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The earliest professional army

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    Posted: 14 Nov 2009 at 15:16
Many history books have defined the Imperial Roman Legions as the world's first 100% professional army.
 
In this sense, a "professional army" is defined as an army that is an permanent, standing institution with a fixed number of effectives in both peace and wartime, and that all soldiers were full-time professionals who were recruited, paid, promoted, and retired under standard conditions. As a fact, "soldiering" had to exist as a profession, and not as a duty of all citizens or of a determined socio-economic class or caste (as in Aztec society).
 
In this sense, warrior nations such as the Spartens, the Huns, Mongols, or Celts did not have professional armies because fighting in the army was part of the everyday routine of every "citizen". Alexander the Great's army, although being a formidable fighting force, could also not be considered as a "professional army" because it was initially raised only for a campaign (and to be disbanded afterwards), only that the campaign lasted too long.
 
However, I thought prior to the Imperial Roman legions, "professional armies" certainly had already existed. Didn't New Kingdom Egypt and Darius of Persia have fully-professional armies? Or were they only raised for a certain campaign?
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Giannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2009 at 15:41
The Persian Immortals were a professional army, they had fixed numbers and rankings, and they were elite fighting force in times of war and the royal guard in times of peace.
Now I guess that many societies had a ''guard'' like the immortals, but none would be that numerous.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Nov 2009 at 19:41
I would suppose that some Chinese realms had a 'professional' force, though I have absolutely no knowledge of China in that era.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Nov 2009 at 11:10
A complete guess but, what about the Assyrians? They were one of the most militaristic societies in antiquity.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Nov 2009 at 12:19
I wouldn't be surprised if the Hittites also had one; considering that they were the first ones to employ steel weapons
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Nov 2009 at 15:19
This is where Shuriken would be handy, he has an concise encyclopaedic knowledge of antiquity.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2009 at 10:29
Regarding the Imperial Roman military institution, it was probably the first ever ENTIRELY professional army.

Although professional soldiers did exist in China, Persia, Egypt etc.; they usually made up a very small percentage of a campaign army. In a situation of emergency, or to embark on a military campaign; an army would be mustered by the levy of peasants (as in most Greek city states and the Roman republic); by hiring mercenaries (Carthage, Persia); or by calling up members of a determined "warrior caste" (who in peacetime engaged in non-military activities); but once the campaign was over, the bulk of the army would be disbanded.

Many states such as Carthage and Ptolemy's Egypt, had been obliged to grant land to discharged mercenaries after major military campaigns, because they were unable to pay them a salary during peacetime.

The Imperial Roman army was a military institution in which ALL soldiers were career professionals and were paid a salary both in peacetime and during war; just for the sake of being soldiers.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2009 at 13:50
The Roman army was the first ever professional army in the sense it functioned as a national military force rather than as a royal bodyguard.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2009 at 15:21

Hello Calvo

Even the Roman army dependened on mercenaries and auxilaries who in many campaigns actually were more than the Romans.

As for the first purely professional army, I doubt it was the Roman one. The continuous campaigns of Cyrus and his predecessors for example could not have been done without some sense of a core professional force especially that the immortals only went with Cyrus and Cyrus didn't lead all the campaigns.
 
The continuous campaigns especially during the latter stage of the Roman republic made it necessary to make the legions permenant rather than dissolving them. The core of the Roman army was actually Caesar's legions which were not disbanded when he marched on Rome and he considered "his" personal guard. Later each general kept his legions and by the time of the principate most of the legions became permenant some of which continued till the 5th century.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko- Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2009 at 15:25
I don't know about the world's first but the Chinese armies of the Warring States period (479-221 BCE) had professional armies.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2009 at 18:40
Has there ever in fact been a purely professional army? Professional soldiers, yes, but in all the wars I can think of either there was conscription or there were recruiting campaigns that signed up novices who returned to civilian life when service was over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2009 at 21:01
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Even the Roman army dependened on mercenaries and auxilaries who in many campaigns actually were more than the Romans.

Auxilaries were professional soldiers as much as the legionaries were; despite that they were not Roman citizens.
They signed up for 25-30 years and upon discharge, received Roman citizenship instead of a land grant. Their salaries were also lower yet their discipline was more relaxed. In many ways, auxiliaries could be compared to a "colonial police force"; nevertheless, they were permanent professionals who owed their absolute loyalty to Rome.
 
