Today I’m continuing a short series on some mundane details of medieval warfare that won battles, even wars. These small details are perfect to consider when putting together your ascendant empires or rising kingdoms.
‘How did those troops get here so fast!?’ A beleaguered barbarian commander might’ve said to his lieutenants when he spies the banner of distant legion on the horizon. A well provisioned army is an army with staying power, an army that’s well fed, well slept with sharp swords. This makes all the difference. After all, they say an army marches on its stomach.
It’s not as moving or romantic as a heart stirring speech, or as exciting as acrobatic swordplay, but roads are important. Countless battles were lost on account of failure to connect troops with resources, reinforcements, weapons etc. the Roman’s built roads spanning their entire empire. This is important, not just because it’s an engineering feat (and it was, Roman roads are crazy straight given the technology of the time) but because supplies were extremely difficult to move otherwise. If you’ve ever tried to take a sedan off road you know that unpaved roads much less wilderness is hard to get across. Build your car out of wood and remove the suspension. That’ll be a nightmare. The supplies will move slowly through the mud, stones and uneven terrain. The effort of moving supplies becomes orders of magnitude more complicated. Roads were a titanic shift in the way warfare could be carried out.
I don’t think it’s crazy to compare the development of roads to the way helicopters changed would later change warfare. Typically cavalry was the only way you would be clearing ground quickly but they’re expensive to train and outfit, when you can put a legion of heavy troops on the ground, much less at an enemy’s flank you are cooking with some real gas.