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August 31, 2011 1:55 PM   Subscribe


 
<nitpick> still reading, but the answerer assumes that the Marines are stunned. often. </nitpick> back to RingTFA
posted by bl1nk at 2:01 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I commented on this on Reddit earlier, I think it would be easy. As it is unlikely that generals would keep coming after an inexplicable and seemi9ngly invincible force, with devastating weapons. At that point you just point towards Rome and travel at a pace never before achieved by a human not falling off of a very tall cliff, and you will be home before Christmas.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:02 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


the answer is no.

its called supply. where they gonna get gas and ammo? Food?

Don't think so.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:02 PM on August 31, 2011 [19 favorites]


Supply would be one (huge) problem. I presume smallpox would be another.
posted by pompomtom at 2:05 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Seems like germs would be the thing to worry about. I'm not sure which group would die first, though.
posted by odinsdream at 2:05 PM on August 31, 2011


Seems to me that in the end gas and ammo wouldn't be that big a deal. The Marines still have extremely advanced body armor and intense long-term training in hand-to-hand combat with a variety of weapons. I would imagine they would be able to forage fairly well, too.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2011


I am so reading this when I get out of work.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2011


Read the damn second link.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, contrariwise, perhaps the Ancients would be the ones most hurt by pathogens.
posted by pompomtom at 2:07 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to say that a lot of the immediate suggestions for the Marines not winning could be overcome if whomever was sending them into the conflict clearly thought out the plan before sending them into it. I hope the irony of this isn't lost on anyone..
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:08 PM on August 31, 2011 [21 favorites]


Yeah, no.

The modern-day infantry battalion would have X amount of ammo. The Roman Empire had Y amount of soldiers. I would venture a guess that Y is a much bigger number than X.
posted by lydhre at 2:09 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


The whole "running out of ammunition and fuel" bit would probably make things difficult.

On preview, what Ironmouth said: invincible, until the magic weapons stopped working, leaving a disciplined but untrained and un-equipped army without javelins or swords. The Marines are wonderful at hand-to-hand combat, but it's a very different kind of combat.
posted by jrochest at 2:09 PM on August 31, 2011


Amazing read. I agree with others that while the modern army my have firepower, they lack their vast and powerful communications and navigations systems - and more importantly, they lack supplies. This issue has caused other large armies to fail in the past.
posted by greenhornet at 2:10 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hope the guy finishes this or I am going to donwvote bomb him.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:10 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Dear Prufrock451:

FINISH THE FUCKING STORY.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:10 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


I like the response as a piece of "flash fiction," as the author calls it.

It seems to be that it does not really answer the question in a serious sense, though, because the question appears to be asking, if you traveled back in time with the intention of destroying the Roman Empire what would happen?

Preparations would be made that would account for a number of things, such as the issue of supply lines; translators. Strategies would be put in place. I don't think the Romans would stand a chance.

I would imagine that the first line of battle would be shock and awe, relying on long range missile and artillery technology. I doubt that a planned invasion of Rome with modern warriors would require much hand-to-hand combat.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:11 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Are modern soldiers accustomed to killing dozens and dozens of men with their bare hands in the most gruesome ways imaginable? Are they used to the level of raw up-close-and-personal violence that the ancients were? Can they kill women and children without a second though? Are they ready for pure barbarism?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:12 PM on August 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


I can't see them holding a city for any length of time , diplomacy would win the day, as laid out in the shirt story response.

Now the men return to the present day after some of their equipment vanishes/ traded, and the history of world is very different.

The huge temple to Usmarine, God of Aviation where the UK houses of Parliament used to be, for one.
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on August 31, 2011 [16 favorites]


Don't think it was linked, he moved to /r/romesweetrome
posted by Ad hominem at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would diseases really be that big of a deal given that US armed forces

a) are given comprehensive vaccinations against a *huge* array of diseases, including many third-world-only ones that correspond to many of the more common in the old world, and
b) Unlike nearly everyone alive at the time, aren't suffering from one form of malnutrition or another?
posted by Ryvar at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Agreed with jaggerjaw: the response is cute, but it doesn't even begin to answer the original question in good faith.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 2:15 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


intense long-term training in hand-to-hand combat

Unlike the Romans.
posted by DU at 2:16 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh by the way, if you like this check out the comic Pax Romana.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:16 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder how many of the Reddit folks going nuts over that regularly mock fanfiction.
posted by kmz at 2:16 PM on August 31, 2011 [11 favorites]


until the magic weapons stopped working, leaving a disciplined but untrained and un-equipped army without javelins or swords. The Marines are wonderful at hand-to-hand combat, but it's a very different kind of combat

Just from the initial encounter, they've got 50 javelins and/or swords. I imagine another 1950 wouldn't be too difficult. And it may be a different kind of combat, but I'm not sure it's different enough to. I'm willing to concede that wave after wave of troops would overwhelm them, but even strategic and tactical advances could go a long way to blunt that. And politically speaking, it would be disastrous for the Romans to start pulling legions from other areas, many of whom (notably the Gauls) would be all too willing to take advantage of said withdrawals, and possibly even ally with the Marines.

As The Whelk says, diplomacy would likely win the day, at least for a while.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:17 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are modern soldiers accustomed to killing dozens and dozens of men with their bare hands in the most gruesome ways imaginable? Are they used to the level of raw up-close-and-personal violence that the ancients were? Can they kill women and children without a second though? Are they ready for pure barbarism?

Do you know many active duty soldiers? Speaking as someone who has never even considered military service but who has a number of childhood friends currently serving in Afghanistan, I'm pretty sure their answer would be a genuinely enthusiastic SIR, YES SIR.
posted by Ryvar at 2:17 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


"but I'm not sure it's different enough to make a difference," I mean.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:17 PM on August 31, 2011


These answers assume modern Marines are a bunch of idiots who wouldn't know how to conserve ammunition? Or pick up fallen weapons?
Or that their commander is stupid and doesn't know how to alter tactics?

Have any of these answerers met an active duty Marine?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2011 [21 favorites]


Agreed with jaggerjaw

OMG you just made my username sound so much more awesome

posted by jabberjaw at 2:19 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm looking forward to Smedleyman's response.
posted by desjardins at 2:20 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


If they can't get back, and they don't want to actively usurp the existing givemernt cause why? You end up with the aforementioned camps on the edge of the empire, having Marines around to deal with the northern tribes could be very profitable and Rome was pretty good about absorbing people they considered helpful, maybe they retain semi automny and soon there are streets and wives and slaves and Camp Freedom is a particularly bizarre outpost in the Germanic Forrest with a very very we rid creation myth and talk about a previous golden age and city on a hill...
posted by The Whelk at 2:23 PM on August 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?

Why would you want to? They're already at the top of the food chain, make some sweat deals and you're golden.

This buys you time to develop a manufacturing infrastructure for gas and oil. And then the fun really begins.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:25 PM on August 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


I am really sad. Before I clicked I thought this was some kind of Civilization IV mod with ridiculous scenarios built in—modern infantry against Ancient Rome, a nuclear strike on Montezuma's jaguar soldiers, etc. The kind of Civilization mod that I need.

:(
posted by peachfuzz at 2:25 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also fighting Rome means fighting Rome and all her allies. Egypt's reaction might be interesting...
posted by The Whelk at 2:26 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


To put another way, could a single battalion of technologically advanced alien soldiers destroy the United States without any external support? I imagine they could do a lot of damage, maybe level the East Coast or take the president hostage, but unless they've got impenetrable shields and an infinite power source they'd run out of steam sooner or later, even if they could scavenge our resources along the way.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:28 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the Janissaries series only with a lot more firepower.
posted by flyingfox at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The kind of Civilization mod that I need.

You get one city, Nantucket, and two gunpowder units. Use them wisely, because you cannot build any more.
posted by Zed at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like the part where people post naked pictures of themselves/other people.

Oh wait, that's the rest of Reddit.
posted by Fister Roboto at 2:32 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I imagine they could do a lot of damage, maybe level the East Coast or take the president hostage, but unless they've got impenetrable shields and an infinite power source they'd run out of steam sooner or later, even if they could scavenge our resources along the way.

Aliens without impenetrable shields and an infinite power source? That's just not believable.
posted by The World Famous at 2:33 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just from the initial encounter, they've got 50 javelins and/or swords. I imagine another 1950 wouldn't be too difficult. And it may be a different kind of combat, but I'm not sure it's different enough to. I'm willing to concede that wave after wave of troops would overwhelm them, but even strategic and tactical advances could go a long way to blunt that.

I sincerely doubt that a modern fighting force would have any kind of tactical advantage fighting a Roman Leigon with their weaponry. You think they teach how to hold a Phalanx vs Heavy Cavalry 101 at Camp Pendleton? Archery 300?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:35 PM on August 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


I like the part where people post naked pictures of themselves/other people.

Oh wait, that's the rest of Reddit.


Don't be absurd. There are whole subreddits devoted to posting pictures of people in swimsuits or underwear, but that do not allow naked people at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:37 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, once your marines have exhausted their ammunition, fuel and whatever food they have with them (and maybe killed a bunch of people), you could begin to train them in infantry tactics from the period (they may already have some advantage in this resulting from training in hand-to-hand combat and formation marching from boot, your 0300s and similar MOSs might do better). You would then have a couple of centuries of men that you could form into the core of a legion, perhaps with its own culture, specialized training and discipline. You might be able to further recruit additional soldiers and incorporate them into your force (assuming someone in your battalion speaks Latin or a local language, although you'd still be lacking archers and cavalry, so it might be better to enlist in an existing legion (your 1300s might adapt better to the engineering practices of the period).

Then you'd probably want to stage a few successful campaigns in the provinces (Gallia, Germania and Asia Minor are all good options, but Africa puts you closer to the granaries of Egypt, which will be important in the next phase), and use the treasure and slaves you acquire to raise more troops. At this point you'll probably want to make friends with a few influential senators and get yourself appointed governor to somewhere, or possibly quaestor, which would give you access to additional revenues (oh, you'll also need to become a citizen, which will require more treasure).

At this time, you'll need to seriously start building up your influence in Rome itself. Obviously, you'll want to position yourself on the side of restoring the Republic, and if it is early enough into Augustus' reign, you may still find some public sentiment in your favor. You may also get support from a number of disaffected Patrician families, although they may have difficulty with the fact that you are not patrician yourself, or descended from one of the tribes of Rome. In this case you might try to win support amongst the Plebs, but this will also present difficulties much of Octavian's power base comes from this class. Either way, as much political support as you build up, eventually your plan will require military intervention, as the senate under Augustus is never going to make you a consul. Laying siege directly to Rome is probably a losing strategy- better to seize outer provinces, or ally yourself with their governors and mobilize additional military support from these sources (a neighboring king or two might also help you). Ideally, the way to capture Rome is to choke off it's food supply, and at the time of Augustus, this means Egypt. Now Augustus has led a successful campaign in Africa before, but really this was only after decisive victories at sea and in Asia, so if you achieve a superior position around the Nile, you may be able to hold him off.

Best case scenario, you defeat Augustus, march on Rome, have yourself named dictator, pull a Sulla on Augustus' supporters and restore the Republic. If you don't decisively defeat Augustus, he may offer you a co-consulship, in which case you'd probably have to continue building military and political power to the point when you can openly challenge him again in civil war. Then, should you choose not to name yourself emperor, you can restore the Republic and say that you have destroyed the Roman Empire.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:38 PM on August 31, 2011 [22 favorites]


Seems to me that after they run out of ammo they can make crossbows, don't even need to pick up javelins and swords.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:39 PM on August 31, 2011


This seems very much like a particular flavour of thread on the venerable soc.history.what-if usenet group. There were multiple considerations of what would happen if 20th century location X was transported back X 100 years, along with the more common alternate histories you might expect. This one is not particularly outstanding.
posted by biffa at 2:39 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


You think they teach how to hold a Phalanx vs Heavy Cavalry 101 at Camp Pendleton? Archery 300?

Exactly! It's crazy to think that the Marines wouldn't get their asses wasted post-haste once they ran out of ammunition. And it wouldn't be by a human wave attack. Roman military dominance was achieved through discipline; the Marines would not have a significant advantage on that score if they had any at all. And they'd be fighting against superior forces who were actually familiar with their weapons and the tactics to employ them.

Tell me, how exactly is a bunch of Marines going to execute a testudo formation? Answer: they aren't.
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


A couple of things here.

First, the explanation of original question talks about destroying the 30 legions of Augustus-era Rome, not destroying the empire. I'd imagine the empire would fall apart if the entire army disappeared over a month or so but it is a bit of a different problem - no need to occupy anything unless you're forcing the legions to come to you.

Second, the logistics element of an MEU is intended to be self-supporting for 15 days. That is two weeks to hunt down and destroy 30 legions spread across most of southern Europe. On Roman-era roads. With no intelligence, satellite imagery, GPS navigation, maps, etc.

Not a hope in hell they manage to take down more than a handful of legions, and that depends on them appearing in the right place at the right time.
posted by N-stoff at 2:40 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why would you want to? They're already at the top of the food chain, make some sweat deals and you're golden

I figure if I have a couple of snipers by which I can "magically" drop some opposing commanders just by pointing at them, I should have a goodly number of converts, well versed in javelin throwing, by the end of the day. The Romans understood having the gods meddle in their business and knew you would rather be on their side than fighting them.

Look what the Connecticut Yankee accomplished with just a eclipse table.
posted by rtimmel at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2011 [20 favorites]


This buys you time to develop a manufacturing infrastructure for gas and oil. And then the fun really begins.

Stomping all over ancient civilizations would be fun, sure, but this seems kinda underpants gnomey:

1) Marines go back in time and make a deal with Emperor Augustus;
2) ????? (Marines develop gas and oil manufacturing infrastructure);
3) Profit!

We're told the Marines are highly capable. But this capable?
posted by notyou at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]



Roman military dominance was achieved through discipline; the Marines would not have a significant advantage on that score if they had any at all.

While the Roman legions did have impressive discipline given the era, I highly suspect a rout during the opening mortar barrage.

But that even assumes the Marines allow the legions to form up. Night vision is practically standard issue these days, and even if the haven't got goggles, the support vehicles certainly do.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2011


Seems to me that after they run out of ammo they can make crossbows, don't even need to pick up javelins and swords.

Oh, you know, just grabbed my KA-BAR and tree and knocked out a few crossbows that outrange the battalion of Roman archers over there...
posted by nathancaswell at 2:47 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU

I'm going with a MEU, the compliment actuated for the 26th MEU.

Yes. The entire roman empires artery is rome. Take all your gunships and mow down rome (BUT HOW CAN YOU KILL WOMEN AND CHILDREN!) of course the person who wrote this has little understanding of roman legions or modern tactical capabilities. (augustus fielded at most 170,000 troops after he disbanded the other 32 legions)
First, the unit in total amphibious.
Second, the author states they have 6 months of GO until the groceries run out. That is a shitload of ammo and fuel. The MEU does not have A-10s but that air power is enough to shake the foundations of almost any structure. 3rd, what would be the reason to destroy the total of the roman empire... because you pop out of some guys storyline?

and the best, has anyone seen what 20 mikmik does to stucco and cement?

I would bet you find Octavian fleeing to the temple of mars and bitching out Aggrippa for not having the proper abbreviated attire.
posted by clavdivs at 2:48 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not a hope in hell they manage to take down more than a handful of legions, and that depends on them appearing in the right place at the right time.

Why try to kill all the Roman soldiers? You don't have to kill all of the enemy in order to defeat them. Just fly a helicopter into Rome and kill the emperor. Done and done.
posted by The World Famous at 2:49 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


You think they teach how to hold a Phalanx vs Heavy Cavalry 101 at Camp Pendleton? Archery 300?

FWiW, I attended a small, private military college and there were plenty of classes on ancient warfare to be had. I'd be surprised if none of them had any inkling of ancient warfare.

Likewise, I'm not sure they'd need a grueling campaign. The romans were superstitious as fuck, and one or two engagements where the opponent summons explosions from the sky and no one is going to take the field against you. If they have six months of fuel as well, then all it takes is one or two strafing runs across Rome and the same effect.

They wouldn't win by killing romans, but they might win by killing roman morale.
posted by absalom at 2:51 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


You think they teach how to hold a Phalanx vs Heavy Cavalry 101 at Camp Pendleton? Archery 300?

No, but then again, the Romans didn't have several forms of armed and unarmed martial arts, space-age (by their standards) medical training for grunts, advanced alloys for existing weapons, armor with a much closer ratio of wearability vs protection, or the ability to allow for flexible organization of small units or individuals while maintaing decent unit cohesion.

Tell me, how exactly is a bunch of Marines going to execute a testudo formation? Answer: they aren't.

Not that the testudo was invincible or anything, but even still it would likely be a lot harder to maintain in the face of the aforementioned flexible unit formations. And the average shield wouldn't be useful against rifles.

And as mentioned by several people upthread, one would also assume a decent sense of ammo and powered equipment rationing as well as the ability to pinpoint and eliminate the command structure.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:51 PM on August 31, 2011


Based on my extensive experience in Civilization, I have to say the Roman Centurions are a strong unit, capable of holding their own against most modern weapons, as long as your iron resource doesn't run out.

I love this discussion. Beanplating at its finest!
posted by Mcable at 2:51 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


> I am really sad. Before I clicked I thought this was some kind of Civilization IV mod with ridiculous scenarios built in...

I am really relieved. Before I clicked I thought this was an excerpt from Cheney's new book.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:52 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wonder how many of the Reddit folks going nuts over that regularly mock fanfiction

There are probably dozens of fanfic subreddits including
pony fanfic

Oh, you know, just grabbed my KA-BAR and tree and knocked out a few crossbows that outrange the battalion of Roman archers over there...

Well I'm no military historian but weren't crossbows disruptive in an era where they had the longbow? If they have tools the maintain trucks, they can make crossbows, and probably compound bows as well. Hell they can probably make explosives when they run out.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:52 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, people are focusing on infantry. Read the wikipedia link that shows whats in a MEU.

You're talking 2 dozen helicopters, half-dozen Harriers, mortars, howitzers, etc.

If you popped in near Rome you could level the city.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:52 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


OK, now: what if the entire Marines battalion consisted of five-year-olds?
posted by not_on_display at 2:53 PM on August 31, 2011 [47 favorites]


Yes.
that was easy.
haven't read the links yet

posted by MikeKD at 2:53 PM on August 31, 2011


Oh, and 4 M1A1 tanks.

(for those who didn't follow the link chain: here's what the invading force in the scenario would be comprised of)
posted by wildcrdj at 2:54 PM on August 31, 2011


Since the op on Reddit really just wanted to get rid of Octavian, the " restoring the republic" plan seems like the best one, which considering just how quickly power could change hands then, seems very likely. A few legions on your side rather than beaten would be much, much more effective.
posted by The Whelk at 2:56 PM on August 31, 2011


Bulgaroktonos: "Don't be absurd. There are whole subreddits devoted to posting pictures of people in swimsuits or underwear, but that do not allow naked people at all."

Explain to me r/spacedicks then (NSFL).
posted by idiopath at 2:57 PM on August 31, 2011


Ah, I see he amended it to remove the tanks and artillery, although the helis alone could do ridiculous damage to the city. Depends on definition of "destroy the empire", but if you wanted to end the reign of Octavian you just book it to Rome (on Humvees and helis) and take out whatever forces guarded the city, which was not 330,000 men.

I would think the empire would be hard pressed to survive the total destruction of Rome.

Point is, long-term sustainability is not the goal here. 2 weeks of supplies should be sufficient to destroy the city.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:00 PM on August 31, 2011


I just like saying: "Pull a Sulla"
posted by clavdivs at 3:00 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Second, the author states they have 6 months of GO until the groceries run out. That is a shitload of ammo and fuel.

