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Old 06-20-2013, 01:00 PM
davidborts davidborts is offline
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If a NFL player was transported back to ancient times, how well would he fare as a warrior?

As the question says, imagine a NFL linebacker being transported to roman times, how prized would he be as a soldier?
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:06 PM
running coach running coach is offline
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Probably none. He's had no training in the weapons of the era and the only violence he's used to, is in the game with protective gear.

ETA: The warriors he would face have grown up swinging swords, carrying shields and such. The football player would very quickly(minutes most likely) trying to tote that stuff.

Last edited by running coach; 06-20-2013 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:50 PM
yellowjacketcoder yellowjacketcoder is offline
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He would be bigger and stronger than most others, and while pads are designed to be light, i think he could handle the armor of the time just fine.

The problem will be expertise: he has no idea how to use a gladius and is probably more of a danger to himself than others.
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:50 PM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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He would be Goliath and legends would be told about the normal sized soldier who defeated him.
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:53 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Would his agent go back with him? How soon could he negotiate a new contract?
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Old 06-20-2013, 01:56 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Someone might call him spearchucker, and he might not like that.
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Old 06-20-2013, 02:02 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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I suppose he could train up with the weapons & armor, but it would take a lot of time to retrain from "All out ambush & grapple with brief breaks between action" to "Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!"
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Old 06-20-2013, 02:12 PM
running coach running coach is offline
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Originally Posted by yellowjacketcoder View Post
He would be bigger and stronger than most others, and while pads are designed to be light, i think he could handle the armor of the time just fine.
That kind of size and strength doesn't give the endurance to wear heavy armor for hours.
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Old 06-20-2013, 02:21 PM
Furious_Marmot Furious_Marmot is offline
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Would a modern elite athlete be able to keep up their level of physical fitness without the special diets, drugs, and small army of trainers, nutritionists, doctors, etc.?
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Old 06-20-2013, 02:32 PM
blindboyard blindboyard is offline
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Originally Posted by shiftless View Post
He would be Goliath and legends would be told about the normal sized soldier who defeated him.
cf Titus Manlius.

According to Polybius the Romans saw small size as not a bad thing, as it with a short sword allows one to get inside the reach of some wild-swinging barbarian.

Notice that ancient athletes, Olympians and so on, weren't generally soldiers, and cities dominating the Olympics (like Kroton) had no notable military successes.
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Old 06-20-2013, 02:46 PM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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The football player would crush. Today's football players are bigger and stronger than players from just 20 years ago, and they're exponentially bigger and stronger than the ancients. It wouldn't even be a fair fight.
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Old 06-20-2013, 02:54 PM
Great Antibob Great Antibob is offline
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The football player would crush.
In a regular army? We're not talking 1 on 1 battles.

And even if we were, put a sword in the hand of an experienced swordsman and one in the hands of the NFL player, and it won't be close. NFL players aren't trained in armed combat.

Heck, that already happens now. NFL players who do MMA type stuff have a strength and conditioning advantage but they aren't appreciably better than the better trained fighters. It's an entirely different skillset.
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Old 06-20-2013, 03:28 PM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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In a regular army? We're not talking 1 on 1 battles.

And even if we were, put a sword in the hand of an experienced swordsman and one in the hands of the NFL player, and it won't be close. NFL players aren't trained in armed combat.

Heck, that already happens now. NFL players who do MMA type stuff have a strength and conditioning advantage but they aren't appreciably better than the better trained fighters. It's an entirely different skillset.
Just for perspective... have you seen an NFL linebacker up close and in person? Ken Harvey uses the same gym and when you see him in the locker room he is huge, ginormous, a force of nature that you want on your side in a dark alley. And he's 48 now. I wasn't there but I don't think the ancients were on average as big as the NFL players of today. Big guys beat small guys all the time every time. Besides... the OP asked: would NFL linebackers be prized as soldiers with no mention of weapons. And even so, I'm sure an NFL linebacker could learn to use a sword after which he would be even more of a bad mf'er. There's a reason those guys are paid millions... they are unique specimens.
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Old 06-20-2013, 03:38 PM
Regallag_The_Axe Regallag_The_Axe is offline
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Originally Posted by Lukeinva View Post
Just for perspective... have you seen an NFL linebacker up close and in person? Ken Harvey uses the same gym and when you see him in the locker room he is huge, ginormous, a force of nature that you want on your side in a dark alley. And he's 48 now. I wasn't there but I don't think the ancients were on average as big as the NFL players of today. Big guys beat small guys all the time every time. Besides... the OP asked: would NFL linebackers be prized as soldiers with no mention of weapons. And even so, I'm sure an NFL linebacker could learn to use a sword after which he would be even more of a bad mf'er. There's a reason those guys are paid millions... they are unique specimens.
You're really underestimating skill. It takes thousands of hours to become an expert in something and ancient soldiers would have spent lots of time training. A little guy who knows how to fight will wipe the floor with a big guy who doesn't every time. When deadly weapons come into the equation skill matters even more.

