The Blockade of Malta (1799)

Malta 1801

When the French fleet sailed for Egypt, Napoleon had left on Malta a garrison of 3,000 men under the command of General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois. The French administration had continued the unpopular reorganisation of the churches and convents, removing many of the art treasures into their own safe keeping. But Vaubois’ position was growing more difficult almost daily.

Following the defeat of the French fleet at the Nile and the arrival of Villeneuve’s ships, the garrison on Malta numbered up to 6,000 men, with two frigates and one line of battle ship,1 but the French were effectively cut off from regular supplies by a naval blockade by British ships and the refusal by the emboldened King of Naples to continue selling produce from his dominions to the French garrison on the island. However, starving the French into submission would take some considerable time, given the huge grain silos built by the Knights of St John in the solid rock, which held enough reserves for the island to survive for a year or two.

The growing disquiet within the civilian population eventually escalated into violence during a particularly bloody incident on 2 September, when the French garrison of the town of Notabile attempted to seize a convent in preparation for it to be dismantled. The angry crowd armed themselves with simple farm implements and took control of the town, overrunning the small French garrison in the process and massacring them. Vaubois promptly concentrated his troops within Valetta and a fort on the island of Gozo and waited, more in hope than expectation, for a relief force to come to his aid. The rebel movement grew quickly, spreading across the entire island like wildfire and a junta was soon formed, led by Emmanuel Vitale and Canon Francesco Caruana, who immediately appealed for help to the King of Naples for troops to support their cause. The King, however, avoided openly supporting the revolt, with French troops in upper Italy threatening his mainland possessions. However, Nelson sent a Portuguese squadron under Admiral the Marquis de Nizza, which arrived on 18 September and landed supplies and arms for the rebels. He was also ordered to continue the naval blockade, but at that moment Nelson’s only real aim was the destruction of the ships in Valetta harbour.

Captain Sir James Saumarez arrived off Malta on 24 September with part of Nelson’s battered fleet with their prizes in tow. Nelson and the remainder of his fleet arrived soon after, although the admiral himself hastily proceeded on to Naples to continue his infatuation with Lady Emma Hamilton, leaving his captains to get on with the blockade. Saumarez supplied 1,200 muskets and ammunition to the rebels and then left for Sicily to get the ships repaired.

Captain Sir Alexander Ball, commanding HMS Alexander, arrived with Culloden and Colossus to join the Portuguese ships blockading Malta. Nelson returned briefly on 24 October, landing twenty-four barrels of gunpowder and on the 28th the small island of Gozo, with its French garrison of 200 men and twenty-four cannon, fell into allied hands. Ball was installed as President of the Council to liaise with the ill trained and poorly armed Maltese and to help them maintain the blockade. To maintain their hold on their positions on shore, he bolstered their numbers by landing some 500 Portuguese and British marines. In late December three British bomb vessels arrived and a regular bombardment began; two Neapolitan frigates also arrived to bolster the blockade.

In early 1799 two French attempts to break through the naval blockade were successful, with a schooner arriving from Ancona and the frigate Boudeuse successfully delivering supplies to the island from Toulon, extending the siege by a further six months. However, food was so short that Vaubois forcibly evicted most of the civilians from Valetta, reducing the city’s population from 45,000 souls in 1799 to 9,000 the following year.4 These additional mouths simply added to the difficulties the British were having in providing supplies, particularly wheat, to the civilian population of rebel-held Malta. By April many hundreds were on the brink of starvation and Captain Ball was finding it difficult to keep the rebels at their posts. Despite frequent appeals to the King of Sicily, supplies were only grudgingly released and the navy was forced to seize passing grain ships to meet the demand.

In May news arrived of a sizeable French expedition entering the Mediterranean. Commanded by Admiral Etienne Eustache Bruix, it comprised twenty-five ships of the line from the Brest fleet and had been sent to relieve the sieges of Malta and Corfu, unaware that the latter was already in Russian hands, and to resupply the French army in Egypt. Having failed to add the five Spanish ships at Ferrol to his numbers, Bruix ignored Admiral George Elphinstone, Lord Keith’s squadron of fifteen ships of the line off Cadiz, despite his huge numerical advantage, determined to achieve his objectives. Unable to combine with the Spanish fleet at Cadiz because of adverse winds, Bruix sailed on into the Mediterranean and headed for Toulon for repairs to his storm-damaged ships.

Keith chased after Bruix, calling for every available ship to rendezvous with him, causing Nelson to lift the naval blockade of Malta to strengthen his squadron off Sicily. During the two months that Captain Ball and his ships were away, the siege was commanded by Lieutenant John Vivion of the Royal Artillery, who incredibly not only kept the siege guns firing but also managed to keep the absence of Ball’s squadron a complete secret, whilst also placating the islanders, who were again desperately short of both supplies and hope.

The British fleet, now numbering twenty ships of the line and commanded by Admiral John Jervis, Earl St Vincent, pursued Bruix towards Toulon, but soon discovered that they were being followed by seventeen ships of the Spanish fleet which had escaped from Cadiz, under Admiral Don Jose de Mazarredo, also now in the Mediterranean. The British were potentially at risk of being overwhelmed by a vast combined Franco/Spanish fleet of forty-two ships. Luckily for St Vincent, a storm wrought havoc on the Spanish fleet particularly, no fewer than nine ships being virtually dismasted, and the whole fleet was left in such poor condition that the Spanish were forced to run for the safety of Cartagena.

Whilst St Vincent watched the Spanish fleet at Cartagena, Bruix sailed from Toulon on 27 May with twenty-two ships of the line, leaving some badly damaged ships to continue their repairs, and accompanied a large number of supply ships full of stores and men en route to Genoa to reinforce the struggling French forces fighting the Austrians in northern Italy. St Vincent, although forced by ill health to relinquish his command to Admiral Keith, insisted on maintaining his fleet in the vicinity of his newly acquired but extremely vulnerable base on Minorca. His advance squadron did, however, have the good fortune to fall on a squadron of five French frigates under Rear Admiral Perree returning from the Army of Egypt at Jaffa to Toulon, capturing them all.

Bruix sailed from northern Italy to return to Toulon, paying a visit en route to Cartagena, where he found most of the Spanish ships were now repaired and ready for sea. Transporting 5,000 Spanish troops as reinforcements for the island of Mallorca, the combined fleet, now numbering some thirty-nine ships, sailed on 24 June for Cadiz.

On 7 July Keith’s fleet was substantially reinforced by the arrival of twelve ships under Rear Admirals Charles Cotton and Cuthbert Collingwood, which had been detached from the Channel Fleet and sent in pursuit of Bruix. Keith sailed for the Straits of Gibraltar, only to find that the enemy combined fleet had passed through some three weeks before and eventually returned to Brest, forty-seven ships of the line strong – where it then lay uselessly for over two years.

So many ships, so much effort by all sides – and so little achieved. In fact, the overall result was that although the British fleets had been led a merry dance and had clearly been outmanoeuvred, Bruix had comprehensively failed to use his superiority to achieve anything of real value. His excursion to Genoa could just as easily have been achieved by a squadron of frigates; he failed to resupply Malta and Egypt; and by sailing into the Atlantic, taking with him the Spanish fleet of Cartagena and Cadiz, simply for all of them to be bottled up in Brest, he relieved the British navy of the threat of any significant enemy ships in that sea and effectively handed control of the Mediterranean to the British.

However, the position for the allies was also complicated by Malta’s confused politics. Britain, Russia and Naples, all allies in the coalition against France, each cast avaricious eyes over Malta and it was far from clear who should act as the island’s guardian when – rather than if – the French garrison was finally forced to capitulate. Tsar Paul, as their official protector and almost certainly their next Grand Master, not unsurprisingly continued to champion the Knights of St John. His recent alliance with the Ottoman Empire had seen Russia gain the strategically important island of Corfu and a Russian fleet had entered the Mediterranean. Malta would make an excellent additional strategic point from which to build Russia’s military strength in southern Europe. Naples and Britain, however, both saw that the rule of the Knights had permanently ended, as the civilian population would never freely accept them back and they had no intention of re-imposing them with military might.

Despite this apparent disarray in the allied position over Malta, in late 1799, when the Tsar suddenly decided to withdraw from the Mediterranean, the British acted. Brigadier General Sir Thomas Graham was sent in command of a force comprising 1,300 British infantry and a similar number of Neapolitan troops to support the rebels besieging Valetta as the blockade now began to see the visible effects of starvation and disease within the garrison. On 10 February 1800 a further French relief convoy of five ships sailed from Toulon under the command of Admiral Jean Baptiste Perree in the 74-gun Genereux, a survivor from the Battle of Aboukir, in a desperate attempt to resupply the garrison. The convoy was, however, cornered off Lampedusa on 18 February and destroyed, Perree being killed during the action.

The garrison now began to see defeat as inevitable, and the 80-gun Guillaume Tell, which had also survived the Battle of Aboukir and escaped to Malta with two frigates in September 1798, was made ready to sail in a desperate attempt to escape to Toulon. Crammed with troops and commanded by Rear Admiral Denis Decres, the ship would escape during the hours of darkness and slip through the blockade before dawn. She sailed on 30 March but was immediately spotted by the frigate HMS Penelope, which constantly harried the French battleship despite being heavily outgunned; the rigging of the Guillaume Tell was seriously damaged, whilst Penelope skilfully remained out of range of her overwhelming broadside. The damage caused by Penelope meant that two British battleships, the Foudroyant and Lion, were eventually able to catch and capture the French ship despite a very determined defence.

