C AT AST R O P HE C A . 12 0 0 B.C .
Robert Drews
Co pyright {' 1993 by Pnn ceton University I'ress
Published by Princet on Uni versrrv Press. 41 \X'Jlham Stree t.
Pri nceton. New j ersev 0854 0
In the United Kingdom: Prince ton University Press, Chichester, West Sussex
All RIghts Reserved
Library ol Congress Cataloging-in-Pnbiicati rm Dat u
Drews, Ra ben.
Th e end of [he Bro nze Age: Changes in \'(Iar fare and [he ca tastrophe
ca. 1200 B. C. i Ra ben Drews.
p. em.
Includes bibliograp hical referenc es an d index.
ISBN 0· 69 1-04811 · 8
1. Bro nze age-c-Medir er r.mean Region. 2. \X'arfare. Prehisroric-
Mediterranean Region. 3. Chariot warfare-c-- Med irerr anean Region.
4. \V'e3pons. Prehist or ic-c-Medirerr .mean Region. 5. Med uerrauean
Reg ion - Anti quities . l. Ti tle.
GN77 8.3.AID 74 1993 930' .09 822 -dc20 92-465 1 1 CIP
This book has been com posed in Saban
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and meet the gui delin es for permanence and durability of the
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Printed in [he Uni ted Sta res of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 .J
The Catastrophe an d Its Chronology 3
Th e Catastrophe Surveyed 8
Anatolia 8
Cyp rus 11
Syria 13
111e Sal/them l. euant 15
Mesopotamia 17
Egyp t 18
Greece and the Aegean Islands 2 1
Crete 26
Summary 29
Earthquakes 33
Migrat ion s 4H
The Egyptian Evidence 48
The Origins of the Thesis 5.1
Ar chaeological ,111.1 Historical Considerations 61
Ironworking 73
Dro ught 77
Systems Collapse S5
vi C O:-':T E ~ T S
Ra iders 9 1
Preface to a Military Explanat ion of the Catastrophe 97
The Cha ri ot Warfare of the Late Bronze Age 104
Th e Beginn ings of Chariot Warfare 104
Chariot ries: Numbers and Costs 106
How Chariots Were Used in Battle 113
Th e Battles at Megiddo and Kadesh 129
Foorsoldiers in the Late Bronze Age 135
" Runners": Th e Role of lnfantryrnen in Chariot Warfare 141
The Recruitment of Infantrymen ill the Late BrOllZe Age 147
infantry Forces in the Catastrop he 157
Inf antry and Horse Troops in the Earl y Iron Age 164
Changes in Armor and Weapons at the End of the Bronze Age 174
Armor 174
Javelins, Spears, and Lances 180
Swords 192
The End of Cha riot War fare in the Catast rophe 209
I NDEX 245
FIGURE I. Map of Eastern Mediterranean, showing ma jor sites
destroyed in the Ca tast rophe
FIGUR!" 2. Tanged, elliptical weapon-heads of the late second
millennium :
a. RS 1l0/99, fro m Catast rophe de struction level at Uga rit ;
7 em. ; after Yon et aI., " Organisation," figure 28
b. RS 80/270, from Catastrophe destruction level at
Ugarit; 8.5 crn. ; after Yon et al., "Organisarion., " figure 27
c. J 1 3; from EI Khadr, Isr ael ; 9.2 em.; aft er Cross and
Mil ik, "Typological Study, n figure 2
d. From Mycenae; 13.7 cm.; after Avila, Lan zenspitzen,
Tafel 28, no. 769
e. From Hazar; head , 8.5 em., sho e, 4 crn.; after Yadin et
aI., Hazar , vols . 3-4, plate 347, nos. 3 and 6
FIGURE 3. Eastern Mediterranean swords of the Late
Bronze Age:
a. Sickle sword from tomb of Turankharnun; 40 em.; after
Yadin, Art of Warfare, vol. 1, 207
b. LH II rapier from Plovdiv, Bulgaria; 76 crn.; aft er
Sanda rs, " Later Aegean Bronze Swords, n plate 22 , no. 7
c. Anato lian rapier found near Boghazk6y; 79 em.
including " killed" tang; aft er Unal et aI. , " Hittite Sword, n 47
FIGURE 4. Cur- and-thrust swords from the period of
the Catast rophe:
a. Naue Type II sword from Aranyos, Hungary;
ca. 65 crn.; after Cowen, " Flange-Hilred Cutt ing Sword, n
fig. 2, no. 4
b. " Merneprah Swo rd" from Ugarit; 74 crn. ; after
Schaeffer, " Bro nze Sword from Ugarit, n 227.
c. Longest of the four swords from " Ia maison du
Grandprerre d'Ugarit"; 73 crn. ; after Schaeffer, Ugaritica, vol.
d. Naue Type II sword from Mycenae ; 60 crn.; after
Cowen, " Flange-Hilted Cutti ng Sword, n fig. 2, no . 6
PLATE 1. Sen I attacking the chariots of the Hittite king. Line
drawing of relief from Amun temple at Ka rn ak . Plate 34 in The
OR PHOTOGRAPHS and per mi ssion to publish them in thi s book I
am gra tef ul ro the Orienta l lnsrirure of the University of Chicago and
to Pri nceton Univer sirv Press. Ar the Orient.rl Insrirure my req ues rs
were very kind ly expedi ted by John Lar son and Lisa Snide r. The pho to -
gra ph of t he reconstructed "Barrie Scene" fresco ar Pylos was mad e for me
by Tucker Blackburn, Research Assoc iate in the Depa rt ment of Classics ar
rhe Universirv of Cincinnari. For rhe illust rat ions of "Sharda na warriors" I
am indebted to Vronwy Han key, who prornprly and gracio usly respo nded
to my requ est for her ma tchless pho togr aph s of t he Ab ydo s reliefs of rhe
Barrie of Kadcsh, The " \Varrior Vase" illustr ation came from :>-!arbu rg!An
Resour ce, of New York. For the drawing of ligures 2- 4 I rhank !\kg Coo de
Sha nnon .
Drs. Joanna Scurlock and Richa rd Beal provi ded me wirh much co n-
srrucrive criticism ar c1 crucial suge of rhis ma nuscr ipt . I rh.ink rhem for
sav ing me fro m errors lar ge and sma ll and exonera te them enti rely tr oru
those rhar remain . I am al so inde bted, for vario us ki ndn esses and cornmu -
nicari on s, ro Professor s Leona rd Albe rsrudr, Frank Cross, Stuart Piggorr,
Anthony Snodgrass, and Sma rr Whl.'eler. The cdi ror s ar Princeton Univer-
siry Press have again been very helpful : for rheir good work and judgment I
rhank Lauren Os bo rne, Colin Barr, and especia lly Lauren Oppenhe im.
For biblical passages, un less otherwise , pecihed. I have used rhe RSV
rranslar ion. The rr.mslar iou s of occasional lines frol1l Homer ancl o the r
Greek a ut hors are my own.
Bat tle Relie fs uf King Set) ' I. Courresv of rhe Orienta l lnsrirure
of rhc University of Chicago
PLATE 2 . " Bartle Scene" fresco from Pylos, reconstructed by
Pier de j ong, Fresco 22 H64 (pla re ,\1) in Mabel La ng, The
Palace of Ne stor at Pyl as . \ ' 0 1. 2: The Frescoes (Princeton:
Princet on Uni versit y Press, 196 9). Reproduced by permi ssion of
Prince ton Uni versit y Press. Photograph obtai ned from rhe
University of Cincinnati
PLATE 3. A shardana skirmisher slayin g a Hirrire charioteer ar
Kade sh. Abydos relief. Photograp h courtesy of Vronwy Hankey
PLATE 4. A shardana skirmishe r cutt ing off rhe ha nd of a slain
Hirrire cha r iotee r ar Kad esh. Abydos reli ef. Phorogr aph
courtesy of Vronwy Hankey
PLATE 5. Sharda na bodyguar ds of Ramesses II, ar Kadesh.
Abydos relief. Phorograph courtesy of Vro nw y Ha nkey
PLATE 6. Land barrie of Ramesses III, in Year Eighr , agai ns t
Philistine and other aggr essor s. Line drawing of relief from
Mcdin er Habu . Co urtesy of the Oriental lnsrirure of the
Univers ity of Chicago
PLATE 7. Sea bat tle of Rarnesscs III, in Year Eight, aga inst
Philist ine an d othe r aggressor s. Line drawing of relief from
Mediner Habu . Co urtesy of rhe O rient al Inst it ute of th e
University of Chicago
PLATE 8. "Warrio r Vase" fro m Mycen ae, side A. Phot ogra ph
o bra ine d from Marburg!An Resource, Ne w York
PLATE 9. Seri I arracking Shos hu Bedouin in Ca naa n. Line
drawing of relief from Arnun temple ar Ka rna k. Plat e J in The
Battle Rel iefs of King Sety 1. Co urtesy of rhe Oriental lnsrirure
of rhe University of Chicago 183
PLATE JO. Bartle of Rarnesses III again st Libyans. Line drawing
of relief from Medincr Habu . Co urtesy of t he Orienta l Institute
of the Univc rsiry of Chicago 200
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.J. B. Pr itchard, ed ., AII Ci,"lt Nt'.tr-!·:.Istt'm Tex ts ReI.ltillg t ..
the Old Test.nnent, 3d ed. Prin ceton : Prince ton Uni vers ity
Press, J969
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RilJ/ic,rI Arcb.ieol ogist
Bulletin de Ca rresp ond.m cc l lcllcn iqu»
I.E.S. Edwards, C. J. G'ldd , "J.G.L. Hammond, and E. Sol·
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Chapter One
HE END of the eastern Mediterran ean Bron ze Age, in the twel fth
cent ury B. C. , was o ne of history's mos t frightful turning poi nt s. For
those who experienced it, it was a calamity. In lon g retr ospect ,
however, the episode marked a beginning rath er than an end, the "dawn
tim e" in which peopl e in Isr ael, Greece, and even Rome sought their ori-
gins. In certain respect s that assessment is still valid, for the Age of Iron
sta nds mu ch closer to our own than does the wo rld of the Bronze Age. The
metallurgical progress-from bronze to iron - was only the most tan gible
of the inn ovat ion s. More significa nt by far were the development and
spread of alpha bet ic wri ting, the growt h of nati on ali sm, of repu bli can
political forms, of monotheism, and event ua lly of rati on ali sm. These an d
ot he r hist ori c innovations of the Iron Age have been frequ entl y not ed and
celebra ted.
Th e bleaker objective of the pr esent book wi ll be a close look at the
negative side. In man y places an old and co mp lex society did, after all,
come to an end ca . 1200 B. C. In the Aegea n, the pal ace-center ed world th at
we ca ll Mycen aean Greece disap peared: alt ho ugh some of it s glories were
remember ed by the bards of the Da rk Age, it was ot he rwise for gotten until
archaeo logists du g it up. Th e loss in Ana rolia was even greater. The Hittite
empi re had given to the An atol ian plate au a measure of o rde r and prosper-
ity that it had never known before and would not see again for a thou sand
yea rs. In the Levant recover y was much faster, and some imp ortant Bron ze
Age institu tions survived with littl e cha nge; but othe rs did not , and ever y-
wh ere urb an life was drasticall y set back. In Egypt the Twentieth Dynas ty
mar ked the end of the New Kingdom and almost the end of ph araonic
achievement , Thro ughout the eastern Mediter ran ean the twelfth century
B. C. ush er ed in a dark age, whi ch in Greece and Anaroli a was not to lift for
more t ha n four hundred years. Altogeth er the end of the Bronze Age was
argua bly the wor st di sast er in ancient hi story, even more calamito us than
the co llapse of the western Roman Empire.!
The end o r transformation of Bronze Age instituti on s is o bviously a
to pic of eno rmo us dimension s. From the modern perspe cti ve it is the disap-
pearance of ma ny of these centuries-old forms that gives the years ca. 1200
I For the comparison see Fernand Brandel, " L'Aube," in Braudel, ed. , L I Mediterrdllee:
l'espucc et l'histoire (Paris, 1977), 82- 86. In Braudel's words, "l a Medi terrane e orientale, ;H I
xii- siecle avant J' e., retourne au plan zero, ou presque, de l'h ist oire."
B.C. their extraordinary importance. In this book , however, I shall deal
with that topi c onl y in passing. My subject here is much more limited and
concrete: the physical destruction of cities and pal aces. One might object
that although the physical destruction was tragi c for the occupants of the
cities and palaces in que stion , in itsel f it need not and should not have
ent ailed the collapse and di sappearance of Bronze Age civilization. The
razing of Athens in 480 B. C. , after all, clear ed the ground for the templ es of
the Peri clean city, and the burning of Rome in 387 B. C. was followed
directl y by an unprecedented burst of Roman expansion. But altho ugh the
sackin g of cities ca. 1200 B. C: was not a sufficient condi tion for the di sa p-
pearance of Bronze Age civilization in Greece, Anatoli a, and sout hern
Ca naa n, it was cert ainly a necessary condition. It is the destruction of sites
that I shall therefor e try to explai n, and thi s topic is itself enormous. Within
a peri od of forty or fifty years at the end of the thirteenth and beginning of
the rwelfth century almost every signi ficant cit y or pa lace in the east ern
Mediterranean world was destro yed, many of them never to be occupied
This destruction-whi ch hereafter I shall refer to simply as " the
Catastro phe" - I shall review in some detail in cha pter 2. Before doin g
that, however, it will be useful to thre ad our way chronologically through
the peri od in which the Catastrophe took place. For a chronol ogy we must
look to Egypt , since the only narrat ive history we can wr ite for thi s peri od
is Egyptian histo ry. Most scholars would agree that there survives at least
one document ary source on the Catastro phe, and that is an inscriptio n that
Ramesses III put upon the wall of his mortuary templ e at Medin et Habu.
This is the famous text, accompanied by pictorial reliefs, in which
Ramesses III celebrates the victory that he won over the "Sea Peoples" in
his eighth year.! Since Ramesses declar es that befor e attacking Egypt the
enemy had already ravaged Hatt i, Alashia, and Amor, it is a reasonable
assumption that the inscr ipti on furni shes a terminus ante quem for at least
some of the destructi on att ested in these places.
2 Wm. F. Edgerton and Joh n Wilson, Historical Records of R.Jmses II !: The Texts in
"Medinet Habu, - Volumes I and 1I. Translated with Exp lanatory No tes (C hicago, 19.36),
plate 46; Breast ed, AR, vol. 4, nos. 59-82. Leona rd H. Lesko, " Egypt in the 12th Ce ntury
B.C.," in W. A. Watd and M. S. [ oukowsky, eds., The Crisis Ye.rrs: The 12th Century 8 .C.
(Dubuque, 1992), l SI - 56, has argued that this inscr iption was Cut for Memeprah' s mort uary
temple , that Rarnesses 111 appropriated it for h..s own templ e at Mediner Hahu , and therefore
t hat the events described in it occurred in the eighth year of Merneprah (1205 B. C. ) rather tha n
of Rarnesses Ill . But the-swath of dest ruction through "Arnor " that the inscriptio n menrions
could hardly have take n place during Mer neptah's reign, si nce the Levanrin c cities were still
standing at the secession of Quee n Twosret, In addi tio n, the defen sive postu re that thi s
inscripn on attributes to the Egyptia n pharaoh i ~ not easily reconciled with the offensive
campaign that Memeptah claimed to have conducted in the souther n Levant .
Dates for the reign of Ramesses III depend on the accession year chosen
for Rarnesses II , the illustrious pr edecessor whose name the young king
ado pted; and in this study I shall follow the "low" chro nology that now
seems to be accepted by most Egyptologists. On this chro nology, Ramesses
the Great ruled from 1279 to 12 12, accounting-all by himself-for most
of the Nin et eenth Dynasty. ' Wh en the old king finallydied, close to the age
of ninety, he was succeeded by his oldest surviving son, his thirteenth,
Mernepr ah . The latt er was, at his accession, "a portl y man already in his
sixties." :' As ki ng, Mernept ah lived anoth er ten or eleven years and was in
tu rn succeeded by one of his sons, either Sen II (whom Merneptah had
designated as his successor) or Amenm esse. At any rate, Seti gained the
th ron e not long after Mern ept ah ' s death.
For the first time in decades, Egypt was not ruled by an old man . But the
middl e-aged Seti II had an unexp ectedl y sho rt reign. After rulin g only SLX
year s, Seti died , leaving the succession in some confusion. " His principal
wife had been Twosret, but the pair had no surviving son. In the event,
Seti's nominal successor was Siptah, who was still a child or adolescent.
Although Siptah was evidently the son of Sed, his moth er was not Twosret
but Tio, one of his father 's secondary wives, and Sipta h must have owed his
elevation to the exertio ns of powerful ment or s. Twosrer survived the boy,
and she herself rul ed as ph araoh for at least two years , being onlythe fourt h
woman in almos t rwo millenn ia of Egyptian histo ry to reach the throne.
During the reigns of Sipta h and Twosret (a period of at least eight years), the
power behind the throne seems to have been Bay, a Syrian who had risen to
become "Great Cha ncellor of the Entir e Realm." With the death ofTwosret
(the circumstances in whi ch an y of these peopl e died are unknown ), a man
of uncert ai n origin, Setna khte, drove "the Syrian" from his pos ition as
king-maker a nd esta blished himself as king. Thus ended the Nineteent h
Dynasty and began the Twenti eth. Although Setna khte ruled for only rwo
years, Egypt was fort una te that the upst art had a son as capa ble as himsel f:
thi s was the young Rarnesses III , who faced t h e ~ Catastro phe and survived
to describ e it.
, On the high chronology Rame sses Ir s accession year was 1304 B.C. , on the middle
chronology 1290. Th e high chronology has been generally aba ndon ed by specia lists. The low
chronol ogy was effectively advocated by E. F. Went e and C. C. Van Siclen, "A Chronology of
the New Kingdo m," in J. H. Johnso n and E. F. \'(\,nt e, eds., Studi es in Honor ofGwrge R.
Hughes (Chicago, 1976), 217-6 1. For other argume nts see Paul Astt om, ed., Higl,. Middle.
or Lou'?Acts of an lnternational Colloquium 0" Absolute Chronology Held at the Universit y
ofGothenburg 20th -22d August 198 7 (Goreborg, 1987).
4 K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant . The Life and Times of Ramesses 1/ (Warminster.
19&2), 207.
s The confusion, at once t he bane and t he de light of Egypt ologists, was muc h clarified bv
Alan Gardiner, " Only One King Sipra h and Twosre Not His Wife. " JEA H ( 1958i: 12-22.
1188-11 86 B. C.
1186-1155 B. C.
.lthough the regnal dat es for Ramesses III, his father, and their
reteenth-Dynasty predecessors cannot be pre cisely fixed, the foll owing
n to be approximately correct:"
lineteenth Dynasty
Rarnesses II 1279-1212 B. C.
Merneprah 1212-1 203 B. C.
Amenmesse 1203-1202 B. C.
Seti 11 1202-11 96 B. C.
Sipt ah 1196-11 90 B.C.
Twosret 1190-1188 B. C.
lllent ieth Dynasty
Rarnesses 11l
this reckoning, the terminus ante quem for mu ch of the Cat ast ro phe-
crucial eighth year of Ramesses III-will be 1179 B. C. That fits well
.ugh with a recently di scovered tablet indicating that Emar (on the
ihrares, downstream from Carche mish) fell in the second year of Melik-
oak, king of Bab ylon.
On J. A. Brinkman's Mesopotamian chronol ogy,
ar must have been sa cked in the 1180s.
An even more recent disc over y,
; time at Ras Shamra, shows that th e rule of Hammurapi, the last king of
irit, began when Merneptah was ruling Egypt and extended into the
~ n of Siptah and Queen Twosret. ? The synchronism proves that Ugarit
; st ill st anding in 1196 B. C., and su ggests th at the city wa s not destroyed
ore 1190.
Since in some cases only a terminus post quem for a monarch's death is availab le, vario us
mes have been prop osed, an d on the low chronology the accession of Rarnesses III is
ed a nywhere from 1188 to I 182 B. C. For several possibilities see Went e and Van Sid en,
Chrono logy of the New Kingdom," and K. A. Kitchen, "The Basics of Egypt ian
enol ogy in Relat ion to the Bron ze Age," in Astrom, ed. , High, Midd/ e, or Low ? .37- 55.
Da niel Arnaud, "Les rexres d' Erna r et la chrono logie de la fin du Bronze Recent ," Syria
1975): 87-92. TIle ta blet dat ed to Melik-shipak' s second year is a sho rt- term co nt ract ;
aud therefore concl udes that only a ver)' short time ("quelques sema incs") elapsed
veen the writing of the cont rac t and the destru ction of the city.
Brinkma n, "Notes on Mesopot amian Hi st or y in the Thirteenth Cent ury B. C. ," Bib/i-
'ea Orienta/is 27 ( 1970): .306-7; I am much inde bt ed here to the explana tions furn ished
,1. Bier br ier, "Th e Da te of the Dest ruction of Ema r and Egyptian Chro no logy," JEA 64
' 8) : 136-.37. At n. 2, Bierbri er not es th at " Professor Brinkman now info rms me that his
it dat e for year 2 is 1185:!o5 B. C. "
Jacque s Freu, " La tablette RS 86 .2230 et la phase final e du royau me d' Ugarit," Syria 65
;ll): .395-98. Tablets found at Ras Ibn Hani had a lread y established th at Harnrnurapi' s
1 overlapped that of Me rnept.r h. and the new tablet ind icates that Harn rnura pi was st ill o n
.hrone when Bay, the "Grund Chancellor " for Siprah and Queen Twosret, held his office.
" Ibid., _' 98.
The relative chronology supplied by Mycen aean pottery must be fit into
the absolute framework derived from Egypt. It now seems probable that
the transition from LH IIIB to IIIC pottery occurred no earlier th an the
reign of Queen Twosret. On the low Egyptian chrono logy thi s would mean
that lIIB pottery was still bein g produced ca . 1190 B. C." Since th at is only
a terminus po st quem, and since it is likel y th at a few yea rs elap sed between
the last of the IIIB wares and the resumption of pottery making in the
Argolid, the earli est mcpots probably were not made before ca . 118 5. The
destruction at Tiryns and Mycenae may have occurred shortly before
Ramesses Ill came to power. A few sit es in th e Aegean, on the other hand,
seem to have been destroyed several decades before the end of the IIIB
period, evidently while Ramesses th e Great st ill reigned.
Al to gether, then, the Catas tro phe seems to have begun with spo radic
destruct ion s in the last qu arter of the thirteenth century, gathered momen-
tum in the 1190s, and raged in full fur y in the 1180s. By about 1175 the
worst was apparently over, although dreadful things continued to happen
throughout the twelfth century. Let us now take a close look at the physical
destructi on that the Catastrophe entailed.
11 For a discussion of all the evide nce on the end of IlIBand the beginn ing of mc see Pet er
Warren and Vronwy Hankey, Aegean Bronze Age Chronology (Bristo l, 1989), 158-62. The
most importa nt synchronism comes from a faience vase with Twos rer's cartouche fou nd in a
shri ne at Dei r .Alia (ancient Succorh), alon g with a range of LH lIlB pottery. Warren and
Hankey not e that the pots were not heirl ooms but funct ional vessels in the service of the
sanctuar y. The auth or s adopt Kitchen' s slightl y later dat es for the last rulers of the Ni net eenth
Dynasty and so conclude (p. 161) that "we may place the boundary between lIlB and IIIC c.
1185/ 80 BC, ~ h e time of Tewosret Or a few years later. "
Chapter Two
EVERY Anatolian site known to have been important in the Lat e
Bron ze Age the Catastro phe left a destruction level. I Figure 1
shows a wide distr ibut ion of places in Asia Minor that ca. 1200
B. C. suffered what Kurt Bitt el described as a " Brandkatastrophe." Four of
these sites are wi thi n the arc of the Halys River, the heartl and of the Great
Kingdo m of Hatt i, and perhaps this region of Anar ol ia suffered mor e than
others. In the cent ur ies following the Catastro phe the intra -Halys sites
seem to have been occupied only by squatt ers, and it is safe to say that for a
long time afrer 1200 there were no cities in the area.
Hatrusas itself was plundered and burned at the beginning of the twelfrh
century (since no Mycenaean pottery was found in the destruction level,
correlation with Aegean sites is pro blema tic). The excavator s found ash,
cha rred wood , mudb ricks, and slag form ed when mudhricks melt ed from
the intense heat of the conflagration. The nearby site of Alaca Hoyuk,
twenty kilomet ers to the northeast , suffered a similar fate: an ashy destruc -
tion level exte nds over the ent ire excavated surface. Southeast of Hat tusas,
the Hirtite city at Alishar-s-p rotected by a stout wall-was dest royed by
fire.! A hundred kilomet ers to the east, at Masar Hoyuk, a palace that had
hel ped to a nchor the frontier aga inst the Kaska ns went up in flames
ea rly in the twelfth century. Here some LH IIIB pottery supp lies a rough
Between the Sanga rios and the Halys three sites have been excavated, but
only one seems to have been dest royed in the Catas tro phe. Gordion and
Polatli have yielded no evidence of destruction, but Karaoglan met a fiery
and violent end. Skeleta l remains of the victims were found on the site." On
I Kurt Bind surveye d the evide nce o n Anarol ia at the Zwett l symposiu m: d . his " Die
arch.iolog ische Sirua rion in Kleinasien urn 1200 v. Chr. und wahr end dec nach folgend en vier
ja hr hunde rt e, " in Sigri d Deger-j alko rzy, ed.• Griecbenland, ,iie AgJ ls und die Lecont e tca h-
rend der "Dnri: Ages " (Vienna , 1983), 25-47.
z H. H. vo n der Ost en, The Ahsh ar Hfi yii k: Seasons uf 1930- / 932 (Chica go, 1937),189.
\ Bitt el , ..Klei na sien, " .34. suggests tha t beca use ~ 1 a P [ is so disran r from the Aegean we
should perhaps allow rhe porrery " eniges Nachlebens. "If so , a dare even larer than 1190 will
nur be exclu ded.
, Ib id. , 3 1.
F IGURE 1. The Eastern Mediterranean: Major sites destroyed in the Catastrophe
GREECE 16. Tar sus 32. Kadesh
1. Tekhos Dymaion
17. Fra krin 33. Qatna
2. Pylos
18. Ka raogl an 34. Harnath
3. Ni cho ria
19. Harrusas 35. Alalakh
4. The Menelaio n
20 . Alaca Hoyuk 36 . Aleppo
5. Tir yns
2 1. Masar J7. Carcbemisb
6. Midea
12 . Alisha r Hoyuk 38. Ernar
7. Mycenae
23. No rsu nrepe
8. Th ebes
14. Tille Hoyuk
9. Lefkandi
25. Lidar Hoyii k 39 . Hazer
10. lolk os
40. Akko
41. Megiddo
CRETF. 26. Palaeokast ro
42. Deir ' Alia
I I. Kydo nia
27. Kiri on
43. Bethel
12. /\'10 550 5
18. Sinda ·H . Beth Shemesh
29 . Enkomi
45. Lachish
46. Ashdod
IJ .Tro y
SYRIA 47. Ashkcl on
14. Milet"s 30 . Ugarir
15. Mersin .11. Tell Suk as
~ At sites in it alics destructi on in the Ca ta strophe is probable bur not certain.
10 I :'-l T R O D U C Tl O :-;
rhe western co ast of Ana rolia a far more important Late Bronze Age cenre r
W3S rhe ciry of Milerus (probably Milawara, or Milawanda. in Hirrire
text s), around whi ch a grear wa ll was built in the th irteenth century B. C.
