Military Rank

The following tables lay out and discuss the basic grades of commissioned military rank. This does not include non-commissioned officers, like sergeants and naval petty officers. Nor does it go very deep into military history. The interest is mainly in the logical system and how this has developed historically. The army ranks are mainly those of the United States Army, and the naval ranks those of the United States Navy but with considerable historical background in the (British) Royal Navy, where the system developed in the first place. Some other grades of rank that occur in other military establishments, like those of Germany or the Soviet Union, thus may be overlooked; but the outlines of the system are universal. Air Force rank, particularly that of the Royal Air Force (RAF) is briefly discussed. The three broad categories of commissioned rank are Flag or General rank, Command rank, and basic Officer rank.

"General" rank is fairly self-explanatory, since Generals command whole armies or Admirals whole fleets. Admirals are said to have "Flag" rank because an admiral literally flies a distinctive flag. A ship carrying the Admiral and flying his flag is, consequently, the "flag ship." The system of Admirals and their flags was developed in the Royal Navy, though the word "admiral" itself is ultimately from Arabic, , amiru-lbah.r, "commander of the sea." The meaning of the term "lieutenant," which we first encounter below in "Lieutenant General," becomes fairly clear on inspection:  "Lieu" is "place" (as "in lieu of," from Latin locus, "place"), and "tenant" from Latin tenere, "to hold." A Lieutenant "holds the place" (locum tenens) for, represents, the superior officer [note]. A Lieutenant as such holds the place for a Captain, who is the "head" (Latin caput) of the basic military unit. Since the basic naval military unit is the ship, the Captain of a ship remains over time a very high rank. The ships just get bigger. But as armies grew larger, a Company and its Captain was swallowed by the larger unit of the Regiment, commanded by a Colonel. The origin of "colonel" is now very obscured. Originally it was Italian, colonnello, "little column." In Latin that would be columnellus. We might imagine a Colonel leading, and symbolizing, a column of Companies. Colonels and naval Captains thus have Command rank, since they command the basic units of military stength, at least as these existed through the 18th and 19th centuries. The Captains of smaller naval ships were seen as having the lesser rank of, indeed, "Commander." Again, as armies grew larger, the basic unit, by World War I, became the Division, commanded by a Major General. "Major" is simply Latin for "greater," maior.

Naval flag rank developed because of the organization of British fleets in the 17th century. The commander of the whole fleet was a full Admiral, but the fleet might possess a more or less detached Van of ships, commanded by the Vice Admiral (Latin vicis, "stead," as in "viceroy"), and a more or less detached Rear of ships, commanded, most appropriately, by the Rear Admiral. The basic Admiral's flag was simply the red English cross of St. George on a white background. The varieties of this will be seen below. Another aspect of British naval flags concerned the "ensign," the flag flown on the stern of the ship. The British fleet of the 18th century was organized into three squadrons, a Red, a White, and a Blue. For each, the ensign was a flag of the appropriate color, with the British Union Flag as the "canton" or the upper quarter of the flag next to the hoist. The Union Flag of 1801 combines the red on white cross of St. George, for England, the white on blue X cross of St. Andrew, for Scotland, and a red on white X cross for St. Patrick, for Ireland, though this was never used as such by the Irish themselves. The Union Flag all by itself would be flown on the bow of the ship, usually just in harbor, and came to the called the "Union Jack," since a flag flown on the bow was the "jack." The White squadron, however, did not fly a completely white flag, which might look like a flag of surrender (or, earlier, like the white color of the Bourbons), but added the cross of St. George, again, in the white field. Horatio Nelson was an "Admiral of the White." Eventually, there were a lot more than three squadrons in the Royal Navy, and the various flags were confusing to foreign ships. In 1864 the White Ensign was selected as the distinctive flag for naval ships. Meanwhile, since 1674, the Red Ensign was already flown on merchant ships, so that continued as before. The Blue Ensign was given a distinctive function also, to indicate non-military government ships, or to be flown by civilian ships commanded and largely officered by officers in the Royal Naval Reserve. Fans of the movie Titanic will notice that the Titanic flew the Blue Ensign. The flags of Australia and New Zealand are both based on the Blue Ensign, while the flag of Canada used to be based on the Red Ensign. All of their navies use versions of the White Ensign. The White Ensign and Britsh naval flags also became the basis of the system of flags used by other countries, like Imperial Germany. In the United States Navy, the Stars and Stripes national flag is used as the Ensign, with the blue canton and stars of that flag as the Jack. The United States does not have different ensigns for navy, government, and private ships.

Sometimes a British naval Captain found himself commanding a number of ships. As such, he was addressed as the "Commodore" (ultimately from "commander" in Dutch and French). A Captain who also commanded his own ship was then a "Second Class" Commodore, while a Captain whose flag ship had its own Captain was a "First Class" Commodore. Eventually these became separate ranks superior to a Captain. Until the Civil War, the United States Navy had no Admirals, only Commodores (like Commodore Perry who opened Japan, 1853-1854). A Commodore flew a distinctive flag, a variation on the "commissioning pennant" flown by a sailing ship from its main mast. The commissioning pennant was long and narrow and a significant sign of a warship in the days when warships didn't look all that different from other ships, and might fly a Red Ensign like a merchant ship. Later, it was not necessary to fly the pennants to mark warships. A Commodore's flag, however, was a Broad Pennant, replacing the ordinary narrow one. Apart from the pennant form, shown below, the Royal Navy Commodores' pennants had the same look as other Admirals' flag. First and Second Class Commodore's were distiguished by the addition of a dot. Eventually, the Royal Navy assimilated the rank of First Class Commodore to Rear Admiral, which is as it is shown below. The United States Navy now does not use the rank of Commodore at all, but Rear Admirals are divided into senior and junior.

Flag or General Rank
xxxxxField Marshal, General of the Army, and Fleet Admiral are all at the top of traditional general rank, except for the rank of "Generalissimo" adopted by Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek. The traditional symbol of the Field Marshal is a baton, although historical commanders, like the Duke of Marlborough, who actually held no such rank, were often shown in paintings with a baton; so it must originally have been of more general (one might say) significance. This level of rank, although once familiar in the much smaller European armies of the 18th and 19th century, has been used by the United States only as an honorary rank, not as a practical field rank, for the most celebrated Generals and Admirals. The first Five Star General in the United States Army is sometimes said to have been Ulysses S. Grant, but there is an ambiguity in the Congressional act and the intention may not have been to create an actual rank beyond General, and no new insignia, certainly not with Five Stars, was created. Nevertheless, a special supreme rank, "General of the Armies of the United States," was created for William Tecumseh Sherman in 1869, and this was conferred postumously on Grant in 1885. A similar honor was done for Phil Sheridan after he succeeded Sherman as head of the Army in 1884. It was then allowed to lapse until conferred on John "Black Jack" Pershing in 1919 -- the "Black Jack" was because he had been willing to command Black troups -- ordinarily not a good career move for a white officer. Pershing, however, never wore more than four stars. A definitive Five Star rank was not clearly created until 1944, to reward several of the victorious commanders of World War II. Pershing was still alive (until 1948) but apparently did not adopt the new insignia. No American has been promoted this high since -- except that, to make things perfectly clear, President Ford retroactively conferred it on George Washington himself (and, for good measure, Pershing) in 1976. When the rank was thus definitely created in 1944, the possibility of calling it "Field Marshall" was considered; but since Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall would have been one of the recipients, it was thought better to avoid his being "Field Marshall Marshall" (like "Major Major" in Catch 22). Nor was the baton adopted as the mark of a Five Star General, perhaps because it had become too closely associated with the German Field Marshalls of the late War. The last living Five Star General was Omar Bradley (1893-1981). Today it is becoming common to see sheriffs of American counties wearing five stars. Some sheriffs even wear six stars, which I suppose makes them Generalissimos. Besides cheapening the meaning of the rank, as with "four star" police chiefs below, it is really an insult to American history. Even the head of the Texas Rangers is only a colonel.
xxxxA full General would be expected to command an Army Group or single Army. Until 1866, George Washington had been the only full General in the United States Army. Ulysses S. Grant became the second. Today, however, it is not uncommon to see police chiefs sporting a four star rank. This, of course, both cheapens the meaning of the rank and implies a disturbing militarization of police forces, which originally in both England and America were forbidden to carry arms [note]. That historically there were so few full generals in the United States Army is testimony to the small size of the Army through much of American history. Despite the use of divisions and corps in the Civil War, the Regular Army did not have permanent structures above the regimental level until World War I. The small size of the Army, of course, was the result of hostility to standing armies on the part of all the Founding Fathers. They figured that a government with an army would simply use it, an expectation that has certainly been born out, whether one agrees with the undeclared wars since 1945 or not. An Admiral originally commanded the main body of a British fleet. Later, when a "fleet" came to mean many small fleets, Admirals would assume the largest commands, but naval organization never had the hierarchy of fixed units, like the Army Group, Army, Corps, and Divisions, of land armies. The highest combat organization of the United States Navy in World War II was by Ocean, i.e. the Pacific Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet. In 1943, the Pacific Fleet was assigned odd numbers for specific Fleets, like Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet, and the Atlantic Fleet was assigned the even numbers. An Admiral's rank was shown on his sleeve with one broad a three narrow stripes. The flags of Flag Rank officers in the United States Navy are simply the appropriate number of stars on a blue background.
xxxA Lieutenant General would be expected to command an Army or army Corps; but in World War II Lieutenant Generals sometimes were even commanding Army Groups. Until 1864, the United States Army had had only two Lieutenant Generals, George Washington and Winfield Scott. Ulysses S. Grant became the third. Since Scott actually received only the "brevet," i.e. honorary, rank of Lieutenant General, it is often said that Grant was just the second real Lieutenant General. He received the promotion in 1864 as he was given supreme command of the Union Armies and personally proceeded against Robert E. Lee in Virginia. A Vice Admiral originally commanded the Van in a British fleet. In World War II, Vice Admirals might command Fleets, like Vice Admiral Spruance's Fifth Fleet, or Task Forces (e.g. TF31, with the first digit indicating the number of the Fleet), which would be ships assembled for a specific operation. Vice Admiral Nagumo commanded the Pearl Harbor Strike Force for the Imperial Japanese Navy. A Vice Admiral's rank was shown on his sleeve with one broad and two narrow stripes.
xxA Major General is especially expected to command a single Division, which is the basic unit of a 20th Century army. In the expedients of actual war, a Major General might also be found commanding an army Corps, consisting of a number of Divisions. A typical American Infantry Division in World War I was a "square" Division, consisting of four Regiments grouped into two Brigades. In World War II, however, American Infantry Divisions were usually "triangular," consisting of three Regiments without a Brigade organization.
At left is a graphic with the characteristic Divisional organization of American Infantry from World War II. Similar Armored and Airborne Divisional organization can be inspected in popup images. Most noteworthy in the Armored Division is the abandonment of regimental organization in the reorganization of 1943 -- the constituent combat units are all battalions. This is peculiar to the later organization of Armored Divisons. Also noteworthy is the "combined arms" doctrine, by which tank and infantry units support each other. The Airborne Division is based on that of the 82nd Airborne. The 101st Airborne had two glider regiments rather than two parachute regiments, and one less parachute artillery battalion.
A Rear Admiral in World War II tended to be the lowest rank to command more than one capital ship at sea. In the Imperial Japanese Navy, a Battleship or Carrier Division would usually consist of only two ships, commanded by a Rear Admiral, such as Rear Admiral Yamaguchi who commanded the aircraft carriers Hiryu and Soryu and went down with the Hiryu at the battle of Midway. A Rear Admiral's rank was shown on his sleeve with one broad and one narrow stripe.
xiA Commodore First Class was originally a Captain given flag rank who did not also have to command his own ship, i.e. he had a Flag Captain. Later, the Royal Navy assimilated this to the rank of Rear Admiral, but the United States Navy still retains two grades of Rear Admiral, rather like this. Commodores flew Broad Pennants, explained above.
xiiA Brigadier General is named after the Brigade (from Italian brigare, "to fight"), originally two Regiments. This level of organization began to fall out of use in the United States Army, and a Brigadier often could be found commanding a Division; but in the British Army it actually replaced Regimental organization. A Commodore Second Class was originally a Captain who was given flag command over other ships as well as his own. United States Navy no longer uses the Commodore rank, but even in World War II it was only used for shore officers. The Royal Navy, I think, would use Commodores to command Destroyer Flotillas (about eight ships), and groups of similar ships where all the ship captains would actually only be Commanders or Lieutenant Commanders. A Commodore's rank was shown on his sleeve with one broad stripe.

