With the ending of one of my favourite TV shows from Starz, Spartacus, it brought about the reminiscing of my favourite parts of a good four season long show, filled with gore, death, tits and more gore then you can poke a stick at. One part in particular shows just the kind of savage world the Romans lived in, (WARNING! A SPOILER FOR SEASON 3).
Marcus Crassus orders the “Decimation” of his sons unit because of failure to follow orders and fleeing from the enemy. Now Luke brought this up in conversation by talking about the series and saying “I forgot how they made the soldiers beat the decimated to death” to which I casually responded: “what did you think they do? Tickle ‘em?”.
For those of you who are not aware “Decimation” was the Ancient Roman Army practise of punishing troops, used on rare occasions, for desertion. It involved the soldiers of a unit or cohort drawing lots and every tenth man being singled out for execution regardless of fault, action or rank. The luck of the draw. These unlucky chaps would then be beaten to death with clubs or stoned by their fellow comrades until the twitching stopped, tidy. Even back in those days this was seen as a barbaric act of disciplinary action, today the thought of lining up a hundred people and shooting every tenth person is just a little bit extreme.
This unpleasant conversation took a turn for the worst when Luke tries to persuade me that the practise of decimation was a great idea for everyone involved. He pushed the point that it instilled fear into the men and made them fear him more than the enemy and so they would be less likely to run in combat. (Luke– In my defence on the surface, totally makes sense) Of course this is complete nonsense and so I used my superior historical knowledge and common sense to explain why decimation is a bad idea, in the context. Firstly the loss of manpower would not be worth it, secondly the morale damage would be severe and thirdly the soldiers may fear you but they would also hate you for making them kill their own chums. Every war has a mutiny or two and having your men kill their own en mass is a little bit of overkill and I would not be surprised if it was Legatus Luke who was then stoned to death by discontent soldiers.
Eventually Luke won round to my logic and I finished off with “As if you would order decimation anyway” to which he responded “of course I wouldn’t” thus ending a pointless discussion on the topic of Ancient military corporal punishment.
This comes from our new writer Jim, who’ll be helping me add to the site.