It is certain that all campaign armies would round up their numbers by the conscription of civilians or by hiring mercenaries; but there's a difference between a campaign army whose 80% troops are temporary; and one whose only 10% troops are temporary.
In the case of the Carthagian army, for example, one year they could have half a million soldiers, and the next year just a few thousands.
 
In many cases, armies who had embarked on long campaigns would often turn "professional" by default. For example, the "Greek alliance" who fought in the battle of Troy was "temporary raised" for the purpose of a campaign by the levy of all eligible citizens of the city states. However, the seige of Toy lasted 10 years and many of the warriors would have seen soldiering as a permanent career than as an interrumption to normal life.
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2009 at 11:54
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

However, the seige of Toy lasted 10 years and many of the warriors would have seen soldiering as a permanent career than as an interrumption to normal life. 
Without really wishing to raise again the spectre of the Trojan war having been fought in the Baltic, I would like to point out that it is not exactly a historical account, that all the people in the story are fictitious characters, and fictitious characters do not have minds of their own.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2009 at 13:52
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

However, the seige of Toy lasted 10 years and many of the warriors would have seen soldiering as a permanent career than as an interrumption to normal life. 
Without really wishing to raise again the spectre of the Trojan war having been fought in the Baltic, I would like to point out that it is not exactly a historical account, that all the people in the story are fictitious characters, and fictitious characters do not have minds of their own.


Yes. Troy is just a legend; but I was using it to get my point across that many "temporarily-raised" campaign armies turned "professional" over a long campagin.

A good historical example could be the army of Alexander. At least during the first years of the campaign, most soldiers still looked forward to returning home and tending their fields as soon as the battles were over; yet the campaign lasted more than a decade; and by the time they reached Central Asia most of them probably already identified the army as their home and the "campaign" as the main purpose in their life.
Many of the wounded and tired soldiers settled in Central Asia and India where they founded villages, took wives, and fathered children. When the army returned, some of them were re-enlisted.
On a whole, only a minority of them would have actually returned home to Macedonia.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Craze_b0i Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2009 at 18:00
So we have Romans, and maybe some earlier armies like that of Alexander.
 
What about later on, after the fall of Rome. When did professional armies re-emerge? The earliest I can think of is perhaps the Army of Flanders in the c16th. Also by that time there were many contractors operating private armies for hire. John Hawkwood in Florence for example. Also at that time you had the private armies of the Conquistadores, though admittedly these were short-lived, eg. Cortes and Pizzaro.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2009 at 22:28
I personally think that a great many more civilisations had a peacetime standing army comprising "professional soldiers" before the Romans.  I think the err on the part of many is to view history through the largely medieval feudal lens whereby, armies were raised when a monarch decided he would embark on a military campaign.  In Europe, the Romans were known to be an exception to this otherwise conventional practice hence it is the prevailing opinion that the Romans had the first full-time standing army, just like they invented monetary currency, or arches or paved roads (fallacies we were taught at a very early age in the education system).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2009 at 22:44
Another common practice in many societies was the existence of a "warrior caste"; a group of citizens who were granted certain social or economic priveliges (tax cuts, land o cultivate, slaves etc) in return for military service. Although they received regular military drill, they could not be considered as professional soldiers because during peacetime they mostly dedicated to their private trades; and made a living for themselves (rather than a salary paid by the state).
 
Example of these include the Byzantine Empire, the Aztecs, the Russian Cossacks, the Ottoman Empire, and certain periods in Chinese and Indian history.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Nov 2009 at 15:54
A distinction needs to be drawn between a professional army (i.e. an army in which the soldiers are professionals) and a standing army (i.e. an army which is in continuous existence whether the state is at war or not).
 
A standing army must consist of professional soldiers, but an army of professional soldiers is not necessarily a standing one.
 
England had professional fighting seamen before it had a standing navy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2009 at 08:57
Weren't many sea people employed by the Egyptians to fight against the Labu?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2009 at 12:38
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

A distinction needs to be drawn between a professional army (i.e. an army in which the soldiers are professionals) and a standing army (i.e. an army which is in continuous existence whether the state is at war or not).