Not every command officer moves on to general rank. Most Colonels and naval Captains simply retire. Promising candidates for general rank may even be sent on for further special schooling, as at the United States War Colleges (the National War College in Washington and the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island), since general rank begins to involve problems in the overall conduct of war, rather than just the direction of a relatively isolated unit. The United States Navy considers that an officer might be ready for flag rank after 26 years of service, which could mean about 47 years of age. Horatio Nelson, who had become a Captain at 21, was promoted to Rear Admiral at 39 years of age.

Command Rank
iiiA "full bird" Colonel commands the basic army unit of the 18th and much of the 19th Centuries, the Regiment.
The regular United States Army consisted of Regiments until World War I. Originally Regiments consisted of Companies, and the other Command rank officers, the Lieutenant Colonel and the Major, were assistants of the Colonel. For tactical purposes, however, the Regiment might be broken up into separate "Battalions," which could be taken as subordinate commands by the Lieutenant Colonel or the Major. Later, the Battalion structure was formalized and interposed between Company and Regimental commands. In the 18th century, Regiments might be privately raised and outfitted and a Colonel's commission purchased. Even in the American Civil War, Regiments were raised by State governments and often privately clothed, with their own distinctive uniforms. After the Division became the principal unit of military strength (and the Regiment even abolished by the British), the old sense of identity and loyalty to the Regiment faded away. Many people who hear of the "7th Cavalry" at Custer's Last Stand may not even realize that the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army is being referred to (with their immortal march Garry Owen). Infantry Regiments in the United States Marine Corps were simply called "1st Marines," "2nd Marines," etc. In fact, the word "regiment" was rarely used in designating a unit, like the "23rd Infantry," because, as the fundamental unit of command, this could be understood. But the tradition continued even after the Division became the fundamental unit of command.
A Captain always commanded the basic unit of naval strength, a ship meant to fight in the Line of Battle (a "Ship-of-the-Line," or just "Battleship"). Four stripes on the sleeve became the mark of a Captain in the Royal Navy. The four Rates of ship commanded by a Captain in the Napoleonic Royal Navy are shown. Most Ships-of-the-Line were Third Rates.

Fourth Rates could fight in the Line of Battle but were mainly intended as flagships for commands of smaller ships. As warships became specialized and grew in size, the importance of each ship increased and the rank of Captain correspondingly became more important, until it was no longer thought equivalent to an army Captain, but to an army Colonel. A Captain has sole responsibility for his ship. An Admiral can order him what to do with the ship but is otherwise no more than a passenger. Only the Captain can give orders to the crew. Originally, a Captain was assisted by Lieutenants, who stood the regular Watch on Deck. As ships became even larger, Commanders and Lieutenant Commanders were added to the crew as Executive Officiers and to oversee important areas of ship operations, like Engineering. In Navies based on steam and iron, when the elaborate system of Ratings faded away, Battleships and Cruisers became the typical kinds of ships commanded by Captains, later supplemented by Aircraft Carriers. Since the commander of any kind of ship, whatever his rank, is formally called the "Captain" of the ship, no other person on the ship can be called "Captain." Thus, a Captain in a Marine contingent on a ship would be addressed as "Major" to avoid confusion.
Air Force

Rank in Air Forces is as recent as those new services. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) was created in 1918, the United States Air Force not until 1947. US Air Force officer rank is like US Army rank. RAF rank, however, was neologistic and based on Naval rank. General rank begins with Air Commodore, but the equivalents of Admiral rank all use some version of "Air Marshal" (Air Vice Marshal, Air Marshal, and Air Chief Marshal for two, three, and four stars, respectively). The equivalent of a Naval Captain is a Group Captain, the commander of an air Group, the equivalent of a Commander a Wing Commander, commander of an air Wing, and the equivalent of a Lieutenant Commander a Squadron Leader, commander of an air Squadron. The relationship of an air Group and a Wing is reversed, confusingly, in the United States Air Force, so that a Group is a number of Squadrons and a Wing is a number of Groups. In American Naval aviation, an aircraft carrier carries an air Group, with Squadrons of specific purpose aircraft (fighters, patrol, etc.). The Groups of a number of carriers thus can belong to the same Wing. A number of Wings then make an Air Division, for a General rank, Divisions combine into an Air Force, and at the highest level is a Command, like the Strategic Air Command.

iiA Lieutenant Colonel was originally the second in command to a Colonel in a traditional Regiment.
Later, as Regiments were formally broken down into Battalions, that would become an appropriate separate command for a Lieutenant Colonel. Cavalry battalions usually came to be called Squadrons, a term that has mainly survived for a unit of aircraft, the subdivision of an air Group. The term "Commando" has now largely been replaced by "Special Forces." "Commando" itself was originally a unit of the Boer army in South Africa. The Second Boer War (1899-1902) lapsed into guerrilla tactics, and the Boer Commandos operated in the unconventional way that the British then copied in 1940 with their own Commando units for World War II. This use of "Commando" actually was the designation of a battalion size unit, but later the term came to mean the type of operation rather than unit size.
In the Royal Navy a Commander originally was the appropriate rank for command of an unrated ship. Later, a distinction was made between full Commander and Lieutenant Commander, and full Commanders became captains of some significant types of warships. Where in the French Navy a full Captain was a Capitaine de vaiseau (i.e. "of a ship"), a Commander was a Capitaine de frégate. Similarly, a Commander in Italian was a Capitano di fregata. Thus, although a Frigate in the Royal Navy was a Fifth or Sixth Rate ship and was commanded by a full Captain, a post Captain, these rated ships are shown here, because of the later developments. In a sailing navy, Frigates were the cruisiers, the "eyes of the fleet," and escorts for merchant ships, protecting them from privateers and raiders. In modern navies, by World War II crusiers became much more like capital ships, commanded by full Captains, while Commanders took over the screening ships, like destroyers and submarines, that performed many of the escort or raiding functions previously performed by Frigates (though now many submarines have grown into capital ships, and destroyers are as large now as cruisers were in World War II). The "eyes of the fleet" became aircraft. A Commander's rank is shown on his sleeve with three stripes.

A recent book with full discussion and information about the Royal Navy rank and rates is The World of Jack Aubrey, Twelve-poundrs, Frigates, Cutlasses, and Insignia of His Majesty's Royal Navy, by David Miller [Courage Books, 2003], a companion to the fine naval books by Patrick O'Brian -- brought to broad public attention by the Peter Weir movie Master and Commander -- the Far Side of the World [2003].

iA Major was originally the third in command to a Colonel in a traditional Regiment. Like a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major might command his own Battalion. Historically, as early as the 18th century, a Regiment might be divided into permanent Battalions commanded entirely by Majors, with the Lieutenant Colonel assisting the Colonel at the Regimental level. Now it has been more common for Lieutenant Colonels to command battalions. A Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy originally would have had command of unrated ships, including Sloops-of-War (or a Corvette, 14-20 guns), Bomb vessels (8 guns, with mortars throwing exploding shells), Gun-brigs (10-14 guns), Cutters (4-14 guns), Gun-boats (1-4 guns), and other auxiliaries. In French, a Lieutenant Commander was a Capitaine de corvette and in Italian a Capitano di corvetta. A Sloop-of-War would perform many of the same functions as a Frigate. In modern navies, a Lieutenant Commander might command the same kinds of ships as a Commander, or he might serve as the Executive Officer in the command of a Commander. Smaller auxiliaries might more commonly be commanded by a Lieutenant. The terms "frigate" and "corvette" are still used for ships smaller than destroyers. In the United States Navy, a "frigate" (FF) is now a scaled up version of what in World War II was called a "destroyer escort" (DE). A Lieutenant Commander's rank is shown on his sleeve with three stripes, but the center one in narrower than the others. In Jane's Fighting Ships of 1907-8, a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy is actually listed as a Lieutenant with over 8 years of seniority. Circumstances like this make it a matter, as I have been informed, of "wardroom debate" whether a Lieutenant Commander truly has "command" rank or not. Only a full Commander in the U.S. Navy has the gold decoration commonly called "scrambled eggs" on the bill of his hat. Nevertheless, historically it is often hard to tell the differences in command responsibilities between Lieutenant and full Commanders. In World War I and early in World War II, for instance, it looks pretty random whether a destroyer was commissioned with a Commander or a Lieutenant Commander in command. By 1943, however, this changed. After DD688, the Remey, was commissioned with Lieutenant Commander R.P. Fiala commanding (9/30/43), subsequent destroyers are commissioned with Commanders. Nevertheless, at the same time, destroyer escorts were typically commissioned with Lieutenant Commanders, e.g. DE587, the Thomas F. Nickel, commissioned 6/9/44 under Lieutenant Commander C.S. Farmer.