Amateurs, the saying goes, study tactics, and scholars study strategies, but professionals study logistics. Hypothetical discussions like this one really hammer home the truth of that.
posted by mhoye at 3:00 PM on August 31, 2011 [13 favorites]


(for those who didn't follow the link chain: here's what the invading force in the scenario would be comprised of)

A broken wikipedia link? I think Titus Pullo could take that all by himself.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:02 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


That was fun to read. I love the Internet.
posted by fake at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the stated goal is just leveling Rome and everyone in it, yeah sure, air support man. But then what, they can dig in for a while but not forever. The goal, topple Octavian, requires a little more subtlety, and thinking to the future, the time transported marines will have to live out the rest of ter lives here so maybe they shouldn't be making a shit ton of powerful enemies for after tier fuel runs out.

But six months man, they could carve out pretty much any chunk they wanted for that amount of time.
posted by The Whelk at 3:04 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that they have 6 months of supply is crazypants. You might as well just give them a couple nuclear weapons and call it a day.
posted by Justinian at 3:06 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't any MEU have an advantage in that they'd have a few people who know Roman military history?
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:06 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


whack Livia first then wait and see, yes.
posted by clavdivs at 3:07 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah I'd like to see this run through with just one month of supplies, a few assisnations and you could just let them devour themselves while setting up your little fiefdom.
posted by The Whelk at 3:10 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins: I'm looking forward to Smedleyman's response.
Not only am I looking forward to it, but I'll be a little surprised if his reply doesn't start with "Actually, I was part of a team that did just this thing a couple of years ago..."
 
biffa: This seems very much like a particular flavour of thread on the venerable soc.history.what-if usenet group. [...] This one is not particularly outstanding.
Oh, well, sorry to have troubled you, sir! We the MeFi collective, as well as commenters in this thread, apologize for the gross inconvenivence to you.
 
clavdivs: I would bet you find Octavian fleeing to the temple of mars and bitching out Aggrippa for not having the proper abbreviated attire.
How am I the first to do an "eponyster-" on this one?
posted by hincandenza at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Inconvenivence"? The fuck is wrong with me? Geez, way to deflate my own rhetorical balloon...
posted by hincandenza at 3:13 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! This is totally something the Yanks would do if they could: bomb the shit out of a less advanced society. Their roaring successes in Iraq and Afghanistan practically guarantee victory. Before you know it, you've got the Halliburtolosseum, where you pay fifty bucks for a seat and spend the afternoon watching a guy with a big hammer smash his way through two thousand years of human history. "Bring out the priceless vases next!"

Yes, America, you have a lovely big army and nice shiny guns and jeeps and could destroy the entire planet at any point in time through all of human civilization. Bravo.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:13 PM on August 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


whack Livia first then wait and see, yes.
posted by clavdivs at 6:07 PM on August 31


Eponysterical?

On preview: curse you, hincandenza!
posted by zombieflanders at 3:14 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which us why, timid, I think the hypothetical MEU wouldn't engage in much active fighting. There's no point,If they want to topple Octavian or just be left alone, that's diplomacy right there. Anything short of outright leveling a city ( and that's no gaurtentee of anything, people don't become demotivated when you blow up everything they have, they get angrier) means occupation and well we know just how well that goes.
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on August 31, 2011


Er, timid, touchscreen and all.

I could use it as a shaving mirror in Anicent Rome I guess.
posted by The Whelk at 3:19 PM on August 31, 2011


Yes, America, you have a lovely big army and nice shiny guns and jeeps and could destroy the entire planet at any point in time through all of human civilization. Bravo.

That is a good point, we need to take on a real adversary, the future!
posted by Ad hominem at 3:19 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Modern weapons and Humvees? Pshah - all you need is a good druid, a few plump boar and a couple of hefty menhirs.
posted by Flashman at 3:21 PM on August 31, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm pretty sure we've made sure the future is a smoking crater enough already.
posted by The Whelk at 3:21 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Here are the supply figures for an MEU.

Looks like Basic Allowance (15 days = 2 Basic Allowances) = 700 5.56mm rounds per individual riflemen, plus 1600 per 7.62mm machinegun and 800 per .50cal machinegun, nevermind considerable explosives and larger-caliber weapons...

At a guess? With extremely strict fire control you're probably looking at sufficient ammo to wipe out 2-3 million or so other soldiers in this scenario.

So yeah, ammo's not going to be a problem unless you're facing more than 10x Octavius' legions.
posted by Ryvar at 3:21 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


They should bring with them Latin translations of Master's degree course materials for the major sciences. With a couple thousand extra years of research it'll turn out that they didn't come equipped with assault rifles after all but nuclear fusion lasers, standard issue.
posted by Anything at 3:25 PM on August 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


Some people in this thread are vastly underestimating how difficult it is to learn to fight proficiently with swords and shields. Just because Marines are big buff guys doesn't mean they know how to fight with the weapons of yesteryear. I think their biggest advantage in Roman-style combat is that a lot of them would be a foot taller than the Roman soldiers they were fighting, thanks to modern nutrition.
posted by Dasein at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


There's lots of stories about this, or similar situations. Can't remember the title, but Robert Reed had a short story or novella where a bunch of near future mercenary types put together an expedition and went back in time to conquer the Roman Empire. No spoilers here, but the worst problem they had is probably the same thing that would stand in the way of these marines: what happens after the conquest? Say they do it, hoo rah, smash the legions and fly the stars and stripes on top of Octavian's palace. Then what? How do you keep your people together when it becomes obvious that they'll never go home? That's when the local women (or men) start looking pretty good, and the unity of your army fractures.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:36 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the stated goal is just leveling Rome and everyone in it, yeah sure, air support man. But then what, they can dig in for a while but not forever. The goal, topple Octavian, requires...

Wouldn't leveling Rome take out Octavian? I mean, assuming he was there at the time. So I'll amend my statement: point the helis and humvees at wherever Octavian is, and destroy it. As long as the MEU is still supplied, it will walk over any resistance trivially. I suppose this depends on the definition of "toppling" Octavian, to me killing him would count.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2011


The Marines still have extremely advanced body armor and intense long-term training in hand-to-hand combat with a variety of weapons.

You're dreaming if you think modern soldiers forced to rely on swords and shields would be anything other than butchered by Roman legions at the height of the empire. The US has lost thousands of soldiers killing a few hundred thousand Iraqis. The legions bettered those sorts of kill ratios against people who spent their lives fighting with ancient weapons.
posted by rodgerd at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


It seems to be that it does not really answer the question in a serious sense, though, because the question appears to be asking, if you traveled back in time with the intention of destroying the Roman Empire what would happen?

Preparations would be made that would account for a number of things, such as the issue of supply lines; translators. Strategies would be put in place. I don't think the Romans would stand a chance.


More than that, the Marines in the modified/elaborated scenario have the advantage of *knowing Roman history.* They can carefully select a moment in which a small but their superior force would inflict maximum chaos on Rome's forces.

If the Marines have unexpectedly fallen through a timehole, sure, they'd probably get wiped out. But if they've been sent back to do a mission and can choose their day and place of entry they probably wouldn't have much trouble.
posted by gerryblog at 3:38 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


...in which their small but superior force...
posted by gerryblog at 3:39 PM on August 31, 2011


We have to assume that some of the Marines can be lured over to the Roman side as well.

I'm going to re-watch Avatar and see if I can answer this question more fully.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:39 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


So in my head at the end of the marines in Rome, after they have their semi independent fiefdom up in Germania, a group of third generation Roman Americans decide to travel to the West to see if thier grandfather's stories of a huge land just beyond Thule deciding to deliberate create the fantastical Usas they grew up hearing about.

And then it all goes horribly wrong.
posted by The Whelk at 3:40 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


hey, look at what those army men did to william hurt.

there are notions of Turtledoves' Gunpowder Empire
posted by clavdivs at 3:41 PM on August 31, 2011


I think the Guns, Germs, and Steel answer would be that they should have no problem. Far fewer men with far less firepower took out the Incas by surprise and guile.
posted by rouftop at 3:41 PM on August 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


Just park a sniper a mile away and keep picking off the standard bearers, centurions and generals and you can probably defeat all the armies without much blood shed. Come on guys, this is, like, so obvious to anyone spent 12 hour a day on real-time-strategy games!
posted by Pantalaimon at 3:42 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also smallpox
posted by The Whelk at 3:42 PM on August 31, 2011


rouftop, that's exactly the reference I was about to make. The real-world history of first contact between cultures, particularly the Spanish conquest of the Americans, tells us how big an advantage advanced military technology can be. And Pizarro didn't even have the advantage of 20-20 time-travel hindsight.
posted by gerryblog at 3:44 PM on August 31, 2011


Also smallpox

No. From here:

Currently, the United States Air Force has made it mandatory that any Airman deploying to the Middle East must receive the smallpox vaccination before leaving stateside. The same is true of the U.S. Army, and any US Marine being deployed outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS), as well as any Marine or US Navy sailor being deployed ship side.
posted by Ryvar at 3:46 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure a bunch of modern soldiers with guns and helicoptors could become gods in ancient Rome in short order. There would be enough scientific and medical knowledge to start replicating weapons using local resources eventually too.

However the arrogance in assuming that *unarmed* U.S. Marines could defeat the best ancient infantries seems nuts. U.S. troops would be comically unfit by ancient standards (a year or two of physical training doesn't reverse a lifetime of desks and junk food), extremely incompetent at using ancient edged weaponry in an effective way at either an individual or unit level, and probably at a loss against cavalry.

the Romans didn't have several forms of armed and unarmed martial arts

yes they did. Just because they aren't at your local suburban dojo doesn't mean they didn't exist.

or the ability to allow for flexible organization of small units or individuals while maintaing decent unit cohesion.

They had this too, there was just little call for heavy infantry to use it with ancient weaponry. Flexible small unit tactics were a response to modern riflery and machine guns.
posted by zipadee at 3:48 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


I meant the Inca example, the diseases just ravaged the population, also Inca was not Rome, famous for its military might and morale and bigger and having just gotten over a pretty big dynastic war.
posted by The Whelk at 3:50 PM on August 31, 2011


Yeah, but that grandson of hers could wreck the Empire ... just by strolling through it.
posted by PapaLobo at 3:50 PM on August 31, 2011


Sorry, mistook the context - I think you meant the Incas were wiped out by smallpox, to which the answer is yes.

But our hypothetical Marines are already vaccinated against it and a lot of other old world/third world diseases, and per my cite of current ammo allowances for an MEU they have a couple million rounds of ammunition...

Even if they had to fucking walk they'd steamroll the entire Roman Empire five times over.
posted by Ryvar at 3:50 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


U.S. troops would be comically unfit by ancient standards

No, they'd be quite a lot taller and more muscular than the average Roman soldier, almost as tall as Gauls...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:50 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the Marines or whoever wind up going native-tech at some point, they'd be idiots to form legions, or even pike squares. They'd want to collect horses – with some training time they could have a ton of success as cavalry simply because a lot of them are going to know what a stirrup is and nobody else does.

(I think an MEU-sized unit, Marines or whatever, would be able to do whatever they want by conserving ammo and using psychological warfare though.)

In other historical counterfactuals, what if the Spanish conquistadors decided to try to take Ming China?
posted by furiousthought at 3:51 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're dreaming if you think modern soldiers forced to rely on swords and shields would be anything other than butchered by Roman legions at the height of the empire. The US has lost thousands of soldiers killing a few hundred thousand Iraqis. The legions bettered those sorts of kill ratios against people who spent their lives fighting with ancient weapons.

Well, what do you want to remove from the equation? We have:

1) Not being forced to rely on swords and shields
2) The effect of even limited modern weapons and armor vs Roman weapons and armor
3) The effect of Marine support equipment vs Roman support equipment
4) The ratio of losses for Iraqi regulars vs Coalition forces
5) The ratio of losses for Iraqi insurgents vs Coalition forces
6) The ratio of losses for Iraqi regulars vs US forces
7) The ratio of losses for Iraqi insurgents vs US forces
8) The ratio of losses for Iraqi regulars vs US Marines
9) The ratio of losses for Iraqi insurgents vs US Marines
10) The impact of the loss of a Roman force in the vicinity of Rome
11) The impact of the loss of several Roman forces taken from other portions of the Empire
12) Modern hand-to-hand fighting with modern equipment vs Roman hand-to-hand fighting with Roman equipment
13) Modern hand-to-hand fighting with Roman equipment vs Roman hand-to-hand fighting with Roman equipment
and last but not least
14) The diplomatic abilities of two forces with fairly decent knowledge of how to conduct it
posted by zombieflanders at 3:51 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those poxy fuckers don't stand a chance against the gummint issue superclap our mean green fucking machines stand ready to deploy. Oo-rah!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:52 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't syphilis a New World disease? That's one way to take out an empire.
posted by The Whelk at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


U.S. troops would be comically unfit by ancient standards (a year or two of physical training doesn't reverse a lifetime of desks and junk food), extremely incompetent at using ancient edged weaponry in an effective way at either an individual or unit level, and probably at a loss against cavalry.

Do you actually know any Marines? Because the ones I know prove the first two wrong, even two years after discharge, and I'd be shocked if the third wasn't as well.

yes they did. Just because they aren't at your local suburban dojo doesn't mean they didn't exist.

I didn't mean they didn't have it, just that it didn't have thousands of years of polish, modern biological knowledge, and variety of different cultures behind it.

there was just little call for heavy infantry to use it with ancient weaponry. Flexible small unit tactics were a response to modern riflery and machine guns.

That kind of proves my point vis-a-vis it's unfamiliarity with the Romans.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:55 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There would be enough scientific and medical knowledge to start replicating weapons using local resources eventually too."

This would be very tricky! Start replicating guns or even build a primitive cannon, and the Romans will realize that you're not gods. The secret of gunpowder and other tech will leak out, and soon there will be countless rebels ready to shoot you.

Seems to me there's two possible paths:

1. Keep the weapons and tech confined to a very small circle. Mainly just the marines and a very few trusted friends. The bullets will run out eventually, but if you're dug in as conquering gods your position might be hard to dislodge later.

2. Lest darkness fall, you spread your knowledge, and more importantly, you spread the idea of representative democracy as fast and far as possible. By the time your supplies run out you've (hopefully) got a local trained militia ready to help defend the newly liberated Empire, and local artisans producing lots of new innovations. The common people love you, because you've given them freedom and a higher standard of living. This may be tricky to pull off, depending upon one's level of cynicism about human nature.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:57 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


One route to survival would be what Cortez did - find a group of disaffected tribes, ally with them for manpower, provide a few very well trained soldiers and advanced artillery, and capture Montezuma Caesar. Make him your puppet or kill him, and either way, the military iwill serve you, then you can work out the supply and magic weapons issues.

Probably introducing modern medicine - surgical techniques and hygiene - will result in big wins with local politicans (fix up them and their friends) as well as civilians (fewer deaths from childbirth).

I'd imagine the marines would manage to acquire gunpowder from China or re-invent it and then have the local engineers create mortars and cannons. While the knowledge would spread, the Marines could continue to refine and improve ahead of other nations.
posted by zippy at 3:58 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hear Asterix and Obelix would be interested, zippy.
posted by panaceanot at 3:59 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do you actually know any Marines? Because the ones I know prove the first two wrong, even two years after discharge, and I'd be shocked if the third wasn't as well.

I know an ex marine my age whom does nothing but drink and work out. He will do 100 pushups in under a minute as a bar bet after polishing off a bottle of Jameson. If the rest are like him I think they are a match for anyone.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:04 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why is Michael Bay screaming 'No, no, my beautiful script'?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2011


Would diseases really be that big of a deal given that US armed forces

In general yes, but that's awfully hard to predict. History is full of all sorts of mysterious bushfire plagues that decimated populations for a few years, and then disappeared entirely. From an epidemiological standpoint, the more likely explanation isn't that we evolved a resistance to them, they were just too deadly to be successful in the long run. That didn't stop them from killing quite a few people before they ran their course though. Sweating sickness is a good example of an older disease that fits under this category, ebola is a more modern one.
posted by TungstenChef at 4:10 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes an MEU would have a shitload of ammunition. And Apaches, etc. The issue is fuel. Certainly the GCE (about 1100 combatants) could destroy a legion (10-12,000 men) in a pitched battle, and they would have enough support to level a good chunk of the city of Rome if they wanted to. But ooops...Augustus is in Ravenna, or Pompeii, or summering somewhere in Greece, or you're not sure. How do you get all that ammo and everything else to him, and to the various legions in Spain, Africa, Asia, etc. that can be mobilized once word comes out that you've taken Rome. Rome has been sacked before, they will re-group and adapt. What do you do when the fuel is gone? Do you know how much avgas an AH-64 burns in combat flight? That, and eventually you're going to need to eat something that you didn't bring with you. Better start practicing your Latin.

In terms of physical advantages, modern Marines would likely be larger than the average Roman, but not necessarily fitter than a Legionnaire. The Roman diet, for the most part, was extremely healthy and (when not in the field) the Legions ate quite well. They also trained all the time, walked everywhere, and spent their spare time doing construction.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:12 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay.

I'm going to assume that the MEU will *very* quickly dismount. Fuel will be critical to keeping generators going to keep radio batteries charged and the medical units working, keeping the Reverse Osmosis Water Units running. If they can start fermenting something, that will give them alcohol, and most of the ground vehicles will be mobile again, if needed.

A *huge* question here -- does the MEU have its ship? MEUs embark on amphibious assault ships? If so, you've just given the MEU a huge boost in ammo, and more importantly, a machine shop.

If they have the ship, they have a machine shop, steel, and a library. This gives them the ability to make black powder arms.

Your average 21st Century Marine will be in vastly better condition than your average 1st Century Legionary. They will have grown up with a vastly better diet, thus, they will be taller and stronger -- indeed, the average height of the females in the MEU will almost certainly be well over the average height of the Legion. They've also probably been vaccinated against just about everything, and most of the older ones will be vaccinated against smallpox. Your medicals, if they have any clue, will quickly know what to do to make smallpox vaccine.

All Marine are riflemen. All of them. You do not become a marine unless you earn a Marskman badge in your primary weapon, which for almost every one of them, will be the rifle. They will have qualified in that weapon, making at least marksman, within the last year, except for very senior noncom and officers who have shot expert repeatedly.

Basically, as long as 5.56 holds out, any legionnaire within 200m of any marine will die, if that marine wants them to die.

The legions will, at first, simply die. They'll come in tight formation, and a couple of artillery or grenades later, they will be out of that formation. Having, for the first time in your life, have a giant explosion go off right next to you will do bad things to your morale. The legion *will* break and run, and the Marines, if they choose, will shoot most of them as they run.

Here's how you conquer the Roman Empire.

1) Take over Rome. This will be trivial. Heck, gas up the M1A1s and crank off a few rounds of Jupiter's Thunder. But really, this is the key. Rome was two things, separated by the pomerium. Everything inside was Rome. Everything outside is what Rome owns. Don't try to take over the entire empire, just take the one city that really counts.

2) Dare the legions to come get Rome back.

3) Make it a policy -- and make it well know -- that anybody taking arms up against you *will* die.

4) Very carefully slaughter, to the man, the first unit that doesn't believe you. If you are lucky, this will be the Praetorian Guard. If not...

4A) ....Slaughter the Praetorian Guard in a very public fashion. This alone will probably get most of the population of Rome on your side. The emperor won't like you, but you should have killed him by now anyway. Everyone else in Rome -- and hell, almost every legionary -- hates the Praetorians.

5) Take very good care of the Romans, and they will take care of you. Between 5.56 NATO, Rome's Walls and a much happier population, you'll have years to fix the one problem you will have....

6) ...Which is that 5.56NATO won't last forever. If you have a few chemists in the group, you'll be able to make smokeless powder, and lead is easy, and you can keep the rifles firing. If not, you'll need to have the machinist on the ship start building simpler black-powder firearms and more machine tools. You'll have the time to do this because you're keeping Rome safe and Secure, and that's what Romans care about.

