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Suggestions for military system for my empire.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Tarron Zeng, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. Tarron Zeng

    Tarron Zeng Dreamer

    Hello guys, I'm working on an empire for my world. I already planned their culture, religion, economics, foreign relations and demographics. I am struggling to choose a reliable military system for my empire. I have 3 types of systems listed here:

    1. Citizen army. Must pay for their own armour and weapons and mustered in times of need. Rankings are deduced by age and experience.

    2. Soldier caste. Soldiers are paid by the bureaucracy and are called up in times of war. Rankings are deduced by experience. Soldiers and their families are expected to live in military settlements. Soldier's sons are expected to be soldiers as well

    3. Feudal armies. Soldiers are levied and by the upper knightly classes to serve their lords. Poorly trained and equipped.

    What are your suggestions?
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    option one is basically a militia. without excellent leadership, it is likely to devolve into a sort of 'mob.' In practice, these get superseded by professional armies. It happened in the bible (old testament), it gradually happened in Rome (over-simplification) and it happened in the US (the whole 2nd amendment thing)

    option three is a recipe for 'Game of Thrones' style civil war - any powerful noble with a gripe declares himself emperor and marches on the capital. This is what happened during the 3rd century AD with the Roman Empire - part of that period is down as the 'age of military anarchy.' When Diocletian/Constantine finally restored order, the Empire's very nature was fundamentally changed.

    Option two comes closest to what the romans had, and maintained their empire with for several centuries. If I remember correctly, a similar system to the one you describe was employed by the Ottoman Empire, but that is not something I claim familiarity with.

    Assuming your empire is large, based on conquest, and reasonably stable, a professional army is pretty much a given.

    I find myself bothered by the feudalism option - that means a radically different type of society from the one that could maintain a large professional army. Same issue with the militia model (option one) - this is a different type of society from the others. Implies world building issues.
  3. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

    I'm with ThinkerX on this. A large professional army is probably the best option for it. Part of what makes them the Empire in many ways. As long as they can keep it as a standing army or in their expansion, pulling in the natives in a form of conscription and to assimilate them. Might have a home bound militia of sorts or the guards as an offshoot of the army. Which could lead to it's own interesting variations between the Home Guard and the soldiers on the Front.
    Tarron Zeng likes this.
  4. Tarron Zeng

    Tarron Zeng Dreamer

    Option 2’s military settlement is based on the Seleucid Empire’s Katoikoi settlements. Seleucus I Nicator granted Greeks lands to maintain in return in service for their military campaigns.

    So I think that Option 2 is the most popular one in this thread.
    Let me work on this.
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    There is 3a [plus a bit of 2] A small army hired or otherwise paid for by a Noble or wealthy person. These could be mercenary forces hired for a term or event, or a small retinue of relatively well trained and armed locals loyal to the Noble...
    Again this would affect society and the world your building. Having private armies with your border is liable to make any Ruler a little nervous...
    JGCully likes this.
  6. JGCully

    JGCully Scribe

    Depending on what you want them to do in your story, i'm with CupofJoe with option 3a. Mercenaries offer additional story telling options, and opportunities for rebellion.
  7. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    None of the three options will suffice in this case. A citizen''s army won't work because the citizen armies are made up of groups like farmers, peasants and workers. If the Empire faces a short term threat that''s fine but if the conflict drags on there will be no one to plant or harvest crops, supply the food needed to feed the army or make and maintain weapons and armour. Eventually the Empire will collapse because of famine, disease and shortages of military hardware. The feudal army has pretty much the same problem.

    The key reason why the Maori in New Zealand lost to the British wasn't sheer force of arms but because the British soldier was a professional soldier trained to fight wars year round whereas the Maori warriors were seasonal fighters. For certain times of the year they fished and planted and harvested crops and for certain times of the year they fought small scale skirmishes with other tribes. The ceaseless need to fight the British meant they couldn't do their farming with the result famine and disease achieved what British bullets couldn't.