The structure of a Vietnam era infantry battalion, as described by Harold G. Moore (and Joseph L. Galloway) in We Were Soldiers Once...And Young [HarperTorch, 1993, 2002, p.30] is shown at left. Moore's battalion was converted into an airmobile unit, but the only change that Moore and Galloway note is that the anti-tank platoon in the combat support company is replaced by a machine gun platoon. Other personnel besides the medical are contained, of course, in the Headquarters Company. The story of the book has now been made into a movie, We Were Solidiers [2002], with Mel Gibson. Moore's battalion was originally the 2nd battalion of the 23rd Infantry (Regiment), detached from the 2nd Infantry Division. In the movie, the shoulder patch of the 2nd Division, a star with an Indian chief's head in it, is shown but not explained. Before going to Vietnam, the battalion is assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division as the 1st battalion of the 7th Cavalry (Regiment), and the men are shown with the 1st Cav shoulder patch, a yellow shield with a diagonal bar and a horse's head. The book and the movie make the point that the 7th Cavalry was the Regiment to which George Armstrong Custer belonged. This is shown as not a comforting association to Lt.Col. Moore, though the book says that the unit took up with enthusiasm the Regimental March, "Garry Owen," whose use in the movie is not explained.

I have taken a liberty with traditional military symbols. A company is usually indicated by a single stroke (i), as the level of organization immediately inferior to the battalion. However, here this is used for the rank level of Major, while three circles (ooo), usually used for a platoon, is here used for the highest level of basic officer rank, or organization -- the Captain and the Company. Two circles (oo) here indicates a platoon. To show that it is not commanded by a commissioned officer, a squad is indicated with three squares.

The gap between command rank, above, and officer rank, below, is an important one but sometimes becomes obscured. Thus, while Lieutenants in the Royal Navy held rank by seniority, a promotion to Commander or Captain was not automatic. Taking command of a ship, after all, was an awesome responsibility, both because of the value of the ship and because of the power the captain had over the crew, sometimes the power and life and death. On the other hand, some kinds of ships are so small, like landing craft in World War II, that they didn't really rate a commanding officer of higher rank than a Lieutenant. Also, a peacetime military establishment, when promotion is slow because governments don't want to be paying a lot of higher ranked officers, may give more serious commands to lesser ranking officers. Thus, the first shots fired by the United States Navy in World War II were the attack by the destroyer Ward (DD139) on a Japanese submarine just after 6:30 AM outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor (it has only recently been confirmed, with the discovery of the sunken submarine, that the Ward actually hit, and indeed sank, the submarine). The Ward was commanded by Lieutenant William Outerbridge. In the inter-war years, several destroyers were commissioned with Lieutenants in command. Some destroyers were even commissioned with Lieutenants j.g. in command, for instance DD195, the Welborn C. Wood, and DD247, the Goff, in 1921. One destroyer, the Hulbert (DD342), was even commissioned (10/27/20) with a lowly Ensign in command, I.C. Taylor. He was relieved, however, the very next day by Lieutenant S.A. Maher.

Officer Rank
oooA Captain commands a Company. This was probably the basic unit of military strength in the 16th century. Later a cavalry company was called a Troop, and an artillery company a Battery. Companies traditionally are lettered rather than numbered. Thus, an old television comedy about a group of cavalry misfits was called F Troop.

The symbol for a militia unit is introduced here. In the Constitution the basis of the United States military was supposed to be a "well regulated militia," which meant the armed body of the citizenry. This was the ideal of Republican government, but such a militia has illegally been allowed to lapse. This issue is discussed elsewhere in relation to Machiavelli, who advocated (and himself once trained) a citizen militia.

The most important duty of a traditional naval Lieutenant was to Stand Watch and direct the ship in lieu of the Captain. Since a commissioned ship is in operation 24 hours a day, even in port, there must be an officer in charge. The Captain usually has other things to do, including sleep. The "Officer of the Deck" is the officer directly in charge of the motion and external actions of the ship. Even if the Captain is present, he may leave the Officer of the Deck in charge and merely give orders to him. On the other hand, the Captain can "take the Conn," which means he gives the steering orders directly to the Helmsman, but leaves other operations to the Officer of the Deck. Or the Captain can "take the Conn and the Deck," which means he gives all the orders, leaving the Officer of the Deck as an observer. Even when the Officer of the Deck is entirely in charge, however, he may leave the Deck and the Conn to the Junior Officer of the Watch, who is an officer in training for Watch duties. A Watch is four hours, so with a bell rung every half hour, Eight Bells is the end of the Watch [note]. On smaller ships, not all the Officers of the Deck may be full Lieutenants, just as noted above that Lieutenants have been Commanding Officers of some ships, even destroyers. A full Lieutenant wears two stripes on his sleeve.
ooA First Lieutenant would have been the chief assistant to the Captain originally. Later, Companies were divided into Platoons (French peloton, "small detachment"), and the Lieutenants became direct commanders of their own Platoons.A Lieutenant Junior Grade, or a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, would have the same duties, at least in training, as a full Lieutenant. A Lieutenant j.g. wears two stripes, but one is narrow. A Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, however, wears one stripe, like an American Ensign.
oA Second Lieutenant is the lowest ranking commissioned officer, with the same duties, at least in training, as a First Lieutenant. Note: the single circle (o) is often used to symbolize squad level organization, but as a squad is in the hands of non-commissioned officers, it is retained here for the lowest commissioned officer rank. An Ensign is bit a like an original Midshipman in the Royal Navy. Before military academies, naval officers were trained at sea, and a Midshipman, who had few real command responsibilities and might only be a young teenager, was the beginning of the process. Horatio Nelson shipped out at 15. One consequence of this was that graduates of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis used to be commissioned directly as Lieutenants j.g., without serving as Ensigns -- I am now informed that this is no longer the case. An American Ensign would be a Reserve Officer or someone coming up from the ranks through Officer's Candidate School.

One important thing that all officers have in common is that they are supposed to be "gentlemen." Today this may mean no more than that they are expected to be polite, self-controlled, and observant of propriety, not to mention morally upright. However, it originally meant rather more. Two hundred years ago, not every man was a "gentleman" just by courtesy. A gentleman, by English law, was a man with no regular trade or occupation. Now we might think of such a definition as specifying a vagrant, but it actually meant someone who lived off inherited wealth, rents, or feudal office (including the Church, which also meant Mediaeval Academia). This was an era when "amateur" was good and "professional" was bad -- since the amateur did something for love (amor), while the professional did something just for money. In the British legal system, barristers (i.e. those at the "Bar"), who plead in court, were gentlemen who did not accept pay (but received honoraria by courtesy), while other lawyers were solicitors, mere professionals. In the military, "officers and men" meant those who qualified as gentlemen and those who might not. "My good man" is how a gentleman might politely address someone who was not. This distinction could have serious legal consequences, since in Britain gentlemen could not be impressed off the street for military service, but others could. In protocol, untitled military officers had precedence of rank, and were above plain "gentlemen entitled to bear arms," but were below even the humblest titled nobility, even Knights and Esquires. That distinction was collapsed in ancien régime France or Imperial Germany, where only those of noble derivation qualified for officer rank.

Feudal Hierarchy

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Military Rank, Note 1

Occasionally I receive correspondence claiming that the word "lieutenant" means someone who "stands to the left," because the British pronunciation of it is "left-enant" and, supposedly, the lieutenant was supposed to stand to the left of the captain. Unfortunately, the word there is "lieu," not "left," and the whole word comes, unchanged, from French, where the word for "left" is gauche. In American English, the pronunication of the word remains recognizably similar to the French. Also, "lieutenant" has many uses (like "lieutenant governor") apart from military formations where position might mean something.

A recent correspondent claimed that the lieutenant was posted on the left side of a British Army company. I don't know about that, but I doubt that the English language was affected very much by Army formations. The Royal Navy was the "Senior Service," and while a correspondent once claimed that Naval lieutenants stood to the left, I know that this is nonsense. The etiquette of the Royal Navy on the quarterdeck, where a sailing ship was commanded, was that senior officers take the weather side of the deck, i.e. the side from which the wind comes (which will be elevated as the ship heels over to the lee). If that is the port side, and the captain is on deck, the lieutenant or other officers would stand to starboard, i.e. to the right if facing forward -- not the left.

The British pronunciation of "lieutenant" is just that, a pronunciation. It has nothing to do with the origin or the meaning of the word.

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Military Rank, Note 2

In the United States, especially, public force was supposed to be exercised by the Militia, which was unconstitutionally abolished and replaced with the "National Guard" by the Dick Act of 1903 -- probably so that free Blacks could be disarmed as part of the institution of Segregation in the Southern States. The National Guard may be a useful institution, but it is not the real Militia and is no substitute for it. The Militia being mentioned many times in the Constitution, Congress has a positive duty to provide for a "well regulated Militia," which now it has not done for a century -- even as federal, state, and local officials have worked tirelessly to "infringe" the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. This is being done supposedly to fight crime; but it is now obvious that Britain became one of the most non-violent of nations when it had no restrictive gun laws, while violent crime has exploded there (beyond the United States in every category except, so far, murder) since lawful gun ownership has been all but eliminated. An American State with very nearly the lowest crime and murder rate, Vermont, actually has no restrictions on honest citizens even carrying concealed weapons (aptly called "Vermont carry"). Other States which have adopted "shall issue" conceal carry permits (like Texas) have seen greater reductions in crime than States that have not (like California).

The political program to disarm civilians in the United States is part of the project of the Left and the Democratic Party to render citizens into helpless dependents of the State. Since the facts contintually and consistently contradict their stated intentions of reducing crime by "gun control," it now becomes clear that their motives are different and unstated:  the desire for a police state. This is not surprising on the totalitarian Left, which has always had this aim. For something like the Democratic Party, the only charitable reading is that they view the matter with a utopianism or wishful thinking that is so far out of touch with reality as to constitute a kind of infantile incompetence. Yet they keep getting elected.

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Military Rank, Note 3

Morning Watch0400-0800
Fore-noon Watch0800-1200
Afternoon Watch1200-1600
Dog Watches1600-1800
Evening Watch2000-2400
The names of the watches are given at left. One four hour watch is traditionally divided in half. These are the Dog Watches, from 1600 to 2000 hours. The purpose of this division is first of all to provide reasonable dinner hours for all members of the crew. Where the crew is divided into three duty sections, two can eat during one Dog Watch, and the other in the next (or one section in either, to equalize the numbers eating). Another reason for the extra watch is so that the odd number of watches, seven instead of six, creates a natural rotation through the day in the duties of each of the watch crews. With three duty sections, again, each would only need to stand the Midwatch once every three days.

