Military Periods

I know this question does not lend itself to any definite answers, but…

I’ve started collecting articles off the web and saving them on my computer. I use them for myself and probably haven’t really broken too many copyright laws.

Anyways, I’ve now got over 800 articles and this brings up some organizational issues. The problem of the moment is I’ve decided to split the articles into folders and since several hundred articles are military in nature, it requires several military folders to avoid overloading them. Some wars have enough articles to rate their own folder (WWI. WWII, American Revolution and a few others) but the rest get dumped into catchall folders.

Right now, those folders are–

The problem is, there are no definitive dividing lines. I arbitrarily made World War I and everything after modern and lightly penciled in The Battle of Châlons and everything previous as ancient.

My question is, can anyone come up with a better folder scheme or, lacking that, a nice deviding line between midieval and premodern?

Any help you can give would be…helpful

Shucks, I thought this was going to be a ‘female’ topic.

If no-one but you will be searching for an article, then it doesn’t really matter what the dividing lines are. You could make the folders “uniform color” or “shoe size of commander,” or whatever you want…as long as it works for you. :smiley:


Right now, those folders are–

  1. Military–ancient
  2. Military–medieval
  3. Military–premodern
  4. Military–modern


My guesses would be as follows.

  1. Primitive weaponry only. Spears, swords, archery.
  2. Add seige engines to this.
  3. Introduction to firearms, prior to premanufactured cartridges. (Flint lock and similar type muzzle loaded firearms/cannons)
  4. Modern arms, including premanufactured cartridges, tanks, and airplanes.

Sounds like a fun collection!


No, the Modern Period begins with the introduction of telecommunications between the Head of State & his generals.

In other words, the US Civil War.

They also had steam-powered warships, railroad transport of troops & supplies, percussion-cap weapons, & mass-manufactured goods.

Ranged weapons eclipsed H-T-H ones, & troops began to be recruited/organized in a modern way.

Not to mention breech-loading cannon, metallic cartridge ammunition, and automatic weapons (the Gatling was first patented in 1862).

The American Civil War was the portent of almost everything to come. Even aerial observation started then.

One time cut-off would be the standard 476 AD, the traditional end of the roman empire.

The end of the hundred years war might be a good cutoff because of the political changes rather than any military development

The 30 year war would be another cutoff point. That was when the musket really started to become the common weapon on the battlefield.

The napoleonic era is a nice, commonly used historical unit.

Siege weapons were common in what scholars usually refer to as “antiquity” ( pre-medieval ) times - i.e. everything up to either the start of the Roman imperium under Augustus ( sometimes seperated out as a discrete period ) or the final fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 C.E., which is the most common starting point to the medieval period as Hypno-Toad notes. Catapults go back at least until the 5th century B.C.E., simple rams probably stretch back to before recorded history.

  • Tamerlane

Ancient: up to A.D. 476 (in Europe), coinciding with the fall of Rome. Wars are fought with swords/spears/arrows and based on massed formations of spear. Cavalry has not been developed.

Medieval: 378 to 1618 : The second battle of Andrianople in 375 represents the first battle where Cavalry demonstrated the superiority of mounted cavalry over traditional ground forces, which helped to set the character that medieval warfare would maintain for the next several centuries. This date is a more military-centric date than 476, which more generically denotes the end of the Roman Empire. The Medieval period describes a time where massed cavalry is the critical element in warfare. While firearms begin to enter the scene, they cannot be yet considered to be decisive weaponry.

Early Modern: 1618 to 1917. Hypno-Toad’s suggestion of the Thirty Years War is a good suggestion for the start of this period. Weapons of old have been replaced by guns/cannon. Spears are replaced by bayonettes. War is now lost or won through the use (or misuse) of formations of gunners and their supporting artillery. Massed cavalry is useless, armor has been discarded.

Modern: 1917 to date. I respectfully disagree with Bosda and sewalk regarding the Civil War as the first Modern war. While the changes they mentioned were indeed indicators of what was to come, the advancements in military technology had not yet fundamentally changed /how/ people fought wars: It was still volley-charge with Artillery support.

I think that WW I makes more sense as the first war of the modern age as the machine gun and proto-tanks eliminated the defensive strategy of trenches. By the end of WW I the importance of airforce and mechanized cavalry was identified and set the backdrop for WW II where these technologies were core. Our current method of open battle is still based on the tank as the primary means of projecting force on land, supported by airpower.


Early ancient == pre-formation fighting (mob) to formation fighting (phalanx, legion etc)
Ancient == formation fighting to cavalry - actually, pre-stirrup.
Medieval == Cavalry to firearms.
Pre-modern == firearms to mechanised military, be it tanks or aircraft
Modern == mechanised military onwards.

Wow. That post, despite about 200 pre-post readings, is a grammatical nightmare. Appologies.

