Ancient Rome Vs Ancient China

Ancient Rome Vs Ancient China

Brought to you by Hermit

They pick their greatest commander, gather 100,000 of their finest troops (with an additional 15,000 if an equal numbers fight isn’t fair), bring their ballistae and catapults and burning oil and crossbows and rockets and other whatnot (they can only bring two dozen of each war machine minus the crossbow and oil), march to Gaugamela, begin planning, and start the battle.

They each get 10,000 horses, with an additional 1,500 if equal numbers isn’t fair.

Which side wins?

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46 Comments on "Ancient Rome Vs Ancient China"

  1. Secrecy27 January 16, 2014 at 7:25 am -      #1

    What exacly do you mean by ancient? Like Rome under Julius Caesar or Nero?

  2. OberHeresy January 16, 2014 at 7:49 am -      #2

    Which of the MANY different Chinese and Roman “regimes” do you mean? Both of these countries have thousands of years of history, with vastly different eras.

  3. andrew January 16, 2014 at 8:22 am -      #3

    if by “ancient rome” you mean late republican-to-the-claudians-ancient-rome, then the match is already skewed, because gaugemela already puts the romans at a disadvantage, due to being a large plain in a hot region and rome’s “finest troops” all being heavy close range infantry in the “standard-ancient-rome” period.

  4. Tsubodai January 16, 2014 at 9:41 am -      #4

    Yeah… please describe what counts as ‘ancient’. I don’t know enough about china in rome’s time period to say anything about their capabilities, but I know rome, and they could bring a lot of pain. Are the dates for “ancient” even considered the same between the two powers?

    If China could possibly get Kublai Khan as it’s emperor-general, well… I don’t really have to elaborate on what mongols with cannons would do to roman infantry, do I? They would shoot the roman cavalry out from their saddles, then take the horses and cut the infantry to pieces with bow and cannon. Then again, I suppose that’s too far along in the timeline to count as “ancient”.

  5. andrew January 16, 2014 at 10:37 am -      #5

    ancient means different things in different places thoguh, so your point stands.

    HP Lovecraft describes “ancient” evils in the american countryside, which are 500 years old or so…which is pretty recent in european terms, and positively recent for the middle east or china 🙂

  6. Aelfinn January 16, 2014 at 11:17 am -      #6

    So this isn’t a war, but a single battle? That probably puts the ball into China’s court, considering the Roman Empire’s greatest strengths were its industrial might and its ability to adapt. Putting Julius Caesar in as the commander of Rome does give them a good shot, though.

  7. Skalkorik13 January 16, 2014 at 11:44 am -      #7

    Throw Sun Tzu into this frey and Rome is as good as screwed … more so than they already are

  8. Nilfiry January 16, 2014 at 11:57 am -      #8

    Ancient China practically invented the art of war, pun intended, which still has practical application even in modern wars. Considering the number of tacticians and strategists China has given birth to in its warring eras, there is probably no way China is going to lose strategically.

  9. Aelfinn January 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm -      #9

    Sun Tzu did not live during a unified China.

  10. Secrecy27 January 16, 2014 at 12:31 pm -      #10

    Can somebody explain why china wins.

  11. Rookie January 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm -      #11

    Cao Cao vs Julius Caesar?

  12. Kitten Lord January 16, 2014 at 1:09 pm -      #12

    China, because I prefer noodles and fried ice with sweet and sour chicken to Pizzas.

  13. itcheyness January 16, 2014 at 1:39 pm -      #13

    “there is probably no way China is going to lose strategically.”

    Good thing for the Romans that this match is about tactics and not strategy then…

  14. Sauroposeidon January 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm -      #14

    China has a bad reputation for getting its ass kicked these days, or having laughable armed forces (really guys, you just got your one refurbished russian air craft carrier? That’s so cute!) , but back in the day it was quite a power house. That and they likely have a severe technological advantage over the Romans in this battle. Guns and rockets and machine gun style cross bows and explosive tipped spears and martial arts and shit, NORMAL cross bows, are all vastly superior to what the Romans typically used. A phalanx of Romans with their long pointy spears will make easy prey for cross bow armed cavalry or a single rocket.

  15. Aelfinn January 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm -      #15

    Chinese gunpowder weapons were wildly inaccurate, though, and Romans had rapid-fire crossbows of their own.