While the day of nautical routine begins at Midnight, like the civil day, this was not always the case. The nautical day used to begin at Noon, for the same calendar day that began the previous Midnight of civil time. The particular significance of Noon was that this was the time of the most important and customary astronomical observation, the sextant measurement of the altitude of the sun. Since the longitude of a ship would not be precisely known, the exact moment of local Noon would not be precisely known either. The Noon sighting thus required a number of measurements, before and after when Noon might be expected. The sighting where the sun was at the hightest altitude would show Local Noon, and, since this is marked against the ship's chronometer (which is set for Greenwich Mean Time), the longitude of the ship could be calculated. Since the precise moment of Local Noon might actually be missed by a few seconds (and the sun seems to "hang" at a particular altitude at the Zenith), there might not be great accuracy in this method for determining longitude. The altitude itself could also be used to calculate the latitude of the ship, using the celestrial declination of the sun that could be read for the date out of the Nautical Almanac. As Local Noon was determined, the tradition used to be to reset a ship's clock to reflect Local Time for the next twenty-four hours.

Until 1925, Noon was also used to begin the day for astronomical time. This is particularly easy to understand, since it meant that the astronomical observations of a single night would be reckoned to belong to a single calendar day. Even though this practice is now long gone, one artifact of it, the Julian Date, still survives and still reckons the calendar day to begin at Noon.

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Strategy, Tactics,
and Operations

[T]actics is the theory of use of military force in combat. Strategy is theory of the use of combats for the object of the War.

Carl von Clausewitz, On War [1832, Penguin Classics, 1968, 1982, p.173]

It was [Helmuth Karl von] Moltke [1800-1891] who placed the concept of "operation" on the "hitherto unnamed area between strategy and tactics."

Karl-Heinz Frieser, The Blitzkrieg Legend, The 1940 Campaign in the West [Naval Institute Press, 2005, p.330]

It is often said that strategy ends and tactics begin when one meets the enemy in battle. This is not quite right. It was not part of General Lee's strategy to meet the Union Army at Gettysburg. He was already past there, headed for Harrisburg, and had to come back. His strategic idea became a dead letter. Nor did General Meade have any intention of taking a stand at Gettysburg. He wanted to bring Lee to battle, to be sure, but there was a battle at that particular place only because Lee came back. Confederate soldiers, it seems, had been out looking for shoes. A minor skirmish in Gettysburg then grew into the famous, terrible, and decisive battle as both sides hurried to the scene.

So what occasioned the battle? It was the nature of Lee's operation that did so. Soldiers looking for shoes was in the nature of the operation of an Army that had problems supplying such things. To the historic dismay of many generals and admirals, it is not always one's strategy that brings on a battle. One or more side merely blunders into it, just because they happen to be in certain places at certain times. Of course, they are often in those places because they intend to be there for some strategic purpose. Or they may be there because they think they are someplace else, for some strategic purpose, but then happen to be there by accident or because they got lost. Such occasions of absurd mischance have often led to the most weighty and historic consequences.

Strategy, therefore, is merely intention. All the strategic insight in the world will accomplish nothing without the operation to put it into effect. The operation, however, then takes on a life of its own. The ability to do all that one intends to do in a military operation is rarely possible, even for the most competent, disciplined, and well supplied armies and navies. The Germans planned for years to turn the flank of the Allied Armies in France, but when the moment came in 1914, some German troops had been sent East, to meet a threat from Russia that was in comparison unimportant, and to reinforce the German left, with some vague intention that the French right could be turned as well. The German right was thus not extended as far as originally intended. As it happened, troops rushed out from Paris in taxicabs matched the German right flank, and the German plan failed. In 1940, appreciating the power of armored units, Hitler approved a plan to punch right through the Allied center, enveloping the left from behind and pinning it against the English Channel. This worked. At the beginning of either of the wars, the Allies, even when they had a strategic plan, never had a chance of implementing any part of it.

Operational problems are usually the least interesting part of war. The saying is that amateurs talk about tactics but professionals talk about logistics. Battles, especially naval battles or air attacks, may be over in minutes, while many hours, days, weeks, or months may have passed in preparation. Real life warriors spend much of that time in boredom, drinking, or in training that may or may not be realistic enought to reflect the conditions that will prevail in battle. What repeating rifles would do in the Civil War, or machine guns in World War I, or tanks and aircraft in World War II, was all a very unpleasant surprise. Tactics were always playing catch up. But rifles, machine guns, and tanks were produced neither by tactics nor strategy. They could be anticipated by neither. Instead, they were produced by an aspect of the military operation, the invention and procurement of weapons.

In its most general sense, "operations" means everything in between the plan and the battle, between the talking and the shooting -- how strategy is to be implemented, forces sustained, and the enemy engaged. In a narrower and stricter sense, however, "Operations," i.e. "Combat Operations," will mean what the forces do once they have been equipped with their weapons, supplies, and other gear. This sense of "Operations" thus will be the specific actions of combat forces that will lead to battles in the fulfillment of strategic goals. How it is that forces in the field can continue to be equipped, i.e. supplied, with their weapons, amunition, gear, food, and replacements for casualties is something else -- however essential it may be to an Operation. Thus, an Operation can cease for lack of fuel or food, as a battle can be lost for lack of fuel or ammunition.

At the strategic level, one may have a plan. It may even have a name, like the "Anaconda Plan" proposed by Winfield Scott for defeating the Confederacy. A plan for an operation, however, requires that specific things be done by specific people. An operation requires actual orders going to actual people, telling them what to do. This is true whether the operation involves combat as its goal (an Operation in the narrow sense), or it is merely part of logistics. The body of orders, directions, and intentions for a combat Operation, all in fulfillment of its strategic goal, will then customarily be given a name. Operation Torch was the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942. Operation Overlord was the Allied invasion of Europe in Normandy in 1944.

To keep the enemy guessing about what you are doing, the names of operations should be code words that give no hint about what they are for. "Torch" and "Overlord" are not the best names in that respect, since they sound like something important. Torch was originally called "Gymnast," which is better. Today, of course, we get things like "Operation Iraqi Freedom," for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Here the operation has a name that is a political statement, not a code word. This would still be a bad idea, despite preparations for the invasion of Iraq being no secret, if it enabled the enemy to distinguish between goings-on that were related to the invasion from those that were not. With intelligence operations, which are by their nature secret, the meaninglessness of the code name may be a matter of life and death. We now see movies that revolve around what an operation with such-and-such a code name was all about.

A special vocabulary has grown up, especially around intelligence or commando ("special forces") operations -- "special operations." In the first place, an operation will be an "Op." If its conduct is secret, it will be a "covert" operation. If it is kept secret even from political authorities who are supposed to know about it, it is a "Black Op." Even the budget used for "black ops" may be disguised and kept secret from oversight authorities. The recent equivalents of James Bond have sunk deeper and deeper into a moral and legal twilight world. However realistic this all may be, one feature of such stories has loomed larger and larger:  the operation. We may know why these things are being done, and the ideal operation may even avoid actual violence -- if intelligence is the goal -- but the whole conceptual focus of the matter falls onto that ground of activity between strategy and tactics. It's all about the Op. We no longer have soldiers or even spies, but "operatives," i.e. their very identity is absorbed into the operation. Fascination with the details and mechanism of covert operations has grown in fiction, achieving perhaps its first vivid incarnation in the Mission Impossible television series (1966-1973), where the interest of the show was in how things were done, much more than what was being done. We also see fictional treatment of what can happen when the operation becomes everything and is cut lose from any strategic, practical, or moral purpose. The operative becomes admirable just for his skill, regardless of its uses.

A military establishment usually has separate operations for personnel, ordinance, training, construction, intelligence, supply, and then Operations proper. In the United States these are organized as "command and general staff functions":  G-1 (or S-1 at regimental or lower level) Personnel, G-2 Intelligence, G-3 Operations and Training, and G-4 Logistics. Sometimes other functions are added, like G-5 for Plans and Policy (or Psychological Warfare) and G-6 for Civil Affairs. What is distinctive about all these staff functions is that the strategic goals may already have been determined, at the highest level of command, while most of the staff work is expected to involve no participation in battle. Thus, these functions involve a great deal of activity that falls between the strategic determinations and combat, with people who neither determine strategy nor participate in combat. That is the operational echelon in military organization.

Since there is so much to any actual operation, and so much of it is uninteresting, that is usually what must be left out in war games, especially those just for entertainment. Chess, the original war game, is a nearly pure interface of strategy and tactics. It is also so abstract that it can only be played really well by mathematical geniuses (or computers) and leaves many people rather bored or frustrated. The elements added by more realistic board wargames entail more and more preparation and more attention to the disposition and movement of forces. Especially important are the irregular factors of a map. You cannot have military history without maps. It is not surprising that Machiavelli advised the prince to study the terrain of his state. As a young officer, William Tecumseh Sherman had serendipidously done military surveys of northern Georgia. A chess board is as regular and mathematical as everything else in the game -- I keep thinking how nice it would be to have a somewhat larger board with mountains and rivers. Real terrain has obstacles and different forms of ground that make for different kinds of combat. The terrible venue of the Wilderness battle between Grant and Lee meant that forces blundered into each other and hardly knew who they were shooting at. When the forest then caught fire, it burned to death many unattended wounded lying between the armies. Warfare in jungles later would produce the same kind of close order confusion.

In 1942 the Japanese operation to occupy Port Moresby in New Guinea was aborted when the Battle of the Coral Sea occurred. Instead, a march overland was planned, over the jungle covered Owen Stanley Range. The rigors of such an operation all by itself created much of the interest in this and other South Pacific fighting. Defeated outside Port Moresby, the Japanese retreated and the Allies followed. Almost everything about the operations and the fighting was determined by the terrain.

Operations, therefore, are the often overlooked bridge between strategy and tactics, accounting for most of the activity and most of the variety of warfare. An interest in military history can begin at the opposite ends of tactics and strategy, but then as one moves towards the interface of the two, more and more operational details begin to get filled in. The level of detail in life can be almost infinite. Someone reads a map wrong and gets lost, a signal is misunderstood, etc., and the military advantage changes. After the Vietnam War, many families were indignant that their sons or fathers were killed by "friendly fire," as though this was some extraordinary blunder that military authorities were trying to cover up -- as sometimes they did, to avoid embarrassment. Well, there is actually nothing so common in warfare. Stonewall Jackson was killed by "friendly fire." It never occurred to Robert E. Lee to court-martial sentries who had shot at horsemen moving around between the armies. Accidents happen; and in the "fog of war" men may often count themselves lucky that they are not shooting at their own side. War games try to reproduce all that with randomizing factors, which both strategy and tactics must take into account. Even the best amateur war games, however, usually abstract from the most dismal and fundamental of operational necessities -- supply. A force low on food cannot last long. A force without ammunition is no force (unless it can bluff about its situation). So much of military history consists of sieges, and it is impossible to portray such things accurately without some representation of the supply problems. Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, even with numerical superiority, became less and less effective just because the men were starving.