Last edited by Regallag_The_Axe; 06-20-2013 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 03:47 PM
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The problem is size. A linebacker would tower over the other soldiers and would become the default spear/arrow target by the other side.
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Old 06-20-2013, 04:44 PM
Great Antibob Great Antibob is offline
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Originally Posted by Lukeinva View Post
Besides... the OP asked: would NFL linebackers be prized as soldiers with no mention of weapons.
I'd like to know the last army to field soldiers without any weapons. It's been rather a given for thousands of years.

This is especially true of the Roman era the OP mentioned. Training was severe and discipline tight. In fact, that was the hallmark of early Roman Imperial armies. They didn't rely on single huge brutes to fight hordes of enemy soldiers Hollywood-style (also one of the many, obvious inaccuracies found in 300). They relied on keeping in tight formation and following orders. Being significantly larger or smaller than your mates was actually a disadvantage.

Now the following is just a wild guess, but I even presume the earliest deadly scuffles between small pre-historic tribes also involved clubs, spears, and maybe even simple knives and not just a single dude going Rambo with his bare hands.

And that seems to be the problem. We have the notion of a single, unbeatable hero deeply ingrained in us starting with fairy tales from birth. Real badass heroes like Rambo or Prince Charming or Lancelot don't really exist. Mostly a guy is just a guy, unless he has a brilliant strategic mind and had the luck to be born into a noble enough and rich enough family to field an army or serve as an officer in one.

Last edited by Great Antibob; 06-20-2013 at 04:48 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:09 PM
lisiate lisiate is online now
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Originally Posted by Furious_Marmot View Post
Would a modern elite athlete be able to keep up their level of physical fitness without the special diets, drugs, and small army of trainers, nutritionists, doctors, etc.?
The ancients were pretty damn fit themselves. I doubt whether all the things you listed amount to more than a 10% edge for the modern athlete.

As for the OPs question - a modern NFL player transported back to Roman times would be as prized as any other large barbarian. Raw athletic ability is good and all but skill really does matter.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:13 PM
Valgard Valgard is offline
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Originally Posted by Lukeinva View Post
Just for perspective... have you seen an NFL linebacker up close and in person? Ken Harvey uses the same gym and when you see him in the locker room he is huge, ginormous, a force of nature that you want on your side in a dark alley. And he's 48 now. I wasn't there but I don't think the ancients were on average as big as the NFL players of today. Big guys beat small guys all the time every time. Besides... the OP asked: would NFL linebackers be prized as soldiers with no mention of weapons. And even so, I'm sure an NFL linebacker could learn to use a sword after which he would be even more of a bad mf'er. There's a reason those guys are paid millions... they are unique specimens.
Oh piffle. Mariusz Pudzianowski (winner of the "World's Strongest Man" title multiple times) is an absolute beastly slab of muscle but as an MMA fighter he's mediocre. Sure he's strong as hell and he'd tear someone like me to shreds, but put him against someone who spent years learning how to fight, as opposed to just building strength, and he gets beat up. And that's unarmed combat. There are plenty of examples showing what happens when a more skilled little guy fights a less skilled bigger guy. Spoiler - the big guy does not beat the small guy every time.

A big strong athlete may make a better soldier after he puts in the same amount of actual "soldiery training" as someone who isn't in as good shape, but he still isn't immune to having a sharp hunk of metal shoved through his body.

And NFL players are not paid millions because they are unique specimens, they are paid millions because they play a big-money sport. I'm sure a SEAL is just as much, if not more, a unique specimen as any pro athlete and they aren't getting rich off that job.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:30 PM
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I imagine our time-transported linebacker might make for a terrific gladiator school candidate.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:35 PM
Werekoala Werekoala is offline
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How about "would a properly trained NFL player be a prized warrior" instead? I'm not certain, but I assume most Roman soldiers joined up about the time top-prospect football players start college (17-19) and I doubt any of them came to the table with skills in swordsmanship, they had to be taught. So take, say, a 21 or 22 year old NFL rookie, with all the attendant physical prowess, and induct him into a Legion. Admittedly, he'd be behind the curve of some of his Roman compatriots, but with proper training, on top of the physical "freakishness" of most NFL players (and yes, they are all huge by selection, even "small" players like running backs are usually in the 6' range, and Quarterbacks are considered puny if they don't hit around 6'2"+), the I think by the time he was 24 he'd be something to contend with.