The rest of the empire? Well, they'll either fall in line and listen to you, or fall away and fall apart.

7) Have I mentioned Alcohol? You will not believe how important Alcohol will be - it will keep your generators turning, which keeps everything else turning until you can make 17th century versions that you can maintain, then 18th century version from that, then 19th century versions from that. You'll probably not be able to make 20th century versions, but your kids will.

And really, that's that. Take Rome, kill the very unpopular Pretorians, make a couple of very show victories when someone disputes you taking Rome, and then take care of the Romans, and you'll have taken the 95% of the Roman Empire that really matters.

Oh, yeah, secure the water sources, local harbors, and grain fields, but for god's sake, this is the USMC. They are not stupid. They'll do that as a matter of course.
posted by eriko at 4:14 PM on August 31, 2011 [39 favorites]


The story is awesome.

Also, the Conquistadors conquered the Inca and Aztecs with less.
posted by empath at 4:26 PM on August 31, 2011


Do you actually know any Marines? Because the ones I know prove the first two wrong, even two years after discharge, and I'd be shocked if the third wasn't as well.

Do you actually know any ancient Roman legionaries? I didn't think so! Standard Roman legion marching requirements were considerably higher than the standards we use for special forces schools. Americans associate fitness with being buff/gym fit/pushups, there's a different effect of a lifetime of intensely strenuous physical activity in a completely non-mechanized society. But the height/weight thing would be an interesting question...American troops would be bigger but less wiry with less endurance, not sure how that would play out.

The Marines would be well trained and disciplined obviously but I wonder about the differences between constant close quarter hand to hand combat and rifle combat.

That kind of proves my point vis-a-vis it's unfamiliarity with the Romans

no -- I think Roman cavalry and light infantry used flexible small unit tactics. But you're not getting my point, which is that a flexible small unit orientation could be a *disadvantage* for heay infantry using ancient weapons.

But modern weapons and knowledge would make it work if they were astute politically and kept unity and discipline. If not the Marines would succumb to corruption and division . The Spartans were notorious for getting completely corrupt and out of control as soon as they had to operate far from Sparta and their native political system. I wonder what would happen to a couple of hundred Marines once they were far from superiors and the whole army structure.
posted by zipadee at 4:26 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Veni, vidi.... fluebat benzinium
posted by Flashman at 4:27 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nothing would happen because as soon as the troops got there and killed/interacted with their first person from the past, the butterfly effect would kick in and the paradoxes would lead to a shiny explosion that miraculously put everything back the way it was, and the time machine would be destroyed and no one could ever build one again. The end.
posted by emjaybee at 4:28 PM on August 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


There are what, 10 people per front line soldier in the Marines? There's no way they would last long without them.
posted by notion at 4:29 PM on August 31, 2011


More than that, the Marines in the modified/elaborated scenario have the advantage of *knowing Roman history.* They can carefully select a moment in which a small but their superior force would inflict maximum chaos on Rome's forces.

If the Marines have unexpectedly fallen through a timehole, sure, they'd probably get wiped out. But if they've been sent back to do a mission and can choose their day and place of entry they probably wouldn't have much trouble.


I think the latter is the scenario. Given choice of time and place and indefinite time to prepare and equip themselves, I think my high school football team could probably take down the fledgling empire.

And the "knowing Roman history" part is the weak link here. We are talking several hundred products of the American educational system. I am sure that some of the officers have some courses in ancient history, but I am skeptical that every random battalion has someone who, deprived of access to Wikipedia or any texts, could speak with any authority about the Battle of Philippi or the role of Sextus Pompeius' opposition to the second triumvirate, let alone exploit that knowledge. Sure, the average Marine is taller and can do more pushups than the average Roman, but given past fuck-ups by actual rocket scientists (presumably better educated than the average marine) between metric and Imperial, I dunno that given the date of the Kalends Sextilis, 731 A.U.C., I am not sure how many people in this battalion could even tell you what year it was.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:29 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Will helicopters run off of alcohol? Hell, just introducing the still to the romans would probably win you the empire.
posted by empath at 4:29 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, the real question will not be whether or not you can destroy Rome, but whether you can destroy the Parthians.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:30 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you actually know any ancient Roman legionaries? I didn't think so!

That's not really an argument. We know for a fact what the Marines are like, but we don't have a 1:1 comparison for the calisthenics of Romans to that.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:31 PM on August 31, 2011


Ah, war porn. Some people really love speculating about their hired thugs, it seems.
posted by signal at 4:41 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


there's a book i recently read called 1632 by eric flint that covers some similar territory. it's actually pretty cool. i'd strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed this topic.
posted by lester at 4:43 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your average 21st Century Marine will be in vastly better condition than your average 1st Century Legionary

I'm sure this was said about U.S. Marines and Vietnamese soldiers too -- they were so tiny and malnourished! Guess who won that one. My guess is that e.g. Taliban soldiers would be more fit and potentially superior to U.S. troops on a truly even playing field (with no artillery and air support and equal logistical support).

Obviously this is all the silliest of arguments but what makes me roll my eyes is the arrogance of Americans. The U.S. has arguably lost most of its serious military conflicts since WWII, all of which were against far poorer and less developed societies. (Arguably -- some could be classified as draws -- but certainly clear victories have been a notable minority). Yet here we are talking about how American high schoolers with six months of basic training, maybe a year or two of combat experience, and no experience whatsoever with ancient weapons would be so amazingly awesomely superior to Roman elite troops with decades of edged weapon combat experience and an entire lifetime of intensely sustained physical activity that is almost unimaginable to the car-bound Americans of today.

Of course we are moving closer every day to the Roman model of a fully professionalized lifetime military in a state of permanent war...perhaps one day we'll have our own Praetorian guard and then we can really be just like the ancient Romans!
posted by zipadee at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


The problem I see is that the modern USMC might be too high tech.

Go with older stuff, like, Vietnam or Korea-era conflict.

Motor vehicles that run on diesel - bring along equipment to turn food-grade oils into bio-diesel. Bring along diesel powered electric generators, and inverters to recharge batteries.

Save your empty brass cartridges. Bring along equipment to distill reagents for creating nitrocellulose/guncotton. Mercury fulminate (or whatever modern cartridges use as primers) might be a little more difficult to make. Lead was abundant in ancient Rome. You could probably lathe/mill new cartridges, too. iirc, "brass" was pretty different back then, you could always make cartridges from gold or silver.

Hell, bring old AK-47's (I don't know if modern AKs are as reliable as the old '47s).

Bring in specialists to spread modern medical knowledge, specifically, hygiene, around. Penicillin is dirt simple to make, too.

The combination of shock and awe followed by raising the quality of living puts your commander into a prime position to usurp authority over the Roman empire. Knowing how history unfolded leading to the downfall of the Roman Empire allows you to avoid certain mistakes.

Allow your troops to take up native husbands and wives.
posted by porpoise at 4:47 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Only helos in this scenario are transport -- the author mentions a CH-46. No Armor and no amphibious assault ships.
posted by mlis at 4:49 PM on August 31, 2011


Now that we've settled this question, how would an equivalent force of Army Rangers fare in ancient Rome? How about SEALs?

(I know people who would start a flame war over this Perhaps with real flamethrowers.)
posted by TedW at 4:51 PM on August 31, 2011


The U.S. has arguably lost most of its serious military conflicts since WWII, all of which were against far poorer and less developed societies.

It's important to note that the US has never even been threatened on the homeland by a foreign country and it's almost unimaginable that they ever will be. The American military would smash any military on earth in a matter of weeks. The US doesn't have any problem winning in a straight up fight between militaries. The problem is trying to maintain an occupation in a country where the population doesn't want you there. Insurgencies aren't won with military might.

I've got no doubt that a unit of marines would take Rome easily. Even small advantages in technology or military tactics make huge differences, and vastly outnumbered forces could take huge swathes of territory -- look at Alexander or Genghist Khan.

The problem would come with holding it.
posted by empath at 4:51 PM on August 31, 2011 [14 favorites]


Perhaps we could use the results of the Olympics as an approximation of legionnaire fitness.

Chionis of Sparta did a 7m and 5cm longjump, which would have put him in the top eight in the 1952 Olympics. In addition to sprint and distance runs, the ancient Olympics also had the hoplitodromos - a 400m run in full bronze armor and shield.

Assuming the fittest legionnaires were at or near Olympic caliber for the time, just from the jumping event, it sounds like they would be comparable to modern US Marines.
posted by zippy at 4:54 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The American military would smash any military on earth in a matter of weeks

I'm thinking China might be a bit of a contest.
posted by zippy at 4:55 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this scenario is _not_ about holding it, it's about the initial "regime change". That's not the part of wars America has been having problems with.

Yet here we are talking about how American high schoolers with six months of basic training, maybe a year or two of combat experience, and no experience whatsoever with ancient weapons would be so amazingly awesomely superior to Roman elite troops with decades of edged weapon combat experience

Well, we're also talking about a trained force equipped with assault rifles, explosives, and modern vehicles versus soldiers with swords, arrows, and spears whose armor will do effectively nothing against a 5.56 round. The technology is what makes this a cakewalk for the Marines, in terms of initial military supremacy.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:55 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]




Hell, just introducing the still to the romans would probably win you the empire.


Pretty much the only good "Modern man travels back in time, lives like a king sing modern knowledge" book is based on exactly this, a Latin professor with a penchant for swordsmanship goes back to anicent Rome and invents Brandy, becomes a wealthy merchant.
posted by The Whelk at 4:56 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Please state the nature of the military emergency"

I'm sure this was said about U.S. Marines and Vietnamese soldiers too -- they were so tiny and malnourished! Guess who won that one.

You are right, underestimating the enemy was a serious mistake, so is not using every conventional weapon in your arsenal. A quick tour of the effectiveness of sustained bombing and extensive incursions into North Vietnam prove the war could have been "won", but at what cost. The most important factor is that war was not lost, refer to sustained bombing.

personally, I'd rather be on Risa.
posted by clavdivs at 4:58 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hell, bring old AK-47's (I don't know if modern AKs are as reliable as the old '47s).

Varies immensely based on the manufacturer. Better materials and machinery these days, but greater likelihood of corners being cut.

The reliability of the AK-47 really boils down to its massive bolt carrier (also the source of their inaccuracy when fired full-auto), plus some neat extras like the safety lever doubling as a dust cover. Those things don't change with time.

With a full MEU, though, the higher maintenance reqs. of American small arms is a non-factor, and the considerable ammo savings due to the higher accuracy is much more important.

Latin professor with a penchant for swordsmanship goes back to anicent Rome and invents Brandy, becomes a wealthy merchant.

Still not a good ending unless he also invented toilet paper.
posted by Ryvar at 5:01 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The teleported MEU really doesn't have to take on anyone, if they have the mission to restore the Republic (or just, remove Octavian cause ....cause that's what the question is) they can do all of that without huge bloodshed. At least on their side. It would be the Living Out Your Lives part that's interesting.

And introducing the roman army to gunpowder would be ....fun.
posted by The Whelk at 5:02 PM on August 31, 2011


Even the self-heating pack from my son's MREs -- let alone my son himself -- would win many hearts and minds, among the citizenry.

In cat threads, however scholarly or abstract, we all link to cute pictures of our cats. In Marine threads, do I get to link a picture of my Marine? Because I don't have a cat. Mods?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:03 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm thinking China might be a bit of a contest.

We couldn't invade without using nukes, probably, but China can't project force in the way that the US can.
posted by empath at 5:04 PM on August 31, 2011


I'm sure this was said about U.S. Marines and Vietnamese soldiers too -- they were so tiny and malnourished! Guess who won that one.

This is not an argument I can recall the military ever making.

My guess is that e.g. Taliban soldiers would be more fit and potentially superior to U.S. troops on a truly even playing field (with no artillery and air support and equal logistical support).

Why, exactly? Your average Taliban soldier is far less encumbered, has nearby bases of operations to spend long periods of rest at, and is not guaranteed to be engaging in either constant movement or regular fitness regimes.

Obviously this is all the silliest of arguments but what makes me roll my eyes is the arrogance of Americans. The U.S. has arguably lost most of its serious military conflicts since WWII, all of which were against far poorer and less developed societies. (Arguably -- some could be classified as draws -- but certainly clear victories have been a notable minority). Yet here we are talking about how American high schoolers with six months of basic training, maybe a year or two of combat experience, and no experience whatsoever with ancient weapons would be so amazingly awesomely superior to Roman elite troops with decades of edged weapon combat experience and an entire lifetime of intensely sustained physical activity that is almost unimaginable to the car-bound Americans of today.

Look, I'm the last person to talk up the might of the American military as a whole, but you can't apply that argument to individual units or groups of units. It's a rhetorical shortcut to just discount actual physical and logistical arguments with assumptions about arrogance.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:05 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, so maybe what I meant to say is that 1) a USMC MEU may very well let you take over the Roman Empire, but 2) you'll want the graduate student body of an University and some makers/hobbyists/DIYers to give you a life worth living as the ruling class of the Roman Empire.
posted by porpoise at 5:07 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


The comparative physical fitness of Marine vs. legionnaire is maybe the single least relevant factor in this entire scenario.

Besides, the entire Roman way of war was about dealing with physically superior adversaries. Are the Marines Hannibal's fucking elephants? No? Well that shit isn't going to be a factor.

Probably the general level of military education (tactics, strategy) among the Marines would provide more of an edge, if it came down to that and not bullets.
posted by furiousthought at 5:08 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The top non-Story comment in the reddit thread makes a few good points

Anyway, all this is probably unimportant as the legion’s primary weapon was morale. Most battles of the time came down to which side broke first. The number of battles where Rome was outnumbered, out supplied, and out positioned is incredible. What is more incredible is how they won nearly all of them by simply not panicking and doing their job. They were well disciplined and turned the tide by fighting well enough until the other side broke and ran. After that, it was all about mopping up the survivors. In this case, I highly doubt the legions would be disciplined enough to survive the first engagement with mounted infantry. The marines could fire from elevated position with small and large arms fire a long time before the first Roman speculum ever got close. Great generals and other leaders would be cut down. They would flee, you would win.

It is likely a few of the legions would conglomerate regionally, elect their new Caesar, and set up shop were ever they were. Or, they’d wait around for a while until you either left, or no longer had access to your magic. (I.E. bullets). It is more likely all of Rome’s enemies would take the opportunity to reclaim lost land and further divide the Empire. This would set the Empire back a ways, but once you left, they’d still have their tactical and geographic advantages and rebuild.

What I would suggest is to March to Rome. Easily taking out the few legions left to defend the Rubicon. Head into Italy, make your intentions known. I.E. you’re taking over. Show off your magic and the senate would gladly instill you as Caesar. You’d have no problem defending from any pretender. Eventually, you’d be happy in your position of power, appease the senate, settle down and have a family. Your troops would become Romanized and integrate flawlessly into the society. If you appeased the senate, you’d rule until your son came of age and you died. After that, there would probably be a civil war or two. Your side might win, might not, but Rome would go on. The eternal city would shine and your small blight on history would be another footnote in history. At least until archeologists dig up M16’s and get really confused. So, did you really "win"?


I think the moral/running thing is a weapon you can only fire once, cause smart people will sit around "okay, fire, smoke, bang, projectile, got it." but still pretty scary. Plus the average MEU has this insane amount of amo on hand, so I figure if it comes down to Marines vs. Legion then *someone* is going to be garroted in their sleep rather then out and out combat.
posted by The Whelk at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]




The thing that interest me in this is "reestablishing modern technology". How hard would it be, assuming you've brought along a really good library? A lot relies on the marines having a machine shop, and, at first, being able to scavenge steel from the stuff they're not using.. but after that? Could they reestablish modern metallurgy? Would they have the means to measure temperature accurately enough? Early steam machine technology was hard to transfer because in the absence of modern measurement technology, they had to rely on color and sound to estimate things like temperature, and so even if you had the blueprints, you couldn't really do it with a direct transfer of know-how by training with people who already had it. There's also the matter of raw materials, and chemicals -- you can mine iron very easily (there are deposits lying just below the surface all over the place), but what about the other minerals? What about nitrates? Building a liquid air factory seems Extremely ambitious to me, even given a machine show and a good bit of steel.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:17 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


As I see it, if the Marines were zapped from afghanistan into that era, they would still be in...so, getting to rome with the unit intact would reduce the unit to 60% capacity IMO.

this thread is like Reign of Fire and the dragons are US.
posted by clavdivs at 5:17 PM on August 31, 2011


Yet here we are talking about how American high schoolers with six months of basic training, maybe a year or two of combat experience, and no experience whatsoever with ancient weapons would be so amazingly awesomely superior to Roman elite troops with decades of edged weapon combat experience and an entire lifetime of intensely sustained physical activity that is almost unimaginable to the car-bound Americans of today.

They have 6 months worth of bullets and explosives and fuel. If it ever comes down to ancient weapons, something has gone tremendously wrong. Remember that they're kitted out/trained to be using suppressive fire, which, if they engage at ranges where Roman archers can't even reach, they're generally not going to need, so their supply of bullets are going to stretch even further.
posted by juv3nal at 5:25 PM on August 31, 2011


The technology is what makes this a cakewalk for the Marines, in terms of initial military supremacy.

of course, of course, completely agree. I was just responding to the inane argument that modern Marines could defeat the ancient Roman legion *using only ancient weapons*, which strikes me as crazy. They'd get demolished in short order.

It's a rhetorical shortcut to just discount actual physical and logistical arguments with assumptions about arrogance.

The actual level of training with ancient weapons (decades) and the actual fitness levels (we know standard Roman marching requirements and they would be very challenging for Navy SEALS let alone ordinary Marines) are facts.

Oh BTW -- minimum height for Roman legionnaires was 5'10.
posted by zipadee at 5:30 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


They have 6 months worth of bullets and explosives and fuel.

Rome had developed the Fabian strategy during the Second Punic War. It knew how to wear down the resources and resolve of a superior fighting force without having to actually engage in battle.
posted by The World Famous at 5:33 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was just responding to the inane argument that modern Marines could defeat the ancient Roman legion *using only ancient weapons*, which strikes me as crazy.

Which is ridiculous because that wasn't argument being made.

The actual level of training with ancient weapons (decades) and the actual fitness levels (we know standard Roman marching requirements and they would be very challenging for Navy SEALS let alone ordinary Marines) are facts.

The training with those particular, yes. Fitness, not really, and as pointed out, mostly irrelevant. Everything else is taken out of context.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:34 PM on August 31, 2011


Which is ridiculous because that wasn't argument being made.

It was made by many people above, toward beginning-middle of the thread. That's what got me going. Anyway, whole thing is silly.
posted by zipadee at 5:39 PM on August 31, 2011



The thing that interest me in this is "reestablishing modern technology". How hard would it be, assuming you've brought along a really good library? A lot relies on the marines having a machine shop, and, at first, being able to scavenge steel from the stuff they're not using.. but after that? Could they reestablish modern metallurgy?


Heh, fun time travel story/game idea in this.

Some group (aliens?) attack Earth in year 21XX. Earth does not have the resources to stop them! They send back a group of folk to a stable time, far in the past, with modern tech. Society rebuilds. It gets back to 21XX, with wayyyy better stuff.. but not good enough. Attackers win again. So repeat the cycle with your new tech+...

This ignores the usual paradox and determinism stuff that comes with 99% of time travel fiction. You could throw "multiverse" in there, each timeline basically saying, "Okay, we lost; you guys go back there and try and get us a timeline where we don't lose." Possibly with the addendum of, "And then come back to this one and kick ass."
posted by curious nu at 5:42 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


This has actually been a super interesting discussion. A number well-developed arguments have been made based on a diverse set of disciplines and experiences. Of course now I'm watching Deadliest Warrior on Spike, so I'm actually getting dumber.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:42 PM on August 31, 2011


What if Spartacus had a Piper Cub?
posted by ovvl at 5:51 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Heh, fun time travel story/game idea in this.

