grain was to be had, free or not free, and the treas­ure refused to pay for no grain. Sat­urninus blamed the situ­ation, as one would expect, on a sen­at­ori­al con­spir­acy; the Sen­ate struck back and accused him of treas­on. Sat­urninus’ demise was sim­il­ar to the death of Tiberi­us Grac­chus, delivered by anoth­er gang of young patri­cians led by one Lucius Cor­neli­us Sulla: they lured Sat­urninus and his syco­phants into the sen­ate house, locked them in, climbed on top of it and killed their oppon­ents with a rain of tiles from the roof. This stopped the land law for a while.

Yet the social issues refused to die, and because war was to occur too fre­quently in the next dec­ades, the prob­lem of reor­gan­iz­ing and reward­ing the legions only gained in import­ance. Soon it centred on the per­sons of Gaius Mari­us and Lucius Cor­neli­us Sulla, who led oppos­ing fac­tions of the cit­izenry through the next thirty years, from 108 to 78 BC – which brought the defeat of Ger­man­ic inva­sions, some fur­ther exten­sions of Roman pos­ses­sions and the first extens­ive Roman civil war. In a wider con­text, the eighty years from 110 to 30 BC induced the change from Repub­lic to Prin­cip­ate and Empire.

Gaius Mari­us [157 – 68 BC] was a hay­seed from Arpin­um, which we have encountered above as the town of good cheese and birth­place of the Eld­er Cato. His status as homo novo, a “new man”, in ances­try-wor­ship­ping Rome ini­tially releg­ated him, des­pite his wealth, to a place in the legions, where he had a career sol­id enough to carry him to one year’s ser­vice as a praetor. His fur­ther ambi­tions were, how­ever, checked by his most undig­ni­fied ped­i­gree until he, most prob­ably in return for a fin­an­cial con­sid­er­a­tion, was allowed to marry a patri­cian Julia of the Caesares branch. [FN2] The Julii Caesares were one of the old­est fam­il­ies in town: they traced their ances­try back to the kings of Alba Longa, a town even older than Rome, ten miles to the south. They had that streak of stub­born dig­nity that does not bid well for fin­an­cial suc­cess: rely­ing on the income of their small agri­cul­tur­al pos­ses­sions, they could not com­pete in the brib­ing race for polit­ic­al offices. The pat­ri­arch of the mostly blond-haired fam­ily was thus assured of a seat in the Sen­ate, but the fam­ily had not pro­duced a con­sul since the fourth cen­tury BC; offices were simply too expens­ive.

[FN2] Julia (c. 130 BC – 69 BC, aunt of Juli­us Caesar) was a daugh­ter of Gaius Juli­us Caesar II (praetor-grand­fath­er of Caesar) and Mar­cia (daugh­ter of praetor Quin­tus Mar­cius Rex). She was a sis­ter of Gaius Juli­us Caesar III (the fath­er of Juli­us Caesar) and Sex­tus Juli­us Caesar III, con­sul in 91 BC. At about 110 BC she mar­ried Gaius Mari­us; as a res­ult, she is some­times referred to as Julia Maria. They had a son, Gaius Mari­us the Young­er. Accord­ing to Plut­arch, it was by mar­ry­ing her, a patri­cian woman, that the upstart Mari­us got the snob­bish atten­tion of the Roman Sen­ate and launched his polit­ic­al career. Julia is remembered as a vir­tu­ous woman devoted to her hus­band and their only child. Her repu­ta­tion alone per­mit­ted her to keep her status, even after Sulla’s per­se­cu­tions against Mari­us him­self and his allies. Julia died in 69 BC and received a devoted funer­al eulogy from her neph­ew Juli­us Caesar. (See Wiki)

After a so-so career, Mari­us received the province of Fur­ther Spain (His­pan­ia Ulteri­or) to gov­ern in 114 BC, where he killed off a few brig­ands and returned to Rome, his already con­sid­er­able for­tunes mira­cu­lously aug­men­ted. A few years later, in 109 BC, he was sent as a seni­or leg­ate to the assist­ance of then-con­sul Quin­tus Cae­cili­us Met­el­lus in his cam­paign against Jugurtha. Mr. Jugurtha was a Numidi­an, i.e. Ber­ber trouble­maker, and the inef­fi­cient cam­paign of Met­el­lus failed to neut­ral­ize him for a few years. Mari­us won the con­sul­ship in 107 BC, returned to Africa, and with the aid of his young quaes­tor Sulla even­tu­ally defeated Jugurtha.