Food shortages within Valetta led to extortionate prices for what few supplies were still available; it is recorded that eggs sold for 10 pence each; rats were 1 shilling 8 pence each and rabbits went for 10 shillings. Eventually, after a sixteen-month siege and two years of naval blockade, the French had even run out of horse, cat and dog meat and were now losing 100 men a day to starvation and disease. The frigate Boudeuse was broken up to provide firewood, but on 24 August the frigates Diane and Justice, both with understrength crews, made a desperate break for it. They were quickly spotted and pursued. Diane proved too slow and was soon captured, but Captain Jean Villeneuve’s Justice successfully outran her pursuers and reached Toulon in safety, the only ship to successfully break the blockade. The French garrison was finally forced to surrender on 4 September 1800. The terms of the surrender handed everything over to the British, not the Maltese, whom the French refused to deal with. The handover included two Maltese ships of the line and a frigate which still lay in the harbour.

In an astute and very devious move, just days before the French garrison capitulated Napoleon offered Malta to the Tsar in a clear attempt to cause disunity between the allies, but Britain was to maintain possession of the island. Its strategic position was now clear to both the British government and the Royal Navy. Situated some 60 miles south of Sicily and 200 miles from the North African coast, with an excellent deep water harbour and exceedingly strong defences, the island was in a perfect position to grant a naval power like Britain control of access between the western and eastern Mediterranean. British control of Malta would additionally make the resupply of men and equipment for the French army in Egypt extremely hazardous.

The island was made a free port and the Maltese did well under British rule because of the greatly increased trade. The island immediately became a lynchpin of British policy; it became essential to control this island fortress and it became the headquarters of the British forces in the Mediterranean and would continue as such for the remainder of the war; indeed, it would retain this vital position for the next 160 years.


September 1944: The German Army consolidates the Western Front I

Commander-in-Chief in the West Gerd Von Rundstedt’s review of the precarious situation in early September served only to reinforce the opinion that he had formed earlier in the summer: that the German cause was lost. But he reported to OKW:

Our own forces are tied up in battle, and in part severely mauled. They are short of artillery and anti-tank weapons. Reserves worthy of mention are not available. The numerical superiority of the enemy’s tanks to ours is incontestable. With Army Group B at the present there are some 100 tanks [compared with the Allies’ 2000] available for action. The enemy air force dominates the battle area and rear communications deep into the rearward terrain…

To make matters worse, the quality of the German force in the west was deteriorating. This was not only because of a lack of fuel, ammunition and weaponry, but also because the fighting troops were tired and rapidly losing their efficiency. Poorly trained replacements were being drawn from an increasingly shallow and inappropriate pool of men from within the Reich. Those that made it to the front were invariably met by understandably disconsolate comrades who were taking part in a disorganized withdrawal after a miserable defeat. Lars Hahn was a decorated 30-year-old major who had fought on the Eastern Front for two years before being transferred to Normandy in April 1944. Recalling the difficult days after the battle of Normandy he says:

We had been fighting since 8 June without much time to sleep and only one or two days away from the front. My company was gradually whittled away during the summer. At first we received some young and inexperienced men as replacements, and then some older experienced men still suffering from wounds, but by early August there were none at all. In early June I commanded 123 men, but by the time we had crossed the Somme we were less than a section, 8 men… and I was carrying two wounds – one in the thigh and one in the shoulder. But I could not leave my men. They wanted the war to end, and so did I, but we fought on because we had to, because we were told to and because we still had some vestiges of honour left.

Hahn and his comrades were ready to continue their fight in spite of the recent morale-sapping setbacks. Others felt likewise. Young Lieutenant Erich Schneider, for example, had deserted from 553 Infantry Division at the end of August. But when questioned about the fighting spirit of his unit he replied: ‘The general opinion… was that the war would be over in eight weeks, but the soldiers of the Regt considered that they might as well retain their honour by fighting to the end.’ It was by harnessing the seemingly limited potential of such men, whilst strengthening the line with paratroopers, soldiers of the Waffen-SS and others who retained their motivation and combat effectiveness, that von Rundstedt and Model planned to build a defensive line to bring the retreat to an end. This was desperately needed for as Siegfried Westphal, von Rundstedt’s new Chief of Staff, later wrote:

The overall situation in the west was serious in the extreme. A heavy defeat anywhere along the front, which was so full of gaps that it did not deserve that name, might lead to a catastrophe, if the enemy were to exploit his opportunity skilfully. A particular source of danger was that not a single bridge over the Rhine had been prepared for demolition, an omission which took weeks to repair…

The opportunity to stop the exodus came with the stuttering of the Allied offensive around 4 September. It also coincided with Model’s final Order of the Day as Commander-in-Chief West:

With the enemy’s advance and the withdrawal of our front, several hundred thousand soldiers are falling back – army, air force and armoured units – troops which must re-form as planned and hold in new strongpoints or lines.

In this stream are the remnants of broken units which, for the moment, have no set objectives and are not even in a position to receive clear orders. Whenever orderly columns turn off the road to reorganize, streams of disorganized elements push on. With their wagons move whispers, rumours, haste, endless disorder and vicious self-interest. This atmosphere is being brought back to the rear areas, infecting units still intact, and in this moment of extreme tension must be prevented by the strongest means.

I appeal to your honour as soldiers. We have lost a battle, but I assure you of this: we will win this war! I cannot tell you more at present, although I know that questions are burning on your lips. Whatever has happened, never lose your faith in the future of Germany. At the same time you must be aware of the gravity of the situation. This moment will and should separate men from weaklings. Now, every soldier has the same responsibility. When his commander falls, he must be ready to step into his shoes and carry on.

These are strong words, but it is doubtful that many troops were aware of Model’s exhortations. It is much more likely, therefore, that the formation of an embryonic defensive position at this time came about after some fleeing troops had been successfully stopped and organized into a coherent force. Assisting in this process was the timely but unexpected arrival in southern Holland on 3 September of troops commanded by Lieutenant-General Kurt Chill. Chill had been ordered to move the remnants of his destroyed 85 Division back to Germany, but having seen Model’s Order of the Day, and angered by the stifling chaos, decided to merge his men with the remnants of two other divisions and organize a line along the Albert Canal in northern Belgium. Having set up reception centres on innumerable bridges, Chill’s officers and NCOs managed in just 24 hours to corral thousands of troops from every arm into new positions. By 5 September Chill’s growing force had been joined on its right from Antwerp along the Albert Canal to the junction of the Meuse–Escaut Canal by Lieutenant-General Karl Sievers’ 719 Infantry Division. These old men who had been stationed along the Dutch coast since 1940 – and had not fired a shot in anger – were supplemented by one Dutch SS battalion and a few Luftwaffe detachments. Over the days that followed, the newly shored up line was further reinforced by men from Fifteenth Army who had escaped a British Second Army encirclement by crossing the Schelde and reached the mainland north of Antwerp. Over 16 days, 65,000 men, 225 guns, 750 trucks and wagons and 1,000 horses were evacuated to take up defensive positions along the Albert Canal and throughout Holland. Meanwhile, Colonel-General Kurt Student’s First Parachute Army was also moving into position. It was activated on 4 September, when Jodl ordered him to collect all available units together and ‘build a new front on the Albert Canal’, which was to ‘be held at all costs!’ Göring made 20,000 men available to Student from six parachute regiments and two convalescent battalions, together with a further 10,000 men composed of sailors, Waffen-SS training units, Luftwaffe air and ground crews, along with 25 tanks. Lieutenant-Colonel Friedrich von der Heydte’s 6 Parachute Regiment moved quickly into defence with the three-regiment 7 Parachute Division, commanded by Lieutenant-General Wolfgang Erdmann, on its left flank. Completing the German line down to Maastricht was 176 Infantry Division which comprised invalids and convalescents. On 10 September, at his headquarters in Vught (17 miles north-west of Eindhoven), Student analysed the newly created 75-mile-long front that he had been charged with commanding. Spreading out a map on a large carved oak table, he announced in an exasperated tone that it amounted to little more than ‘the sweepings from Germany and elsewhere and the exhausted from France: not many of them and very little armour. But it must remain steadfast.’ Student, the talented yet modest creator of Germany’s airborne forces, recognized that his men would very soon be confronted with a renewed Allied thrust and that if he was to provide time required for the defences on the Rhine and along the West Wall to be reinforced, his army could not afford to crumble at the first blow.

It was the earliest arriving of these newly tasked German troops that the British clattered into as they resumed their offensive on 6 September. Immediately offering resistance to XXX Corps, 11th Armoured Division was held on the Albert Canal, whilst the Guards Armoured Division just managed to push on to the Meuse–Escaut Canal and to create a bridgehead at Neerpelt. Amongst those initially defending against Adair’s Guards was Lieutenant Adi Strauch, a platoon commander in 2 Parachute Regiment who had been wounded whilst fighting in Russia. Just before moving out to the front in northern Belgium he inspected his men:

Standing alongside young volunteers were old NCOs, Luftwaffe men taken away from their company office desks and from headquarters duties. The nucleus of the company consisted of just eight trained paratroops. We were soon to go into action so there was little time; a few days at the most, in which to give them weapon training.

