Tribes, Phyles, Banners and Tumens – The historical pattern

Extra reading about this theme, if anybody is interested(This book is, on the whole, a good one about tribes and other stuff. However the modern Russian History tells me a bit different info)

Roman tribes


Well, I am not going to write, how Rome was founded. Vergil did it before me and, I believe, did it much better than I, possibly, could. The most important fact about this city is that it was founded in a process of synoecism(Ms. Fitz, check the Wiki article about the polis). This means that several communities united to orginize a settlement. Those communities belonged to three nations – Romans, Etruscan and Sabine. Because of this the whole population of Rome(populus romanus) was split into the following groups: rumns, ticiys and lucers. Those three tribes were divided into 10 curias(probably those curias depended on the places, where people lived). Every cirua had one vote in the commitia curiata – a kind of a popular assembly. Each of those curias consisted of 10 gentes – in English this word can be translated as a clan or a kin. And each gentes consisted of several familiae,   or families. Each family was headed by the pater familiae, what means “a father of a family”. Each father had a right to participate in the Senate. The whole system was about patricians(or in translation – who had fathers; speaking other words autochthons). Plebeians(from Latin “plere” – to fill in) didn’t participate in this system, what meant that they couldn’t get any land and they couldn’t get any spoils of wars. However they didn’t participate in wars – and Rome needed soldiers. So in the beginning of the 6th. c. B.C.E. this system was changed by Servius Tulius.

After Servius Tulius reforms

To win the plebescite‘s support a Roman king Servius Tulius changed the system. He changed the political units into the territory and administrative units(commitia curiata was changed into the commitia centuriata). From his times tribes consisted of a certain area and all people, who live in that area. This allowed not to split into plebeians and patricians, because the main thing was the living place, but not your ancestors’ lineage. Also this helped a king to control the state, because it dicreased the importance of the pater familiae and, therefore, the senate’s importance.

After 241 B.C.E.

Before the 241 B.C.E. there were 21 tribes, but then, after the conquest of the whole Italy there number increased to 35.

Greek phyles

Original(phyles and fratrias)

Originally the division for phyles and fratris was related to the lineage, like it was in Rome. Scientists understand clearly enough what a phyle is(a tribe with its own priests, court, headed by a basiules, and army, headed by a phylarch). However, nobody now understands what a fratria is. We know only that Homer often used this phrase – phyles and fratrias. Also we know that a word fratria comes from a Greek word means a “brotherhood”. This is how it was in the Greek Dark Ages(12 – 9 с. B.C.E.).

Then, for example in Athens, a fratria still was a tribe. However all 4 fritrias obeyed to one government and every fratria participated in the social life of the polis(people were participating in apella and 100 men form every fratria formed a boule).

In Athens after Cleisthenese’s reforms

In order to forestall strife between the traditional clans, which had led to the tyranny in the first place, Cleithenes changed the political organization from the four traditional tribes(phyles, actually), which were based on family relations, into ten tribes according to their area of residence. Most modern historians suppose there were 139 demes, organized into thirty groups called trittyes (“thirds”), with ten demes divided among three regions in each trittyes (a city region, asty; a coastal region, paralia; and an inland region, mesogeia). All the trittyes were organised into 10 new phyles. The Athenians from then on were referred to by their deme. Cleithenes reorganized the Boule, created with 400 members under Solon, so that it had 500 members, 50 from each phyle.

Manchus Banners

Nurhachi’s banners

English Manchu Mongolian Chinese L/R U/L Image
Plain Yellow Banner Gusa1.png gulu suwayan i gūsa Шүлүүн Шар Хошуу 正黃旗 zhèng huáng qí Right Upper
ManZhow 8Flag Yellow.jpg
Bordered Yellow Banner Gusa2.png kubuhe suwayan i gūsa Хөвөөт Шар Хошуу 鑲黃旗 xiāng huáng qí Left Upper
ManZhow 8Flag YellowInBorder.jpg
Plain White Banner Gusa3.png gulu šanggiyan i gūsa Шүлүүн Цагаан Хошуу 正白旗 zhèng bái qí Left Upper
ManZhow 8Flag White.jpg
Bordered White Banner Gusa4.png kubuhe šanggiyan i gūsa Хөвөөт Цагаан Хошуу 鑲白旗 xiāng bái qí Left Lower
ManZhow 8Flag WhiteInBorder.jpg
Plain Red Banner Gusa5.png gulu fulgiyan i gūsa Шүлүүн Улаан Хошуу 正紅旗 zhèng hóng qí Right Lower
ManZhow 8Flag Red.jpg
Bordered Red Banner Gusa6.png kubuhe fulgiyan i gūsa Хөвөөт Улаан Хошуу 鑲紅旗 xiāng hóng qí Right Lower
ManZhow 8Flag RedInBorder.jpg
Plain Blue Banner Gusa7.png gulu lamun i gūsa Шүлүүн Хөх Хошуу 正藍旗 zhèng lán qí Left Lower
ManZhow 8Flag Blue.jpg
Bordered Blue Banner Gusa8.png kubuhe lamun i gūsa Хөвөөт Хөх Хошуу 鑲藍旗 xiāng lán qí Right Lower
ManZhow 8Flag BlueInBorder.jpg

300 soldiers(1/3 of a whole population of an administrative zuoling) = a zuoling, 5 zuoling = a canling, 5 canling = a gusa, 2 gusa(or one gusa?!) = a banner. In the beginning there were only 60 000 soldiers. They formed first 4 banners. However then there were enough soldiers to form other 4 banners.

Chinese banners

When Abahai conquered the Ming empire, they started to form Chinese and Mongolian banners. In 1635 there were 8 mongolian banners, in 1642 – 10 Chinese. Also remains of the Ming dynasty army formed a special green banner army.

Mongolian tumens

Genghis Khan reformed his army to make it more powerful. He devided all the 101 000 men into the groups of 10(Arban), 100(Yaghun), 1ooo(Minghan) and 10000(Tumen). The group of ten consisted of a family members. This was significant, because of one man in an Arban refused to fight, the whole Arban was executed. If the whole arben refused to fight, the whole Yanghun(also relatives)  were executed. Because of this system everybody fought. I don’t know, what happened when the whole Minghan refused to fight. Probably, in this case Generals used a decimation as a penalty.

Wikipedia’s text and pictures were used for this article. Everything else I composed myself, using notes and textbooks.

One response to “Tribes, Phyles, Banners and Tumens – The historical pattern

  1. Pingback: Spring 2010 posts « History of Stuff

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