Also don't forget that aside from linemen, most position players have lightning reflexes, speed, and agility. Linebackers, maybe not as much, but receivers, defensive backs, etc. would be stunning athletes in the Roman world - as they are in ours. I think most people forget that because they see 22 men of very similar abilities going at each other on the field, so they tend to forget that any one of them is a marvel of modern science, nutrition, and genetic predisposition.

Although I think sending only one back would be pointless, militarily - however he would likely have a shot at becoming the most reknown gladiator of all time.

Last edited by Werekoala; 06-20-2013 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:36 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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And NFL players are not paid millions because they are unique specimens, they are paid millions because they play a big-money sport. I'm sure a SEAL is just as much, if not more, a unique specimen as any pro athlete and they aren't getting rich off that job.
The real question is how skilled the ancient soldiers really were. Since people are imagining them to be the equivalent of SEALs today, I wonder how accurate that really is? I assume that the overwhelming majority of ancient soldiers of any type weren't especially skilled at fighting either plus most were small by today's standards, and many were weakened in body and mind by malnutrition.

I think people are trying to make the comparison based on what they saw in movies rather than reality. Instead of thinking of a fictionalized image of, say, Roman Gladiators or Vikings, wouldn't it be more accurate to look at soldiers in 3rd world countries today or to known professional soldiers in more recent times like sailors on sailing ships to make the comparison?
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Old 06-20-2013, 06:21 PM
isaiahrobinson isaiahrobinson is offline
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Men in Ancient Rome were much smaller than men today. The average male height back then was probably around 5'5 or so. A man standing 5'10 would have been enormous, and they would not have had the nutrition, science or training equipment to bulk up modern-day footballers do.

If you put an NFL player who was, say, 6'2 and well-built, but physically fit and agile, he would be an absolute monster in Roman times. If you threw him straight into a ring then clearly he would lack technical ability with the shields and weapons, but after some training his reach, strength, power and speed would make him almost unstoppable.
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Old 06-20-2013, 06:26 PM
aNewLeaf aNewLeaf is offline
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So who would a Roman commander pick, the NFL linebacker or Bruce Lee?
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Old 06-20-2013, 06:59 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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I imagine our time-transported linebacker might make for a terrific gladiator school candidate.
Which begs the hijack: If we send back the biggest, fastest, most ill-tempered slab of NFL beefcake and plonk him right down in the middle of Rome, wouldn't the odds be pretty good he'd get hustled straightaway to arena? I mean, dude's go no money, minimal language skills if he's very clever, no connections, no property...just beef, temper, speed and soon a hunger for calories that will bring him to bay within 24 hours. Was there any sort of Roman legal support to keep from becoming enslaved and used for public amusement?
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Old 06-20-2013, 07:10 PM
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I am not so sure about just how tough an NFL player is. I watched a fly-on-the-wall programme from a London A&E the other day. It featured two members of a professional American football team with injuries bad enough to require hospital treatment.

Once they had stipped off all the padding, they didn't look so big. The guy who had been knocked off a roof by a scaffold pole looked bigger and tougher, and he only had a headache.

Last edited by bob++; 06-20-2013 at 07:12 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 07:20 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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You're really underestimating skill. It takes thousands of hours to become an expert in something and ancient soldiers would have spent lots of time training. A little guy who knows how to fight will wipe the floor with a big guy who doesn't every time. When deadly weapons come into the equation skill matters even more.
Which ancient soldiers and what were they training for specifically? There may have been a few notable examples of that but most ancient soldiers were the same type of people that are used in the military in the 3rd World today and even in the U.S. up until recent times. They were usually very young men who were either forced to fight or too poor to have any other options. Slap a uniform on them and send them out to kill or be killed. Other than that, they are exactly like any other teenager and I am pretty sure an NFL player could take out your typical teenager. All he has to do is tackle him and hold him down.

I have no idea where people are getting these ideas about extremely well-conditioned and well-trained soldiers in ancient times being the norm anywhere. They couldn't spend a lot of time and resources training individual soldiers because that investment could go poof as soon as he came down with a single illness let alone a battle injury that would be easily treatable today.

