War Elephant- The Ancient Tank.

War elephants may be divided into two types: those which participate in battles and those used for logistical purposes. These animals were formidable opponents on the battlefield, though they were far from indestructible. Whilst the use of war elephants in battle eventually ceased, they were still used for logistical purposes during war for some time.Β 

The elephants were first used by human beings in India around 4000 years ago. Initially, the great strength of these animals was exploited for manual labor, such as clearing the ground for construction or agriculture, and transporting goods. It did not take too long for people to realize that these gentle giants could be prompted into more militaristic purposes as well. It is not entirely clear when elephants were first used for war, though it may have occurred around the 12th century BC.Β It is certain, however, that war elephants were used by the second half of the first millennium BC. The military use of elephants spread from India westwards. As an example, during the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC, the Persian king, Darius III, is recorded to have fielded as many as 15 war elephants against Alexander the Great. The Greek king encountered war elephants once more when he faced the army of King Porus at the Battle of Hydaspes, where the Indian king commanded about 85 0f these war machines.Β 

War Elephant being used to topple the enemy soldiers.
A war elephant prepared for battle.
War elephants toppling the enemy.

Training And Deployment

The oldest known manual on training horses for chariot warfare was written c.Β 1350 BC by the Hittie horsemaster, Kikkuli. An ancient manual on the subject of training riding horses, particularly for the Greek Cavalry is Hippike (on horse man ship) written about 360 BC by the Greek cavalry officer Xenophon.. and another early text was that of Kautilya,( Chanakya) written about 323 BC.Β 

Whether horses were trained to pull chariots, to be ridden as light or heavy cavalry, or to carry the armoured knight, much training was required to overcome the horse’s natural instinct to flee from noise, the smell of blood, and the confusion of combat. They also learned to accept any sudden or unusual movements of humans while using a weapon or avoiding one. Horses used in close combat may have been taught, or at least permitted, to kick, strike, and even bite, thus becoming weapons themselves for the warriors they carried. 

In most cultures, a war horse used as a riding animal was trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider’s legs and weight. The horse became accustomed to any necessary tack and protective armour placed upon it, and learned to balance under a rider who would also be laden with weapons and armour. Developing the balance and agility of the horse was crucial. The origins of the discipline of dressage came from the need to train horses to be both obedient and manoeuvrable. Β 

Horses used for chariots warfare were not only trained for combat conditions, but because many chariots were pulled by a team of two to four horses, they also had to learn to work together with other animals in close quarters under chaotic conditions.

Chariot warfare

Among the earliest evidence of chariot use are the burials of horse and chariot remains by the Andronovo (Sintashta-Petrovka ) culture in modern Russia and Kazakhstan , dated to approximately 2000 BC. The oldest documentary evidence of what was probably chariot warfare in the Ancient Near East is the Old Hittite Anita text, of the 18th century BC, which mentioned 40 teams of horses at the siege of Salatiwara. The Hitties became well known throughout the ancient world for their prowess with the chariot. Widespread use of the chariot in warfare across most of Eurasia coincides approximately with the development of the composite bow known from c.Β 1600 BC. Further improvements in wheels and axles, as well as innovations in weaponry, soon resulted in chariots being driven in battle by Bronze age societies from China to Egypt.Β 

The Hyksos invaders brought the chariot to Ancient Egypt in the 16th century BC and the Egyptians adopted its use from that time forward. The oldest preserved text related to the handling of war horses in the ancient world is the Hittite manual of Kikkuli, which dates to about 1350 BC, and describes the conditioning of chariot horses.Β 

Chariots existed in the Minoan Civilization, as they were inventoried on storage lists from Knossos in Crete, dating to around 1450 BC. Chariots were also used in China as far back as the Shang Dynasty (c.Β 1600–1050 BC), where they appear in burials. The high point of chariot use in China was in the Spring and autumn period (770–476 BC), although they continued in use up until the 2nd century BC.Β 

Cavalry

Some of the earliest examples of horses being ridden in warfare were horse mounted archers, or javelin-throwers, dating to the reigns of the Assryian rulers Ashurinspal and Shalmaneser . However, these riders sat far back on their horses, a precarious position for moving quickly, and the horses were held by a handler on the ground, keeping the archer free to use the bow. Thus, these archers were more a type of mounted infantry than true cavalry . The Assyrians developed cavalry in response to invasions by nomadic people from the north, such as the Cimmerians , who entered Asia minor in the 8th century BC and took over parts of Urartu during the reign of Sargon , approximately 721 BC. Mounted warriors such as the Scynthians also had an influence on the region in the 7th century BC. By the reign of Ashrubanipal in 669 BC, the Assyrians had learned to sit forward on their horses in the classic riding position still seen today and could be said to be true light cavalry. The ancient Greeks used both light horse scouts and heavy cavalry,although not extensively, possibly due to the cost of keeping horses.Β 