Miletus roo seems to have been destroyed during the LH mc period . The
sire m.ry have been de solate for some rime bur was apparentl y resettled
before the beginning of the Protogeorn erric peri od ..'
Ar rhe sire of Hi ssarlik rwo co nsecut ive serrl emenrs-Troy Vlh and Tr oy
Vl la-s-were de stroyed at rhe end of rhe Bron ze Age, and in borh cas es rhe
cit ies seem ro have burne d. The dares for rhe destruct ion of rhe two levels
a re mu ch disputed, bur ir is now likel y that Troy VI-an impress ively
forrified cit ad el , which is likel y ro have been oc cupi ed primaril y by a royal
famil y, irs courti ers, and warriors-fell so metime during the seco nd half of
th e thirteenth century B. C. In the afr ermarh of rhar destructi on, a crowd
of people-humbler, bur sharing th e same mat erial culture as th e lords of
Troy Vlh-moved inro the citade l. repairing rhe forrificarion wa lls a nd
building a wa rren of small hou ses. This ciry, Troy Vil a, was pro ba bly
burned ca. 1190 or 1180,' bur th e survivors aga in rebuilr rhe wall s and
occ upied rhe sire (Vllb) rhrou gh rhe twelfth centu ry,
The mo st lucid dis cussio n of the evidence on Mrlerus is st ill that provided by Vincent
Desborough. Tlw L"s t My'·CllJt' MfSand Their Successors: All Archaeol ogical Survey c. 1200-
c. 1000 D. C. (Oxfo rd. 1964 ), 162 -63. Alt hough fri tz Schu chermeyr . Mykm e und das
Hethiterreich (Vienna. discussed J t great lengt h the Mi lawa ta of Hittite sources, he
sai d nothi ng about the fat e of Bron ze Age Mileru s.
.. 's a rgu ment that Troy VI , v.IS dest royed in th e middl e .md Troy Vila towa rd the end
of the IIIBpe riod sti ll Widely .rccepred, hut hi s JJ te's-C.1. 1275 and ca . I24 0- 3r e n OW3-
d ays ge nerally reg.nded as much too high da tes were based on th e high Egyptian
chro nology and on the assu mpti on that LH Hie began ar the end of Memep rah'5 reign ). Th e
prese nt eXCJV3to r at Hisvarl ik, Man fred Korf rnann. suggests rh,ir Troy VI was des troyed ca .
125 U, JnJ Vil a ca . Sec Korfmann. " Alres und Neues .I US Troia, " Du s Altertum 36
(19<'/0) ; 232. As not ed in chapter I. it nuw JppeJ rs thar rhe tr au siti on to LH IIIC CJ II be pl aced
no ea rlier than the reign of Q ueen Twosret. Even if one accept s Blegen's analysis of the potter y,
but foll ows the Egyp tologist;' low chro no logy, one could da te the 1311 01Tro y VII. as late ,l'
119il, J nd of Troy VI .IS late J S 122.S. But even lower dJ te>are probable. Stud ies 01the pottery
hJ.ve ( o nvi nceJ severJ.1 \pecia lists that VII.1 was st ill stJ nJing in t he lIIe per iod . For the
a rgu me nts , see ,\I ichad Wood.ll/ S,>. lrc!Jof tl,,' Trojal/ War (New York, 1985). 22 4; all d D.
b"on, " HJS the TroiJ n WJ r Been Found ?" Al/ liq/l 'ry 59 ( 1985); 189.lf mc sherds wer e
inJct' J fo unJ in VII.I levd s, the' J estru ct ion &1tt' for VII;] wo ulJ be no 1. ';. 1tlie r th J n C l. 1180,
:lnJ Tw y VI cou lJ h.we been J estr oyed in th e b st q uarter of th e th irteenth (c ntu ry. The moe, t
of the new s<.: ht:mes is that of Chrlst iJ.n PoJzuwelt, "Oic myk enischt: \X/e1t unJ Tro13, "
in ll . Ha nsel . ed.• Siidostcllrnp,l 1600 WId 1000 t' . Chr. (Mor eland . 19X2i. 65 - 88.
Podw wei t reJIl J lyzed the pmt er v from Troy Vl h and VII J nd w nd uded th at l<l tt' LH IIIC
potlny wJ.s usc:J nut onl y in the VIIJ ,e tt leOlcnt hut J iso in the Vlh (iry. If une Jl. ·cepts
Pod zuweit "s one wou lJ ro J .Jh.' the J est ru cti on uf th e gre.Jt l:iry-Twy VI- to
the: 't'co nJ hJ.1tof tht' twelft h PoJ zuweit rhat much humbler .-.. ertl e'ment
"I Trov VI IJ lell - in die er ,ten jJhrzente de, I I . ja hrl l<lltderts " {poS3 ;.
In southeas tern An arolia two important sires-s- Mc rsin and Tarsus-
wer e burned during the Ca tast rophe, a nd her e roo there was recovery.
Twd frh-cen: ury Ta rsus was in tact ,1 sizea ble ci ry, and ;1 few pieces of LH
[IIC porr er y show rhar ir was in sporadic contact wirh the Aegean. On the
headwat ers of rhe Seyhun River, rwo mile s fro m the ro ck reliefs at Frakt in,
unknown aggressors destroyed a Hitt ite rown " durch cine gros se
Brandkar asrrophe," proba bly a fter 1190 B. C. (t he dare depends on a single
LH mc1srirru p jar foun d in rhe destruct ion de bris )." finall y. on the upp er
Euphr ates in eastern Ana rolia othe r cenrers were burned in the Ca tasrro-
phe: th e excavat ions ar Lid ar Hoyiik (150 kilomerers up stream fro m Ca r-
chernish) a nd ar nearby Tille Hoyu k, as well as rhos e at Nors unrepe (on the
Murat Nehri, near Elazig) show rhar the Lare Bronze Age structures there
were destroyed in sire-wide confl agrations.H
Bron ze Age Cyprus has become very int er esting, since archaeological work
on the isla nd has in rhe lasr rhirry yea rs moved at a fast er pace than in eit he r
Syri a or Anarolia. The Ca tast rophe in Cyprus divides l.are Cypriote II fro m
LC 1lI (LC [II is rhu s co ntemporary wirh LH lIl C in Gr eece). Recent excava-
rions have shown th at the LC II peri od was one of general pr osperity,
Ashl ar masonry, which had been regarded as an inn ovati on of the po st-
Ca rasrro phe period in Cyprus , now see ms ro have been emp loyed in civic
nrchirecr ure for mu ch of th e th irt eenth century."
Amon g the ma jor Cyp riote cities rhar we re sacked and burned at the end
of LC II were En komi , Kirion, and Sind a.! " In facr each of rhe three sires
ma y-like Tro y-have been destroyed twi ce in the peri od of a few decad es.
The old view wa s t hat there wer e two waves of destruct ion. the firsr ca.
7 Bitt el , " Klcin asien. " 3 1 and 34.
H Hauptm J nn, Arch. Arz. 1<,/ <,/ 1. 35 I , repom th.lt Hiiyok wa , destroyed - in
d.Js 1. Viertel Jt: s 12. Jhs. " On tltt' 1989 J t Tille' HiiYli k, whic h discovered
J " b rge bu rn t build ing" destruyed ca . 1200 B.C., ;e e S. R. Bbyluck, AS 4 ! ( 199 1); 4- 5. O n
Noq unt epc: Bin d, 3].
Ash lJ.r blth.:ks bet' n fo und in LC II co ntex ts.n Ar ios .Jnd P.Jb e'ukJ str u .
At \hum es, n('J r l\.1Jroni, Ger ald CJ Jog.ln nJ .sfo unJ I n J shb r bui lding t hJ.t shou ld be dJted
"'pro bJ hly to me eJ.r1ier p:l rt of the 13th c.:ctJt ury. " See CJ.J ogJ.n, "l\.f3rollI JnJ the LJ te Bru lll('
Age 01Cypr us . " in V. KJr ageurghis and j . Muhly. CypTl IS dl the-Cln se nftl,, ' Lale Age
(NlCo, ia . 1984), X.
,,) James Muhl y, " The Role of thc Sea Peoples in Cyprus d uring the LC III Period ," in
KJr ageorghi, J nd Muhly, Cyprus, 4 1. for J full >urv<:y 01the c..,.15trophe in Cvpru, see
Va... .. The Emf oftilt! L.lf(· Bruzl::" Ag(' ill C,rprlls 1990 ;; J nJ the.:
sJ.n1e "The' Cri , is YC: J.rs : Cy prus, " in \'Q.u J J nd Joukowsk y, Cr i::o; i!- f e'ur s,
1230 B.C. and the second ca. 1190 (those dates were predicated on the
assumption that 1230 was the approximate date for the beginning of LH
IIIC). Paul Astrom has revised and compressed all this, dating the first set of
conflagrations to ca. 1190 and the second to the eighth yearof Ramesses 1II
(1179). A more radical solution, advanced by James Muhly and accepted
by Vassos Karageorghis, is to recognize only one wave of destructions in
Cyprus and to date it to the end of LC IICII Inany case, at all three sites-
Sinda, in the interior, and Enkorni and Kition on the southern coast-there
was reconstruction after the Catastrophe, and a sizeable community
through the twelfth century.
Several smaller sites were not destroyed in the Catastrophe but aban-
doned. In a Late Cypriote IIC city at Ayios Dhirnitrios (on the Vasilikos
River, a few kilometers downstream from Kalavasos and some three kilo-
meters up from the south coast) there is some trace of burning, but "the
evidence does not suggest a great conflagration or deliberately destructive
activities." 12 Inaddition to much Cypriote pottery, the site yielded LH mB
but no mc imports. Another site abandoned during the Catastrophe was
Kokkinokrernos, in southeastern Cyprus, recently excavated by Ka-
rageorghis. This was a short-lived settlement, having been established not
much earlier than ca. 1230. Karageorghis discovered that Kokkinokremos
was abandoned suddenly, obviously as a result of an impending menace. The
bronzesmith concealed his fragments of copper ingots and someof his tools and
artefacts in a pit inthe courtyard, the silversmithconcealed his two silver ingots
and some scrap metal between two stones of a bench, and the goldsmith care-
fullyput awayina pit all the jewelleryand sheetsof goldwhich hehad. Theywere
all hoping, as happens in such cases, that they would return and recover their
treasures, but they never did."'
That none of the three smiths returned to retrieve the hidden valuables
suggests that they were killed or enslaved.
On the western coast of Cyprus, at Palaeokastro, Karageorghis un-
earthed more evidence of the Catastrophe. Here the excavations produced
"a layer of thick ashes and debris attesting a violent destruction." 14 The
city was rebuilt soon after the disaster, and LH mc: 1b pottery appeared in
the reoccupation level. The reoccuparion seems to have lasted about a
generation, after which the site was abandoned. IS
" Muhly, "Sea Peoples," 51; Karageorghis. "Crisis Years," 82.
12 Alison K, Sourh. "Kaiavasos-Ayios Dhirmtrios and [he Late Bronze Age of Cyprus," in
Karageorghis and Muhly, Cyprus, 14.
IJ Karageorghis, "New Light on Late Bronze Age Cyprus," in Karageorghis and Muhly,
Cyprus, 20.
" lbid., 21.
IS Carling, AR (19&6-87j: 71.
How terrible the Catastophe was in the Levant is attested both archae-
ologically and in the Medinet Habu inscription. Because the Levantine
sites were in relatively close contact with Egypt, several of the destruction
levels here have yielded artifacts dated by a royal Egyptian cartouche. The
same sites produced a quantity of Aegean pottery, especially LH lIIB ware,
and thus serve to tie together the ceramic chronology of the Aegean with
the dynastic chronology in Egypt.
The large city of Ugarit, which had been an important center in western
Syria since the Middle Bronze Age, was destroyed by fire at the end of the
Late Bronze Age and was not reoccupicd.!e The destruction level con-
tained LH mB but no mc ware, and a sword bearing the cartouche of
Merneptah. Because the sword was "in mint condition" it was for some
time taken as evidence that Ugarit was destroyed during Merneptah's
reign. As we shall see in chapter 13, however, the sword is likely to have
been in mint condition primarily because it was unusable. At any rate, a
tablet discovered in 1986 establishes that the burning of Ugarit occurred
well after Merneptahs death and indeed after Bay became Great Chancel-
lor (which he did, on the low chronology, in 1196 B.C.).17 The last king of
Ugarit was Harnrnurapi, but although Harnrnurapi's reign certainly over-
lapped that of Suppiluliumas II in Hattusas, a more exact Hittite synchro-
nism is not to be had. H. Otten supposed that the fall of Hattusas opened
the way for the destructive assaults on the Cypriote cities and on Ugarit,
while G. A. Lehmann concluded that Ugarit was destroyed before Hat-
tusas.tf The eighth year of Ramesses 1IIis assumed by all to be the terminus
post quem non for the fall of Ugarit. On the chronology followed here, the
'conflagration at Ugarit would have occurred sometime after 1196 but
before 1179.
- When Ugarit was destroyed some hundred tablets were being baked in
the oven, and so from this site we have documents written on the very eve of
its destruction. One of these tablets "from the oven"-a letter from a
certain Ydn to "the king, his master"-mentions prm (hapiru), and re-
quests that the king "equip 150 ships." 19 A tablet from the Rapanu Ar-
10 Marguerite Yon, "The End of the Kingdom of Ugarit," m Ward and ]oukowsky, The
Crisis Years, 111-22.
17 According to Freu, "Tablette," 398, "il faur done abaisser la dare de la destruction
d'Ugarir apres 1195, sans doure pas avant 1190."
18 On [he relative sequence of [he destruction of Ugarir and Hartusas see H. Otten, "Die
IernePhase desherhinschen Grossreiches nachdenTexren," inDeger-jaikorzy, Griecbenland,
21; and Lehmann's remarks in the discussion rharfollowed Orren's paper (Griecheniand, 22-
19 RS 18.14&= no. 62 (pp. &8-89) In l'RU, vol. S.
14 l l'-:T R O D U C TI O N
chive, an d so so mewhat ea rlier than the oven tablet s, indicates the kind of
threat that the last kings of Ugarit a nd Alashi a faced (t he tablet is a letter
fro m the king of Ugari t to the kin g of Alashi a k-" " behold, the ene my's
ships came (here); my cit ies (?) were burned, and they did evil things in my
count ry. Does not my father know that all my t roo ps and char iots (?) ar e in
the Hitt ite co unt ry, and 311 my ships a re in the lan d of Lycia? . . Thus, the
count ry is abandoned to itself . May my father know it: the seven ships of
the enemy that carne here inflicted mu ch damage upon us. The king of
Ugarir closes the lett er with a plea that the king of Alashia send a warning,
by a ny mean s possibl e, if he learn s of ot her enemy ships in the vicinity. This
letter is o ne of three fro m the Rap ' anu Archive that were sent between
Alashia and Ugarir, all concerned with "the enemy" wh o sud denly sail in,
wr eak havoc and raze cities, and then sail away.s!
Not far from Ugar it, the coa stal sett lement at Ras Ibn Hani was de-
stro yed at the same time as the capito l. Here, however, ther e is evide nce that
the site was re-used very soo n after the dcstruct ion .s- Tell Subs, another
coastal site, also shows a destruct ion level at th is time.
The great inland
cit ies of western Syria were a lso burned. Going upst ream on the Oronres
ca . 1200 !I.e. o ne woul d have passed Alal akh, Harnarh, Qatna, and finall y
Kadesh (Tell Nebi Mind, on the up per Oront es): apparentl y all four were
sackcd.>' In hi s excavat ion of Tell Archana, Leon ard Woolley immedi at ely
came down upon the massive destruction level that effectively closed the
life of anc ient Alalakh.
" The burnt ruin s of the topmost houses show that
the city shared the fate of its more powerfu l neighbours. t' Js
Ci ties in eastern Syria may have bee n less affected by the Catas tro phe.
Aleppo , lying midway between the Orontes and the Euphrates, was appa r-
ently sccked. F Bur Carchemish, o n the Eup hrates, may have escaped.
Although included in Rarnesses Ill' s list of places dest royed by his oppo-
nents, there is reason to believe that Carcherni shsurvived. Archaeological
work don e there early in thi s cent ury did not ident ify a destructi on level
th at co uld be ass igned to t his period . Tablets fro rf! Ugarir show that Ta lmi-
! II RS 20 .238, from {he Ra p' anu Archive . Tr ans lation from Michael Asrour, " New Evi-
dence on [he L, S[ Days of lIg.Hi[ ," A]A 69 ( 1% 5), 255 .
11 The letters or e RS20. 1H,RS L1, and RS these are. respect ivel y, nos. 22, 23, and
24 in Ugarit ica, voi. 5.
1.! See th e summary hv Anni e Caub et ... Reoc cuparion of the Syria n COJsr a fter the De-
srrucnon of the ' Crisis in Ward and ]o ukowsky, Crisis Years, 124-17.
2J R. D. Ba rne tt, "Th c Sea Peo ples. " CAH, voi. 2. pa rr 2, p. 37 0 .
! 4 See G. A. Lehma nn, Die myk eniuh·fnihgrit·chische \'(,'e!t and dcr ost liche Miu elmeer-
in de r Ze it de r -Seel,(i/kt..·r "· llll'JsionclI urn 1200 u. Chr. (Oplxdcn. 1935), Astour,
"New Evidence ," 254 ; Barnett , "The Se.t Peoples." 37lJ.
" Woo lk)", A Forgotten Kingdom [Harruundvworth. 19.\3 ), 156-1>4.
1_ IhiJ .. 1" 4.
"' IhiJ.
T Ii E c x T.\ ST R o P H E SU R V E i E D 15
Teshub, king of Ca rchernish and vassa l of Suppiluliumas II, Great King of
Hart i, was co ntempo rary with Harnmurapi of Ugarir. Recentl y published
tablets indicate that after the destructi on of Hattusa-, the ki ngs of Ca r-
chernish began to use the ti tle " Great King of Hart i. "2X
\X1hat ever the fortunes of Ca rchemish may have been , recent excavat ions
have show n that Emar, downstr eam fro m Carchernish on the Eup hrates ,
was destro yed by fire during the Catas rrophc.>' And Ernar is that rare sit e
for which, as Annie Cauber has not ed, we have "evi de nce for both t he
destroyers and the chro nol ogy. "10 Two tabl et s foun d here repo rt that
" ho rdes of enemies" attacked the city, the attack evidently occ urri ng in the
seco nd year of Mel ik-shipak, king of Baby lon (ca. 1185 B.e. ). The dating
formula employed on these two tablet s shows that at Ernar the year just
concluded was descr ibed as "I ' annee oil Ies taruu ont afflige la ville, " taruu
being tr an slat ed by D. Arn aud as " hordes," or as masses for wh om the
scr ibes of Emar had no proper name or co nvent ional designat ion .
Th e Catas tro phe took 3 heavy roll in Palestine and what in the Iron Age
W3Scalled Israel. At Deir ' Alb (ancient Succoth) 3 settlement was destroyed
aft er 1190 B. C. , since the destru ction level yielded, along with much LH
IIIBpottery, 3 vase bearing the carrouche of Queen Twosrer.! I Lachish m3Y
have been dest royed at the same time or 3 few years lat er, LH IIIB potter y
was found throughout Stra tum VI at Lachish, which underli es the destruc-
t ion level, bur there is some indi cati on th at Stratum VI did not end unt il the
reign of Rarnesses Ill. If that is so. LH IIIB wares were still being produced
in the lat e 11805, some yea rs after they are generally supposed to have been
super seded by LH 1IIe. Trude Dotha n, however, has proposed that after
the dest ruct ion of Lachish a limited settlement , " proba bly an Egyptian
garr ison," W3S esta blished above the rums.t -' On thi s argument, the so l-
diers or squatters were there in the reign of Ramesses III, bur the dest ruc-
tion of the city (and the last impo rtatio n of LH IIIB pottery) had occur re d
before Rarncsses' accessio n.
,. J. D. Hawkins, " Kuzi-Tesub and t he 'Crear Kings" of Karkamis. " AS 3S (I QSS); 99-
l OS.
.!'l See Arnaud, "Les rextes d'Ernar, " 87- 92.
.0Caubet, .... Rcoccupunon , .. 129.
II H. J. Fran ken , "Th e bC. V. [ ' OIl S .1I Deir ' Alb , jor dan, " VT 11 i 1% 1): 31> 1- 72 . Trude
Dorh.m, "Some Aspects of the Appear ance of the Sea Peoples 3nJ Philistines in Canaan, " in
Dcger-jalkotzv, 10 I, notes that the Two vrer c.irrouche provides u-, with " t he
term inu s que m for Mvc. IIIBporrcrv."
' 1 Do than, " Se. I'eopl<s .nJ Phlhsn nes, " III I ; d . her review of Lacbish, vo]. 4, in I E] 10
{I% ll /:
I'he impo rtant centers along the Via Maris of Palest ine, the rou te th at led
m Egypt to Syria (and more pa rti cularly from Gaza to Jaffa ), were
rual ly all dest royed in the Catastrophe. Megiddo seems to have held out
: longest, St ratum VII run ning witho ut inte rruption from the thi rteent h
Itury until ca . 1150 B. C. 33 Among the earlier victims were Ashdod,
hkelon, and Akko. For Ashdod no Egyptian synchro nism is ava ila ble,
t th e cera mics indicate an early twelft h-century date: t he predestruction
arum XIV produced LH IIIBpottery, and in the postdesrrucrion Stratum
II some LH IIIC: 1b pottery was found. At any rate, Moshe Dothan
.avated at Ashdo d a "des t ruc tio n layer (ca. 85 em), co ntai ni ng ashes,
.ich indi cat e th at th is st ratu m, in Area A- B, ended in a heavy co nflagra -
n. " 34 At Akko, the destructi on ca n be dated with so me pr ecision. In
rc lowest ash refuse layer" of the destructi on level was found a sca rab
th the name of Queen Twosret , evidence that places the destruction of
ko no earlier than 1190.
The city was rebuilt, and the excavators
ind that in the reoccupari on the residents used a mon och rome pottery
-s ely related to Mycenaean IIIC ware .
In addit ion to the major cit ies alo ng the Via Mar is, all of whi ch would
ve been under Egypti an hegemon y in the earl y twelfth cent ury, sma ller
rlernents were also dest royed in the Catas t rophe. These littl e towns
-uldsurely have been vassa ls or dependencies of the ma jor ci ties, and so
-uld also have been protect ed, very indirectly, by Egypt's imperial rnaj -
y. Among t he smaller sites dest royed in the Catastrophe were the towns
Tel l jernrneh, Tell Sippor, and Tell Je ris he.J7
In the interior, the early twel fth-century dest ruct ion at Lachish and Deir
la has al ready been mentioned. Other inlan d si tes des troyed at the sa me
ie were, from nort h to south, Tell el-Qeda h (Haza r), Beitin (Bethel ), Bet h
ernesh, Tell el-Hesi (Eglon ?), Tell Beit Mirsim (Debir or Eglon), an d
irbet Rabud (possibly Debir).J
As everywhere else, these cities we re
rned, the dest ruct ion bei ng ei ther total or so extensive that archaeolo-
IJ William Dever, "The Late Bronze-Early Iron I Horizon in Syria-Palestine : Egyptians,
iaa nires , ' Sea Peoples: and Proro- Israelires," in Ward and ]oukowsky, Crisis Years, 101.
14 M. Dothan, "Ashdod at the End of the Lat e Bronze Age and the Beginning of the Iron
:, ~ in Frank Cross, ed., Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-Fifth Amlit1ersary of the Found-
of the American Schools of Oriental Research (1900- 1975) (Cambridge, Mass., 1979),
15 Trude Dothan, "Sea Peoples and Philistines, ~ 104. Dot han goes on to say that the
tab "may provide a terminus ante quem for the destruction of the Late Bronze city. " Burit
termi nus post quem t hat the scarab actua lly gives us.
10 lbid., 103.
17 lbid., 108; for a tabular presenta tion of Palest inian sites destroyed and spared see Dever,
Ite Bronze, " 100.
IS Paul Lapp, "The Conquest of Palestine in the Light of Archaeology," Concordia Theo-
iC<11Mont hly 38 ( 1967j : 283-300.
gists ass ume that virt ua lly the entire city was dest royed. Afte r the destruc-
tio n, most of the sites in the int erio r were soon occupied by squatters : at
Hazar, Succor h, and Debir there are t races of post-Catastrophe hut s or
small houses, storage silos, and crude ovens.>? Some ci ties near the coast,
on the other hand, were subs ta ntially rebuilt . At Tell Ashdod and Tell Mor
there is evidence for consi de ra ble occupa tion after the Catasrrophe.w
A few settlements, finally, were spared. There is evidence for continuous
occupation from the thirteent h cenruryrhrough all or most of the twelft h at
a number of major si tes: Beth Shan, Taanach, Je rusalem, Shechem, Gezer,
and Gi beon. Still other sites show no destruct ion in the late th irteenth or
early twelfth cent ury because they were unoccupied at that t ime: paradox-
icall y, Jericho and Ai, two of the cities whose destructi on is dramati call y
described for us (Jos hua 6-8 celebrates the slaughter of all t he inhab itants
of Jericho and Ai, a nd the burning of the two cities), were deserted tells at
the time of the Catas rrophe.v!
The closest the Catas t rophe ca me to Mesopot ami a was the destructi on of
Norsuntepe, in eas tern Ana to lia, and of the Syria n ci ties of Ernar and-
possibl y-Carchemish. Emar was dest royed by nameless " hordes" and
perhaps the same can be ass umed for Norsunrepe. The Euphrates river and
the j ezirah ma y have furnished so mething of a ba rrier to protect the Meso-
po tamian cities from the devasta tion experienced in the Levant, but it is
also likely that the kingdom of Assur served as a deterrent . Generally,
Mesopotamian history in the late t hirteenth and twel fth centuries follows
the pattern of earlier tirnes.v' Wars were common, but they were between
peren niel rival s. It was primarily t he palaces at Babylon and Assur that
co mpeted for primacy, with the ki ngdom of Elarn playing a major role from
t ime to t ime.
It is ins tructive to see wh at the kings of Assur were able to accomplish
before, during, and after the Catastrophe. Tukul ti-Ninurra I (1244- 1208
B. C. ) was perh aps the grea tes t of the Middl e Assyri an kin gs. After subduing
the barbarian s wh o lived to the east, in the Zagros mountains, he marched
.19 Norma n Gottwa ld, The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated
israel, 1250- 1050 B. C.E. (Maryknoll, N.Y., 1979), 195.
40 Moshe Dothan, "Ashdod, ~ 127-28.
41 WilliamSricb ing. j r., Out of the Desert? Archaeologyand the Exodus t Conquest Narra-
tives (Buffalo, 1989), 80-86.