Please tell us real historical examples of the types of comparisons you are actually using for your answer. 'Ancient soldiers' is a pretty broad category.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 06-20-2013 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 07:30 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Once they had stipped off all the padding, they didn't look so big. The guy who had been knocked off a roof by a scaffold pole looked bigger and tougher, and he only had a headache.
Don't let the TV fool you because it is really deceptive. They are shockingly big and well-muscled although the type of development depends largely on the position they play. I live fairly close to the New England Patriots home stadium and many of the players live near me. I am always stunned when I see one of them in the supermarket or some place like Home Depot. It isn't that I am celebrity struck. I don't know who most are individually especially by looking at their face. However, it is blatantly obvious when you round a corner and almost run into one just because of their overall size, proportions and level of muscle development. I am not small myself and I know it would be suicidal to get into a fight with one.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 06-20-2013 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 06-20-2013, 08:22 PM
Regallag_The_Axe Regallag_The_Axe is offline
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Which ancient soldiers and what were they training for specifically? There may have been a few notable examples of that but most ancient soldiers were the same type of people that are used in the military in the 3rd World today and even in the U.S. up until recent times. They were usually very young men who were either forced to fight or too poor to have any other options. Slap a uniform on them and send them out to kill or be killed. Other than that, they are exactly like any other teenager and I am pretty sure an NFL player could take out your typical teenager. All he has to do is tackle him and hold him down.
That's true of many ancient cultures, but the OP said Rome. Rome won it's empire by making sure it's soldiers were better equipped, better led, more disciplined, and more skilled than it's neighbors.

Also of note is the fact that once a soldier (from any era) has survived some battles he will have become a better fighter, with better instincts, more familiarity with his equipment, etc. Since the OP asked how prized the NFL player would be as a warrior I would say, 'less prized than a relatively young veteran with good health.'
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Old 06-20-2013, 08:25 PM
Mr. Kobayashi Mr. Kobayashi is offline
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He also has the advantage of modern nutrition, a significant part of his conditioning.

The manipular legion was based on the mechanical action of well-drilled soldiers, not acts of individual heroism, that was how barbarians fought. As a towering novelty he might end up in the arena.

Ironically his tall and heavy stature may preclude him from the higher echelons of Roman society, the equestrians who could afford the upkeep of a horse and rode on the wings of a legion's infantry into battle. Even in auxilia cavalry, it should be quickly apparent that a man of that size is ill-suited for horsemanship.

By way of comparison, this states that the height requirement for a legion recruit was 5'5", average soldier height being 5'7". Requirements for elite units like the Praetorian Guard were higher, so he may have fit in there if he could get admitted - where little actual fighting was required. Without any combat skills, he is unlikely to be admitted even into the auxilia - Rome liked to recruit non-Roman citizens into specialised roles like light cavalry, slingers and archers.

Addressing the elephant in the room; his strength and endurance would make him highly valued as a slave; as a state-owned slave (servus publicus) in construction work, hauling loads of the mines or privately owned - farmers would love a muscled behemoth to dig and plough their fields. Being unable to speak either vulgar Latin or classical Greek would significantly increase his chances of this, as he obviously is not a Citizen - which would also exclude him from the legion. Without a sestertius to his name he may be forced into debt slavery to pay for food and board.

The Germanic tribes adored the concept of individual warrior tales and shock troops, as a hulking giant the tribal chieftain might consider him best used in a berserker formation - get the largest, angriest men you have, get them pissed up and drugged on hallucinogenic mushrooms then throw them at the enemy.
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Old 06-20-2013, 08:34 PM
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I'd train him to use a big battle axe.
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Old 06-20-2013, 10:13 PM
lisiate lisiate is online now
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I'm not so sure if your NFL linebacker has the endurance to march 20 roman miles in 5 hours and then build a fortified camp at the end. Standard practice for the Roman legionary.

This article has a good estimation of the size and endurance of a Roman legionary, based on Vegetius' account.

Height requirement from Vegetius, and a weight estimation from the article's authors:

Quote:
“The height of recruits was, I know, always required to be up to the incomma so that men of 6 foot or 5 foot 10 inches were approved for the alares cavalry or the First cohort of the legions”, a minimum height of between 5 foot 11 inches and 5 foot 9 inches in modern measure, with “broad chest, muscular shoulders, strong arms”; a body weight of 80–90 kg would therefore seem a reasonable estimate.
Marching speed requirements:
Quote:
As the Roman mile was equivalent to 1665 modern Imperial yards, the Roman pound was
0.721 pounds avoirdupois, and the hour was then a flexible unit of one twelfth of the
daylight hours (the standard modern hour being a relatively recent—that is, 14th
century—development), this corresponds to a march rate of some 3.4 mph at the full step and
2.85 mph at the military step, carrying 43 lb 4 oz avoirdupois.
Modern measurements of the physiological demands of these requirements.
Quote:
The unladen full step resulted in a mean VO2 of 1.43 (0.05) litres/min (mean
(SD)). Interestingly, the military step, with the subjects laden with weights totalling 20 kg distributed to the ankles, wrists, and shoulders (5,
5, and 10 kg respectively), resulted in a VO2 response that was remarkably similar—that is,
1.42 (0.10) litres/min.
Overall conclusion:

