A Really Cool Blog

… about science & space, people & politics, various musings & other cool things too.

Month: February 2013 Page 1 of 2

Frankenstein’s ‘Monster’: A Creature of Evil, or A Product of Evil?

Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” is a seminal work of horror and science fiction; it is the story of an unorthodox act of creation, of a monster which torments his miserable creator. Through her story Shelly makes strong commentaries on a number of subjects, of which one of the most striking is a commentary on the nature of mankind. She puts forth the idea, and reinforces it through the development of the plot, that mankind is capable of both good and evil. Like mankind, Frankenstein’s creature  is also demonstrated to be capable of both benignity and malignance; indeed, even the negative aspect of his character, shown through his quest for revenge, has a parallel in the actions of his human creator. Thus, through her commentary on mankind’s nature, Shelly demonstrates the ‘humanity’ of the creature; his actions and his nature are like those of mankind. With this in mind, an important recognition is formed: if the creature’s evil is exacerbated by the injustice brought upon him, perhaps he isn’t the monster in this story.

The creature’s story of observing a human family provides Shelly with the opportunity to comment upon the nature of mankind. It is through his observations and interactions with this family that Shelly demonstrates the positive and negative aspects of the human character, and the human capacity for both good and evil. The positive nature of mankind is illustrated by the actions of the two young cottagers, who “several times… placed food before the old man when they reserved none for themselves” (114). Their actions demonstrate the human capacity for selflessness and further illuminates the cottagers’ kindness. When the monster reflects on their actions, saying that, “this trait of kindness moved me sensibly” (114), it is shown that he identifies with and continues to be moved by such kindness in a positive way. The creature’s capacity for good is demonstrated by his positive perception of the cottagers’ good qualities; his positive association with these qualities are a reflection of them in his own character. Going further than just praising the cottagers’ good deeds, the creature demonstrates his own kindness by also stopping his consumption of the family’s food, for he sees that they are often left hungry, and beginning to take the family’s tools to cut wood for them. These actions are intended to help the family, and they thus illuminate the creature’s selflessness and desire to please. Indeed, he says himself that he thought “that it might be in my power to restore happiness to these deserving people” (117). Far from being a purely evil and malignant being bent on destruction, Frankenstein’s creature is shown to be a caring, selfless being who wants to bring happiness. His capacity for goodness is strongly illuminated.

The positive commentary on the goodness of mankind is further reinforced by the creature’s observations of the family. He hopes to reveal himself to them, saying that, “when I contemplated the virtues of the cottagers, their amiable and benevolent dispositions, I persuaded myself that when they should become acquainted with my admiration of their virtues, they would compassionate me and overlook my personal deformity” (133). The creature is commenting upon the ‘virtues’ of the cottagers, including their ‘amiable and benevolent dispositions’; through these comments on the characteristics of the cottagers, Shelly is further demonstrating the kind and good nature of mankind. The creature’s ‘admiration of their virtues’ also further illuminates the positive nature of the creature’s character, which again is reflected in him through his positive reaction to these good qualities. He hopes that his admiration of their virtues would elicit compassion in the cottagers and allow them to overlook his physical gruesomeness; he is counting upon the kindness and good nature of mankind to allow him to reveal himself. That he trusts in the good nature of mankind means that he perceives mankind as good, and his statements on the matter confer to the reader that same perception. However, the creature also begins to question mankind’s positive nature by asking “was man, indeed at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?” (114). His readings present him with the idea that mankind is capable of both good and evil, benignity and malignance. By having the creature ask these questions, Shelly is putting forth the such an idea. She wants the creature, and the reader, to recognize that there exists a capacity for evil in mankind, despite their positive actions and traits which had been demonstrated throughout the creature’s story. The idea that mankind “appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle, and at another as all that can be conceived as noble and godlike” (114) is supported by the creature’s experiences with humanity through his interactions with the family.