  16. itcheyness January 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm -      #16

    I’d like to point out that the Byzantine empire (Which was the Roman Empire, make no mistake) had gunpowder weapons and Greek Fire.

  17. itcheyness January 16, 2014 at 2:36 pm -      #17

    Oh, and gunpowder didn’t appear for widespread use in China until the Song dynasty around 1000AD. If we use China around the time of Imperial Rome, they don’t have gunpowder weapons.

  18. andrew January 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm -      #18

    the byzantine period is outside of the remit of “ancient” though. the empire gets its (pretty pointless) name change with the rise of islam, which is considered the end of antiquity; as such “ancient rome” cannot really have gunpowder. ;p

  19. itcheyness January 16, 2014 at 2:54 pm -      #19

    Then Ancient China gets no gunpowder either, since 1000AD is well past “ancient times” which historians put the end for China at around 221 BC at the end of the Warring States Period and the start of thin Qin Dynasty.

    Or we’re both mistaken, depending on what Hermit decides is “ancient”.

    It’s his match, so it’s up to him.

  20. itcheyness January 16, 2014 at 2:56 pm -      #20

    “thin” should be “the”

  21. Tsubodai January 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm -      #21

    I think that pre-mongolian china would actually get stepped on pretty hard here… I didn’t carefully read the 2 dozen limit on war machines before. Under those conditions the roman legions are going to be able to handle the chinese just fine, provided they have a really good general like caesar.

    When two really good generals meet on the battlefield, you get a slugfest as each counters the others’ clever tactics. That’s what happened during hannibal’s defeat by scipio, as i understand it. The roman army was built from the ground up to be effective in a slugfest of that kind at melee range, and tortoise formation will let them achieve that range against normal crossbows unless the chinese have a lot more than two dozen ballistae for their hundred thousand soldiers.

    If on the other hand we deal with china immediately after the mongol conquest, then china ROFLstomps the romans. Mongolian bows performed better than crossbows in the hands of the tumans, and mongolians had previously demonstrated the ability to hold the line against a cavalry charge, then take the newly-vacated horses and launch their own charge. Further, kublai had cannon and good knowledge of how to use them.

    Lastly, if we mix time periods, then heaven help whatever roman general comes up against Tsubodai (Subutai), the mongolian orlok who conquered russia by campaigning in the winter, and overran more territory than any general in history. He wasn’t as theoretical as sun tsu, but i’d easily bet on him as a better commander.

  22. Tsubodai January 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm -      #22

    Yeah, cannon only really entered the chinese arsenal just a few years too late to stop the mongols before they got rolling. About the same deal for their crude guns and grenades. Before that their war machines and weapons were good, but not head-and-shoulders superior to what other powers had.

  23. Mr. happy January 16, 2014 at 10:50 pm -      #23

    China has more than 2000 years of history and plenty of it is during times of war. China during Rome’s time period consist of the Han, Tang and Sung dynasties if you count the Byzantines as ‘Roman”.

    Once again, it depends on era. The Han and Tang dynasties will have an advantage Rome due to the presence of stirrups and lots of cavalry. Anything after the Song Dynasty becomes a stomp in favor of the Chinese. The Yuan Dynasty is just cheating. (I’m looking at you Tsubodai)

    To make this more even I’d say either Justinian or Trajan’s Legions as they are used to fighting cavalry and have very good generalship. To China I’ll have Yeu Fei, Zhu Ge Liang, Cao Pi(Cao Cao’s son) and Yong Le leading the forces of their own periods. (last ones probably stomp)

    The op also causes problems. Each Roman Legion has a detachment of their own artillery so you are limiting their numbers which may be the only thing that makes it ‘fairer’ for them.

    The acquiring of cannons is the only thing that allowed them to beat a weakened and exhausted Song dynasty. Tsubodai’s invasion of Russia took place during a time of weakness. In fact all of the Mongol conquest took place during a time of decline of empires or incompetence.

    China for one has incompetent leadership for the most part and has been fighting the Jin Dynasty for some time. The Mongols needed the Songs help to defeat the Jin and couldn’t take Diaoyu Fortress for 30 years. Mongke Khan died there btw.

