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pre gun arms control?

Discussion in 'Research' started by ascanius, Jan 27, 2014.

  1. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    I am looking for information about arms control prior to gunpowder during the Roman republic if possible but any time periods works.

    Regardless of whether or not arms control occurred prior to guns do you think it would be reasonable for a government to forbid weapons?


    One I think it would be a great way to discourage dissenters. What population is going to go up against armed soldiers with nothing but knives and rocks. I see such a thing as being of great advantage to a government, evil or benign, simply because it's people have no means to fight back.

    I do see one problem with this. It increases the cost of maintaining larger standing armies for the defense of the main and minor settlements because militias would be near impossible to raise at a moments notice.

    One other item of note is that the cost of weapons would probablely be a self regulating form of arms control. However I do wonder about professional soldiers and those retired. I would think they would take their weapons and armor home with them, I may be wrong though.

    With these points of thinking, I think that control of weapons is going to occur more often in secure areas away from borders.
    One last thing. If my above reasoning seems valid what type of weapons would be forbidden to the common population, or even the entire population save for those permitted to own weapons.

    Edit: let's keep this on topic and relevant.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I have read that many forms of martial arts are based on restrictions placed upon the peasantry against carrying weapons. There was a need for self defence and a way was found to use what was at hand to accomplish that.
    As for dissent...
    If the masses are aggrieved enough, they will face the forces of their subjugation with nothing more that sticks and stones. Governments have been overthrown by one person standing up and saying no and others standing with them. If fact all governments are overthrown that way.
     
  3. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    Good point; though likely, the ban would only be against possessing weapons of "war"; swords, maces, lances etc... and not one that could legitimately be used for normal day-to-day things, like axes, mauls or even bows in the rural districts (to keep livestock safe from wolves/coyotes). Overall, it would be easy enough to overcome if each barracks keeps a supply of weapons of "war" on hand and heavily protected. It would limit the assembly time a little, gathering the conscripts at the barracks, but would be better than having to bring them from the cities. Not to mention, most conscript armies usually used what they had on hand for war anyway; their boar spears, hay forks, grain flails, scythes etc. Limiting these likely wouldn't work simply because the farms couldn't function well without them, limiting the possible productivity of the area.

    If, like the English did with the Scottish; they DID limit these sorts too, you probably wouldn't care much about those lands and people anyway and it wouldn't really be about controlling the weapons. It would be about sublimating the population.
     
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    As mentioned above you can ban obvious things like swords and armor, but then when you get into a gray area, it becomes more tricky. What counts as a weapon? They can ban things like bows and slings, but then how will people hunt for food? And how do you stop someone from just making a bow or sling? The materials to make them literally grow on trees, and would it really be practical to use up resources to do routine checks? Why not spend those resources keeping the people happy and thus less likely to rebel?

    Farm tools can be use as weapons, and when there's a will, there's a way. A rock lashed to a stick or a heavy frying pan can bash someone's brains in just as well as a mace. A wooden spear can stick someone just as well as an arrow.

    IMHO the government can ban weapons all they want, but that just makes people three times as determined to have them and hide them. I think you're more on track will cost being a limiting factor.

    But regardless of practicalities, just choose an option that makes for the best story. If you want nobody to have weapons then just have it be that way.
     
  5. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    In the words of Terry Pratchett "Anyone who doesn't believe Pitchforks, Scythes and Hoes make dangerous weapons has never been on the losing side in a farmers rebellion.
     
  6. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Let me throw the factor of social structure into the mix. England has long had a history of armed citizens. This is because they've long made use of militias composed of people who supplied their own weapons. France, on the other hand, placed tighter controls on the lower classes - they didn't have that tradition of a civilian militia. Still, as others have pointed out, lots of agricultural implements make good weapons. The tool a farmer used to clear brush wasn't terribly different from a halberd. Weapons with pointy things mounted on long shafts are pretty easy to make, and infantry armed with such weapons can easily match armored nobles on to battlefield. Hammers, axes and maces are very effective weapons against armored opponents, and they're all pretty simple, so simple there is no practical way to keep them out of the hands of the general populace.
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    One word: Japan.

    (One response: nunchatku. Also staff techniques, kusari-kama, and all kinds of other experiments with farm implements and basic materials, along with the legend of the anti-authority ninja who used them like an eastern Robin Hood. Just how common or effective these were against actual samurai, I can't be so sure.)
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Wasn't the wearing of a sword forbidden to all except the nobility at some point in time?