The company began its journey forward on 5 September. It consisted of ‘two heavy machine gun platoons, a mortar platoon, a half-platoon of infantry guns, two Panzerschrek sections and company headquarters’. By the following day, the battalion was preparing itself for an attack on the village of Helchteren near the Albert Canal:

Our battalion reached the form-up area during the morning of the 7th and was soon involved in fighting against a British armoured division… On 8 September and for the next few days the British attacked again and again, but each assault was beaten back, although there were now heavy losses to both sides.

As the British bludgeoned their way forward, the Germans struggled to contain them, and suffering prohibitive casualties, Strauch was forced to take command of the company:

My old comrade, who had led No. 1 Platoon, was fatally wounded… and enemy tanks began to work round our left flank. Over the field telephone, which was still working, I was ordered to pull back. British tanks were only metres away as I, together with five others, worked our way back to battalion headquarters which enemy tanks were now nearing. Our close-quarters tank-busting teams went into action and the enemy advance on that sector was quickly halted.

This was the type of tenacious defence that the British troops had not experienced since the middle of August. It spelled the end of ‘Montgomery’s waltz through northern Europe’ and the beginning of something far more plodding and fraught. Indeed, the Dutch resistance informed the British that the German line was solidifying, and by the end of the first week in September Twenty-First Army Group was reviewing evidence to suggest that new units and formations were moving into Holland as Fifteenth Army escaped its clutches and a further 20,000 troops were sent into the line by OKW. This latter force consisted of various third-rate troops pillaged from units in training, cadres of veterans supplemented by untrained personnel, and Volksgrenadier divisions. These Volksgrenadier formations not only lacked men and heavy weapons but also suffered from a bare minimum of training, which made them useful only in static defensive positions. Their units were formed around a small cadre of experienced soldiers, but their ranks were filled with the young, the old, those who had previously been deemed unfit for military service and ‘unemployed’ men from other services and arms. Lieutenant Lingenhole, a platoon commander in the recently formed 553 Volksgrenadier Division, believed that the division was not ready for battle when it received its orders for the front. During that summer ‘no long tr[ainin]g marches were made… The co[mpan]ys of 1st Bn, GR1120 had a march of approximately 12 km to the range where they fired [their weapons]. About 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the personnel were unable to march that distance, and had to be transported.’ Lingenhole also said that the division’s troops were aged from 17½ years to 39½ years, the formation was at 60 per cent strength when deployed and ‘approximately half were not completely fit for field service’. Moreover, Major Geyer, who was on the divisional staff, reported that ‘The personnel of the Division suffered from low morale, not so much because of their lack of desire to fight, but because they felt that they were so poorly equipped with weapons.’ Even so, Model could not afford to be choosy about the men that he took: he understood that such formations were essential if the Germans were to have anything other than Student’s thin crust of a defensive line.

Milan Commune (1097— c. 1240)

Foot Berrovieri

Company of the Carroccio


In the wake of the Patarine struggle, the various factions tried to develop a more inclusive government. The archbishop continued to be the nominal leader, but power gradually passed into the hands of laymen. The commune (commune civitatis), first mentioned in a document of 1097, consisted of a popular assembly and an executive council composed of consuls elected from the city’s three factions—capitanei, valvassores, and cives.

By the early twelfth century, political consolidation was accompanied by military and economic expansion. To gain access to central Italy and the Adriatic, Milan attacked Lodi and Cremona; to reach the Ligurian coast, it defeated Pavia; and to secure the Alpine passes, it destroyed Como. Milan’s expansion brought it into direct conflict with Frederick I Barbarossa (r. 1155-1190), who wished to reassert direct imperial rule over Italy. Twice, in 1158 and 1162, Frederick successfully besieged Milan. The second defeat was particularly severe: Frederick ordered the demolition of Milan’s walls, gates, and towers, and the palaces of his principal enemies; moreover, he expelled the entire population, forcing them to live for four years in the suburban areas. Milan’s isolation, however, was only temporary. Growing aversion to imperial rule among the communes of northern Italy soon led to the formation of the Lombard League, whose forces defeated an imperial army at Legnano (1176). By the Peace of Constance (1183) the Lombard communes secured their de facto autonomy from the empire, while still recognizing their de jure sovereignty.

Communal liberty did not, however, put an end to Milan’s social tension. In 1198, the city’s shopkeepers and artisans formed an association known as the credenza di Sant’Ambrogio to protect their political and economic interests. Opposing them was the motta, composed of lesser nobles, wealthy commoners, and merchants; die great nobles for their part remained closely tied to the archbishop. To maintain peace and achieve political reform the Milanese increasingly resorted to the one-man rule of a foreign magistrate, the podestà. The policies introduced by the podestà included protecting the citizenry from arbitrary confiscations by the government (1205); laying the groundwork for the general assessment of properties (catasto); making commoners as eligible for public office as nobles were (1214); codifying customary law (1216); and constructing a new communal palace, or Broletto nuovo (1228). The renewed confidence of the Milanese became evident in 1220 when they not only refused hospitality to Frederick II (r. 1215-1250) as he traveled from Germany to Rome for his imperial coronation, but also opposed his coronation as king of Italy. In 1226, a second Lombard League (strengthened by papal support) was formed against Frederick II. This time the empire prevailed, at the battle of Cortenuova (1237). Within the city, the commoners, fearing reprisals from the nobility who had sided with the emperor, elected a new official—known as the capitano del popolo—to rule alongside the podestà. The first such capitano was Pagano della Torre (1240), who was already prominent as leader of the Credenza di Sant’Ambrogio and a member of the anti-imperial and pro-papal faction known as the Guelfs.


The carroccio was the standard-bearing cart, usually drawn by oxen, of the northern Italian cities. It served as a symbolic focus of patriotism and a rallying point in battle. These carts were meant to unite the divergent social groups within the emerging city-states of Lombardy and Tuscany. Their use (at least as early as 1039) paralleled and coincided with the adoption of civic patron saints and the development of the commune and an independent popolo in many cities. The main purposes of the carts were to accompany a city’s troops on campaigns, to serve as a platform for patriotic or pious harangues and for celebrations of the mass before battle, and to provide a highly visible point of reference for troops during battle. To lose a cart to an enemy was shameful, and captured carts were often treated brutally.

The earliest known Milanese cart was that of Archbishop Aribert (1039). It consisted of “a high wooden pole like the mast of a ship which was fixed to a strong wagon; at the top was a gilded apple and from this descended two ribbons of dazzlingiy white cloth, and in the center a holy cross was painted with our Savior portrayed, his arms extended,” In the later twelfth century Saint Ambrose (the patron saint of Milan) replaced the crucifix, and later still the cloth was scarlet and a gold cross replaced the apple. Three pairs of oxen drew this carroccio, which clearly embodied both ecclesiastical and civic symbolic elements. Soldiers of Cremona and Parma captured the Milanese wagon in 1149, and in 1160 imperial troops killed the oxen, captured the banner, and overturned the cart. When Frederick I Barbarossa captured Milan the next year, he seized the carroccio and ninety-four civic banners as booty. At Legnano in 1176, however, Milanese troops rallied around the carroccio, warding off defeat at Frederick’s hands. When the Milanese invaded the area of Cremona in 1213, they lost both an important battle and their carroccio; and in 1237, at Cortenuova, the Milanese carroccio, after being stripped of its ornaments and reluctantly abandoned by the Milanese army, was taken by Frederick II and sent to Cremona and then Rome, where it was displayed in the Campidoglio.

The carrocci of other cities differed in ornamental detail, but all served the same functions. The wagons, masts, and banners were carefully tended in peacetime and were ritually blessed before use. Peacemaking between rivals within a single city often occurred around the carroccio, and carrocci were exchanged when Parma and Cremona ended their hostilities in 1281. In the 1230s Fra Giovanni preached civic peace and reconciliation from the carrocci of Padua, Brescia, Mantua, and Vicenza, and from that of Verona he declared himself podesta and duke of Verona. Often, legitimate podesta took their oaths of office from the city’s carroccio, and captured cities swore submission from the carroccio of the victor.

Despite their importance in peacetime, carrocci were above all meant to bring together for battle the often fractious elements of the city-state. Both nobles and commoners guarded the carroccio on campaigns, and both were expected to fight to the death to protect it in battle.

By the early fourteenth century, with the advent of professional armies and leaders, the carroccio fell into disuse, so that the historian Giovanni Villani (1275-1348) felt it necessary to describe in detail the Florentine cart which had been captured and burned by the Sienese at Montaperti eighty years before.

Sierra Leone, 2000

RAF Boeing Chinook HC.2s were the mainstay of the UK mission to Sierra Leone.

Securing Lungi airport was the first object of the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.

Freetown and Lungi area (US Defense Mapping Agency)

At 10 am on 5th May, the decision was made to send the Operational Reconnaissance and Liaison Team. We left at 6 pm and after a refuelling stop we arrived at Lungi airport in Freetown at 6 am the following day. Government forces were rapidly falling back on the capital. The rebels were a major threat. The UN troops were the last line of defence but were in near panic. There were violent demonstrations in the capital and everyone was afraid of a coup. Brigadier Richards tried to bring together all the government leaders. On 7th May, we asked the lead company of 1 PARA to deploy. By 15th May, the situation had changed dramatically.