The creature does not think that the family could turn away someone who “solicited their compassion and friendship” (133); as demonstrated earlier, he hopes that the good nature of mankind would allow them to accept him despite his form. However, when he finally reveals himself to the family they quickly reject and attack him. A “fatal prejudice clouds their eyes” (136) and causes them to mistreat a being who only wants companionship and kindness. The negative side of humanity is thus demonstrated; they act ‘vicious and base’ towards the creature for no reason other than his deformity. That they refuse to overlook the creature’s physical appearance despite the kindness of his character means that the creature was mistaken in his hope that they would show him compassion. By having the family fail to live up to creature’s expectations, which were formed around his faith in the goodness of man, Shelly is demonstrating that mankind’s kindness and goodness is indeed fallible. Like the creature, the reader’s faith in mankind’s goodness is shaken; humanity has demonstrated that it is not always capable of compassion and kindness. The family’s reaction to the creature allows Shelly to reinforce and bring credence to the idea that man could be ‘so virtuous and magnificent’ but also be ‘vicious and base’.

The creature desires companionship, and his misery is derived from his loneliness. He says that he “admired virtue and good feelings and loved the gentle manners and amiable qualities of my cottagers, but I was shut out from intercourse with them” (123). Quotes such as this demonstrate that, though he is also capable of the kindness in mankind’s character, he is unable to be a part of human society and thus unable to receive such kindness. Shelly makes it very clear that the creature’s greatest desire is companionship and positive interaction with mankind, and by doing so further illustrates the kind and  compassionate aspects of his nature. He seeks friendship, not destruction. Yet the mistreatment he receives by the human brings out the negative aspects of the creature’s character; he asks “was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity ort assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies?” (138). He vows “ever-lasting war against the species” (138) and that his “sufferings were augmented also by the oppressive sense of the injustice and ingratitude of their infliction. My daily vows rose for revenge – a deep and deadly revenge, such as would alone compensate for the outrages and anguish I had endured” (143). This desire for revenge is what causes the creature to commit acts of murder and torment Frankenstein. Like with mankind, it is shown that the creature has the capacity for great evil, and indeed he carries out to the fullest his own ‘vicious and base’ actions. Of course, this comes in contrast to the positive aspects of his nature, which were illustrated and reinforced by his earlier praise for mankind.

It is in the actions of Victor Frankenstein that an important parallel is developed between mankind and the creature. Prior to his act of creation, Frankenstein experiences happiness and companionship with his family, with Elizabeth, and with his close friend Clerval. This is all lost when the creature, driven by his desire for revenge, kills those Frankenstein holds dear; recounting the pain caused by the creature’s actions, Frankenstein says that “a fiend had snatched from me every hope of future happiness: no creature had ever been so miserable as I was”(201). The isolation and desolation Frankenstein experiences prompts him “to pursue the daemon, who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For this purpose I will preserve my life: to execute this dear revenge” (206). Thus, the negative and malignant side of Frankenstein’s character is illustrated by his desire to  seek revenge against the creature. It is in this desire for revenge that a parallel is developed between Frankenstein and his creature. Both of them are initially of a good and kind nature but are driven to seek revenge, which in turn brings out the negative aspects of their nature, because they are left isolated, in misery, and feeling a sense of injustice. Their quest for revenge is in response to the evils which have been inflicted upon them.

The parallels between the nature of mankind and the nature of the creature, and the creature’s quest for revenge and Frankenstein’s quest for revenge, demonstrate that an extreme similarity exists between mankind and the creature. By having him be capable of both good and evil like mankind, by having his evil exacerbated through revenge like how it is in his human creator, and in that his quest for revenge comes from the same sense of injustice and misery that Frankenstein’s does, Shelly is demonstrating the ‘humanity’ of the creature. He is not a purely evil being bent on nothing but destruction, but rather a being capable of kindness and desiring companionship which is driven to evil because of injustice. He acts, and reacts, exactly like the humans of the story. With this in mind, an important recognition can be developed: if the monster is capable of good as well as evil, and thus isn’t a purely evil being, and if his quest for revenge is developed from a sense of injustice and misery, then perhaps he isn’t truly such a monster, or isn’t the monster of the story. After all, his evil is the same as that of his creator, as it came from their quests for revenge. Indeed, his evil is a reaction to the evil and injustice mankind inflicts upon him in the first place, despite his desire for companionship and kindness. If we do not consider Frankenstein a monster despite his evil quest for revenge, then can we consider the creature a monster too? After all, if he is driven to evil only after suffering it, as is the case with his creator, then perhaps the true monster in the story is the group which inflicts that evil in the first place: mankind.