A major operational problem is always shaking out the deadwood from the peacetime military. War is a cruel test of military competence. The incompetent tend to get killed or to get many others killed. Getting effective commanders in place often is a costly and horrible process of trial and error. This all is because the conditions of a peacetime military often have nothing to do with what things are going to be like in war. A peacetime military is in the awkward position of being able to do none of the things, or at least none of the things in truly realistic circumstances, that it actually exists and trains to do. The skills of success in a peacetime military are often just bureaucratic skills of conformity and ass-covering. Daring deeds, original thinking, unenthusiastic habits of spit and polish, and the like are all tickets to professional censure and failure. A good indication of this is the old saying that there is "the right way, the wrong way, and the Army's way," which implies the existence of irrational regulations that are there merely to be obeyed. The usually smug joke that "military intelligence" is an oxymoron easily applies to a peacetime military -- but it would have been insanity to think any such thing going up against someone like Irwin Rommel.

Once an actual war starts many of the characteristics that make for success in peace quickly become either irrelevant or disastrous liabilities. Members of a peacetime military love to gripe about the absurd inanities by which their superiors demonstate what they think is important for their men to know. In war, absurd inanities, or even just bureaucratic inertia, get men killed. A good example of the latter was the magnetic torpedo for submarines that was the pride of the United States Navy Bureau of Ordinance (BuOrd) at the beginning of World War II. There were many things wrong with the torpedoes, which had not been properly tested, but all the action reports of torpedo failure were dismissed by BuOrd as due to misuse by the submariners. Captains soon learned to ignore instructions on the use of the torpedoes, but this could not actually fix them or compensate for all their faults. It took a couple of years, and tests ordered by general officers in Hawaii and Australia, for BuOrd to accept that the torpedoes were defective and fix them. There is no telling how many submarines were actually lost because they were sunk by warships they had hit with dud torpedoes.

More than twenty years later, things weren't all that different. In 1968 the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) disappeared at sea. As recounted by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew in Blind Man's Bluff, the Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage [HarperPaperbacks, 1999, Perseus Book, 1998, pp.124-170], the submarine probably sank because the battery in a torpedo caught fire, detonating the torpedo. This blew the hatches off the torpedo room, internally and externally, and the sub rapidly filled with water. As it happened, the ordnance command (Sontag and Drew say "Naval Ordnance" but not "BuOrd") had been warned that there were faulty batteries in some torpedoes, and that they could catch fire or explode. This warning was not passed along to the ships, and some of the paperwork about it now appears to have gone missing (i.e. been destroyed in bureaucratic ass-covering). Nevertheless, after the sinking of the Scorpion, the Navy, without mentioning that there ever had been a problem, ordered new kinds of batteries. Thus, men can die from the irrationalities of a peacetime bureaucracy in peacetime itself as well as in war.

In war itself the sense of irrationality, even insanity, is well supplied by the terrible events of combat themselves. The challenge to is keep one's senses when the world all around seems to have gone insane. This can then produce what itself seems like insanity, i.e. an indifference or even humor in the face of horrors nearly beyond belief. Thus, in World War I, so many bodies were blown to pieces by artillery, and then mixed in with the earth through subsequent explosions, that the trenches were like open corridors through cemeteries. Where the odd dead hand might be sticking out of a wall, soldiers might actually shake it, for good luck apparently, on their way out to the front line. All of this, in conjunction with the typical irrationalities persisting from the peacetime miliary, can produce a sense of overall madness, as in Joseph Heller's Catch 22. Not just to keep one's senses, but to keep a perspective on the purpose of one's activities, distinguishes, not just good soldiers, but commanders who can deliver victory with a minimum of futile loss.

In war, the men learn to love commanders who only worry about victory, not about chicken-shit irrelevancies. At the end of the Civil War, William Tecumseh Sherman was tempted to parade his army (the "bummers") through the review in Washington just the way it had looked marching through Georgia, "ragged, dirty and sassy." Sherman and Grant both were known for their casual campaign dress. Grant showed up wearing a private's coat to accept the surrender of Robert E. Lee, who was in full dress uniform. Both Sherman and Grant, West Pointers like Lee, had left the Army before the Civil War, while Lee had not. Sherman had done better in the peacetime Army and in civilian life than Grant had, but they both came into their own in war. When Abraham Lincoln received complaints that Grant sometimes drank heavily, he said he wanted to find out what Grant was drinking and send it to his other generals. Nevertheless, some generals, like George Patton, could excel in war and worry about the p's and q's of military deportment -- though his own flamboyance was a little beyond regulation. Grant was so phlegmatic that some people thought him callous; yet we know that he wept the evening after the Wilderness battle. That he was composed the next morning and calmly issued new orders meant that Lee would ultimately be defeated. As it happens, Lee lost a higher percentage of his men in combat than did Grant (one need only remember Pickett's Charge); and it is evident from history that some of the most successful generals, such as Lee, Grant, and, much earlier, the Duke of Marlborough, were willing to risk serious losses to secure victory.

It has been suggested that it is possible to predict who will lose a war by identifying which side has the more elaborate uniforms. Such a notion has been called the "Sukhomlinov Effect," after General V.A. Sukhomlinov, the Minister of War of Russia in 1914. In an era of elaborate uniforms, Sukhomlinov seems to have gone one better. The Russians, of course, did poorly against the Germans on the Eastern Front in World War I, although the Germans (with more elaborate uniforms) then lost on the Western Front. This rule only really fails with the Japanese (and the Boers). Their minimalistic Zen aesthetic sense perhaps helped keep their uniforms rather plain, but it did not prevent them from going the same way as Hermann Goering, whose rotund figure in absurd dress was a red flag for military disaster. In World War II, the Nazis, with Goering in the vanguard, won the uniform race hands down.

It is not in general difficult to understand how vanity may often be a clue to deeper folly -- for instance Hitler's worry about the appearance of failure meant that German forces in Stalingrad were forbidden from retreating or fighting their way out, while they still had the chance. So they were destroyed. The Germans never again displayed a military advantage over the Russians. The same dynamic can be discerned in a much less sinister case:  Louis XIV exhausted France and set it on the path to Revolution out of many considerations that can only be regarded as vain or superficial. Louis abandoned the fundamental principle of the House of Bourbon, raison d'état, as manifest in the actions and philosophy of Henri IV and Louis XIII. Louis did not command forces in battle, and uniforms were only beginning to be used in his last war, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), but Louis started the wars. Nothing, however, may have damaged the nation as much as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. This ended the rights of Protestants, the Huguenots, to practice their religion in France, and most consequently fled, right to Louis' enemies (the Delanos, in the family of Franklin Roosevelt, were Huguenots, though they left France and came to America before the time of Louis XIV). Meanwhile, Louis was proud of his legs, which showed to good effect in the knee-breeches of the era. On the other hand, Louis did get for France the Free County of Burgundy, Alsace, and a firm foodhold in Lorraine, even if it would be the Republic, not the Bourbons, for whom these would permanently extend the country.

The existence of the operational echelon of military organization is not just a practical detail. "Operations" represent a conceptual space between strategy and tactics that becomes an important element in military thought. Clausewitz said, "[T]actics is the theory of use of military force in combat. Strategy is theory of the use of combats for the object of the War" [see citation above]. It is still a common understanding of military matters that they may be neatly divided between strategy and tactics. However, there can be strategic goals and tactical goals, but also operational goals. The "theory of the use of combats for the object of the War" actually has both strategic and operational aspects to it. Strategic goals contribute directly to general victory in a war. Achieving the strategic goals, however, requires operations, at which level there may be operational goals and doctrines that, when all put together, fulfill the strategic tasks. Awareness of the conceptual space of operations, and of such intermediate goals and doctrines, allows for a more mature development of military thought, planning, and, indeed, operations.

Military Rank

Philosophy of History, Military History

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Copyright (c) 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Feudal Hierarchy

Mediaeval Western Europe was largely governed through feudalism, which was a system substituted for the professional administration and paid military that would have been possible if there had been much of a cash economy, education, or communication. Where there was mostly nothing but subsistence agriculture, and little trade, travel, money, or education, rule through personal loyalty and rents in kind from agriculture was very nearly the only thing possible. The feudal contract between a Lord and a Vassal was then to confer a "living," i.e. land with people and produce, in return for ruling the land and providing military service for the Lord. The power to rule the land was a loss for the Lord, but in the absence of paid administrators, there wasn't much alternative (although for a while the German Emperors were able to use the Church). Whether the military service was actually provided largely depended on the prestige of the Lord and the loyalty of the Vassal. People seeking to create feudal-like "livings" for themselves through political influence in the modern world, usually as "sinecures," i.e. with no obligations, are called "rent-seekers."

The ultimate feudal rank was Emperor, but this was also anomalous. The original Emperor, the Roman Emperor, resided in Constantinople during the Middle Ages. Rome had rejected Kings. Julius Caesar refused a crown. So Augustus was merely the imperator, i.e. "commander." In Mediaeval Romania, some level of cash economy remained, and the device of conferring land for livings was at first restricted to soldiers who would till the land themselves, not conferred on a nobility that could become disloyal. The Emperor was the only sovereign -- the and . Since basileus had been the Classical Greek word for "king," Latin rex was adopted, as , for Mediaeval Greek [note]. The Emperor was the "Equal to the Apostles" (, isapóstolos) and thus had a traditional role in the governance of the Church ("Caesaro-Papism"). For instance, it was the Emperor who called Church Councils. Members of the Imperial Family are always portrayed with halos, like the Saints. For many centuries, the election of a new Pope required Imperial confirmation, the iussio. This exalted status for an Emperor was never found in Western Europe, though the Emperor Sigismund did call the Council of Constance (1414-1418) to end the Great Schism -- which he was able to do since there were three rival Popes. Later Popes denied that the Emperors had such a power inherently. This and other innovations in Papal claims, including assertions of secular authority, mean that the term "Caesaro-Papism" might be better applied to the Papacy, which assumed imperial pretentions, rather than to the Emperors, whether in Constantinople or in Germany, who exercised no eccelesiastical authority beyond what Constantine had [note].