Lt Col Neil Salisbury, Chief of Staff, UK Joint Force Headquarters

16 Air Assault Brigade was only nine months’ old when it got the call to send troops into the heart of one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars. Few members of the Brigade had heard of Sierra Leone in May 2000, as reports began to circulate in the Ministry of Defence in London that the country’s government was in danger of being toppled by a brutal rebel group known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Buoyed by the success of his ‘ethical foreign policy’ in the Kosovo crisis, Prime Minister Tony Blair was taking an increasing interest in the problems of Africa. The former British colony of Sierra Leone was seen by Blair and his then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, as a failed state that needed to be rescued. For more than a decade, the West African country had been convulsed by civil war, as rebel groups vied for control of the lucrative diamond mines. The RUF had gained a notorious reputation for brutality and its trademark was the amputation of a prisoners’ limbs by machete. For much of the 1990s, Sierra Leone had no viable government and its population had lived in fear as rival militia groups fought for control of the country and its mineral resources. While billions of dollars-worth of diamonds was illicitly exported from the country, the population’s standard of living hovered near the bottom of most international league tables.

In 1995, the Sierra Leone government was so desperate it employed the services of the South African mercenary company Executive Outcomes and managed to drive the rebels back from the capital Freetown. The British private security company Sandline then provided more assistance with the tacit approval of the Foreign Office in London. Stalemate on the battlefield had allowed the UN to negotiate a cease-fire and begin the deployment of a peacekeeping force, dubbed UNAMSIL. British diplomats played an important role in setting up the UN-led peace process and London was watching its progress closely.

During April 2000, the civil war re-ignited and more than 5,000 RUF fighters appeared to be advancing on the capital. Other rebel forces took hundreds of UN peacekeepers hostage and besieged the remainder in their bases. The whole country and the 11,000-strong UN force looked like being on the verge of collapse.

David Richards

In London, the Blair government decided this was shaping up to be a test of British commitment to the people of Sierra Leone. The Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) at Northwood was ordered to dispatch part of its Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) to Freetown on 5 May to monitor events and prepare contingency plans for British intervention. An Operational Reconnaissance and Liaison Team (ORLT), led by PJHQ’s Chief Joint Force Operations Brigadier David Richards, arrived the following day and more JFHQ personnel followed soon afterwards. The JFHQ is a small, highly mobile headquarters team that is held on two days’ notice to fly anywhere in the world to co-ordinate UK intervention missions. It has enough communications equipment and supplies to run a brigade-sized operation for a couple of weeks before it has to be replaced by a better – equipped headquarters.

Richards led the British participation in the UN mission to East Timor late in 1999. He had a reputation for being very self-confident and relishing missions that apparently had little chance of success. The former Royal Artillery officer radiated optimism and was always cheerful, according to visitors to the British High Commission or embassy in Freetown during the UK intervention.

Over the weekend of 6 and 7 May, Richards sent a stream of reports to London that the rebels were within days of capturing the capital. Hundreds of UK passport holders were at risk, the government looked like it would fall and the UN troops were cowering in their bases.

Blair decided to act. PJHQ was ordered to dispatch an intervention force, initially to evacuate British passport holders, but the scope of the mission soon expanded to include supporting the Freetown government and the UN mission. Richards would command the operation from Freetown but PJHQ and Land Command turned to the newly formed 16 Brigade at Colchester to provide the initial land forces for the operation. The newly formed Joint Helicopter Command at Wilton would have to generate four Boeing Chinook HC.2 helicopters to provide the force with tactical mobility and RAF Strike Command’s No. 2 Group was tasked to get the force to Sierra Leone. This was just the type of mission 16 Brigade was designed to conduct and it would soon be held up as a ‘classic intervention’ mission. The pace of the operation was such that 16 Brigade’s headquarters would not get the chance to deploy to the West African country but several of its major units were in the thick of the action from the very start of the crisis until the autumn of 2000.

Richards’ team hunkered down in the High Commission in Freetown using its satellite communications equipment to bounce ideas back and forth to planners at Northwood during the days running up to the launch of the intervention. The plan went through numerous evolutions, as different force configurations, deployment schedules and tactical plans were considered, thrown out, modified or adapted. Central to all the planning was control of Lungi airport on a peninsula to the south of Freetown. With control of the airport, UK and UN forces could sustain themselves, bring in reinforcements and conduct evacuations of civilians. A second key requirement was securing a forward-operating base in a friendly, neighbouring country from which to mount the force. On 6 May, Senegal agreed to host the UK force and preparation ramped up considerably. Alan Jones, British Ambassador in Freetown, and Richards then got what was left of the Sierra Leone government to ‘request’ British military assistance.

Early on the morning of 5 May, the alert status of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (1 PARA), had been raised and its commanders warned that they could soon be heading to Sierra Leone. It was then the UK Spearhead Lead Element, and was held at seventy-two hours’ notice to move, but the spearhead battalion was rarely mobilised for real. Spearhead duty is usually characterised by a stream of false alarms and chaotic preparations for operations that never happen. So not surprisingly, when news spread around the battalion’s Aldershot base after the Sierra Leone mission, morale rocketed. The Toms of 1 PARA began a period of frenetic activity to get themselves ready for action.

They moved to the UK’s Operational Mounting Centre at South Cerney in Wiltshire on the evening of 6 May to prepare to be loaded on board RAF aircraft in a ‘tactical configuration’. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Gibson was expecting his men to go straight into action as soon as they got off their aircraft in Freetown. On Sunday 7 May, Gibson and his battalion flew from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire in RAF Lockheed TriStars to Dakar in Senegal.

One of 1 PARA’s three rifle companies was on a training exercise in Jamaica as the crisis developed and could not get home in time, so 16 Brigade offered up a company of one of its air assault battalions, 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, to replace it. The Royal Irish company got as far as Brize Norton before Gibson declined the offer of its services. This was to be a Parachute Regiment only operation. More than 200 troops of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, would be used to reinforce 1 PARA over the coming week.

No. 2 Group and JHC were also ramping up their preparations. Over the weekend of 6/7 May, eight RAF Hercules from 47 and 70 Squadrons took off from Lyneham bound for Dakar. Four Chinooks then left RAF Odiham early on 6 and 7 May to fly to the British forward base in Dakar, via Portugal, Gibraltar and the Canary Islands. After a brief refuelling stop, the helicopters were airborne for Freetown on 8 May to support the evacuation operation.

The first phase was the insertion into Freetown – in a classic Tactical Air Land Operation (TALO) – of C Company of 1 PARA during the evening of 7 May. Richards called them forward to Lungi airport when rumours spread of a coup d’état in Freetown. The single Hercules was packed with 102 fully armed paratroopers whose job was to seize the airport ahead of the main body. It took them two hours to fly to Freetown from Dakar and the arrival of the paratroopers caused much surprise among the hundred Nigerian UN personnel who were still nominally in control of the airport.

The following morning, Ambassador Jones formally requested the start of the evacuation operation. At 10.30 am, four Hercules carrying D Company of 1 PARA and Gibson’s Tac HQ, as well as the heavily armed troops of 16 Brigade’s Pathfinder Platoon, landed at Lungi. Just ahead of them was a pair of Chinooks flown by 7 Squadron pilots. At the High Commission in Freetown, Richards and his team were getting ready to begin evacuating up to a thousand UK passport holders and other foreign nationals from the city.

With the arrival of the Chinooks, at 7 pm Gibson started to fly his troops from the airport peninsula to reinforce the High Commission in Freetown and begin the evacuation from a UN-run assembly area. The 75-mile road into the city went through what was thought to be rebel-held territory so the Chinooks were vital to the success of this phase of the operation. The evacuees were picked up by Chinook and then shuttled to Lungi airport, from where they were transferred to Hercules and flown to Dakar. This phase of the operation received much publicity at the time and the Blair government publicly declared this was the only mission of UK forces in Sierra Leone. Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, was reportedly worried about how the wider intervention mission would be reported by the media so he ordered the focus to be on the rescue mission.

As the evacuation was under way, Gibson’s troops were pushing in-land from Lungi airport to set up a screen of blocking positions around the capital. They were not ordered to attack the rebels, just to hold their ground and return fire if attacked. There were little more than 500 paratroopers on the ground at this time but as they moved forward through the suburbs of Freetown, the effect on the population was electric. People came out to cheer. The presence of hundreds of heavily armed British troops rallied the morale of the government and its rag-tag army. Richards told them the British were not going to leave them in the lurch. The scope of the operation now began to expand and Blair in London decided that the British troops would stay to prop up the Freetown government and help the UN.

Lungi airport was not bustling with British activity. Some twenty-one Hercules flights over two days brought in 1 PARA and its vehicles, as well as evacuating British passport holders. It had taken 1 PARA sixty-four hours from getting its first call on 5 May to having its first troops on the ground in Freetown. The paratroopers were amazed at the speed of things, which had been organised mainly through a series of telephone calls and quick verbal orders. Some veteran paratroopers were even heard praising the speed at which the RAF had managed to get its aircraft and helicopters to Freetown. They were a tough audience to please.

Two giant Antonov An-124 airlifters were chartered from the Ukraine to fly from Brize Norton to Dakar with more of 1 PARA’s vehicles on 8 May. Back in the UK, PJHQ and 16 Brigade were preparing a second wave of reinforcements. A medical detachment of the Brigade soon followed 1 PARA. A battery of 105-mm Light Guns from 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery was sent to South Cerney and a Scimitar squadron of the Household Cavalry Regiment was ordered to prepare to deploy. The RAF had no heavy-lift aircraft to carry the armoured vehicles and artillery ammunition to Africa so the Americans were asked to help. They could not provide any aircraft in time but PJHQ decided not to press the issue because a Royal Navy carrier group, centred on HMS Illustrious and a Marines amphibious task group, based around the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean with 42 Commando Royal Marines’ were only a few days’ sailing away from West Africa.