Quote:
As sustained activity of this duration is likely to be performed at or below the lactate threshold (on average, about 50% of the maximum VO2 in normal subjects), a value of 3.5
litres/min, or some 40 ml/kg/min, seems reasonable for the VO2MAX of the most poorly
accomplished of the first cohort.We know this as failure to maintain the march pace was
traditionally punishable by death
. How much higher might be characteristic of the most
accomplished legionaries can only be conjectured.

These estimates of the paleo-bioenergetics suggest that the ancient Roman legionary was a
well trained endurance athlete, even by modern military standards. But it is also apparent from
the equivalence of the metabolic rates of the unladen full step and the laden military step
that the ergonomic advisers to the Roman military seem to have had a good understanding
of the energy demands of sustained activity. How they established this challenges the
imagination.
Note the italics added.

So a Roman legionary had to be able to march 18 or so modern miles in five hours whilst carrying their equipment. If our hypothetical NFL player can't do this then he would face a cut far more severe than losing out on some pay.
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Old 06-20-2013, 10:50 PM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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It used to be that the sports top athletes were either big or fast. Now, they are both big and fast. Bubba Smith and Alan Page changed the paradigm back in 1966 because of their size and speed. Now, at 6'7" and 275 they would be average. Magic Johnson changed basketball by being a 6' 9" point guard.

Don't just look at football but look at basketball. Shaq and LeBron are monsters with great athleticism. Look at boxers. Floyd Patterson was heavyweight champion at 195 lbs. Now they are pushing 6'7" and 300 lbs. Look at hockey players. Dave Keon was a star at 5'5". Now that is too small to play Junior A. Now there are players over 6'9". Goalies are over 6'5". Tell me that goalies aren't quick and agile. Also, they carry a lot of weight with their equipment.

The competition is such today that all those big guy are very quick and are tremendously skilled athletes. They are not soft. They train continually. A couple months of training would teach them all they needed to know. Something tells me that not only would they destroy a gladiator of 40 years ago but a Roman gladiator would probably refuse to go up against them.

Wladimir Klitschko is the example of someone that should be feared by anyone that isn't carrying a firearm.
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:03 PM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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Oh, and I should have added, there is an old saying, "the victory doesn't always go to the biggest and the fastest but that's the way to bet."
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:13 PM
Rick Rick is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
Once they had stipped off all the padding, they didn't look so big. The guy who had been knocked off a roof by a scaffold pole looked bigger and tougher, and he only had a headache.
Never met an NFL player IRL I'm guessing.
I'm 5'7". I met Deacon Jones once. When we shook hands we were eyeball to tie tac. That man was huge and the current players are bigger and faster than he was.
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Old 06-20-2013, 11:41 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by lisiate View Post
I'm not so sure if your NFL linebacker has the endurance to march 20 roman miles in 5 hours and then build a fortified camp at the end. Standard practice for the Roman legionary.

So a Roman legionary had to be able to march 18 or so modern miles in five hours whilst carrying their equipment. If our hypothetical NFL player can't do this then he would face a cut far more severe than losing out on some pay.
There is no way a Roman athlete has the endurance or skill to beat a modern NFL player on any of those measures. Of course they can do all of that. Military recruits do it all the time at least for special training and there are thousands of those. Hell, I could do that at least in 20's and could probably do it now with some notice.

I don't think this should be about the NFL in particular. I would extend it to any professional athlete in American football, hockey, basketball, soccer and probably down to the college or high school level.

Athletes are massively bigger, stronger, and have more endurance than they had even 50 or 100 years ago let alone Roman times. Remember the story of the first Marathon? The point to that is that it was a story of extreme dedication to the cause and the hero died after the finish line. Now regular people run multiple marathons for fun and even go well beyond that to engage in things like Iron Man triathlons and the vast majority of them never get paid a cent for it.

Imagine the best athlete you have ever known personally and chances are that he did not make it into professional sports and probably did not even do so well at the college level. My high school was hotbed of football talent for high school and college and we produced a grand of one NFL player who had a mediocre career. Many of the rest could still bench press over 300 lbs by the time they were 16 years old and also competed well in track events.