When the Pope crowned the Frankish King Charlemagne Emperor, the claim was still that this was the only Emperor, whose authority was universal, if by leave of the Pope, whose ultimate authority was also universal. The Emperors in Constantinople at times accepted that they had a Western colleague, as in Late Antiquity, but there could have been a subtle and clever spin on it. Since the Tetrarchy, "Caesar" had been used as the title of subordinate Emperors. It was still used in Mediaeval Romania -- in Greek. Well, in German and Russian, the Emperors were called Kaiser and Tsar, respectively, which are obviously the words for "Caesar" in those languages. So the Emperor of the Romans in Constantinople could remain the only true "Augustus," (or , Sebastós, the equivalent in Greek), the senior Emperor, with the Germans and Russians (prospectively, since there weren't Russian Tsars yet) regarded as Caesares. However, this sort of distinction does not seem to have been made. Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (d.959) said that Charlemagne "reigned as emperor," ebasíleuse, , over "Great Francia," [De Administrando Imperio, Greek text edited by Gy. Moravcsik, Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 1967, 2008, p.108]. The verb basileuô is based on the noun basileus, , which, as we have seen, was used for the Roman Emperor. The Porphyrogenitus was thus not thinking of Charlemagne as a mere "Caesar."

The universal authority of the Wester Emperor was not always acknowledged in Mediaeval Western Europe -- the Kings of France always denied it -- but there never was more than one duly crowned one -- the Pope would not have stood for it -- despite the occasional king, as in Spain, who thought it might be nice to an emperor. When the customary right to be thus crowned settled on the German Kings, the institution of the Imperial Electors arose from the traditional electoral nature of the German Kingship. This was then thought to nicely parallel the electoral nature of the Papacy. But an electoral monarchy in Germany, as in Poland, spelled disaster for the power of the Throne.

In time, rivals to the Emperor in Constantinople (and where the writ of the Pope did not run) arose, in Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, and in the form of the Latin Emperors who ruled in the Constantinople taken by the Fourth Crusade. Later, after Fall of the city to the Turks, Russia claimed the Imperial legacy. In Western Europe, however, no rivals to the traditional Emperor arose until Napoleon claimed the status in 1804. He at least had the Pope hand him the crown. Soon, however, there were other Empires in Europe (Austria, 1804; France again, 1852; and then Germany, 1871), without even a nod to the Papacy. Other European sovereigns found foreign Empires, like Brazil for Portugal in 1822, Mexico for France/Austria in 1864, India for Britain in 1876, and Ethiopia for Italy in 1936.

Feudalism, however, was not basically a matter of the Emperors. It began with the Germanic Kings who replaced the Western Roman Empire. The Kingdom became the basic unit of rule in Western Europe. The words for King in Latin (rex) and Gothic (reiks) were from the Old Indo-European root of sacred kingship (e.g. Sanskrit raja). In later Germanic languages, king (German könig) was the ruler of the kin, the leader of the tribe or people. In Eastern Europe the word for "king" is noteworthy. In Czech it is král, in Polish król, and in Hungarian király. For comparison, the same word in Croatian is kralj, in Slovakian král', in Russian kor´l, and in Lithuanian karalius. Just as the Latin name Caesar gives us the word for "emperor" in many of these languages (and in German), here it looks like Carolus Magnus, Charlemagne, has given us the word for "king." Kings, however, were also Princes (Latin princeps, "first, foremost"); and the term "prince" came to mean a basic, independent sovereign. There are still sovereign Princes in Europe, of Monaco and of Liechtenstein. There are, of course, much older words of "king," as we can see above right in Sumerian, Babylonian, Hebrew, and Egyptian. Closely related to Babylonian and Hebrew is also the Arabic word for King, which we don't see until the Middle Ages.

Feudalism, then, meant that the King divided his realm between trusted retainers. Latin comes meant "companion" (literally, "go with"), and they were originally the retainers of the Emperor in the Late Roman Empire, who were then often entrusted with the adminstration of dioceses, major divisions of the Empire, like Britain or Spain, or sometimes important provinces (Africa, Egypt). During the Middle Ages, the Latin comes continues in Greek, as , right through to the end of Romania. In the Latin West, the comes palatii or palatinus, Count Palatine or Pfalzgraf, could have, like the original official, various legal, judicial, administrative, or gubernatorial functions. In Germany, a comes urbanus, Burggraf, was a Royal official in episcopal or imperial cities, and a comes provinciae, Landgraf (Landgrave), was a new Royal agent created by the Emperor Lothar II (1125-1137) -- eventually becoming a low level of landed authority, as in the Landgravate of Hesse-Homburg, which survived as a German state until 1866. The classic Mediaeval meaning of comes, however, is in the sense that companions of a King received the basic territorial division of the Kingdom, a County (like Flanders or Holland -- comitas in Latin). England still consists of Counties. In English a comes is a "Count," but English counts are always called "Earls" (Old English eorl, "warrior, nobleman"). The wife of an Earl, however, is still a "Countess." In German, "count" is Graf. There is no more striking contrast between Roman and later usage of the title than that there should have been a "Count of Britain" (Comes Britanniae) in the former, while "Britain" today combines the Kingship of England and Scotland (with Wales as a Principality more or less within the Kingdom of England).

Some Counts are more important than others. Counties at the edge of a Kingdom may be threatened with invaders, or may be expanding into outside territories. These are the "Marches" (Mark in German, marca in Latin) and the Count of a March is a "Margrave," from German Markgraf, or "Marquess" (in English, "Marquis" in French) -- comes marcae, marchicomes, or marchio in Latin. The wife of a Marquis is a "Marchioness" (in English, "Marquise" in French, marchionissa in Latin), which preseves the origin of the word more clearly. The most famous Margravate was Brandenburg, which became the Kingdom of Prussia. A Marquis thus has a higher noble rank than a Count. True feudal Counts and Margraves have sovereign powers over their own subjects, entitled to "meet justice," bear arms, and collect taxes; but they are also vassals, of their sovereign Lord. Their vassalage, of course, is in terms of a feudal contract, i.e. they owe military service for a certain part of the year. Usually this does not extend to furnishing any tax revenues to their Lord, which, as produce, could hardly be transported or stored well in the early days; but appeals of justice might be made over their heads to the King or Prince.

In Germany a higher level of noble rank developed. Latin dux meant "leader," and this was the Late Roman title for a frontier military commander, which we then see in Greek, as , until the end of Romania. There was thus a Duke of Britain as well as a Count of Britain. The Count, as a Companion of the Emperor, and as commander of one of the comitatenses (the mobile field armies), had the higher rank. As the East Frankish, German Kingdom formed in the 9th century, the leaders of the old German tribal regions (Saxony, Franconia, Bavaria, etc.) and some comparable territories (Lorraine) came to be called dux (German Herzog). Their domains are known as the "Stem Duchies" (where there is more discussion of the derivation of Herzog). This elevated the title well above its Roman status, so that Dukes came to be regarded as superior to Counts and Margraves. Soon, other domains adopted the title Duke. In France these were sometimes ethnic areas on analogy with the German tribes, like Gascony or Brittany, and later were large, semi-independent realms (e.g. Burgundy) often entrusted to Royal brothers (e.g. Charles of Anjou). Originally, both marchio and dux were seen more as functions or offices than as titles, and a Count (comes) might claim temporarily and alternatively either or both of the higher titles. The higher title might stick in some places, like Gascony, which became a Duchy, but not in others, like Barcelona, which remained a County, although clearly a March in function. In Eastern Europe, a rank comprable to dux developed, "voivode," which is discussed with the rulers there.

In Eastern Europe, the rulers of Kiev, Vladimir, and Lithuania have traditionally been called "Grand Dukes," while newer treatments call them "Grand Princes." The word is Knyaz in Russian, Kunigaikshtis in Lithuanian, kníze in Czech, knez in Croatian, ksiaze in Polish, and knieza in Slovakian. In all these languages, a word for "duke" is also often borrowed from German, like Russian gertsog (i.e. herzog) and from Latin for "prince," Russian prints. All the originally Slavic (or Baltic, for Lithuanian) terms can be translated either "duke" or "prince." The preference for "duke" seems to come from the circumstance that in modern times a brother of the Russian Tsar was always a Velikii Knyaz, and this was always translated "Grand Duke" by analogy to the tradition of giving the title Duke to the brothers of the Kings of England and France. Merely calling them "princes" would have made them sound less significant (even like children). "Prince," however, is more of a sovereign title than "duke" (see above); and, with the Romanov Grand Dukes mostly gone from the scene, the tendency seems to be to dignify the rulers of Kiev and Vladimir, if not Lithuania, early Poland, etc., with that translation.

The title of Duke was not introduced in England until 1337, used by Edward III for his sons, and never went with such semi-independent domains as the French Duchies. No Duchies were originally in principle independent (except in Eastern Europe); but as the Holy Roman Empire declined, the Stem Duchies, multiplied by division among brothers, became more and more independent. English "Duchies," although consisting of estates from which rents were collected, never came anywhere near to being organized, let alone independent, states. The French Duchy of Burgundy for a while was a rival to the French Throne itself, but it reverted to the Monarchy when the male line of Dukes died out in 1477. Fully independent German Duchies and Grand Duchies (like Baden) emerged when Napoleon abolished the Empire (1806). After the Congess of Vienna, they remained independent, subject only to the meagre powers of the German Confederation. German Duchies, Grand Duchies, Kingdoms, and Principalities all lost most of their sovereignty to the new German Empire in 1871. There is one remaining independent Grand Duchy in Europe, Luxembourg. Elsewhere, brothers of the sovereign King or Emperor were made Dukes (England) and Grand Dukes (Russia), without the traditional kind of sovereign feudal domain. The brother of the Prince of Wales in England, therefore, is traditionally dubbed the Duke of York; but this did not confer an independent sovereign status, and Yorkshire remains a County. Other English titles, like that of the Duke of Marlborough (or, for that matter, Earl Mountbatten of Burma), employ purely honorific place names.

In Italy, the direct descendants of the original Roman dux title could be seen in the Doges of independent cities like Venice and Genoa. Dux also came down in Italian with its original meaning, "leader," as duce, which was used as a title by Mussolini.

There was exactly one Arch-Duchy, which is what the Hapsburgs promoted Austria to, before they promoted it to an Empire. Later the title was used for heirs, like the Arch-Duke Francis Ferdinand, whose assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 touched off World War I.

The children of independent sovereigns are usually called "princes" and "princesses." This is would not be used for the children of Counts, Margraves, or of vassal Dukes -- who in England can be called "lords" (or "ladies"). The children of independent and sovereign Dukes, however, in Germany, were also "princes" and "princesses." The title of Prince of Wales in Britain did have a sovereign territorial association, with the Principality of Wales, but it is not clear that any practical sovereignty and independence ever went with it.