Through the creature’s observations and interactions with mankind, Shelly develops a commentary on mankind’s capacity for both good and evil. They are capable of extraordinary kindness and compassion, as the family’s interactions demonstrate, but are also capable of ‘vicious and base’ evil, as shown by the way they mistreat the creature. The creature is also shown to be capable of both good and evil; the praise he gives to the humans for their positive actions and the charitable deeds he secretly commits for the family is a reflection of his own good and kind character, but the revenge he vows against mankind and the murders he commits are clearly a demonstration of the evil he is capable of as well. Of great importance is the parallel between Frankenstein’s actions and the actions of his creature; they are both driven to revenge because of evils committed against them. The similarity of the creature’s nature and of mankind’s nature is striking: they are both capable of good and evil and that evil is exacerbated by injustice committed against them, as seen in the case of the creature reacting to his isolation and rejection and Frankenstein in response to the murder of his friends and family. With this in mind, a new perspective on the actions and nature of the creature can be developed: it isn’t he who is the monster, for he is acting in response to injustice. Rather, that monster is mankind, which inflicts injustice in the first place and sets the evil of the story in motion.

My Mission to the Moon: A Kerbal Space Program Adventure

“Kerbal Space Program”, a recently released computer game, is something in a league of its own. It puts you in the shoes of an engineer designing and constructing rockets, satellites, rovers, landers, capsules, space stations, and an array of other vehicles and crafts for the imaginary “Kerbal space program”. It also allows you to serve as the pilot of these crafts, letting you travel and explore the deeply detailed and complex “Kerbal” solar system. What makes this game so fantastic is the level of complexity, and also the simplicity, involved in it. The physics of space, and all of the complex gravitational maneuvers required to land a probe on another planet from ours, are fully simulated and represented. Yet you don’t need to be an astrophysicist to play this game to its fullest (though it wouldn’t hurt to be one, either!). There are many shortcuts and assistants which the game provides to allow someone without even the slightest grasp of astrophysics and rocketry procedures (myself included) to quickly jump into the game, build some rockets, slap on some probes, and begin exploring the universe.

I’ve been playing this game a lot recently, and it continues to blow me away. I want to share my experience in this game, and allow others to see the incredible things it allows you to do, by detailing a mission from start to finish. I’ll begin by building my rocket, guide you through the entire rocket building process, take you along on my journey to my destination, demonstrate the complexities of space travel and how the game represents them and aids you along, and we’ll finally end our journey together when my probe completes its mission. Let’s begin!

Welcome to the rocket assembly plant. This is where all the action before the mission takes place. It’s here where you pick and choose parts to build your rocket, your probe, your space station, whatever you want. For our mission, I want to land a probe on the moon. The ‘Curiosity’ rover’s landing on Mars this summer has given me some inspiration, and I want to replicate that amazing accomplishment in this game of mine. While some people playing this game actually have designed and flown rovers and probes which function and look like Curiosity, the complexity of that rover is a bit too much for me at the current moment. We’re going to have to settle for something a little more simple.

(Click on images for full size)

KSP 2013-02-20 14-26-58-78How about this? I’ve put together a nice little landing probe. Attached are some solar panels, to provide it with a source of energy for when its deep in its journey and when it lands on the moon, some instruments and scientific gizmos to conduct research and take measurements, some light fixtures to illuminate our landing zone, some landing legs to provide us with a stable landing platform, and finally a nice little rocket and some fuel tanks to slow us on our final descent.