There was a game more or less like this: Millennia: Altered Destinies (1995). My PC would crash on some of the later movies so I never actually got to finish it, but the plot involves balancing the galaxy so (a) they can collectively fight off invaders at the end of the timeline (b) they have the right tech to fix your warp drive. My internet research on this game has indicated it was nearly impossible to win.
posted by gerryblog at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2011


What if Spartacus had a Piper Cub?

He would strafe Hardy Krüger with rocks.
posted by clavdivs at 6:07 PM on August 31, 2011


FWIW, I haven't read all of the comments, but I'd have to say that the Modern Marines have the upper hand psychologically. It would only take a couple of bursts and a couple of exploded bodies to have the Romans cowering and praying. If any of the Modern Marines speak a latin based language, Spanish or Italian, and were able to make commands over loudspeakers, the Romans would just STFU and lay down as ordered.

Sounds like a very quick win to me. By the time they started running out of fuel and ammo, they'd already have been having orgies in Ceasars Palace for months.

(Psych-warfare is the shit and totally underutilized in modern times.)
posted by snsranch at 6:08 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


A quick skirmish on Rise of Nations confirms that a handful of modern infantry and armor can in fact rout most of Rome's military pretty damn easily.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2011


If any of the Modern Marines speak a latin based language, Spanish or Italian, and were able to make commands over loudspeakers, the Romans would just STFU and lay down as ordered.

I have a hard time believing that any modern romance language would be intelligible to someone who only speaks Roman latin plus some ancient local dialect.
posted by The World Famous at 6:14 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you want to wipe out the Roman empire, and you can choose your time and place, you need to go back to the war with Hannibal, just after Cannae (216 BCE), not the reign of Augustus. They almost lost it. Give Hannibal tanks instead of elephants, and kill Scipio Africanus.
posted by bad grammar at 6:21 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could, I just don't feel like it.
posted by flotson at 6:23 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a good point, TWF, and I'm actually speaking from my own experience being in trouble in Mexico and speaking Italian to get out of it. Most of the root words, nouns and even verbs sometimes are incredibly close to their Latin roots. It may sound bizarre and foreign to a Latin speaker (someone back then), but I'm pretty sure that the major points will be pretty darn clear.

I believe that the other worldliness while still understood, would only add to the psych-effect and would terrify soldiers from that time period.

"You can blow us up AND kinda speak our language? Holy shit!"
posted by snsranch at 6:24 PM on August 31, 2011


This whole thing falls apart at the very beginning. you take away the 4 M1A1 tanks but allow the other vehicles? You take away the Super Cobras and Harriers but allow transport aircraft? Whatever. Still, a half-dozen 155mm howitzers, 8 81mm mortars and 30 armored vehicles (LAV, AAV) + anti-tank weapons and transport choppers is still a lot to contend with. I say the Marines can do it. Hell, they can circle the Roman troops in the transport helis and fire down into the Legionaries with M4s and SAWs and the Romans would have no way to return fire - guaranteed rout every time.
posted by MikeMc at 6:31 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


PruFrock's entire stream of posts is worthless because he assumes that the Marines were just teleported by surprise to ancient Rome without knowing what was going on or where they were or what they were supposed to do. So obviously they flail about and waste time being confused.

The question asked was quite different, essentially, "If I and a group of Marines under my command deliberately went back in time to conquer Rome, could we do it?".
posted by w0mbat at 6:32 PM on August 31, 2011


If you want to wipe out the Roman empire, and you can choose your time and place, you need to go back to the war with Hannibal, just after Cannae (216 BCE), not the reign of Augustus.

That's not the Empire. That's the Republic.

Actually, if your conditions for success are "destroy the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus," then you are actually going to have to find Augustus and knock him off, or at least destroy his political influence. Octavian was the first person to combine his uncle's permanent dictatorship with the term Imperator (previously an honorary title, acclaimed by one's troops, and a prerequisite for a triumph), as an entirely new concept (which Tiberius went on to make hereditary). At the time, he was the Empire. It was his invention.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:32 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Whelk: "

Hell, just introducing the still to the romans would probably win you the empire.


Pretty much the only good "Modern man travels back in time, lives like a king sing modern knowledge" book is based on exactly this, a Latin professor with a penchant for swordsmanship goes back to anicent Rome and invents Brandy, becomes a wealthy merchant.
"

There's also the Cross-Time Engineer. Whether or not that's "good" or not is left as an exercise to the reader.
posted by notsnot at 6:41 PM on August 31, 2011


Technically the question was if _I_ could go back in time with a MEU and destroy the empire, and the answer is no I am not qualified to command a MEU.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:47 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


If any of the Modern Marines speak a latin based language ... and were able to make commands over loudspeakers, the Romans would just STFU and lay down as ordered.

ROMANES EUNT DOMUS
posted by zippy at 6:53 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Destroying the empire ... easy peasy. Conquering the empire ... no way.

First, the Marines will absolutely know the limits of their logistics. Second, they have the advantage of 20 centuries on the study of warfare. This is not a knock against the Roman's strategy and tactics, just that's its no match for the lessons learned since that time. The military is a pretty unique learning institution and that lessons learned from history are deeply ingrained into the strategic teachings (specifically for the officers). Third is the adaptability of the modern Marines, they may not be as technically proficient as the Romans on Roman era technology, but they would make up for that in tactics and strategy. Fourth, communications, communications, communications. A couple of squads of Marine scouts on horseback with long haul communications would be worth more than a month of ammo. And if the Marines were lucky enough to have those solar/wind/gas charging stations for those batteries, they would always be several steps ahead of the Romans.

Somebody brought up Afghanistan, which isn't that bad of an example. The Taliban hold on Afghanistan was broken in a little over a month. Securing Afghanistan, well ... that's been a bit more problematic, hasn't it? I don't see much of a qualitative difference with a hypothetical Rome.

The greatest enemy the Marines would face is not the Romans, but time, and there would not be enough time for that size of force to consolidate a power base to hold an empire. They just lack the force projection for an area of that size. Their advantage in combat changes to their disadvantage in the long game. They are Marines, not opportunistic politicians who know when to bluster, when to bribe, etc. They could assist in setting up a new republic and its institutions, but they wouldn't have the political clout to control it. Again, see Iraq, or well any US post-war conflict area.

or as they'd probably the first to admit. You send in the Marines to break things, not make things.
posted by forforf at 7:06 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


The U.S. has arguably lost most of its serious military conflicts since WWII

That's nonsense. The US has had a lot of difficulty achieving it's preferred political outcome in several of these conflicts. This is not jingoism on my part; it's simply the nature of hegemonic power. You half-heartedly fight until you get some of what you want, decide its not worth it any more, or feel satisfied that you've destabilized an area for a while. You only fight wars to "win" against rivals.
posted by spaltavian at 7:09 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm sure this was said about U.S. Marines and Vietnamese soldiers too -- they were so tiny and malnourished! Guess who won that one. My guess is that e.g. Taliban soldiers would be more fit and potentially superior to U.S. troops on a truly even playing field (with no artillery and air support and equal logistical support).


That is beyond absurd. If the US had fought any of the wars since WWII as it would presumably fight one against the ancient Romans, without a president or a congress or an international press or the United Nations, it would have won decisively. And if, as you propose, Taliban fighters met American fighters on a truly even battlefield they would be slaughtered every single time. If you even want to be a Marine officer you have to pretty much be able to do 20 dead-hang pullups and run three miles in 18 minutes. Show me a single Taliban dude that can do that. There are a several reasons to suppose an MEU couldnt defeat the armies of Rome, but those ain't it.

On preview I agree with amicum meum spaltavian.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:17 PM on August 31, 2011


"The US has had a lot of difficulty achieving it's preferred political outcome in several of these conflicts."

It's the political goals and restrictions that would be the major reason for any American defeat. Left to its own devices the American military could no doubt have defeated any entity with which they have been in armed conflict with post-WWII.
posted by MikeMc at 7:19 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


What it comes down to is the speed with which the MEU integrates into Rome's political structure. Basically, the Marines have to conquer the Roman government, then leverage the Roman's existing institutions, including the remaining Roman legions, as extensions of themselves.

They have to become the new Praetorian Guard, and crown their CO as emperor; next, they must go through the traditional Bread and Circuses routine, with the plebes and defecting legions given handouts from the treasury. Said defecting legions must be sent after rebellious legions.

Those not willing to swear allegiance to the new imperial order are put to the sword (note-- only if absolutely necessary, the mysterious and magical 5.56).

A prudent modern force would use the Roman strategy of decapitating the leadership but preserving the culture.

When in Rome...
posted by darth_tedious at 7:19 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Roman's

Romans'
posted by darth_tedious at 7:21 PM on August 31, 2011


HMMVW = 10-12 mpg
LAV 25 = 10 mpg
M1A1 = .33 mpg
AAV-7A1 (Amtrak) = 2.1mpg (land)

AH-1W combat range = 150 miles
CH-46E combat radius = 184 miles
MV-22B combat radius = 426 miles

How much fuel does an MEU carry with it?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:32 PM on August 31, 2011


Yep, the MEU becomes incorperated into Rome's existing structure, depending on how integrated they want to be, from separate city-state to being the new defacto army
posted by The Whelk at 7:32 PM on August 31, 2011




The problem with the "just knock off Augustus" plan is that in a few months, some general out in the provinces is probably going to try his hand at marching to Rome and grabbing power for himself, given the political upheaval. See Galba, Vitellius, Vespasian, or a whole bunch of forgotten guys of the mid-200s.

One way for the MEU to protect against this would be to recruit spies and make use of radio communications--a big advantage in a time period when even important news took days to weeks to travel.
posted by gimonca at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2011


The MEU, despite being the golden boys of Rome are at a loss to deal with the various uprisings in the provinces and some in the Senate turn against them after all they're not Really Roman and came from who knows where and there is a break within the ranks and bam, coup sequel.
posted by The Whelk at 8:42 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with the "just knock off Augustus" plan is that in a few months, some general out in the provinces is probably going to try his hand at marching to Rome and grabbing power for himself, given the political upheaval.

So what? The point is to get rid of the emperor, not to make the Marines be in charge of the empire.
posted by The World Famous at 9:12 PM on August 31, 2011


If any of the Modern Marines speak a latin based language, Spanish or Italian, and were able to make commands over loudspeakers, the Romans would just STFU and lay down as ordered.

I am guessing you have never studied another language. I have (although it has been years for all three of these languages, I will take a crack at it).

Put your hands in the air:

Pone manum tuam in caelum. / Coloque los manos en el aire. / Mettere le mani in aria.

Get down on the ground:

Cuba super terram. / Acuéstese en el suelo. / Sdraiti per terra.

STFU:

Quiescere! / ¡Silencio! / Stai tranquillo!


I am not seeing instant compliance among the Legio here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:23 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Will helicopters run off of alcohol?

Most turbine engines will run off of anything that burns. And note that "dismount" means helicopters too.

Rome had developed the Fabian strategy during the Second Punic War.

Yes, but every day that there isn't a battle is a day you're not firing weapons.

The legions will *fail* badly, because the Marines will kill the first three-four legions from a distance that the legion cannot fight back from, and then after that, the legions will not fight the Marines.

Legionaries aren't stupid. When they see four legions get slaughtered at a distance, they will look at the Legate ordering them to march at the Marines and they will throw a pilum though him. Then they'll ask the Dux if he want to say anything stupid like "March toward the Marines", and they'll give him a pilum or twelve if he says yes. And, if the stupidity is rampant, they will keep killing the leaders until one of them, probably the Camp Prefect or the Primus Pilus, say "Fuck that Marine shit. I hear Greece is nice this time of year."

Yes, you can have thousands of low techs take on tens of high tech and win. See the Battle of Isandlwana, where 20,000 Zulus basically wiped out 1800 rifle armed British. See also the incredibly stupid things the British did, the insistence on very high level control (which meant when the officers weren't there, the ranks didn't really do well at all) and, of course, see the *next* battle, where 150 motivated British riflemen withstood an intense attack by 4000 Zulus. Rorke's Drift. 26-1 odds. The Riflemen won.

Hell, M2HB vs. Legion. I'm betting after a single belt, the Legion will have left the field.

The *key* in battle is morale. If you lose it, you lose unit cohesion, you lose discipline, and you stop being effective. The legionaries simply have no concept of what is going to happen to them, and when they see it -- when the ranks around them have holes blasted into them from sticks that make loud noises, when the earth throws itself up and everyone around dies, and hell, if the Marines really want to be mean, when that giant black dragon appears in the sky spitting fire and making an unholy howl.* What do you think the Legionnaire is going to do?

The Legionnaire is going to remember that he has to pick the kids up from school, gotta go now, BYE!!!!



* Ever heard an attack helo? They're *loud*. Ever hear a Harrier? They're *louder*. Hell, a Harrier could just hover over a legion and break it, between the noise and burns from the exhaust.
posted by eriko at 9:24 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


there is a big gloss on the whole communications barrier isn't there? yeah you can draw things and point at sticks and use base latin cognates but I took for years of Latin and I'm shakey on anything bigger than The Girl Is Under The Tree.
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 PM on August 31, 2011


Puella sub abor....
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 PM on August 31, 2011


er Puealle sit sub abor, WAIT NO JUST KILL THINGS
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


All I remember is semper ubi sub ubi. Which won't exactly help the marines to win the war but it's still good advice.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:30 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


my latin has degraded to the point where all I can do is say what people are under what trees and how they are motherless goat fuckers.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I saw that "Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire" bit and got carried away. I'll try not to read the actual title of the post next time.

/read aloud in a John Cleese voice while dressed as a Roman guard
posted by gimonca at 9:39 PM on August 31, 2011


Sounds like someone has been reading their Catullus.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:39 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but every day that there isn't a battle is a day you're not firing weapons.

There's more to the Fabian strategy than not fighting.
posted by The World Famous at 9:43 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Communication would be really tough for a while. But if any marines had an old fashioned Catholic school education, they might be able to write some Latin. Eventually the Americans and the Romans would probably develop a barbaric pidgin dialect, if they cohabited without fighting all the time.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:46 PM on August 31, 2011


And the "knowing Roman history" part is the weak link here. We are talking several hundred products of the American educational system. I am sure that some of the officers have some courses in ancient history, but I am skeptical that every random battalion has someone who, deprived of access to Wikipedia or any texts, could speak with any authority about the Battle of Philippi or the role of Sextus Pompeius' opposition to the second triumvirate, let alone exploit that knowledge. Sure, the average Marine is taller and can do more pushups than the average Roman, but given past fuck-ups by actual rocket scientists (presumably better educated than the average marine) between metric and Imperial, I dunno that given the date of the Kalends Sextilis, 731 A.U.C., I am not sure how many people in this battalion could even tell you what year it was.

What is with all this thinking that Marines are so fucking stupid?

One of my Marine friends who was in Iraq for two tours as a crazed historian. Him and his friends would play some turbo-nerdy battle simulation game and re-enact historic battles on their laptops during time off. I'm sure he could teach a class about the Battle of Philippi. Another guy, my old roommate, was a political science major, then he was in Army Airborne in Iraq for two tours.

Just because somebody is in the military doesn't make them stupid. Just because somebody is in the military doesn't mean they are uneducated. And just because somebody is "uneducated" doesn't mean that they're not an autodidact or authoritative on something related to what they do for a living.

Plus really, why would you automatically assume that somebody who is actively in a military fighting battles is a person who would not know anything about military history or fighting battles?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:53 PM on August 31, 2011 [17 favorites]


Most turbine engines will run off of anything that burns.

Correcting myself: Aviation turbines tend to be pickier, and ethanol may be too lightweight for them. I suspect they could work, but there's a better way. You need methanol (easy to make), lye (burn limestone -- and the Romans knew this) and vegetable fats, say, oh, Olive Oil.

That gives you a nice light diesel fuel. That'll run pretty much everything in the MEU -- the ideal fuel is JP-8 or JP-5, which the US Military standardized on for simple logistics reasons. You'd probably want to save the real stuff for the few times you'd want to use the Helos or Harriers, but ethanol will go into the M1A1s straight up, and Biodiesel will run everything else in the unit with a fuel tank.

And heck. They have weldors and welders, and probably pipe (definitely, if they have the ship.) Were there any surface petroluem deposits near Rome? If so, they could make real-honest-actual diesel and kerosene.

But if any marines had an old fashioned Catholic school education, they might be able to write some Latin.

Ooh, good thought. What if the MEU has a Catholic priest?

One way for the MEU to protect against this would be to recruit spies and make use of radio communications

I'll bet that, given the number of men in an MEU, doubly so if the ship is there as well, that there will be plenty of ways to make workable radios.

One of the tremendous advantages that the MEU will have over time is that they *know* it can be done. They know steel exists. They know radios work. They know vaccines work. Just knowing is half the battle. They won't be able to make anything on the IC level, but they'll be able to jump Rome itself to at least the 18th Century in terms of technology.
posted by eriko at 9:54 PM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, as to fitness on march. According to Wikipedia, the marching load of the Legionnaire was about 60 pounds. According to this report (pdf), the average *fighting* load of a US rifleman is above that, and the approach march load was over 90 pounds. Special weapons soldiers fought with 80 lbs and marched with 110.
posted by eriko at 10:13 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


US military masturbation.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:24 PM on August 31, 2011


Put your hands in the air:
Pone manum tuam in caelum. / Coloque los manos en el aire.


Another Spanish version:
Pon las manos en el cielo.

It's not exactly Cicero, but if you get the sense of the nouns and the verbs across, communication can be established. Both sides need to work on it; you wouldn't be able to bark out commands on a bullhorn and get instant response, but I don't think language would be an impossible barrier.

Based on my experiences in places where I don't speak the language, I think the harder part could be the lack of shared cultural signifiers and expectations. Making a writing motion with your hand gets the idea across everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires, but it may not in an era where most people can't write and the written language is chiselled as often as it is written.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:25 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


and the written language is chiselled as often as it is written.

I know we tend to see Latin in stone inscriptions and stuff, but I have the impression most actual writing of the time was done on wax tablets with styli, inked on skin/parchment, etc.
posted by brennen at 10:31 PM on August 31, 2011


ok, this is what you do

1 - first, you seize the port of ostia antica at the mouth of the tiber river, where all the grain, etc. from egypt, etc. is imported and a good many of the warehouses are located - thus, it is no longer the u s marines who have the supply problem, but a city of one million people

2 - second, you seize the armories and armorers and get them busy making swords and such, learning their methods and improving upon them, going all out to get as much ancient weaponry as you possibly can

3 - third, you liaison with the slaves and arm them - they much outnumbered the masters and it's quite likely they'll be willing allies once they understand that a) you have every intention of seeing them free b) you've got the food and their masters don't

4 - then, you invade rome and topple the roman government - with proper preparation, the people will be on your side and the praetorian guard and various armies will realize how lost their cause is and melt away - let the slaves do most of the grunt work while you use your superior firepower to make the difference in whatever confrontations happen

5 - garrison rome and surroundings, continue to produce ancient arms for more slaves and let the revolt spread in italy, conserving your men and firepower for those moments when things must be turned in your favor

6 - stop! - consolidate your control over central italy and await developments - if self styled generals who would be emperors invade, annihilate them when they get close enough - after a couple of times, the others will figure out this is a no win situation for them

7 - secure north africa and egypt - you MUST have their grain imports - it would be preferable to make deals with governors and their troops rather than have to occupy these places with your marines

8 - let the rest of the empire fall to pieces, which it will, between barbarians and the local warlords - when diplomacy and "understandings" are possible, perform them

9 - work on a long term grand strategy to a) spread the subversive gospel of personal freedom through out the empire b) upgrade the technology of roman civilization to the point where one can attain a decent 17th or 18th century standard, which will be more than enough to ensure your new republic's survival c) undermine the position of elites, with the understanding that those who give up resistance, even augustus himself, will enjoy a comfortable retirement

10 - very long term - a century or so - upgrade shipping so you can invade/colonize/trade with the americas - big advantage here - you know these places exist and the riches they can bring - the romans don't

going all out and invading rome, blowing it to pieces, is certainly possible - but in the long run, it would probably be counterproductive and create too many enemies - and terror and fear

no, get control of the food supply and use it to make friends and allies
posted by pyramid termite at 10:43 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Put your hands in the air:
Pone manum tuam in caelum. / Coloque los manos en el aire.

