There's a empire with big jungles (60% is covered by jungle). Actually, I wanted the empire to use a lot of heavy infantry and cavalry. After doing some research, however, this seems to have hardly been the case with cultures that lived in jungles where light soldiers were dominant.

Is it possible to justify heavily armored soldiers or should I remove it?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE! We appreciate your participation and look forward to more. If you have a moment, please take our tour. One of the reasons light infantry was used (e.g., the conquistador invasions of South America) was they were relatively inexpensive to transport. Do you want the cost/feasibility of transport to be considered in our answers, or ignored? Please edit your question with the clarification. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ If you are thinking of South America with the empires and jungles, the reason that they did not have cavalry is because they did not have horses. The horses only got introduced in South America again by the Spanish around 1500. One other major jungle in Africa apparently did not seem very conducive for the health of horses with all parasites and gave them a very short life span. (apparently this went for most part of sub saharan africa) $\endgroup$
    – D.J. Klomp
    Jan 14, 2018 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ I edited out your edit. Please don't add a second question in; if you want to ask more questions, post them separately! $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ Horses don't do well in hot and humid climates, being prone to overheating, hoof problems, and so on. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 14, 2018 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ "Horses don't do well in hot and humid climates" This can't be emphasized enough. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Jan 14, 2018 at 19:25

4 Answers 4


It could still work if the empire is burning down (or cutting) the jungle to make space for itself. That is: there was 100% jungle before the empire rose, and by the time of your story there is only 60% jungle and decreasing. It is very reasonable that the empire would be reducing the jungle if most of its activities, including most of its armed forces, do not fit well with the jungle.

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    $\begingroup$ This is right. Empire means intensive agriculture and intensive agriculture means cleared space for farms. The cleared land would be the valuable land and the troops you want would be there to protect it. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 14, 2018 at 0:52

Europe was covered with forests

I don't understand why you think the jungle will be an impediment? Northern Europe's natural vegetation would be forest of oak and beech and hornbeam as far as the Elbe, then oak and pine to Poland and beyond. That is to say, it was closed canopy forest as far as the eye could see.

Of course, then man came. The forets were cut for timber and to clear for agriculture or maintained as pasture for grazing. The heavily modified landscape was then suitable for heavy infantry and cavalry formations.

If your jungle civilization is heavily populated, then it too will be managed for man. There will be paddies for growing rice or taro, dryland fields for cassava, and plantations for oil palm, coconut, or cocoa. They may even keep flood plains open to graze their water buffalo or capybaras or tapirs or whatever exotic creatures they have have domesticated.

In short, man will make the environment he needs. Heavy cavalry won't go into the dense forests, just as it avoided the Ardennes and Black Forest and other dense forests of Medieval Europe. But if man makes the space, it will operate just fine.


Heavy infantry and cavalry need cleared and relatively level space to operate. This was well known in antiquity (read about how Hoplites moved and fought, for example) and even into the modern period.

The "French and Indian War" (the North American part of the Seven Years War) largely revolved around light infantry units such as Roger's Rangers being able to move and fight in the uncleared forested wilderness, and their French opponents were doing the same by coopting Native tribesmen as fighters for their side. Conventional infantry and cavalry could operate in the settled areas, as they were generally cleared to a great enough extent that they operate. In Europe, light such as British Rifle regiments or Prussian Jaeger (hunters) were also added to the orders of battle to deal with broken or complex terrain where conventional units were at a disadvantage.

Even today, mechanized units operate in open terrain while light units (such as the US Ranger Regiment) specialize in operating in complex terrain such as jungles, forests or urban environments. The distinction is nowhere near as clear as in earlier times, since any unit can be connected to a great deal of firepower and logistical support these days, using radios, helicopters and persistent air and firepower, and of course even man portable weapons have the sort of firepower artillery could bring decades ago.


Heavy infantry and cavalry (and artillery, etc) are a function of many factors:

  • Terrain
  • Availability of weapons and horses
  • Capabilities of the opponent
  • Wealth available to pay for the forces

You can certainly march a column of cavalry and heavy infantry through a jungle and across rivers. All armies can do that. But it's a wise action only if that's the appropriate force to win the fight at the end of the march.

Other answers have already talked about Terrain and Availability of weapons and horses.

The capabilities of the opponent are obviously important. An enemy lacking anti-horse technologies will be (literally) overrun by your cavalry. Conversely, an enemy with a walled city and complex defenses requires your force to be much more sophisticated, and to include artillery and engineers...and perhaps allies.

Even small expeditionary forces require great wealth to gather, equip, and sustain. Those soldiers won't train and pay themselves, their weapons and armor don't grow on trees, trained warhorses don't pop out of every paddock, food doesn't grow along the line of march in the quantities you need, etc. The promise of looting won't keep good soldiers for very long. European conquerors brought all the firepower they could afford. If they could have afforded more, they would have brought it.


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