In the outskirts of Freetown, the rebel fighters of the RUF had not yet picked up fully on the fact that the British were now committed to defend the city. B Company of 1 PARA set up three blocking positions to the east of the airport and the Pathfinders moved past them to set up an early-warning post at Lungi Loi. When a group of RUF fighters approached the Pathfinder position during the night, they were engaged. The small group of British troops fired some 1,800 rounds. The rebels, many appearing to be high on drugs, could not return accurate fire and soon fled. The following morning, when the Pathfinders cleared the enemy positions, they found four dead rebels. Many more were believed to have been killed.

The impact on the rebels of this setback was profound. Their morale collapsed, just as the spirits of the government forces were raised by the arrival of the British forces. RUF troops were now in headlong retreat from the capital, with government troops in hot pursuit.

British forces continued their build-up at Lungi airport and continued to sustain a high profile around the capital to maintain civilian morale. Conditions were primitive and 1 PARA found Sierra Leone’s equatorial climate more of a challenge than the RUF. The sudden nature of the battalion’s deployment meant that it had not been able to secure enough of the right sort of anti-malaria tablets for its troops. Some twenty paratroopers and RAF pilots contracted the tropical disease.

By the end of the month, the Royal Marines had arrived off the coast and the hand-over with 1 PARA took place on 28 May. The RAF then flew the battalion back to the UK via Dakar. The operation was hailed as a great success. For no loss of UK life, 1 PARA had successfully stabilised a dangerous situation and contributed to the rout of the rebels.

Britain’s involvement in Sierre Leone was only just beginning. The RAF Chinook detachment remained and the British government decided to deploy a strong training team to build up the Sierra Leone army.

On 10 July, the RAF Chinooks took part in a daring mission to lift Indian Special Forces to relieve an Indian UN garrison, which had been under siege for several weeks in the interior of Sierre Leone

The 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, got its chance to deploy to Sierra Leone in the summer of 2000. It was tasked with establishing three company-sized groups of soldiers to act as training teams to the Sierra Leone army. The ‘training teams’ would be very different from other such missions in that they would be deployed as formed units that would be able to fight their way out of trouble in a crisis. Trouble soon found the Royal Irish.

By August, the RUF had evaporated after its apparent non-stop stream of set-backs but the interior of the country was still dominated by heavily armed militia groups of very shifting loyalty. One such group was known as the West Side Boys (WSBs), which had supported the government during the fighting with the RUF earlier in the year. The Royal Irish mounted regular vehicle patrols around Freetown to gather intelligence and try to establish some sort of contact with these militia groups.

On one such mission, an eleven-strong patrol was surrounded and captured by the WSBs. The soldiers were held hostage in a jungle camp, while the WSB leadership tried to negotiate with the British government. As these talks were going on, the British were preparing a rescue plan. A large contingent of Special Forces was moved in conditions of great secrecy to Freetown and was reinforced by A Company of 1 PARA. When the negotiations collapsed, the Special Forces were ordered to attack in order to rescue the hostages early on the morning of 10 September 2000.

The SAS and SBS rescue force was landed by Chinook and Lynx AH.7 on top of the village, while the paratroopers were landed at a nearby village to block any WSB escape routes. As soon as the first helicopters landed, a fierce firefight broke out. The hostages were soon freed but one SAS man was killed. Outside the main village, A Company were soon trading fire with rebels and the company commander and platoon commander were injured after British 81-mm mortar rounds detonated prematurely after hitting the jungle canopy.

One of the Chinook pilots afterwards told RAF News:

The fundamental key to the success of the operation was that the two-pronged assaults on the north and south camps had to be simultaneous. The Chinook was literally crammed full of paratroopers, all apparently totally focused on what they had to do, despite being in the unenviable position of having no control over their destiny while on board the aircraft. Approaching the target, we could see the enemy tracer being fired towards the aircraft. Fortunately, the Army Lynx did a superb job of suppressing the enemy positions, although seeing tracer passing above us did make us contemplate exactly what we were letting ourselves in for. The landing site turned out to be a waist-high swamp. Therefore after we lifted, we returned fire onto the enemy positions with the M-134 mini-gun, which firing at 4,000 rounds a minute, had a devastating effect.

The SAS neutralised all resistance in the village and the paratroopers helped clean up the objectives after the operation. The now-liberated British vehicles were under-slung under Chinooks to be returned to their rightful owners.

Although Britain’s intervention in Sierra Leone did not directly involve the Brigade headquarters of 16 Air Assault Brigade, many of its major units were involved. The operation was a classic example of the type of rapid intervention mission that 16 Brigade, and other elements of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force, was formed to undertake. The combination of lightly equipped paratroopers, helicopters and air transport worked well, but some in the Armed Forces worried that British forces did not really face a first-class opponent in Sierra Leone. Many British soldiers were worried that they still lacked many items of battle-winning equipment that would make the difference against more determined and better-armed opponents.

Jayavarman VII and Khmer-Cham War

Throughout his life, it seems, Jayavarman immersed himself in the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism—the variant still followed in much of northern Asia. More than any other king, he labored to integrate Buddhist with Cambodian ideas of kingship. Buddhist kingship, as he practiced it, differed in several ways from the more eclectic Hindu model that had been followed for centuries at Angkor and was to form the ceremonial basis of Cambodian kingship until the institution was temporarily overturned in 1970. In the traditional version, a king was thought to enjoy, whether he was alive or not, a special relationship with a particular deity—usually Siva, more rarely Vishnu, occasionally the composite of them both known as Harihara—to whom his temple-mountain was eventually dedicated. The kings used this special relationship to explain their grandeur while their subjects assumed that the relationship had something to do with the provision of adequate rainfall.

Because Cambodian society was organized hierarchically, and because the king was thought to centralize the kingdom, most Cambodians, like their contemporaries in medieval Europe, probably recognized the necessity for a king. Rare inscriptions, and perhaps the act of constructing reservoirs, indicated that an individual king occasionally had his subjects’ general welfare on his mind. In human terms, however, the king was nearly always a distant, mysterious figure concealed inside an awesome palace. The notion that he was accountable to his people does not seem to have caught on. Inside his palace, and within the network of kinship and preferment relationships extending from it, the king was the master and the victim of a system whereby people clamored for his favors, for titles, for the right to own slaves or sumptuous possessions.

Buddhist kingship, of course, grew out of this Indian tradition (the Buddha had been an Indian prince), but in Jayavarman’s reign these notions were modified in several ways. Jayavarman was no longer seen as the devotee of a divinity or as drawn up to the divinity in death. Instead, Jayavarman sought to redeem himself and his kingdom by his devotion to Buddhist teachings and by the performance of meritorious acts.

Before examining how these ideas of kingship were acted out during his reign, we need to stress that his program was not aimed at reforming Cambodian society or at dismantling such Hinduized institutions as Brahmanism, slavery, and kingship. Far from it. In his conservatism, his ongoing tolerance of Hinduism, and his elitist frame of reference, Jayavarman VII was a recognizably twelfth-century king, although in Cambodian terms he was also perhaps a revolutionary one.

Put very starkly, the difference between a Hindu king and a Buddhist one is akin to the difference between a monologue that no one overhears and a soliloquy addressed to an audience of paid or invited guests. A Hindu king’s rule was an aggregation of statements—rituals, temples, poems, marriages, inscriptions, and the like—that displayed his grandeur, acumen, and godliness. A Buddhist king made similar statements, but he addressed many of them, specifically, to an audience of his people. This made the people less an ingredient of the king’s magnificence (as his thousands of followers had always been) than objects of his compassion, an audience for his merit-making and participants in his redemption. This, at least, is what many of Jayavarman VII’s inscriptions and temples appear to have been saying.

Why did Jayavarman VII choose to break with the past? Scholars have several explanations. These include his apparent estrangement from the court at Angkor, combined with his resentment toward the usurper who had proclaimed himself king in 1167; and his having a “master plan” of buildings, ideology, and kingship that had been maturing in his mind after years of study and very possibly the influence of a scholarly, ambitious wife. These proposals are helpful, but they do not identify the real key to Jayavarman’s reign—the Cham invasion of Angkor in 1177. Paul Mus and Jean Boisselier have argued that we can see Jayavarman’s entire reign as a response to this traumatic event.

Jayavarman’s own links with Champa were close, and in the 1160s, he may have spent several years there. It’s likely that his absence from Angkor was connected in some way with his being out of favor at the Cambodian court, for he returned home only after Yasovarman II had been deposed. As the sources of our uncertainty are Jayavarman’s own inscriptions, all that is clear about the prelude to the Cham invasion of 1177—and indeed about Jayavarman’s early career—is that later on he found little to boast about in these obviously formative years, some of which he may have spent in his mother’s home city of Jayadityapura, east of Angkor.

After he ascended the Cham throne, Jaya Indravarman IV (fl. 1170s) invaded the neighboring Khmer Empire (Cambodia and Laos), partly from motives of traditional enmity and partly to loot its vast stores of treasure. In a battle of 1171, the Chams won victory, in part, by using horses against the Khmers rather than the traditional elephants. The horses were a significant tactical innovation, providing greater speed and mobility and allowing the Chams to outmaneuver their enemy. The Chams emphasized shock tactics, which required speed and surprise. Unfortunately for Jaya Indravarman, he could not obtain horses in China’s Kwangtung and Hunan provinces to use in a full-scale invasion of Khmer. In 1177, however, he attacked successfully by sea, sailing a fleet up the Tonle Sap (central Cambodia’s “Great Lake”) and the Siemreab River to take the undefended Khmer capital of Angkor. Jaya Indravarman burned the wooden city and ravaged its sacred temple (Angkor Wat), stripping it of treasure. He then ordered the death of the Khmer rebel king Tribhuvanadityavarman (fl. 1166-77).