I think people are greatly underestimating what it takes to make it to the NFL while overestimating how good the ancient soldiers like the Romans were.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 06-20-2013 at 11:46 PM.
  #36  
Old 06-21-2013, 12:59 AM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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How about "would a properly trained NFL player be a prized warrior" instead? I'm not certain, but I assume most Roman soldiers joined up about the time top-prospect football players start college (17-19) and I doubt any of them came to the table with skills in swordsmanship, they had to be taught.
I don't know how things were done in ancient Rome, but in the Middle Ages boys could become pages at about the age of eight. This involved attending to a knight, helping with maintenance of armor and weapons, and beginning to learn combat skills. He could become a squire at 14 and, if he made the cut, a knight by his early 20s. By that time he would have been practicing his skills for over a decade.

But I would expect that a bigger problem for our time-traveling NFL player would be that he's probably not used to being expected to actually kill people or fend off people who are sincerely trying to kill him. That, plus the harsh and unhygienic battlefield conditions and plain old culture shock would all presumably be very distressing. Just being big and strong isn't going to make him happy with his new situation or help him to deal with the stress, fear, and loneliness.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:41 AM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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But I would expect that a bigger problem for our time-traveling NFL player would be that he's probably not used to being expected to actually kill people or fend off people who are sincerely trying to kill him. That, plus the harsh and unhygienic battlefield conditions and plain old culture shock would all presumably be very distressing. Just being big and strong isn't going to make him happy with his new situation or help him to deal with the stress, fear, and loneliness.
That is a good point but plenty of NFL players had their share of legal incidents including violent crimes off the field. These aren't video characters raised in isolation. A lot of them know how to fight quite well and use weapons too.

You could always cherry-pick a mean one, send him back and say something like "Hey, you see those legionnaires over there? They all slept with Nicole last night." Stand back and just watch the carnage.
  #38  
Old 06-21-2013, 01:55 AM
Valgard Valgard is offline
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Remember the story of the first Marathon? The point to that is that it was a story of extreme dedication to the cause and the hero died after the finish line. Now regular people run multiple marathons for fun and even go well beyond that to engage in things like Iron Man triathlons and the vast majority of them never get paid a cent for it.
Clarification - the modern recreation of Pheidippides' actual route is the Spartathlon, a 153 mile ultramarathon. He supposedly ran that in two days then ran another ~25 miles to Marathon, delivered his message and died.

So that's nearly 180 miles, not the 26.2 mile marathon that people are familiar with. While there are indeed a surprising number of people who can run those kinds of distances it's not the millions who run a standard marathon each year. I've run 100km and it's pretty damn hard; that was fully supported and with lots of preparation.
  #39  
Old 06-21-2013, 02:56 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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So a Roman legionary had to be able to march 18 or so modern miles in five hours whilst carrying their equipment. If our hypothetical NFL player can't do this then he would face a cut far more severe than losing out on some pay.
And do it for IIRC 25 years of an enlistment [unless invalided out]. From 18 until 43. [And oddly, originally a legion was recruited in its entirety, and served without getting replacement grunts which ended up being changed around 50ADish. There is a good book about the raising and subsequent career of one of the legions raised by Julius Caesar, though the audio book was rendered slightly hysterical by the pronunciation of one of the generals - it rendered Fabius somewhat oddly.]
  #40  
Old 06-21-2013, 03:08 AM
blindboyard blindboyard is offline
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The competition is such today that all those big guy are very quick and are tremendously skilled athletes. They are not soft. They train continually. A couple months of training would teach them all they needed to know. Something tells me that not only would they destroy a gladiator of 40 years ago but a Roman gladiator would probably refuse to go up against them.
Armed professional killer? Fine. Lion? Okay. Tall person? Never! Flee for your lives!

You're talking about sending a Ferrari to the first world war and seeing if it make a good tank.
  #41  
Old 06-21-2013, 03:24 AM
lisiate lisiate is online now
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There is no way a Roman athlete has the endurance or skill to beat a modern NFL player on any of those measures. Of course they can do all of that. Military recruits do it all the time at least for special training and there are thousands of those. Hell, I could do that at least in 20's and could probably do it now with some notice.

I don't think this should be about the NFL in particular. I would extend it to any professional athlete in American football, hockey, basketball, soccer and probably down to the college or high school level.

Athletes are massively bigger, stronger, and have more endurance than they had even 50 or 100 years ago let alone Roman times. Remember the story of the first Marathon? The point to that is that it was a story of extreme dedication to the cause and the hero died after the finish line. Now regular people run multiple marathons for fun and even go well beyond that to engage in things like Iron Man triathlons and the vast majority of them never get paid a cent for it.

