Warfare & Military Technologies Throughout The Ages: Part 2 – The Ancient Era.
The Ancient Era starts around the Bronze Age and the domestication of horses, and ends with feudalism and the era of cavalry in Europe. Generally, weapons innovation and military strategy during this era is still centered around human labor and involvement, rather than mechanization or asymmetry of efforts (as in explosives and cyber warfare).
- 5300 BC: Horses are first domesticated, on the steppes of Kazakhstan. As well as revolutionizing transport in general, horses are instrumental in the history of warfare. Only in the 20th century, with the appearance of rapid-fire weapons such as machine guns, do armies turn away from a reliance on horses.
- 5000 BCE: The Bronze Age enables the development of the first metal daggers, and later swords.
- By 3000 BCE, Mesopotamian smiths had learned to craft helmets of copper-and-arsenic bronze, which, no doubt worn with a well-padded leather lining, largely neutralized the offensive advantages of the mace.
- Monumental and artistic evidence suggest that the principle of the composite recurved bow was known as early as 3000 BCE.
- By 2500 BCE, the Sumerians were making helmets of bronze, along with bronze spearheads and ax blades.
- The earliest known chariots, shown in Sumerian depictions from about 2500 BCE, were not true chariots but four-wheeled carts with solid wooden wheels drawn by a team of four donkeys or wild asses.
- Around 1600 BCE, Iranian tribes introduced the war-horse into Mesopotamia from the north, along with the light two-wheeled chariot.
- In the 15th century BCE, Tutmoses III made 1000 chariots for military expedition. Each chariot carried two men, one to drive and one to shoot arrows.
- Armour of overlapping scales of bronze, laced together or sewn onto a backing of padded fabric, is well represented in pictorial evidence and burial items from Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt from about 1500 BCE, though its use was probably restricted to a small elite.
- The first large scale use of iron type weapons began in Asia Minor around the 14th century BCE.
- In 1200 BCE, the Hittites, originating from Anatolia, shot arrows using their bows on light chariots.
- The first true swords date from about 1200 BCE.
- Large scale use of iron weapons began in Central Europe around the 11th century BCE.
- The Assyrians are credited with the introduction of horse cavalry in warfare and the extensive use of iron weapons by 1100 BCE.
- Assyrians were the first to use iron-tipped arrows.
- Assyrians were the first to develop siegecraft with siege towers and battering rams.
- Unlike the rest of the civilizations, the Assyrian charioteers had a crew of three people, rather than the usual two: an extra crew member was added to protect the rear.
- In 1000 BCE, horse-riding archers from Central Asia invented the recurve bow, which was in the shape of a “W” and had an improved elasticity.
- Large scale use of iron weapons began in the Middle East about 1000 BCE.
- 500 BC: The traction trebuchet is thought to have been developed in China around this time. Powered by teams of about a dozen people, it could sling balls of rock as far as 125 metres. Around the same time, the ancient Greeks develop their own siege weapon, the ballista.
- Crossbows were buried in Chinese graves in the 5th century bc, and the crossbow was a major factor in Chinese warfare by the 2nd century bc at the latest.
- The war elephant was first used in India and was known to the Persians by the 4th century BCE.
- The invention of mechanical artillery was ascribed traditionally to the initiative of Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse, in Sicily, who in 399 BCE directed his engineers to construct military engines in preparation for war with Carthage.
- The first practical body armour of iron was mail, which made its appearance in Hellenistic times but became common only during the Roman Imperial period. (Bronze mail was impractical because of the insufficient strength of the alloy.)
- The earliest evidence of mail is depicted on Greek sculpture and friezes dating from the 3rd century BCE, though this kind of protection might be considerably older (there was some evidence that it might be of Celtic origin).
- In the 1st century ad, the Roman legionnaire’s mail shirt gave way to a segmented iron torso defense, the lorica segmentata.
- The beginning of the age of cavalry in Europe is traditionally dated to the destruction of the legions of the Roman emperor Valens by Gothic horsemen at the Battle of Adrianople in AD 378.
Thanks for reading! Look forward to the next issues in this series: Warfare & Military Technologies Throughout The Ages: Part 3 – The Middle Ages.
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