    Take for example the Khwarzmerian Empire. Their Shah was an idiot and his son had defeated the Mongols on multiple occasions. The Mongolians are probably overrated at siege warfare. Sure they’re good, but when the expeditionary forces entered Poland and Hungary after the first few incursions, they left without besieging anyone.

    Any Empire or country that denies the Mongols a field battle and holds up in fortresses and cities have a very good chance of seeing the Mongols pack up and leave. If the Mongols came during Rome’s height or any of China’s Golden age, they would have been crushed either in a siege or field battle. The Mongols also outnumbered everyone in Europe when they fought them.

    p.s. Ain Jalut is in Asia.

  24. Tsubodai January 16, 2014 at 11:07 pm -      #24

    @Mr. happy
    The mongol war machine would have lost against a highly organized and compotent foe, true – but only because they were virtually always outnumbered. If you gave the mongols equal numbers, which the are specified to have here, I think they would become a match for anything anyone had fielded in any prior era. However, I will concede that my username does imply some bias in this area.

    On a different note, notice the 10,000 horse maximum. Now, i’m not an expert, but as far as i know cavalry don’t trade THAT well with footmen, so it’ll still come down to at WORST case 75,000 romans vs. 90,000 chinese troops (given romans experienced at fighting cavalry). Give the chinese and romans time to fire off siege weapons while the armies close, plus a massive crossbow advantage to china, and that becomes 85,000 chinese troops to, say, 62,500 romans in close quarters – counting only uninjured, combat-effective troops.

    I believe romans were pretty kickass in that kind of battle such that they could reliably trade 1 roman for 1.5 – 2 contemporary enemies to given equal generalship and excluding carthage or macedon, but I don’t know how kickass different eras of chinese troops were… could someone fill me in? If the romans trade 1 for 1 in close quarters, they lose, if they trade 1.5 for 1, they win. That’s my analysis.

  25. Tsubodai January 16, 2014 at 11:14 pm -      #25

    Oh, and Mongke’s cause of death is unknown. You make it sound as though the fortress defenders definately killed him in battle – it’s possible, but just as likely that he died of disease in the mongol camp. Disease was a big problem for tribesmen who hadn’t quite gotten the hang of bathing often enough, needless to say.

  26. Mr. happy January 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm -      #26

    Cavalry are better than infantry up till gunpowder periods unless it’s a siege if you equip them right and know how to use them. The Mongols almost exclusively use cavalry. 60% horse archers and the rest lancers IIRC. Small units of horse archers lure the opponent in and the remainder flank the enemy . When ready the lancers charge down the middle and it’s over. The op makes it unfair for the Mongols due to the presence of infantry, I don’t remember any battle where they fielded them(minus sieges of course)

    About Mongke, really? I meant that he died during the siege not killed by the defenders. In fact his cause of death is largely speculation. It could be dysentery or anything else on the battle field.

  27. Mr. happy January 16, 2014 at 11:23 pm -      #27

    To the OP, please specify era or this will become very hard for all of us. Well the Romans especially.

  28. OberHeresy January 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm -      #28

    The Mongols are kinda overrated TBH. They were great for there time, but they couldn’t take down a lot of actual fortresses(see Istanbul/Constantinople), and they sucked at actually keeping their empire together.

    The Romans were smart in that they just left people alone, and didn’t terrorize them, only asked for control and taxes. It made it so they didn’t have to worry about too many rebellions, and they could count on a lot of the local population to support them in the event of one. Their problem was a political one.

    As for the Chinese, one problem I’m seeing is they have a lot of tines when they weren’t unified at all, and were basically a feudal state. There is a reason so many countries have trounced them throughout history. Their huge, but that size of a country in those times was hard to keep unified.

  29. Mr. happy January 17, 2014 at 12:18 am -      #29

    The Chinese held very well throughout history. The feudal periods are the times when the feudal lords are very powerful and skillful like during the Three Kingdoms period from a smooth single rebellion/invasion and a new dynasty. The Ming and Qing did this rather well and a golden age almost immediately starts.

    The times China was beaten is when they are too far from the conflict to permanently defeat their enemy(Rashidun Caliphate?) or are too weak to do anything. Imagine the times of Dynastic change as changing clothes. The time the west dominated the Qing in the late 1800s and early 1900s, this process was taking place. The people were unhappy with their Manchu overlords and the system was about to be changed all together to a republic instead of a new dynasty. Imagine taking off your shirt with it over your head and someone stabs you from behind, or as the saying goes, caught with your pants down.