Yet Mari­us per­ceived Rome’s under­ly­ing mil­it­ary prob­lem. The tra­di­tion­al sys­tem was based on prop­erty require­ments for those cit­izens eli­gible to serve in the legions, of whom, in an age of increas­ing eco­nom­ic inequal­ity, few­er and few­er were to be found. [FN3] On the oth­er hand, tens of thou­sands of Rome’s poor were ineligible.

Thus, Mari­us came up with the concept of the prob­ably first pro­fes­sion­al stand­ing army, paid by the state and thor­oughly trained. Details please see Wiki – Mari­an Reforms. The draw­back of the reforms, how­ever, was that the legions lost their char­ac­ter as free men fight­ing for the Repub­lic – they became depend­ent on their gen­er­al. The loy­alty of the legions shif­ted away from the Roman state and towards the gen­er­als who led the army, as sol­diers now had a dir­ect fin­an­cial incent­ive to sup­port their gen­er­als’ ambi­tions.

Yet the unbe­liev­able stu­pid­ity of Quin­tus Servil­i­us Cae­pio and his loss of 80,000 men at Arausio threw the state, only two years later (105 BC) into anoth­er exist­en­tial crisis (see Detour Three, above) and the pan­icked Repub­lic, quite uncon­sti­tu­tion­ally but not unpre­ced­en­ted (see Quin­tus Fabi­us Max­imus), elec­ted Mari­us in absen­tia to a second con­sul­ship in 104 BC.


(1) (1a) Theodore Ayrault Dodge., Han­ni­bal, Barnes & Noble 2005, ISBN 0 – 7607-6896-X (pbk.), p. 120, pp. 378 – 379

(2) Gib­bon, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Mod­ern Lib­rary 2003 – 5, First Cita­tion: Mass Mar­ket Edi­tion 2005, Second Cita­tion: 4th Edi­tion 2003 – 4, ISBN 0 – 6896-X (pbk.), p. 1174 [1001]

To Be Con­tin­ued – Bar­bar­i­ans at the Gate

(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2015/19)

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The Age of Justini­an

Justinian’s Empire at its greatest expanse, around AD 560

This is a jump page for the art­icles cov­er­ing the Empire at the times of Justini­an I, Flavi­us Pet­rus Sab­ba­ti­us Iustini­anus Augus­tus, c. 482 – 14 Novem­ber 565), tra­di­tion­ally known as Justini­an the Great and also Saint Justini­an the Great in the East­ern Ortho­dox Church. Do not miss Orson Welles as Justini­an in the movie – see bot­tom!

Justini­an by Ant­oine Hel­bert

I. THE GOTHIC WARS

II. THEODORA

III. PROCOPIUS AND THE SECRET HISTORY

IV: THE END OF THE LEGIONS (socio-eco­nom­ic reas­ons for the decline)

V. CLOVISTHE RISE OF THE FRANKS

Tip: Realm of His­tory, a page with gor­geous recon­struc­ted pics of Con­stantinople.

Movie on You­Tube: The big 1968 Ger­man pro­duc­tion KAMPF UM ROM (“The Last Roman”), star­ring Laurence Har­vey, Orson Welles, Sylvia Kos­cina, Hon­or Black­man, Robert Hoff­mann and Lang Jef­fries; parts I and II with Eng­lisch Sub­titles; from Felix Dahn’s nov­el “A Struggle for Rome”.

Part I

Part II

Tintor­etto – The Fall of Con­stantinople

(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2015/19)

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First World War – Anim­ated GIFs

We present three lovely anim­ated GIFs on the sub­ject of WW I. You can down­load them and adjust their speed to your taste with https://ezgif.com/speed (works best with smal­ler files) or http://gifmaker.org/. Click on the pics for full size view.

File One: Over­view

File Two: The West­ern Front August 4 to Septem­ber 20


(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2019)

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The One Boat Wolfpack

The Ger­man U-boat U-35 cruis­ing in the Medi­ter­ranean, April 1917

Shock­ing!” was the unan­im­ous opin­ion of the Brit­ish Admir­alty, when it became obvi­ous, in the earl 1900s, that the devel­op­ment of dies­el-elec­tric propul­sion would enable – soon­er or later – the con­struc­tion of ser­vice­able sub­mar­ines for war­fare.

