1. The different specialties in an army (and the fact that having different specialties sounds kind of important) kind of reminds me of a reaction I had to something in Fate Zero.

    At one point, Kiritsugu seemed a little frustrated that the hero he summoned was Arthur, rather than the Assassin class Servant used in this particular Grail War. Being an assassin himself, Kiritsugu probably thought that Assassin would have been more useful, since Assassin would have been able to gather information and basically help Kiritsugu fight in the way he was used to. That’s true, but I kind of felt like having Arthur (a powerful Saber class Servant) was actually pretty helpful.

    Kiritsugu is already an assassin, and he already has another assassin on his team that can do his bidding (his apprentice, Maiya). Arthur provided muscle, basically, since her abilities were extremely powerful. Furthermore, she’s a lot more loyal than the Assassin class Servant, so Kiritsugu didn’t really have to watch his back around her, in spite of their ideological differences.

    So, even though Kiritsugu could have benefitted from having more assassins to help him fight in his style, I think he still benefitted from having some muscle on the team. In fact, he practically won the Grail War (except for some choices he made at the end) Maybe in some ways Arthur did/could perform some of the functions of a tank within an army, I don’t know.

    Fate Zero is actually pretty interesting, since in some ways it seems to make a big deal of certain military functions (the Servants are divided up into classes like Archer, Saber, Lancer, Berserker, Assassin, Caster, and Rider) and they make for interesting mini armies when combined with who and what their Masters are. Especially since the Masters have vastly varying levels of military expertise, or even levels of interest in participating in the Grail War in the first place.

    Specialties and training get a bit interesting in Naruto as well. It isn’t always openly discussed in the anime, but it’s clear that most of the different teams have different specialties. Naruto’s team, for instance, is clearly well suited for open battle and ends up being a major powerhouse. Even Sakura, who is trained as a medic, is suited to this role eventually because of her somewhat brash personality and her ability to use her chakra to give herself super strength. Hinata’s team, on the other hand, can fight reasonably well but is probably excellent for tracking, considering the abilities of her team members.

  2. notleia says:

    Imma take this moment to geek out on the horse aspect of this.

    Chariots were a thing before heavy mounted cavalry because heavy draft breeds weren’t developed until the medieval-ish period. You couldn’t reasonably expect a horse the size of an Arab (which is a smaller breed as well as one of the oldest) to carry a few hundred pounds of dude, armor, and weapons for more than an hour or so. Horses can pull much more weight than they can carry.

    And there would have been a limit to what the ancient Middle Eastern harness would have allowed the horses to pull, since the padded horse collar wasn’t invented by the Chinese until much later, and yokes don’t allow horses to pull efficiently.

    Mongol horses were/are actually pretty small, which is why horseback archery was their thing instead of something like jousting with spears. In fact, IIRC the Chinese never bred heavy draft breeds like Europeans (oxen are more useful for rice farming anyway, with their cloven hooves).

    • Did you see that Building Pharoah’s Chariot documentary? It’s pretty interesting and actually gives time to talk about some of the chariot horse stuff you mentioned.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Hmm…yes a little but mostly no. As per what I mention from above, the Sumerians invented the chariot by essentially putting troops in the back of a four-wheeled wagon–drawn by four horses or four donkeys. This set off a military revolution, because the use of infantry alone was pretty much what everyone else in the region was doing before that. Having invented the chariot, the next two thousand years or so saw the idea of the chariot spreading far outside of Mesopotamia–and then the name of the game was to make the already-existing thing faster and better (much lighter, with 2 wheels instead of 4, with faster horses, etc.). I think this has to do with paradigms that shape the way human beings think rather than horses.

      The reason why I say that is there are ancient examples of a small amount of use of a paradigm that would later become famous–such as in rock carvings of Hittite riders with armor and spears starting about 1000 BC. Their armor was scale armor (so not as heavy as plate, but still, not light) and their helmets bronze–still the horses they had seemed adequate to carry them. To give more examples of the same thing, the Assyrians, while they also used chariots, used riders on horseback, apparently as scouts primarily (also captured in ancient art). And Alexander the Great famously outmaneuvered Persian chariots with his horsemen…who wore bronze armor. Again, not as heavy as medieval knights would get, but still heavy. The horses seemed to have no trouble carrying them.

      The invention of the stirrup in China in the early centuries of the Christian era set off another military revolution when the idea spread. With stirrups, simple as they sound, a rider could sit much more securely on a horse than previously. Around this time, all armies using chariots abandoned them for riders on horses with saddles having stirrups–because the stirrups are so much better in helping a rider in heavy armor sit on a horse without falling off (than without stirrups).

      Before stirrups, only someone highly trained could stay on a horse in armor–after stirrups, the task of sitting on a horse for a man in armor became easier, thus the practice more common. It was at that point that horse breeders began to breed bigger horses to be able to put even more armor on the men (and barding on the horses themselves).

      So yes, the super heavy cavalry of the high Middle Ages required bigger horses…but the horses were bred based on a military need, based on a change in military doctrine (using a term I’ve already used in this post)–which in turn was caused by the invention of a new piece of technology–rather than bigger horses causing the military change.

      The big war horses bred for carrying armored knights were only used to pull wagons AFTER guns made extra armor superfluous…which returned the cavalry to smaller, lighter horses–like in Alexander’s day.

