I recently finished recording the final volume of On War by Carl von Clausewitz for Librivox. Librivox recordings are legally available for free, and are in the public domain so you can reuse them for other projects. I’m really proud of how it has turned out, and the enormous effort that Linda and I put in during the recording. Thanks also to the support team, my proof listeners, and book co-coordinators. Volume 1 was recorded separately from the later two volumes.

The vast majority of people who follow this blog are roleplayers, and I’d like to suggest Clausewitz to them, particularly the early sections where he discusses the medieval conception of war. In my own abortive attempts at fiction, I’ve been trying to see how the medieval view of war could have affected significant events in the history of Mythic Europe. The key one, which I found amazing until Clausewitz discussed it, was the absolute certainty that medieval generals had that attack was the stronger form of war. If you were not certain of how you should act, then the default should be to throw your forces at the heart of the enemy.

Clausewitz points out that even medieval generals who were saying that attack was the strongest form did not, for the most part, actually act as if this were true.  When an army approached their city skilled generals did not, like the Greek phalanxes of old, abandon their walls and meet the enemy on the plain. This would be the obvious choice if you really did feel that attack were the stronger form. Generals often did ridiculous things, like march their armies up mountains. This was because many generals had very little combat experience and so were dependant on theories in books, one of which was that if you commanded the source of a river, you effectively controlled everything downstream. We may presume that the magi of the Schism War, similarly, sometimes fell into tactical error.

I think the belief that attack was the stronger form possibly led to repeated over-extensions of force, during the Schism War. This might explain how the Tremere were able to destroy the Diedne. If the Diedne were on the attack in their final battle, it makes sense that they could be completely eliminated.  This makes less sense for a siege in which the Tremere are the aggressors.

We have heard that at the Battle of the Tempest, the great Diedne and Mercurian Flambeau rituals were cast at the same time, and os both groups killed the other. This seems unlikely, just in terms of timing. I’d suggest that the Diedne actually won the Tempest, and that the idea that the Flambeau killed them Phyrrically is a later, historical addition. After destroying the main Flambeau force, the Diedne struck out at their enemies, abandoning the safety of the defensive, and were destroyed by a counterstroke from the Tytalus or Tremere.

2 replies on “On War : Clausewitz and Mythic Europe

  1. That’s an interesting way of looking at the Schism War. As discussed recently I always intended to get around to reading Clauswitz since he was referenced in a book on Medieval warfare I read years back. Perhaps Librivox will be the way to do it, eh?


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