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In Europe, the Spartans won against the Persians due to hoplites fighting in a phalanx formation. Then the Spartans were defeated by Macedonians because the Macedonians used longer spears called sarissa. Subsequently, this pattern of superior weapons prevailing continued through the use of swords, bows, and guns, etc.

In contrast, in China, the Ming used cannons, and guns, but were slaughtered by the Jin cavalry that didn't have firearms.

I've never heard about any battle in Chinese history where the superiority of technology was a significant factor in the victory. Was the Jin victory an anomaly, or are there other examples of inferior types of weaponry being used by the winning side in a battle?

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How about the Xi'an city wall (approx. 25 kilometers long and 10-15 meters wide) as a considerable piece of war technology in China? –  Drux Feb 4 '13 at 13:20
In China, the use of land mines defeated a Mongol army. Mean while, in the Zulu war, the British, with maximun guns were almost wiped out by a group of men armed with spears. –  Russell Feb 4 '13 at 14:09
I may be wrong then. Land mines defeated a mongol army? When? –  Jim Thio Feb 4 '13 at 15:16
Btw, the Spartans were not defeated by the Macedonians. It's not that linear, the whole business. –  Felix Goldberg Feb 4 '13 at 18:26
I have edited the question for clarity, and second the nomination for reopening in its current form. –  Tom Au Apr 10 '13 at 12:59

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In Europe, armies were often of generally the same size and makeup (at least in the instances you mention) and tactics codified, so in open engagements equipment and (that being equal) minor differences in proficiency could well mean the difference between winning and losing a battle.
In the Chinese example you mention, sheer force of numbers caused Qin to win the day, that and the slow reload time of the opposing cannon as compared to Qin archers. Simply put, despite the cannon killing more Qin troops per shot than were killed per Qin trooper, they were still wiped out because they couldn't kill quickly enough to avoid being overrun.
The same happened during the Korean war, where DPRK and Red Chinese human wave attacks overcame American and South Korean forces despite the latter having superior equipment.

And paradoxically to your question it also played out in Europe during WW2 where after D-day Sherman tanks were engaging German Tiger tanks. While the Tigers had far better guns and armour, and could kill Shermans before the American tanks were even in range, they were usually fighting alone or in such small groups that the massed numbers of Shermans they were facing could close to within range for their underpowered guns to score a kill before they were all destroyed. The same happened on the eastern front as well between T-34s and Tigers.

Another example is the destruction of 3 Roman legions in Germania by Germanic tribes. The Romans had superior equipment and training both, yet were wiped out to the last man because they could not bring that equipment and training to bear effectively against the assault they were facing (they simply weren't trained for what was effectively guerrilla warfare when the Germanic warriors came at them while they were on the march through the dense forest).

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To expand on jwenting's answer, the ability of a society to produce an armed mass is a military technology. Military technology changed between the Franco-Prussian war and World War I in the massification of conscripted infantry and the rapid training of conscripted soldiers in specialist arms. –  Samuel Russell Apr 12 '13 at 22:20
I think you mean "Qing" not "Qin" in your first paragraph. –  congusbongus Apr 14 '14 at 1:56

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