Donald Engels

in The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780195304657
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This chapter summarizes the basic literature on ancient logistics, and addresses the important limitations of the ancient overland transport of food and water. It then explores the responses of military commanders, especially Alexander the Great, to these limitations. Two actual cases are covered, where terrain, climate, weather, troop numbers, the capabilities of land, sea, and river transport had impacted the overall strategy. The first case considers Alexander the Great's crossing of the Gedrosian Desert in southern Pakistan and Iran, and the second looks at the logistic considerations that affected the establishment of the Roman frontier along the Rhine River in Germany. The total numbers of men, pack animals, cavalry horses, and followers are the most significant factor influencing an army's logistic capability. The maintenance of the safety of the army's food supplies and the health of the troops has been vital for any competent commander.

Keywords: ancient logistics; food; water; Alexander the Great; Gedrosian Desert; Rhine River; troop numbers

Article.  8833 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies

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