Ancient Warfare


Ancient warfare is war as conducted from the beginnings of recorded history to the end of the ancient period. In Europe and the Near East, the end of antiquity is often equated with the fall of Rome in 476, and the wars of the Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium in its South Western Asian and North African borders and the beginnings of the Muslim conquests in the 7th century. In China, it can also be seen as ending with the growing role of mounted warriors needed to counter the ever-growing threat from the north in the 5th century and the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in 618. In India, the ancient period ends with the decline of the Gupta Empire (6th century) and the beginning Islamic conquests from the 8th century. In Japan, the ancient period can be taken to end with the rise of feudalism in the Kamakura period in the 12-13th century.

The difference between prehistoric and ancient warfare is less one of technology than of organization. The development of first city-states, and then empires, allowed warfare to change dramatically. Beginning in Mesopotamia, states produced sufficient agricultural surplus so that full-time ruling elites and military commanders could emerge. While the bulk of military forces were still farmers, the society could support having them campaigning rather than working the land for a portion of each year. Thus, organized armies developed for the first time.

These new armies could help states grow in size and became increasingly centralized. Early ancient armies continued to primarily use bows and spears, the same weapons that had been developed in prehistoric times for hunting. Early armies in Egypt and China followed a similar pattern of using massed infantry armed with bows and spears.

No clear line can be drawn between ancient and medieval warfare. The characteristic properties of medieval warfare, notably heavy cavalry and siege engines such as the trebuchet were first introduced in Late Antiquity. The main division within the ancient period is rather at the beginning Iron Age with the introduction of cavalry (resulting in the decline of chariot warfare), of naval warfare (Sea Peoples), and of course the development of an industry based on ferrous metallurgy which allowed for the mass production of metal weapons and thus the equipment of large standing armies. The first military power to profit from these innovations was the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which achieved a hitherto unseen extent of centralized control, the first "world power" to extend over the entire Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia, the Levant and Egypt).

Read more about Ancient WarfareChariots, Naval Warfare, Important Ancient Wars, Important Ancient Battles, Unit Types

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Famous quotes containing the words warfare and/or ancient:

    What an admirable training is science for the more active warfare of life! Indeed, the unchallenged bravery which these studies imply, is far more impressive than the trumpeted valor of the warrior.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    In ancient times—’twas no great loss—
    They hung the thief upon the cross:
    But now, alas!—I say’t with grief—
    They hang the cross upon the thief.
    —Anonymous. “On a Nomination to the Legion of Honour,” from Aubrey Stewart’s English Epigrams and Epitaphs (1897)