42 For the history of Mesopotamia see the relevant chapters by]. M. Munn-Rankin, D.].
Wiseman, and Rene' Labar in CAH, vol. 2, part 2; for a summary directly perti nent to the
present srudy see Richard L. Zettle r, "Twelfrh-Cenru ry B.C. Babylonia: Continuity and
Change, " 174-81, in Ward and joukowsky, Crisis Years.
ough the mountains of Kurdistan and reached the district of Lakes Van
:l Urrnia. His greatest triumph may have come in 1235, when he defeated
Kassite king of Babylon; soon thereafter he captured Babylon, and his
derlings governed there for perhaps seven years. When Tukulti-Ninurta
s murdered by his son, Assyrian power was riven in faction and Assur's
ninion rapidly receded, but Assur and the other cities of the Assyrian
irtland came through the Catastrophe unscathed. Ashur-dan I defeated
oylon in 1160 and took from it several frontier cities. His successors
rarently had no difficulty maintaining their rule over the Assyrian heart-
d in the second half of the twelfth century, but they did have to do battle
iinst Akhlamu and Aramu warriors (both names probably refer to
imaic-speaking tribesmen) who threatened on the north and west of
.yria, Still more serious was an invasion by twenty thousand warriors
m Mushki, under five chieftains, who crossed the Taurus mountains and
led the lands around the upper Tigris. But the Mushkians were beaten
Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077) in a great battle in the mountains of
n southern Mesopotamia the Kassite line reestablished itself in Babylon
-r its interruption by Tukulti-Ninurta and enjoyed another forty years of
ninion, Apparently it was while Melik-shipak ruled at Babylon (1188-
74) that so many cities in the Levant were destroyed, but neither Melik-
oak nor his son seems to have experienced serious trouble. Trouble did
ne in 1157, when the city of Babylon was stormed and parts of it were
'ned by the Elarnites. Although this incident might be reminiscent of the
.astrophe, the "sacking" of Babylon III 1157 seems to have been rela-
-lylimited and fits quite well within the normal expectations of Mesopo-
iian history: three years after having been beaten and humiliated by
iur-dan, a weak Kassite king was defeated by Shutruk-Nahhunte, the
g of Elam, and his large army. The Elamite king allowed his troops to
nder parts of the city-razing some sections in order to teach the occu-
lts a lesson-and he then removed the statue of Marduk to Elam.
hough Shutruk-Nahhunte put an end to the Kassite dynasty, he made
effort to subjugate Babylon permanently and certainly did not destroy
city. Soon after his departure a new Babylonian dynasty was estab-
ed by a warlord from Isin. Babylon not only recovered its independence
also established some control over towns as far north as the Diyala
e Mesopotamia, Egypt was spared the destruction of its centers during
Catastrophe. It was not, however, spared the fear of destruction, for
ween 1208 and 1176 the pharaohs had to battle repeatedly against
invaders who threatened to do in Egypt what had already been done in
Anatolia and the Levant. Because the kingdom of Egypt survived the Catas-
trophe we have Egyptian inscriptions advertising what happened there
during the years in which so many other lands lost their principal cities and
In some respects, it is true, Egypt did not survive the Catastrophe. Al-
though prosperous and secure during the long reign of Ramesses the Great,
after the accession of Merneptah Egypt entered upon a time of troubles that
effectively ended its long history as the dominant power in the Near East.
Merneptah and Ramesses III were able to repel the attacks upon Egypt and
then celebrate their accomplishments in a princely fashion, but they were
virtually the last of the great pharaohs. The successors of Ramesses III were
hard-pressed to maintain any Egyptian presence in the Levant. Under
Ramesses IV (1155-1149) there may still have been Egyptian garrisons at
Beth Shan and a few other strategic posts in southern Canaan, but they
must soon have been overrun or withdrawn.t" The last evidence of Egyp-
tian power so far north is the name of Ramesses VI (1141-1133) inscribed
on a bronze statue base at Megiddo.v' At home, the last kings of the
Twentieth Dynasty left few architectural or inscriptional monuments, and
in the Twenty-First Dynasty royal power in Egypt reached a low ebb.
The victories of Merneptah and Ramesses III were thus the swan song of
the Egyptian New Kingdom. Merneptah celebrated his triumphs in var-
ious places, but especially in the Great Karnak Inscription and on the
Hymn of Victory Stele (sometimes referred to as the "Israel Stele "), found
across the river, at Thebes. 45 For our purposes, however, the inscriptions of
Merneptah and Ramesses III are important not so much because they are a
final celebratIon of pharaonic power but because they illuminate the nature
of the dangers that Egypt and many other kingdoms faced in the Catastro-
phe. Merneptah's troubles began in his fifth year, 1208 B.C., when a Libyan
king named Meryre attacked the western Delta. Meryre brought with him
an enormous army, most of his men being from Libya itself but a fair
number being auxiliaries from "the northern lands. " They are identified by
Merneptah's scribe as Ekwesh, Lukka, Shardana, Shekelesh, and Tur-
The Libyan warlord also brought with him his wife, children, and
even his throne, obviously intending to set himself up as ruler of the west-
4\ James Weinstein, "The Collapse of the Egyptian Empire in the Southern Levant," in
Ward and Joukowsky, Crisis Years, 142-50.
•• Weinstein, "Collapse, n 144; Itarnar Singer, "Merneprah's Campaign to Canaan and the
Egyptian Occupation of the Southern Coastal Plain of Palesrine in the Ramesside Period, n
BASOR 269 (1988): 6. .
45 For the Great Karnak Inscription see Breasted, AR, vol. 3, nos. 572-92; for the Hymn
of Victory Stele, see nos. 602-17. Lesko, "Egypt," 153-55, has argued that the "year 5" and
"year 8" inscriptions of Rarnesses III at Medinet Habu were originally cut for Merneptah's
mortuary temple .
4" Breasted, AR 3, no. 574.
ern Delta. Again st the invaders Merneptah must ered all his force s, and on
the th ird day of the third month of summer he defeated them at Periri, .the
precise locati on of which is disputed. It was undoubtedly a long and diffi-
cult battl e. According to the inscr iptio n on the Arhribis stele, Merneprah's
army slew over 6000 Libyan s, as well as 2201 Ekwesh, 722 Tursha, and
200 Shehelesb (how man y Lukka and Shardana wer e killed cannot be
determined )."? The Libyan king fled in disorder and disgrace.
The Hymn of Victo ry Stele, alt hough pr imar ily celebrating the victo ry
over the Libyans and their allies, shows that Merneptah also conducted a
maj or campaign in Canaa n.f'' He claims her e to have " plundered" and
" pacified" various pl aces, including several cities (Ashkelon and Gezer;
Yanoam too was evidently a city). The land of Canaan and the peopl es of
Isr ael and Hurru were cha stised.f ? Unt il recentl y Merneptah 's claims to
have ca mpa igned in so ut hern Ca na an were dismi ssed as mere propaganda ;
but Frank Yurco discovered that wall relief s, which were once attri buted to
Ramesses II and in which the capture of Ashkelon is portrayed , were
actually commissioned by Merneptah.
It now seems th at Ashkel on and
Ge zer must have declared thei r independence from Egypt at the outset of
Merneptah 's reign and were brought to heel by thi s elderl y but sur prisingly
energet ic pharaoh. v! The trouble presented by men of Israel must have
been something new. Here Merneprah was dealin g not with the cities that
had tr aditionall y been Egypt's concern but with uncivilized tribesmen.
Merneptah evidently battl ed against them and inflict ed some .casualties:
"their seed is not , " he announced. Since the offense of. the tribesmen of
Isr ael was not the withholding of tribute or the renunciati on of allegiance
to Mern eptah, it is likely to have been something indi rect, such as an
assault against one or more of the pharaoh 's vassal cities in southern
From the reigns of Merneprah's ephemeral successors we have no record
of for eign confl icts. That certainly does not mean that barbarians on both
4 7 Ibid., no. 60 1 (in the Karn ak Inscription the figures are slightly different ).
48 The text of this stele has also been tr a nslated by Wilson, ANET , 376-78.
4. For a recent treat ment of this much-debated text see J.J. Bimson , " Merenpt ah's Israel
and Recent Theories of Israel ite Origi ns," ]SOT 49 (1991): 3-29.
so In 1977, while working on his doctor al dissertation, Yurco exam ined the reliefs that
flank the " Peace TreatyText " and discovered that the original canouches (underlying those of
Seti II) belonged not to Rarnesses II, as had been assumed, but to Merneptah. See Yurco,
" Merenpr ah's Can aa nite Cam paign, " ]ARCE 23 (1986) : 189-2I 5; and the same author's
"3200-Year-Old Pictur e of Isr aeli tes found in Egypt," Bib. Arch. Rev. 16 (1 990): 20 ff. See
also Lawrence Stager, " Merenpta h, Israel . a nd Sea Peoples: New Light on an Old Relief,"
Eretz -ls rael 18 (1985 ): 61-62. For ob ject ions to the identification see D. Redfor d, "Th e
Ashkel on Relief at Karna k and the Israel Stele, " IE] 36 (1986): 188- 200; for Yurco's reply
see "Once Again, Merenpt ah's Batt le Reliefs at Karna k, " IE] (fort hcoming).
sI Singer, "Me rnep ta h's Campaign," 3.
frontier s had ceased to ca use problems or to insult Egyptian interests.
Dreadful things were beginning to happen in the 1190s, and in Canaan
especially Egypt 's vassal s must have been crying for assista nce. But the last
representatives of the Ni neteenth Dynasty-Seti II, Siprah, and Twosret-
had all to do to keep a feeble grasp on the throne.
Wit h the establishment of th e Twentieth Dynast y our documentation
resumes.V and it is ob vious that the situatio n has become more parlous
than it had been under Merneptah. Rarnesses III faced no less than three
attacks upon the Delta in his first eleven years. In his fifth year (1182 B.C.) a
Libyan force that mu st have been counted in the tens of th ousands
(Rarnesses claimed to have slai n 12,535 of th e invaders) att acked the west-
ern Delta. Three years lat er, in 1179, a force consisti ng mostl y of Phi listines
and Tjekker, but assist ed by men wh om his scribe identified as Sbeke lesb
Denyen, Weshesh, and apparently Tursha, att acked from the east :
Rarnesses bested the invaders in a land battl e at Djah i, somewhere in the
southern Levant, and defeated an other contingent of the same coalition in
a sea Final.ly, in. his eleventh year (1176) Ramesses had to face yet
another Libyan invasion . The inscriptions credit Ramesses with the
of 2.1 75 tr ibesmen (and the capt ure of another 1200)
on thi s occasio n. > Alt ogether, the assaults upon Egypt in th e reign of
Ramesses III seem to have constit uted the most serio us external threat
that Egypt had faced since the invasion of the byksos in the seventeenth
century B.C.
None of the pa laces of Late Hell adi c Greece survived ver y far int o the
tw<:l fth cent ury B. c.
The nature of the Ca tast rophe here has been well
defined by Richard Hope Simpson and Oliver Dickinson: "By the end of
LH Ill B almost all the great mainl and centres had been destroyed by fire,
several being deserted ther eafter. The destruction s seem to concent rate at
sites where there were pal aces or compa rable large buildings or fortifica-
. "55 S' ,
nons. ince a great deal of a rchaeologi cal work has been don e in
sz Breasted, AR, vol. 4, nos. 2 1-138.
q Edgerton and Wilson, Historical Records of Ramses Ill: The Texts itt "Medittet Habu "
I and II, Trans lated with Ex planatory Notes (Chicago : Univer sity of Chi cago Pres's,
1936), plate 75.
The standard survey of the Catastrophe in Greece is Vincent Desborough 's The Last
Alyccn<ll'Jn s ,znd f heir Successors, An Archaeological Surw)' c. 1200-c. 1000 B. C. (Oxford,
1964). R. Hope and O.T.r .K. Dickinson, A Ga zet teer of Aegea n Cii-ilisation in the
Age, vol. I : The Af,' /tlLmd and Islands (Giitebnr g, 1979), provide an excellent site-bv-
Site summary. .
IS Hope Simpso n and Dickinson, Ca zct teer; 379.
22 I NT R OD U C T [ 0 N
Greece hundred s of Bronze Age sites fro m th e mainland and the islands a re
kn own: The foll owing survey will foc us on the destruction of th e princip al
IIIB sites . But because we are fort unate to have co ns ide ra ble mat erial evi -
den ce for Greece in the period immedi atel y following th e Catas trophe, we
may also note the several places th at became important communities (some
of them de serving to be called cities) in the mc period.
In Greece the northernmost evide nce for the Catas tro phe (see figure I)
co mes from th e settle me nt a nd " pa lace" at lolkos. Unfort una tely, the si te
has not been well published , a nd one canno t be sure what happened he re.
The pal ace (fro m which fresco fragments a nd mu ch pottery was recovered)
was evi de ntly burned, probabl y ea rl y in the LH IIIC peri od. lolkos may,
however, have co nti nue d to be occupied after the destructi on of the pal ace,
for a considera ble a mount of IIIC pottery was found at th e site . Alt hough
there is evide nce for a Protogeometri c sett leme nt at lolkos, it is not clear
whe the r habitation was co ntinuo us from IIIC to Protogeometric t imes.
One of the first of the Greek pal aces to be sacke d was apparently the
Theb an pal ace, well before the end of LH IIIB. It may have been rebuilt,
only to be dest royed for a second time at the end of IIIB. From the IIIe
peri od chamber tombs but no buildings have been It. is therefore
doubt fu l that T he bes was a signi ficant set tleme nt In the middl e of the
twelfth century.
O n th e Euboean coast a town at Lefkandi (or more precisel y at "Xero-
pol is, " a few hundred ya rds east of Lefkandi) was de stroyed at least once
during-the Ca tas t ro phe. No evid ence for destructi on at th e end of LH IIIB
has been found, but th at may be becau se ea rly in the IIIC period there was
mu ch new building at t he site (whatever the IIIB sett leme nt may have been ,
the IIIC settle me nt was co ns ide ra bly lar ger and deserves to be ca lled a ciry).
This city was " destroyed in a grea t conflagra tio n" durin g the IIIC per iod;
but it wa s immediatel y rebuilt and conti nued to be occ upie d until ca . 1100 ,
whe n it was finall y abando ned.tf
For Athen s, the only co ncl us ion now possible is a 11011 liquet . Sinc e there
are no remains of an LH IIIB pala ce, we cannot kn ow wh at may have
happen ed to it in the ea rly twel fth cent ury. It is likel y, however, th at the
sett leme nt at Athe ns was much sma ller th an the preceding sett lement, SInce
the IIIB houses o n the north slope of the Acropol is were un o ccupied in t he
lat er period, and very few mc burial s have been found in th e Agora.>"
<, Desborough, LISI Myce" aeans, 128- 29; Hope Simpson and Dicki nso n,
<7 Hope Simpson and Dicki nson, Gazetteer, 244-45; see also Fritz Schachermeyr,
Griechiscbc Fruhgcschichte (VIenna, 1984), 119-22 (" Palasrb tasrro phe in Theben " ). , _
5' M. R. Popham, L. H. Sackett, er 'II., cds" l.e(ka" di I: The Dark Age (London, 1980), r.
H Desborough, Last ,\.fycenae,ms, 113; Hope Simpso n and Dicki nso n, Gazetteer, 198-
THE C A T A S T R 0 P H E S U R V EY E D 23
Perhap s the largest co mmunity in At tica during th e IIIC period was on
Att ica 's eas t coast . At Perat i, o n the north side of the Porto Raft i bay, a
cemet er y of more than two hundred chamber tombs fro m th e IIIC peri od
has been exc avated . The town was undoubtedl y near the ceme tery but has
not yet been found. T he Perar i tombs furni sh mu ch of what is known about
IIIC Arrica.v?
On the Cori nthian Isthmus attention focuses on a forti ficat ion wall
bu i!r in the thirteenth cent ury B.C. Appa rently intende d to spa n the
entire Isthm.us, the ":all may never have been co mpleted. It is usuall y as-
sume d that It was bu ilt by Peloponnesian s wh o feared an attack fro m the
norrh .s! Almost nothing is known of Corinth in th is peri od, but at nearb
Korakou-on the Corinthia n Gulf- the re is eviden ce for a n LH IIIBsett l!-
ment (the hou ses by Blegen). Although it was once thought
that Korakou survived Intact Into the IIIC period, it is possible that the
pla ce may have suffered so me damage and was br iefly a ba ndoned at the
of IIIB. At any rat e: it was certai nly reoccupied in III C a nd enjoyed a
penod of so me prospenty before a final destruction a nd a ba ndonment.
In the northeast Peloponnese almost a hundred Bron ze Age sites have
identifi ed, althoug h man y of these are known only from surface
finds .
At those Argo lid si tes th at have been exc ava ted the pattern is clear:
shortly 1200 si te, was.eith er destroyed or a ba ndoned. Prosymna
and Berbatl-both In the Intenor-were evide ntly evacuated with out be-
ing destroyed. e-t a nd t he sa me was probabl y true of Lerna. The little un-
wall ed set tlement at Z ygouries, also in the interio r, was a ppa rently de-
at the of LH IIIB and wa s not reoccupi ed in me. 65
In his ex cavati ons at M ycen ae, Wace found for a destruct ion at
end of LH IIIB, but o nly in the houses outsi de the cita del (" House of the
Win e Merchant, " " House of the Oil Merchant, " erc .), Hi s exc avati on s also
at th e end of LH mc the ent ire site- incl udi ng everything
within the cltadel-:- was burned. On the basis of these find ings, the scho l-
arly co nse nsus until the 1960s was th at ene mi es attacked M ycen ae ca.
1230 s .c . (the o ld date for th e end of LH lIIE) but were un able to penetrat e
the Citadel Itsel f; and th at the cita del was not sac ked until th e end of the
, ." " Peran, eine Nekr opole der Ausklingenden Bro nzezeit in Att ika "
HI •. G. Buchh olz, cd ., AgJische Bronzezcit (Darrnsradr, 1987), 437- 77. '
Desborough, LIst Mycm aeans, HS.
«z For the earlier view See Desborough, Las t '\'fyce"aeans, 85-86. jerernv Rutter' di ' .
ranon "Th L H II d' , I S sser
, e are e a rc IIIB and IlfC Periods at Korakou and Go nia" (University of
Pennsylvan ia, 1974), poi nted Ol!r rhar although no evidence for desrruction ar Korakou was
found,. rhe. argumentum ex silentio has littl e significancc since the sire provides no strat i-
graphIC recor d of rhe rransltlo n from IIIB ro We.
:; Hope Simpson and Dickinso n, GJ::etleer, 27- 74 (nos. A 1 through A 94'1).
Desborough, Last MycetlJeatls, 77.
OJ Jbid., 84; bur d. Podzuwei r, " Mykenische Weir," 70.
26 I N TR O D U C TI O N
Moving to the islands of the Aegean, we find th at evide nce for the
Ca tas t rophe and its afterma t h is limited but occasion all y quite informa-
tive. Recent excavati on s on the island of Paros have shown that at a citadel
now known as Kouk ounar ies there was an extensive LH lIIB complex,
possibl y deserving to be described as a "pal ace. " The complex was sacked
and burned, and the excavators found not onl y a great deal of ash but also
the skeleto ns of so me of the vict ims . According to D. Schilardi, director of
th e excavati on s, " preli minary study indicates that the destruction of Ko-
uk ounaries is slightly later th an t he disasters wh ich afflicted the mainl and.
The pottery sho uld be classified in the transition of LH mB2 to LH m e. " so
After th is destruction in the earl y twelfth century, the set tle ment was re-
built in m c and was protect ed by a fort ification wall .
! In general, how-
ever, the Cyclades were not hard hit in the Catast rophe, at least in its earl y
stages. The few major My cenaean sites on islands in the central and west-
ern Aegean (Phylakopi on Melos, Ayia Irini on Kea, and Grott a on Naxos)
seem to have survived until late in the mc period.V
For Rhodes and th e other islands of the sout heast Aegean evidence
comes almost exclusivel y from tombs, and it is therefore uncertain what
did or did not happen to settl ements ca. 1200 B.C. Th e cont inuit y of the
cemeteries, however, suggests t he essential cont inui ty of population from
IlIB to IlI e. 83 On t he ot her hand, there is reason to believe th at ver y new
settlement patterns appeared in the twelfth cent ury. The to mbs suggest that
the city of Ialysos, on the northern coast of Rhodes, enjoyed a fivefold
increase in population, and considerable prosperity, whil e so me sites in the
southern part of the island were abandoned .
On Kos, a settlement has
been excavat ed-the Seraglio site- and here there see ms to have been
continuous occupat ion until well down into the IlIC peri od .s>
What happened on Crete during the Cata stro phe is a matter of vigorous
debate. There is reason to bel ieve that during the Ca tast ro phe the island
suffered as much as did the Greek mainland, but how much evid ence there
80 From D. Schi lardi 's report on Kou kounaries, inclu ded in H. Carling's " Archaeology in
Greece, 1980-81, " in AR (1980- 8 1): 36 .
HI See the summaries by H. Ca rling, AR (1988- 89): 90 ; and E. French , 68.
&2 Hope Simp son and Dicki nson, Gaz ett eer, 305, 3 14, 325-26; to whi ch add Carling, AR
( 198 6- 87): 47 . .
&. Hope Simpso n and Dickinson, Gazetteer, 348.
&4 Colin Macdon al d, " Problems of the Twelfth Century Be in the Dodeca nese ," ABSA 81
( 1986): 149- 50.
,; Desbo rou gh, Last Mycenaeans, 153 a nd 227; Hope Simpso n and Dickinson, Ga-
zetteer, 360 .
"! v v-"," :
is her e for physical destruction is di sputed. The pal ace at Kno ssos, possibl y
the most splendi d and extensi ve palace of the Late Bronze Age, was at some
time destroyed, but the date of Knossos's destructi on has convent ionally
been set in the early fourteenth century B. C. rath er th an in th e early twel fth .
How credible the conventio nal chronology is can best be judged after a
survey of the rest of the island in the LM lIIB and IlI C peri od s.
It has long been known , on the basis of evidence from sites other than
Knossos, that econo mic and cultural act ivit ies on Crete did not decline
drasticall y after 1400. In Pendlebury's words, archi tect ur e and potter y
from Cretan sites ot her than Knossos indicate t ha t in LM III " Minoan
culture continued unbroken but on a lower level. " 86 But the picture of
fourteenth- and thirteenth- century Crete has become much ros ier than it
was in Evans' s and Pendlebury's books. It is now clear that the Cretans of
both the LM IlIA and IlIB periods were "prosperous and enterprising."8?
In fact, thanks to Philip Betancourt's survey, we can now say that th e
thirteenth century was the golden age of the Minoan ceramic industry. f f
The pots- especially the kraters and the thou sands of stirrup jars-
suggest a lively expo rt of some liquid (wine, olive oi l, or possibly an oint -
ment or perfumed oil).89 Some of the pot s demon strate what had alway s
been suspect ed anyway: Linear B cont inued in use on Crete until ca. 1200
B. C. In addit ion to inscrib ed LM IIIB pots found in Crete itself, st irrup jar s
exported from Crete have been found at five mainl and sites, and on the jar s
are Linear B legend s that were painted on before firing."?
- In western Crete there appears to have been an important thirteenth-
cent ury center at Khan ia (classi cal Kydonia), now being excavated by a
team. A great deal of LM IlIB porter y was evidentl y
shipped from thi s site. A number of vases found at Khani a bear inscript ions
"' J. D.S. Pendlebury, The Archaeology of Crete (London, 1939), 243 .
8 7 A. Kama, The Late ,\-linoan HI Period in Crete: A Survey of Sites, Pottery, and Their
Distribution. Studies in Medi terr anean Archaeology, vol. 58 (Goteborg, 1980), 313. Kama,
wbo acce pts t he orthodox dati ng (ca. 1380) of the " final dest ruction" of the Knossos palace,
fou nd litt le sign of decli ne the rea fte r in the isla nd as a whole. Cf. he r co nclusion at p. 326:
"Art and life in Crete are best summa rised as having continued at a reason ab ly high level after
LM 1Il A 2, and the relati ve mater ial well being of t he average Creta n did not det er iorate in the
wake of the destr uction of Knossos. "
8& Philip Betancourt , The History of Milloall Pottery (Princeto n, 1985). At p. 159 Betan -
court observes that in terms of volume, "the third Late Mi noa n per iod is a time of increased
production and expanded commercial enterprise. My cenaean pott ery reaches both the Near
East and the West in increasing qua ntiti es, vivid test imon y to the t hri ving Aegean economy.
Crete, well WI thin t he Mycenaean sphere, has a good share in this pro fita ble trade." Tablet
K700, which invent ories over 1800 stirrup jars , "is a good exa mp le of t he new 'performance
expected from LM III potters." As for the qual ity of the pots , " technically, LM lIIB is the high
pomt of Minoan potti ng and pyrorechno logy " (I" 17 1).
89 Ka nta, Lute Minoan HI Period, 296 .
9 <) Bet ancourt, History of Milloa" Pott ery, 173.
28 I N T R O D U C TI 0 N
referring to a toanax, and perhaps we ma y assume that the walla:" in
question resided somewhere on the island."! Whether there was a palace in
Kydonia itsel f is uncl ear, a lt ho ugh Linear B tablet s of LM IIIB date have
recentl y been found there.
Ar an y rate, Kydon ia was dest royed ca. 1200
B. C., presumabl y sharing the sa me fate that overtook cities and palaces all
over the eastern Medirerranean. v'
There is evidence th at at the beginning of LM IIIC numerous sites in
central and east ern Crete were abandoned. Amni sos, the harbor town for
Kno ssos, seems to have been mostl y unoccupied in LM mc, although a
fountain-house and a shrine did continue in use.
At Mallia there may
have been some burning, but mo st of the site seems to have been simply
abandoned soon after 1200.
On the eastern tip of the island, the evidence
from Palaikastro indicates abandonment at the end of LM IIIB, with trans-
fer to a site on Kastri hill in IIIC
Finall y, excavations in 1987 revealed
that from LM I to LM IIIB there was a large settleme nt at Aghios Pha-
nourios, near Mirabello Bay, and that this city was also de serted early in
the twelfth century?"
The mo st noticeable feature of habitation shifts in Crete, however, was
the sudden preference, ca . 1180, for relativel y large settlements in remote
and well-protected places. A recent survey of the Late Bronze Age sites in
eastern Crete concluded th at during LM IIIB there were a great many
set tlements , with man y people living either in haml et s or in isolated
houses. In LM Ilf C, on the other hand, such small sites are unattested: in
thi s period people lived in larger villages or in towns. The IIIC sites, contin-
uing into the Iron Age , cover approxi mately one hect are. ?"
The mc towns were typicall y placed high in the rnounrains. Three exca -
vated site s, all in east ern Crete, have commonly been referred to as " cities of
refu ge," since they we re appa rently founded by people who sought secur ity
9' Louis Godart, M La caduca dei regni micenei a Creta e l'in vasion e dorica, M in Domenico
Musti, ed., Le origine dei Greci: Dori e mondo egeo (Rome, 1990), 174- 76.
92 Lou is Go darr and Yannis Tzedak is, "Les nouveaux rexres e ll Lineai re B de la Ca nee, "
RFl C 119 (1991): 129-49.
9.3 Go da rt , "La ca duca, M 185.
9 4 VeicSturmer, "Das Ende dec Wohnsiedlungen in Malia und Amni sos," in Tho mas, ed.,
Forschungen, 33- 36. .
95 Stur mer , " Ende ," 34 , says th at at rhe en d of LM IlIB all parts of the city "endgiilrig
verlassen werden. "
96 Kanra, Late MinoJll III Period, 192.
., Carling, AR (1988- 89): 107.
9 . Don ald C Haggis, "Survey at Kavousi, Crere: TIle Iron Age Sert lernenrs, " AlA 95
(199 1): 29 1: " Iron Age sices are fewer in number, bur are large sett lements, cert ai nly villages
o r small towns, and occupy new locations.. . . One questi on is wheth er there is a significanr
population decrease at the end of LM II1Bor rar her , a nucleati on of serrlernenr in che Kavousi
highlands in L\ I IlIC . .. The Iron Age settlements are la rge in size, usuall y abouc 1 ha, and
occupy loc ations in close proximity CO ara ble 50, 1 and wat er supplies. M
····•. ' .
