Alternate History

Hieron Reforms (Hannibal's World)

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Marius Glyptothek Munich 319

Hiero Barca II, leader of the Hieron Reforms

The Hieron Reforms were a series of economic and military reforms instituted by the statesmen and general Hiero Barca. The reforms drastically changed the Carthaginian military system and caused ample change to Carthage's economic strategy as well. The Hiero Reforms would shape Carthage's military into the best in the world for nearly 600 years.

Carthaginian Army before Hieron Reforms

Before Hiero the Carthaginians relied heavily upon a system of hiring mercenary armies from foreign nations to fight for them. After a war these mercenaries would be paid and they would disperse. Each mercenary unit was expected to bring its own weapons and equipment and to receive its own training. This made a mercenary army very diverse as many of its soldiers carried different equipment and came from different countries, making them culturually and ethnically different. It also meant that each invididual unit had its own strengths and weaknesses and had to be positioned according to the enemy's troop positions. This was difficult against opponents who were keen to suddenly switching their troop positions (such as the Scipios did at the Battle of Ilipa during the Scipian Rebellion). Generals who were lazy or arrogant would charge into battle without studying their troops strengths and would be routed or destroyed. Only generals who were hardworking and spent hours studying the strengths and weaknesses of his troops (the most famous being Hannibal Barca) could win with an army of mercenaries.

Following the conclusion of the Third Mercenary War, Hiero Barca (now a Shofet) had the political and popular support to pass his multiple reforms. Using the reasoning he was attempting to prevent another costly mercenary war he passed a series of military reforms intent on permanently abolishing the mercenary system and establishing a new Carthaginian military structure.

Hieron Reforms

The first and most important change made by the Hieron reforms was the formation of a standing army. Hiero proposed that rather than find and hire mercenaries Carthage instead offer a job to citizens as a full time soldier, receiving full time pay. This created and army of professional soldiers who were paid, even in times of peace, to be ready to fight for Carthage. Drilling and training took place year round, not just when war loomed. Since many of the citizens who joined were of the poor lower class who could not afford good equipment he arranged for the state to buy and supply weapons, equipment, and other necessities. While doing this he also standardized the strenghts and weaknesses of the army. To further standardize it he had all generals and commanders use the same tactics and techniques, thus making the army's fighting style one solid method.

By offering employment as a professional soldier he offered the large and disenfranchines masses of Carthage a solid source of income, a way to gain status and spoils on a campaign.

Hieron created large units of soldiers which he named the Drachion. A Drachion was usually composed of 7,000 troops, of which only 5,500 were fighting soldiers. The rest were classified as non-combatants and usually were engineers, cooks, attendants and slaves. A Drachion was further divided into 10 Hilia of 7 Ekatons each. An Ekaton marched as a unit, camped as a unit and fought as a unit. The Ekaton carried with it all materials needed to feed it and maintain it as a fighting unit. Each Drachionarie (member of a Drachion) was required to carry his own equipment such as armor, weapons and several days of rations. The sight of soldiers carrying such large amounts of material earned them the nickname "Hiero's Camels." The change drastically shortened the length of a baggage train needed to supply such a large amount of men and made a Drachion much more mobile and easier to move throughout a region. The Drachion were kept in peak physical condition by constant training and drilling. A typical Carthaginian army consisted of 2-5 Drachions combined into one force.

The third major reform instituded by Hiero was the distribution of conquered lands and a pension to retired Drachionaries. Drachionaries were granted lands in provinces in which they had conquered, put down a revolt, or simply guarded against invasion. They were also given a pension after retirement paid by the state.

Impact of the Hieron Reforms

The first and foremost impact the reforms had was on the military, who's fighting capacity was greatly improved by the new system. No longer did a General have to find and recruit mercenaries and subsequently pay them afterward, now they were simply assigned a certain amount of Drachion with which to fight. The Drachion, who consisted of battle hardened and constantly-trained troops were nearly undefeatable in open battle. This combined with the growing Carthaginian military technology continued Carthaginian success in the battlefield.

Another benefit of the reforms was the settlement of retired veterans on conquered land, thus helping "Carthaginize" a region and decrease chances of revolt or discontent with Carthaginian rule.

A danger of the reforms however was the threat that a Drachion would become more loyal to its General than to the state. To minimize this threat the Carthaginian Senate often "swapped" generals or Drachions, constantly shifting a general or a Drachion so that one Drachion did not fight for too long under one man and so one General did not gain too much loyalty with his Drachions. Though this meant that a General was a little unfamiliar with his Drachion it still did not change the success on the battlefield of the Drachion.

Subsequent Modifications

To supplement the Drachions the Carthaginian Senate eventually began recruiting auxiliary/allied units, called Auxilia. These were local soldiers recruited from a region and given minimal training and supplies, however if they completed their term of service with the Drachion they were granted Carthaginian citizenship. Each Drachion also had a specialist unit known as the Technicales (technicians) who were usually specialist units such as artillerymen, siege craftsmen, engineers, cooks, attendants and laborers.

Along with pay as a professional soldiers Carthaginian citizens could now become officers and high ranking military officials without being a member of an aristocratic family. The de facto commander of a Drachion was a Stratego, usually drawn from the aristocracy of Carthage, however usually an official or governor would be assigned to lead Drachions into battle. Subsequently each Hilia was divided into seven Ekatons, each commanded by an Ekatonian. The first Hilia was considered the most prestigious while the tenth the least. The same system was used for the Ekatons, thus to be the Ekatonian of the first Ekaton in the first Hilia was a very prestigious rank and was called the Kyrie Ekatonian (Senior Ekatonian.) The Senior Ekatonian was usually a career solider and an advisor to the Stratego. Other ranks included the Aquilifer, Kyrie Sef, Oeconomus, and the Cornicen. The Aquifiler carried the Drachion's Crescent Standard and was considered the rallying point of the Drachion. The Kyrie Sef (Senior Chef) was in charge of gathering and preparing the massive amounts of food required for the Drachion. The Oeconomus (roughly translated to Manager) was in charge of keeping inventory on the baggage train and managing the extensive system of support. The Cornicen carried the brass horn used by the Drachion and was key in battles as they blew battle formations, attacks, retreats, and many other notes. Usually this was the only way for Drachionaries to hear commands from their superiors.

Each Drachion had a baggage 600-700 mules, or about 1 mule for every 10 Drachionaries. To keep the baggage trains from becoming too long Hiero had each Drachionarie carry as much of his own equipment as he could, thus earning each Drachionarie the nickname "Hiero's Camel." The Oeconomus traveled with the baggage train and supervised their maintainance and care, making sure nothing was pilfered and that all supplies arrived safely and on time.

Hundreds of years later under Shofets such as Brasdrual and others the amount of Drachionaries in a Drachion would be reduced to 1,000, roughly the amount of one auxilary unit. This made the Drachions more mobile and fit the late Carthaginian Republic better as it had become massive and minimizing the amount of Drachionaries helped get troops to areas which needed them the most. These Drachions were made up of lighter infantry or archers and the idea of heavy infantry and cavalry had largely been discarded by then. Except in regard to citizenship (and even then not always), they were, in fact, no longer distinguished, if distinguished at all, from auxiliary units raised from barbarians within and outside the Republic. These later Drachions should not to be confused with the Drachions consisting of heavy infantry in the early Republic.

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