Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

How did ancient armies like the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Chinese or even at later times like the Arabs and Mongols keep the route of supplies going to support their armies marching through the vast areas they covered? Do they build supply centers in the places they conquer and use caravans to send them supplies from there? What did they do when they failed to conquer a city and they laid siege for years? What if there was not any food sources nearby?

share|improve this question
AFAIR, they mostly foraged (e.g. robbed from locals), and/or brought some supplies with them. –  DVK Jan 15 '13 at 14:33
add comment

2 Answers

In most cases, they would forage (or pillage) from neighboring areas. As in invading army, they had no qualms about taking whatever they wanted or needed. In situations where they were sending troops considerable distances or for prolonged periods of time, they had to develop other methods.

In some situations they would create relay stations, which would basically be a small camp where supplies could be delivered and then re-distributed to troops further along the supply line. If these stations were in areas where they were subject to attack, then they would be expanded into outposts or forts. In those cases, a contingent of troops would remain to protect the supplies that were stored up, and also possibly as armed escorts for supplies that were being passed along.

share|improve this answer
I reckon it is impossible to source these sentences for "ancient armies". The answer would benefit though from a few well chosen examples. Just my 2 eurocents. –  astabada Jan 15 '13 at 22:09
@astabada Well, a broad question will get broad answers. It would be much easier to do that if the question focused on one nation. –  American Luke Jan 15 '13 at 22:37
@Luke I agree, in fact I was just talking about one or two examples. –  astabada Jan 16 '13 at 7:49
add comment

An important way to supply an army always was the transportation by water. Persian invasions of Greece were actually large scale combined ground force-fleet operations, as it is clearly seen from Herodotes description. Same applies to Hannibal's campain and to several operations of Alexander the Great.

In general, rivers and sea was one of the important ways of transportation, in many places the only way to transport large quantities of supplies.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.