This lander will do a great job landing on the moon (I hope), but it won’t be able to get us there. For that we need to start attaching some rockets. I’m going to add to this probe a decoupler, which when activated will detach the probe from the parts below it, and then add a fuel tank and a rocket engine. Also included in the parts I’m throwing on the rocket are some RCS thrusters, which will allow me to make minute adjustments to my craft’s facing and direction while in space, and a SAS piece, which should provide my rocket with some stability while lifting off and prevent gyrations and other aerodynamic ‘wobbles’ which could ruin my liftoff. This stage should hopefully be powerful enough to transfer me from an orbit around our home planet into an orbit around the moon.KSP 2013-02-20 14-28-40-73This stage still isn’t enough to get us off the ground and into space. For that we’re going to need to pull out the big rockets. I’m attaching a major fuel tank to our smaller stage and the largest engine available to that fuel tank. I’m then attaching two other tanks and engines alongside the side of this fuel tank to provide us with even more thrust and fuel for liftoff. These extra tanks are attached with a decoupler, which will detach them from my rocket when they run out of fuel. To get an idea of what this will do, think about the Space Shuttle and its rocket boosters and how they detach after burning out. Something like that should happen for these fuel tanks. For good measure I’m also going to throw on some canards, which should hopefully provide us with some aerodynamic stability and lift while we’re on our way up into space. I reinforce all of the rocket with some metal rods, which should keep our rocket together in one piece, and we’re ready to go!

KSP 2013-02-20 14-33-19-78This is where it all happens. We’re sitting on the launch pad, waiting to lift off. On the left side of the screen is the information about my stages. Each of the separate stages are shown in a separate box, and each require separate activation to turn on. So, for example, I have to activate my two side engines first, followed by my central engine, and then, once they’re done burning, I need to activate the decouplers. The staging system in this game is really quite simple but allows for complex rocket functionality (as we’ll find out soon enough). The bottom of the screen shows my navigation ball; this provides me with all the navigation information I need to take my rocket and navigate it anywhere in the solar system. It’s quite intimidating at first, but once you get used to it it’s very straight-forward and incredibly useful. Finally, at the top of the screen is my altimeter, a gauge representing my vertical lift (which is useful in telling me if I’m going against the pull of gravity or being drug down) and a scale which shows how much atmosphere I’m still in (atmosphere slows a rocket considerably, so its useful to know when you’re still in or out of it).

KSP 2013-02-20 14-36-58-59Liftoff!

KSP 2013-02-20 14-41-31-82A few seconds later I activate my main, center rocket. By now we’re steadily gaining speed and lifting into the air. My engines are beginning to overheat, but that’s alright; so long as they aren’t pushed to the max, they won’t suffer any damage or lessened performance. I try to keep my rocket pointed straight up by following the alignment of my navigation ball.

KSP 2013-02-20 14-41-57-11Once we’ve hit a considerable altitude (for this rocket, about 30,000 meters), I begin to roll my rocket towards the east by navigating down the navigation ball towards the 90 degree marker. By doing this, I’ll be setting up an orbit which follows the rotation of the planet. This allows me to gain some extra momentum when trying to transfer to the moon. It’s complicated astrophysics stuff, but even a beginner like me, with enough experience, can pick up on some of these rocketry tricks.  turn the engines off. My engines are almost out of fuel, so I turn them off. We’re still gaining altitude, as we’re coasting towards the highest point of our orbit, the apoapsis. It is at the apoapsis where I will throttle my engines back up and try to circularize my orbit; the apoapsis is the point where the least energy and fuel is expended in return for the greatest adjustment to my orbit. KSP 2013-02-20 14-42-45-27Welcome to the map screen. Once you’re off the ground, this is where you spend much of your time. The line in blue is my current path; you can see that it will crash back into the ocean. I need to circularize my orbit, and by doing so actually create an orbit around the planet, by thrusting at my apoapsis. In order to do this, I create a maneuver at the apoapsis. The new orbit produced by this maneuver comes up in orange around my planet, and next to my navigation ball I’m given information about how far away I am from my maneuver point, where I will need to point my rocket during my maneuver, and how long I’ll need to burn my engines in order to accomplish my new orbit. It’s very intuitive, and even though I’m simply making a circular orbit right now using this process, I’m using the same tool which I would use to plan interplanetary transfers, land on other planets, and other very complex things.