It was quite against the sense of fair­ness that guided this august body. After all, they had built, and were still build­ing, rows and rows of expens­ive battle­ships – at a cost of a few mil­lion pounds each – which were to ensure Roy­al Brit­ish suprem­acy on the oceans of the world.

Could the build­ing of such cow­ardly weapons for­bid­den by means of an inter­na­tion­al treaty? Incom­pre­hens­ibly, no volun­teers among the navies of the com­pet­i­tion could be found. It was sus­pec­ted, that the mighty battle­ships were, due to their armour, per­haps not liable to become the prey of the igno­mini­ous new weapon, but the mer­chant ships, upon whose trade the Brit­ish Empire depended, would be help­less vic­tims. [FN1]

[FN1] The the­ory of the invi­ol­ab­il­ity of the battle­ship to tor­pedoes and mines went – lit­er­ally – to the bot­tom of the sea on Octo­ber 27, 1914, less than three months into the war, when HMS Auda­cious was struck by a mine and cap­sized a few hours later.

HMS Auda­cious

Sub­mar­ines had one excel­lent advant­age – they could not be seen, and their guns, tor­pedoes and mines could sink any ship in sneak attacks. It was truly unfair. They were cheap, too, hence every­body could build them – and did.

U 9

While sub­mar­ines could sink war­ships, these were rare cases. The two U-Boats – as Ger­man sub­mar­ines were called after the Ger­man term “Untersee­boot” – most effi­cient at this par­tic­u­lar task were U 9, which met the 7th Cruis­er Squad­ron, com­pris­ing the Cressy-class armoured cruis­ers Bac­chante, Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, togeth­er with a few des­troy­ers, and sunk Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue with­in a few hours in the Action of 22 Septem­ber 1914. Three weeks later HMS Hawke fell prey to the same boat.

But this feat was out­classed by her sis­ter ship U 21, which on May 25 and 27, 1915, in the open­ing days of the Battle of Gal­lipoli, man­aged to sink the two Brit­ish pre-dread­noughts HMS Tri­umph and HMS Majest­ic, while adding the French armoured cruis­er Amir­al Charner to her bag in Feb­ru­ary 1916.

Yet the more immin­ent threat for Eng­land was, as men­tioned, the sev­er­ance of her trade lines. She impor­ted about 70% of food­stuffs and inter­me­di­ate goods, upon which the people and industry depended. There was a fin­an­cial con­sid­er­a­tion as well – money had to be spent for the pur­chase of these goods, but if the trans­port was sunk, so much for the bal­ance of pay­ments. [FN2]

[FN2] It is not gen­er­ally known, that by April 1, 1917, the Brit­ish Empire was bank­rupt, and the only hope for her main cred­it­ors, the US, to recov­er their loans was to join the war and help her debt­ors win. Amer­ic­an loans to the Allies were but the cost of keep­ing up the Imper­i­al shop, a fact that even the Encyc­lo­pae­dia Brit­an­nica makes no qualms in admit­ting: “The entry of the United States was the turn­ing point in the war, because it made the even­tu­al defeat of Ger­many pos­sible. It had been fore­seen in 1916 that if the United States went to war, the Allies’ mil­it­ary effort against Ger­many would be upheld by U.S. sup­plies and by enorm­ous exten­sions of cred­it. These expect­a­tions were amply and decis­ively ful­filled. The United States’ pro­duc­tion of arma­ments was to meet not only its own needs but also France’s and Great Britain’s. In this sense, the Amer­ic­an eco­nom­ic con­tri­bu­tion was decis­ive. By April 1, 1917, the Allies had exhausted their means of pay­ing for essen­tial sup­plies from the United States, and it was dif­fi­cult to see how they could have main­tained the war effort if the United States had remained neut­ral. Amer­ic­an loans to the Allies worth $7,000,000,000 between 1917 and the end of the war main­tained the flow of U.S. arms and food across the Atlantic.” (16)

Hence, the major task of the U-Boats was com­mer­cial raid­ing. In the First World War, this meant an ini­tial advant­age for the hunter for the dearth of elec­tron­ic coun­ter­meas­ures, which would be developed only much later. Essen­tially, U-Boats could only be found by hydro­phones, which were still rather prim­it­ive and sens­it­ive, espe­cially dur­ing con­voy oper­a­tions. The only weapon against subs were depth charges.