" 0



.. •.. ..
. .
- ,,; .








from city-sackers. Karphi is a mountain aerie some six airl ine mile s inland
from Mallia, on a peak thirteen hundred feet ab ove the Lasithi plain (which
is itself twenty-eight hundred feer above sea level j.?" For understandabl e
reasons nobody lived ther e in the LM IIIB peri od, but in the mc per iod
there was a sizea ble town at Karphi.t ?" A second "city of refuge " was
Vrok astro, little more th an a mile from the western co rner of Mirabell o
Bay, but high on a precipitous peak. Th e town on Vrokastro peak was
constructed at the sa me time that the settle me nt at Agh ios Phanourios, in
the plain below Vrokastro, was ab andoned.
The third of the LM IIIC
mountain sites in eastern Crete is Kavou si, whi ch is actuall y a double si te
(the " lower" set tleme nt near Kavo usi is Vronda, while Kastro is perched
still higher on the mountainl.l v- Although excavations here are st ill contin-
uing, it is once again very clear that these twin sites were est ablished at the
beginning of LM mc
For the building of towns in such appalling locations a powerful motiva-
tion must be imagined. This flight to the mountains early in the twelfth
century was ver y likely precipitated by a particularl y frightening instance
of the Catas trophe nearby: whatever secur ity the Creta ns had relied upon
in the IIIBperi od was now gone, and the population was left to defend itself
as best it could. One can hardl y avoid the conclusion that the regime by
which the eas tern half of the island had been rul ed a nd protected in the LM
IIIB period was ro ute d and annihilated sho rtly after 1200. If Evans was
correct in dating the final destruction of the Kno ssos palace to ca. 1400,
then one must ass ume th at in the fourteenth and thirteenth centu ries B. C.
central and eas tern Crete had been administered from so me palace yet to be
discovered; and that when thi s other palace is discovered, with its stocks of
provi sions and its Linear B tablets, it will prove to have been destroyed in
the early twelfth century.
Destruction by fire was the fate of the cities and palaces of the eas tern
Mediterranean during the Cat ast rophe. Throughout the Aegean, Anarolia,
Cyprus, and the Levant dozens of these places were burned. Although
9" Pendlebury er .11. , "Excava tions in rhe Plain of Lasirhi . III," ABSA 38 (1938-39): 57-
. roo Desborou gh, LISt Mycetl,:eans, 175, co ncluded char Karp hi was founded in "the
middle Or lat rer pa rr of LH. IlfC." Cf., ho wever, Kanra, Lute J\;! i>lUan III Period, 12 1: "Ir is
now clear that the town of Karphi was first inha bited during a relativel v ea rlv stage in LM 1II
C " . .
101 Carling, AR ( 198H- 89): 107 .
For t he mosr recent report on these two sites see G. C Gesel l, L. P. Day, and W. D.
Coulsen. "The 1991 Seaso n ar Kavou si, Crete, " Al A 96 ( 1992): 353.
man y small communities were not destr oyed, having been simpl y aba n-
doned in the early twelfth cent ury B.C., the great centers went up in flames.
In fact, in all the lands menti oned it is only in the interi or of the southern
Levant that one can find at least a few significant centers that were not
destroyed by fire at least once du ring the Catastrophe.
In the aftermath of destru ction many centers were rebuilt , and a surpris-
ing number of them were on or within sight of the seacoast. Tiryns, Troy,
lalysos, Tarsus, Enkorni, Kirion, Ashdod, and Ashkel on are the best-
known of these rwelfth-cent ur y coas tal settlements, but ther e were many
others. Another expedient, favored especially by the survivors of the Catas-
troph e in eastern Crete, was ro locate new towns high in th e mountains.
Small, unfortified sett lements were far less commo n in the middl e of the
twelfth century than they had been a cent ury earlier.
Egypt escaped the Catastro phe, inasmuch as no Egyptian cities or pal-
aces are known to have been dest royed, although after Ramesses III pha -
raonic power and prest ige ent ered a sharp decl ine. And in Mesopot amia
the Catastrophe seems ro have done little damage: the kings of Assur
remained strong through the twelfth century, and Babylonia's t roubl es
were of a conventional kind. But in all other civilized lands, the Catastro-
phe was synonymous with the burning of rich palaces and famous cities.
Chapter Nine
HE CATASTROPHE can most easily be expl ained, I believe, as a
result of a radi cal innovation in warfare, whi ch suddenl y gave to
"b arbarians" the milit ary advantage over the long esta blished and
civilized kingdoms of the eastern Mediterr anean. We shall see that the Late
Bronze Age kingdo ms, both lar ge and small, depended on armies in which
the ma in compo nent was a cha riot corps. A king's milit ary might was
measure d in horses and cha riots: a kingdom with a thous and chariots was
many times st ronger th an a kingdom with only a hundred. By the begin-
ning of the twelfth cent ury, however, the size of a king's char iorry ceased to
make much difference, beca use by that time cha riotry everywhere had
become vulnerable to a new ki nd of infantry.
The infantries that evidently defeat ed even the greatest cha riot armies
during the Cat ast rophe used weapons and guerr illa tactics th at were char-
acte rist ic of barbarian hill peopl e but had never been tried en masse in the
plains and agai nst the centers of the Late Bronze Age kingdoms. Th e
Medinet Habu reliefs indi cat e that the weapons of Ramesses' opponents
were javelins and long swords, whereas the traditional weapon of the
chari ot corps was the bow. Neit her the long sword nor the javelin was an
inventi on of the late thirte enth century: a long slashing sword had been
availabl e in temp er ate Eu rope for cent uries, and the javelin everywhere for
millennia. Until sho rtly befo re 1200 B.C., however, it had never occurred to
an yone that infant rymen with such weapons coul d outrnatch cha riots.
On ce that lesson had been learned, power sudd enly shifted from the Great
Kingdoms to motl ey collect ions of infa nt ry warriors. The se warri ors hailed
from barbarous, mountainous, or otherwise less desirabl e lands, some
next door to the kingdo ms and some far away.
Before attempting to demonstrate these generalizations, I must make
some apologies. Warfare in the preclassical world is a subject on which we
evident ly will never know very much . We have some idea what warfare was
like in fifth-cent ury Greece, and a few Roman battl es can be reconstru ct ed
in detai l. Byext ension , we can imagine at least the outl ines of batt les fought
by Archaic Greeks and Romans. But beyond ca. 700 quest ions begin to
multipl y, and about the second millennium we are gross ly ignorant. After
surveying what is known and can be known abo ut war fare at Ugarit, Jean
98 A M i ll TAR Y E X r l A NAT ION
No ugayrol co ncluded that " rna lhe urcuse me nt, nous nc savons pratiqu e-
ment rien sur l' arrnee qu ' Ugarit pou vair alors rnettre sur pied. " I On man y
qu esti on s one on onl y guess, and since gue ssing seems unprofess ion al,
historians do as little of it as pos sibl e. The result , however, is that for lack of
evidence on e of the most import ant things ab out the precl assical world is
lar gely ignor ed. There is goo d reason to think th at the evolut ion of warfare
made and unmade the world of the Late Bronze Age. Even thou gh we
ca nno t be certa in abo ut th is evolutio n, an d espe ci all y about it s details, it is
time that we begin to guess .
The descri pti on of Bronz e Age and early Iron Age warfare would o rdi-
nar ily be the task of the mil itary historian. For so me time, however, mil i-
tar y history ha s been of little int erest to professional sch ol ar s. During its
go lden age, in the late nineteenth and earl y twentieth centuries, the subject
was utilitari an and pragmat ic, written by and for men wh o had consider-
ab le military experience. One studie d it in order to wi n wa rs . The stu dy of
ancient milit ar y history culmi na ted in Ger ma ny, with the first volume of
Hans Delbni ck's Geschichte der Kriegskunst and th e magisteri al works
of Johannes Kro mayer and Georg Veith. ? Si nce World Wa r II milit ary
history has been-quite understandabl y-in bad odor in most academ ic
Even if military histor y remained a vigoro us di scipline, it is doubtful th at
rod ay's schol arl y officer s would find Bronze Age and early Iron Age wa rfar e
int ell igibl e eno ugh to extrac t from it lessons useful for cadets . Since t here is
no Xeno pho n, Caesar, or Veget ius to serve as a Wegweiser to the Nea r East,
the mil it ar y history of thi s region is frus tratingly opa que. Written records
co nta in hundreds of references to wea po ns an d military personnel , but
more often than not the meaning of the wo rds is uncertain. Even in Hebrew,
which is rel ativel y int elli gible, it is not entirely cle ar wh en the word para-
shim means " hor ses" and when it means "caval rymen. " In Egyptian, Hit-
tit e, Hurri an , Ugar itic, Akkadian, and Mycenaean Greek the situa t ion is
far worse. Here the study of military history is stuck at the lexi cograph ical
st age, since there are uncertainties abo ut even the most basic and el emen-
t ary terms. Th e genera l plight of scho lars attempting to illuminate all th is
darkness is described by Timo thy Kendall , co nde mned to extract from the
Nuzi tabl et s what they had to say abo ut mil it ary matters: "The Nuz i texts
pertaining to military personnel and supplie s co nt ain a vast nomencl a-
ture.. . . As one begin s to read these texts, he immediately finds himself
confronted by this st range new vocabulary and to his di scouragement he
I J. No ugayrol, " Cuerrc et pJix;' Uga rir," Iraq 25 (1% .1): 117.
1 Delbrii ck.. Gcscbichte der Kriegsknn st im Rahmen dcr politiscben Geschicbte, vol. 1:
Dus Altertnm I Ber lin, 1900); Kro mayer JnJ Veith, Antik » Scblocht fclder , 4 vols. (Berlin,
190.3- 31 ); .md HL'<->nl'(?St.'1I miff Kriegs ftOj hnut g der Criechen und Romer (Munich, 1928 ).
The re \ V- J S nothing remc rel v compa rable in English o r French.
PR E F A C E TO A Mil l TAR Y EX P l A NA T I , ) r-; 99
soon di scover s th at a fair number of these terms have been ina deq ua tely
treat ed or littl e underst ood even by the edito rs of the most up- to-date
Akkad ian lexi con s. " 3 Even wh en all the words are under stood, problems
rem ain. Length y inscriptions advertis e ph araohs' victo ries at Megiddo and
Kad esh, but the co ur se of the battles can ba rely be recon structed ou t of the
bombast . Perh ap s our most informative and least misleading sources of
infor mation o n military matters are Mycenaean vase paintings and Near
East ern royal reliefs, but [he latter tend to clust er in a few peri ods and
pla ces (especially New Kingdom Egypt and imp eri al Assyr ia}:'
Sur prisingly littl e illumi nati on has co me from in corpore evide nce. In the
Near East, first of all, archaeolog ists have found co nside ra bly fewer
weapons and pieces of armor than have their counterparts at work in the
Aegean or in pr ehi storic Europ e (the discrepancy perhaps reflect s the dif -
ference between tells and tombs as so ur ces of the mater ial record). And for
both the Aegea n and the Nea r East, wh at ha s been found ha s recei ved less
atte ntion than it deserve s. Alt ho ugh specialists have cata loged the weapo ns
of the Bro nze and ea rly Iron Age, they have seldom vent ure d to spec ulate-
on the basis of [he particul ars-about the evolutio n of wa rfare during th is
peri od. And few other scho lars have found the cata logs of an y inte rest at
all. Unti l 1964, when Anthon y Snodgrass published his Early Greek Ar-
mou r and Weapons, discussion of these objects was largely restricted to
out-of-print dissertations written in Ger ma ny early in this century. " Th e
situat ion today is very much bette r. The Bron ze Age swords of the Aegean
were ca ta loged by Nancy Sandars in the earl y 196 0s, and the spearheads
and arrowheads by Rob ert Avila in 1983.
Th e swo rds of prehistoric Ital y
ar e also now classified and pu bl ished, and A. F. Harding has cata loged
those from Yugosla via." Seri ou s study of Ne ar East ern we aponry peaked in
1926, when two little books-Walthe r Wol f 's on Egypt, and Hans Bon -
) Kendall, Warfare and Milita ry Matters in the Nu zi Tablets (Ph. D. dissertation, Brandei s
Univers ity, 1975), 74 .
• The Egyptian reli efs a re best seen in W. WteszinskI 's collecti on of phot ograp hs and in the
line d rawings bas ed on them. Although " published" before World W, t II, the photogr a phs
were quite inacces sible until th eir tece nr rep rinting , bySlarkine Reprints, in two boxed sets.
See now WJ:Iter Wrcszinski, Atlas ;;ur JltJgy pt ischen Kultur geschichte (Geneva and Paris,
< SnoJ grass, Early Greek A rmour and Weapom: Fmm the F.",I of the Bronze Age to 600
B. C. (Edinburgh, 1964 ); for the dissert arion s see Snodgrass , Amts and Am"",r of the Greeks
(Itha ca N.Y., 1967), 131. Snodgrass's Early Greek Armour and Weapo"s itsel f bega n 3S a
, Sunda rs, "The First Aegea n Swords and Their Ances try," Al A 65 (1961 ): 17- 29; "Later
Aegea n Bronze Swords ." AlA 1>7 (1963): J 17-53. Avila, Bnmscne Lanzen- "",I Netls pitzen
der grieclnschen Spatbronz czeit, Pdhistotis che Bronzefunde, pan 5, vol. 1 (Munich, 1983 ;.
.,. V. Bianco Peroni, Di e Sclnoerter in ltalien: Le Spade nell 'Italia continentale, Prahis-
ronsche Bronzefunde. part 4, vol. 1 {Munich. 19i Oj; on the publication of the Yugos lavian
swords see Harding , M)'n-'nJeul1s and Europe. 163 .
100 A MI L I TAR Y E X r L A :-J A T l O S
net 's on the rest of the Near East - sketched an elementar y typ ology,S
Detailed t ypologies of Ne ar Eastern axes, daggers, swo rds, and spea rs have
since been publ ished but have been seldom used o r even ment ioned..
Chariors have been of greater interest, and it is encouraging to note th at
recently th ei r technical aspects have received exp ert attention . 10 An under-
sta nding of th e milita ry applications of the chari ot, on the other hand, lags
far behind.! Severa l assumptions abo ut the role of the chariot on the
ba tt lefi eld seem to be quite mista ken, and we have apparentl y ignor ed the
extent to which warfar e in the Lite Bronze Age was "cha riot warfare. "
In additio n to the ar chaeological and rypological studi es of weapon ry
and armor, we now have det ailed ana lyses-several of them in doct oral
dissertation s at American universiries-c-of text s dealing with military mat-
ter s. Focusin g especiall y on the technical terminology used in the docu-
ments of thi s or that kingdom, the se st udies provide kingd om -by-kingdom
surveys of things military at Mari, Nuzi, Hatri , Ugarit, Israel, Egypt, Pylos,
and Kno ssos.t -
• Hans Bon net , Die Waffeu der \6lker des alten Orients (Leipzig, 192 6); Walthe r Wolf ,
Die B<?Iuuffntmg des altugyptische n Heeres (Leipzig, 192 6). Although bo th surveys remain
usefu l tod ay, neither sheds any light on the changes in wa rfare that occ urred from the Late
Bro nze Age (Q the Irun Age o r even acknowl edges that changes occurred at that time . Wolf 's
format is br oadl y chronological, but stops with the Nin eteenth Dynasty. Bonnet 's presenta-
t ion is wea pon -by-weap on . Thus although he was concerned to show the di fferences between
chariot lances and infantr y spea rs, Bonnet now here discussed the role of the chariot in battl e.
How the natur e of ancient warfare was chan ged Wit h t he ad vent of chariorry, a nd wh at
cha nges were assoc iated with the obsolescence of chariorry, are thus que sti ons tha t could not
be a nswered o n thl.· bas is of his infor mation.
• Much of thi s was do ne by Rache l Ma xwell -Hyslo p, who began her typological resea rch
in the late 19305. See her "Daggers and Swo rds in Western Asia," Iraq &(1946): 1-65;
"Western Asiati c Sha ft- Hole Axes," lraq II ( 1949): 90- 129; and " Bronze Lugge d Axe - o r
Adze-Blade s fro m Asia, " Iraq 15 (1953): 69-87. On spears see Alessan dro de Maigrct , Le
lance nellAsia anter icre nell 'Eta del Bron zo (Rome, 1976),
10 Mary Lirt uuer and joosr Crouwel, Wheeled Vehicles and Ridden An ima ls in the Anci ent
Near East (Leiden, 1979); Crouwel , Cha riots and Other Means of Lund Transport in Bron ze
Age Greece (Ams terda m, 1981); Stuart Piggo tt, The Earliest Wh eeled Transpo rt : from the
Atlan tic to the Caspian Sea (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983).
I I Good begin ni ngs have bee n made by Elena Cas sin, " A propos du char de guer re en
Mesoporamie, " in J. Vernant, ed., Problemes dl! la guerre en Grece ancienne (Paris, 1968),
297-308; by Lirta uer and Cro uwel, Wheeled Veh icles, 9 1-93; and by P. S. Moor ey, "The
Eme rgence of the Light, Ho rse-Dr awn Chario t in the Nea r East c. 2000 -1500 B.C. ,· World
Archaeology 18 (1986), 196- 2 15.
12 Alan Schulma n, Milit ary Rank. Title and O rganizatic» in the Egyp tian New Kingdom
(Berlin, 1964 ; Ph.D. dis sert ation , University of Pennsylva nia , 1962); Albert Gloc k, Warfare ill
Muri and F. /Try Israel (Ph. D. Disserta tion, University of Michi gan, 1968); Mi chel Leje une,
"La civi lis.men mycenienne et la guerre, " in Vemanr, Problemes de La guerre , 3 1-5 l ;
J. Nou gayrol, " Cucrre er pai x :. Ugarir, " Iraq 25 ( 1969), II 0- 23; Jack Sasso n, The .\ l ilitaT)'
Establishments at Mari (Rome. 1969); Tim oth y Kendell, Warfare and MilitJ')' Mail ers in th e
Nuei Table ts ( Ph.D. di sserrario n, Bran deis University, 1975); Adele Francesche rri, "Arrni c
r REf AC E T 0 A .\ 1 ' LI TAR Y E X r L A N .... T I O N 10 I
The synt hesis of these specialized st udies, and their conversion into a
diachronic account of mil it ary history, has hardy begun. While surveys of
classical mil itar y history appear with some frequency, the first and last
milit ary history of the ancient Near East was Yigael Yadin's. In the lon g
tradit ion of a military practiti oner writing military history, Gener al Yadin
did a signal ser vice to the aca demic world in writing a colorful and lucid
sto ry- a diachroni c account, that is-of warfare in the anci ent Near
Easr. l' Hi s Art ol Warfare in Biblical Lands was not only a remarkable
pion eering achi evement but remains funda ment al for anyone inte rested in
the subject. It is not annotated, however, hav ing bee n written as much for
the genera l public as for pr ofessional historians; and, given it s eno rmous
ran ge and the impenetrable nature of its subject, it has not surprisingly
turned out to be wrong or mi sleading on many points. Israeli inte rest in
milit ar y history has produced a number of books, narrower in topic th an
Yadin's but more popular in approach, recounting the victori es of ancient
kin gs in Israel and judah.!:' More recentl y, Nigel Stillma n and Nigel Talli s
have collaborated to produce a thoroughl y expert survey of wh at is known
about ancient Nea r Eastern weapons and milita ry o rga nizat ion (t heir for -
mat, unlike Yadin 's, is not diachronic out kingdom-by-kingdom , o r people-
by-peoplej.t - Alth ough St illman's and Talli s's book is not annot ated and
has the flavor of a military manual, th e qu ality of their scholarship is high,
and it is unfortunate that thei r survey has not been reviewed or acknowl-
edged in scholarly journal s.
Since a general survey of pr eclassi cal milita ry history is so novel and
difficult an und ertak ing, it is not surp rising that th e subject is ignored even
in so me books wh ose subject is ostensibly " war in the ancient world. " ! h
Schol ar s vent uresome eno ugh to write o n Ne ar Easte rn milita ry hi story
must expect to be embarrassed by occ asional pratfall s. Acase in point is the
fairly recently pu blished Warlare in the Ancient World, edited by General
guerra in resti micenci, " Rendi conti dcll'Accad. di Archeologi a. Lett ere e Helle Arti di Napo li
53 (1978), 67-90; Michael Heiner. The Int ernal Organization of tire Kingd om of Ugari t
(Wiesbaden, 19S2), esp. chap. 6 t't'TheMilitary Organization and the Army of Ugari r" ); Philo
Houwink ten Care, "Th e Hi story of Warfa re Accord ing to Hitti te Sou rces : The Anna ls of
Harrusilis I,· parr J, Anatolica 10 (19SJ ): 91-1 10. a nd parr 2, Anat oli ca II (1984 ): 47-&3;
and Richard Beal, The O rganization ofthe Hitt ite Military ( Ph.D. dissert atio n, Unive rsity of
Chicago, 1986 ).
r., Yadin, The Art of WJrfare in Biblical Lands; 2 vols. (New York, 1963).
\4 See for exam ple Cha im Herzog and Mordecai Gichon, Battles of the Bibl e (New York,
15 N. Stillma n and N. Tallis, Armies of the An cient Near East, 3000 BC to 539 BC (Wort h-
ing, Sussex . 1984).
I t> Y. Ca rlan' s, War in the Ancient ", ()TId: A Soci al History {London, 1975) is limited to the
clasvical world. In J. HJ.rm.JnJ, I..J guerre ant ique. de Sumer J Rome (Paris, t 973 ) the re are
reference') to the Nca r East , but no syscemanc treatment.
102 A L I T A R Y E X P N AT I O N
Sir John Hac kert."? Each chapter of this very useful book is written by a
scho lar of high distincti on. The eight chapters beginning with Archai c
Greece and endin g wit h the Later Roman Empire cover ground that has
been trod for centu ries and is now quite exqui sitel y mapped, but the two
cha pters on the pre-Persian Nea r East-by pr ehistor ian Trevor W; 'ukins
and Assyriologist D. J Wiseman-e.xplor e what to a great extent is still a
terra incognita.! " Here one encounters, amid a variet y of archaeo logical
illuminati on s and Assyriological clarificati ons, a few impossible items:
bows with a range up to 650 meters, Bronze Age chariots pulled by four-
horse teams, and Assyrian chariots with iron undercarriages. Nevertheless,
the overviews furnish ed by pioneers such as Watkin s and Wiseman far
outweigh the occasional mistake on parti cular s.
Having no credentials as a military histor ian, I shall undoubtedly fur-
nish future scholars with ample opportunity for mirt h and cor rection. But
a genera list of the rank est order, with no inhibitions against guessing when
eviden ce fails, should be in as good a position as anyone to reconstru ct the
gener al evolut ion of war fare at the end of the Bronze Age and beginning of
the Iron Age. Because the Catast rophe was followed bya dark age, produc-
tive of neit her writt en nor pictorial evidence, the militar y histo ry of this
peri od is especially obscure . In both the Aegean and the Nea r East, the
peri od between the reign of Rarnesses III and Ashurnasirpalll is pictorially
almost a total blank, relieved only by the stelae of "Neo-Hi rtit c" kings in
northern Syria. !" Yet there is reason to believe that the decades around and
aft er 1200 B.C. were among the very most important in the evolution of
war fare in the ancient world. The nexr chapt ers will accor dingly atte mpt to
ske tch in at least its broad outlines how war far e changed at the end of the
thirteenth century and the beginning of the twelfth.
Some innovati ons in weaponry at the end of the Bronze Age have been
noti ced, especia lly by scholars who work closely with the material record.
Archaeologists have known for a long time that at the end of the lllB period
. 7 Hackert, ed., Warfare in the l IT/ d ent World (l ondo n, 1989).
• 8 Watki ns, "The Beginnings of Warfare," 15- 35; and Wiseman, "The Assyr ians," 36-
53. Th e bibliography includ ed for WatkinS'> chapter (Wolrfare, 250 ) contains three items:
Yadi n's Art of Warfare, Breasted's Ancient Records of Egypt, and Luckenbill's Ancient Re-
cor ds of Assyri.. zand Babyl onia. In co nt rast , ten works-all studies in military history meant
for th e' professional scho la r-c-are listed for Laz- nbv' s chapter on the Greek hopIire.
I <J On the absence ot ams nc evidence on militJry matters i ll the Aegean during this period
see Desb o ro ugh, The Greek D",k-Ages, 306: - lIetwccn the early rwelfrh centu ry and the
eighth there exists no figure or figurine of J warrior. nor J Oy represenr arion ot such in
pai nt ing, with the' single exception oi the two confron ted archers J [ Lefkandi . " Nor are things
much better for me- Near Els e Th e lack of evsdence there al most per suaded Yrdin to "writ e
off" the Iro n I pC- ClUJ as ..J kind of transitional pcrioJ a buu e which nothingon warfarecould
be' known" {Art o( Vi /ur(Jre, 1,'01. d. p. ..:!.4 7: "Our sole ..ource fO[ the first parr of the
perIOd is the ma ny reliefs of Rarneses HI.n"
PRE f A C E T 0 A _\ 1 III T .\ RYE X P l A N A T I O N 103
severa l items of defensive armor-greaves, cert ai nly, .i nd a smaller shield-
prol iferat e in the Aegean, as did the Na ue Type II sword (on the Near
Easte rn side, where the tr ansformat ion in warfare was radi cal, there has
been less att ent ion to it). Jeremy Rutt er has in fact not ed that in the post-
palat ial Aegean "the cha nges in virt ually all forms of offensive and defen-
sive wea ponry . . . are remark abl e for the comprehensiveness of their range
and the rap idi ty with whi ch they are effected. "20 But although these mate-
rial changes have been recognized, their histor ical significance is too little
appreciated, apparentl y because the nature of warf are in the Lat e Bronze
Age is so imperfectly under stood . Tentative suggest ions have occas iona lly
been mad e. Nancy Sanda rs, for example, alluded to "a new for m of attack
introdu ced with the flange-hiked swor d," ! 1and James Muhl y observed
that the appearance of greaves and slashingswords points to " the introduc-
tion of a new style of fighting. The tactics now were not just to thru st but
also to cut or slash, especiall y at the legs of your oppo nent. "22 If the
cha nges in weapo nry and tactics are fully explored, and especiall y if their
impact upon cha riot warfar e is imaginatively assessed, I believe that they
will furni sh as good an explanat ion for the Catastrophe as we are likely to
HI Rutter, " Cultura l Novelt ies in the Post-Palatial Aegea n World: Indices of Vitality or
Decline?" in Wa rd and joukowcky, Crisis Year; , 67 .
I. Sund ars. Se, Peoples, 92 .
12 Muh ly, "The Role of the Sea Peoples," 42. Carling , with whom the idea o riginated,
ternpo ra n lvabandoned it when the Dend ra greaves {dating ca . 1400} were found; see Carling,
"A New Bron ze Swor d from Cyprus," Ant iquity 35 ( I % I ): J 22 .
Chapter Ten
HETHES[Sof the present st udy is that the Catastrophe carne about
when men in "barbarian" lands awoke to a truth that had been
with them for some time: the chariot-based forces on whi ch the
Great Kingdoms relied could be overwhelmed by swarming infa ntr ies, the
infant rymen being equipped wit h javelins, lon g swo rds, and a few essential
pieces of defensive armo r. The ba rbar ia ns-in Libya, Pal estine, Israe l,
Lycia, northern Greece, Ital y, Sici ly, Sa rdinia, and elsewhere-thus found
it within their means to assault, plunde r, and raze the richest palaces a nd
cities on the hor izon , and this they proceeded to do.