    A soldier caste is the best of the three options but the biggest problem they face is that large Empires need large soldier castes to defend or expand them. Those soldier castes cost a lot of money and the tax burden to pay for them seldom fall upon those who gain the most from the Empire''s conquests. Eventually the tax burden becomes so much that those who pay the most taxes either stop paying the taxes or they walk away from the land or trade they're working in because it''s not worth the bother as nearly everything they produce ends up going to the soldier caste and the political elite they defend. End result: mutiny among the ranks, disease and famine.

    This is what brought the Roman Empire down and it was a key factor as to why the Soviet Union eventually collapsed. The burden of paying for the military elite bankrupted both the Roman Empire and the Soviet Union, caused critical shortages of food and other essential needs as these things were diverted to the military elite and brought about the eventual economic collapse of both regimes.

    If you want a military capable of defending and/or expanding a large Empire the answer lies in what both the Mongol and British Empires did. You have a small but highly professional imperial army paid for by the colonising power that has standardised training, weapons and equipment who train and equip lsoldiers recruited in the areas they govern. You place the burden of paying for these local soldiers on local taxpayers. Because the taxes are only paying for local soldiers the tax burden is relatively light. If the Empire faces an invasion or there''s a major rebellion the local soldiers can be easily integrated into the imperial army because of the standardized training and equipment. That makes the imperial army a very powerful force when it needs to be and very economic to run. Standardised equipment and training is very cost efficient which will please both bureaucrats and tax payers alike. This fourth option also allows you to play off local elites against each other so they don't pose a threat to the political elite that controls your Empire.
    Tarron Zeng likes this.
  8. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Without knowing what you want your army to do I find its impossible to say which option is better since they all allow different stories to different degrees.
  9. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    I think the type of military the empire will field would be dictated by the type of empire. If it's a relatively young and small empire, Option 1 fits. If you've got a massive, sprawling, centralised empire go with Option 2. If it's a decentralised empire in an area of relatively low population density, Option 3 is the way to go.
  10. Ashur-is-King

    Ashur-is-King New Member

    My thoughts are that if you have already detailed culture, religion, economics, foreign relations, and demographics, then the choice should follow very naturally from that.

    If you have a feudal culture, then it makes sense for the military to be a feudal army built around a military elite, like the knights of Europe or the dehqan class in Sassanid Persia, with peasant conscript levies or even village militias. Maybe add in some mercenaries, perhaps some barbarian horsemen from the steppes (I have Sassanid Persia in mind) and/or pikemen and bowmen recruited from other settled cultures (here I have Late Medieval/Early Modern Europe in mind).

    Adding to this, consider your foreign relations. A feudal culture will almost certainly not be in a good position to resist military pressure from a neighbor with a powerful national army. On the other hand, if the neighboring powers are similarly feudal it may be very well-matched. If they are tribal, your feudal culture may be militarily dominant (here I have in mind the eastern frontier of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th and 11th centuries).

    Your soldier caste puts me in mind of the early caliphal armies in the wake of the Arab Muslim conquests. They settled soldiers in military settlements, and from what I understand there were some efforts at separation from the local population (though I could have that wrong). Same deal, though: this is a system that must be grounded in the demographic, economic, cultural, and political history and makeup of your society.

    If you have a citizen army, that says to me that you have either a city-state, Classical Greek or Roman-style, or something like Montenegro – a small country entirely surrounded by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, effectively a hill tribe society facing a combination of military and political pressures that allowed them to create an all-volunteer citizen-army of volunteers. Or you could go French Revolution-Napoleon-style and have a levee en masse, the effective beginning of modern mass conscription.

    You might also find the Ottoman system of the devshirme, the “youth-levy” interesting. Because the Ottomans were a frontier society, they developed an institution whereby they took youths from conquered Christian communities in the Balkans and raised them as elite slave-soldiers, the Janissaries. It was an institution which could develop in that place and time because of the Ottomans’ frontier expansion: the sultans wanted an elite force that would be beholden to them and would have no familial power-base, effectively a counter-weight to the provincial cavalry timariot system (military service as a due for a land grant, a timar).

    Anyway, really interesting question you ask, and I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes, eh?
    Tarron Zeng likes this.

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