The Khmers were rallied by King Jayavarman VII (c. 1120-c. 1215). In alliance with Thai forces and exiled Chams, the Khmers fought back, winning a significant sea victory in 1181. Jayavarman retook Angkor, rebuilding it as Angkor Thom, north of the old city. By 1190, he mounted an invasion deep into Champa, laying waste to much of its territory and destroying its capital city of Vijaya (Binh Dinh). Champa, defeated and conquered, was divided into two states, which were vassals of the Khmer Empire.

The lengthy Khmer-Cham War (1167-90) resulted in the conquest of Champa by the Khmer Empire. Within a year after the conclusion of this war, however, in 1191, the Chams rebelled. In short order, one of the two Khmer puppets, Prince In (d. after 1203), was overthrown by a Cham prince, who was subsequently crowned King Jaya Indravarman V (d. c. 1192). Jaya Indravarman next marched against and defeated the Khmer puppet ruling the other half of Champa, and Champa was once again reunited under the new king.

The Khmers sent two invasion forces to reconquer Champa, but both were defeated. In 1203, a third expedition, under King Jayavarman VII (c. 1120-c. 1215), recruited the support of Cham rebels opposed to Jaya Indravarman. The use of indigenous troops turned the tide, clearing the way for a successful invasion, which placed a new puppet on Champa’s throne, Ong Dhanapatigrama (fl. 1220s). Propped up by the continual presence of a Khmer army, Ong presided over what was effectively a Khmer province for the next two decades. It is not known what reward or benefit the Cham rebels received from their arrangement

Jayavarman VII was crowned in 1182–83, therefore, owing little to his predecessors and much, as his inscriptions tell us, to his acumen, his Buddhist faith, and his victories in battle. It’s clear, however, that the period between victory and assuming power must have been filled with political negotiations and further conflicts—with the “many parasols,” perhaps. Over the next thirty years or so (the precise date of his death is unknown), he stamped the kingdom with his personality and his ideas as no other ruler was able to do before Norodom Sihanouk in the 1960s and Pol Pot later on. Like these two figures, Jayavarman may have wanted to transform Cambodia and perceived himself as the instrument of that transformation.

Much of the interest in his reign springs from the tension inherent in the words Buddha and king. Using the Hinduized apparatus of kingship and the material grandeur associated with it, Jayavarman also sought in all humility, if his inscriptions are to be believed, to deliver himself and all his people from suffering. As a king he had roads built throughout his kingdom, perhaps to accelerate his military response to uprisings or invasions but also to facilitate access to areas rich in resources that could be exported to China via the Cham seaports that were now subservient to Angkor. This nationalization of kingship by a man who was arguably the most otherworldly of Cambodia’s kings has given Jayavarman’s reign a contradictory appearance. Sentences about the man soon fall into the pattern of “on the one hand” and “on the other.”

For example, many of the bas-reliefs on the Bayon, depicting battles against the Chams, contain vivid scenes of cruelty. Similarly, some of Jayavarman’s inscriptions praise his vengefulness and his skill at political infighting vis-à-vis the Chams. On the one hand, the portrait statues of him that have come down to us depict him as an ascetic deep in meditation. From his so-called hospital inscriptions we learn that “he suffered from the illnesses of his subjects more than from his own; the pain that afflicted men’s bodies was for him a spiritual pain, and thus more piercing.” Yet, on the other hand, his roads, temples, “houses of fire,” reservoirs, and hospitals were thrown up with extraordinary haste between his coronation in 1182–83 and the second decade of the thirteenth century; some were completed after his death. There were so many of these projects, in fact, that workmanship was often sloppy, and by the end of his reign local supplies of sandstone and limestone for use at Angkor may have begun to run out. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, inscriptions tell us, labored to erect and maintain these constructions built, at the ideological level, to deliver them from pain. To a twenty-first-century eye, this seems ironic, but we should remember that suffering in Buddhist terms should not be taken merely in a physical sense; it must also be related to the purposes of life and to the ways that suffering of certain kinds can serve the teachings of the Buddha.

Why was Jayavarman’s building program carried out with so much haste? He was perhaps as old as sixty when he reached the throne; the buildings may have constituted a race against time. The program may have been part of a process of personal redemption, although the sins for which he was atoning are not clarified by his inscriptions. What we know about the first years of his reign comes from inscriptions written at a later stage. These years were probably spent in deflecting yet another Cham attack, in quelling a rebellion in the northwest, and in reconstituting Yasodharapura for the first time as a walled city. Major shifts in population, as usual, followed these military campaigns, as the Preah Khan inscription of 1191 suggests: “To the multitude of his warriors, he gave the capitals of enemy kings, with their shining palaces; to the beasts roaming his forests, he gave the forests of the enemy; to prisoners of war, he gave his own forests, thus manifesting generosity and justice.”

As it would be with other Cambodian kings, making a sharp distinction between Jayavarman’s politics and his religion, between temporal and spiritual powers, and between his ideas about himself and his ideas about his kingdom would be wrong. Before we dismiss him as a megalomaniac, however, it is worth recalling that had no one shared his vision or believed in his merit, he would never have become king, especially starting out from such a weak position, and he certainly would not have been able to remain in power. Many high officials, brahmans, evangelical Buddhists, and military men probably saw advantages in the physical expansion of the kingdom, partly by means of royally subsidized religious foundations and partly through bringing previously hostile or indifferent populations under some form of control. By the beginning of the thirteenth century, in fact, Angkor was extracting tribute from much of what is now Thailand and southern Laos as well as from Champa, occupying the coastal areas of central Vietnam. To these corners of the known world the multiple half-smiling faces of Jayavarman’s temple-mountain and his portrait statues addressed their benignly powerful glance.

At the same time, as Michael Vickery and others have suggested, considerable resentment must have built up against Jayavarman VII in the course of his reign among disaffected members of the elite, and among formerly privileged Hindu practitioners who resented the king’s conversion. These elements of Khmer society, at the instigation of a later monarch (but which one?), probably were responsible for the anti-Buddhist iconoclasm that affected many of Jayavarman’s major temples after his death.

The art historian Philippe Stern, who studied Jayavarman’s reign in detail, perceived three stages in the development of his iconography and architecture. These coincide with the three phases of construction that Stern had noted for earlier Cambodian kings—namely, public works, temples in honor of parents, and the king’s own temple-mountain.

The public works of earlier kings, as we have seen, usually took the form of reservoirs (baray). Other projects such as roads and bridges were also built, but they are seldom noted in inscriptions. But Jayavarman’s program departed from the past. His hospitals, probably established early in his reign, were an important innovation, described in the stele of Ta Prohm. Four of them were located near the gateways to Angkor Thom. Others were built to the west of Angkor into what is now northeastern Thailand and as far north as central Laos. About twenty hospital sites have so far been identified. The Ta Prohm inscription says that the hospitals could call on the services of 838 villages, with adult populations totaling roughly eighty thousand people. The services demanded appear to have been to provide labor and rice for the staffs attached to each hospital, or approximately a hundred people, including dependents. The hospital steles give details about the administration of the hospitals and about the provisions and staff allocated to them.

A second set of Jayavarman VII’s public works consisted of “houses of fire” placed at approximately sixteen-kilometer (ten-mile) intervals along Cambodia’s major roads. There were fifty-seven of these between Angkor and the Cham capital and seventeen more between Angkor and a Buddhist temple-site at P’imai in northeastern Thailand. The exact purpose of these buildings is unknown.

Finally, there was Jayavarman’s own reservoir, known now as the northern Baray and during his reign as the Jayatataka, located to the northeast of Yasodharapura.

These innovations stemmed from what Jayavarman saw as his mission to rescue his subjects, as the hospital inscription says:

Filled with a deep sympathy for the good of the world, the king swore this oath: “All the beings who are plunged in the ocean of existence, may I draw them out by virtue of this good work. And may the kings of Cambodia who come after me, attached to goodness . . . attain with their wives, dignitaries, and friends the place of deliverance where there is no more illness.”


The Hittite Chariot heavier with 3 men: driver, lancer, archer….effective but less maneuverable…..Notice the four spokes wheel.

The last kings of the Hittites—especially Tudhaliya IV (1237–1209 BC) and Suppiluliuma II (1207–? BC)—were very active during the last quarter of the thirteenth century, from ca. 1237 BC, even as their world and civilization were showing signs of coming to an end. Tudhaliya ordered that an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses be carved into the rock of a limestone outcrop at Yazilikaya (“Inscribed Rock”), along with a representation of himself, just a kilometer or so from the Hittite capital city of Hattusa.

At this time, the Hittites were at war with the Assyrians in Mesopotamia. In a discussion of Assur-uballit I, who ruled over Assyria at the time of the Amarna pharaohs, and who had sacked Babylon after a marriage alliance between the two powers went awry. The Assyrians, after a brief period of relative dormancy following the reign of Assur-uballit, had become resurgent under their king, Adad-nirari I (1307–1275 BC). Under his leadership and that of his successors, the Assyrians emerged as a major power in the Near East at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Among his other accomplishments, Adad-nirari I fought against the Mitannians, capturing Washukanni and other cities. He placed a client king on their throne and extended the Assyrian Empire sufficiently far to the west that it now bordered the Hittite homeland and almost reached to the Mediterranean Sea. This may not have been as difficult as it sounds, however, since the Hittites under Suppiluliuma I had already inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Mitannians several decades earlier.