Another Spanish version:
Pon las manos en el cielo.


Yes, but how do you tell the Romans to wave them like they just don't care?
posted by The World Famous at 10:57 PM on August 31, 2011 [15 favorites]


I read the DAY 1 and part of DAY 2 but it just seemed kind of bland.

The thing is, with 2000 people and enough army to hold off the enemy for a while aren't you going to have enough modern knowledge to tech up pretty quickly?

For fuel you can use ethanol.

The biggest advantage wouldn't be the guns, it would be the radios You'd be able to track troop movements, and attack whenever they leave.
posted by delmoi at 10:59 PM on August 31, 2011


"Would diseases really be that big of a deal given that US armed forces

a) are given comprehensive vaccinations against a *huge* array of diseases, including many third-world-only ones that correspond to many of the more common in the old world, and
b) Unlike nearly everyone alive at the time, aren't suffering from one form of malnutrition or another?
"

Their biggest advantage would be in being to smart to drink poop, and most but certainly not all bacterial diseases would be taken care of handily by a full regimen of antibiotics, though I imagine those would run out pretty quick. However, most of their vaccines would likely be entirely useless. Their smallpox vaccination should still be effective*, and variolation with cowpox is not technically challenging anyway,** but there would be 2,000 years of intense antigenic variation between the manufacture of their vaccines and the viral strains they'd be coming across. Vaccines are also not intended to be 100% effective anyway, they rely on herd immunity to keep exposure low and there would be Romans coughing EVERYWHERE and touching EVERYTHING with their left hands after using their communal poop sponge. Thats communal poop sponge, as in the invertebrates that are now nearly extinct in the Mediterranean due to Roman toilet and Victorian shower habits.

There is also the problem of how, back then, they were swimming in all sorts of novel zoonotic disease. Shit we've never seen because it naturally went extinct as it slowly, or very very quickly killed off everyone susceptible to it. There are likely whole classes of, particularly, viruses but also shit like viciously communicable and virulent Yersinia that the marines would be really really naive to.

The horror of the other direction however, would be incalculable. How many of those marines do you think have undiagnosed syphilis or gonorrhea? Kohl sores they don't really think about? HIV? No condoms and effective, now extinct, plant based birth control would make modern, and to them completely novel, STDs unstoppable. Just one marine with a kid in Europe bringing a load of measles, that would not even necessarily be infectious to us, would also sweep across the Old World in a few years, like a genocidal broom. Modern viruses that we haven't even necessarily found yet, that are well adapted to the human host and close to commensal, recombineering with their more virulent ancestors could be catastrophic in unpredictable ways. Even if it doesn't become pandemic, everyone around the Marines would be sick, and compromised, for a while from things like the common cold.

I would bet dollars to cortex doughnuts that the Marines would be playing to a pretty dead crowd.

*Before the 1800s, Variola major, the nasty smallpox did not need to worry about changing to hide from your adaptive immune system, it worked by hitting you so hard so fast that by the time your immune system builds the tools to fight back it can't wield them anymore. It stopped working because if you start out with those tools from vaccination it can't outrun someone already on the finish line no matter how nasty it is.

**Just put the crusty part of a cow pox on a sharp fork and apply vigorously to the arm until you've drawn some blood, a marine could figure that out.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:30 PM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Something else I'm not sure anyone has mentioned yet, how many of these Marines would REALLY REALLY like to meet Jesus? How weird would it be for successive generations to worship a deity negated by timeline fucking?
posted by Blasdelb at 11:34 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Great post o_a, loving the discussion.
posted by arcticseal at 11:51 PM on August 31, 2011


"communal poop sponge"

And they called it civilization.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:20 AM on September 1, 2011


"Mummy! Augustus didn't wash the poop sponge again!"
posted by arcticseal at 12:23 AM on September 1, 2011


This discussion reminds me of Poul Anderson's The High Crusade (1960), in which the aliens land in 14th century England, fully intending to over-awe the locals; but the local soldiers - using edged weapons against a star-faring civilization - promptly take over the invading starship.

{SPOILER (for a >50-year-old book): And then the plucky earthlings use the starship to take over the entire alien galactic empire.}

One can about as easily imagine a Legion taking out a lost Marine recon patrol - and then using a handful of captured weapons to bootstrap their way up....
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 12:29 AM on September 1, 2011


Crap, no Smedleyman yet? While eriko's been doing yeoman's service with his analysis, it just lacks that certain je ne sais quoi that ol' Smed brings to the table. Maybe he's still penning one of his many-paragraphed masterpieces, addressing all things military...like Vom Krieg but with an ending. What was that summoning again?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:49 AM on September 1, 2011


Their biggest advantage would be in being to smart to drink poop,

These are *Romans* not medieval Christians.
posted by rodgerd at 12:52 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't the entire Roman military have been somewhat more formidable than the Viet Cong, which the US military had some trouble with?
posted by acb at 1:14 AM on September 1, 2011


What's the Latin for "Wave 'em like you just don't care"?
posted by calamari kid at 1:16 AM on September 1, 2011


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Forum...
posted by arcticseal at 1:26 AM on September 1, 2011


Surely the Romans wouldn't keep marching their troops into rifle fire and certain death after the first battle. More likely they'd adopt a Fabian strategy like the last time a stronger army started marching through their territory: wear the enemy down with skirmishes and exhaust his supplies.

Let the Marines take Rome. (The capital was moved away from Rome in the later Roman Empire anyway, there's nothing there they really need). Stop the grain ships from Egypt. Watch the Marines cope with a city of a million people slowly starving to death.

The land area of the Roman empire was huge. To control it you need to control transport, movement, agricultural land. 2,000 marines would be just be spread too thin to control food production and supply.

I think the way they would do it is ally with a local power or faction that has numbers and land: use your modern weapons to shift the balance of power. (The Parthians would probably be happy to have them onside.) It wouldn't be possible or sensible to just take on a unified and implacably opposed Roman Empire on your own.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:50 AM on September 1, 2011


Basically, you're looking at a coup, not a conquest.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:53 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


As The Whelk has pointed out, morale is going to be an even bigger issue than logistics (and providing the MEU with 6 months of supplies is cheating, IMHO). And with respect to morale, mutiny would probably be a bigger danger than desertion. The commanders, cut out from higher leadership, will have the stark choice of finding a mission for the unit, or risk their leadership be taken from them.

What distinguishes the US armed forces from most previous large fighting forces in human history (and definitely from the Roman Legions), is that its military leaders have generally accepted their subordination to civilian leadership. While this is generally a good thing, it would be a problem in this hypothetical situation, because the unit's commanders would have to take political decisions, something that goes strictly against the grain of their whole training.

What may the mission be? There's actually not much point in taking down the Roman Empire. What for? A more reasonable mission would be to set up an independent fiefdom, where the troops would be able to settle peacefully. However, Blasdelb has noticed the elephant in the room: somebody called Jesus of Nazareth is supposed to roam a little corner of that same Roman Empire just a couple of decades afterwards, and end up executed by the representatives of emperor Tiberius. While those Marines may not be particularly conversant with the history of Rome, you can bet that quite a few of them have heard of that Jesus guy, and not all may agree with Matthew 26:52.
posted by Skeptic at 2:14 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess it depends on what you mean by "destroy the Roman Empire," really. 1.) Break it up? 2.) Reconquer the Empire for yourself? 3.) Kill Caesar? Let's take 'em one at a time.

Let's assume you've got a full MEU, minus the ship (that's a little more than they're using in the Reddit thing, but whatever). From Wikipedia, it sounds like they go out with supplies for 15 days, so let's assume that applies to ammunition, too -- although it's not totally clear what that means, there have been some pretty good estimates upthread.

Disposition assumptions: According to this page (it's the first map as you scroll down), you've got 8 legions in Gaul and 7 in Yugoslavia/ Greece that might be a problem. Obviously you don't know this, but you do know there's something out there -- the entire apparatus of empire. The two on the Dalmation coast might be a problem right away, and a few from Gaul (though it's unlikely that all of them would come down at you -- some will remain up north to hold on to those territories). The two legions in Spain probably won't be a factor until too late -- also the case with the legions in Judea and elsewhere. An MEU commander could probably make a reasonable guess there he'd be facing another ~5-7 legions coming from the north. You've also got 2 legions in Egypt -- maybe one of them will return -- and one in North Africa, which probably won't be a factor.

If you're going for 1, the slave revolt idea above is a pretty good one, with modifications. What you need to do here is inflict such a crushing morale blow in "the homeland" that local legion commanders decide that their best bet is to carve out their own chunk and set up shop as the local despot. So you annihilate the Praetorian Guard in spectacular fashion at the gates of Rome, make Swiss cheese out of the walls, and collect baskets full of the heads of the (now former) Senators. Throw in the heads of anyone else with a summer villa in another town for good measure, to really emphasize the class warfare aspect of the endeavor. From the linked piece, the assumption is that the MEU was set down just outside of Rome, so this should only take two days, tops.

Solidify your gains in Italy, then send half your Marine force north to the Alps, along with the bulk of your armed-up slave support troops. These will defend the passes -- remember, you don't care what happens beyond this border; all you need to do is make it very obvious that nobody can get back to Italy and they better settle down where they are.

You'll probably have about two-three days' worth of fighting if we assume that four legions attempt to return. They might coordinate, but by forcing them to fight in the mountain passes, they make easy targets for you squad light machine guns and the artillery you separate to this purpose.

The remaining Marines set up at a base on the boot-heel of Italy. You set up watches along that coast. You can move your remaining artillery fairly quickly up the coast to intercept any attempted naval landings. Most likely, you'll just run your helicopter up and strafe the ships as they come in, but you'll spread your tanks widely -- they can probably machine gun the ships with their .30-cals before anyone lands.

Getting to 2 is probably not too bad either: snipe the command structure of the Praetorian Guard and lob off maybe 3 light mortar rounds -- enough for a solid show of force. Take advantage of the lingering suspicions of Caesar's power grab (Brutus might really like you if you promise to restore the Republic, say), then march on Rome. One or two cannon blasts from your tanks open the gates, and the city is yours.

Now start building rifles. You can probably make do with flintlocks for now, and you might not be able to rifle the barrels yet, but you'll be okay. Also, give your cavalry stirrups to improve their combat effectiveness.

Similar to 1, run your tanks and heli to the south, to guard the coast from Egypt and Dalmatia. These will remain as your "home guard" while the legions you're going to build retake the empire.

This route probably depends most on diplomacy, because you're going to want to convince as many legions as you can to abandon the Empire, accept your rule in Rome, and fight for you. Accept the legions that turn to your side. Embed your Marines into each legion: let's say 5 riflemen, a sniper, a heavy machine gun, and a light mortar squad. That should allow you to field, let's say, 5 "super-legions." When going into battle, get some priests to do a song and dance with a bullhorn, asking the gods to rain down fire on the enemy and then lob a couple of mortar rounds into the opposing ranks for good psychological measure and they'll probably run with your even firing a shot, but you want to be on the safe side here.

Keep back enough soldiers for another legion -- these guys will begin training as Janissaries, essentially. They will learn the musket and combine it with their short-sword training, but focus on the gun. I'd say having a legion of Janissaries and 5 "super-legions" should set you well on the way to taking back the Empire in your own name -- it'll take some time, buy you'll get there.

Three is a crap-shoot, really. Does Caesar lead the initial attack to protect Rome? Well, then you probably get him in the first round of sniping and mortars. Does he hide in Rome while the Praetorian Guard attacks? You'll probably still get him. If he runs, you're probably looking at reverting to 2, and just reconquering country until you find him, but that could take a while -- although you can probably still do it.

(Wow, sorry, that was really long -- thinking about this thread all day at work makes me gush a bit.)
posted by wandering steve at 2:17 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any Roman-era battle with the Marines using modern weaponry could be ended pretty quickly by having snipers wipe out all the Roman officers, after both armies have drawn up opposite each other in two lines.

In order to maintain their own modern, western, democratic culture, the Marines should leave Italy and conquer Britain, which is populated by about a million people divided up into dozens of warring tribes. Remaining in Italy and assuming power over so many other people would only be a corrupting experience, and the Marines would be very likely to become Romanized very quickly.

Isolating themselves in the British Isles, the New Americans could begun assimilating a more manageable population that is spread over a wider area, and then kick off an Agricultural and Industrial Revolution using the required natural resources they now control. In pretty short order (a few decades?) they could become the world's first sea-power and start taking over world trade.

If the Americans are forced over time by reduced circumstances to fighting using lower levels of technology, then they could adopt Mongol tactics of having mounted archers using composite bows. The Roman legions were not really set up to deal with large mounted armies who remain at a distance and refuse to engage in hand-to-hand fighting in large scale pitched battles.
posted by das1969 at 2:44 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Q: The year is 4011. Can one Terran super marine destroy the U.S. Empire of two thousand years ago?

A: Who needs a super marine when a few dudes armed only with box cutters did that back in 2001?
posted by stinkycheese at 2:54 AM on September 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not only am I looking forward to it, but I'll be a little surprised if his reply doesn't start with "Actually, I was part of a team that did just this thing a couple of years ago..."

Pfft. I haven't invaded Rome since Genseric bet we couldn't do it starting with a handful of Germani.

"US military masturbation."

So you're looking at masturbation, making commentary. How sad is that. Just all kinds of time on your hands. I sleep maybe 2 hours a day and I got psychic emanations from the thread. What's your excuse?

"U.S. troops would be comically unfit by ancient standards..."
Where does that come from? Even post-Augustus, the most common type of supply for a Roman soldier was what they could store in fat. Health-wise Marines are vastly, vastly more fit. They're extremely well fed in comparison to Romans (who were well fed compared to everyone else in their era), they're well fed (if they eat on base and most young folks do) compared to average Americans who eat a lot of just crap. And more importantly can afford expending those calories in regular exercise over and above their work.

Who wins in straight hand to hand combat - different story. Depends on the Roman and the Marine we're using. Roman numeri vs. average Marine, Marine wins. Praetorian vs. average Marine, Roman. An antesignani, praetorian or hastiliarius vs. MCMAP instructor or recon Marine - interesting fight there.
But not all that important. For reasons that will become clear.

"I'm sure this was said about U.S. Marines and Vietnamese soldiers too -- they were so tiny and malnourished! Guess who won that one."


This is the problem. What are the objectives? I mean we all know Tran Van Tra didn't march into the White House.
We know U.S. political objectives were sorta achieved (China pulled out in March 1979) and sorta not - but wasn't worth it either way.

The objective (and premise) greatly influences the victory conditions. So how are we taking this?

"because the question appears to be asking, if you traveled back in time with the intention of destroying the Roman Empire what would happen?"

Another problem. We have an MEU. With - what? None of the things that make an MEU versatile? Because if you have a taskforce outfitted with what it needs to destroy the Roman Empire that's a cakewalk.

I'd be happy to cede tanks and air support, hell I could shitcan all the anti-armor and anti-air stuff. Do they have things they don't need?
The set up is sort of silly - what if an MEU didn't have things that make them prepared to react to almost any situation which is what they're designed to do?

What if I was missing my left hand, but had a shield and a jacobs ladder, could I fight a one eyed monkey chained to a trombone? Assume no element of surprise.

It's a quick reaction force. They grab shit they need fast and head for it. It's a modular thing. The stuff in Wikipedia is not gospel. It's not set in stone that they absolutely must have "x." (Hey boys, don't forget to drag along those anti-tank missiles when you're handing out beans and rice).
A task force tailored to fit would wipe the Romans out easily. 2,000-odd naked Marines vs. 300,000 Roman soldiers and the Romans dispatch them easily.

So, split the difference. The Marines disappear suddenly, but were equipped for a field scenario (instead of say, a humanitarian mission which is heavy with equipment or a TRAP mission which is very light and fast (just had one of those in Libya in fact), or something requiring close air support, etc).

Reading the thread - lots of excellent ideas/comments. Y'all know who you are.

But - even laying out well equipped but bewildered Marines vs. Romans who have no idea what's about to hit them - both sides have been underestimated.

I'll start with the Romans.
I'm Joe Roman General. Phlegmatic. Stolid. I know many tactics, but what I do well is not conquer by main force like all the generals in history (I've studied Alexander for example. I can read, but more importantly, I have access to reading material) but our way is to invade and then set up a vigorous defense. Acquirit qui tuetur

Ok. So I see an opposing force. First thing I do is not advance to see if my armor can take their missile weapons, I start on the earthworks. Dirt stops everything. (And, although I don't know it, bullets too)
I see they have some kind of weirdo chariot that goes without horses. I'm aware of mobile warfare (and the LAV-25's can't go much faster than a horse off road on this terrain, and they seem to like using the roads we build) so I start covertly laying caltrops to buy me time.

Pretty soon they start having problems with those chariots.
As I thought. Wheels are wheels.

And so they send a recon in force, as I thought. I send my diplomats. We talk. It takes time but we find some common understanding. I explain to them the problems they are having are probably caused by these barbarians we've all been having problems with. I mean, we're both civilized aren't we? We both use roads.
*smile*
About that time the agents I have in some of the local tribes have provoked their chiefs into attacking so I can see how the newcomers weapons work. And after that I see from their reaction that, whatever these new weapons and techniques of theirs are, they're not the tip of an invasion. They're a remnant.
As I thought. Soldiers are soldiers.
I invite their commander to eat with me and talk about our future. He's as concerned about his men as I would be with mine.
As I thought.

"What it comes down to is the speed with which the MEU integrates into Rome's political structure."

This.
Do they change the structure or does the structure absorb them?
There's your fight.

I mean, ok, I'll take the MEU (and the promotion to O-6). We disappear - where and when do we show up?

The fact that he's saying it's Augustus makes it particularly possible to take on the Roman Empire at this time (27 B.C. to 14 AD). You've got none of the institutions surviving that would enable Roman political resiliency.

Octavian became Augustus, "Imperator." He controls Mare Nostrum. It's its his ship now. His command. He's in charge. He's the boss. Head man. Top dog. The big cheese. First citize... but I digress.

So The Republic was gone. During Augustus' rule he made the army professional. If we catch him at the end, the Romans put up a much better fight.
In the beginning or during the changeover, they're kind of hosed.
You still had generals creating personal loyalties over their loyalties to Rome (until Augustus) so attacking the generals in the field (from the first non-story post in the OP) isn't a bad idea. Hit Augustus and they've got no clear leader to give their allegiance to.
And the Praetorians were created around this time - that is - created as king makers rather than bodyguards, so - same deal. They'll back whoever is going to keep everyone from starving.

During Augustus' reign people still remembered the chaos and anarchy before Augustus so if it looks like he - or whoever tries to run the show once he's gone - can't pull it off they're going to back whoever looks like they've got the upper hand to avoid anarchy and civil war again.
Which means the Marine C.O.

There are likely whole classes of, particularly, viruses but also shit like viciously communicable and virulent Yersinia that the marines would be really really naive to.

Field hygiene and sanitation practices are very basic and eliminate 99% of that (short hair = less ticks, lice, etc). Plus they have a wide variety of food and water purification equipment. Plus there's survival training. Plus there are 2,200 people in the MEU which includes medics, nurses, and doctors. Plenty of other technical talent there as well.

"We are talking several hundred products of the American educational system."

This too. We're talking several thousand Marines with double to ten times the number of officer staff depending on the mission so the products of Marine Corps OCS.