KSP 2013-02-20 14-49-12-75After coasting for about a minute (which is how long it takes for my rocket to reach apoapsis), I align myself along the guideline presented to me on my navigation ball and begin to burn my engine for 20 seconds, the amount of time I’m told I need to burn in order to accomplish my new orbit. As I burn, the yellow bar next to my navigation ball begins to decline; this bar tells me how much more thrust I need to expend to achieve my new orbit.

KSP 2013-02-20 14-54-15-96Halfway through my burn, my two side engines run out of fuel. I detach them from my rocket, leaving me with just my center engine.  The discarded engine and fuel tanks will fall back to our planet, where they will be collected by the Kerbal Space Agency for reuse. To compensate for the decreased thrust I’m now putting out, I’m told I need to burn for a little bit longer.

KSP 2013-02-20 14-54-23-96A little bit longer into my burn, and my main engine runs out of fuel. I was hoping to be able to use it during my entire circularization burn, but I have enough fuel left in my upper stage to complete the burn. I detach the main fuel tank, which falls back to our planet, and continue my burn. Because my upper stage puts out much less thrust than the engines on the earlier stage, I need to burn for much longer.

KSP 2013-02-20 14-54-31-88As I expected though, I was still able to complete my maneuver, and I’m now in a fantastic orbit around my planet. Now I need to set up a maneuver to get us to the moon!

KSP 2013-02-20 14-55-02-61I do this by setting up another maneuver on my orbit (I told you this tool was incredibly handy!) This new maneuver will require me to burn my engines for 20 seconds once I’ve gone slightly passed my current orbit’s apoapsis. By doing this, as the new orange orbit line demonstrates, I’ll be in a path which will intersect the gravity of the moon. Once I’m in the moon’s gravity well, I’ll plan another maneuver to circularize my orbit around the moon and then bring my lander down to its surface.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-00-49-20As I maneuver my rocket into the position I need to be once I begin my burn by using my RCS thrusters, I also deploy my solar panels. This game simulates the electrical components of my spacecraft with much detail, meaning that I need to be sure my spacecraft gets energy or else it will power off in mid-flight and be unusable (which has happened to me before, and is quite annoying).

KSP 2013-02-20 15-03-33-52A dozen or so minutes go by, and we approach the point where we need to conduct our next burn. I retract the solar panels, because I don’t want them to get damaged during my burn, and because they’ve provided my batteries with enough energy stores to last us for a while. I’ll reactivate them once we’re on our way to the moon. The burn lasts 20 some seconds, and once it is complete we are on a trajectory which will bring us to the moon!

KSP 2013-02-20 15-06-33-19We’re on our way to the moon!

