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The Iron Army: Assyria – Terrifying Military of the Ancient World – Part I

Friday, October 28, 2016 18:49
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The Iron Army: Assyria - Terrifying Military of the Ancient World - Part I

Before the famed Persian Empire, whose borders spanned from India to Thrace, there was another empire—the Assyrians. The Assyrian Empire, while much smaller than the future Persian Empire to come, made up for its lack of territorial mass with a well-greased, organized fighting machine.

In the book of Nahum verse 1, the prophet Nahum made it clear that Assyria was a “city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears!”

What made the Assyrian Empire one of the most terrifying militaries in the ancient world was that they were organized, well led, well fed, well supplied, and had the tools to crack into just about any city they so desired. When it comes to warfare, sieges dominate the vast array of Assyrian reliefs. The siege we will focus on is that of Lachish in 701 BCE.

In order to understand how the Neo-Assyrian military organization functioned one must first focus on the head of the army, the king. From there, we can gather the role of the nobility in military affairs and finally those who formed the bulk of the army.

King: Despotic Commander in Chief

Sargon II and dignitary. Palace of Sargon II at Dur Sharrukin in Assyria (now Khorsabad in Iraq), c. 716–713 BC.

Sargon II and dignitary. Palace of Sargon II at Dur Sharrukin in Assyria (now Khorsabad in Iraq), c. 716–713 BC. (Public Domain)

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