      • notleia says:

        But when people think of cavalry, they generally think about giant, armor-covered horses, but that was a thing that was only used for a relatively short time.

        Heck, I could spend time talking about harness, too.

        It could be debatable how much actual fighting was done from horseback, since I dunno how much power you could put behind a melee weapon without a stirrup. (Then again, I suck at bareback riding [and I’m not that good at riding in general], so it’s likely my experience colors my expectations.) Knee rolls on a saddle would help, but I dunno if the Greeks used saddles with a tree at that point.

        But draft breeds were bred for farmwork and hauling. Warhorses came from different bloodlines. But it is plausible that they would crossbreed if they did want the size (which is pretty much what happens with warmblood breeds).

        (Proper riding lessons are on my bucket list. Despite living the rural life, my dad is a mechanical type and doesn’t grok why anyone would bother with horses if they didn’t have to.)

        • Travis Perry says:

          Notleia, I’m not conducting extra research at the moment, i.e. working off memory (which is fallible), but I think the Greeks used a primitive saddle–essentially a belt around the horse that they hooked their feet into. It worked well (there’s no doubt they used melee weapons from horseback, the historical record is clear that they did), but it’s an unnatural position for a human to assume. Not everyone is going to train from infancy to do that.

          The Hittite rock carvings I referenced show no sign of a saddle…but the rider is clearly carrying a spear and shield–looking positively medieval in fact. It’s possible the Hittites did not actually attack from horseback (dismounting to fight)–or attacked with a spear by stabbing overhead instead of doing a running charge. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to this question–there just isn’t enough info–but my hunch is the Hittites DID charge with these horsemen in armor with spears and shields, at least at times…and accepted the fact they’d be unhorsed after a hard stick (because they were tough like that).

          As for draft horses, again I’m working off memory here, but my memory is that oxen were the standard draft animals in Europe prior to the practice of breeding large horses for war. It could be that the breeding of at least some draft horses happened simultaneously to the breeding of war horses, but many famous draft horse breeds, like the Clydesdale and the Percheron, were war horses first…and only pulled wagons and plows after the 16th Century made armored knights increasingly obsolete.

          As for riding, I did a lot of riding as a kid. But I haven’t been on a horse for quite some time. But the last time I did ride, which also was a long time before the time before that, certain things came back immediately (how to sit on the horse and move), while others (like the knowledge of proper horse care) did not. The cerebellum has a very good memory, better than “regular” memory–it really was like riding a bike for me.

      • Do you know what breeds were used in those initial four wheeled wagon war applications? Four horses sounds like a lot for pulling a cart and makes me imagine smaller horses, though of course I don’t know how big of a load they were pulling.

        • notleia says:

          “Breeds” would be a stretch to describe them, but a Arab or Barb type would be barely 5 ft at the withers (top of the shoulder) and about half a ton in weight.

          But I think the kicker would be the less effective harness. Chances are with a modern harness, it would only take two horses to pull the same as a four-horse team was expected to then.

          • Yeah. The donkey part would be an interesting thing to explore in this as well, since there seems to be small donkeys and larger ones, and I don’t know what types would have been used in the situation we’re talking about here.

            Horses are kind of fascinating in a way, since both their structure and behavior are so well suited toward a lot of warfare and beast of burden applications that a lot of animals can’t match in the same way. A lot of animals don’t have backs strong enough to support a rider, or at least not long term, so even a horse’s anatomy is important on that front.

            I even heard of an attempt to breed and train moose for battle, though that didn’t end up working partly because moose behavior didn’t match up with what the people running that experiment needed. An animal like that would probably have to be selectively bred for a long time before being able to be used like a horse.

            • notleia says:

              Donkeys are generally smaller than horses. There’s also an attitude difference between the two, mostly in that donkeys ain’t give a crap what you want. You can’t “peer pressure” them as easily as you can horses.

              There’s some list of criteria for whether a species would be able to be domesticable, and I think one of the major ones is sociability. Moose aren’t that social. But I forget what criteria it is that made horses domesticable but not, say, zebras.

              • I’ve heard zebras have way worse attitudes and have pretty cruddy relationships with each other compared to horses in that zebras band together for safety, but don’t necessarily get along/care for each other nearly as much, though I’m not entirely certain. I’ve heard of cases where zebras are actually trained to be ridden, but that’s of course an instance of an animal being tamed, rather than domesticated.

              • Travis Perry says:

                The Asiatic donkey, the onager, was never successfully tamed. The African donkey, which looks very similar, WAS tamed. African donkeys for whatever reason are less resistant to training.

                I think the same is true for zebras versus horses. Horses will submit to human will when well trained–zebras (from what I’ve read) tend to be too “onery,” i.e. too disobedient and combative.

              • Yeah, and considering how many similar animals we have domesticated(horses, donkeys, etc.) there’s probably a ‘why bother’ factor when it comes to zebras and other such animals. If they’re so difficult and we already have animals that are super similar, there’s really no point in domesticating them, except for maybe certain traits that might make zebras more suited to certain environments.

                The onager part makes me think of how many things in The Swiss Family Robinson seemed easy and convenient, since they tamed an onager pretty easily in that book.

              • Travis C says:

                I won’t lie, no small part of my childhood was spent hoping I too could tame an ostrich and zebra and live in a treehouse. It was so much easier when I was 10…

              • Same. The Swiss Family Robinson was my fave back in third grade, so I did love it still, convenient as things were for them in the book.

What do you think?