Heavy Cavalry was believed to have been developed by the Ancient Persians although others argue for the Sarmatians. By the time of Darius (558–486 BC), Persian military tactics required horses and riders that were completely armoured, and selectively bred a heavier, more muscled horse to carry the additional weight. The cataphract was a type of heavily armoured cavalry with distinct tactics, armour, and weaponry used from the time of the Persians up until the Middle Ages.

In Ancient Greece , Phillip of Macedon is credited with developing tactics allowing massed cavalry charges. The most famous Greek heavy cavalry units were the companion cavalry of Alexander. The Chinese of the 4th century BC during the warring states period. (403–221 BC) began to use cavalry against rival states. To fight nomadic raiders from the north and west, the Chinese of the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) developed effective mounted units. Cavalry was not used extensively by the Romans during the Roman Republic period, but by the time of the Roman Empire they made use of heavy cavalry. However, the backbone of the Roman army was the infantry.

Types of horses in Ancient Warfare

Light weight horse, also called as oriental horse. These were the ancestors of the modern Arabian, Barb , and Akhal-Teke were used for warfare that required speed, endurance and agility. Such horses ranged from about 12 hands (48 inches, 122 cm) to just under 15 hands (60 inches, 152 cm), weighing approximately 360 to 450 kilograms (800 to 1,000 lb). To move quickly, riders had to use lightweight tack and carry relatively light weapons such as bows, light spears, javelins, or, later, rifles. This was the original horse used for early chariot warfare, raiding, and cavalry.
Medium-weight horses developed as early as the Iron age with the needs of various civilizations to pull heavier loads, such as chariots capable of holding more than two people, and, as Light Cavalry evolved into heavy cavalry to carry heavily armoured riders. The Scynthians were among the earliest cultures to produce taller, heavier horses. These horses had the greatest range in size, from about 14.2 hands (58 inches, 147 cm) but stocky, to as much as 16 hands (64 inches, 163 cm), weighing approximately 450 to 540 kilograms (1,000 to 1,200 lb). They generally were quite agile in combat.
Large, heavy horses, weighing from 680 to 910 kilograms (1,500 to 2,000 lb), the ancestors of today’s draught horses., were used, particularly in Europe, from the Middle Ages onward. They pulled heavy loads like supply wagons and were disposed to remain calm in battle. They have been said to carry heavy weighted knights of the middle ages. Also they were kept in reserve of battle because of their structures they were tough to manoeuvre.

First use of Horses In Ancient Warfare.

The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of horses ridden in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. By 1600 BC, improved harness and chariot designs made chariot warfare common throughout the Ancient Near East and the earliest written training manual for war horses was a guide for training chariot horses written about 1350 BC. As formal cavalry tactics replaced the chariot, so did new training methods, and by 360 BC, the Greek cavalry officer Xenophon had written an extensive treatise on horsemanship.

A chariot war.
A cavalry soldier, all decked up for an attack.
A depiction of a war horse of that time.

The First Accounted Battle.

The first detailed account of an actual clash of arms comes from the ancient Egyptians. The Battle of Megiddo, fought in present day Israel, took place in the spring of 1457 BCE when a series of Egyptian controlled fiefdoms in present day Syria and Israel rose up against their masters. The account of the battle, which was fought between the forces of Pharaoh Thutmose III and the rebellious ruler of Kadesh along with his Canaanite allies. The Egyptian army was between 10,000 and 20,000 strong, while Kadesh and company had between 10,000 and 15,000 combatants on the field.

A description of the Battle, displaying the two warring groups.

The First Recorded War In World History.

The first ever battle was fought Sometime between 4000 BCE and 3500 BCE, in the ancient city of Hamoukar. Hamoukar was located near North Eastern Syria. The city was invaded and colonized the by the expanding realm of the Uruks of southern Mesopotamia. Uruks had migrated north along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers out of what is now Iraq into Syria on a campaign of expansion and colonization. The citizens of Hamoukar took up arms against these invaders. The invaders in turn slaughtered ,enslaved or scattered the original inhabitants, demolished the city and built one of their own Β atop of the ruins.

The site of the ancient city of Hamoukar.

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