I don't know where the idea comes from that people who's lives depend on knowing certain things are going to be stupider for having been trained in those things.
Even if not one enlisted man was a history geek, the officers most certainly study history.
Most particularly military history.

Destroying Rome is easy with just the talent pool available. Know how to make mustard gas? Use calcium oxide? Make chlorine gas or phosgene? Combat engineers do. So do chemical (and biological, radiological) warfare specialists.

Survival isn't even an issue either. Plenty of green technology in the military. Particularly in MEUs who tend to be guinea pigs for the Office of Naval Research.
Lots of big, long lasting batteries, rugged solar panels, enough to keep an outpost's equipment charged. Field radios. Walkie talkies. Speed and sophistication of tactical and strategic communication (as mentioned) is worth all the ammo in the world.

No need to learn to fight with a spear, you enlist tribes - as mentioned above:
"One route to survival would be what Cortez did -"

Plus (as mentioned) alcohol which also means more water purification. So technique is everything. Equipment less so.
And the Romans were aware of steel making (it is the Iron age after all) so all the engineers need to know is details on the bessemer process and I can start mass producing arms (probably in Hispania ... Toledo even).

That said - where is it the MEU shows up on the globe? And what are the options to move?

For example, if I have to take out Augustus, I stay in Hispania and build a force with the Cantabri and wait for Augustus when he shows up. Invade Rome with the tribes I've united. Level the place. Don't even have to use chemical weapons. End of story.









So ... *cough* yeah. Gone on a bit here.







But ok, let's say I know loads of history but Col. Smedleyman of the MEU has no idea when it is relative to when we showed up. It's 14 B.C. now? 2 AD? *shrug*

This is the neat bit - the fight would be between the Marine Col. and Augustus over commanding the allegiance of the legions and it would start with seducing (politically, not with naughty bits) the Joe Roman commander I started with.

Look, I say, I know where your men are, I know you're behind those barbarians attacking us. It's divide and conquer 101, same as you did using the Goths to beat Attila.
*Roman commander blinks*
Sorry, after your time. 'Vastatio'.
'Ah', *Roman commander nods*
I have people who can kill you from milliarium. (Joe Sniper demonstrates on something).
Your numbers are unimportant. But I do not wish to spill unnecessary blood.
Your people are conscripts. My people are volunteers. Your men do not yet believe in Rome. Mine are united by an ideal that transcends even our own country. You think we're a remnant and we can become your men. We will not. We will never forget what we fight and die for.
*Roman commander nods* "Semper Fidelis"
Funny you should say that. I can see you think that this is not enough. That doesn't matter either. What matters is your men have a world to return to. My men have nowhere else to go. Even if they take wives and work the land they will always be aliens to your way of life. We're too different as a people, General. They will not believe in your Emperor. They will not believe in your Gods. They will never accept slavery as a matter of course. There are men here who would fight and die for that alone. They will never be yours General.
The only way this works is if you work for me.

From there the Col. can build a Roman force (which Roman people are more likely to accept than barbarians) supplemented by modern firepower and threaten Rome. He would have the upper hand (due to everything I mentioned) in terms of force.

But the unity of purpose of those forces could be shattered.
Gassing thousands of bystanders wouldn't sit too well with any modern military. The indoctrination that unites them also limits them.

So there has to be more economy of force. That's the limiting factor on the technology. You want your combat power to be well distributed and efficient. The Romans won't keep running into wilting fire. But neither will troops lay down fire en masse on people that pose them no threat. Morale issues on that aside, morality aside, the will to do it or not aside, they know it's wasteful. They understand basic tactics even if they haven't read von Clausewitz. They won't do it.

So you have to divide and conquer the Romans. You have to make people believe you're the better alternative, the only alternative to widespread destruction and chaos, without actually causing the widespread destruction and chaos. Because if you do, you lose all that infrastructure and actually do become just a remnant. A horrifically powerful one, but no less isolated and with a very limited life span for all that.

Now, Marine Colonels are among the extraordinarily dangerous human beings who do study logistics. And they do PR as leaders. You could do Psyops and propaganda in Latin and there are plenty of techniques the Romans haven't learned.

And just now, because it's Augustus, you've got a shot. The only thing holding the place together is Augustus and you can kill or subvert his generals.
So again - Marine Colonels - yeah, bad ass.

But it's f'ing AUGUSTUS CAESAR. That's the huge problem right there. Not hand to hand combat, logistics or any other factor.
We might think it's neat having our own Wikipedia entry but c'mon, his name has endured for 2,000 years. He created an Empire that lasted 1,500 years. Laid down the groundwork for it and held everything together for one lifetime.
If anyone in history is going to out think a superior - even vastly superior - invasion force and either defuse the situation or turn it to his advantage, it's him.

I'd imagine Augustus would tell the Col. that he's got, at best, 20-30 years to try to re-make a Republic. That's without the intrigue, the poison in the cup which can kill anyone, the massive home court advantage all the corrupt "senators" have, the food riots which has the plebs begging you to make and take a crown ("any man can stand adversity, if you want to test someone's character give them power") - the whole facade of the Republic.

And so, Augustus would ask, if enlightened rule to establish a genuine Republic fails, as it's likely to do at the point of a sword, what then is the difference between us?
And if there is no difference then why shouldn't I, as Augustus, rule? It is my world and my time and I know what's best for these people.
(And if you know history you know his magnificent legacy - tough to refute him)

So, short answer, no you couldn't destroy Augustus' legions because they would become your own.
The only way to truly destroy them would be to have a revolution and sustain it to create a representative democracy.
And it's within the realm of possibility. Farming technique, political science, many other skills there in an MEU. And the Romans were good at engineering to start with.

Likely? No. Knowing what I know I wouldn't presume to replace him much less think any good could be accomplished by engaging his forces in the first place.
The Celts seemed to lean towards freedom in that era. Could always see how they like the phrase "We the People of the United Tribes, in Order to form a more perfect Union...."

I dislike jabs at the military and us folks in the U.S. being arrogant. But we do have a history of our politicians (and people) thinking you can accomplish something lasting with firepower alone.
Too much t.v. maybe.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:59 AM on September 1, 2011 [95 favorites]


SMEDLYYYYYYYYYMAAAANNNNN!!!!!!!!!
posted by P.o.B. at 3:08 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Operation Roman Freedom began with a series of stunning military successes. The Emperor Augustus was rumoured to have stockpiles of WMD under his control, ready to use in the event of an invasion, but these fears proved groundless, and the Marines entered Rome virtually unopposed. As the world watched in amazement, the great statue of Augustus was toppled from its plinth in the Forum, and the occupying forces announced the establishment of an 'interim government' to oversee the restoration of the old republic.

Soon, however, the euphoria began to wear off. The Roman legions in Egypt and North Africa promptly mutinied, refusing to accept the authority of the new government. With the grain supply to Ostia cut off, Rome faced an uncertain winter, and the mood of the civilian population began to turn against the occupying forces. Meanwhile, Jewish militants in Judaea declared independence and began a guerrilla war against the Roman army. The 'insurgency', as it was known, was eventually crushed, but the Americans were unable to prevent new forms of religious fundamentalism from spreading across the Middle East and ultimately to Rome itself. Attempts to rebuild the infrastructure were hampered by local corruption. In private, some American diplomats began to suggest that the problem was a cultural one, and that the Romans were 'not yet ready for democracy'.

Finally, seven years after the invasion, it was announced that there would be a gradual drawdown of American forces in Italy, as power was transferred to a new 'transitional government' headed by the former emperor's stepson Tiberius. A small unit of Marines remained behind in a 'consultancy role' to advise the new government on security issues.

Operation Roman Freedom was quickly forgotten by the American public, but its repercussions lasted for many years. The decline and fall of the American empire is a controversial subject, and historians continue to disagree about its causes, but there can be no doubt that the Roman invasion exposed the limitations of American power as never before. The Marines who entered Rome that bright March day in AD23 could hardly have predicted it, but their actions really did bring about the destruction of the empire.
posted by verstegan at 3:08 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


"double to ten times the number of officer staff "
Error on my part. Than normal. Not, 2x-10x the # of troops. The ratio has gone to hell since WWII but it's not that bad.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:16 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Smed. -good stuff.

Remember: the Romans were, in general, summed up by one word. "Practical". I'm willing to bet that most legion prefects would simply say "Hail, Col Smith!"

The Romans went from kingdom to republic to empire, and most Romans just dealt with it. If the USMC gives Rome a functional government, Rome will accept. Give them a great one, and Rome will be thrilled.

And as to the politics? Fundamentally, it became "who controls the praetorians?" answer? The USMC.
posted by eriko at 3:34 AM on September 1, 2011


/I appreciate the kind words, all. (Wouldn't believe how much I need it.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Masturbating might make you feel better. Or you could try get more sleep.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:31 AM on September 1, 2011


I still tend to side with the Romans on this, however I did think of a major advantage modern Marines might have: communications.

If the Marines have radios and if those radios are solar-powered, then they could mount a guerrilla war with long-distance synchronization. A good strategist could put that to really good advantage, although I'm not sure it's enough to win a war against the entire Roman Empire.
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on September 1, 2011


You don't have to go to war with the entire Roman Empire. That would be foolish, particularly with limited "magic".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:56 AM on September 1, 2011


But it's f'ing AUGUSTUS CAESAR. That's the huge problem right there.

Indeed. One thing is to have a Wikipedia entry. A different one is to still have a frikking month named after you, 2000 years after you died.

The Celts seemed to lean towards freedom in that era. Could always see how they like the phrase "We the People of the United Tribes, in Order to form a more perfect Union...."

While I agree that coopting slaves, tribes, or even Roman commanders would be essential, I think that would require a moral flexibility that modern-day soldiers may find difficult to muster. The Celts, for instance, may have seemed to lean towards freedom in that era. Unfortunately, they also leaned towards human sacrifice, and pretty horrendous forms of torture too. Liaising between the MEU and whichever ally they ended up with wouldn't be an easy task.
posted by Skeptic at 5:08 AM on September 1, 2011


The kids of the time travelled soilders are going to have the most bizarre childhood conversation " so were's your dad from."
" a faraway land to the west where machines rules people and the sky can be lit on fire"
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure they could do it. After all, barbarians managed to destroy Rome.
posted by nicolin at 6:48 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


(And if you know history you know his magnificent legacy - tough to refute him)

it's easy to refute him - aside from the fact that you've got him in custody with bigger "swords", you simply need to tell him about his "magnificent" legacy - nero, caligula, the year of 4 emperors, the fact that one, count him, one roman emperor after him managed to die a peaceful death and that the empire as he knew it eventually failed with half of it becoming barbarian kingdoms and the other half an oriental despotism and all of it becoming thrall to an obscure palestinian cult that outlaws all traditional religion

he may well ask why you think you'll do any better, the follies of mankind being what they are, but he'll also see your point

and then there's all the things about his world that you know that he doesn't

---

Stop the grain ships from Egypt.

indeed, this is the crux of the matter - who controls the grain - if the marines can't make an arrangement to do this, they'd be better off to relocate away from the empire and work from there
posted by pyramid termite at 6:51 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


All but a few people are missing a major point. A majority of these marines are Christian. Nothing appeals to the Christian mind so much as the idea that one's own faith is of a special, higher quality than anyone else's. (A Christian, Kierkegaard, told me this.) These guys are going to feel all special, like they were chosen by the Big Guy himself to come back to Jesus's own time for a Very Special Mission. They know that 1) Jesus is alive somewhere; 2) that he's the only person here who speaks perfect English; 3) he's now their Commander-in-Chief. Whatever you know about military discipline, this is unprecedented and whatever the Colonel's knowledge of logistics, he's not going to be able to deal with it. Nor are however many priests an MEU stocks. These guys are going to be wanting to find out from Jesus himself what the mission is. You're not going to be able to keep them in line long enough to conquer Rome. They're going to be really disappointed when they find him.

Superstition is a problem in this scenario, but not for the Romans.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 7:03 AM on September 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


Holy crap that's brilliant. The marines would go to Jerusalem to stop Jesus from being crucified.
posted by empath at 7:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The more I think about it, the less I'm convinced that a slave revolt would be a factor. I think the main things slaves would be doing while the legions and the senate re-organize themselves is running away (along with everyone else). If I'm a plantation slave (which most of the slaves in Italy were at the time) working in the fields, and an LAV-25 appears and starts blowing up legionnaires, I'm probably thinking "fuck this, I'm going back to Dacia." The reason that Spartacus was able to raise a slave army was that he was one of them. He spoke Latin and Greek, and so could communicate with a significant portion of other slaves, and his people may have even had family scattered among slave populations throughout the countryside. Also remember that Spartacus' objectives were not clear- some argue that he was actually trying to overthrow Rome, while others suggest that he was trying to mount a fighting retreat, either to the north or to Sicily, with the objective of getting off the peninsula. Even if you turned up with a Catholic chaplain or a couple of former seminarians, most slaves would be gone before you could even tell them they were free.

An aside on language: we don't even know how the spoken Latin of the early Empire was supposed to sound. We know how Medieval Latin was supposed to be sung, but that's really the best we can do.

Smedleyman, so your Marines know the Riddle of Steel. But can they mill flour? Can they winnow grain and separate the wheat from the chaff. Can a 3381 still proof bread? My Grandfather ran a field kitchen in the army during WWII, and he could, but I'm not sure if he could have done it with a wood-burning oven, or in a pot on a fire. If we put aside the "6 months' supply" issue, these will become issues once the MREs run out. There will be a necessary period of adaptation, and not many people around to help.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:11 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bingo, but someone might also say: hey, maybe Jesus wants to be crucified? isn't it part of the Plan? they wouldn't be able to decide until they met him face to face (and what Christian wouldn't be running to do that?)...
posted by demonic winged headgear at 7:12 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


hey, maybe Jesus wants to be crucified?

IANAChristian but my understanding is that that was the plan. So it'd be a fascinating twist if the Marines showed up and forcibly prevented it. What happens then? Jesus throws himself in front of sniper fire?
posted by desjardins at 7:17 AM on September 1, 2011


IANAChristian but my understanding is that that was the plan. So it'd be a fascinating twist if the Marines showed up and forcibly prevented it. What happens then? Jesus throws himself in front of sniper fire?

I have work to do, I can't start writing this story right now... but i'll be thinking about this for the rest of the day, i'm sure..
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on September 1, 2011


Meanwhile the Colonel gets pulled into the Egyptian Mysteries or Mithraism or something.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:21 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, any Marines looking for Jesus in the time of Augustus are going to have to wait a bit. Jesus is supposed to have lived during the reign of Tiberius.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:25 AM on September 1, 2011


Augustus died in 14 AD. He was alive during both.
posted by empath at 7:29 AM on September 1, 2011


Well, fair enough. It depends on whether they are hardcore believers in Jesus being born in 0 AD, or if they accept some of the later datings. Either way, they're going to see some significance in the fact that this "miracle" has placed them in the reign under which Christ was born. No doubt the Baby Jesus, being God and all, could speak English as well as the adult Jesus.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 7:33 AM on September 1, 2011


Obviously 3 of them would show up bearing gifts to his birth.
posted by empath at 7:39 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


IANAChristian but my understanding is that that was the plan. So it'd be a fascinating twist if the Marines showed up and forcibly prevented it.

Or the arrival of the Marines distracts the Jewish priests who wanted him dead and now the Marines have to work to either kill him or get him killed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2011


Tell me of your homeworld, Joe.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:42 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


They save Jesus from crucification, preventing the fundamental miracle basis of Christian faith. Christianity fizzles. They become the last desperate apostles, while their miracles run out of charges. History changes dramatically, but they are forgotten as obviously false legends of magic.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:43 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are modern soldiers accustomed to killing dozens and dozens of men with their bare hands in the most gruesome ways imaginable? Are they used to the level of raw up-close-and-personal violence that the ancients were? Can they kill women and children without a second though? Are they ready for pure barbarism?

I think the answer is a resounding "Yes".
posted by dunkadunc at 7:45 AM on September 1, 2011


They save Jesus from crucification, preventing the fundamental miracle basis of Christian faith.

That'll get interesting when they discover Jesus was a pacifist. Whatcha gonna do as a Marine, follow your commander or Jesus?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2011


Thinking long term, the food is going to really suck for the Marines. I wonder if there would be viable seed stock within this MEU thing? Here's some of what they'd be doing without once initial supplies were exhausted:
  • tomato
  • avocado
  • squash
  • pepper
  • artichoke
  • cocoa
  • peppers and chillies
  • eggplant
  • zucchini
  • corn
  • peanuts
  • vanilla
posted by Meatbomb at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


They had pepper.
posted by empath at 7:51 AM on September 1, 2011


I want to see clavdivs vs. Justinian.
posted by Eideteker at 7:52 AM on September 1, 2011


Potatoes sprout and tomatoes have seeds. I wonder if they might be better off finding some land that needs heavy ploughs or three-field crop rotation so nobody really values it, then maybe going into the luxury food business.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:58 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


For example, Garum was big business in the Roman Empire. If they could work out a way to make potato chips, store them in sealed pottery jars maybe, ship them out with a separate pot of tomato salsa dip... Marine Snacks could make them a fortune.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:03 AM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


How did they not have tomatoes in Rome? What did they make their spaghetti sauce out of?
posted by desjardins at 8:03 AM on September 1, 2011


What did they make their spaghetti sauce out of?

The Goths.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


The Romans pretty much lived off fish and olives so that shouldn't be too bad, plus they ate things we don't really eat any more, like dandelion greens (despite the fact that they are delicious), plus - wine.


Or the arrival of the Marines distracts the Jewish priests who wanted him dead and now the Marines have to work to either kill him or get him killed.

Gentlemen, our mission is clear, we must kill jesus
posted by The Whelk at 8:14 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


(oh and garlic, so much garlic. I remember reading a Roman-era "cookbook" and thinking it sounded really tasty and light, tons of fresh veg, heavy on the seafood)
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on September 1, 2011


KNOWLEDGE TO THE RESCUE
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 AM on September 1, 2011


Gentlemen, our mission is clear, we must kill jesus

This really is a story that must be written.
posted by empath at 8:23 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Wouldn't the entire Roman military have been somewhat more formidable than the Viet Cong, which the US military had some trouble with?"

I'm guessing that the Roman Army would not have the benefit of the full logistical, tactical, and industrial support of the Soviet Union and Peoples Republic of China, that was, you know, kind of important.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:35 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a big factor in this is going to be the mindset of the Roman troops. You have to put yourself in their position -- they have absolutely zero concept of mechanized transportation or high-speed projectile weapons. This is where the comparison to space invader or the fighting in Afghanistan breaks down. We understand laser beam weapons and energy shield at least on a conceptual level -- no one is going to be surprised to see that. And the Afghan fighters have been facing tanks and automatic rifles their entire lives - there is no shock and awe there. The Romans, on the other hand, won't be able to fit modern weaponry into their headspace at all. There is nothing in their world to compare it to.

Except, of course, their mythology. Their gods do the kind of stuff the Marines do all the time. They fly, the kill at long distances at will, and are pretty much invincible. With little or no planning on the Marines' part, they will be seen as gods, because the Romans have nowhere else to put them. Once they are seen as gods, the Romans are going to back down, because, as Roman mythology shows time and time again, the gods are mean and petty and spiteful. The last thing you want to do is fuck with them.
posted by rtimmel at 8:37 AM on September 1, 2011


Meh, a rifle's just a little ballista that's been pre-wound-up.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:40 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really do think the shock of the new is something you can only do once, people can wrap their head around things pretty quickly. and I have a feeling soldiers will recognize soldiers - a gun is a slingshot or an arrow that shoots really fast.
posted by The Whelk at 8:42 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe nobody's linked to the Belisarius Series. Most of which is at the Baen Free Library.

