Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Tag: chariotry

Military Incongruities in the Iliad

December 26, 2021

Because Homer’s subject is a siege five centuries old, his battlefield is full of military incongruities. He and his audience remembered, for instance, that the chieftains fought in chariots; but because men of the late eighth century [B.C.E.] had no idea how such warfare might have been conducted, Homer has his charioteers drop the heroes off on the battlefield where they dismount and then fight, often in close formation. The chariots, dimly recalled as essential equipage for aristocratic warfare, have little use in Homer beyond the aura of antiquity they lend to the proceedings. Once the heroes have dismounted, they appear to be much closer in technique and dress to the hoplite infantrymen of Homer’s own day, who wore heavy armor—helmet, shield, breastplate, greaves, sword, spear, and other bodily defenses that may have come to seventy pounds—fought in tight formation, and engaged the enemy at close quarters. They did not fling javelins from chariots as their ancestors had once done in a less populous world where warfare more closely resembled a game of chicken or a gang rumble than the massing of two trained armies on a field.

Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, p. 42

Cavalry Replaces Chariots in Chinese Art of War

May 2, 2008

…[In the Warring States Period], the art of war in China was radically transformed in weaponry, strategy, and army size. Iron now provided stronger, more durable weapons…. It was also during this epoch that cavalry replaced chariots as the primary mobile arm. Threats from nomadic horse people just to the west and north of the Chinese states encouraged the turn to cavalry. In fact, the king of the Choa reformed his cavalry dramatically in 307 [B.C.E.], ordering his soldiers to wear barbarian-style trousers and tight-fitting sleeves in place of robes and to ride horses and learn mounted archery. These cavalrymen lacked stirrups until the end of the Han [Dynasty], and saddles were rudimentary; understandably, this hampered the effectiveness of men on horseback. Therefore, cavalry at first supplemented chariots rather than replacing them, but chariots eventually gave way….

John A. Lynn, Battle, p. 36

Iron Age Logistics

March 7, 2003

As the size of armies and the scope of battles increased, ancient armies had to master the task of logistically supporting these armies in the field. The logistical feats of ancient armies were often more difficult and often achieved more proficiently than in armies of the nineteenth century [C.E.], when the railroad, mass production of weapons, standard packaging, and tinned and condensed food made the problem of supply considerably easier. The need to support armies in the field for months, sometimes years, was a function of the rise of the imperium. Armies now had to conduct combat operations over far wider areas for longer periods than ever before.

Changes in the composition of military forces also added to the logistics burden. The development of the chariot required that the Egyptian forces maintain repair depots and special mobile repair battalions to ensure that the machines remained functional on the march. The Assyrian invention of large cavalry squadrons brought into existence a special branch of the logistics train to ensure that the army could secure, breed, train, and deploy large numbers of horses to support these new forces. This special logistics branch, the musarkisus, was able to obtain and process 3,000 horses a month for the Assyrian army. It was not until the time of Napoleon that Western armies could once again equal this logistical feat. The integration of chariots with cavalry also forced the Assyrian army to become the first to learn how to sustain 2 types of transport. Advances in siegecraft required that armies transport siege towers and engines within their baggage train, and artillery, introduced under the Greeks and brought to perfection under the Romans, added yet another requirement to transport catapults and shot. The need to manufacture, issue, and repair the new iron weapons in unprecedented numbers required yet more innovations in logistics. In the Assyrian army the production and storage of weapons became a central feature of the army’s logistical structure. A single weapons room in Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin contained 200 tons of iron weapons, and similar weapons warehouses were scattered throughout the empire. Of all the achievements of the ancient armies, those in the area of logistics often remain the most unappreciated by modern military planners.

From Sumer To Rome, pp. 22-23

Javelins versus Chariots

March 7, 2003

Toward the end of the second millennium [B.C.E.], however, this humble weapon seems to have enjoyed a brief prominence. For the ‘hunting’ of chariot horses the javelin must have been ideal: although it would seldom have killed the horse that it hit, the javelin would surely have brought it to a stop, thus immobilizing the other horse, the vehicle, and the crew. Composite bows were appropriate for the chariot warrior, but for a runner a far preferable long-range weapon would have been the javelin. Javelins are thrown on the run, whereas an infantry bowman would have to shoot from either a crouching position or a flat-footed stance (in either case offering chariot archers a stationary target). In addition, the javelineer could carry a small shield, whereas the archer had to use both hands to work his bow. That javelins were in fact used against chariots in the Late Bronze Age is clear from Ramesses the Great’s account of his valor at Kadesh: in the ‘poetic’ inscription Ramesses boasts that the Hittites were unable either to shoot their bows or to hurl their javelins at him as he charged against them in his chariot.

Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze Age, pp. 181-82

Chariot Tactics

March 7, 2003

The Assyrian chariot was a large and heavy vehicle that was pulled by 3 horses[, had 4 wheels,] and carried a crew of 4. The Assyrian chariot’s tactical role…maximized the role of shock. The idea was to attack enemy infantry formations from as many directions as possible to deliver maximum shock. Once engaged, the crews dismounted and fought as infantry. The Assyrians were the first to introduce the use of mounted infantry, and their use of the chariot strongly paralleled the use of armored personnel carriers in modern armies.

From Sumer To Rome, p. 32