Thursday, 24 March 2016

Unit Cohesion - Part 2

In the previous rambling post I babbled on about some of the terms and discussions that have surfaced about unit cohesion and related matters, and I highlighted two of the key concepts (for my purposes, but in general too) from Marshall's famous book.  Here I plan to outline my course of action for the paper, and I'll draw on some of the other stuff I've read (not hitherto mentioned) - and some of the past stuff I've written, both in the earlier Warwick blog, and in the Procopius book.  I don't think the copy I submit will say too much on the background that I mentioned in the previous post, as it seems there's a lot to say, and I want to cover as much as I can in my 7000 words (and that's all in).

So, let's start with the definition:  " the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress".  From what I can gather, there are a number of ways that I might look for evidence of how, or even if, soldiers bonded together in combat, despite the limitations of the evidence.  Those that seem most profitable include:  the institution of the army/military and its mission; unit sizes within the army/military in all their variety, and in what contexts we expect to find them; the objectives of particular wars, and whether they were achieved or not (success or failure); brotherhood, and in particular whether there is evidence for men forming these sorts of bonds; ideology, whether there was any particular ideology that might have motivated soldiers; and the leadership, especially at the highest levels.

In terms of the army as institution, it seems it would be useful to set out how men were recruited and why, and even what the purpose of the military was.  For unit sizes, it would be good to set these out - from the largest to the smallest.  Here the evidence of Maurice is likely to help the most, even if the divisions he describes are a combination of the factual and the fictional, or so it seems.  If I can establish the presence of smallish units, like the contubernia of old, then I'll have the size of unit most relevant to discussions of primary group cohesion.  Whether I'll be able to tell if the men in these units spent a lot of time together is another matter, both when it came to combat and times of rest (at home - bases, etc.).  Did each little unit fight as a whole as part of a larger whole?  Would they always be mixed in with the others in larger formations, and how did this effect any perceived sense of brotherhood?  Vaguely related to units sizes is the standard and/or battle flag.  Do they serve as symbols of units still, and what impact do they have on cohesion?

When it comes to objectives, I'll focus on some Justinianic-era wars, and the three big ones that fill the pages of Procopius' Wars.  Can we deduce Roman objectives in those wars?  Were they successful?  Did they fail?  Can we find evidence of the performance of particular units?  Do we have evidence for particular units within particular battles or conflicts?  Related to this, were any soldiers ideologically motivated, and what sort of ideologies might they be?  In the case of Persia we could imagine them fighting for freedom, or better security.  But what about those western invasions?  Perhaps some were compelled, while others when voluntarily.  Why?

Finally (at least at this stage in the planning), there's leadership. What role did Rome's generals play in ensuring the cohesiveness of the participating units, if any?  This pops up in a small portion of the material I've read - in an interesting paper by Eckstein, for instance, who highlights the stress that Polybius places in the role of leadership.  Incidentally, and not surprisingly (for all sorts of reasons), so does Procopius.

Anyway, that's where I am.  These two posts have taken me quite a lot longer to do than I'd expected.  They also seem to be inspiring to undertake a larger study of combat motivation in Roman antiquity.  That's another matter, however - and I seem to be getting ahead of myself.  If nothing else, I think too much Procopius is probably a bad thing, so I should try to limit my exposure.

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