In order to place this thesis in perspecti ve, it will be necessar y to recall
some familiar facts about cha riots on the battl efield and to br ing a few
others our from obscur ity. Although to the general public the cha riot has
always seemed one of the more inte resting things about antiquity, few
historians have devoted much time or thou ght to the subject . In the last few
year s, however, Mary Lirrauer, Joost Crouwcl, and Stuart Piggott have
given us scholarship of the first order on cha riots and chariorry, Their
wr it ings on the subject com bine a mastery of the ancient evidence with an
equestrian's expert ise on horses, hornessing, and hor se-dr awn vehicles.! lt
has thus become possible to glimpse at least the outlines of a phenomenon
hith ert o almos t unrecogni za ble-char iot warfare.
Although "arts and wagons had been used in Mesopota mia from the be-
ginning of the third millenn ium B. C. , these were ponderou s, solid-whee led
vehi cles, and were much more easily drawn by oxen than by equids, The
chariot was a techno logical tri umph of the early second millennium. Mad e
of light har dwoods, with a leat her-mesh platform on which the dr iver
could stand, the ent ire vehicle weighed not much more than thirty ki lo-
gr'1I11S. The wheels were, shall we say, the revolut iona ry element : the heat -
bent spo kes pro vided a stu rdy wheel that weighed only a tenth as much as
the di sk wheels of the third millenni um. With such a vehicle one could
I For thei r rrcarrne nrs of chariorrv in this period see Lirtau e- r and Crouwcl.
vebiclcs. 74-98; Crouwe- l, Cho riots-; f'1gg, O{[ \ Earliest Transport, 91- 104 .
begin.to exploi t the horse as a draft a nima l: whereas an ox ca rt traveled
only two miles in an hour, a team of cha riot horses could cover ten.
Th e recent scholarship on technical aspect s of the cha riot permits us to
esta blish approxi mately when chariot s became militar ily significant . The
era of the war cha riot, as [ have elsewhere a rgued in det ail, began in the
seventeent h cent ury B. C.! Befor e that time, cha riot s seem to have been of
littl e or no importance on the battlefield, even though they had been used
for rapid transportat ion , for amusement , and for royal display as early as
1900. lr is likely that in Mesopot amia, at least, kings had all along ridden
to the batt lefield-on stately, heavy wagons in the third millennium and in
chariots after the development of the spo ked wheel. The cha riot of the early
seco nd millennium, however, was appa rently only a presti ge vehicle and
not yet a military instrument. That is not to say that in the time of Ha m-
rnurabi of Babylon a king di d not occasionally shoo t an a rrow from his
cha riot with hostil e int ent. Perhaps there were even battl es in which a royal
ento urage of four or five char iots may have made a tiny contribution to the
outco me. But in the Age of Harnmurahi, as analysis of the Mari document s
has shown," battl e sti ll meant the clash of two infant ries. By the sta nda rds
of lat er antiquity these infantries of the Middle Bronze Age were not very
formidable. ln Twelft h-Dynasty Egypt, the army seems to have consisted of
Alternating for mations of arch ers and close-formation spearmen." The
archers used the simple or self bow, wh ich must have had an effective ran ge
of only fifty or sixty meters, and their arrows apparently helped only to
"soften up" the enemy 's formation of massed spearmen as it app roached
their own. After this prelimina ry phase, the battle proper began, with the
opp osing phal anxes attacking each ot her with axes and thr usting spea rs.
Then came a revolu tion in ancient warfare. Since no document s describe
it, we have no othe r recourse but to imagine it: a traditional infantry
mar ches out to do battle with an oppos ing infantry but instead finds itself
attac ked by several scor e of a rchers mou nted on chariots and a rmed wit h
compos ite bows, the-arche rs shooting arrows wit h impunity until the t ra-
dit ional infant ry forma tion is broken a nd tour ed. Each cha riot carried two
young men with excellent reflexes: the charioteer drove the hor ses wh ile
the chariot wa rrior shot arrow after arrow against the relatively stationary
enemy forma tions, the chariots keeping JUSt outside the range of the oppos-
ing infantry's bowmen. Essenti ally, the cha riot beca me milit arily signifi-
cant when it was combined with anoth er intri cat e a rt ifact, the composite
bow, which also had been known for a long time but had until then been a
1 Drews, The Coming c[ the Greeks: Indo -Eu ropean Conquests in the AegcJn aru! the
Near East (Princeton, (988), especia lly 74- J2lJ; see also Cassin, "Cha r de guerre, " 298 :
Lin au er and Crou wel, \t/heeled vehicles, 6J-hS; ;mJ Moo rey, " Emergence. " 205.
, Glock. Wur(urc In Mari and Ear!v IsrJC1. 144.
, Silliman and Tallis, Armies 54. .
106 A .\1 I L IT A RYE X P LAS A T I () S
luxury reser ved for kings or the very rich. Early in the seventeent h cent ury
ir must have occur red to someone (who perhaps had himself enjoyed using
his cha rier and composire bow for hunt ing exploits ) that severa l sco re of
cha riots. each mann ed by an expert driver and a " hunte r" ar med wit h a
composite bow, would be ab le to overcome a conventional ar my of
infa ntrymen.
TIle earliest cha riot warfare seems ro have occur red in Asia Min or. Troy
VI may have been estab lished soo n after 1700 B.C. by chariot warri ors, and
there is evidence that by ca. 1650 chari ots were used by the king of Hatti ,
by Umman Mand a at Aleppo, and by the lryksos who took over Egypt . '
Th e iJyksos, an assort ment of Semit ic, Hurri an, an d Aryan advent ure rs, set
up at Avar is a regime known to Ma nerho as Egypt's Fifteent h Dynasty. As
another pion eer of the new wa rfare, Hatru silis I not only mad e himself
Grear King of all Hatti-e- a remar kable acco rnplishrnenr-c-bur a lso raided
as far as Aleppo and Alalakh. By 1600 chari ot wa rriors were in control ar
Mycenae and elsewhere in Greece , and nor lon g thereafter cha rioteers took
over northwestern India.
Chariot forces in the middl e of the seventeent h century were relativel y
sma ll and possibl y numbered no mor e th an a hundred vehicles." At thi s
time, th e cha riots were presumabl y used agai nst infantries of the old style.
As chariot ries proliferated, the tar get of a chariot archer was increasingly
the hor ses and crewmen of the op posing chariotry, and it became irnpo r-
ram for a king ro have mor e cha riots than his opponent had. Thurmose Ill 's
acco unt of his victory at rhe Battl e of Megiddo shows that by rhe middl e of
S In Coming of the Greeks, 102-5 . I pr esented evidence for the use of war cha riots by
Harrusilis I and by the " Grear Hyksos " r ulers of Egypt in the seco nd hal f of the sevenreenjh
cenrur y, but ove rlooked two ot her very early instances of its use. First. it is certai n rhur cha riots
wert' used by Yarim-lim III of Alep po. one of Harru sil is's adversar ies. Yarim-lim's ch.i rio rs,
evi de nt ly o ne hundred in number, ar c indicated by the:"Zuk r nxi text, n an Old Hittite tablet:
" Zul udi s, the co mma nder of the M"nd, .t to op s, (a nd) Zuk r.uslsis. the co mmande r of the
he.ivy-arm ed ( ?) t roo ps. of the Rul er (?) of Alep po came dow n from Alepp o with his
foot -sol die rs and his cha riorecrs ." For th is rr.msl.irion see Houwink tell Care, " Histo ry of
\"'J.rf.l re " 5g; fo r the number, see Bc.rl. Org(l tlI:;:at lll ll , 58. Seco nd, it now seems pr oba ble (as I
ar gue in "My th!'! of Mida s") tha r rhe Tread was the first area to he taken uver b..· chariot
warriors {soon after 1700 .md rh.ir they built Troy VI. '-
... See: Be: JI. Cvrganizatinn. 343 . An epic text, "The Siege of Urshu. " mention s forces of
thirty a nd ei ghty chariots in the c..rnpai gn of Hartu silis I against Ursh u: in the war s between
Harrusilis and Yanm- lim III of Aleppo t wo hundred ch.rriot fighters (implyinl( .1 hundred
chu riors ) ure mentio ned. At pp. 432-45. however, BCJ.I discu sses a tex t referring to a pair of
officers who wer e called "' Overseers-ot.one, rhous3 nJ, c.: harior.fighters. " In priva te co rrespo n-
de nce infor ms me rha r the rexr Jares ro th e reign of either Harrus ilis I or l.
T HE C H A R I () TWA R FAR E 107
the fifteenth cent ury B.C. a Great King could deploy at least a thousand
chariots. At the beginning of t he next cent ury the Great Kingdo m of Mi t-
anni seems to have had at its disposal a chariotry numbering several thou -
sand, since the Nuzi tablets indicate that one of the minor vassals of the
Great King of Mirann i could all by himself have supplied his lord with over
thr ee hundr ed chariots.' At the same time, however, an Atta rissiyas (whose
name has often been compa red wi th the Achaea n"Atreus" ) caused trou ble
in western Anatolia with only a hundred cha riots."
Chariotries in the thirteenth cent ury likewise ra nged from a few hundr ed
to a few thousand. At Kadesh, the Hitt ite king is said to have deployed
thirty-five hundred chariots, twent y-five hundred of these being his own
and one thousand being supplied by vassals." Since Rarnesses II emerged
from the batt le with some dignity, if not with victo ry, the Egypti an char io-
try was prob abl y about the same size. I II Ar the end of the century the kings
of Harri and Egypt are likel y to have been able to field chari otries of severa l
thousand, since even a Hittite vassal-the king of Ugarit-seems to have
had close to one thousand chariots. I I
Perhaps a more typical palace at the end of the thirteenth century main-
tained a chariotry numbered in the low or middle hundreds. Thi s, at least ,
seems to have been the situation at Pylos. Although the excavators at Pylos
did not turn up "chariot tablets" such as those found at Knossos, they did
recover approximately thirty "wheel t ablets" det ailing the disposition of at
least two hundred pairs of wheels. Anot her text ment ions the pur chase of
wood for 150 ax les.!- Since these spare pa rts constit uted the palace's
, Kendal l, W"T("Te, 67. Since the " mayor " of Nuzi was an unde rlin g of the king of Ar-
ra paha, who in rur n was the vassal of the:Great King of Mir .tnni, we may suppos e rh.ir the
Nuzi forces were 3 very small fraction of the ror.il that the Grc: Jt King cou ld muster.
KOn the Madduwartas text and its dare see Hans Ciircrbock. "The Hitt ite, 3nJ the
Aegean Wor ld: Part l. The Ahhi yawa Problem Recon sider ed ." AlA 87 ( 1983): 13.1-34.
• For th e texts see Alan Gardiner. The K.,desh Inscript ions 0{ Rame sses JJ(Oxford, 1960).
P 130-35 an d P150-55. Bcal, (l Tg,mh"tioll , 702, acce pts the figures as reason able for the
Hittite army at full strength.
10 Ra rnesses does not state how many char iot s he hJJ at Kadesh, but his predecesso rs seem
to have ma inta ined thou sa nds of chariots. Arnenhorep II. wh o admittedl y W:J.S very fond of
horse'S. brought back 730 chariots from one Asi.rtic ca mpaign and 1092 from anothe r. See
Wilson 's tr an slati on of his a nnul s in A.N F.T, 24 6 and 247.
I I Twice in Uga rinc texts we find referen ces to f WO thousand horses. or at leasr to hn alpm
(in lsr ael.un 'eleph was-like J. Roman cenrury -c-so rneri mes merely a "division" father than
a precise num ber ]. Cf. Asto ur, " New Eviden ce, " 257, and B. Cutler and j. Macdon al d.
" Identi fica tion of the Iw'ar in the Ugarin c Texts, " Uf Hi 1976): 255. A table t analyzed by
Hd rzer./ntt:rnaI Or gmtizat ion, 194 ,lisrs reams of ( harlot horses, dod Hein er concludes that
"at least 100 pairs of horses were counted origi nally in this text . " Heltzerv estimat e is " rh.i r
the chario rry of Ugarit numbered at least 700- 1000 chari ots . " This is .rlso the esrim.rre of
Noug.iy rol, "Guerr e er pai x J Uga rit . " 117n.47.
12 Lejeu ne, "1. 3 civilisation mvcen ienn e er 130 uu er rc. " 49.
l OS A MI L I TAR Y E X P L A N AT I () r-;
reserve, we are probably justilied in imagi ning that the Pylos palace could
put several hundred char iots into the field.
The Knossos archi ve gives us our most derailed information about nurn -
ber s of chariots in a Late Bronze Age kingdo m. Here the char iotry may
have numbered as man v as a thousand . The relevant tablets at Knossos are
ail from no more than 'eight scr ibal hands, and these scribes seem to have
"specialized" in keeping a full and meticul ou s record of the char iots avail-
abl e to the palace. I-' That all the relevant tablets have survived, however, is
not ver y likely, and on some surviving but damaged tabl et s the numeri cal
not ati on s on the right -hand side are illegible. The figures we have are
therefor e only a minimum for the cha riot strength of the Knossos palace.
According to Michel Lejeune's computation, 14 the Knossos tablets refer to
mor e than 150 complete (*CURR ideogram) war chariot s that were al-
read y distributed to indi viduals, and to another 39 chari ot s of the same
type "e n magasin. " Most of these *CURR chariots appear in the 140 tab -
lets of the USc series, " each tabl et in this series being the record of a single
cha rioteer to whom an assignment of hor ses and equipment has been
made. IS Other tablets indicate the numbers of incomplete chari ot s, or
cha riot parts, stored in the magazine. Here, arranged in multipl es of four, 16
were approximately 550 chari ot boxes ("CAPS ideogram), and at least as
many pairs of wheels (apparentl y any set of wheels was immediately ada pt-
abl e to any chariot box)."? With so man y replacements stored in the maga-
zine, it would seem that the field strength of Knossos's chariotry must have
been somewhere between live hundred and one thousand.
Other information on the Knossos tabl ets, however, suggests th at the
number of chariots that could take the field may have been far lower than
the number "on paper. " Of the tablets in the Sc series, rwenry-eighr are
13 J. . P. Olivier, Les scribes de Cnossos (Rome, 196 7), identi fied the scribes and rheir places
of work. Mi chel Lejeune, "Chars er roues .3Cnossos : Structure d' un invenraire," ;Winos 9
(196 8): 9-61 , used Olivier 's conclu sions as a poin r of departure for a rho roug h Analysis of
how rhe scribal bureaucracv worked. Lejeun e described the responsibilitie s of three offices
(" Bureaux I, II, III" ) in rhcmarter of chariots. Ar p. 15 Lejeune notes rhar rhe scribes who
worked in these offices "p araissent avoir eu ChJ f S er roues comme affectati on unique," Be-
cause rhese scribal ha nds show up in no urh er rabl ers, John Chadwick suggested rh ar rhev
were apprenti ces and that the "c ha riot tablets" are merely scribal exer cises; see hi s "The
Orga nization of the Mycenaean Archives, " in A. Barron ek, ed., St udia MyanaeJ. Proceed -
ings 0{ the Mycella.wl Symposium, li m o, Aprtl1960 (Brno: 1968), 1- 15, Why A pal ace
would have kept such srudenr exe rcises in an archiv e, while preservi ng none o f mecharier
records kept by professio nal scribes, is difficult to imagine.
'4Lejeune, "Chars," 47; and "Civrlisa rion, " 49 - 5 1.
I s Lejeune, "Civilisation ,- 50.
,- Jo hn T. Killen. " No tes un rhe Knossos Tablets, " rn John T. Killen er .11.. Stlll liL'$ '/I
My,-en,u'.z,' arul C1J55 1cai Greek Present ed to John J 19- 23.
I : l .ejeune. "Civilisation," -4 9, says rha r rhe ma gazine hel d "plus de mille pai res de roues:'
bu r rhe figur es he presents at "Chars. - 4 7, indi cat e a rural of 550 .
T H E C H .\ R IO TWA R FA R E 109
pr eserved well enough that Mycenologists can confident ly invent or y what
these twent y-eight charioteers did and did not have. The pattern is not very
enco uraging: One charioteer has hor ses but no vehicle, another has a
vehicle but only one horse, and still ano ther has both hors es and a vehicle
but no defensive armor. In fact, only six of the twent y-eight charioteers
(that is, 21 percent ) had all of the equipment necessar y to rake the field. I II If
one believes, with Chadwick, that the " cha riot tablets " are merely scribal
exercises, one could suppose that the actual condition of the Knossos
cha riotry was much better than the tabl ets indicat e. But comparison with
records elsewhere suggests that the figures for the chariotry at Knossos are
real , for they are no worse than those for Alalakh and Nuzi and somewhat
bett er than those for Assur in Nco-Assyrian rimes.!? Another possibility
may be that both at Knossos and elsewhere the tabl ets indicate not what a
charioteer actually had but what the palace furni shed to him. A tabl et
itemizing the chariot and single hor se of a particular chari oteer would in
that case indi cate only that the chari ot eer received a chariot and one hor se
from the palace , and we would presume that he had another horse of his
own.s" But this solution is speculative, and it is certainly possible that at
any given time only a fraction of a kingdom's chari otry would be in condi-
tion to fight. If indeed a Great King could count on only some 20 percent of
his cha riotry to be battle-ready, then we must suppose that when
Muwarallis put twenty-five hundred of his own chariots into the field at
Kadesh the "paper strength" of his chariotry was over ten thousand.
Whatever discrepancy there may have been between the size of a chari o-
t ry on paper and that of one in the field, it must be observed that even the
lar gest Late Bronze Age chariot ry was small, relative to the size of the
population it had to defend . Although a thou sand chariots at Knossos
might initi all y seem an impressive number, there must have been well over
one hundred thou sand Cretans whose security depended on thcm.>' Th e
proportions were no less steep at Pylos: if we assign the Pylos char iorry a
field strength of five hundred vehicles (an optimistic number), there was
probabl y not more than one chariot for every two hundred souls in Mes-
" Alexa nder Uchirel, "Charioreers of Knossos, " Minos 23 ( 1988): 48 - 50.
,. lbid., 53-58.
"0 Alon g rhis sa me line. Uchirel. in ibid ., 48 , sugge sts rhar rhe "F.QU I e-hn 1" ofTabler Sc
226 "ca n possihly mea n rhar he (i.e. the cha rioteer, "has' one horse of his own. and
anot her one is supplied by the stare."
z Pendleb ury, Archaeology 0{ Crere, 303 n.3 . obse rved rhar ar irs heighr in borh Byzantine
a nd modem rimes rhe Isla nd's pop ulati o n was abour half a milli on . Evans csrirna red rhar
Knosvos itse lf had one hundred thou san d peop le. Kanra, LJt L' Mino,m III Period, refra ins
from esrim.ni ng huw many people lived in Crere during that period bur nores (p. .122) rhar
" finds. especi ally those belon ging to l .M 111 B. are rhicklv spread 311 liver rhe island, Ir is
evident rhar the re WJ:S J: population explosion in Cret e ar this rime. "
senia.! ! In Egypt, even if the phar aoh had as man y as forty -five hun dr ed
cha riots, the number of his s ubjec ts was possibl y a thousand times
greate r.>'
The limitati ons on the size of a chariotry wer e imposed most of all by the
enormous expense of ma inta ining one. Solomo n is said (1 Kings 10 .29) to
have paid 150 shekels of silver for eac h of his cha riot ho rses, and 600
shekels for eac h cha riot. That was a co nside rab le o utl ay, since it was a lso
sai d (2 Samuel 24.24) that for fifty shekels of silver David bo ught a team of
oxen and a th resh ing floor, and since Exodus 21.32 fixed liability da mages
for the deat h of a slave at th irt y shekels of silver. The Pap yrus Anast asi
ridicule s the young Egypt ian who mo rtgages his grand father's p roperty to
b uy a chariot pol e for three deben, and a chari ot for five. Composite bows
were also notoriously expensive. Such a bow was a very effect ive weapon,
having double or tri ple the ran ge of a sel f bow, bu t it s ma nufactu re was
costly and difficult (t he layer ing and laminati on of wood, hom, and sinew
was done at long inte rva ls, and a properl y aged bow wou ld leave a bowyer 's
shop five or ten yea rs after he had brought in the raw mater ial s fro m whi ch
it was madcl.>'
Defe nsive a rmo r for the chariot crew (and sometimes even for the
hor ses) was a major exp ense. As Yad in pointed o ut, the development of the
.mail corslet resulted from the use of cha riots in bartl e.s> Until the Hi ttites
added a shield-bea rer to the crew, co rslets wer e the only prot ection that the
dri ver a nd the warrio r had . In the Mahabharata bot h crewmen regul arl y
wea r a co rslet. So Urtara, for example, clowni ng for the benefit of his sister
and her friend s, "put on his coat of mail upside down, and the wide -eyed
maidens gigg led when they saw him.. . . Urtara himsel f tied the costly
armo r on Brha nnada. Himself wea ring a superb coat of mai l which shone
like the sun, and rai si ng his lion standard, he o rde red the othe r to handl e
his chariot. " 26 In the Near East and the Aegean co rslets ar e attested fro m
the very beginning of the Lat e Bronze Age (scales found in the Sha ft Graves
at My cenae may have co me from a co rslet), t he time at which cha riot
22 Betancourt, "The End of [he Bronze Age, n 42, not es [hat population estimates for
Messenia ar rhe rime rhe pala ce was destroyed range between 50,000 and 120,000.
ss On rhe basi s of dara in rhe Harris Papyru s, John Wil son, The Culture 0( An cielll Egypt
(Chicago, 195 1), 27 1, gues sed thar the popul atio n of Egypr in th e twelfth centu ry was abo ur
4. 500,000.
,4 Wallace Mcl.eod, "An Unpublished Egyptian Co mposite Bow In the Brooklyn Mu-
seum, " AlA 62 ( 1958); 400.
2'; Art of \Vurlure. vol . 1. 84 . tor a co mp rehe nsive prcscnrario n on rhe Lare Bron ze Age
co rslet see Ca rling, "Pan zer," in H.·G . Buchholz and J. WIemer, Kriegsu-esen, Teil ! ; Archa e-
ol ogi.i Homcrica I E (Corri ngen, IY77 j, 74- 118.
2" MllhJbhilr.lt.z 4 f4 7) Th e rr.tnslarion comes (rom j .A.B. van Buire nen, The
Mol"olb"olroll" (Chicago, 1Y78).
warfare began . The "c hariot tabl et s" fro m Knossos itemize the distribu-
tion of 'I pa ir of knee- lengt h co rslets to eac h chariot crew.- ? The co rslet may
al so appear in ceremo nial cha riot scenes on LH lil A and lIlB pott er y: men
in or alongside the chariots ca rry swords in tas sled scabbards and wear
long and dot-covered "robes" that Carling has tentat ively identi fied as
co rslet s.sf Much of wh at is know n about Late Bronze Age corslets was
learned at Nu zi, Copper scales from co rslets were found there in great
qua nti ty, and the Nuz i tab lets make frequent reference to co rslers.t '' The
typical Nuzi chariotee r's co rslet, or sar iam (a Hurrian wo rd, bor rowed by
Hitt ite, Akka dian, and Northwest Semitic s peakers), was a long, cumbe r-
so me, and expensive affair. Its basis was a leat her (usually goa tski n) tuni c,
parti ally sleeved and reaching down to the knees or to midcalt. Approx-
imately five hundred large copper scales wer e sewn to the torso and skirt of
the saria m, and another severa l hundred small sca les were sewn to the
a rms. The head and neck of the chari ot crewma n was protec ted by a
gurpisu, a leather helmet covered with lon g st rips of bro nze or copper
(since the gurpisu extended to the collar, the crewma n was entirely covered
exce pt for the face, the lower arms , and t he lower legs). Th e several Nuzi
co rslets that can be reco nst ructed are estima ted to have weighed between
thirty-seven and fifty-eight pounds.! "
At Nu zi and occasionally in other kin gdoms the horses also wor e coats
of mail.' ' A ver y few Egypti an chariot hor ses ar e shown wearing such
things, and an ivory ca rvi ng fro m Cyp rus shows- oddly- a hunting scene
in wh ich both the cha riot arche r and his horses are draped with sca le
co rslets..ll Possibl y the Mycenaean kingdoms regul arl y issued horse-
armor: Catling has argued that two of the Linear B ideograms refer to
horse-coverings of so me sort rather than to crewmen's corslers. e-' The
horse-armor was undoubtedly very costl y, and how effective it was is diffi-
cult to guess (ho rses wearing heavy cloaks were less vul nerable, but surely
al so mu ch slower ).
Apa rt fro m the expe nse of purchasi ng all these items, and of hiring all the
necessary specialists (charioteers, chariot wa rriors, t rainers, groo ms, veter-
inar ians, carpenters), there was the ma tte r of food: Stua rt Piggott has
esti ma ted th at eight to ten acres of good grai n-land wo uld have been re-
2" Ca rling, "Panzer." 107ff.; Fr.mceschern, " Arrni e guerra, " 77 and 80.
" Carling, "Pa nzer, " 96.
'" The fullest discussion of the Nuzi evidence IS in Kendall, Wolrfare, 263-86.
'" Ibid., 278 ; d. Ca rling, " Panzer, " 89- 90.
" Kendall, Warfare, 223 -25 and 242 - -15 .
J2 for the Enkorrn hrory see H.·G. Buchhol z and V. Karageor ghis, Prehistoric Greece and
Cyprus (London, 1973), no. 1749.
II CJrling, " Panzer, "
112 A M I LI TA R Y
qui red to feed one team of cha riot horses.J" If Harnmurnpi of Uga rir did
indeed have more th an two thou sand horses, they must have represented a
sizea ble fraction of that king 's weal th, and the cos t of mainraining them
wo uld have been enor mous: in addit ion to all the professional an d spe-
cia lized personnel, they would have required-on Piggott's formula-
almost ten thousan d acres of gra in-land.
Given the ext raordinary expense of maint aining a chariorry, it is no
surprise to find that the chariorry was a palace's chief concern . Keep ing
tr ack of the char iots and chario tee rs requ ired a small bureaucr acy of clerks
and q ua rtermasters . This is shown most clearl y at Knos sos, but in Egypt
too ther e are references to the "scribe of the stabl e, " "s cribe of horses, " and
."sc ribeof the char iorry, " 35 Ever ywhere the charioteers have names, wh ile
infantrymen are merel y numbered. In the Greek world, the palace fur-
nishe d every thing: each tablet in the Knossos Sc ser ies was devoted to one
cha rioteer, bei ng a reco rd of the vehicle, team, ha rnes s, and corslet (or
corslets) allocated to him. In Egyp t and the Levant, the charioteer may have
"owned' his own char iot , wi th the palace supplying arms, armor, and
Nougayro l thought tha t at Ugari r the maryamlll were "s ans
do ure proprierai res de leur s chars " but tha t other individu als may have
been furnished with vehicles by the palace..l
In Egypt it likewi se was a
charioteer's responsibility to pro vide his own chariot, while the ph ar aoh
.supplied the horses..l
Throughour the civilized wo rld in the th irt eenth century chario teers and
cha rio t warriors were thus a privileged elite. The ki ng and the men in his
chariot corps were closely interdependent, the king supplying mu ch or all
of the expe nsive equipment that the cha riot crews needed a nd the cha riot
crews providing for the ki ug's and the ki ngdo m' s security. Ofte n the men of
the chariorry were given land by the king, to be held in fief. At Uga ri r land
allot ments were ma de to the maryannu, and ap parently a son inh erited
both the allotment and his fath er's military oh liga tion. v" Ar range ment s in
the Mycenaean wo rld were prob abl y muc h the same, but de tai ls are
J< Piggott, "Hor se a nd Cha riot : Th e Price 01Presti ge. " Proceedi ngs ofthe Seven th lnterna-
ticmal Congress of Cel tic Stu dies, Held at Oxford from 10th to IS th july. 1983 (Oxford,
\ 986 ),27.