Also:

SMEDLYYYYYYYYYMAAAANNNNN!!!!!!!!!
posted by lysdexic at 8:43 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the "marines would be seen as gods" thing is a tad oversimplified. It's debatable how seriously the Romans took their "gods" anyway. They knew they had basically just stolen their pantheon from the Greeks. And they were just about to declare Augustus himself as THE god. They definitely had conceptual space for this: magic/witchcraft. They would probably just see these marine guys as powerful magicians -- a big threat, but nothing the divinely-favored Roman Empire couldn't handle (in their view).
posted by demonic winged headgear at 8:45 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


They knew they had basically just stolen their pantheon from the Greeks.

They didn't think that and they hadn't stolen it. Their pantheon is derived from the same indo-european pantheon that the greek gods were derived from. They merely thought that the Greeks used different words to refer to the same gods (which is mostly true). They also applied the same idea to germanic gods (which were also derived from the same indo-european pantheon.)
posted by empath at 8:47 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that the Roman Army would not have the benefit of the full logistical, tactical, and industrial support of the Soviet Union and Peoples Republic of China..

But what if they DID?! It's a new front for the Cold War!

I really do think the shock of the new is something you can only do once, people can wrap their head around things pretty quickly. and I have a feeling soldiers will recognize soldiers - a gun is a slingshot or an arrow that shoots really fast.

Yeah, but the Marines don't even need to be in view to kill the Romans. Hell, put a couple of snipers around a Roman army campground at night and it's a turkey shoot.

The interesting question is how the Marines would react. They're cut off from everything they know. No only will they never see their friends or family again, they'll never see their way of life. I'm reminded of 28 Days Later, where in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, a military leader was only able to keep the soldiers going and in line by promising them women at some point. Things got a bit brutal and chaotic.

This isn't to slight the Marines, but being transported and stuck back in ancient Rome will be a bit of pill to swallow. It's not something they trained for.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:51 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not something they trained for.

We really should add it to basic training
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I think that it would be hard to conceptualize a comrade's head exploding from an unseen, supersonic projectile coming from an enemy combatant some 250 yards away who isn't even moving his arms, as the same as a slingshot. And I'm not sure how it was decided upsteam, but if they are allowed, the Romans have nothing that compares to a Huey.

Did the Roman's have magicians. i know they had fortunetellers, soothsayers and heros, i.e., children of gods and humans, but I didn't think they had wizardy types. However, the gods were fairly local and mucked around in human affairs a lot.
posted by rtimmel at 8:56 AM on September 1, 2011


The Jesus story has (kind of) been done already too: Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man.
The story begins with Karl's violent arrival in the Holy Land of AD 28, where his time machine, a womblike, fluid-filled sphere, cracks open and becomes useless. By interpolating numerous memories and flashbacks, Moorcock tells the parallel story of Karl's troubled past in 20th century London, and tries to explain why he's willing to risk everything to meet Jesus. We learn that Karl has chronic problems with women, homosexual tendencies, an interest in the ideas of Jung, and many neuroses, including a messiah complex.
Karl, badly injured during his journey, crawls halfway out of the time machine, then faints. John the Baptist and a group of Essenes find him there, and take him back to their community, where they care for him for some time. Since the Essenes witnessed his miraculous arrival in the time machine, John decides Karl must be a magus, and asks him to help lead a revolt against the occupying Romans. When he asks Karl to baptise him, however, the latter panics and flees into the desert, where he wanders alone, hallucinating from heat and thirst.
He then makes his way to Nazareth in search of Jesus. When he finds Mary and Joseph, Mary turns out to be little more than a whore, and Joseph, a bitter old man, sneers openly at her claim to have been impregnated by an angel. Worse, their child Jesus is a profoundly retarded hunchback who incessantly repeats the only word he knows: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Karl, however, is so deeply committed to the idea of a real, historical Jesus that, at this point, he himself begins to step into the role, gathering followers, repeating what parables he can recall, and using psychological tricks to simulate miracles. When there's no food, he shows the people how to pretend to eat to take their minds off their hunger; when he encounters illness caused by hysteria, he cures it. Gradually, it becomes known that his name is Jesus of Nazareth.
In the end, determined to live the story of Jesus to its decidedly bitter end, he orders a puzzled Judas to betray him to the Romans, and dies on the cross. His last, agonized words, however, are not Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani, but the phonetically similar English it's a lie....it's a lie...let me down...
After Karl's death on the cross, the body is stolen by a doctor who believed the body had magical properties, leading to rumors that he did not die. The doctor is disappointed when the body begins to rot as any normal human would.
posted by gerryblog at 8:58 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


What if Jesus had an MEU to spread his teachings? He could be quickly spreading his word with armed Marines via a Huey. Formerly a pacifist, now seduced to the dark side by power full "magic".

Yes, I'm thinking of Jesus, fully decked out in Marine gear,firing his weapon as he storms the Temple.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:01 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wasn't that Mohamed?
posted by lysdexic at 9:02 AM on September 1, 2011


I have to say, though that shouting 'BLESSED ARE THE PIECEMAKERS' while firing and RPG would be a funny picture.
posted by lysdexic at 9:03 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


and RPG an RPG
posted by lysdexic at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2011


However, the gods were fairly local and mucked around in human affairs a lot.

Except for the rich tradition in grecco-roman thought that said the gods don't do that.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on September 1, 2011


There's a good bit of info on magic in the period here
posted by demonic winged headgear at 9:08 AM on September 1, 2011


Gentlemen, our mission is clear, we must kill jesus

This really is a story that must be written.


I picture a bunch of grunts wandering around Galilee sometime around AD 10, asking people in broken Greek or Aramaic if they know a "Yeshua ben Yosef."


"What, Yeshua ben Yosef the tanner?"

...


"No, him carpenter son."

...


"Ohhh...Maryam's kid! Yeah, she married that carpenter from Bethlehem, didn't she?"

"Yeah. Weird guy, kept saying he was descended from King David. Of course, he's the only one that would have her after the you know..."

"Hush, Rebekah. Yeah, Maryam's boy...no, I think they split for Egypt after Herod went berserk and killed all those kids. I've no idea where they are now. Have you looked in Egypt?"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, the gods were fairly local and mucked around in human affairs a lot.

Except for the rich tradition in grecco-roman thought that said the gods don't do that.


That's a good point and really I don't know when that shift happened. But my point is that the Roman mythos was rich in the idea of meddling gods, and contained nothing about motorized vehicles, nor the kind of weaponry the Marines would carry. Thus there would be a natural tendency for the Romans to categorize the Marines, who act like these mythical gods, as such, becasause it is something they understand.

I not denying that the Romans wouldn't respond properly, i.e. militaristically, if the Marines were to charge into a Roman legion with their guns blazing, what I am saying is that there is a higher-probability strategy the Marines could take. The Romans are primed to understand a barehanded man who can blow up individuals' heads from 250 yards in a way that does not encourage fighting back.

Shock and Awe should work here. Its best a war of propaganda.
posted by rtimmel at 9:34 AM on September 1, 2011


That's a good point and really I don't know when that shift happened.

Plato and Socrates at least, so well before Augustus.
posted by empath at 9:47 AM on September 1, 2011


Operation deus ex machina
posted by clavdivs at 9:51 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I AM APOLLO, GOD OF THE SUN FEAR MY BLINDING LIGHT"

"NO YOU'RE NOT! APOLLO REPRESENTS THE LIGHT OF CIVILIZATION AND LAW AND ALL ITS ASPECTS, HE CANNOT BE CONTAINED BY ONE MAN. IN FACT ENVISIONING THEM AS MEN IS MERE SELFISHNESS, IF RABBITS HAD A GOD IT WOULD BE RABBIT-SHAPED"

"UH"
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've not read the whole thing, or this thread, but my suspension of disbelief evaporated when the chaplain committed suicide on Day 6. A Catholic priest gets miraculously transported to the time of Christ and slices his wrists open because...he got homesick? If you wanted to make the only Latin speaker disappear, should have just had him just go AWOL towards Judea - way more believable.
posted by Zippity Goombah at 10:39 AM on September 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Instant Dramatic Interest: You have one guy who kinda speaks Latin but all he wants to do is get to Judea as a soon as humanly possible, thus he holds a lot of disproportionate power in the unit.
posted by The Whelk at 10:55 AM on September 1, 2011


Legionary 1: "So what do you think of all of this?"

Legionary 2: I don't know. They don't pay me to think.

Legionary 1: I thought the Centurion made a pretty good point about them not being gods. I liked the rabbit thing a lot.

Legionary 2: But that Apollo guy had a pretty good counter-argument when he turned the Centurion into a smoldering puddle with his blinding light.

Legionary 1: Yea, the Centurion really didn't have much of a comeback to that. But still, that Plato and Socrates were some pretty smart dudes.

Legionary 2: At least smart enough not to be out here.

Legionary 1: But they made a good point. So I'm still inclined to believe that these guys aren't really gods. Which leave the question of what are they? you know what? I bet that they are military guys from the future! they must have time-traveled back here!

Legionary 2: Time travel? Doesn't that screw up all sorts of other things? If nothing else, what about the conservation of matter?

Legionary 1: Conservation of matter? What are you talking about? That not something we start thinking about for at least another 1500 years.

Legionary 2: Good point. Well, I think I'm going to sneak out of here, go home, keep my head down, and hope no one notices me until this all blows over.
posted by rtimmel at 11:08 AM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


"All I remember is semper ubi sub ubi."

Just googled that and now I get "UbiSoft." *groan*
posted by Eideteker at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm imagining the entire thing as a board farce.
posted by The Whelk at 11:16 AM on September 1, 2011


I'm imagining the entire thing as a board farce.

What if it's a bunch of extras from a war movie that get transported back in time?!

The 2,200 Amigos!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


it will somehow star Jack Black, somehow.Get ready for your smashmouth record scratch
posted by The Whelk at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man. You could make a mint with the Left Behind crowd by writing a MEU-goes-back-in-time, saves Jesus novel.
posted by Ryvar at 11:59 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is my favorite Metafilter thread of all time.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2011


Thinking long term, the food drugs is going to really suck for the Marines. I wonder if there would be viable seed stock within this MEU thing? Here's some of what they'd be doing without once initial supplies were exhausted:

Tobacco
Weed
Coffee
Other recreational substances

Those are going some grumpy goddamned MEUs round about day 5 of withdrawls.
posted by lekvar at 12:11 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's weed in India.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2011


Guys, guys, guys. You have a TIME MACHINE.

I would just go back in time and stop Caesar's father from touching his butthole.
posted by Eideteker at 12:41 PM on September 1, 2011


There's weed in India.

True, and established trade routes between rome and India.

But.

The weed that the soldiers would be used to have been augmented by decades, if not centuries, of cultivation. Our boys are gonna have a hard time sourcing chronic.
posted by lekvar at 12:49 PM on September 1, 2011


Concentrated tinctures of marijuana existed in roman markets, I'm sure they'll be fine.
posted by The Whelk at 12:58 PM on September 1, 2011


A reading from the Gospel of Luke:

And it came to pass, as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee.

And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten soldiers that were as lepers, which stood afar off

And they lifted up their voices, and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."

And a chariot full of other soldiers drove behind and passed the son of God.

One of them, a drunkard, said "Hey Jesuschrist! Think fast!"

And a can did rebound from the head of Lord Jesuschrist.

And it did hurt his head. And he did scream, as a girl of the Samaratians and hold his head in his hands, and curse.

This is the Word of the Lord...

*closes book*

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

All: Thanks be to God!

Think fast for the Lord.

All: AEIGH! *hold head* FUCK!
Amen.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:04 PM on September 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fuck Judea

HINDU KUSH OR BUST
posted by Meatbomb at 1:08 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or you could try get more sleep.
And people who are depressed should just snap out of it.
Anyway, this is a form of masturbation. No less harmful I think then speculating about zombies or other fantastic things.

But can they mill flour? Can they winnow grain and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Funny you should mention that. Organic farming is pretty big and I've got a logistics commander who has probably been through USAID programs because a great deal of international development depends on agriculture.

We can forage/pillage as armies have done forever until we get a system set up learning from the locals how they feed themselves.


"I wonder if they might be better off finding some land that needs heavy ploughs or three-field crop rotation so nobody really values it, then maybe going into the luxury food business."

Probably the best alternative. Head off somewhere, set up and lay low. Hide all the gear. Trade in technical skill and stuff produced locally.
Change too much in history around the time of Augustus and you have mass starvation, more civil war and potentially 1,500 years of utter darkness in Europe. No stability in the Empire means no stability on its borders which means the Franks, Goths, Visigoths, etc. keep infighting. There's no stable sea trade, Europe doesn't have the period of peace and civilization for 300-odd years (when Roman civil wars started again). No spread of a common language. No Christianity. Which is swell in some ways, but is also another factor that would have otherwise united fractious Germanic (et.al) tribes.
We didn't go back far enough to erase the Macedonian Empire, so eastern Europe falls pretty fast to the Parthians and then the Sassanids and then the Caliphate takes them over and runs through Hispania and the rest of Europe a few centuries after that.
Meet the new boss...
The interim chaos though, is good for nothing.

Showing up with a MEU and taking on Theodosius the Great would be an entirely different thing. Can you hold the Empire together?
Maybe. Step one, make nice with Alaric. Then, how do you distribute forces between Rome and Constantinople?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 PM on September 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's all fun and games until we find a few roman-era statues with dog tags and cameo-patterns
posted by The Whelk at 1:44 PM on September 1, 2011


It's all fun and games until we find a few roman-era statues with dog tags and cameo-patterns

Word Up!
posted by longbaugh at 1:56 PM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


pyramid termite: "...first, you seize the port of ostia antica at the mouth of the tiber river, where all the grain, etc. from egypt, etc. is imported and a good many of the warehouses are located - thus, it is no longer the u s marines who have the supply problem, but a city of one million people"

No doubt this is job one for anybody who wants to conquer Rome. But once accomplished it would be just as hard for the MEU to hold as it would be for Augustus. The marines will only be effective as long as they stay together and pick their battles, conserving resources and minimizing casualties. Detailing troops to occupy Ostia Antica, and then Egypt itself, splits up the force and makes everyone more vulnerable.

In the long term, any rational plan would have to involve weaning Rome off of those Egyptian grain shipments, because they can't be depended on. So they'd have to take and hold (preferably with local allies and/or militia) a big swathe of agricultural land around Rome, which could be intensively farmed with more modern techniques to make up the shortfall.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:10 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


thus RUINING Egypt's economy.
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Hey Jesuschrist! Think fast!"
Sorry, reference.
the non-joke bit of the point being there's no accounting for the impact of completely random events
posted by Smedleyman at 2:24 PM on September 1, 2011


It's all fun and games until we find a few roman-era statues with dog tags and cameo-patterns

I'm pretty sure that the god FVCKIN-A was actually worshipped as a household god by the tribe that would eventually settle South Carolina.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:25 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"... It's all fun and games until we find a few roman-era statues with dog tags and cameo-patterns [emphasis added] ..."

How very post-DADT. I'm sure they'll be cute.
posted by paulsc at 3:43 PM on September 1, 2011


"Y'all know who you are."

Of course I know who I am. What an odd thing to say.
posted by Eideteker at 3:54 PM on September 1, 2011


Fuck yeaaaaaah, A+++++== thread! Would Smedleyman again!!!!111
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:01 PM on September 1, 2011


How very post-DADT. I'm sure they'll be cute.

"HEY GUYS CHECK THIS OUT I'M TECHNICALLY NOT GAY IN THIS CULTURE!"
posted by The Whelk at 4:13 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


FVCKIN-A is worshiped by leaving spent beer bottles, hash pipes, and fading pictures of beloved children to an alter shaped like a chevy.
posted by The Whelk at 4:14 PM on September 1, 2011


Yeah, seriously. If anything someone needs to go back in time and have a sit down with Jesus.

"Hey, how's it going? Big fan! Look, could you maybe mention something about not hating each other and instead love each other no matter what? Yeah, you see I'm from the future and I understand that it's a very common thing nowadays for people of the same sex to have all manner of relationships but in my time it's kind of not accepted and people often use Christianity as a reason.
Oh, what's that? You do say those things? Yeah, I know and you're doing a bang-up job here Jesus, but could you maybe be a little more explicit? Just so people in the future don't get a screwy about this thing you got going here?
Okay, alright. Nice meeting you, sir. I'm sure you got some people to heal so I'll let you go.
Oh, one other thing. You have any of that fantastic wine you make? I hear good things about it."
posted by P.o.B. at 4:37 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"also can I get that in writing so people writing fan-fiction about you like 40 years after you died don't mess it up?"
posted by The Whelk at 4:39 PM on September 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fun thought:

Any pre-industrial army of any size, ever, vs. one Humvee with a mounted Mark 19 and a few Basic Allowances of 40mm grenades (~800ish rounds per Basic Allowance). Open terrain, rolling hills.

Consider: the Mark 19 puts out six 40mm rounds a second to a range of a mile and a half. Each 40mm grenade explodes with a 5 meter kill radius and 15 meter casualty radius. It is mounted on a vehicle that can outpace a horse.

Think about the first encounter of a tightly-packed Iron Age infantry formation with such a weapon, and your hypothetical MEU is probably packing a dozen or more of these.

...Somewhere out there, Michael Bay is reading this thread and positively wetting himself.
posted by Ryvar at 4:46 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many of the Marines just right out convert to the Roman Pantheon?
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on September 1, 2011


No, Michael Bay is exploding with wetness.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:18 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"exploding with wetness" is one of the options at the roman brothel BTW
posted by The Whelk at 5:24 PM on September 1, 2011


20 denarius, same as in town?
posted by P.o.B. at 5:30 PM on September 1, 2011


""exploding with wetness" is one of the options at the roman brothel BTW"

I'll be in my bunk...
posted by MikeMc at 5:31 PM on September 1, 2011


VIII SAME AS IN TOWN
posted by The Whelk at 5:31 PM on September 1, 2011


doe no, Ed Begley gave captain Janeway a run for her money.

How many of the Marines just right out convert to the Roman Pantheon?

many do not know this but the facade of the pantheon, the triangle piece, was built by agrippa, his name is still there.


The last chopper ride of christ.

Sharpies: Cyperus papyrus and the introduction of the post-it note in the Roman scriptorium; A glue problem.

Another aspect is the mass wave for example, The Iran-Iraq war. A force appearing so powerful could rally waves of people, convince them why and those marines may have a problem. Of course they could go the love boat route. Bring octavian aboard, Issac can spill a rita on his forehead. Show off sickbay, the mess hall. Porn might help then again no.

give him an ipod

and when he sees our wonderous marines who happen to be female, his world would be forever changed.
Me, set sail for Jamacia.

Then, how do you distribute forces between Rome and Constantinople?

Rome would be the base as it was until the eastern empires rise. A great amount of resourses would be needed to build a worthy overland route but it could be done with 500 of the best woodcutters ahead of your column. Take maybe a year, the unit has the heavy equipment, parts are another matter. But parking those phibbys near ostia or even spain would be best. I just wonder if the unit would enough knowledge to make rubber tires and seals or plastics.
posted by clavdivs at 6:49 PM on September 1, 2011


Me, set sail for Jamacia.

Me? Set sail for Tahiti!
posted by Floydd at 7:09 PM on September 1, 2011


"Me, set sail for Jamacia."

