Alexander (the Great): an Oliver Stone Film

Yeah, first thing I thought when I saw that was “Woah, nice extensions!”

The second was “OMG Colin Farrel and Fabio had a son!”

Which were the largest Roman armies? I only know that the eight double legions (80.000) of Cannae was the largest ever at that time…

Yeah, first thing I thought when I saw that was “Woah, nice extensions!”

The second was “OMG Colin Farrel and Fabio had a son!”[/quote]

Wow, I actually see DiCaprio as a better Alexander… not that we know how he looked anyways.


If you are talking pre-Imperial period, you had a similar size Roman force at Arausio in 105 BC, but this was two Roman armies were under separate commanders who refused to cooperate, leading to a disaster similar to Cannae.

At Philippi in 42 BC, you had two Roman armies facing each other that neared 100,000 men each (including cavalry), but most of these forces were hastily called conscripts or recruits in a civil war.

Even the Cannae numbers are questionable, as 80,000 men would have put a huge strain on Roman manpower (they had already lost one consular army at Trasimene the year before). Because historians of the time tended to count armies in “legions”, you get the illusion that the legions were complete when there was a good chance that they were at less than full strength.

In the late Imperial period, armies got progressively bigger. Here you are talking about forces drawn from throughout the empire, though, so you don’t have the same manpower problems you have in the Republican or even early imperial period. Armies of 100k became commonplace.


The Cannae numbers are among the most “hotly” (to the extent that applies to anything historical) disputed. Although the Roman numbers are generally considered to be more accurate than numbers given to previous armies (or any later ones until after the Dark Ages), the Cannae numbers were likely considerably exaggerated in order ot make the later Roman victory over Hannibal more impressive.

It wasn’t until Rome’s Imperial period that it had armies of that size (and it actually had standing armies bigger than that).

The army during the Pax Augusta comprised what, 50 legions? That’s 250-500k soldiers, depending on the size of one legion which I’m too lazy to look up right now. That’s pretty impressive in either case, but they were stationed all across the empire in permanent camps. No chance to mobilize them all at once with the logistics and communication technology of the time.

Augustus actually reduced the number of legions to 25 in 13 BC. This makes about 125-150 thousand legionnaires. If you add in the large force of auxiliaries, though, the total Roman force approached 300K.

As the Empire moved on, though, the forces once again got bigger, and there were probably 400k men in the army of Marcus Aurelius. By the civil wars in the 3rd and 4th century, both generals could have armies in the hundred thousand range.



you’re forgetting china…,

the vastness of china aside, the fact that their nemesis, the nomadic horseman is as good as 10 chinese foot soldiers necessitate a large standing army… :D


you’re forgetting china…,

the vastness of china aside, the fact that their nemesis, the nomadic horseman is as good as 10 chinese foot soldiers necessitate a large standing army… :D[/quote]

Tell that to Ghengis Khan. The Mongol “hordes” generally attacked with around 20,000 men.

That’s exactly his point. one Mongol warrior was worth 10 Chinese infantry, so the Chinese had huge standing armies in order to match the relatively small numbers of Mongols.

I’ve read that the Chinese actually did field armies in the hundreds of thousands… regularly. I’ve also got the impression that this wasn’t some inflated number… this was actually how big their armies were.

I can’t really defend the “hundreds of thousands” number: I don’t know why historians accept the high numbers for Chinese armies, while they dismiss them for Western armies. But given the excellent organization and administration that China had during that time, I find the large Chinese army numbers to be plausible.

edit- made the verb tenses in the second paragraph match

This is mostly the reason. Until the Roman Empire was consolidated, few Western states had the manpower to raise troops in the 100 thousand range. Persia was the probably the only power before the later Romans that could regularly field an army in the 100k range. I recommend the work of Hans Delbruck for an analysis of the capabilities of the ancient nations in the West. He is a little conservative in his estimates, but they are all well-argued.

China was unified early and was very populous. Even the pre-Chin armies could get pretty big. China’s army, though, was also replete with peasant warriors hauled off their fields to fill out the lines.


This movie could be ok if Stone doesn’t have ancient Cheerleaders grinding in front of lightning storms and the gods of warfare past cheering Alexander on. Plus: no one getting an eye AND stem popped out through a helmet.

It seems to me that a lot of the discrepancies in reported army sizes are probably due to different judgements as to who is, or is not, part of the army.

For example, among the Greeks, every hoplite was accompanied by a personal servant. An army would have contained peltasts, light infantry who may or may not have been counted in its strength. Mercenary calvary units might also be employed. An army would have been followed by caravans of private merchants offering food (and probably prostitutes). All these would add up to several times the number of heavy infantrymen reported by the historians.

From what I remember of Herodotus, the Greeks tended to report only their own hoplite strength, but count every distant family connection of the soldiers marching against them. So we’re told that 300 Spartans held off five million Persians at Thermopylae. The former figure is short 1100 Boeotians, plus their personal servants, plus probably peltasts not worth mentioning. The latter figure is probably near the entire population of the Persian empire.

Caught a sneak preview for this last night.

Very interesting movie, not a point by point retelling, and there are some twists.

Farrell did a good job, unlike Nick Cage in National Treasure, he actually was Alexander and not just himself.

I didn’t realize Jolie had such a large role in the movie. Dawson’s role in the movie and how/why she’s brought in is neat.

Maybe it’s just the makeup but Val Kilmer has a huge head.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but overall I thought it was pretty good and worth seeing.

For what it’s worth, the audience applauded at the end.

There was a behind the scenes making of documentary about this movie on the History Channel last night. It followed Farrel and the actors playing Alexander’s companions through a weeks long boot camp run by Dale Dye, military advisor on such titles as Platoon and Saving Private Ryan, in the Moroccan desert. The intention being to train Farrel and the rest in the art of warfare, to forge them into a cohesive unit and to imbue Farrel with some leadership qualities which would transfer to his performance on screen.

Absolutely no plans to see this, because it looks like the usual overwrought Stone dreck. The TV ad campaign running now is jammed with about a dozen howlingly bad lines. Especially the Angelina Jolie stuff – “There will never be another Alexander like you…Alexander the GREAT!”

“Alexander…BE REASONABLE!”

17 percent on the Tomatometer so far. Looks like Stone has a Thanksgiving turkey.

Well why not Brett? Who knows maybe it will be kinda good in that really bad and dumb movie sort of way. ya never know.

I dont know man… Three hours of dumb is a looooong time.