J S Ala n Schu lman, "Egyptian Chariorry : A Re-Exarninari on," jOltrn,,1 of th e American
Research Center in Egypt 2 (196 3
95. Lejeu ne, "Chars et roues," 14- 15, ide ntifie s in th e
Knossos pal ace three sep arat e "bur eaus " whose scribes spe cia lized in th e chario t invento ries
a nd ar e not know n (from the ir dist inct ive ha nds ) to have inscribed anything other th an
" cha riot tablets. '"
1('> At Nu zi, for example, Kendall, V/ar fJre, 130, conc lude d that many cha rioteers owned
the ir own vehic les hut we n: suppl ied with hors es by th e pala ce.
17 Nou gayr ol, "Guer re et paix aUga ri r," n. 47.
,. Schu lman, "Egypt ia n Cha n otry, " 87, crnn g Papvru s Anasravi III. Y>. 6, 7- 8.
'" A. F. Rain ey, "The Military Perso nnel at Uga rir," j NES 24 ( \ 965 ): 19-21.
T H E C H A R I O T WA R tAR E 113
ing.! " At Nuzi ther e were " imper ial" charioteers wh ose livelihood was
apparently supplied by the Great King of Miranni , and local charioteers
who depended directly o n the " mayor" of Nuzi; bu r both gro up s were part
of an arist ocracy closely connected to the pa lace.:' !
How ma ny chari oteers there were , how much they cos t to maintain, and
wha t their social status was are matters less controver sia l than how they
fou ght . The strictly milit ary aspects of Bron ze Age cha rio rry have been
addressed piecemeal, and the gener al character of chariot wa rfare remains
unexpl ored. This cha pter will conclude t hat before t he Catastr ophe char-
iots were in all ki ngdoms used as mobil e firi ng plat fo rms for archers armed
with co mposi te bows, but that co ncl usion is quite unorthodox.
Mycenaean chari ots, first of all, are ofte n thought of as having had littl e
ut ility of any kind on the battl efield. This view is popul ar espec ially amo ng
archaeologists. Their ind ifference to the cha riot is not ent irely s urprising:
while hu ndr eds of Late Helludic swords a nd spearheads have been found,
and even a nu mber of boar 's tusk hel mets, no Mycenaean cha riot has yet
been brought to light , nor are the chances very good th at future excavat ions
will produce one. Most archaeological studies of Mycenaean warfare have
therefor e readily accepted Homer 's assurance that the My cenaea ns fought
on foot and have assumed that wha tever was do ne wi th the chariots was of
littl e or no con sequence.r- Myceno logi srs, on the ot her hand, have had to
co nfront the Linea r Bscribes' labor ious inventories of cha riots and have no
.-til Cf. M. Detienne, .. Remarqnes sur Ie char en C rece, '" in Vern an r Probiemes de la guerre,
3 14.
41 Cf. Kendall, W,Irf.Ire, 128: "The local cha ri oteers seem also to have been a pri vileged
lot. A very great many lived in or a ro und the palace, a nd thei r duties ofte n co nsisted of no
more th an standing gua rd JS wat chm en at the pal ace po r-tals. '"
of! Lor imer's H omer JmJ the A1onwnent5 devot ed pp . J05- .2M to th e chariot (in cornpari-
so n, her trea tment 01infantry wea po ns fills 173 pages ) and dea lt prim ar ily with if' desi gn an d
consr rucrion. About its use in Mycenaean war fare. she regrett ed (p. .lIt) tha t "we know
norhing ar JII'" and J id not specu late about it. When Lorimer wrote, of co urse, Linear B W.lS
ent irel y illegib tc• and the chariot ideograms on the Knossos rahl ers were seen by all scholars as
datin g ca. 1400 R. C. It was therefor e pos sib le to believe that although chariots ma y have been
important in LH I and II, by the end of lIIB they were as incon seque ntia l as Homer ma kes
them . In recent schnlarship, it is not ewo rt hy th at in the exquisitely derail ed Arcbneologia
Homcricaseries th e two volumes devot ed to Kriegsu-esen do not even include J chap ter on
cha riot, and Josef Wiesn er 's Iubren lind Reiten treat s the cha rio t as prima rily .1 prest ige
vehi cle. In HolrJ ing's ,\ f yl-entleans .. m d Europe..th e chapter "Warbrc. Weapons and Armour'"
(pp. ISI - S7) begins by noti ng "th e use of the light chariot , proba bly• .1., in Homer , to
trJnsport the warrior to the scene of battl e rather th an for use as a genui ne \'v.ir chariot " (p.
15 I I, hut ..aY!ol norhing more ab out it.
114 A .\1 I LIT A R YE X P L A A T I O N
doubt at a ll that the chariot was used for military purposes.:'' Rut the
tablets do not say how the cha riot was used in wa rfare, and Mycenol ogist s
have not speculated on this matt er. A few histo rians have tried to fill the ga p
left by our ar chaeol ogical and documenta ry evidence, but with vary ing
resu lts. Occasiona lly the Mycenaean chariot is und erstood to have been
used to propel a thrusting spea r.:':' Mo st ofte n it is seen as noth ing more
than a bat tle taxi : the Mycenaean Greeks fought on foot but we re t rans,
ported to and from the batt lefield by chariots. Th e possibilit y th at the
Mycenaean chariot was an archer's mobile platform has not, so far as I
know, been seriously considcred.r "
No r is it widely believed that the Hi tt ite cha riots were so used. Most
scholar s wh o have expressed themselves on the role of the Hi ttite chariotry
have sta ted that in Harr i the offensive we:1pon of a cha riot warri or was the
lance-the thrustin g spear-s-a nd not the bow. The Hittite cha riot s, th at is,
like medieval knights at a joust, made :1 fur ious rush at the o ppo nent 's
vehicl es, the cha riot warri or at rernp ting to thrust a lance through one of the
enemy crewmen.v' Th is belief is fou nded on the Egyptian represent at ion s
of the Battl e of Kadesh: in the reliefs, some of the Hittite cha riot crewmen
carry lan ces, but none carries a bow. Several scholars have in fact suggested
that the Hittites carne up sho rt in the Batt le of Kadesh becau se their cha riot
lancer s were held at a di stance by Ra rnesses' chariot archers."?
4 .1 Le jeune, " La civilisa tion mycen ieune er la gue rre, " devot es mo st of his discu ssi on ro the
rabl ers' referen ces to cha riors ; so also J ot's Fruncesche tt i, "A rmi e gu erra in resri rnice nei."
.... Greenh.ilgh, Early Greek WJr fJre. 7- 12, argues rhur " the long rhru sring-sp ea r was th e
main weapon of [he Mycenaean cha rio t -wa rrio rs :IS it was of [he Hirtires, wit h who m th e
Ac hae ans appear to have been in d ose touch " (p. I 1); d . also his "The Dendra Cha rio teer, "
Anti quit v ( 19MO): 20 1- 5.
H Sch.rchcrrnevr, "Srreitw.rgen un d Srreirwagenb ild im Alren Orient und hei de n my -
ke nisc he n C rieche n, " Authrop os 46 (195 1): 705- 53, ma y have ass umed that meMycen aean
chariot war riors were bowmen bur did nor argue the poin t and in fucr said nothing abour how
Mycenaean cha riots m--:-lj' have been used "irn Streit. "
-I f, For the Hi ttite cIiariot warrior 's dependence on J thrus ting spear see, for exampl e,
y" dlO, WJr(Jre, vol. I, 80 and 108-9; Schacherrney r, "Srreirwagen ," 7 16; f. Srubbi ngs ,
" Arms 'lOJ Armour, " in Wace and Stubbi ngs, eds. , A Cornpanion to Homer (London, 1967),
52 1. The inte rp reta tion of Sti llman and Talli s, AnlJies, 65, is slightly different : " Aga inst
enemy ch a rior ry, the Hitt ite ch .irio rry woul d charge into dose combat . The Hirnres woul d
attempt [0 get close to their uppo nents ( 0 disc harge their spears o r thrust with them. "
-17 OLd He ckmann, " Lanzen uno Spee ce de r agaischen Bronzezeir un J de s Ube rg.mgs :LUr
Eiscnzeir," in Buchholz . Agdische Bronzezeit, 340, describes the Hit tite chariot
rio rs .I S IJn cer s :.mJ then conde mn s th is " J ussic:hrslosc TJ krik. ft Simibrl y. ¥;JJi n (Art of
Vt )1. I. 1(9) S;JW KJJesh vicwry chJ rlo t bnn rs wt' re a poor
..ecollJ to l:h.ulot .uchers : "'T he we;Jkness of rht' Hirrirc ch;Jriot W3S immediar ely evidenr
wh t'n rh e Egypti,lO cha riots wi rh rhe lo ng· r;Jngt' l:omposite bow, O\:e r to rhe
cu un rer.l(tJck. " Ir is more likel y rh;Jr rh t' Httr irt'\ knew 11llWto use chJ riors, J.nJ gor bt'tter
of R;Jlllcs<;es , l( K;JJ esh.
T HE C H A R I O T WAR FA R E 11.5
Even the Egyptia n char iot is not always seen as a mobile firing platfor m:
accor ding to an a rticle publ ished by Alan Schulnun in 1980, both in Egypt
and elsewhere the cha riot wa rrior W,1S indeed an archer, but one who shot
his bow from the ground.t " In thi s view, the cha riot dri ver drove his horses
to a goo d vantage point, at whi ch th e archer would dismount from the
chariot, shoot his a rrow, remount t he cha riot, and ride off to another
locat ion and another shot .
- . Schulma n's view can be immediat ely rejected. It arose from two consid-
erations, both of them tru e: first, in Homeric bat tles the chariot functions
only as a bat tle taxi;.9 and second, Egyptian evidence shows the chariot
wa rrior as an archer. Instead of seeing the Homeri c and the Egyptian
evidence as incompa tible, and choos ing between them, Schulma n merged
them, produ cing t he taxied archers. But the practice he describes has no
support whatever in either liter ar y or a rchaeo logica l evidence, is unim-
aginab lc in practice, and is co ngruent only with Schulma n's own recent
argument that chariorry was too inefficient ever to have been of any mili-
tar y imp orran cc. J''
Let us go on to consider the possibili ty that for the thirteenth-century
cha riot war rior, especially in Hart i hut also in Greece (as Nestor claims at
Iliad 4.297-309), the offensive weap on was the thru sting spear. Here again
we may be categorical: the noti on that eit her Hittite or Mycenaean cha riot
warrior s could have relied upon the lance as their primary offensive
wea pon is for practical reasons out of the question. Like the chari ot s of
Mycenaean Greece, Nuzi, and Assyria, the Hi tt ite chariot certainl y carried
a lan ce. This wea po n would have been esse ntia l agai nst enemy foot soldiers
.. Schulma n, " Cha riots, Ch ariorry, and th e Hykso s." Juurnal o( tlt,- Soci ety for the Study
of Egyp ti JIl An tiquities 10 (1980), 105- 5.1.
.. lbid., J25- 28.
.<;(1 Alt ho ug h his earlie r co nrrrhurions a re valuable, Schulman 's 19XO article rejected nor
o nlv rhe cons ensus bur also his own o riginal concl usions about th e importa nce of chunorry in
Ne:' King dom Egypt. In " Cha riot s. Cha rior r y, an d th e H yksos, " Schulma n a rgu es
"o ut side of cerr .nn siruarions where ir d id hJVC J limited tacti cal valu e. " rhe charie r W.1S of
littl e significa nce in an cient wa rfare. The articl e ignores rhe b cr rha r from the beginni ng of
an riquiry ro the end the J.IT of warfar e wen r rh rough rJJ il." J I evolut iona ry and rcvolu rionary
change s, In making the a rgumen t about the Lir e Bron ze Age, the art icle reli es up on class ical
sou rces , suc h .n Am.in's Tact JcJ. wh ich claimed rh.ir ch.i rior s wer e of litt le prac tica l val ue on
rhe bnrrleficld, Sch ulman 's use of suc h lure so urces i-,based on hi s surprising assu mpt ion rh ur
"li tt le of th e condit ions , practice. and weap on ry of WJ r ha d cha nged between the rime- oi rhe
Hvkso s an d t hat of Arno n- (p. I 19). Schu lma n arl',ue, th at if chariots had li ttl e milita ry val ue
to rhe Greeks JnJ Romans. t hey would hJve been as ineffecrive in rhe Lat e Bron ze Age.
since LJr c Bronze Age were skilled in w.1rhre J Swt' re its prJ criti oners in Cla"i(.11
.1nriquiry " (p. 119). While looking to clJsslca l J.urho rs for ;In ;lSsessment of chJ.riot wJrfJre•
Sl:hulm.m fo und L.ltt' Bro nze Agt' so urces sus pect : .. Altho ugh ir is tr ue t hJt the K.lJ esh texrs
\pl.' ci fy rh;l( 2500 Hi tt ire cha r iots , each bt' ;Jring rhr eL' mc n \ urp riseJ rhe EgypriJn army. we
L':l n hJ.rdl y ;!cct' pr sUlh J figu rt' .15 orh er rhJIl ,l g,rus\ e.'lri JAAt' r:Irinn" [po 1.12;.
116 A M ILI T A R Y EXPLA:'-: ATIO;-';
or cha riot crewmen who had fallen to the ground (a relief from the Old
Hittite period shows a warrior in a chariot thrusting his spear toward a
prOst r:He enemy)."! But that a wa rrior on a speeding cha riot could have
thrust 3 lance against an opposing cha riot is quite simp ly impossi ble, as
Lirt auer and Crouwel have clearl y shown, demonstr atin g the physical facts
with measurements and di agrarns.V A cha riot warrior could not have
thrust a spear over the heads of his own horses or out the back of the
moving ca r. Th at a chariot warrior ' s offensive assignment was to th rust a
spea r lat er all y, as two chariots passed, is also unim aginable.
Finall y, we must confront the thesis that in Lat e Hell adic Greece the
chariot 's rnilit arv usc was confined to tr an sporting infantryman to and
from a battl e.53 'As we shall see in chapter 11, some of the infantrymen
known as "c ha riot runners" may have ridden with the char ioteer and the
archer until the enemy came within range, at whi ch poi nt t he apobatai
would have leaped to the ground, .md this practice may have been charac -
teristic of Late Helladic chariorries. Furt hermore, as Litrauer and Crouwel
have poi nted out.>' several recentl y discovered sherds of LH mc pott er y
do portray cha riots ca rrying a driver and an infantryman. It is possible,
therefore, that in the middl e of the twelfth centn ry B.C. those cha riots sti ll
to be found in Greece were indeed littl e more than the personal convey-
ances of warri or s who fought on foot and that Homer reflects thi s pra ctice.
But how cha riots were used afte r the Ca tastro phe a nd how they were used
before must be regarded as two very different questions. During the cent ury
and a hal f prior to the Catastro phe life in the pal ace-st at es seems to have
been so secure that Ca tling described the peri od as the pax My cenaica.
Since it is unli kely that in thi s period military chari ots were often put to the
tes t, we may be dealing more with hypoth etical than with actua l use.
" Jeanny Vorys Canby, " Hittite Art," Bib. Arch. ( 1989): 114.
>2 Mary Lirrauer and J. H. Crou wel, "Ch ari ots in Lite Bron ze Age Greece. " Antiquity 57
(198.1): 187-92.
-"3 Th is view h J S p revailed from Homer to the presen t. For recent argumen ts tha t Horner' s
pictu re of Mycenaea n chariot warfare was essentially correct see Josef Wiesner, Fahren und
Reit en (Ar chaeologia Horneri ca I F [Go rtingen, I% 8J); Mary Lirrauer, "The Milita ry Use of
the Chariot in the Aegean in the Late Bron ze Age: AlA 76 (1972): 145- 5 7; Littauer and
Cro uwel, " Cha rio ts in Lat e Bron ze Age Greece ," 187-92 ; Crouwel, Chariots, 126- 27.
Wiesner , Litr auer , and Cr ouwel su pposed rhar cha riot s functioned as barri e ta xis througho ut
the LH III pe nod. j. K. Anderson ar gued <>niy that they were so used in the Da rk Age, af ter the
great pe riod of cha riot warfare had ended. See Anderson 's " Homeric, British and Cyrenai c
Chari ot>, " AlA 69 ( 1% 5): 349-52, a nd "G reek Chari ot-Borne and Mou nted Infa ntry," AlA
79 (1975): 175- 87.
~ .. LiU.1U1:r, " l\ tiliury Use," 1 4 5 - 4 h ~ l .irt a uer and Crouwel, "Chariots in LIte Bro nze Age
Greece. " I 89-90; the signi fican ce of the sherds was tirsr not ed by Ca rling, "A Mycenaean
Puzzle from LdbnJi In Euhoeu," AlA 72 ( I%8): 4 1-49.
es Carling, "A Myc enaean Puzzle, " 46, proposed tha t the pe riod of peace lasted for " abo ut
J century J nJ J h.i lf " and ende d with the di sasters ca. 12. 00.
How, when the pal aces were still standing, the Mycenaean pal ace lor ds
intended that their chariots should be used in 3 battl e, if :1 batt le were ever
to occur , is a ques tion that can not be answe red by reading Homer. For the
Home ric picture is misleadin g, as Homer himself was the first to admit.
When Nes tor gives his advice that the ch.iriors be drawn up in a line, so that
they might char ge agai nst the Troj ans, each warr ior thrustin g with his
spea r aga inst the enemy, the old man justifies his adv ice with the remin is-
cence (WIl d 4.308) that this is how the " rnen of ea rlier rimes" tproteroii did
battle. We have already seen that men of ea rlier times did not-and cou ld
not have done-battl e in the way Nestor here prescr ibes, but the remi nis-
cence is nevertheless important because it reveals Homer's own concession
that his Achaeans at Troy were not using their cha riots in the way that
cha riots were supposed to be used. In the days when men really did depend
on chariots, Homer is here concedi ng, they did not usc them merely for
tr ansport to and from the battl efield. If we may tr anslate this into our terms
perhaps we may propose, al ong the lines suggested by J. K. Anderson, that
the way in which the Greeks of the IIIC per iod used their cha riots was not
how the chariot was used, or was meant to be used, in the 1118 period- the
generations before the Catastrophe.
The clai m that Homer did not know how Mycenaean cha riots were
meant to be used in battl e may be regarded by some as a rash calumny and
needs some defense. Although Homer's Achaeans have most often been
identified with the occu pants of the Mycenaean pal aces, there is good
reason to believe- as I have argued elsewhere-tha t the saga originated in
the less civilized, more bellicose, and illiterate part s of Achaea (especially
the mountainous coast of Thessaly and Phth ioris ); and th.-r the Achaeans
or "Argives" wh o sacked Troy (and whose fath ers had sacked Thebes)
spoke North Greek rather than the South Greek of the Linear B tab lers.w
No one has yet refuted the argument, put forward by Paul Ca uer a hundred
years ago , that Homer' s Achaeans came from the north, and since Venrri s's
decipher ment of the-Greek in the Linear Btablets the argument is in fact far
stro nger than it was-in Cauer's day. Evidence also conti nues to mount that
before the Trojan saga circulate d among Ioni c-speakers it was preserved in
the Aeo lic dial ect of their northern neighbors.t ?
I would suggest, then, that Homer was basically ignorant of cha riot
warfare because the heroic tradition originated in a society of infantrymen,
in which the cha riot was indeed nothing more than a prestige vehicle.
5. Drews, "Argos and Argive>in the Wold," C1'7 4 ( 1979): 111- 3S. See now H. W. Singer,
" Ni ne against Troy, " MnemOSY1le 44 ( 1991): 58- 59.
.' 7 Ri chard Jan ko, Homer, Hesiod, and the Hymn s: Diachronic Development in Epic
Dictlcm (Cambridge, 1982;, S9-92; M. L. W"'t, "The Rise of the Greek EpIC: lliS 108
(1988): 159-67; Paul Wathd et, " Les darifs analog.q ues en -sooi dms la tr adition <pique:
REG 104 (1991): 1-14.
Homer's Achaeans were not themselves charioteers or chariot archers but
instead were responsible for putting an end to chariot warfare and to the
domination of the horse-tamers. They were, that is to say, infantrymen of
the new type-Heet of foot, skilled with the javelin or throwing spear, and
also carrying long swords-who spelled the doom of the great chariot
forces of the Late Bronze Age. Integral to the thesis of this book is the tenet
that in Greece chariot warfare virtually disappeared during the Catastro-
phe and that throughout the Dark Age it was nothing but a vague memory.
The LH mc period seems in this respect to have been closer to the Dark
Age than to the pre-Catastrophic Bronze Age: obviously there were still a
number of chariots in the Argolid, on Euboea, and elsewhere in LH mc
Greece, but the day of chariot warfare was over, and the day of the infantry-
man had arrived. That Homer knew very little about chariot warfare is
precisely, it seems to me, what one should expect of a bard who stands at
the end of a tradition that originated in a society of infantrymen.
The thesis that during the palace period Mycenaean chariots served
primarily as battle taxis is untenable not because we have evidence to the
contrary (we do not) but because it makes no historical sense. The enor-
mously expensive chariot and chariot horses, as Greenhalgh observed,
would hardly have been risked by the palace in such a frivolous way, when
the wounding of a horse "could easily put the whole apparatus out of
action."5B The rulers of Pylos and Knossos devoted their resources to the
maintenance of a chariotry of several hundred vehicles, keeping a large
inventory of spare wheels, axles, and boxes and assigning a small bureau-
cracy to the supervision of the men, horses, and material. It is not reason-
able to suppose that the rulers did all this merely to ensure that several
hundred of their infantrymen could ride in comfort or dignity to the battle-
field. Chariots as status symbols or as convenient means of transportation
would have been a private concern: men with ample wealth may have
chosen to spend some of it in purchasing a chariot and team and in raising
the grain to keep the horses healthy. But a palace would hardly have-been so
preoccupied with its chariotry if the chariots were nothing more than the
personal luxuries of a few hundred foot soldiers. The rulers must have
believed that the chariorry they were so diligently maintaining would in a
crisis provide the regime and its subjects with protection and security. They
must have believed, that is, that the kind of chariot warfare that had once
been effective was still effective. In the event, of course, they were wrong.
But if the pax Mycenaica provided few opportunities for putting' the old
warfare into practice, the rulers of the Mycenaean palaces CJn hardly be
blamed for imagining that the next war would be fought along the same
lines as the last one.
SR Furly Greek WarfJrl!. 17.
There is, finJlly, a decisive argument that before the Catastrophe char-
iots in Mycenaean Greece were not used, or meant to be used, merely as
battle taxis: prior to 1200, chariotry was not merely an adjunct to a
Mycenaean king's military forces but the very basis of his army. Here
I must anticipate the conclusion of chapter II. That chapter will show that
in the centuries prior to the Catastrophe the armies of eastern Mediter-
ranean kings included no offensive infantry formations: the only offen-
sive foot soldiers in these armies were skirmishers or "runners" who
fought in support of the chariot squadron to which they were attached.
Our picture of heavily armed infantry units as the bulwark of the Myce-
naean palace-states comes not from the archaeological evidence (and cer-
tainly not from the Linear B tablets) but from the Iliad, and for the period
when the Pylos and Knossos palaces were still standing it is demonstrably
How, then, were war chariots used in the Late Bronze Age kingdoms of
the eastern Mediterranean? The answer will be no surprise: as mobile
platforms for archers.>" Throughout this area, when artists depict chariots
on the attack, the chariot warrior is regularly shooting his bow from a car
traveling at full speed. That is also how the war chariot was used elsewhere.
Sanskrit scholars have known all along that the Aryan chariot warriors of
India were bowmen, and recently it has become clear that in China too the
war chariot carried an archer.v"
Closer to home, there is no doubt that in Babylonia the chariot warriors
of the Kassitcs depended on the how."! The Nuzi texts are unusually infor-
mative, since they detail the issuing of equipment to chariot crews; along
with helmets, corslets, a whip, and a sword, bows and a quiver of thirty or
forty arrows were standard.e- From first-millennium Mesopotamia, As-
syrian archers in war chariots are familiar from Ashurnasirpal II's Nirnrud
orthostats, from the bronze doors at Balawat that commemorate Shal-
maneser llI's victories and from the war reliefs from Sargon II's palace at
In the Levant, as in Mesopotamia, the war chariot carried an archer. The
fact that the bow was the weapon of the chariot warriors who opposed
Thutmose mat Megiddo is clear from that king's account, onrhe Gebel
59 Moorey, "Emergence," 208, likewise concludes that "from the outset archerv was
fundamental to the role of the light horse-drawn chariot as a war vehicle." '
Ml Jacques Gerner, .... Note sur le char en Chine," in Vernant, Problemes de laguerre,310; E.
L. Shaughne-ssy, "Historical Perspectives on the Introduction of the Chariot into China,"
Harvard journal of Asiatic Studies 48 (1988): 195 JnJ 199.1 thank Professo r Sruart Piggorr
for this reference.
(.\ Cassin, "Char de guerre," 304.
02 KendJII, Warfare, 210-12; at p. 256 KenJJII CItesJ rabler referring to J lot of twenty
thousand arrows tqanatu).
H YJJin, Warfare, vol. 2, 3B6-B7, 402-3, 416-17.
Barkal Stele, of the tribute that hi s def eated enemies brought him.>' " All
their horses whi ch were with them, their great chariots of gold and silver, as
well as those which were pl ain , all th eir coats of mail , their bow s, their
arro ws, and all their weapon s of warfar e. It wa s these with whi ch they had
co me from afar to fight against my ma jest y, and now they were bringing
them as tr ibute to my majest y." In his Karnak annals, Thutmose specifies
th at he captured 924 cha riots and 502 bows from the en emy. Uga r itic texts
make frequent mention of bows and arrows, and it will be recall ed th at t he
Tale of Aq hat revolved abo ut an extraordinary co mpos ite bow. One Uga ri-
tic tabl et reports that two chariots br ou ght in for repairs "are without
quiver s, " a n obvious impl icati on , as BeJI notes, " t hat other chariot s did
have quivers."65 Another Uga ritic tabl et records the deli very of eithe r
harnesses or teams of ho rses, of a rmo r for men and horses, and of forty
bow s a nd a thousand arrows.e- Alth ou gh we have few gra phic representa -
tions of the war chariot from the Levant, an ivory plaque from Megiddo-
dar ing from ca. 1200 B.c. - shows ca ptives marching in fron t of a Cana -
a nite chariot, the cha riot being equipped with qui ver and bow case. A
ninth-century orthostat from th e Neo-Hirtire palace at Carchernish shows
a chariot archer in the act of shoot ing, whil e hi s chariot roll s over an enemy
alr eady brought down by an arrow.v?
It is well known that Egypti an cha rio ts carried archers. These chariots
wer e outfitted with J bow case and occ asionally a quiver attached to the
chario t box at a diagonal , the mouth being at a level with the archer's right
hand. An Egyptian papyru s not es the departure of a chariot for Syri a, the .