Set a course for adventure
Your mind on a new romance

And love won't hurt anymore
It's an open smile on a friendly shore
It's love
Welcome aboard
It's love!
posted by MikeMc at 7:30 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


With regards to the Roman diet, well, I had to take Latin in elementary school, and I'm pretty sure that they subsisted entirely on pavonem. Also, their primary training activities largely consisted of telling their pater about the canem which were all up in the vir.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:30 PM on September 1, 2011


I liked the Cambridge Latin classes which started with a dog biting a poet and then evolved into an intense soap opera about a Pompeiian family right before the vulcan blew, complete with scheming slaves and drunk uncles.
posted by The Whelk at 7:36 PM on September 1, 2011


wait, one second. There are Jews in Rome at this time, right? Are they speaking/reading Hebrew? Would it be intelligible to modern Hebrew? Cause that opens up some thorugh 3rd party translation.
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many space marines would it take to conquer rome?
posted by empath at 7:53 PM on September 1, 2011


I liked the Cambridge Latin classes which started with a dog biting a poet and then evolved into an intense soap opera about a Pompeiian family right before the vulcan blew, complete with scheming slaves and drunk uncles.
posted by The Whelk


Those are the ones we used! I remember that in one section, I had to learn latin for 'werewolf'. Apparently they made sequels.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:36 PM on September 1, 2011


"How many space marines would it take to conquer rome?"

One.
posted by MikeMc at 9:00 PM on September 1, 2011


One.

Does he get any bonuses for DNA-donors of the Emperor of Mankind who happen to be extant? Or Serpentor?
posted by porpoise at 9:31 PM on September 1, 2011


Detailing troops to occupy Ostia Antica, and then Egypt itself, splits up the force and makes everyone more vulnerable.

very true, along with everything else you've said - the key is to work out an economic arrangement with the governors of egypt and the other north african agricultural sectors, as occupation would be impossible with the manpower you've got

if you can't get the cooperartion of the people who run the mediterrean trade, you're screwed and you will have to move to plan b, known as operation bail

if it can't be done in 3 to 6 months and a base in the rome area can't be secured, you have no choice but to move somewhere else - ireland might work - and if that turned out to be too bloody a business, you could certainly retreat to iceland, which was unpopulated at the time

in either of these places, you would work on the goal of achieving a 17th or 18th century level civilization with the emphasis on shipping, your superior knowledge of where the resources are world wide, arms and agriculture

(there may be other areas around europe that would be even better - it occurs to me that decent wood would be most important for shipbuilding and you might not have what you need in iceland)

as far as everything else is concerned, it would be critical not to overuse the overwhelming power you have - it's essential that all romans would know you have it - but just as essential for them to know that you aren't going to use indiscriminately - you want them to respect you, not to be scared to death of you

i believe the slave revolt thing would work - but they've got to do the heavy lifting and they've got to be not terrified of you
posted by pyramid termite at 9:38 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


" We will conquer you, totally and completely!"

" How about a palace full of wines and whores?"

" We will threaten to conquer you a lot! And enjoy these wines and whores, thank you"
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


> then evolved into an intense soap opera about a Pompeiian family right before the vulcan blew

Man, it totally sucked when Caecillius bit it.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:54 PM on September 1, 2011


After thinking about it, it might be a lot harder to work with Roman factions or Roman allies than we're expecting.

Off-hand, I can't think of a single time up to this point when Romans allied with non-Romans as part of an internal power struggle. Not when they're fighting the Gauls, not when they're fighting the Etruscans, not when they're fighting the Carthaginians. They probably had a pretty strong cultural distaste for that idea: even when fighting with each other, they seem to have had a strong sense of Roman patriotism and Roman superiority.

The Marines wear barbarian leg coverings. They speak a Germanic language. They're tall like Germans. They're pretty clearly Germanic barbarians of some kind. I think the Romans wouldn't see them coming from a common culture, but disgusting, alien, barbarian others.

Hannibal's hope when he invaded Italy was that the Roman allies would switch to his side, but even after rampaging for years they didn't. Everybody knew that the Romans were very, very harsh with rebels. Turn against Rome and lose; and you, your family, your friends, and everyone you know is likely to end up crucified or enslaved.

So, the marines can go anywhere they want, take any city they want, steal anything they can carry, get any cooperation they like at gunpoint. But as soon as the marines stop pointing guns at them, I think cooperation stops. The marines are the new kids on the block, but for hundreds of years everybody's known: fuck with Rome, better get ready to be nailed to a cross or eaten alive by animals in the Circus.

Rather than fight a long Fabian-strategy war of attrition and starvation with Rome, much better to adopt some other strategy. Conquer some peripheral land that nobody cares about: the British Isles, the Canary Islands, Scandinavia, maybe even hook Humvee engines to ships and head off to America. Form a peaceful deal with technology transfer. Ally with the Germans or the Parthians or some other enemy of Rome. Hire out as mercenaries, buy land with the proceeds. Barter some exotic materials like stainless steel cutlery. Even windscreen glass might be more transparent than Rome's cloudy or coloured glassware.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:40 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many space marines would it take to conquer rome?
posted by empath at 7:53 PM on September 1 [+] [!]


No idea, but it would make the past, as well as the future, grim dark.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:34 AM on September 2, 2011


The modern American front-line soldier is nothing without his airconditioned tent, on-site McDonalds, MTV, fuel, ammunition, information supplied by a vast and high-tech network all brought to him courtesy a stupidly long and expensive supply chain.

They'd be toast within a month.
posted by Djinh at 5:28 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not every American soldier is a fobbit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:55 AM on September 2, 2011


Bug out for Brittania. Set up in the coal-rich and defensible terrain of Wales (Cardiff's a deep water port, right?). Don't unite the kingdom, but enforce a peace among all the disparate tribes and keep 'em busy learning valuable skills. Make 'em rich and healthy. Use all those oak trees to build a blue water navy and light out for the New World. This could probably be done in one lifetime.
posted by whuppy at 7:02 AM on September 2, 2011


" I have rewritten history so the Welsh conquer the new world"
posted by The Whelk at 7:13 AM on September 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, conservation of mass, if an MEU gets set back, then an entire Roman village gets sent forward.

How awkward!
posted by The Whelk at 7:45 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Off-hand, I can't think of a single time up to this point when Romans allied with non-Romans as part of an internal power struggle

It happened a lot in the later roman empire.
posted by empath at 7:50 AM on September 2, 2011


Wait, conservation of mass, if an MEU gets set back, then an entire Roman village gets sent forward.

It's the thing people don't think about. You are not "in" the universe. You ARE universe. So is everything else. You are not separate from it.
posted by curious nu at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Plus really, why would you automatically assume that somebody who is actively in a military fighting battles is a person who would not know anything about military history or fighting battles?

Because the Marine Corps, like every other professional organization in existence, is about maximizing utility. To this end, if professionals have any acquaintance with outmoded or archaic aspects of their field, it is only as a hobby. Your local auto mechanic presumably would not be equipped to rebuild the engine on a Stanley Steamer, your family doctor likely doesn't know much about balancing bodily humors or leeching, and none of the accountants I know are familiar with an abacus or a pascaline.

I know many Americans like to believe that their military is hypercompetent. But to pretend that every Marine officer would have a ready familiarity with the tactical improvements that Publius Ventidius Bassus made in his campaigns against the Parthians looks like disingenuousness at best and one-handed typing at worst.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:31 AM on September 2, 2011


But to pretend that every Marine officer would have a ready familiarity with the tactical improvements that Publius Ventidius Bassus made in his campaigns against the Parthians looks like disingenuousness at best and one-handed typing at worst.

The specifics, no, but every officer will have studied military history at some point and been exposed to big picture ideas like the impact the stirrup had on the effectiveness of mounted troops. Plus, pretty much every field-grade officer in the unit will have attended one of the intermediate service schools like the Army's Command and General Staff College. Some of them would have earned a postgraduate degree while there. The unit commander (and maybe some of the others) will almost certainly have attended one of the service War Colleges and earned yet another postgraduate degree. All of these programs include study of military history back to the Peloponnesian Wars.

Then, as you note, there are the hobbyists. Here I can only go off anecdotal info, but based on the officers and NCOs that I've interacted with over my lifetime, there will be a significant number for whom military history is indeed their hobby (either straight-up history, or an offshoot like hardcore wargaming). [The wargamers in particular will tend to have highly-specific information committed to memory].

Overall, I would say the odds of the unit having a large quantity of high-quality and relevant military historical knowledge at their disposal are quite high.
posted by BlueDuke at 10:09 AM on September 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


US military masturbation.

No, that's here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:25 PM on September 2, 2011


I would say the odds of the unit having a large quantity of high-quality and relevant military historical knowledge at their disposal are quite high.

Indeed, more than that it's just basic fieldcraft. The average modern warfighter is vastly more sophisticated. It's not brains, it's just training.
To say that Marines don't know formation fighting and so they get dominated is akin to saying a computer engineer suddenly gets pwned because he can't do math without a computer.

Think calculus might be handy in 1 A.D.? Howabout Arabic numberals?
None of the Marines ever saw a cowboy movie? Stirrups revolutionized mounted warfare 600 years after the time period we're talking about.
Hypercompetancy? No.
But what is it you do for a living? Would you completely suck at it and forget everything you know if suddenly all your tech was gone? Probably not.
That makes nearly any modern American sent back to the time of Augustus fairly dangerous.

Your local auto mechanic is not going to forget the basic principles of Newtonian physics. That puts him 1600 years ahead of a Roman engineer, not behind in that time because he doesn't know Aristotelian physics.

And then, as it so happens, we're not talking about computer programmers or auto mechanics, we're talking about people who are trained to make war in a variety of situations including primitive conditions.

The Romans aren't fighting 2,000-odd well trained men. They're not even really fighting Marines with 2,000 years of advancement in strategy.
The Romans are fighting 2,000 years of human history in a broad cross section of skills and observations we take for granted.

If this were less than an MEU, that could be a problem. A platoon, company or a battalion, even a Marine regiment would probably accomplish little more than being a new, very dangerous mercenary unit.

As it happens, MEUs are built for flexibility and a wide range of skills. Additionally, you could do this with the U.S. army or forces from other countries given the same parameters for a reaction force.
Some people say (Maj. Ben Connable f'rinstnce), and speaking objectively I'd agree, that improvisation, cross training and decentralized leadership are emphasized in the Marine corps. Some people also say this makes Marines capable of many things other forces are not capable of, and I'd have to disagree with that.

But again, we're not talking only about Marines. We're talking about a combined forces, sailors, airmen, Marines, the most dangerous element of which, in this scenario, is the logistics and support assets.

Because the Marine Corps, like every other professional organization in existence, is about maximizing utility.

Wrong. Every other professional organization in existence doesn't have to worry about redundancy because their work environment, and their product, is not destruction.
They're competent in what they do. What they do is warfighting. They're not going to forget the basic principles of warfighting just because they don't have a laptop anymore.

If an MEU were dropped into the musical theater season and they had to set a series of Chekhov plays to opera with the objective of winning a Tony, I'd say those were long odds because it's a discrete skill set which not a lot of people in an MEU are likely to have, much less the ability to perform at that level.
As it is, it's about warmaking with guys who make war.

Although I think a really good musical theater ensemble would absolutely stun and dazzle the Roman army with "One Hand One Heart" from West Side Story done in five part harmony a good ten weeks before closing and handily defeat Augustus' rendition of "Hard Knock Life" from Annie despite the inclusion of a fabulous showstopper ("Hey Big Spender" from "Sweet Charity") by Agrippina the Elder.

But that's another discussion.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:40 PM on September 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Step one: travel to ancient Rome!

Step two: Put on the best musical ever made!

Step three: profit!
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 PM on September 2, 2011


Oh, please. Agrippina the Elder is totally doing "Don't Tell Mama" from Cabaret. Octavian pulls off a relatively competent rendition of "A More Humane Mikado" from the G&S operetta, but it is unclear if he really understands the irony in the text.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:36 PM on September 2, 2011


We will conquer Rome with our toe tapping show stopping musical numbers
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 PM on September 2, 2011


The Praetorian Guard's "A Bushel and a Peck".
posted by Meatbomb at 9:20 PM on September 2, 2011


The ladies if the House Of the Rising Sun put on a damned good " I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair"
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2011




Another aspect is the mass wave for example

I read this and immediately think of crowds in the Colisseum doing The Wave. What an amazing thing to teach them!
posted by marble at 11:39 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


To put things into numerical context, The population of the Roman Empire in 1 AD was ~45 million. So in some sense, the question is how 2200 marines would do when asked to deal with a country one sixth the size of the U.S. (say, modern-day Spain) but far inferior technologically. They'd still have to deal with ~500,000 legionnaires, but not all at once, so I bet they'd be fine. I'm sure that once established, they could start taking in local youths for training too.

To me, the big question would be how to sufficiently advance the Romans to a certain level, say pyramid termite's 17th or 18th century. Going by The Birth of Plenty, four things are needed: good transportation, scientific rationality, legal protection of property, and deep capital markets. I have no idea how to achieve the latter two in 1 AD. I bet the marines could find some nerds in a population of 45 million who would be able to help them with engineering and medical problems though. As for transportation, the keel is a no-brainer. The real question is whether they'd be able to duplicate Newcomen and Watt's work and build a steam engine. And the oil fields of Libya and Arabia wouldn't be that far away...
posted by A dead Quaker at 12:42 AM on September 3, 2011


Marines would not be put intothe brig for hoarding smokes as they are clearly being used as barter and intellgence gathering right master gun?

the real key to long term survival is chemicals.
posted by clavdivs at 1:29 AM on September 3, 2011


I have no idea how to achieve the latter two in 1 AD.

first lets land the folks at 9 ad. 3 days before the battle of Teutoburger. you save Varus' eagles, you have three legions intact with commanders who really did after all trusted in Mars to fly in like a giant mosquito. Secure the rhine, push back Arminus, chopper in some t-bones and dexedrine- your eating auggys fig andbefore you know it, your telling him he is still emperor, lets stop all these legal fees and devise a system of land ownership, we will help with security. Another example would be the reforms of Wang Mang, his empire could have been maintained and shown as an example to Rome.

legal protection of property.

oh, and here are some places to go and gather natural resources, we can help with security. And with those, transportation to new lands. we can help with language barriers and security. you can use this manufacturing model so as to increase goods, some of which we will provide better designs on existing goods. The zippo for example or how to provide more wheat to rome rather then using north africa as a farm, they might like that. and here is the new currency.

deep capital markets.
posted by clavdivs at 2:01 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, the more that I think about it, Agrippina the Elder would absolutely bring down the house doing Sally's final number from Act II of Cabaret. Agrippina the Younger should do "Don't Tell Mama" (but don't tell Caligula, either. That's the number that he wanted to do, and he's liable to throw a hissy).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:02 AM on September 3, 2011


John Hurt is available.
posted by clavdivs at 10:50 AM on September 3, 2011


and here is the new currency.

We will bring them bitcoin.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:53 AM on September 3, 2011


I think I could write a short story on this. Dunno where to post it though.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


MeFi Mag would GLADLY host it Smedleyman. You write it, we'll post it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:17 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is the son of pH Indicating Socks, logged onto her account to give this thread the dubious benefit of my perspective (I am a Marine).

Most people think that we're so effective in assault operations because of the combination of superior firepower and martial arts training their tax dollars pay for. It's true that we're blessed with excellent, reliable weapons and even more excellent and reliable instructors, but those are not the factors most responsible for our tendency to destroy every force we meet in combat. Three things - our doctrine of combined arms, night vision equipment, and the organization and training of the Marine rifle squad - are.

Combined arms-
We use indirect fire and direct fire simultaneously so that, in avoiding one, the enemy becomes vulnerable to the other. Ex.: automatic weapon + grenade launcher. To defend against automatic fire, Mr. Legionaire must stay put behind cover, which makes him an easy target for our grenades. To avoid getting blown up, he needs to move around, which gets him mown down by our machine gunner. This is an effective tactic in any time period.

Night vision-
The advantage night vision gives us cannot be overestimated, particularly if our opponents are wearing shiny metal armor and carrying lit torches. In darkness, each Marine's rifle paints an infrared dot wherever it points, visible only to our forces, from well outside the effective range of an AK-47, let alone that of a Roman longbow. Think of the red laser beam you see in the movies, except our opponents don't even know they're about to die.

Marine rifle squad-
Our infantry units are organized into squads, which are made up of fireteams. Our doctrine and tactics have been so very developed and scientifically refined over the last 236 years that I would consider a formation 100 Hoplites outnumbered, were they to engage a 13-man rifle squad. We would engage from the prone 200 yards away, kill half of them before they located our muzzle flashes, and pick them off, one by one, as they ran in disarray.

Taking our invasion of Rome from its hypothetical beginning, and assuming that our sole objective is the bloody conquest of the capitol, we would first airlift into a wide courtyard, immediately breaking down into squads, getting our 5-10 yard dispersion and establishing a perimeter at least 300 yards in diameter for command and medical security. Leaving a small defensive force in the LZ, the remaining strength would then move out and conduct the urban offensive operations for which US Marines are so feared. Every Roman man would be dead or captured within two weeks.

After that, though, we would run out of MRE's, ammunition, and IFAK's. Any prolonged occupation of the empire, or even of the metropolis, would not work. We are not riot police.

-pH Indicating Son
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 3:31 PM on September 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


You write it, we'll post it.
Ok. Thanks. I don't have literary pretensions. LOTs of people much better writers than I am here. But I do know Roman history and modern ways of breaking stuff. So.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:40 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


what if, umm...they had an army of seven year olds and your marines only had baseball bats, and umm... they had a bunch of gorillas but you had a bunch of bears, and um...
posted by brappi at 5:49 PM on September 5, 2011


Look, look, look! That's my son, the scourge of worlds! He's way better than your cat. I get to see him in two days!
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:25 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great comment from -pH Indicating Son!

Rome had a very densely-packed population of about a million, mostly living in tall, rickety insulae apartment blocks. Even the main highway the Appian Way is surprisingly narrow, only about 6m wide.

So I think he's right that occupying the city of Rome in the long term is going to be impossible unless the locals choose to cooperate. I think a city of cramped alleyways is going to diminish the advantage of long-range weapons. Throw a grenade in one and you're likely to have an insula collapse on your head. (No steel girders, no building codes).

But I think saying "Every Roman man would be dead or captured within two weeks" is a bit unrealistic, given that there are half a million of them. Killing/capturing 36,000 people a day is Battle of the Somme territory with whole divisions fighting. Even disposing of that many bodies is going to be challenging.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:42 AM on September 6, 2011


But I think saying "Every Roman man would be dead or captured within two weeks" is a bit unrealistic, given that there are half a million of them. Killing/capturing 36,000 people a day is Battle of the Somme territory with whole divisions fighting. Even disposing of that many bodies is going to be challenging.

Ah, youthful exuberance!
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:16 PM on September 6, 2011


What if, after take off, the planes hijacked on 9/11 had been transported back in time and space to the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus, with the planes headed straight towards Rome. Could Al Qaeda have destroyed the Empire by crashing the planes into the city?
posted by homunculus at 10:46 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could Al Qaeda have destroyed the Empire by crashing the planes into the city?

No.
posted by brennen at 11:00 PM on September 7, 2011




It's Senatus Populusque Romanus meets Semper Fi!
posted by Zed at 12:33 PM on September 8, 2011


Technically, he got signed to a talent agency. There's no movie or tv contract.
posted by empath at 12:47 PM on September 8, 2011


The Romans pretty much lived off fish and olives so that shouldn't be too bad

And the fish were huge!
posted by homunculus at 4:30 PM on September 14, 2011


A new, similar story by a 'Hornswaggle' about time travel to 1985 just broke out last night over there. There must be some fast writers on reddit who are starting to put out stories at a moment's notice
posted by growabrain at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2011


"Gather your things, I need to call my husband. Don't go anywhere."
posted by growabrain at 10:01 AM on September 20, 2011


Hasn't the original guy from the Rome Sweet Rome story up and vanished?
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 AM on September 20, 2011


He's working on a movie script with a talent agency.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on September 20, 2011


BIlly and the Romeasaurous
posted by The Whelk at 10:42 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could Al Qaeda have destroyed the Empire by crashing the planes into the city?

Best case scenario, they have one hot shot kid who is able to bulls-eye just the right thermal exhaust port and destroy the main military base. But even that wouldn't strike a fatal blow to the Empire.
posted by The World Famous at 11:17 AM on September 20, 2011


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