    The Mongols also came at a similar time during the weakened Song and yet still required their help to defeat the Jin Dynasty and yet still held them at bay for quite sometime. The Song were renowned for their military stupidity and great commanders. They are the only people who managed to keep the Mongols from conquering their lands quickly despite being so close to them. Perhaps terrain played a role and Japan doesn’t count.

    They also integrated into the local society so quickly and well that you could not tell the Mongols from the Chinese, Persians or Arabs that they conquered in the end. The Chinese also kicked them out faster than anyone else. They became Persian first but they did not kick them out.

    China at the early stages of the Dynasty were fragile but give it a decade or so it becomes so stable that the Emperor can leave the capital and no one would dare to revolt due to the Mandate from Heaven. At the end of a dynasty due to bad leaders, the Mandate no longer applied(as the emperor was not doing his job) so rebellions happened.

  30. Jehrnkierthe January 17, 2014 at 12:28 am -      #30

    The Mongols were constantly at war with China throughout their history, and didn’t rule China themselves until the 13th century, so their cavalry wouldn’t be available to an ancient Chinese army.

    If the Roman infantry close with the Chinese they win. Most of them will be wearing this while all will be armored in some form; the ancient Chinese infantry were mostly not equipped with armor, and those that had it wore leather or bronze to the Romans’ iron. The Roman shieldwall and training will do the rest, and opening volleys of javelins will slaughter unarmored opponents. Thanks to the massive numbers of infantry involved in this battle and the Roman shields, crossbows and the few siege engines won’t likely do much to stop them or disrupt their formation before that. The Chinese cavalry may have a slight advantage, since the Romans never prioritized their cavalry, but the infantry outnumber them too badly for it to change the outcome (and the Roman infantry are mostly spear-armed, which is effective against any sort of cavalry charge).

    I believe Mongke died of food poisoning from some sort of shellfish.

  31. Mr. happy January 17, 2014 at 12:40 am -      #31

    The Mongols were ‘new’ to the scene as they evolved from other tribes. They were very similar to the Huns for one. The Chinese may be at a slight disadvantage but their paper armor is quite good at stopping bladed weapons.

    As for Chinese equipment we need to decide the time period. Roman infantry are not spear armed during their height. The spears were only during the early republic or during the decline. Unless you’re taking about re purposing their Pila as spears like Caesar did when facing Pompey. But if infantry can hold their ground, it won’t be a problem after the initial charge.

    Honestly for Rome to have the highest chance of winning, I nominate Trajan to take the reigns of the Roman army. For China though…

  32. itcheyness January 17, 2014 at 1:21 am -      #32

    I’d pick Scipio Africanus over Trajan.

    His maneuvers at Ilipa and Zama are what seal it for me. He’s almost certainly one of the greatest generals of the ancient world.

    Trajan was a way better commander than Julius Caesar though, and a much better emperor on top of it.

  33. Namer January 17, 2014 at 1:53 am -      #33

    I’m no history buff, but wouldn’t a Roman Turtle with any kind of spears be an effective counter to Mongolians?

  34. itcheyness January 17, 2014 at 2:12 am -      #34

    “I’m no history buff, but wouldn’t a Roman Turtle with any kind of spears be an effective counter to Mongolians?”

    Roman Legionaries didn’t usually carry spears, they could repurpose their pila as spears, but they weren’t super well suited to it. Here’s basically what would happen if a Roman army met a Mongol army.

  35. Mr. happy January 17, 2014 at 3:08 am -      #35

    No it won’t happen like Carrhae. If the commander learned his history or anything. Or if it was Trajan. The Mongols would not charge the Romans like the Parthians first did and the Romans would not survive the first day if it was Crassus.

    The Mongols would first get close with a few units, fire off arrows and run away. In the meantime, the remaining horse archer units would form a crescent and stay there with lancers in the center. The crescent then falls in and loose arrows from all directions and when the time is right the Khan will order the lancers to charge and start the rout.

    Few survive and fewer withstood the charge. The Russians counter charge was disorganized and gave way, the Mongols fell into their own trap in Ain Jalut set by the Malmulkes and many Templars fell defending Eastern Europe while a few Teutonic Knights manage to flee.