Unlike in WW 2 movies, the main weapon of the time was the deck gun, of medi­um cal­ibre, often 88 or 105 mil­li­metres. The reas­on was that the boats car­ried a very lim­ited num­ber of tor­pedoes only and ten­ded to save them, hence the gun became the more attract­ive altern­at­ive. The most fam­ous com­mand­er of U 35, Lothar von Arnauld de la Per­ière, used the deck gun in 171 of his 194 sink­ings.

The great tac­tic­al dif­fer­ence in U-Boat war­fare between the two wars lay in the area of com­mu­nic­a­tions, whose improve­ments allowed Germany’s Sub­mar­ine Com­mand­er Karl Dön­itz in the Second War the inven­tion of the “Rudel­tak­tik”, in Eng­lish called “Wolfpack”. Improve­ments, how­ever, worked for both sides – U-Boats could be con­trolled and dir­ec­ted much tight­er by tac­tic­al com­mand, yet the enemy could mean­while share their own inform­a­tion of sight­ings and loc­a­tions. Hence, in World War I, each boat was on her mis­sion alone. No Wolfpack of WW II, how­ever, came close to the suc­cess of the “one boat wolf pack” that was U 35.

Thus, we arrive at the main point of our art­icle, the per­form­ance of U 35 in WW I. U 35 was a pre-war con­struc­tion ordered in 1912 [Design, see Wiki, and FN3]. She offi­cially entered ser­vice on Novem­ber 3rd, 1914, under the com­mand of Kapitän­leut­nant Wal­de­mar Kophamel. Under his com­mand, U 35 sunk no less than 38 ships until Novem­ber 17, 1915.

The next day Cap­tain de la Per­ière took over. He was to become the most suc­cess­ful sub­mar­ine com­mand­er of his­tory. His main area of oper­a­tions was the Medi­ter­ranean Sea, and, in 14 or 15 patrols (sources dif­fer), sank 189 mer­chant ships and five men-of-war for a total of 446,708 GRT. [Com­plete List of Sink­ings and Dam­ages caused by U 35]

Attack on SS Maple­wood

[FN3] Ger­man Type U 31 sub­mar­ines were double-hulled ocean-going sub­mar­ines sim­il­ar to Type 23 and Type 27 subs in dimen­sions and differed only slightly in propul­sion and speed. They were con­sidered very good high sea boats with aver­age man­oeuv­rab­il­ity and good sur­face steer­ing.[5] U-35 had an over­all length of 64.70 m (212 ft 3 in), her pres­sure hull was 52.36 m (171 ft 9 in) long. The boat’s beam was 6.32 m (20 ft 9 in) (o/a), while the pres­sure hull meas­ured 4.05 m (13 ft 3 in). Type 31s had a draught of 3.56 m (11 ft 8 in) with a total height of 7.68 – 8.04 m (25 ft 2 in – 26 ft 5 in). The boats dis­placed a total of 971 tonnes (956 long tons); 685 t (674 long tons) when sur­faced and 878 t (864 long tons) when sub­merged.[5] U-35 was fit­ted with two Ger­mania 6-cyl­in­der two-stroke dies­el engines with a total of 1,850 met­ric horsepower (1,361 kW; 1,825 bhp) for use on the sur­face and two Siemens-Schuck­ert double-act­ing elec­tric motors with a total of 1,200 PS (883 kW; 1,184 shp) for under­wa­ter use. These engines powered two shafts each with a 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in) pro­peller, which gave the boat a top sur­face speed of 16.4 knots (30.4 km/h; 18.9 mph), and 9.7 knots (18.0 km/h; 11.2 mph) when sub­merged. Cruis­ing range was 8,790 naut­ic­al miles (16,280 km; 10,120 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) on the sur­face, and 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) under water. Diving depth was 50 m (164 ft 1 in).[5] The U-boat was armed with four 50 cm (20 in) tor­pedo tubes, two fit­ted in the bow and two in the stern, and car­ried 6 tor­pedoes. Addi­tion­ally, U-35 was equipped in 1915 with one 8.8 cm (3.5 in) Uk L/30 deck gun, which was replaced with a 10.5 cm (4.1 in) gun in 1916/17. The boat’s com­ple­ment was 4 officers and 31 enlis­ted.[5]