. ch ari ot having aquiversrockedwith eigh ty a rrows .s" Egyptian inscrip-
tion s rarely go into suffi cient detail to clari fy what happened in J battl e
(what happened in the battl es at Megiddo and Kadesh will he loo ked at in
detail in the foll owing sec tion), but such refer en ces as there are indicat e that
cas ua lites werenormall y inflicted by cha riot archers.jvlerneptah' s acco unt
0'£ his victo ry over the Libyan s. in 1208, for example, claims th at " the
chariot warriors who wer e upon the chari ot s of hi s ma jesty placed them-
.selvesin __ (i .e., the broken Libyan invaders),
.Qvert h rown b y arrows, ca rried off, and slaughtered. " 69 The ph ar aoh s
th emselves to ok pr ide in their sk ill as char iot archers, Arnenhot ep II
boast ed of the rapidit y, ran ge, and accur acy of his shooting, claiming that
from a speeding chariot he had hit four ta rge ts, set thirty-four feet a pa rt,
. 4 Wil, on 's translati on, ANET. p. 2.JH.
.. Be:J) , Orga nization, 57H.
..... Helrzer. lnt ernal Urganiza tion, 113.
., YJJIO. Warfare, vol. 1, 243; JnJ vol. 2, 366.
M!. Papyr us Kulla 1.1-2; d . Schulman. "Chariots, Chariorry, and the Hyksos, " 124n. 57.
Mc ruep tah's Karn ak Inscr iption. J S tra nslated in Schul man. " Egyptia n Chariorrv, " p.
xS. For the full inscription . see Breasted, AR. vol. 3. 110 S. 569ft .
T HE C HA R I O T W A RF A R E 12 1
with such force that the arrows wen t clean through each target' s three
inch es of copper.?" Egyptian chariot a rche rs in battle appear not only in
wall reliefs-c-as of Seri 1\ battles, of Rarncsses H' s battle at Kadesh in 1275,
!)r of Rarnesses Ill 's victo ry ove r the Libyan s in 118 2-bm also in relief s
etc hed on th e sides of the fiftee nt h-ceu t ury cha rio t found in th e tom b of
T hu t rnose IV and on a painted pan el of a chest fro m 'Iutan khamun's
The fact that Hittite ch ar iot warr iors we re bow men is not genera lly
recogni zed, but it is neverth eless de mo nst ra ble. As noted ab ove, the belief
th at th e lance wa s the standa rd weapon of the Hittite chariot warri or
deri ves from Ramesscs the Crea r's rel iefs of the Battl e of Kades h. i? In those
reli efs th e Egyptian chariot s carry archers but non e of the Hittite char iots
ca rries an arche r, and in fact o nly the chari ot of the Hittite king has a bow
case. In eac h of the ot he r Hittite cha r iots is a crew of three. One of the three
hol ds the rein s, a second man regul arl y ca rr ies a shiel d, and the third man
somet imes holds a lan ce. The Egyptian sculpto r, however, nowhere depi cts
th e Hittite chariots in action (t hey are eithe r heading toward or retreating
fro m th e battlefield). And as Ri chard Beal points out, as often JS not th e
third man in a Hittite chariot is sho wn without a weJpon of any kind. Since
in th e inscr iption Rarnesses does mention th e arche rs of the Hittite chari ot
corps.i " Beal argues that the reliefs ar e "clearly a misrepresentation. " 74
The Egypt ian sculpto rs have here chosen to portray the enemy armed only
with defensive weapons. In battl e scenes th e ph araoh 's artists wer e car eful
never to depict In Egyptian co rpse or ind eed an Egyptian in danger, As
portrayed in Egyptian art, only Egypt ian t roop s tak e the offensive, th e
o bliga tio n of the artist bein g to propagat e th e myth of the pharaoh's invin-
cibility.f" Noting th at the relief of the Battl e of Kades h shows on e Hittite
cha r iot warrior apparentl y a bo ut to throw a n arrow at the Egypti an s, Beal
70 See Wilson 's t ra nslati on of Amenhotep's Gizeh stele, ANET, 244.
7 1 Th e [V. ' O volumes of 'rad in's Wurfure pr ovide excellent illustrations of these and .other
scenes cited; see Warfare, vol. 1, 104- 5; 192- 93,216-1 7; 240-41 ; and vol. 2, 3H -37.
:-.: It also derives, as Moorey {"'Emergence," 203) poi nt s out , [reun such an.ichronisric
so urces J S Xenophori 's Cyropued;u .rnd misconceived "analogies dra wn from tank warfare. "
" In the inscri prion [Gardiner. Kadesb, 1'160- 65 Jl1J 1'200- 205 ) a demoral ized Hittite
p roc lai ms that " one is una ble to take Up;1 bow" when not." beh olds the glori ous Ramesses:
and RJmc, <;, es himself boasts that " whoeve r ... hot in my di recti on , thei r arrows scattered as
they rea ched me. " See al so Breasted. AR. vo l. 3. nos. ] ] 7 .ind 343 . The latter is J caption for a
scene of .1 gr ollp of prrsoners: "Lis t of tho se co untr ies which his rnaresry ..lew. while alone by
himself: corpses, hor ses, and chariots. bows. swords , all the weapo ns of warfa re. "
'74 Beal, Orgtllli:;ut ;on. 575 .
7 < lbid., h 17. john Wilson , "The Royal Myth in Ancie nt Egypt," Pro, udin-", of the
Am.'n"f ull l'hilosnphical .\'{J,:'-efy 100 ( I 4JlJ-42. St udent s of anc ient wea ponry have also
xuvpected th.i r th e Egypt iJ n ar t ists di sto rTt"J their .l pp' l11e nt ,," weaponr y. Srilli n.in and Tallis,
Arnncs , 57, not e that in the Ne w KingJc1111 " rn In.IIl Y battle scen es only cncmic.. .rre ever
sho wn Jt:JJ o r WOII IIJI:J .lIl J som et imes III1 ,lr l1lOUn.:d J ud withou t
:" ,
'" :L



----- ----- ---f-
- -- --

- _.-._----_. :-:-....-...
suggest s that for Rarnesses' art ists an enemy bow may have been " ideologi-
cally unportrayable , and concludes that " the evidence seems to show that
bows and arrows were the primary weapons of the Hittite cha riotry. r r «
The battl e rel iefs of Rarnesses' father, Seti I, confirm this conclusio n.
When Seri campa igned against the Hittites, he evidently was oppose d by
Hittite cha riot a rchers, for the Karnak reliefs that celebrate his victory (see
plate 1) depict Hittite cha riots equipped with bow cases, and in each
chariot is a Hittite warrior with a quiver on his hack and a bow in his
hand.?? In short , Hittite chariot warriors fou ght exactly as did their coun-
terparts in Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotami a, and India. In all the Near
Eastern kingdom s of the Lat e Bron ze Age, the chariot served as an archer's
mobil e firing platJgrll).
From Mycena ean Greece, unfortunatel y, we have no pictori al repre sen-
tat ions of a cha riot battl e. For that reason , and perh aps becau se no com-
po site bow has ever been found in a Mycenaean tomb, Aegean archaeolo-
gists have traditionally and stubbornly insisted that the bow had no
military importance in the Lat e Helladic peri od .78 That view, however, was
invalidated forty yea rs ago . Before the Linear B tablets were read , a nd
when Homer was still taken as a reliabl e guide to things Mycenaean , it was
underst andable that scho lars imagined the Myc enaeans as conte mptuous
of the bow. H. L. Lorimer summed up and lent her great authority to the
consensu s: the composite bow was strictly Oriental and Minoan, and
although the Mycenaeans may now a nd then have seen such a weapon
" there is no indi cation that they learned how to use it." For Lor imer, the
composite bows invento ried in Linear B tabl et s were of course Minoan
rather than Mycenaean , since she wrote befor e Ventris's decipherment. On
similar grounds she dismi ssed the importan ce of the bow in the Odyssey:
the centrality of Od ysseus's great compos ite bow in the story of his return
was " natural when we co nside r the strong Cretan tinge of mu ch of the
poem. " ?"
7. Beal, Cnganization, 5 78 and 617.
T: Reliefsand Inscriptions at Karnak, Volume 4: The Battle Reliefs of King Sety I, Oriental
Institute Publ icatio n no. !O7 (Chicago, 1986), plat es 34 and 35.
7' The Kriegsuesen fascicles of Archaeo /ogi" Homerica thus far publi shed dea l wi th the
swo rd, spear, dagger, a nd e-ven the club, but not the bow. In their discuss ions of Mycena ean
warfare most surveys either dismiss the bow in J fewsente nces or o mit it
altoge t her. No t to multipl y exa mp le'S, I cite only Jan Bouzek, The Aegean, Anatolia. and
Europe: Cultural lntcrreiations in the Second Mi llennium R. C. (Gorebo rg and Prague, 1985).
In the very la't paragrapb 01his fifty·page survey of Late Hella.hc armor and weapons, and
after a meti cul ous analysis of swo rds, spears, daggers, knives, and axes of the period, Bouzek
finally reaches (p. 142) the sub ject of bows and ar rows: • Arrowheads are menti oned o nly for
the sake of completeness. . . . In any case the how onl y played a ma rgina l part in warfare
Juring the period in qu e..non."
"4 Lorimer, Hom•." and the Monuments, 280 and
122 A M J L J TAR Y E X r LAS A T JO N
124 A 1\11 LIT A RYE X I' L A;-.J ,\ T ION
We know now that the ta blet s from th e Knossos " Armoury " contain a
primi ti ve form of Greek an d so must ack nowledge that the Mycenaeans not
only hud learned how to use a co mposite bow Out knew how t o rn.ikc one,
a nd did so by the hundreds. Ther e is ot he r evide nce th at the bow was th e
prirn.rry we:lpo n of Mycen aea n cha rio t warrio rs. Knee- leng th corslets we re
evide nt ly provided for cha riot crews, a nd these mu st have been mea nt fo r
protection agai ns t ene my mi ssiles (in 3 co ruesr of thrusti ng spea rs or ra-
pier s th e lon g co rslets woul d have offered littl e pro tec tion and wo uld have
gr eatl y impeded th e wearer's mov ement ). Alongside the "chario t ta blets"
fo und at Knosso s were tabl ets recordin g la rge lot s of arrows: 60 l Oin on e
bat ch and 26 30 in ano ther, eno ugh fo r eac h of two hundre d chariot arche rs
to rece ive forty. Near by we re foun d stores of bron ze arrowheads, which
we re meant for distri bu tion to Mycen aean rather than (as Evans th ou ght )
Minoan warriors. Tablets also refer to bow making and to bowyers (to-ko-so-
too-leo, which "h a un per fett o corrispo nde nte in greco in ""0
The di stribution of ill corpore a rrowheads from pr eh is tor ic Greece also
sugges ts that the bow was far more importa nt fro m 1600 to 1200 1J .e. than
it had been in earl ier times o r wo uld eve r be again. Wh ereas no met al
ar rowheads have been found in EH o r MH contexts, bronze ar rowheads of
various kind s appear sudde n ly wit h the Sha ft Craves and cont inue th rou gh
the LH I1IBperiod; then th ey vanish agai n, with only 3 handful at resred for
th e whole of the Dark Age.HI
Th us there is 3 great deal of evide nce th at in the armies of Mycen aean
Greece - as of kin gdoms every where dur ing the Late Bronze Age-t he
co mposite bow wa s th e princip al offensive weapo n. That Homer hud some
very wrong ideas about how 3 co mpo site bow was made (d. especia lly th e
description of Pandaros's bow at Iliad 4.105ff. ) can no longer mean , as it
did fo r Lorimer , that such a bow W3S " un- Mycenae a n." Rather, it shows
how mu ch of M ycen aean warfare had been forgotten in the ep ic t radi tion.
In a de ta iled ph ilological study De nys Page co ncl ude d th at Homer's lim-
ited rep ertory of for mulas fo r bows and arrows is " the disint egr at ing rel ic
of a much wider and st ricter system," a nd th at " the evidence of forrnula r
usage is sufficient to carry th e bow and arrows bac k to a remote past.
Alt ho ugh the Myccnaeans may once have s ung a bo ut the exploits of
char iot archers, no wri t ten account of cha rio t wa rfare has been fo und at
Uga r it, Hattusns, or th e Mycenaean pal aces. It is so me thing of 3 par adox
I'l l ) Adele Fr.mceschern , " Arnu e guerra in resri micenei, ' S I for a pe rcept ive arguruenr t ha r
t he bow wa s of much greater military impurtnnce in LH III Greece than Home r • and
t ha n has gene ra lly been assumed. see Renat e ... rcnbein. Pfeil und Bogen im alt en
Criechenland (Bochum, 19S0), 24- 26 .InJ 4 1-42.
1f1 SnoJgrJss , Arms .ttld t\rnwllr, 40. For J car.ilog and rypnlogy of the:" Lire Hell.idic
.irrowhe.rds see Avil.t, L.lfI U lI- und r /t·jlspi t:'I'fI.
"1 Page, Hivtu rv <111, / the Homeric Ilid41 {fic:rkd ey .1OJ Los Angeles : 195Y;, 27 S-7Y.
ru r C H A RIO T WA R FAR E 125
th at from the thou sands of Late Bronze Age tablets from the Aegean and
the Near E3St, so ma ny of whi ch refer 10 chariots, one learns so littl e a bo ut
how these vehicles were used in battl e. •Mu ch more C3n be learned fro m
Indi a. Th e hymn s of the Rig Veda origi na ted in th e lat e cent uries of the
second mill ennium, when in Ind ia too cha riots dominated th e battlefield;
and here, unl ike in Greece, ora l t raditi o n kept th e wo rld of the cha rio t
wa r rior alive far into the first mill ennium, whe n fina lly th e hymns we re
wri tten down. One hymn, recited over the chariot crew just before they
went int o ba u le, begi ns by invoki ng divine blessing up on the warrior's
ar rnor. r-' " His face is like a thunderclou d , when th e armoure d warrior goes
int o th e lap of ba t tles. Conquer with an unwounded bo dy; let the power of
a rmo ur keep you sa fe." The invocati on focu ses in turn up on the horses, t he
chariot, the reins. and the whip but dwel ls especia lly up on the bow:
With the bow let us win cows, wirh the bow let us win the contest and violent
batt les with the bow. The bow ruins the enemy's pleasure; with the bow let us
conquer all the comers of rhe world.
She comes 3 11 the way up 10 your ear like a woman who wishes 10 say something,
embracing her dear friend; humming like a woman, the bowstri ng stretched
tight on the bow carries you safely across in the battle.
These two who go forward like a woman going to an encounter hold thearrowin
their lap as a mother holds a son. Let the two bow-tips, working together, pierce
our enemies and scatter our foes.
In the still lat er Mahabharat<l , chariot archers are 3gain co ns picuo us. As
th e Tngarta chariots rolled against t he Marsyas " t he sun di sappeared
behind a rrows shot back and fort h, but the co mpact sky was lit up as
thou gh by fireflies. The gold-backed bows of the arche rs, wo rld famou s
he roes wh o shot right-handed and left, go t tangled when they fell. " H4
Virata, hero of the fourth book of the epic, wrought havoc with the
Trigarr as:
Virara, having felled five-hundred warriors in the fight, hundreds of horses and
five great champions. made his way variously among the chariots, till he encoun-
tered Susarrnan of Trigarra on his golden cha riot on the battlefield. The two
great-spirited and powerful kings str uck out at each other, roari ng like two bulls
in 3 cowpen. The chariot fighters circled each other on their chariots, loosing
arrows as nimbly as clouds let go their water st reams.v'
Hl Rig Vt"J.. 1 h.75 ( j i mli l asycl' a hhdU.111pr.:Jti kam}, t ran slated into Engli sh as '"10 Arms, n
bv WenJl' Don iger O' Fl.rherry; Th e Rig Ved,, : An A,'IIJ,, /ogy (Ha rrno uds wort h, \, 236-

H M..zhJhhur,' lu 4 (4:-; 31.6-7 (rr .ms. J.A.l\ . ','I n Buircnen :.
" lbid ., I S- 20.
126 A MI L IT A RY E X P LA N AT I () N
From Hittite, Aegean, and even Egyptian sources there is noth ing remotel y
resembling these vivid pictures of chariot battles in Indian literature.
In summa ry, whatever evidence we have for chariots in battle indi cates
that they were used as mobile platforms for ar cher s. This seems to have
been tru e from the beginnin g of chariot warf are in the seventeenth cent ury
until the Catastrophe. Homerdid not know how war chariots were used in
the LH lllB period, but that is not surprising since neither did he know
anything of the palace regimes that served and were served by the chario-
tries. In the Near East chariots continued to carry arch ers, armed with
comp osite bows, down to the eighth century, although by that ti me char-
iot s played only an ancillary role in battle.
We have onl y a littl e informati on about the organization of chariotr ies.
The smallest tactic al unit seems to have been a group of ten cha riots (when-
ever chariots are requested, they are requested in multiples of ten). Schul -
man assembled evidence that in Egypt, at least, fiveof these unit s-or fifty
vehicles- no rmally made up a squadron. Th e autobiography of Merypta h
describ es that worthy' s service in squadro ns named "the Phoenix " and
"Manifest injustice " (among Meryptah 's positi ons were "sta nda rd-bearer
of the cha riot warrior s" and "first srabl crnaster" ).H6 Each squad ron had its
own commander, as shown by the Nuzi tablets, and several squadrons
togeth er made up a " host of chariots. " It may be that the color of the
chari ot boxes varied from squadron to squadron. Lejeune pointed out that
the Linear Bscribes consistently (except on one tablet ) not ed the color of
the cha riot box-vermillion , purple, red-and suggested that the color
was an "element de signalement. " 87 It may also be wort hy of note that
the Nu zi tablets (as well as occasional tablet s from elsewhere) designate
vehicles as being eit her of "the right" or of "the left. "88 The designation is
possibl y relat ed to the fact that on Egypti an and Assyrian reliefs we see
both right-handed and left-handed chariot archers, with the qu iver corre-
spondingly mounted on the right or the left side of the cha riot box. Al-
though we have no evidence on the matter, we must suppose that all the
archers of a given squadron shot their arr ows from the same side of the box
and that a squadron itself could therefore be described as belonging" to the
right" or " to the left." In the Mahabharata one of the deadli est heroes is
"the vali ant Partha, the enemy-killing left-hand ed archer," who would not
tum away even if faced by all the bands of the Maruts.e"
Finally, we must tr y to visualize the chari ots in battl e. Those schola rs
who have-correctly-imagined chariots as mob ile firing plat forms
(rather than as battle taxis or propellants of thru sting spears) have gener-
,. On a ll thi s see Schu lman , " Egypti an Chariotry, " 75-84.
107 Lejeune, "Chars et ro ues, " 29.
.. Kenda ll, Warf.Jre, 130- .31.
"" M.,habharata 4 (47) .37, 10 (tr ans. J. A. B. van Buitenen).
ally pictur ed them as parti cipat ing in the preliminar ies and the con clusion
to what was essentially an infantry encounter. In T.G.E. Powell' s recon-
struc tion, at the outset of a battle chariots provide a thin screen for an
infantry form ation, the chariots moving laterally across the front of the ir
own infantry and the chariot archers shoot ing- at a right anglc- their
arrows against the enemy's infant rymen. The chariot s then remove them-
selves whi le the infant ries engage, and after the battle is won the cha riots
return to pur sue the enemy fugitives.'?' Trevor Wat kins, on the other hand,
suggested that chariots were held in reserve until the infantry battl e had
reached a decisive stage. At that point the chari ot s would be committed, in
order to tip the scales of the battl e."! Thes e recon structions, I am con-
vinced, are qui te far from the mark ; as will be argued in the next chapter,
the assumption that Late Bronze Age battles were essentially infantry con-
tests is without foundati on.
Leaving the infantr ies out of the picture, at least temp oraril y, we must
apparently imagine that opp osing chariot for ces would hurtle towa rd each
other (chariot warr ior s are regularl y shown shooti ng over the heads of their
hor ses), the squadrons maint aining an assigned order and the archers
90 Powell, "So me Implicatio ns of Cha riot ry," in I. Fost er and l.. Adcock. eds.• Culture and
Environment , Essays in Honour o( Sir Cyril Fox (Londo n, 1% 3),165-66:
It is clear th at in the opening stages uf the battle exchanges of arrows were made from
chariot s moving up and down their own fro nts, but pro ba bly at a ran ge wh ich di d not
seriously endange r the ho rses. Th is WJ S the phase for display and iurimidarion, recogniz-
able again in the Iliad, and in Irish epic. Later in til t"battle, if the o pposing side W3Srouted,
chario ts were again employed fo r pursuit. To conceive of the:likeli hood ofmassed chariots
chargi ng an enemy format ion , whether also in cha riots o r on foot , is to igno re practical
con sider ations. Wounds easily to be infl icted on horses would ens ure chaos, and cerrainly
allow of no recovery. As was said ear lier, the chariot in its Egypti an and Asia ti c role
provid ed J mob ile vant age point for archery, In the Egyp tian rel ief s of chariot s in action
there is no head -on clas h, the scene is al ways that of pursuit, .md Egyp ti an JrrOWS pierce
the enemy and his ho rses from behind. . . . Chariots were never so expendable rhur o ne
violent collisio n co uld have been allowed to risk .ib.mdon rnenr on th e field.
Powell's descnprion assumes tha r Late Bronze Age battl es were esse ntially infantry en-
count ers (I shall try to show in chap ter 11 that they were not ) .1IIdigno res th e fact thor in these
battles chari ot s and ho rses were ind eed lost, by the hundreds. Wh :lt conrributi on could have
been made by chariots that moved "up and down their own fronts, but proba bly at 3 runge
which did nut se riously endanger the horses, " is di fficul t to imagine since, in Powell 's view, the
two infantries were even brther apart than the two promenad ing ch.rriomes . It is tru e that in
Egypt ian art "the re is no head .. tlll clash , the scene is al ways of pursuit," but rhar is very likel y
because in Egyp tia n ideol ogy ene mies regular ly nee and Egypti an s pursue. Th e mad, as
indicated above , cannot beused J-"i 3 guide to the cha riot t actics used before the Carast rophe.
9' So Wat kins, " Beginnings of War b re: 3 1: "Chariorry was a hi ghl y pre st igious, hu gely
expensive and very vulnerab le P30 rt of ;lny army, It would not he used in barth: unti l the:cri tical
moment hJJ a rrived, then its task was to b unch ;J drive which wou ld induce .1 brea king of
ranks in the opposing infant ry li nes . Once the ride of J tu tt le IIJd been rurued the ch.morry
migh t then also hurrv and hunt down the disper sed enemy,"
beginning to discharge their arrows as soon as the enemy came within
range (perhaps at a distance of two hundred meters or more). The archers
must have shot ever more rapidly and vigorously as the opposing forces
closed the distance between them. Of course many horses were killed or
wounded: the whole point of the battle (as Egyptian reliefs show clearly
enough) was to bring down as many of the opponent's chariots as possible.
The typical chariot force was probably deployed in a formation broader
than it was deep. On a flat plain, only the archers in a front rank of chariots
could have had an uninterrupted view of their opponents. And a charioteer
driving his horses at the gallop could not have followed too closely upon a
chariot in front of him, since he would need to be able to maneuver around
any sudden casualry, lest his own team should pile onto a comrade's immo-
bilized vehicle. Perhaps a host of chariots was typically deployed in three or
four ranks, ranged behind one another at intervals of twenty or thirty
meters, but it is not impossible that on occasion all the chariots were
deployed in a single rank. Since (as we shall see in the following section)
Thutmose himself rode in the center of the frontline at Megiddo, we must
infer that front-line chariots were not conspicuously at risk, and that in
turn suggests that the chariot formation was wide and shallow. It probably
was important to extend one's line far enough that it could not be out-
flanked by the enemies' vehicles.
What happened when the opposing chariot forces charged against each
other will be imagined in various ways. Horses, unlike men, cannot be
driven to charge directly into their opponents, and so we must imagine that
in a battle between two more or less equal chariotries the two lines slowed
as they closed and then somehow slipped around or through each other
(when a large chariotry met a small one, on the other hand, the small force
would perhaps either have turned tail long before closing or would have
been entirely enveloped, brought to a standstill, and thus destroyed). Per-
haps a chariot force may have divided as it approached the enemy, the
vehicles on the right pulling farther to the right in order to flank their
opponents, while the chariots on the left (all carrying, perhaps, left-handed
archers) pulled to the left. Contrarily, the objective may have been to drive
wedges into the enemy line, a compact squadron splitting apart the en-
emy's unbroken line, and the successive ranks funneling into and stretch-
ing the gap. It is barely conceivable that all along the line the formation was
loose enough that the two opposing lines could completely intermesh and
thus pass through each other, but in that case the casualties would have
been enormous.
After the surviving teams had made their way past each other, the ar-
chers may have faced the rear of their vehicles and fired once or twice at
their opponents as they receded. Then the two forces, if they were still
cohesive, must have wheeled around and begun their second charge. this
time from the opposite direction. Finally, when one of the forces had been
heavily depleted or thrown into disorder, the survivors would have made
no more return charges but would have tried to esc3pe to a citadel or a
guarded position.
There are two battles in the Late Bronze Age abour which at least a lirtle is
known. The Battle of Megiddo was commemorated by the victor, Thur-
mose III, on the walls of the temple of Amon at Karnak.v- In his twenty-
second year (ca. 1460 B.C.) Thutmose led a great army into the Levant in
order to establish his supremacy there and was opposed by a coalition of
Canaanite kingdoms under the leadership of the king of Kadesh. On the
ninth day after passing the Delta frontier fortress at Sile, Thutrnosc's army
was at Gaza, 150 miles distant; by the standards of antiquity and the
Middle Ages, he had moved very quickly,"! Learning that the Levanrine
forces were massed at Megiddo, Thutmose's officers worried that if the
Egyptian forces proceeded northward in a long column along the central
road, the vanguard would be attacked and overwhelmed before the rear
elements could catch up and be deployed. Thutrnose decided, however, to
maintain the single column, and to put himself at the head of it: "[Every
man] was made aware of his order of march, horse following horse, while
[his majesty] was at the head of his army."
Arriving at the Qinavalley, Thurrnose spread his force in order to span
the entire valley and in early afternoon came within sight of Megiddo and
the Canaanite forces. He decided to pitch a camp, however, and to delay
the battle until the following day: "Prepare ye! Make your weapons ready,
since one will engage in combat with that wretched enemy in the morn-
ing." After a night's sleep, Thutmose was advised that "the desert is well"
and that all-was in readiness. At dawn Thurrnose rode forth in his gold-
covered chariot. His battle line, according to the inscription, extended
from the Qina brook to a point notthwest of Megiddo, "while his majesty
was in the center, Amon being the protection of his person (in) the melee."
Since Thutrnose's chariotry must have included more than a thousand
vehicles (it routed a Levanrine chariotry of at least that size), we may
suppose that his battle line was indeed a long one. If the chariots were
91 See Wilson's rransl.nion of the inscription. ANET. 234-8.
"' Willi3m Murnane. The Road to Kadcsh: A Historical lnterpretation o(the Battle Reliefs
o( King Sety I at Karnak !ChIC3g0. 19S5). 145-50 (appendix 2. "Movements of Armies .md
Timings of Travel in Egypt and the Levant"), notes rhar the armies of Assyrian k i n ~ s <InO of
Alexander the Crear moved at a rate of between thirteen and tiftcen miles a day.
deployed in a single rank, the line would have extended for almost two
The battle then commenced. We have no details about the charge and are
told only about its outcome:
Thereupon his majesty prevailed over them at the head of his army. Then they
saw his majesty prevailingover them, and they tled headlong [to] Megiddo with
bees of fear. They abandoned their horses and their chariots of gold and silver,so
that someone might draw them (up) into this town by hoisting on their gar-
ments. Now the people had shut this town against them, (but) they [let down]
garments to hoist them up into this town.