Imagine the best athlete you have ever known personally and chances are that he did not make it into professional sports and probably did not even do so well at the college level. My high school was hotbed of football talent for high school and college and we produced a grand of one NFL player who had a mediocre career. Many of the rest could still bench press over 300 lbs by the time they were 16 years old and also competed well in track events.

I think people are greatly underestimating what it takes to make it to the NFL while overestimating how good the ancient soldiers like the Romans were.
I think you significantly overstate the endurance of NFL players who train for explosive speed and strength. They're incredibly strong and fast, but only for six to seven seconds at a time. Without months of training there's no way they can route march for 18 miles with a full pack, day after day. And unless you've done some serious hiking I doubt you could have done so in your twenties either.

The OP set the parameters of the discussion, so I went with NFL linebackers.

As Valgard points out above you're wrong about Pheidippides, 186 miles in three days is very different from 26 in 1.

As for your last argument, the best athlete at my high school went on to play 54 tests for the All Blacks at flanker, and I'd wager had a lot more endurance than any NFL linebacker. And while I know he used to run with a loaded backpack as part of his personal fitness training, I'm not sure he could have marched 18 miles loaded down with kit day after day.
  #42  
Old 06-21-2013, 09:37 AM
Gray Ghost Gray Ghost is offline
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I think you significantly overstate the endurance of NFL players who train for explosive speed and strength. They're incredibly strong and fast, but only for six to seven seconds at a time. Without months of training there's no way they can route march for 18 miles with a full pack, day after day....

...The OP set the parameters of the discussion, so I went with NFL linebackers..
Pat Tillman seemed to do O.K. as a warrior. (Well, until he got shot by his own team, that is.) He played strong safety, IIRC, not LB, though he did play it in college. Close enough for Gov't, I suppose. Anyway, the U.S. Army Rangers have been known to hike 30km with a full pack from time to time.

I did appreciate the Vegetius links earlier in the thread.

WAG, the toughest part for our 'NFL LB in Caesar's Palace' will be a tie between coping with the drastically lower level of sanitation and medical care and learning the implements of his soldierly craft. How long does it take to become proficient at the use of edged weapons and armor? Anyone from SCA wanting to take a shot?
  #43  
Old 06-21-2013, 10:08 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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My impression of modern sports athletes is that they're all over-muscled delicate machines which are prone to breaking at the joints. Without the maintenance and support that modern medicine, supplements and drugs give them, I doubt they'd be able to support their current physiques for long in the past, or easily shrug off the myriad little tears and strains that ice and physiotherapy render trivial today.

They are cheetahs, not wolves. Built for little bursts of energy, not the chase. I can't see them manoeuvring in armour the way a trained fighter would. And even then, injuries are common, if my SCA experience is anything to go by.
Gray Ghost, it varies by aptitude and build and what you intend by "proficient", but IME, several years to get any good, and at least several months to get passably proficient (as in, actually occasionally hit someone who is good). That's with training 2-3 times a week, adjust as needed I suppose although you'll hit diminishing returns pretty quick I reckon.
  #44  
Old 06-21-2013, 10:33 AM
penultima thule penultima thule is online now
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A linebacker would be a sensation in the Coliseum.

They'd put him in a bearskin, give him a bloody great club or heavy battle axe and bill him as some Germanic Neanderthal from the Black Forrests. They'd match him against a scrawny guy in a loin cloth armed with a net and short dagger.

The scrawny runt plays duck & weave as the LB tries to land the killer blow he has in his armory. Our LB might get lucky, or might get played like a fish until he trips, gets tangled in the net or simply becomes exhausted. I'd put my denarius on the runt.
  #45  
Old 06-21-2013, 11:04 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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He will be dead in a week from some illness, disease or parasite from which he has no natural immunity.
  #46  
Old 06-21-2013, 11:08 AM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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I'm not so sure if your NFL linebacker has the endurance to march 20 roman miles in 5 hours and then build a fortified camp at the end. Standard practice for the Roman legionary.
If I'm reading that portion of the article correctly, Romans divided the day in to 12 hours...which would actually mean that they were required to march 20 miles in 10 hours.

Quote:
five summer hours (the Roman day was divided into 12 hours regardless of season),
That's not a great feat at all.
  #47  
Old 06-21-2013, 11:33 AM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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That is a good point but plenty of NFL players had their share of legal incidents including violent crimes off the field. These aren't video characters raised in isolation. A lot of them know how to fight quite well and use weapons too.