KSP 2013-02-20 15-08-48-21This game is also quite beautiful, and presents many opportunities for some fantastic photographs. Here our lander is on route to the moon, which stands small in the distance but is getting ever closer.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-09-18-43Three days go past as we’re in transit to the moon until we hit the moon’s gravity well. On the map, my current trajectory shows that I’ll smash head first into the moon! I’ve come in too directly, and the gravity of the moon will pull me straight into it. I thus create a maneuver which will bring me into an elliptical orbit around the moon before that happens; I should have enough fuel to be able to complete this burn and still bring us down for a nice landing.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-12-37-07I complete my burn, which takes only a few seconds, and am placed into an orbit around the moon which won’t result in my smashing straight into it. Meanwhile, I create a second maneuver which will bring me down onto the planet in the point of my choice; in this case, I want to land somewhere where my probe will be able to send messages to the home planet, and thus will be in sight of it. Of note is that my current orbit brings me as close as 5,000 meters to the moon at its periapsis, its lowest point. I’ll be hardly skimming its surface! This will allow me to take some fantastic pictures of the moon’s surface as I fly near; the scientists back home will be very pleased.KSP 2013-02-20 15-15-31-01Passing over the moon at our orbit’s lowest point as our planet slips underneath the horizon.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-18-10-62As I approach the point where I need to conduct my burn to get into a landing trajectory, I prepare my lander for landing. I extend the landing legs and retract my solar panels; they’ll be extended again once I land. I also extend my communications relays to send back information about my current journey to mission control. KSP 2013-02-20 15-19-36-76We’re now in landing mode. No longer can I rely upon the game providing me tools to calculate my orbital adjustments. I must do this all on my own. In order to slow my descent, I begin to burn along a guideline provided to me on my navigation ball which tells me where I must burn to decrease my orbit. I make sure that I burn enough to slow myself but not too much so that I quickly run out of fuel. KSP 2013-02-20 15-24-58-33This continues for at least a good minute. Coming down onto the surface is a slow and difficult task which requires careful maneuvering. One slip up, or if I run out of fuel too high, and my lander will become an experiment in impacting the moon’s surface at high speeds. KSP 2013-02-20 15-25-31-11At about 4,000 meters above the moon’s surface, the second stage of my spacecraft runs out of fuel. I detach it from my craft and it drops quickly to the surface of the moon; iIt has served me well. I was expecting it to run out of fuel as I slowed my descent, because one way or another I needed to detach it from my lander before the actual touchdown occurred. I now activate the rocket on my lander; it will do the rest of the work from here. The lander doesn’t have much fuel or much thrust, but in the vacuum of space the little thrust it does provide will be more than capable of doing the job. KSP 2013-02-20 15-25-35-64I slowly bring down my lander to the moon’s surface.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-25-55-79KSP 2013-02-20 15-27-23-04It requires careful maneuvering and a number of adjustments to the direction I’m pointed and the amount of thrust I’m producing, but after 2 minutes or so of landing, I touch down gently on the moon’s surface.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-27-41-50Mission complete! We’ve landed a lander on the moon!

KSP 2013-02-20 15-28-03-77 KSP 2013-02-20 15-27-54-99 It now begins taking measurements of the conditions on the moon and starts to relay that information back up to our home planet.

KSP 2013-02-20 15-29-00-05


The Army of Republican Rome vs the Zombie Hordes

The earliest Roman army existed under the kings until around 550 B.C., when the king Servius Tullius instituted the first Roman military reforms. This army was quite similar to the armies of the early feudal era; a series of clan-based war-bands, usually comprised of loyalty-bound patrons serving under their client, who supplied them with the necessary tools for war, would come to the aid of the King when called for and which only coalesced into a united force in periods of serious external threat. During this era, ‘warfare’ consisted of chronic small-scale raiding and pillaging against neighboring peoples, and set-piece battles between tribes and peoples were quite rare.

The adoption of Greek-style hoplite equipment in the 6th and 5th century B.C. changed the way the Roman army was equipped, organized, and how it fought. The introduction of metal body-armor and new military tactics such as the phalanx created a differentiation in the citizen-body between those wealthy enough to pay for such equipment (known as the classis, or “class”) and those who were not and continued to serve as unarmored light infantry (the infra classem, or “beneath the class”). The Roman King Servius Tullius introduced the so-called ‘Servian centuriate organization’, in which property-owning male citizens were divided into five classes for military service based on their wealth and then organized into centuries of 100 men as sub-units of the greater Roman legion. During this era, the Greek phalanx was the common military formation and form of battle. Roman soldiers would have looked very similar to the Greek hoplite armies of Alexander and Philip. Tactics were no different from those of the early Greeks and battles were joined on flat terrain; spearmen would deploy themselves in tightly packed rows to form a shield wall with their spears pointing forwards. They then charged the enemy supported by javelin throwers and slingers; the cavalry pursued the enemy, sometimes dismounting to support infantry in dire situations. The phalanx was a cumbersome military unit to maneuver and the Romans found themselves easily defeated by the more adaptable and maneuverable forces of the mountain tribes such as the Volsci or Samnites in rough terrain. During this period, the standard levy of a single legion numbered 9,000 men, with 6,000 hoplites; 2,400 light infantry; and 600 cavalry.