His­tor­ic­al Video Clips from U-35: Imper­i­al War Museum / Back­ToThePas­tWeb

Lothar von Arnauld de la Per­ière, her second cap­tain, was of French Huguenot des­cent, of the many fam­il­ies that fled France after Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fon­tainebleau in 1685, end­ing reli­gious tol­er­ance in France in favour of the Cath­ol­ic Church. In reac­tion, Fre­d­er­ick Wil­helm, Duke of Prus­sia and Elect­or of Branden­burg, issued the Edict of Pots­dam in late Octo­ber 1685, encour­aging the Prot­est­ants to seek refuge in Prus­sia, which many did and became an eco­nom­ic boom and élite in the (then) rel­at­ively back­ward coun­try.

Fre­d­er­ick Wil­helm wel­com­ing the Refugees

He strictly adhered to the Prize Rules then in effect, which makes his achieve­ments all the more impress­ive. His four­teenth patrol (26 July to 20 August 1916) stands as the most suc­cess­ful sub­mar­ine patrol of all time, in which 54 mer­chant ships totalling 90,350 GRT were sunk.

U-35 also sank the Brit­ish gun boat HMS Prim­ula on 29 Feb­ru­ary 1916, the French gun­boat Rigel on 2 Octo­ber 1916 as well as the Armed mer­chant cruis­er La Provence.

She sur­vived the war and was trans­ferred to Eng­land and broken up after 1920.


(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2019)

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Ber­tha Benz – One Giant Leap for Man­kind

The clerk at the Wies­loch city phar­macy ser­i­ously doubted the san­ity of his cus­tom­er, a woman in her late thirties in a dress as soiled as to make her appear­ance unac­cept­able amongst the good burgh­ers of the town. Per­haps she was dan­ger­ous. Wies­loch was only ten miles south of Heidel­berg, which had a uni­ver­sity, and the good doc­tor was informed that some women had recently attemp­ted to join the chem­istry fac­ulty. But the nature of the lady’s request was some­thing he nev­er had to con­sider before.

The “Stadt-Apo­theke” became the world’s first filling sta­tion – to the right the Ber­tha Benz Monu­ment

You want ten litres of Lig­roin?”, he stammered. Then he looked at the lady’s dress and noticed the stains. Lig­roin was basic­ally pet­ro­leum, and per­haps the lady wanted to improve her scan­dal­ous appear­ance. “I under­stand, Ma’am. But for these stains half a litre will do nicely, per­haps one litre.”

The lady insisted. The apo­thecary, unable to ima­gine what one might do with ten litres of pet­ro­leum except, maybe, burn down a forest, asked for the reas­on of the pecu­li­ar order. “It’s for my auto­mobile,” the fruit­cake explained, and lead the man out­side. There stood a con­trap­tion of a kind the good doc­tor had not seen before in his life. It was ridicu­lous. It looked as if someone had wanted to build a horse car­riage, but had for­got­ten the top struc­ture and the horses. It looked like this:

Rep­lica of Mod­el I, Mer­cedes-Benz Museum, Stut­tgart

The doc­tor, a good cath­ol­ic like all the cit­izens of the town, looked sus­pi­ciously around for the pres­ence of Satan and only very hes­it­antly touched the out­er-wordly appar­i­tion. He felt wood, rub­ber and iron, hence the phys­ic­al exist­ence of the vis­it­a­tion could no longer be denied. He asked for an explan­a­tion, and the lady told him a story plainly out of a Jules Verne nov­el, of which the apo­thecary, it must be admit­ted, had read a few in his youth.

This car, the lady told him, has not been mankind’s first attempt at con­struct­ing an auto­mobile, but earli­er designs failed at the dearth of a reli­able engine, until from the 1870s on, Nikolaus Otto and Gottfried Daimler suc­ceeded in build­ing reli­able four-stroke-engines, which are, to this day, called Otto­motoren – Otto engines.