Following the reign of Shalmaneser I (1275–1245 BC), who continued many of the policies of Adad-nirari and may finally have brought the Mitannian kingdom to an end, one of the greatest of Assyria’s “warrior kings,” Tukulti-Ninurta I, who ruled ca. 1244–1208 BC, stepped onto the world stage. He followed in the footsteps of Adad-nirari but was perhaps also emulating his predecessor of the previous century, Assur-uballit, when he decided to attack Babylon. However, Tukulti-Ninurta I surpassed Assur-uballit’s achievements: not only did he defeat the Kassite Babylonian king Kashtiliashu IV in battle and bring him to Assur in chains; he also took over their kingdom by ca. 1225 BC, ruling as king himself before installing a puppet king to govern on his behalf. But this was not a particularly successful move, since the puppet king, Enlil-nadin-shumi, was almost immediately attacked and overthrown by an Elamite army marching from their eastern homelands on the Iranian plateau, in what is now southwestern Iran. It would not be the only time that this happened, for we shall encounter the Elamites again soon.

In addition to his other achievements, Tukulti-Ninurta I, the Assyrian warrior king, also defeated the Hittites under Tudhaliya IV, thus dramatically changing the balance of power in the ancient Near East. It has even been suggested that he became so powerful that he sent a mina (a Near Eastern unit of weight, probably the equivalent of a little more than a modern American pound) of lapis lazuli as a gift to the Mycenaean king in Boeotian Thebes on mainland Greece, all the way across the Aegean.

Consequently, by the time of the first Sea Peoples attack on the Eastern Mediterranean in 1207 BC, just one year after Tukulti-Ninurta was assassinated by one of his own sons, Assyria had been one of the major players on the international scene in the ancient Near East for nearly two hundred years. It was a kingdom linked by marriage, politics, war, and trade over the centuries with the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites, and Mitanni. It was, without question, one of the Great Powers during the Late Bronze Age.

Assyrian Chariot.

During the reign of the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta, the Hittites were faced with an obvious and serious threat to their empire and were intent on stopping anyone attempting to move inland from the coast to Assyrian lands in the east. One strategy involved a treaty signed in approximately 1225 BC between Tudhaliya IV, king of the Hittites, and Shaushgamuwa, his brother-in-law by marriage. Shaushgamuwa was the king of Amurru, who controlled the coastal regions of northern Syria that provided potential access to the Assyrian lands. In the treaty, the homage with which we are now familiar is invoked: the enemy of my friend is also my enemy; the friend of my friend is also my friend. Thus, Tudhaliya IV (who refers to himself in the third person as “My Majesty”) declared to Shaushgamuwa:

If the King of Egypt is the friend of My Majesty, he shall be your friend. But if he is the enemy of My Majesty, he shall be your enemy. And if the King of Babylonia is the friend of My Majesty, he shall be your friend. But if he is the enemy of My Majesty, he shall be your enemy. Since the King of Assyria is the enemy of My Majesty, he shall likewise be your enemy. Your merchant shall not go to Assyria, and you shall not allow his merchant into your land. He shall not pass through your land. But if he should come into your land, seize him and send him off to My Majesty. [Let] this matter [be placed] under [oath] (for you).

In our study of the ancient world, there are two items of special interest in this mutual-appreciation treaty. The first is that Tudhaliya IV says to Shaushgamuwa: “[You shall not allow(?)] any ship [of] Ahhiyawa to go to him (that is, the King of Assyria).” This is thought by many scholars to be a reference to an embargo. If so, although the embargo is usually thought to be a fairly modern concept, it seems that one may have been put in place by the Hittites against the Assyrians more than three thousand years ago.

The second is the fact that, a few lines earlier, Tudhaliya IV had written, “And the Kings who are my equals in rank are the King of Egypt, the King of Babylonia, the King of Assyria, and the King of Ahhiyawa.” The strikethrough of the words “King of Ahhiyawa” is not a misprint in this book; it is a strikethrough found on the clay tablet of Tudhaliya IV. In other words, we have here a rough draft of the treaty, in which items could still be deleted, added, or edited. More importantly, we are in possession of an item that indicates that the king of Ahhiyawa was no longer considered to be equal in rank to the other major powers of the Late Bronze Age world: the kings of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria, and of the Hittites.

It is reasonable to ask what had happened in the Aegean, or on the western coast of Anatolia, to cause this state of affairs. It must have been a fairly recent occurrence, for recall that in the reign of Hattusili III, Tudhaliya IV’s father, the king of Ahhiyawa had been referred to as a “Great King” and as a “brother” by the Hittite ruler. Perhaps a clue can be found in one of the Ahhiyawa texts, known as the “Milawata Letter.” Dating most likely to the time of Tudhaliya IV, the letter makes it clear that the city of Milawata (Miletus) and its surrounding territory on the western coast of Anatolia, which had once been the main footprint of the Mycenaeans in the area, no longer belonged to the Ahhiyawan king but was now under Hittite control. This may have meant that the king of Ahhiyawa was no longer a Great King in the eyes of the Hittite king. However, we should consider the possibility that the Hittite king’s “demotion” of the Mycenaean ruler may have been the result of some event of even greater magnitude, perhaps something that had happened back in the Aegean—that is, on the Greek mainland.


In the meantime, while all of this was going on, Tudhaliya IV decided to attack the island of Cyprus. The island had been a major source of copper throughout the second millennium BC, and it is possible that the Hittites decided to try to control this precious metal, so essential to the creation of bronze. However, we are not certain about his motivation for attacking Cyprus. It may instead have had something to do with the possible appearance of the Sea Peoples in the area or with the drought that is thought to have occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean at this time, as indicated by new scientific discoveries as well as long-known texts that mention an emergency shipment of grain sent from Ugarit in north Syria to the port city of Ura in Cilicia (located in southeastern Turkey).

An inscription, originally written on a statue of Tudhaliya but then recopied onto a tablet from the time of Tudhaliya’s son Suppiluliuma II, reads: “I seized the king of Alashiya with his wives, his children, … All the goods, including silver and gold, and all the captured people I removed and brought home to Hattusa. I enslaved the country of Alashiya, and made it tributary on the spot.” Suppiluliuma II not only recopied Tudhaliya IV’s inscription but also conquered Cyprus himself for good measure. The inscription regarding his own military takeover of Cyprus reads: “I, Suppiluliuma, Great King, quickly [embarked upon] the sea. The ships of Alashiya met me in battle at sea three times. I eliminated them. I captured the ships and set them afire at sea. When I reached dry land once more, then the enemy from the land of Alashiya came against me [for battle] in droves. I [fought against] them.”

Clearly, Suppiluliuma was successful in his naval attacks and perhaps in the invasion of Cyprus, but it is unclear why he had to fight and invade the island again, after Tudhaliya IV had already captured it. His attempt might simply have been to gain (or regain) control of the sources of copper or of the international trade routes in increasingly tumultuous times. But we may never know. It is also unclear where the final land battle was fought; scholars have suggested both Cyprus and the coast of Anatolia as possibilities.

Upon assuming the throne following the death of his father, Suppiluliuma II had taken the name of his famous fourteenth-century BC predecessor Suppiluliuma I (though the new king’s name was actually spelled slightly differently: Suppiluliama rather than Suppiluliuma). Perhaps he hoped to emulate some of his predecessor’s successes. Instead, he ended up presiding over the collapse of the Hittite Empire. In the course of doing so, he and the Hittite army, in addition to invading Cyprus, campaigned in western Anatolia once more. One scholar notes, in a recent article, that many of the documents dated to the time of Suppiluliuma II “point to a growing instability within the Hittite capital and a growing sense of mistrust,” though perhaps “unease” would be a better word to use, given what was soon to come.

Rome: the Power… Part I

We can gain a great deal from comparing the Romans of widely diverse periods. Strange to say, the Romans who constructed an empire and the Romans who lost one have very seldom met each other in the pages of a scholarly history. The contrast between these two populations is extremely illuminating. While it is in any case reasonably obvious that the Romans of the third and second centuries BC were warlike and very often aggressive, no one who compares their behaviour with the behaviour of the markedly different Romans of late antiquity could possibly doubt it. Conversely, no one who has studied the mid-republican Romans could possibly write very favourably about the military capacities of the Roman state in either of the two late-antique periods.

More contestably, if we contemplate the cohesive and disciplined Roman state of the middle Republic, the fragmented and distracted world of the Roman state in the age of Theodosius I and his sons becomes even more obviously dysfunctional. This applies still more to the empire of Phocas and Heraclius and to the fragments of it that passed to their successors.

Thus we have been concerned with military, political, social, and economic power all at the same time, but also with gender power and the power of ideas, and with all the channels, especially ideological ones, through which power was exercised. And it has constantly been necessary to ask how much these historical processes disclose the dominance of a single social class.

Why did Roman power spread so widely and lasted so long. Many factors worked together in the middle Republic to produce an extraordinary though not uninterrupted train of military victories: these factors included geographical location and demographic success, which was greatly assisted by the enslavement of defeated enemies and by the incorporation of manumitted slaves. And the Romans’ exceptional devotion to war becomes visible from virtually the beginning of their well-recorded history.