Hmm… seems **Misery[/b beat me to it.

I’d say that the second half of the 19th century was more of a transition period than actual modern warfare. The civil war, for instance, was modern on the strategic level, but still pre-modern on the tactical. I wouldn’t say that the modern era in warfare truly started until the last year of WWI.

I also can’t really se the difference between “ancient” and “medieval” warfare. There may have been some advances in technology between the Bronze Age and the early Renaissance, but the way wars were fought didn’t change all that much, at least in the sense that they were fought in different ways by different cultures in different time periods. Was there any real difference between Alexanders Phalanxes and 15th-century Swiss Pikemen? Between Mongol horse-archers and Scytians 2000 years earlier? Between Parthian cataphracts anf Frankish knights? If anything, warfare regressed during the middle ages; it was well into the 18th century before any European ruler could raise an army with the size and discipline of a Roman legion at the height of the Empire.

Yes, but you were more concise!

The Battle of Châlons 451 AD, my cutoff for ancient, was the last major battle the Western (Roman) Empire fought and changing it to the end of the Empire (a thought which, I’m ashamed to say, NEVER occured to me) would affect none of my files right now.

Thanks for your help, like I said, I expected no definate answers, but to a certain extent, you exceeded those expectations.

At the risk of hijacking my own thread, This process is somewhat annoying because I am using the same basic file structures now that I was using over twenty years ago on my Tandy Color Computer. I have files that I put into folders, but if a file could go into more than one folder, I have to setup links to it. It’s fairly easy to do, but somehow I feel like Obi-Wan Kenobi killing General Grievous wigh a blaster. You’ld think by now they would have come up with something better like putting keywords into files or something.


Man, I love playing Sid Meier’s Civilization series of games! In Civilization III, the eras are similar to the way Quartz describes them, each with their own attendant military (and obviously non-military) advances.[ul][]Ancient – the earliest advances involve such clever ideas as bronze-working, iron-working, and the wheel, giving you military units such as the Phalanx, Swordsmen, and Chariots. Seige engines appear in the Ancient era as well, as the discovery of mathematics allow you to have catapults. Historically speaking, of course, this would have been light-years ahead of the bow-and-arrow toting guys from 4000 BC.[]Medieval – The chief advances here begin with Feudalism. You have your Medieval Infantry, who wear steel armour and are more than a match for most ancient military units; armoured Pikemen, the Longbow (which replaces the primitive Archer), and Knights (who replace the primitive Horsemen). The game also throws in Musketmen and Cavalry once your society has figured out Gunpowder and established a Military Tradition respectively. Towards the end, Cannons become realistic, and large 17th- and 18th-Century sailing ships are the only way to cruise in style.[]Industrial Revolution – The next big jump comes with Nationalism, which brings 19th-Century Rifleman and allows conscription to defend one’s country. The Cavalry doesn’t get any better, but parallel technological advances allow for things like Ironclads and early Factories. In the latter half of this period, increased manufacturing capabilities lead to advances like Combustion and Replaceable Parts allowing military units like WWI-era Destroyers, Artillery, and Infantry. Eventually, Mass Production paves the way for aircraft and even Tanks![]Modern – This is where we’re brought up-to-date. Further advances in materials and automation technologies upgrade Tanks to Modern Armor, Artillery to Mobile Artillery, and Infantry to Mechanized Infantry. Aircraft become more practical as jet engines become available, and Stealth Technology unleashes the ultimate aerial war machines like the Stealth Fighter and Stealth Bomber. Once someone combines the Manhattan Project with Rocketry, however, the world had better watch out…[/ul]

You are correct about the tactics in the Civil War but I believe the Prussian army used fairly modern tactics (concentrated artillery, skirmish lines, more unit level decision making) in both fighting Austria and France. Perhaps Koentz (I believe that is the name) in which Prussia defeated the Austrian army would be a good choice for the cutoff for pre-modern.

The problem is that Napoleon’s wars were nothing like Bismarck’s wars which were nothing like WWI which were nothing like WWII. Napoleon still did the line up and shoot each other, Prussia had skirmish lines, WWI had machine guns and trenches and WWII had airplanes and tanks. You can’t really group these in the same category unless you just draw arbitrary lines.

Doh that battle was Koniggratz and happened in 1866

As Alessan notes, everything old is new again. The Scythians and other Indo-Iranian peoples were certainly making effective use of massed calvary a millenia before that particular Adrianople. I fear the above definition is far too Romanocentric.

  • Tamerlane

I’d use the Siege of Constantinople in 1453 as an arbitrary dividing line between the medieval era and the per-modern era. In addition to being a major political event in its own right, it was around the time when gunpowder weapons were replacing per-gunpowder weapons and the time when European armies were about to start conquering the world.