Ber­tha and four of her five chil­dren

Her name was Cäcilie Ber­tha Benz, she said, and was the wife and unof­fi­cial (because illeg­al) busi­ness part­ner of the invent­or and engin­eer Karl Benz. Their com­pany, Benz & Cie., had con­struc­ted and pat­en­ted the present Benz-Pat­ent-Motor­wa­gen, a horse­less car­riage with a water-cooled pet­ro­leum engine. It had been awar­ded the Ger­man pat­ent num­ber 37435, for which her hus­band had applied on 29 Janu­ary 1886. Unfor­tu­nately, the fancy inven­tion was ignored by the pub­lic, and although Karl improved Mod­el I with II and III, dis­in­terest per­sisted.

The Pat­ent-Motor­wa­gen, Mod­el I, three wheels, tubu­lar steel frame, rack and pin­ion steer­ing, con­nec­ted to a driver end tiller; wheel chained to front axle, elec­tric igni­tion, dif­fer­en­tial rear end gears, mech­an­ic­ally oper­ated inlet valves, water-cooled intern­al com­bus­tion engine, gas or pet­rol four-stroke hori­zont­ally moun­ted engine, single cyl­in­der, bore 116 mm, stroke 160 mm, pat­ent mod­el: 958 cc, 0.8 hp, 16 km/h, com­mer­cial mod­el: 1600 cc, ¾ hp, 13 km/h
Engine and Trans­mis­sion

The nov­elty in Karl Benz’ concept was that, from the begin­ning, the car was designed to become, one day, the world’s first “pro­duc­tion” car, of which great num­bers could be built. Many tinker­ers worked on cars, but hardly any­body except Benz in such a sys­tem­at­ic way. Horse­less car­riages could be, and would be built, but would they work in every­day use? They were extremely fault-prone, hence every driver had to double as mech­an­ic, there were no roads, where could one get gas­ol­ine except in a phar­macy – which stocked only small amounts of it any­way?

Early fly­er ...

Thus, on this morn­ing of August 5, 1888, Ber­tha set out to show the world what her husband’s work could do. She was a prac­tic­al woman and knew that people tend to cov­et some­thing only when they are aware of its exist­ence. It was a ques­tion of mar­ket­ing, she real­ized. The car had pre­vi­ously nev­er been driv­en more than a few hun­dred yards around the work­shop and few people had seen it. She did not tell her hus­band or any­one else, did not inform author­it­ies (why any­way – there were no such things as driv­ing licences), but took her sons Richard and Eugen, thir­teen and fif­teen years old, and set out to vis­it her moth­er, who lived in Pforzheim, start­ing from her own house in Man­nheim.

Bertha’s route, on today’s roads about 103 km (64 miles) Wies­loch is at “B”

As it was to be expec­ted, the enter­prise turned out no mean feat. She had to clean a blocked fuel line with her hair pin and use her garter as insu­la­tion for the over­heat­ing engine. The 4,5 litres of pet­ro­leum in the car­bur­at­or ran out quickly, for­cing her to the afore­men­tioned fuel stop at Wies­loch, where the apo­thecary thus became own­er and attend­ant of the world’s first ser­vice sta­tion. A broken chain neces­sit­ated anoth­er stop, to have it fixed by a loc­al black­smith. When the brakes – made of wood – began to evid­ence abnor­mal tear and wear, she vis­ited a nearby cob­bler and had leath­er pads fixed on it, thereby invent­ing the world’s first pair of brake pads. The engine was cooled by an evap­or­at­ive cool­ing sys­tem, which was respons­ible for fur­ther filling-up stops.

Mod­el II, 1886
Mod­el III, 1888, used by Ber­tha on her his­tor­ic trip ...

But she per­sisted. She reached Pforzheim after dusk and repor­ted home by tele­gram. A few days later, she made the jour­ney back suc­cess­fully. The rest, as they say, is his­tory.

The trip was an instant suc­cess. First loc­al, then nation­al and finally the inter­na­tion­al press picked up the story. It became the key event in the prac­tic­al inven­tion of the auto­mobile as means of private trans­port.

Leipzi­ger Illus­trated Magazine, Septem­ber 1888

Check out this Mer­cedes-Benz Clip on You­Tube and anoth­er, very cute Aus­trali­an Clip

Mod­el “Velo” (1894), Mer­cedes-Benz Museum, Stut­tgart

In her hon­our, the Ber­tha-Benz Memori­al Route was ded­ic­ated in 1988, fol­low­ing her tracks. Its an offi­cial tour­ist and theme route in Baden-Württem­berg.

Offi­cial Road Sign


(© John Vin­cent Pal­at­ine 2019)

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