The lowest ranks of landed feudal nobility, of "Peers" in Britain, are that of "Viscount" (vicecomes, i.e. "vice-count") and "Baron." Viscounts and Barons are not "of" anything, like higher nobility (e.g. "Count of Toulouse"). Viscounts and Barons could hold estates within Counties, but there is no traditional formal feudal division of a County, Duchy, Prinicpality, or anything else associated with them. They are simply addressed by their names, e.g. "Viscount Palmerston." "Baron" is rarely used in address or reference in Britain -- "Lord" alone is used (e.g. "Lord Byron," the 6th Baron Byron). "Baron" itself thus tends to sound like a German title, as it is (Old High German baro, into Mediaeval Latin as baro, baronis), although in German Herr is often used for basic noble rank -- as Seigneur is in French. The "Barons" in general can mean all the landed feudal nobility up to and including Dukes. The "Barons" are thus to be contrasted with the "Princes."

Under the Barons is non-landed gentle status. A "gentleman" traditionally was anyone with no regular trade or occupation (but, of course, an income or living). Since gentlemen by definition didn't work, below them would be the "working class" -- those with a regular trade or occupation. The term "working class," however, came in Marxist discourse to exclude capitalists or industrialists, not just gentlemen, even though such people definitely are "in trade" and were looked down upon by true gentlemen, gentry, or noblity. The Marxist idea was that capitalists were unnecessary parasites who thus did no work themselves. Although even Lenin realized quickly that "the workers" could not manage factories on their own, this absurd falsehood spelled stagnation and tyranny for the Soviet Union and for command or socialist economies. But the rhetoric about the "working class" (or "working families") continues as a regular part of political discourse in the United States, and anti-capitalist propaganda is generally required reading at American universities -- presented, not as historical retrospective, but as gospel truth. It is worth noting well who uses the term "working class" -- such language betrays their ideology and purposes, which otherwise may not candidly be stated -- or, if they are not actually anti-capitalist themselves, it means that they are confusedly using a tendentious terminology whose origin they do not understand.

The "gentry" had a bit more status than the mere gentleman (and usually their own land), consisting of the titles of "Baronet," "Knight," and "Esquire." Knights originally fought for the Barons, had the power to "meet justice" and bear arms, but did not collect taxes off of landed estates, except as employed by their Lords. They might, however, own land and so collect rents; but this was a private matter, not a function of rule. Esquires (squires, scutaria, "shield bearer") were apprentices and attendants of Knights. The title of "Baronet" was created by James I in 1611 simply to sell and raise money. Both Baronets and Knights are addressed as "Sir," usually using their first names, or both first and last names (e.g. Sir Karl Popper). The equivalent of Knighthood for women uses the title "Dame" (e.g. Dame Agatha Christie). The most famous Baronet may be the fictional Sir Henry Baskerville, of the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. The title of a Baronet is hereditary, while that of a Knight is not.

A basic Knight is a "Bachelor," but Knighthoods could also belong to Chivalric Orders, like the Bath or Garter. Chivalric Orders could be a large, independent, even sovereign military organizations, like the Hospitalers, Templars, or the Teutonic Knights. The Hospitalers remain a sovereign entity, although with no sovereign territory since the loss of Malta. Or, Orders could be restricted to nobility, or contain Ranks that didn't even involve Knighthood. Thus, the highest Japanese Order, of the Chrysanthemum (1876), was restricted to "sovereigns and members of princely families." The British Order of the Garter (1348) contains only one Rank, like the Chrysanthemum, and actually has a limited number of positions, intended to be like Arthur's Round Table. The British Orders of the Bath (1725) and of St. Michael and St. George (1818) have three Ranks, the Grand Cross, the Knight (or Dame) Commander, and the Companion. Companions, however, are not Knights. More elaborate is the Order of the British Empire (1917), with a Grand Cross (GBE), Knight (or Dame) Commander (KBE or DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), and Member (MBE). Only possessors of the GBE or KBE/DBE are Knights.

At times, 19th century British Chivalric Orders might strike people, even those claiming them, as silly. Thus, the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, a CMG, might be read as "Call Me God," the Knight Commander, KCMB, as "Kindly Call Me God," and the Grand Cross, GCMB, as "God Calls Me God."

The title of "Esquire" is somewhat informal, traditionally used by some, like Barristers (and all American lawyers), to indicate a certain respectability, and otherwise to indicate something more than mere gentle status. In Britain, a Barrister is a lawyer who actually argues cases in Court, as opposed to a Solicitor, who is hired by clients and who arranges for the services of a Barrister. Barrister's fees were honoraria and thus not really wages, which would be demeaning. Thus, a Barrister was a gentleman, while a Solicitor, a professional, was not. The fiction that a Barrister was not a professional was shared by others whose occupation would originally have been regarded as clerical, i.e. actual Clergy or any kind of Academic. Calling a physician a "Doctor" is an extension of this, since doctor literally means "teacher" and is an academic title. In the Middle Ages, Doctors, whether medical or otherwise, did not perform professional services for clients -- the practice of mediaeval medicine was often in the hands of barbers and other casual practitioners. Among the first professional physicians were surgeons, who long retained the title "Mr." Before anesthesia and antisepsis, surgeons could not perform anything like modern surgery. They were specialists who did what now would count as minor surgery, e.g. "cutting for stone."

Below gentry and gentlemen were the non-gentle commoners, the villains, the peasants, the serfs -- all those who were expected to till the land and pay the taxes but did not have the right to bear arms. This used to be a very significant difference. For instance, English press gangs, who seized men for naval service, were supposed to leave "gentlemen" alone. Dress and speech would ordinarily serve to distinguish gentlemen, but presence in the wrong kinds of establishments could compromise this. Now, however, even though the Peerage still exists in Britain, all honest citizens would be regarded as "gentle"; and the term "lady" has tended to substitute for the earlier "gentlewoman." The "good man" and "good woman" used to politely address peasants and laborers have passed out of use, except to deliberately sound somewhat condescending.

What didn't fit into the original system very well were the inhabitants of the cities that began to grow with the end of the isolation of Western Europe and the advent of trade and money, mainly starting in the 11th Century. These were the "Burgers," the "Bourgeoisie," who outrageously acted like nobility, ruling and defending themselves, sometimes even welcoming peasants into their protection ("City air makes free"). Cities generated cash wealth that could be taxed, usually in exchange for charters and privileges, enabling Kings, or whoever, to acquire a cash income, with which professional bureaucrats and professional armies could be hired, avoiding the circumstances that necessititated feudalism in the first place. With a professional army, and no need for a feudal levy, Kings could even expect the nobility to buy their military commissions. This domesticated the Barons in England and, with a little more difficulty, in France. In Germany, however, as we've seen, many feudal vassals became independent sovereigns -- until scooped up, mostly, by Prussia.

Princes Domain
Grand Duchess
The table at left summarizes the feudal hierarchy. "Arch-Duke," since it is unique and anomalous, has been left out. "Grand Duke" straddles the boundary between Princes and Barons since we do have cases of independent Grand Duchies, as in Germany or with Lithuania -- where the alternative is to call them "Grand Princes." The complication of Orders of Knighthood that extend to persons who are not knights has been avoided, and alternative versions of the titles are not given.

"Hierarchy" is itself a curious word, since it literally means "sacred (hierós) rule (arkhé)." Feudal hierarchies are not particularly sacred, but of course the term has been borrowed from something that was regarded as sacred, the (Christian/Roman) Church. The structure of priests, bishops, archbishops, primates, and patriarchs, with the Pope later claiming complete supremacy, was the original and proper "hierarchy," as the Church became an organized institution that actually was ruled. Judaism originally had authoritative priests, and so a real hierarchy; but in the Middle Ages this had been lost, and Jewish religious authorities were only influential to the extent of their reputation for learning and holiness. Something similar was the case in Islâm, where the Caliphate was a religious office but basically a secular authority with religious duties. The Islâmic state was based on the establishment of the Islâmic religion, but rulers did not themselves have much religious authority and, over the centuries, became increasingly merely military. True religious authorities might exercise power as judges, but the real influence of either judges or non-judges depended, again, on their reputation for learning and holiness. This reflected the principle of (Orthodox) Islâmic Law that religious authority was ultimately by Consensus. The Caliph was not even a priest, much less a Pope.

The full elaboration of European feudalism thus, one suspects, developed by deliberate analogy to the Church. The analogy was maintained in the doctrine of the "Three Estates," by which society was seen as consisting of three parts, the Nobility, the Churchmen, and the Commoners. Bishops, Archbishops, and Cardinals might, significantly, be called "Princes" of the Church. But while feudalism has come and gone, taking most of the nobility with it, the Church still exists, with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, especially, now extending right around the world, with Popes still elected as they have been for centuries.

Ranks of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was never governed in terms of a feudal system, with fiefs and vassals, as in Europe. Nevertheless, Hagopian's Ottoman-Turkish Conversation-Grammar [Julius Groos, Heidelberg, 1907] defines the word , beyzade, to mean "nobleman" [p.201], literally "son of a Bey," with the Persian patronymic on the title Bey/Be.
What might be regarded as noble rank, however, was never an independent feudal office but an honorary and ex officio status for other offices, civil, military, and relgious.

Thus, holders of General military rank were entitled to be addressed as , Pasha, with the title following the name, as in "Gordon Pasha," who held Khartoum against the Mahdî. Holders of Command rank would be addressed as , Bey; but below the rank of a full Colonel or ship Captain, this might alternate with , Efendi. Hagopian does not explain why both would be used, or if one is appropriate in some circumstances but not the other. So there is an ambiguity that we would not have with proper, independent noble rank. In turn, basic Officer rank entitles one to be addressed as Efendi, but this also alternates with , Agha, below the rank of army Captain or naval Lieutenant. In Ottoman Turkish Efendi was also a common term of respect for civilians, just as in Modern Persian Agha is merely the equivalent of "Mr."

The most curious thing here may be that Efendi, which seems so Turkish and Muslim, derives from Greek. In Classical Greek it was , authéntês, "one who does anything himself; master, autocrat," the actual source of the word "authentic" in English. As the pronunciation of the diphthong au changed to av or aph, this assimilated the th so that the word became , aphéntês, "lord, master, proprietor," in Mediaeval and Modern Greek. From there it passed into Turkish.

Varieties of Kingship

Over the course of history there are various conceptions of the nature of the relationship between a ruler and, on the one hand, his people and, on the other hand, the land over which he rules and upon which they live. There are also different conceptions about the source of the authority of the rulers, although the explanation of the former may also provide an explanation of the latter.