Plate_G-Late_Republican_ArmyAs time went on, military developments made the phalanx an outdated formation and way of battle. During the era of the ‘mid-Republic’, from around 300 B.C. until Gaius Marius’s reforms in 107 B.C., the Roman army now drew up in three lines (triplex acies) consisting of small units (maniples) of 120 men, arrayed in chessboard fashion instead of the single, large mass of the phalanx. This gave it a much greater tactical strength and flexibility . Instead of fighting with long spears, the Romans were equipped with javelins and the short sword, or gladius. During this period the Roman army was often accompanied by a non-citizen formation of roughly equal size to the legion, the ala, which recruited from Rome’s Italian allies. These were about 150 autonomous states which were bound by a treaty of perpetual military alliance with Rome, and their sole obligation was to supply to the Roman army, on demand, a number of fully equipped troops up to a specified maximum each year. The Republican army of this period, like its earlier forebear, did not maintain standing or professional military forces, but levied them, by compulsory conscription, as required for each campaigning season and disbanded thereafter. ‘Warfare’ was an annual, almost ritualistic occurrence, and during the campaigning season the Roman army almost always found itself on a mission. During this era the army was split into two legions of 4,500 men each.

It was during this era that the central tactic of the Roman army was a shock infantry-charge, designed to put the enemy to flight as quickly as possible. The heavy-armed legionaries would advance at a measured pace towards the enemy line. When the gap was only around 15m, each successive line of legionaries would fling their two javelins (pila), draw their swords and break into a run, yelling their war-cry and charging into the enemy line. Smashing the enemy in the face with their shield-bosses, legionaries would use their swords to stab the enemy in the groin, belly, or face, often inflicting fatal wounds. Against  tribal and unarmored enemies, the initial impact alone frequently resulted in the collapse of the enemy line. Against advanced enemies such as the Greeks, the initial impact would at least disrupt the enemy line and, in the ensuing melee, the Romans would benefit from their improved weaponry.

From the end of the Second Punic War in 201 B.C. onwards, the Republic’s army fought almost exclusively outside Italy in wars of conquest as Rome built a Mediterranean empire. This required men to remain under arms abroad for much longer periods, which was unpopular with the farmer-conscripts which made up the bulk of the earlier Roman army and who were concerned with the neglect of their lands. Their political pressure resulted in the passage of a law that conscripts could not be required to serve for more than 6 years consecutively. To circumvent this, it is believed that the army in this period recruited ever higher numbers of volunteers for long-term service. The most suitable such recruits were from the ranks of the landless lowest social class (proletarii) because they had no farms to tend and would be most attracted by the prospect of substantial gain in the form of booty. But these poor, despite being the largest social class, were excluded from service in the legions because they did not meet the minimum property-threshold required.

h12image011aThe consulship of Gaius Marius in 107 B.C. was the most dramatic reform to the Roman army since the development of its military organization by Servius almost 4 centuries earlier. Marius transformed the Roman army from a regularly-levied conscription force of farmer-soldiers into  a professional force drawing from the poorest classes, thereby enabling Rome to field larger armies and providing employment for jobless citizens of the city of Rome. The legions were divided into cohorts, which had  previously been temporary administrative units or tactical task forces of several maniples. Now the cohorts were ten permanent units, composed of 6 centuries  of 100 men each. Tactics were not very different from the past, but their effectiveness was largely improved because of the professional training of the soldiers. Marius also eliminated the notion of allied legions; after his reforms all Italian legions would be regarded as Roman legions, and full Roman citizenship was open to all the regions of Italy. At the same time, the three different types of heavy infantry were replaced by a single, standard type armed with two heavy javelins, the short sword, chain mail (lorica hamata), helmet, and rectangular shield (scutum).