But the distinction isn't clear. If there were professional fighting men, they must be paid during both peacetime and wartime. And only a standing army could pay them!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2009 at 13:29
Professional fighting men = mercenaries = warriors by trade = warrior class?

I personally can't see how an empire like the Assyrian or any other before or after would function without a standing and paid army.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2009 at 17:49
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

A distinction needs to be drawn between a professional army (i.e. an army in which the soldiers are professionals) and a standing army (i.e. an army which is in continuous existence whether the state is at war or not).


But the distinction isn't clear. If there were professional fighting men, they must be paid during both peacetime and wartime. And only a standing army could pay them!
I mostly had mercenaries in mind - serving first one country then another, the mercenaries were professional soldiers but the countries didn't have standing armies.
 
I was also thinking of pirates. I'm sure drgonzaga will agree with me when I point out that the Drakes and the Hawkinses and so on were professionals at fighting, even though England at the time had no standing navy, and just called on the 'pirates' whenever necessary.
 
I suppose you could call them mercenaries too, but they were different in that between wars they were fighting on their own account (not unknown on land either, in fact).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2009 at 17:51
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Professional fighting men = mercenaries = warriors by trade = warrior class?
I think I'd make that 'warrior classes'. Knights, men-at-arms, archers and crossbowmen, came from different classes.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Craze_b0i Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2009 at 18:21
Drake and Hawkins were privateers rather than pirates. But yes, you could class them as professionals.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2009 at 11:49

Then define "standing army" please. Most nations and empires have had some men-at-arms even if its a royal body guard, despite having no standing army and the raise troops as needed. Even modern armies who are "standing" armies as we call them almost always undergo an expansion in wartime.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2009 at 12:15
Originally posted by Craze_b0i Craze_b0i wrote:

Drake and Hawkins were privateers rather than pirates. But yes, you could class them as professionals.
 
Agreed. Bit of an in-joke really: the topic has come up several times in the past on the forum, with me mostly and unsurprisingly defending the English (and Scots) against the hispanophiles Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2009 at 12:24
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

Then define "standing army" please. Most nations and empires have had some men-at-arms even if its a royal body guard, despite having no standing army and the raise troops as needed. Even modern armies who are "standing" armies as we call them almost always undergo an expansion in wartime.

I'd go along with the definition wikipedia uses http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_army
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A standing army is an army composed of full-time career soldiers who 'stand over', in other words, who do not disband during times of peace. They differ from army reserves who are activated only during such times as war or natural disasters.
They may in fact be 'mercenaries' is one considers, say, the French Foreign Legion as mercenaries.
 
That most countries most of the time may have had standing armies doesn't mean the distinction is invalid. Moreover, do you really call a royal bodyguard an 'army'? Any old group of soldiers is not an army.


Edited by gcle2003 - 23 Nov 2009 at 12:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2009 at 16:18
Glce2003, I understand the concept perfectly well. My point was that there is not such a sharp disticntion between "standing" and (for the want of a better term) "for the war" army. Where one begins and the other ends is difficult to define. The Pathians did not have a standing army, but they did have units that existed throughout. The US always has had a standing army per our defination, yet between 1783 and 1940, the US Army was essentially a cadre, one that would be expanded by new raisings and state troops during wartime and these new rasings would be disbanded and the state troops sent home at the conclusion of the conflict. Thats how they fought the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish American War and the early fighting they took part in WWI. I am not counting the Civil War, since the Army was split due to it.
OTH, the British Army in N Ireland had to expand due to the demands of the war.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2009 at 17:41
The question all lies in the "percentage" of temporary raised troops in proportion to the regular standing army.

As far as the Imperial Roman Army was concerned; it maintained a regular strength; and upon campaign, the numbers could be rounded up by 10%. New recruits and mercenaries were drafted into existing units; although some might be discharged after the conflict was over, the units remained intact.

A contrast would be the Carthaginian army, in which almost all units were raised for the sake of a campaign; and when the campaign was over, the bulk (90%) of the army's units were dissolved.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2009 at 18:04

The percentages? Then you have the Persian empire which had 10,000 Immortals, and then in war you would get 30,000 additional troops. But in the US, the 10,000 man regular Army got about 30,000 troops from volunteers and state troops in the Mexican War. Yet one is called the a standing army and the other is not.

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