You could always cherry-pick a mean one, send him back and say something like "Hey, you see those legionnaires over there? They all slept with Nicole last night." Stand back and just watch the carnage.
I don't follow sports, but when I hear about the criminal activities of athletes in the news it seems like it's usually things like drunken brawls, domestic violence, drug offenses, and the odd dogfighting ring. None of these seem like good preparation for real combat in what would be basically Third World conditions. Even NFL players who've spent time in prison must have had access to clean drinking water, indoor plumbing, and three meals a day. (The Romans did of course have aqueducts, but I assume these didn't extend to the battlefield.)

It's also my impression that the modern military at least doesn't really want vicious hotheads. I would think that the commander of a legion would prefer to have a soldier who remained calm under pressure, obeyed orders, and looked out for his comrades than one who'd completely flip out at the slightest provocation. Most football players are presumably used to keeping their cool and looking out for their teammates in the context of a game, but while there is always the risk of injury on the field a football game is a controlled environment where everyone knows the rules (and the rules are enforced) and no one is actually trying to kill them. They also have plenty of Gatorade, can take a hot shower afterwards, and get a fat paycheck for their troubles. Going into battle as a legionary would be a lot dirtier and more stressful, uncomfortable, and dangerous.

Last edited by Lamia; 06-21-2013 at 11:35 AM.
  #48  
Old 06-21-2013, 01:06 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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We have to distinguish between the barbaric style of fighting, which emphasized individual champions and loose battle order, and the Roman/Hellenic style, where soldiers fought in close order.

The Roman routinely slaughtered hordes of barbarians that were individually larger, stronger, and better armed. They did this by never, ever fighting the way Hollywood teaches us that ancient battles happened. If the fight came down to a bunch of guys running around like crazy hacking at every enemy they see, that's when the Romans would have already lost.

The Romans won battles by standing shoulder to shoulder, each man protecting the man to his left with his shield, while standing ready to do an underhand stab with his short sword past the shield of the guy to his right. If a mob of barbarians came screaming and charging, each barbarian champion would face two or three or four Romans, and if one Roman fell another guy behind him would move up to take his place. The whole point of Roman tactics was to avoid one-on-one duels between champions.

To be a good soldier by Roman lights was to be able to march day after day week after week carrying a heavy pack, make a fortified camp every night, live off bread and wine, stand in a line with your buddies, march forward on order, stab with your gladius when the enemy closed, and stand fast in formation even when your buddies are dying all around you.

Individual prowess in a fight was all well and good, but irrelevant to winning battles and winning wars. Battles are won before they are fought by logistical preparation. A scrawny guy that can carry his supplies and march to where he is needed is worth two hulking warriors who can't or won't.
  #49  
Old 06-21-2013, 01:49 PM
Deeg Deeg is offline
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You guys seem to be seriously underestimating pro athletes. Like this:
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Originally Posted by penultima thule View Post
The scrawny runt plays duck & weave as the LB tries to land the killer blow he has in his armory. Our LB might get lucky, or might get played like a fish until he trips, gets tangled in the net or simply becomes exhausted. I'd put my denarius on the runt.
Really? The main role of a LB is to track and tackle guys who are much more elusive than a runt dragging a net.

The comparison with knights is a little better but keep in mind that knights were towers on the battlefield (assuming they weren't stuck in mud with English longbowmen in the weeds).

The biggest problem is that an NFL LB is only one out of thousands and wouldn't have much effect (unless he was a leader who inspired his troops into combat). Create a legion out of pro athletes, however, and give them 6 months of training? They haul ass.
  #50  
Old 06-21-2013, 02:52 PM
bump bump is offline
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I am not so sure about just how tough an NFL player is. I watched a fly-on-the-wall programme from a London A&E the other day. It featured two members of a professional American football team with injuries bad enough to require hospital treatment.

Once they had stipped off all the padding, they didn't look so big. The guy who had been knocked off a roof by a scaffold pole looked bigger and tougher, and he only had a headache.
A lot depends on position. Many receivers, quarterbacks, defensive backs and other positions that depend on speed aren't necessarily physically large.

They're probably over 6', and weight between 190 and about 230, which isn't enormous by any standard, even if they're in terrific physical shape.

Linemen, linebackers and tight ends, on the other hand, play positions where physical size and bulk are important, much like height and size are important in basketball for centers.

An average NFL lineman is probably in the 6'4"-6'6" range, and anywhere from 280 on the light side, through somewhere near 330 on the heavy side, and that's not 330 lbs at 45% body fat either; they're truly huge men.
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