The office of Roman Emperor is an interesting case for the nature and justification of rule. Rome as a City bore with it little sense of autochthonous possession. The "People of Rome" were generally the basis of Roman existence. Offices were customary, and their responsibilities were mainly fiduciary. The secularism that seems to attend all of this may go back to the tradition that began among the Greeks of overthrowing kings, who can have been of hieratic or theogenetic origin, and then replacing them with artificial constitutions. This difference was strongly felt even by Augustus, who created the office of Emperor in explicitly fiduciary terms. Over time, however, the fiduciary beocmes customary, and then finally hieratic. Thus, Christian Roman Emperors, beginning with Constantine, become Isoapostolos, "Equal to the Apostles," and are portrayed with halos. Nevertheless, they definitely do not have theogenetic authority and may be deposed and replaced at the will of the people or the army. Divine sanction is ex officio and revocable. Something of the sort also clings to the Holy Roman Emperors, who possess the office courtesy of the Electors of the Empire, and whose divine sanction is entirely contingent on coronation by the Pope.

Elsewhere in Europe, stronger conceptions developed. Thus, the French Monarchy, original elective, became in time hereditary and customary. Its divine sanction was directly from God, bolstered by the legend of a vial of coronation oil that descended from heaven to sanctify the first Christian King of the Franks, Clovis. Ideologically, this grew into the "Divine Right of Kings," a doctrine that cost at least two kings their heads, Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France. Thus, John Locke described English Kingship in Fiduciary terms, while today, with few significant duties remaining to the British Throne, the office has mainly become Customary. Both France and England, however, beginning with Tribal conceptions of Kingship, gradually drifted into a stronger relationship with the Land. Napoleon may have been the Empereur des Français, but Louis was the Roi de France. In That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis played with the idea that, underlying the tribal "England" of Jutes, Angles, Saxons, and Normans, there was the sacred "Logres" (Welsh Lloegr) of the originally Celtic land, which was the true source of legitimacy and sanctity. Similarly, in John Boorman's 1981 movie Excalibur, we find Merlin telling Arthur, "You and the land are one." This expresses some kind of autochthonous kingship, with a more intimate relationship between king and land than we see in Cadmus. Indeed, Arthur's divine sanction is made mysteriously evident in his ability to draw the Sword from the Stone -- symbols simultaneously of Rule and the Land.

Today, of course, we know that politicians, with little but fiduciary authority, are generally venal and egotistical careerists. We tend to think that there is no, and ought not be, any real majestas of rule; and unfortunately most modern rulers live down to this standard. The dignity of Republican governments depends on the personal character of the office holders, and this has decayed drastically from Washington and Jefferson.

Chinese Feudal Hierarchy





With the discussion of European
feudal hierarchy, I have been including the corresponding Chinese characters. The origin of these is entirely independent of European feudalism. Indeed, it is much earlier, during the Chou Dynasty (1027-256 BC) of China, which broke up into a patchwork of feudal domains during the Eastern Chou (771-256). The title of Emperor was only formulated during the Ch'in Dynasty (256-207), by the "First Emperor," . Since the Emperor was the "Son of Heaven," , and ruled all "Under Heaven," , the ideology of universal rule was comparable to that of Rome and Europe.

Under the Chou King there were originally the "Five Ranks," . These are conventionally matched up with European feudal rank from Duke to Baron, although the history of the different ranks is unlikely to correspond to their history in Europe. When Chinese government changed, and feudal rank was replaced by Court rank, the feudal hierarchy became of only historical interest and honorary usage.

The term can mean "judge" (as with Judge Dee) or just "official," as well as "duke." Thus, we see different translations of the institution of the illustrated at left. These are the "Three Dukes" or "Three Senior Lords," each respectfully holding their tablet of office, , in the folds of their sleeves (the Emperor probably should not be shown in the same way, although the Emperor himself does have a commission, as the Mandate of Heaven). They are the highest officials of the realm under the Chou, Ch'in, and Han Dynasties. Their particular identities changed in the different eras. At left are titles from the Former and Later Han Dyansties. The first form of the "Great Commander" title and those as given of the other Ministers are versions of the titles from the Former Han. In the Later Han, the second verison of "Great Commander" and the other titles without the Da ("Great") are found. These continued to be used, though perhaps for offices with less authority, through the T'ang and Sung. The original forms of the Chou, the "Great Preceptor" (or Grand Tutor), the "Great Mentor" (or Assistant Grand Tutor), and the "Grand Guardian," may be examined in a popup. The later versions take on more of the tone of cabinet officers rather than the Chou implication of teachers. The "Three Dukes" were also called the , "Exalted Tripod," i.e. the legs upon which the Realm stands [note].

Subsequently, European and Chinese feudal rank were formally equated in Meiji Japan (1868-1912), when a system of European nobility replaced Chinese Court rank and the previous Japanese feudal system of the samurai. Thus, at right, we see the Japanese pronunciation of the characters below the Chinese pronunciation. These are often coupled with , pronounced shaku in Japanese, giving us or , both actually pronounced Kôshaku in Japanese. Japanese nobility and all these ranks were abolished after World War II in the project to democratize Japanese society. The Emperor of Japan, however, survives, and is the last person with any form of the title "Emperor" on earth.

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Feudal Hierarchy, Note 1

As became the standard term for "Emperor" in Mediaeval Greek, we would expect that "Empress" would reflect the older word for "queen." It did, but with some shifting. In Classical Greek, "queen" could be , basíleia, , basilís, or , basílissa. The first differs from "royalty" or "kingdom," , only in accent. The last becomes more current in the Middle Ages for "Empress," but now is the standard term in Modern Greek for "queen." Because of this, we see Modern Greek use , Autokráteira, for "Empress"; but I don't know if that word was used in Mediaeval Greek. Like Queen Hatshepsut of the XVIII Dynasty in Egypt using "King" for herself, the Empress Irene sometimes used , i.e. "Emperor," after assuming sole rule.

The adoption of for "king" in Mediaeval Greek survives into Modern Greek usage. However, the Modern form, , régas, has shifted from a third declension noun to a first declension masculine (first declensions were usually, but not always, feminine; but those forms were always distinguished by the final sigma in the nominative, as we see), which is very common in Modern Greek.

The titles and were used for the Emperors so consistently that I began to wonder if was really ever used at all. Indeed, it was used far less frequently than was used for the Empress. But it was used. A good example is from De Ceremoniis, by the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-959), in a section "The forms of address used in writing to foreign nations" [Book II, Chapter 48]. We find the "emir of Egypt," which in Constantine's day would mean the Ikhshîdids, addressed by "the great and sublime augoustoi, emperors of the Romans" [Constantine Porphyrogennetos, The Book of Ceremonies, translated by Ann Moffatt and Maxeme Tall, with the Greek edition of the Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae (Bonn, 1829), Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, Byzantina Australiensia 18, Canberra, 2012, Volume II, p.689].

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Feudal Hierarchy, Note 2;
Monarchical Acclamations

In the history of monarchy, we find distinctive acclamations, cheers, shouts, or "wish formulae" used to greet, proclaim, or celebrate rulers. The most familiar of these may be the term banzai, part of Tennô heika banzai, , used for the Japanese Emperors (with Tennô heika no more than reduplicative terms for "emperor"). This is based on the expression used for the Chinese Emperors, which means "10,000 years," i.e. as long as we would like the Present Emperor to reign. The formula in its modern form was officially adopted in Japan in the Meiji Period. Much, much older is the formula for the Kings of Egypt, , "Life, Prosperity, Health!"

With the Roman Emperors in Constantinople, we get a similar tradition, which we know about from De Ceremoniis again, as in the previous note. We see at the Coronation of an Emperor [Book I, Chapter 38, p.195] and elsewhere, this has two parts, with a "call-and-response" format. A "cheerleader" or kráktês begins with , pollà, pollà, pollá, "many, many, many," and then the "people," laós, answer, , pollà étê eis pollá, "many years upon many." The Japanese banzai is also often given with a "cheerleader" who initiates the acclamation with Tennô heika, "The Emperor," followed by the people, the crowd, or the soldiers shouting, with arms raised, Banzai.

In the English language tradition, about the best we can do is, "Hip, hip, horray!" or the obsolete "Huzzah!" which have no discernible cognitive content. Mercifully, the American President is never greeted with the wish that he govern for many years. With the Queen of England, on the other hand, we express more concern for her soul than her reign, with "God Save the Queen." Since this is the title of the national anthem (which does express a desire for a long reign), it is not clear how often the Queen is actually greeted with "God Save the Queen." Toasts at banquets are liable to feature a "call" of "The Queen," and then a response of "The Queen" and/or "Here, here!"

The old Roman acclamation survives in the liturgy of the Greek and other Orthodox Churches as the polychronion, "much time" or "long lived," which consists of verses that express a wish for long life for Church prelates and/or secular authorities. This ends with , eis pollà étê, "unto many years," which is recognizable from the acclamations in De Ceremoniis. It is also said to translate Latin in multo annos, or ad multo annos

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Philosophy of History

Chinese Feudal Hierarchy, Note

I have taken some liberties in the presentation of the Three Senior Lords, placing them with associations drawn from the theory of Yin and Yang and the five Chinese Elements. I base this on a footnote in an edition of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms [, Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong, Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 1995, 2007, Volume I]. There it says, "the sangong, the Emperor's closest confidants...were also identified with Heaven, earth, and man" [Note 2 to Chapter 2, p.548]. Now, Heaven, Earth, and Man are traditionally the "Three Powers," , but they also match up with three of the four "Spirit Gates" that figure in Yin-Yang theory and Chinese geomancy. This seems past coincidence, and also that a Minister of the Emperor would not be identified with the fourth Spirit Gate, the "Demon Gate" (and where Demons do not figure as a "power," ). So I have added these associations, with their Trigrams, to the diagram above. The Demon Gate, associated with the North-East and the Mountain Trigram, is something that needs guarding, as we find the old Japanese capital of Kyoto guarded by the temples to the North-East on the "Sacred Mountain," Mt. Hiei. Now, I don't think it is an accident that the Three Senior Lords should be associated with the Spirit Gates. The liberty I have taken is with the colors. Yellow is indeed the color of the Center and the Emperor. Green, red, and white, however, are not otherwise associated with Spirit Gates, but with the elements of the cardinal directions, wood to the East, fire to the South, and metal to the West, respectively. I have simply rotated these, beginning with green for the South-East, where, after all, the Trigram actually is associated with wood. The fifth color, black for water and North, would rotate to the Demon Gate, where, indeed, demons might traditionally be portrayed in black.

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