  36. Hermit January 17, 2014 at 8:25 am -      #36

    Han China.
    I’m unsure whether to pick Republic Rome or Imperial Rome.
    Change the battlefield to a neutral arena.

  37. Hermit January 17, 2014 at 8:30 am -      #37

    Also, assume the whoever commander each side picked had time to bond with his/her troops.

  38. Belisaurius January 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm -      #38

    Western Han or Eastern Han?

    West had a part time army. Recruits had one year of training once they turned twenty and another year of service.

    East Han allowed people to duck out of conscription if they paid a tax. Most of it’s army was professional.

  39. Mr. happy January 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm -      #39

    Also early or late? Late had Cataphracts. Both early and late also had stirrups so Rome would be at a disadvantage. For the commander it should be the guy who drove off the Huns.

    As for Rome we’ll have to wait

  40. Mr. happy January 17, 2014 at 7:19 pm -      #40

    Woops the Cataphract is Eastern Han.
    The words at the top right says Eastern Han fully clothed cavalry soldier

  41. Hermit January 17, 2014 at 8:22 pm -      #41

    @ Belisaurius
    I don’t really mind which one. Both I guess.
    @ Mr. Happy
    Use the entire time period, that is, both late and early.
    Trivia: I WAS going to include the Byzantines, but I felt that it would give Rome too many people to work with. That, and Greek Fire.

  42. Mr. happy January 18, 2014 at 1:32 am -      #42

    ‘Trivia: I WAS going to include the Byzantines, but I felt that it would give Rome too many people to work with. That, and Greek Fire.’

    Before the Byzantine era, Rome uses her own incendiaries but so does the Han. Thankfully you did not let the Song in or we would have gunpowder based weapons here too.

  43. Hermit January 18, 2014 at 3:40 am -      #43

    “Before the Byzantine era, Rome uses her own incendiaries but so does the Han. Thankfully you did not let the Song in or we would have gunpowder based weapons here too.”
    Most of the depictions of the Byzantines using Greek Fire were also on ships, since the danged liquid was said to burn even on water. I get the feeling that even if the Byzantines were included they would not bring any Greek Fire to the fight (as it occurs on land) or just bring a small amount of it..
    I COULD add a naval scenario to the fight, but that would only complicate things.

  44. Mr. happy January 18, 2014 at 10:35 am -      #44

    The Byzantines do have Greek Fire Throwers on land. They were scary but like elephants are as dangerous as they are useful. They tend to explode in the persons hands or on the Dromon. I think it also burns underwater.

  45. tychusfindlay919 January 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm -      #45

    Greek fire had the amazing ability to burn whyile on water, not underwater.

    It says pick the greatest commanders and 100,00 of their finest soldiers. Does this mean we can mix up time periods like having caesar command soldiers from the time of Augustus in which the Roman empire was roflstomping the whole world?

    @mrhappy Yeah the mogols attacked empires during a time of weakness. Rome was one of the declining empires that fell victim as well right? Well in this battle it wouldnt be declining id imagine 😛

    Cant the romans just set up scorpios, hold a defensive position and start sniping the chinese down one by one?

    @ober Tell that to the Jews who were brutally suppressed numerous times. Tell that to Carthage which had been absolutely destroyed and shown no mercy of even when Carthage promised not to attack Rome and pay a yearly debt. Tell that to the Romans themselves who’s politics caused senatorial assasinations and empire spread civil wars for succession.

    All this being said I’m putting my money with the Romans especially in closer range combat since the small and somewhat portible scorpio can start sniping enemies from 100 meters out and had a firing rate of around a bolt per 15 seconds. All the Romans were heavily armored and the Chinese were using leather.

    But since this is a debate we always have to keep open minds ehh? And OP needs to specify, otherwise I’d imagine Ancient rome counts as anything pre-byzantium (I dont wanna confirm that of course im just imagining).

  46. tychusfindlay919 January 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm -      #46

    @itcheyeness Crassus was nowhere near one of Rome’s greatest military leaders and his defeat in the East was an embarrasment to Rome. His whole campaign not just Carrhae was a pile of shit. He was extremely reckless and didnt have to invade through Mesopotamia since the Armenian king offered a deal.

    Overall Crassus was simply a wealthy and tactically retarded man.

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