Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - Ancient Wars
Ancient War encompassed a huge period of time from the moment there was recorded history to the time between the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD and the start of the Islamic conquests that occurred around 750 AD.
The advances in warfare tactics and weaponry technology during this time were quite amazing and Ancient Wars had a very big impact in shaping the world today and the tactics of war used in the present.
Ancient Wars can be traced back to around the 4th Century BC when the first true civilisation occurred in Mesopotamia. The battles started because of growing cities and their arguments over land and water rights.
The first known war was between two Mesopotamian cities around 3200 BC, while the full information on this conflict is not known we know it was related to land rights. By 2500 BC war in Mesopotamia was rife and a system was evolved where two cities at war would have a neutral third city placed as an arbitrator to bring about peace.
Ancient Egypt was not far behind Mesopotamia in its development and this Empire developed its own military that were the defenders of the Egyptian lands.
All the early soldiers of war used material clothing, spears, maces and lightweight shields during battle. These battles were a simple affair of one side trying to use larger numbers to scare the opposition into surrendering or beating them in battle.
In the final millennium before the Birth of Christ the emergence of the Thracians, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome changed the face of Ancient Warfare. These three newly formed civilisations developed tactics and weapons to change battles, this included bringing ranged weapons into warfare. Ranged weapons are weapons that you can use at a distance such as the bow and arrow or the javelin (shorter version of a spear).
Other new weapons during this period also included the sword which was born out of an increased size of dagger to inflict massive damage to enemies from a longer distance away than a dagger would supply.
In the Romans and ancient Greece the soldiers were trained to work as a unit in column formation or that of a closed unit such as the Phalanx where heavy infantry formed a tight rectangle using shields to protect every man.
These new infantry formations meant a renewed advance in warfare and this came in the form of battle animals. The prime example of this is the cavalry where people rode horses, but also includes war elephants like those used by the Carthaginians in the Punic wars.
Once the cavalry method was found to be successful the very first vehicles were used in battle, these were Chariots. Chariots involved having two or four horses pulling a two wheeled wooden platform around with two men onboard, one of which would control the horses while the other would use a bow and arrow to pick off enemies.
Chariots were hugely successful in battles such as the uprising of Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe in East Anglia, Britain. This was a battle where the Britain’s rose up against the Roman’s and sacked many large Roman cities by using the power of the chariot.
Seige towers where soldiers could climb up a ladder to get over city walls and battering rams to knock through wooden doors were first used around 900 BC Neo-Assyrian Empire. These were developed over time to become hugely successful after ancient times in medieval warfare.
Later in the ancient period catapults were invented. It is believed the first catapults may have been used by the Greeks as it is known that the Greeks used a form of catapult in 399 BC.