By the last decade of the fourth century BC, if not earlier, Rome’s resources overshadowed those of most of its chosen enemies. With exceptional skill, Rome managed to exploit the manpower resources of other communities, at first the Latins, then, by the 270s at the latest, other Italians. Another feature that emerges clearly by the time of the first war with Carthage is Rome’s capacity for absorbing military technology from other nations.

Social discipline, however, was crucial, including the discipline that sustained aristocratic competition while never letting it get out of hand. There is no sign at all in this period that ordinary Romans were reluctant to serve in the army, but an aristocracy, very powerful though not all-powerful, guided the state’s external policy and did so in a consistent fashion. Much in all this remains uncertain of course – there are hardly any contemporary texts, and we do not know for instance whether the pathological and intimidating violence that Polybius and his informants saw in Roman soldiers already differentiated them from other Italian peoples around, say, 300 BC.

We are better informed about the `organizational techniques’ (to repeat Michael Mann’s phrase) that enabled Rome to hold on to what it had won in peninsular Italy, and they have been studied extensively: colonization, land-confiscations, road-building, the spread of Roman citizenship and Italian identity, together with a limited degree of cultural and religious interference. Rome always tended to favour the local men of wealth and power if they were willing to cooperate, as many of them were.

It only just worked: Hannibal came fairly close to destroying Rome’s control over peninsular Italy, and the anger of the Italians themselves boiled over in the widespread revolt of 91-90 BC. On both occasions, however, there were so many Italian `allies’ who were either favourable to Rome or at any rate disinclined to take up arms in rebellion that Rome prevailed.

Explaining Rome’s military success in its conflicts with the other great Mediterranean powers, down to the destruction of Carthage in 146, is another challenging task. Carthage and Macedon disappeared as independent states, and the empire of the Seleucids, much reduced, had to recognize its subordinate role after the Battle of Pydna in 168. Naval power was crucial: between 260 (the Battle of Mylae) and 190 (the Battle of Myonnesus) Rome appropriated the Mediterranean, aided once again by several advantages – in particular, the economic resources necessary for the construction and renewal of large fleets, and the more or less voluntary cooperation of Greek cities possessed of naval expertise. But the majority of Rome’s fighting over this 120-year period was on land, against many different opponents. It was often an unequal contest, but that was not at first the case with the great Mediterranean powers, and indeed it was not a foregone conclusion either that Rome would conquer a large part of Iberia. Roman armies always prevailed in the end, for reasons that are to a considerable degree unfathomable. Discipline, both social and military, had much to do with it once again, and discipline was at the centre of Polybius’ explanation. He also told how the ferocity of Roman soldiers intimidated their Macedonian counterparts, who at the time were probably as tough as any others in the Mediterranean world.

As in Italy, so in the territories that Rome came to control down to 146, the victors devised organizational techniques that were fully sufficient to sustain long-term control: on the one hand, provinces and new magistracies, diplomacy of a much more ambitious kind, accompanied by appropriate slogans, together with, once again, support for cooperative local men of property; on the other hand, brutal displacement when it was considered necessary, culminating in the destruction of the historic cities of Carthage and Corinth and the distribution of their land to Roman and Italian settlers.

Rome suffered some spectacular military defeats during the remaining 130 years of unrelenting imperial expansion – in particular at Arausio (105), Carrhae (53), and the Teutoburg Forest (ad 9) – the inevitable con- sequences, we may say, of a highly aggressive, sometimes over-confident, manner of dealing with the outside world. But the overall record was still triumphant, for Rome’s resources and commitment were enough to deal with any remaining enemy anywhere in the Mediterranean area or in northern Europe – with one exception, the empire of the Parthians. In the north, however, Roman determination flagged at a crucial time (from AD 9 onwards) – for good rational reasons – and so the lands to the east of the Rhine and north of the Danube remained free.

Through all this era of republican and Augustan expansion, we can relate Rome’s external and internal power relations. The broad outlines are clear: competition between aristocrats in a warrior society, a society furthermore in which citizen power did not produce detectable democratic aspirations of a serious kind until the age of the Gracchi, demanded constant warfare. Military prestige remained indispensable to anyone who claimed to rule, at least down to the time of Tiberius. In the end imperial expansion became less attractive in large part because it did not suit the monarchical ruler to entrust large army commands to potential rivals, or to raise added revenue for this purpose.

The growth of Rome’s external power, meanwhile, revolutionized Roman society, above all by filling it with slaves and by separating the wealthy more and more from the ordinary people. Never a democracy, mid-republican Rome nonetheless left important powers to the citizens. It was the aristocracy that dominated, however – an aristocracy fortified by assorted social and religious practices that cut across class lines, but always an aristocracy. The Roman family contributed to an exceptional degree of civic discipline. Prevailing values such as fides and virtus tended to strengthen this discipline; the ideal of libertas, on the other hand, had more complex effects. In any case the Senate, which was quite large in relation to the size of the citizen population, dominated the body politic. There were some warning signs in the mid-second century, but until about 140 the senatorial order and its allies seemed to be in very firm control. They had enriched themselves and judiciously shared the benefits of successful imperialism. But they had left many of the needs and aspirations of ordinary Romans unsatisfied; and meanwhile their own culture was changing, away from militarism (though this trend must not be exaggerated) and towards competition and enjoyment in many other areas of life (Greek influence making itself felt here).

The discontents of the late Republic were of at least four different kinds. Most easily accommodated were the aspirations of the emerging class of moderately well-off citizens who inspired the ballot laws of the 130s. Much more problematic and never to be accommodated in any way was the rebelliousness of the slaves, at its height between 140 and 71. Extreme trouble came from the non-citizen Italians, who, however, were eventually accommodated at the cost of the most radical policy reversal in the whole of Roman history, mainly encapsulated in the Julian law that gave most of them Roman citizenship in the year 90.

The fourth kind of conflict, no graver perhaps than slave rebelliousness or the discontent of the Italians, but not susceptible of resolution without civil war, consisted of the needs of the poorer section of the population all over the Italian peninsula. These needs could be accommodated, but only when they were channelled into the ranks of quasi-revolutionary armies and subjected to the ambitions of the aristocrats who vied for personal dominance in the two generations from Sulla to Octavian. The result was more than fifty years of turmoil and insecurity.

It is hardly surprising that the senatorial order was unable to control the rise of mighty dynasts from amidst its own ranks. It made many questionable moves, and in the end lost its political supremacy, though not decisively so until the reign of Tiberius; and even then the social class of rentiers, having survived the proscriptions and other dangers of the late Republic and triumviral periods – when many aristocratic families died out or declined – lived on, substantially invulnerable to popular discontent.

Octavian/Augustus, having shed great quantities of Roman and other blood to establish himself as sole ruler, restored a degree of stability that had been unknown since at least the start of the Social War, sixty years before the Battle of Actium. With extraordinary astuteness and a whole panoply of institutional and ideological weapons he rendered himself invulnerable, and eventually handed on power to his chosen successor.

That successor, Tiberius, put into effect a change in Rome’s behaviour in the outside world that turned out to be long lasting. Whereas Augustus had challenged the Germanic peoples but not the Parthians, Tiberius largely left both to their own devices. Over the next 200 years Roman expansion sharply decelerated, for several different reasons. These varied in their relative importance: the single most significant factor was probably the need that the emperor inevitably felt to protect himself from usurpers, for it was obvious that a spectacularly successful army-commander threatened the man at the top, while very few emperors desired, as Trajan did, the real task of personally leading arduous conquests. An empire with a long frontier and many restless subjects was inevitably engaged very frequently in secondary conflicts. Rome’s military forces were quite a heavy financial burden, especially after the Great Pestilence – beginning under Marcus Aurelius – reduced the tax base, and after Septimius Severus increased the number of legions, and this too was a major restraining influence. It also mattered that many Romans could convince themselves that there was nothing outside the empire that was worth conquering, and that in an absolute monarchy the emperor could claim to be a conqueror without actually conquering any- thing. It is evident furthermore that virtually the whole governing class had lost its republican passion for military glory.

Thus Rome came in practice to settle down behind a largely unchanging frontier, which it defended in part by periodically terrorizing its neighbours. The empire of Constantine was larger than that of Tiberius, and its frontiers seemed fairly secure, but it had its military weaknesses as well as its potentially severe internal problems. That it had spent too much – in both men and money – during the civil wars after the end of the tetrarchy might not have mattered if it had not been for the certainty that civil war would soon return once Constantine disappeared. It is very tempting to see in the tetrarchic-Constantinian army the seeds of future troubles – huge expense, plus the imperfect identification of `barbarian’ troops with Rome.

Under the middle Republic, a very large percentage of the healthy male citizens did at least some military service: we might guesstimate that in the mid-second century BC at least 50 per cent of them saw service at some time or other. Once the veterans of the Actium campaign had died out, in Tiberius’ reign, the proportion of the male population that knew military service at first hand declined: we can estimate that by the mid-second century ad something like 4 per cent of living citizen males were serving in the military or had done so, and an even smaller percentage of the total male population. Of those who did serve at that time, fewer experienced real fighting against formidable enemies. Hence there will have been far fewer citizens with old wounds, far fewer young widows – and far fewer citizens hardened by warfare. The Roman state was less belligerent, and it was less ready for major conflicts.

The durability of the Roman Empire obviously depended a great deal on its internal structures of power, and thanks to an extensive documentary as well as literary record these structures can be better known in the first to fourth centuries than earlier or later. There always remains the secrecy of the imperial court, but the main systems are quite visible.