Now that we understand the history of the development of the Roman Republican army, lets discuss the extent of the zombie outbreak. During these times, communication between cities and often between the rural settlements surrounding a city could take days. Though surrounding the city of Rome was a number of other major city-states, such as the major city of Veii only 20-some miles to the North, it would take some time for a rider on horseback to spread the news of an infection or for a boat to go up or down the Tiber and the coast of Italy to warn the provinces. I’m of the mind that, once a zombie outbreak begins to grow in size, the ability to contain it becomes exponentially more difficult. A zombie infection in Rome or in the surrounding countryside could potentially grow too large to contain before the news of it could reach the proper authorities due to the slow speed of communication.  Of course, we also need to bear in mind that people during this time weren’t especially spread across the landscape, but were rather clustered in population centers such as a city or in small manoral settlements. Throughout Republican Rome, most of the countryside was dotted with manors containing hundreds of people living and working on them. Because of this, you’d have concentrated outbreaks in these small areas, but then the zombies would need to wander the countryside for quite some time before finding more people to eat/infect. Thus, maybe the exponential growth of the undead rapidly infecting more and more people wouldn’t happen during this era because of the layout of the population, unless it started in a city.

How would the armies of Rome be able to react to and combat a zombie apocalypse? How would they do against an invasion of Gallic/Germanic zombies or against an outbreak in the lands around Rome? Where the zombies come from is of importance. If the infection begins in an outlying region of Rome, then it would be much easier for the Roman army to defeat it quickly. Either relying upon the armies of allied cities or upon a quick deployment and march to the infected area, the Roman army could conceivably overwhelm a zombie infection in its early stage, especially if it had failed to reach a major population center. In the case of a horde of Germanic zombies coming down from Germania or Gaul, the situation would likely be much different. The distance this horde would need to travel means that it would likely be considerably larger, especially considering that it would need to go through the heavily populated lands of the Etruscans.

The pre-Servian army would definitely get overrun. As it rarely came together as a unified force and was often made up of separate war-bands fighting autonomously, this army would likely be quickly overrun and defeated. Considering the difficulties of command and coordination during this time, organizing an effective defense against the zombies would be enormously challenging.

With the introduction of hoplite technology and the development of the Servian Et Tu 98organization, the Roman army would probably have been able to withstand an invasion somewhat better, but likely not for long. Fighting as a phalanx, it would need to funnel the zombies into a kill-zone and then hold them off at a distance with its spears. The difficulty of maneuvering this army, and the fact that the Roman army was often comprised of a single legion of 6,000 men for most of the mid-Republic means that an effective defense against thousands or hundreds of thousands of zombies was simply impossible. Also important was the fact that this army was made up of farmer-soldiers; they were often hostile to the idea of campaigning for prolonged periods of time, and would want to return home after the campaign season. Defending against the zombie hordes would need a prolonged campaign, perhaps of years, and the people populating the army at this time were simply not up for the task. This army would likely have failed defending against the zombie hordes, and historically it did fail against invading Gauls in 390 B.C., when they sacked the city of Rome. The post-Servian hoplite army would, like the pre-Servian war-bands, be ill suited.

The army of the mid-Republic was more maneuverable, tactically flexible, and larger than the army of the early Republic, but even then it too faced the same challenges as the early Roman army. Made up mostly of conscripted farmers, it would not be able to campaign for prolonged periods of time. The style of fighting it conducted would also likely be dangerous against zombies: using the short sword, the Romans would need to get within striking distance of a zombie, meaning that they were exposed to bites and infection. Roman armor of this time was heavier than before, but even this was no guarantee against the hordes.

The best chance the Roman army had against zombies is thus likely the post-Marian army, which was able to campaign for long periods of time and which was much more flexible tactically to allow for maneuvers and quick formation changes to counter the hordes. By this period of time, Rome was in full control of Italy, and would likely be able to deploy a legion from anywhere to counter an incoming zombie horde with ease. Still, the zombies would pose a serious threat to the army, and the fact that warfare during this time relied on hand-to-hand combat meant that the Roman soldier would be much more threatened by the zombies than a soldier armed with a gun. The fact that the Roman army was made up of set-piece armies and tight formations means that it would be trying to fight an uncoordinated zombie horde as a single force; it would be near impossible using these tactics and formations to sweep the countryside, rout out all zombies, and defeat any stragglers. In battles against the tribes and peoples of the Roman hills which found in an uncoordinated manner like how zombie hordes would attack the Roman army, the Romans found themselves taking serious losses and in a serious disadvantage.

Most likely, Rome would be overrun.

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