    I think the Romans had some rules about what you could wear around town and specifically in the Senate. But those boys did love their cudgels and never seemed to let rules get in the way of a good riot.

    The real issue here, it seems to me, is the matter of government control. To put it succinctly, governments had little to no police force and could not make people do much of anything. Social pressure was far more effective. Just making a law against it would do little except provide more work for lawyers.

    That said, why worry about how it was done on Earth? You can make up your own rules and violations of same. In fact, now you mention it, it'd be interesting to have some sort of regulation of the use of magic -- no conjuring on market day, or no spell casting within the royal palace, or whatever. The regulation isn't the interesting bit, of course; the breaking of it would be.
     
  9. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    Crossbows were banned back in the day. (According to Wikipedia that day was in the year 1139 by Pope Innocent II.) As I recall, it was an issue that a mere peasant could dispose of the well-trained and expensively equipped knight with the simple twitch of a trigger.

    The problem with banning arms from dissenters is that, well, you're doing something - most likely - to cause that dissension. Not always, but often enough. And a king or noble who's putting that much pressure on the peasantry will eventually push a little too hard.

    Facing knights with pitchforks doesn't really matter quite as much when you're wife's died of cholera, your child starved last winter, and you've been scraping your dinner from the growth of flora and fauna under rocks.

    Push a woman or man too hard and they'll push back.
     
  10. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Depends on the region. Some did, some didn't.
    The Third Lateran Council banned the use of crossbows on Christians. They had no objections to using it on non-Christians. This proclamation had absolutely no impact on the frequency of its use.
     
  11. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

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    I can only use wikipedia on this, sadly it's been 22 years since I was at the university and all my history classes, but it was, apparently, Innocent II in the Second Lateran Council that banned crossbows against Christians. Though, if the annotation on the wiki entry is correct, there seems to be some question as to whether or not the ban actually happened.

    From those history classes in the way back, the reason for the ban was to prevent cheaply made weapons used by quickly trained troops from killing good Christian knights worth the combined value of two or three villages.

    Did it have any effect? Well, the Church wouldn't have been concerned with non-Christian fatalities. As far as Christian vs. Christian, I honestly couldn't tell you. I presume that would have to do with the relative strength of the reigning Pope and the piety/fear of Christian nobles.

    Were the ban in effect, and Pope Innocent III on the Papal Throne, I know I wouldn't have used the things - at least without plausible deniability.
     
  12. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Right you are - it was the Second Lateran Council, not the Third. From what I can tell, though, it was all but universally ignored. There were several Italian regions that were famous for hiring out mercenary crossbowmen and as far as I can tell this declaration by the church had no impact whatsoever on their business.

    Innocent III actually reissued the ban at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 but, again, it was largely ignored. Mercenary crossbowmen continued to do good business.
     
    skip.knox likes this.
  13. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Troubadour

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    If a government really is benign, there should be no reason to fight back. I figure that, if a total ban were put into effect after a long tradition of weapon-wielding for all, there would be dissension regardless of whether or not there were previously other problems. You know, the whole forbidden-fruit-must-be-tasted thing. Furthermore, a ban will do nothing to stop someone who is determined to use a weapon. So long as weapons exist and people think they have reasons to use them, people can get them. I would imagine this to be even more true in an age like the Roman. The government just doesn't have the means to keep an eye on every person, and the Romans were a notoriously violent society. You'd probably be more likely to be arrested for speaking out against the ban than actually breaking it.

    To me, it seems like a useless policy for a Roman-esque government. Of course, that is just the type of patrician-plebian friction that can make for good reading. And it is by no means implausible, whether or not it actually happened.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    All the previous comments are valid. If you really want to impose some sort of effective ban, make it a social convention rather than a government edict. Prior to the 20thc, governments were pretty ineffective anyway.
     
  15. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Troubadour

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    This is a fantastic point, especially when considering the Romans. Their sense of self worth by and large came from how they were viewed by their fellow citizens.
     
  16. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Consider prisons. Here is an environment where government has as much control as possible over the prisoners, yet the prisoners still manage to get their hands on weapons and other contraband. If government can't keep contraband out of a small, sealed facility, how can they possibly keep it out of general society?
     
  17. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that Greek Fire was banned at one point. I suppose it was the equivalent of a WMD.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  18. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Greek Fire might be the one kind of ban that comes closest to working, because it was a technical secret already closely guarded by relatively few people. Same thing with today's WMD, to some extent-- many minor nations want nuclear weapons, if only to be bribed to give them up, but they'd have to go against world opinion all the way through the process of making them.

    Very different from taking away people's swords.
     
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