Possibly the Canaanite chariotry did not complete even its initial charge
against the Egyptians, turning before the two lines neared each other and
fleeing to the city. There the crews leaped from their chariots and began
climbing the walls, undoubtedly protected by a covering barrage of arrows
shot by bowmen stationed on the walls, and assisted in their climb by ropes
and garment-lines let down from the top of the walls. The inscription
regrets the fact that at this point Thutmose's men began collecting the
enemy's horses and chariots ("an easy prey") instead of pressing on with
the attack and killing the enemy as they were being hoisted up the walls of
the city. Because of this shortsightedness, a siege of Megiddo was necessary.
Thutmose ordered the construction of a fortress to the east of the city, to
serve as the Egyptians' base during the siege, and divided the perimeter of
the city into sectors, assigning a commander to each. The siege was success-
ful, and the enemy princes eventually came out of the city "to kiss the
ground to the glory of his majesty and to beg breath for their nostrils." The
booty that Thutmose brought away from the campaign included 1,929
cows, 20,500 sheep, and many costly and beautiful things. More pertinent
to our interests are the military personnel and material:
[List of the booty which his majesty's army carried off from the town of]
Megiddo: 340 livingprisoners and 83 hands; 2041 horses, 191 6 stallions,
and ... colts; I chariot worked with gold, with a hodyof gold, belongingto that
enemy. [I] fine ch.inot worked with gold belonging to the Prince of
IMegiddoj . . . and 892 chariots of his wretched army-total: 924; 1 finebronze
coat of mail belonging to that enemy; [ll finebronze coat of mail belonging to
the Prince of Meg[iddo, and] 200 [leather] coats of mail belonging to his
wretched army; 502 bows; and 7 poles of meru-wood, worked with silver,of the
tent of that enemy.
The second Late Bronze Age battle about which we know at least a little
is the battle that Rarncsses II fought against Muwatallis II of Hatti in 1275,
when the young Ramesses was in the fifth of his sixty-seven years on the
throne. The battle was fought within sight of the city of Kadesh, in north-
ern Syria, and we know about it because Rarnesses II assiduously adver-
tised his version of it. He ordered it to be portrayed, with reliefs and
inscriptions, not only on his mortuary temple at Thebes (the Ramesseurn)
but also on temples at Luxor, Abydos, and Abu Sirnbel.":' More complete
texts of the inscription have also been found on two papyri, one of which
runs to eleven pages. As Rarnesses recounted the battle, it was a victory and
was won almost entirely by his own skill and bravery, his army having
panicked and fled. In fact, the battle seems to have been at best-for the
Egyptians-a draw, and several units in Rarncsses' army made their pres-
ence felt.">
Great battles were uncommon through most of the thirteenth century
B.C. The kings of Assur and Hattusas may have fought in the 1230s, but the
matter is quite unclear. % In the Aegean, there seems to have been very little
military activity from ca. 1375 to ca. 1225. For Egypt, the Kadesh cam-
paign was apparently extraordinary, since we know of nothing remotely
similar for the rest of Rnrnesscs' long reign. In his twenty-first year (1259)
he and the Hittite king arranged a peace treaty, after which the Levant
seems to have been mostly quiet until Ramesses' death in 1212. The Battle
of Kadesh may therefore have been by far the greatest battle fought any-
where in the eastern Mediterranean during either the fourteenth or the
thirteenth century, and we are fortunate to know something about it.
Rarnesses' army spent exactly one month in traveling more than five
hundred miles from Avaris, in the eastern Delta, to the vicinity of Kadesh,
which was one of Muwatallis's most important vassal states in Syria. We do
not know how many chariots and how many infantry Ramesses had as-
sembled, since in describing his force Rarnesses' scribes say only that "His
Majesty had made ready his infantry and his chariotry, and the Sherden of
His Majesty's capturing whom he had brought back by the victory of his
strong arm; supplied with all their weapons, .indthe plan of fighting having
been given to them. "97 The army moved in four divisions, named after the
gods Amon, Ptah, Re, and Seth, with Rarnesscs himself in the leading
division of Amon. Upon reaching the vicinity of Kadesh, and having been
given the false information that the Hittite army was far to the north,
94 For thereliefs seeWreszinski, Atlas, vol. 2. plates 63ff. (Luxor), R2ff. (Ramesseurn), and
I76ff. (AbuSimbel), Fortranslation ofthetextsseeAlan Gardiner, The Kadcsh Inscriptions of
Ramesscs II (Oxford, 1960). Gardiner's translations supersede- those of Breasted. AR, vol. 3,
9\ Forreconstructions of the battle seeBreasted, The Battle of Kadesh (Chicago, 1903):
'radm. Warfare, vel. 1, 103-10; Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant, 53-62. These reconstruc-
tions seem to me misleading only in the assumptions that the Hittites failed to achieve u
dear-cut victory because their chariot warriors were armed with lances instead of composite
bows (Yadiu, naturally enough, founJ this to be the major "weakness" of the Hittite
cha norr-y) and because Muwarallis failed, for one reason or another, to commit his immense
9h ltamar Singer, "The Bartle ot ?.. [ih nyu andtheEnd oftheHittite Empire," ZA"S (I 98S,:
"17 Gardiner's translation, Kadcsh, P25-30.
Amon division crossed the Orontes and proceeded north to a campsite.
When the second division, Re, began fording the river, the Hittite king
launched his chariots upon it from a concealed position near the city wall:
"Bur the wretched Chief of Kharti stood in the midst of his arrnv which was
with him and did not come our ro fight through fear of His Majesty. But he
had sent men and horses exceeding many and multitudinous like the sand,
and they were three men on a chariot and they were equipped with all
weapons of warfare."?"
In what follows we can deduce that the Re division, caught astride the
Orontes, consisted of both chariotry and infantry, neither of which with-
srood the onslaught. The Hittite chariots "came forth from the sourh side
of Kadesh and broke into (?) the army of Pre' in its midst as they were
marching and did not know nor were they prepared ro fight. Thereupon the
infantry and the chariotry of His Majesty were discomfited before
them. n99 With the Hittite chariots in hot pursuit, many of the Re chariots
fled toward the Amon division, which was setting up camp under the
supervision of Ramesses himself. The enemy chariots "hemmed in the
followers of His Majesty who were by his side," but Ramesses quickly
"assumed the accoutrements of battle and girded himself with his cors-
let. n 100 After ordering couriers ro rake a message ro the third division
(Ptah), commanding it ro speed to assistance, Ramesses mounted his char-
iot and entered the fray, perhaps with little more than his own chariot
His Majesty went ro'look about him and he found 2,500 chariots hemming him
in on his outer side, consisting of all the champions of the fallen ones of
Khatri..., they being three men on a chariot acting as a unit, whereas there was
no high officerwith me, no charioteer, no soldier of the army, no shield-bearer,
my infantry and my chariotry scampering away before them, and not nne of
them stood firm to fight with them.""
Rarncsscs claimed not only to have rushed into the thick of the Hittite
squadrons bur to have wheeled abour and charged no less than six times:
Then said His Majesty to his shield-bearer: "Stand firm, steady thy heart, my
shield-bearer. ! will enter in among them like the pounce of a falcon, killing,
slaughtering, and casting to the ground. What careth my heart for these effemi-
nate ones at millions of whom! rake no pleasure?" Thereupon His Majesty
st.rrted forth quickly and entered at a gallop into the midst of the battle for the
n lbid., PbS-70.
". lbid., P70- 75.
100 lbid., BSO-B90. For reliefs of the camp scenes and the main chariot hattie see
Wreszinski, AII,Is, vol. 2, plates 6.\ 70, 82, 84, 88, In.
101 Gardiner, Kadesb, )'80-90.
sixth time of entering in amongst rhem.I was after them like B"'31 at rhe moment
of his powcr.iv-
Whatever the truth may be about Rarnesse-,' personal heroics, he and his
fellow charioteers from Amon division and the fugitives from Re evidently
held the field long enough ro enable the Prah chariots ro arrive. At that
point the Hittite chariots too were reinforced, by a thousand chariots of
Muwatallis's allies.
While the battle had been raging, certain of the Hittite chariot crews had
dismounted to begin plundering the Amon camp, which apparently had
been abandoned by its defenders. Bur as the Hittites were engaged in
looting, warriors whom Rarnesscs called "the nearim from Arnor" and
whom Yadin described as "Canaanite mercenaries serving in the army of
Rarneses Il" came to save what was left of the camp and fell upon the
Hittite crews, killing them all.")]
How many casualties there were on either side, and whether either side
was in fact victorious, we do not know. Rarnesscs claimed victory, bur the
Egyptians apparently lost little rime in moving sourh, perhaps to avoid
another surprise attack.
The size of the Hittite army can be pieced together from several state-
ments in the inscriptions. Rarnesses reports that the chariorry that
Muwatallis initially launched against the Re division and that followed up
with an attack upon the Amon camp, consisted of twenty-five hundred
vehicles, each carrying three men. Late in the battle, perhaps after the Ptah
division had arrived on the scene, Muwatallis launched another thousand
chariots, these apparently being allied squadrons.'?"
We also have precise figures for the Hittite infantry. Ramesses' reliefs,
and the accompanying legends, indicate that Muwarallis had one large
body of warriors before him and another behind him. Breasted read the
two figures as eight thousand and nine thousand respectively, bur Alan
Gardiner corrected the reading to eighteen thousand and nineteen thou-
sand.J''" Gardiner's readings are probably to be preferred, although there is
not yet a clear consensus among Egyprologisrs.t't«
Whether numbering seventeen thousand or thirty-seven thousand, the
1<" Ibid., P2IS-22S.
I'" lbid., RII; d. Yadin, Arl o(War(are, vol. 2. 267.
1(,4 Ibid., PI50-IS5.
ros lbid., R43 and R44.
llJ6 For discussion see Bell. Organization, 356-57. Beal consulted Murnane on the read-
ing and at n. 1116 quotes from Murnane's response: "'"I don't think Gardiner is necessurilv
wrong (and he Seems to have hecn accepted in this by more recent scholars) but I would still
say that there is some uncerr.unrv." Murnane's own The Road to Kadesb deals with events
le;1ding up to Rarnesses' campaign, but not with the campaign itself. Kitchen, Pharaoh
Triumpbont, 53. accepts Gardiner's readings.
Hittite infantry at Kadesh was substantial, and it is therefore all the more
noteworthy that it took no part in the battle itself, the Hittite king sending
only his chariorry (approximately ten thousand, five hundred men) to the
attack. Not only do the inscriptions say that Muwatallis sent his chariots
into battle, while he stayed at Kadesh with the infantry, but the reliefs tell
the same story. The reliefs of the battle on the Ramesseum and the Luxor
and Abu Simbel temples portray a massed infantry standing guard near the
city of Kadesh, toward which the routed Hittite chariots flee.107 It would
therefore appear that Muwatallis used his massed Infantry as a defensive
force, forming a cordon around the city gates and the approaches to
The size of Rarnesses' army is nowhere stated, but chariotry appears to
have been its offensive element. Except for the Amorite ne'arim, who prob-
ably (as we shall see in chapter 11) were "runners" attached to the Amon
division, no footsoldiers under Ramesses' command arc known to have
engaged the enemy. When the king, with the Amon division, was informed
that the Re division had been routed, he seems to have counterattacked
with as many of the Amon chariots as could be got ready, charging and
turning about to repeat the charge six times. Whatever infantry formation
was included in the Amon division was evidently not part of its offensive
force and in fact was not even sufficient to defend the camp. One may
suppose that in Rarnesses' army, as in Muwatallis's army, the chariotry's
charge was not coordinated with the charge of an infantry formation.
107 For the three reliefs see Yadin, Art ofWarfare, vol. 1,238.
Chapter Eleven
T IS SURPRISING to discover how little information survives about
Late Bronze Age No infa?,tryman's archive been
to compare with the chariot tablets from Knossos, the horse texts
from Ugarit and Hattusas, and the many Nuzi tablets dealing with the
chariot corps. As a result, in each of the text-based studies that have been
done on things military at Nuzi, Hatrusas, Ugarit and Mycenaean Greece,
the space devoted to infantry is only a small fraction of that devoted to
chariotry.' A general study of Late Bronze Age infantry has yet to be made.
In lieu of information, it has been widely assumed that Late Bronze Age
infantries were much the same as infantries in other periods of antiquity.
More particularly, it has been supposed that in battles all through the Late
Bronze Age infantries played the primary role, with the chariotries in
support. These assumptions do not seem to be borne out by the meager
evidence that we have.
In better-documented periods of antiquity, the infantry was central to an
army's attack, and horse troops were peripheral. Horse troops operating
independently were useful for reconnaissance, for harassing an enemy line
of march (as the Syracusan cavalry harassed the Athenian hoplites on their
retreat in 413 B.C.), or for small-scale action, but in a pitched battle horse
troops regularly served to support the infantry', attack. Persian, Greek,
and Roman battle tactics required that the movement of infantry and horse
troops be coordinated, the infantry normally forming the center of a battle
formation and the horse troops being posted at the infantry's right and left
flanks or being held in reserve for commitment after the infantry battle had
begun. Occasionally, as Hannibal did at the Trebia River, a commander
might order his cavalry to initiate the battle, in order to draw the enemy
infantry into a position of his choosing. But whatever role was assigned to
the horse troops was chosen with the infantry battle in mind, since in
classical antiquity an army's center of gravity was invariably its infantry.
This "normal" balance has also been assumed for the Late Bronze Age.
The thesis that Mycenaean chariots hauled infantrymen to and from a
battlefielcf is based on the assumption (common in archaeological circles)
1 Chapter III of Kendall's \Varfare is a lexicon of military terms from Nuzi; approximately
SOpercent of the terms refer to horses, chariots, and the chariot corps. In Bears Orgattization
there are 36 p3ges {58-9J} on the chariotry JnJ only two (103-4) on the infantry. Lejeune's
and Franccscherti's text-based studies of Mvcenae.m warfare deal primarily with two topics:
chariots .mcl the o-leatablets.
iJ6 A .\ 1 \ LI TAR Y E X I' L. A N A T \ II N
th at the My ce naeans fought on foot . So me scho la rs have in fact su pposed
th at in the Near East as well char iots we re mi lita rily usefu l only as infantry
tr an sports. Thus Jacques Gerner. co mpa ri ng the military chario ts of China
wit h those of ules civilisations oc cidenrales," fou nd it noteworthy th at in
China the cha riot was acr ua lIy used i ll batt le: he assn rued th at in the Wes t it
se rved only as a ta xi fo r footsold iers, especia lly those needi ng a fas t ge ta -
wa y fro m the buttlcfield.v Even Egyptol ogi st s have been inclined to see th e
infa ntry as basic to New Kingdom war fare. As noted in chap te r 10, Schul-
ma n recently proposed that in New Ki ngd om Egypt the cha riot ry played a
marginal ro le while the infa nt ry bore th e brunt of th e fighting (he assumed
t ha t th ere were fifry infantryme n for each cha rio t). In R. O. Faulkner' s
reconstru ct ion of Ne w Kingd om wa rfa re, cha riots a re more import a nt but
nevertheless funct ion pr ima rily as a screen for a massed infa ntry: " In a field
act io n it seems to have bee n th e chariotry wh o to ok th e first shock of battle,
th e infantry advancing behind th em to ex ploi t a tacti cal success o r to
stem th e ene my's adva nce if matters went awry, so mewhat as in modern
warfa re the infantry o perat e behind a screen of a rmoured vehicles."] Sim-
ilarl y, the th esis th at Hittite cha rio t wa rr iors fo ught wi th the thrusting
s pe a r gene ra lly presupp oses th at the pri mary ob jective aga ins t which th e
Hittite char iots delivered their fro nt al charge wa s a n enemy infantry
formati on.
The co ncl usions reach ed in chapter 10 a bo ut the nature of cha r iot war-
fare leave little room fo r th e cla sh of close-order infantry formatio ns . Bat-
tles betwee n east ern Mediterranea n ki ngdoms of the Lat e Bronze Age, like
those desc ribed in the /'..uihabharata, must have consis ted primarily of two
cha riot fo rces cha rging ag a ins t and past each othe r and then ci rcl ing back
to cha rge each othe r a gain, the a rche rs all th e while shoot ing agai nst th e
o pposing squadrons. How a mass for ma tion of offensive infa ntry co uld
have co ntributed so met hing to such a battl e (or even have kept abreas t of it )
is not sel f-evident, a nd tha t it d id ca nno t be taken for gra nted .
We have seen tha t at Kad esh th ere was no enco unte r between opposing
in fantri es, nor does ther e seem to ha ve bee n one at Megiddo , the onl y othe r
Lat e Bronze Age bat tle about which so me details are known. In describing
hi s army 's march to Megiddo, Thutmose III noted the pres ence of an
infa ntry, " but he doe s not me ntion it in co nnect ion with the battle itself,
a nd his boory list impli es that th er e was no infa ntry engagement (t he
Egy pt ian s, it will be recall ed, slew fewer th an a hundred men and captured
.1 Ge rner, " Note sur le cha r en Chine, " J 10 : " Les indi cations qu 'on possede pour lcs
civilisations occidentale, laissenr pcnser que le char sert norrnal ement J U trans port des
comba rta nts ;}pied d'oeuvre et leur permet !Oi besom est de prendr e 1.1 Iui te. Cc n'es t p J.S en
char que sc der oulenr ordiua irernent les comb.irs, l.e combat en char est J U conrraire de reglc
en Clune."
• Faul kner, "Egvpn.m "l ilitary Organizano n, " ./1-: 04 39 (19S3 ;: 4.L
, ANt: T. 2.15 (trans. John Wi!>on ).
r o o r S O L. DI E R S 137
only 340, while seizi ng 92 4 cha riot s a nd 2041 horses). Appa rentl y Thut-
mose's infantry was not put to wo rk until th e seven-mo nt h siege of
Megiddo began. On the Ca naanite side th ere sur el y a lso wer e infant rymen,
but d ur ing the ba tt le th ey may ha ve been stat io ned at Mcgi ddo itsel f,
serving as defensive bowme n at op the walls and-unti l they pani cked a nd
closed them-before the ga tes of th e cit y.
Refe rence s to less famo us ba tt les al so co nsp icuous ly ign ore infantry
enco unters. In th e Nuzi text s ar e such remini scen ces as "when the chariots
of Hanigal but ga ve battle at the to WII of Lub ti" o r " when th e chariots gave
battle in Silliawa. I" Possibl y infa nt rymen als o gave battle a t these times
and pl aces ; but if they did, t hei r co nt ributi on was appa rentl y too sma ll to
have bee n ap preciated o r mentioned. lf one is loo kin g for th e kin d of ba tt le
fam iliar fro m cl assical antiqu ity-e- heavy infantri es fight ing hand- to-hand
in th e center, with horse t roo ps en gaged on the wings-one will search in
vain th e documents a nd picto ri al representati ons th at h ave come down to
us fro m th e Lat e Bronze Age kingdoms prio r to th e Cat ast rophe. The
notion t hat Late Bronze Age cha rio t ri cs fought in support of massed infan -
try fo rma tio ns is a misapprehension a nd a n a nac hronis m.
The re is no doubt th at so me Near Easte rn kin gs rai sed substa nt ial infan-
tries wh en th ey went to wa r. Alt hough we have no figures fo r New King-
dom Egypt, it is probably safe to assume th at on a major campa ign the
pharaoh too k a long severa l thousand infantrymen. Egyptian footsoldier s
were eith er " shooters " (bowmen) or nahhtu -aa, a term that lit er all y mean s
"s trong-a rm boys" a nd deno tes hand-to -h an d fighters.
The "shooters, "
perhaps a ll na ti ve Egypti an s, were grouped in co mpa nies of 20 0 o r 250
men , th e comp anies bearing na mes suc h as " At en Appea rs for Him" o r
" Pacifier of Gods.? "
The Great King of Hatti was ofte n accompan ied o n ca mpa ign by man y
mo re men o n foot th an in cha riots. Hi s vassa l, the king of Kizzuwatna,
brought to hi s lord a force of o ne thousand infant rymen a nd o ne hundred
cha riots ; even if each of the cha riots had a three-man crew, the infant ry
would have out numbered th e men of th e cha r iot ry by more than three to
one. A simila r ratio is attest ed in the forces of two kingdoms that fough t
against th e Hi t tires." And at Kadesh, as we have seen, M uwaralli s was
accompan ied by a n infantry formation of at least sevent ee n thousand and
pro ba bl y th ir ty-seven thousan d me n. The Hittit e vassals of ea stern Syria
mu st have brought thou san ds of troops to their confrontati on with
Tuku lti-Ni nurta I of Assu r, since he claims to have ca ptu red twen ty-eight
thousa nd of them ."
, Kendall . W" rf" re. 114 and 132.
,. Sti llma n .1nJ Tall is, Armies, S.
7 IbiJ. See also f aul kner. " Egy ptian :>. l ilit a l)· O rga nization. " 45.
II Beal, () rg iJm=J t i ml , 702. .
q D. D. Luckenbill. Ancien t RIt( nrds of A. .>syrJil and H.llry/oHid. ve l . I. nov. 164 Jn J 171.
The crucial quest ion is not how man y foot soldiers there were in Egypt or
in Hatri but what they did. Hirtirologists have recognized that despit e its
II size the infa ntry seems not to have counted for much in the typical Hitt it e
1I,'tI,'{...L batt le. Oli ver Gurney concluded that in most battles the Hitt ite infantry
be.I: . played on ly "a subordinate part ," and Beal found that " the key part of the
j ! to. ' ,,, Hittite armed forces was the chariotry. " 10 The reason why the tabl ets say
1; /)"'-'Yof! so little abo ur the infantry, I believe, is that in the typical battl e there was no
i! engage ment of massed infant ries.
We have evidence for infantries goi ng on the attack in the Late Bron ze
I Age pr ior to the Ca tastrophe but not in conjunction with a chariotry. A
l i
, , cont rast emerges, it seems, between warf are against civilized enemies and
:I warf ar e aga inst men from the hint erland , whom I sha ll call barb ar ians.
:' .;,' ,' The kingdoms, and cities genera lly,were sited in fert ile plains, which could
be dominated and defended by chariots. When one king attacked ano ther
the confront ation was therefore a cha riot battle. Similarly, a ki ngdo m
!i could depend on it s cha riots against bar bar ians who raided its perimeter.
Egyptia n reliefs.illusrrabte battl es ihn w.hichdRdamhesski es thde Great leddhis
• I arrorry agai nst vanous tri esmen w 0 inva e t e ing om or its e-
!I: pende ncies. Reliefs on a temp le at Beit-el-Weli show Ramesses in his char-
U"J:' J' shooti ng his arrows at a crowd of Nu bian infantry bowmen.II No
tI ,e. lei"'> • Egyptian infantry men are shown in the reliefs or menti oned in the inscrip-
J.. .s tion s, and the relief depicts only Ramesses and two other Egyptian chariot
, Ii h c.e./l¢.S archers, shooting into the crowd of retr eat ing Nubians. A second relief at
tJc ...vt. "'7 Beit -el-Weli Rarnesses' victory over Shos hu, or Bedouin, tribes-
e « {;:>'It*'..J1 men. The Shoshu warrior typically carries a single spea r (evidently a
li et,.,:at.s thrusti ng spear) and a sho rt weapon whose functi on has not been ident i-
'1 tied} ZLike the Nubia ns, the Shoshu warrio rs carry no shield and wear no
! ' metal armor. Here too, i t may be that Ramesses depended in part on
!I offensive infantrymen ,. but they arc not shown or mentione.d.
I',' , On the other hand , 11\ order to carry the batt le to mountamou s or rough
11' terr ain , where chariot s could not go. a king necessar ily depended on an
iI ,: infantry. '[here is one clear case of an Egyptia n infantry force confronti ng a
iI barb ar ian infantry pr ior to the Catastrophe, alth ough .it is hypothetical
: I rath er than real. Our source here IS the Papyrus Anastasi, one of the most
il illumi nating pieces of evidence we have for the milita ry Situatio n on the eve
of the Carastrophe. t ' Thi s papyrus, dated to the end of the Nineteent h
Dyna sty, is a letter written by a royal official named Hori to an ambi tio us
10 Gurney. The Hittites (Harmondsworth: 1961), 106; Beal, Orgolniz,;ztio11, 698.
II Yadin. Art ofIVolr{olre, vol, 1, 234- 35.
IL For rhe « lief see ibid., 232-33; YaJin suggests that the second wea pon of rhe Shoshu
tribes men may be a sidle sword. One Sh03U warri or carries two short spears. presumably
javeli ns.
11 See Wils«m\ rr.rnslntion of rhe in ANET,
but inexperienced and untu tored young man. IIIthe course of ridiculing his
correspondent's ignor ance of pra ctical affairs, Hori purs before him a hy-
pothet ical military situa tion, aski ng him what sort of food supplies he
would need were he quartermaster for an army of five thou sand men sent
to crush a rising of the nc'arim in Djahan (the significance of this casus
belli we sha ll exa mine in chapte r 14). Hor i details what thi s hypoth eti cal
expedition ary force would consist of: "Th e bowmen of the army whi ch is
before thee amount to 1900, the Sherden 520, the Qeheq 1600, the Mesh-
wesh (100), and the Nubians 880- TOTAL 5000 in all, not count ing their
officer s. " Since food for the horses is not part of the problem, we may
assume that the nineteen hundred bowmen are on foot rather than in
chariots. And since the other th irty-one hundred troops-all ba rba rian-
are di fferent iated from the bowmen, they are presumabl y hand -to-hand
warrior s.
Th e Papyrus Anastasi docs suggest that at the end of the thirt eenth
cent ury B.C. the Egypti ans could field an infant ry force of five thou sand
men, most of these being profession al skir mishers. The papyrus does not,
however, suggest a close-o rde r for mation (each of the nat ional contingents
apparently has its own officers, and the type of battle envisaged must be a
guerrilla since it will be fought against disor ganized tribe smen). And since
no chariots accompany the five thou sand infant rymen the papyrus cer-
tainl y does not contradict our thesis that prior to the Catast roph e chariots
were not used to support mass formations of offensive infantry. In battles 6.../
fou ght close to home, or agai nst another kingdo m, a palace could rel y <4 t'r,'k"/ ;;;
entirely upon its cha riot force. Onl y on those occas ions whe n a kingdom Wolillj,'! R. 1- ";
fought against barb arian tribesmen in the tribesmen's own hab itat would be / 4 "" 1'>-
footsoldiers bear most or all of the burden. CD",,£ (,,;.......
Although we may generali ze that in the Late Bronze Age men of the cities
and kingdo ms normally relied on chariotry, an exception may-be inferred
for the kingdom of Assur, on the northeastern frontier of the civilized
world. In the thirteenth cent ury, as was noted in cha pter 2, the kings of
Assur freque ntly fought against barbarous enemies on their northern and
eastern borders, and here the mount ainous terr ain must have required the
empl oyment of a sizeabl e Assyri an infantry. When Gutians, from Guri in
the Zagros Mountains, came down into the plain to raid Assyr ian depen-
dencies, Sha lmaneser I (1274- 1245) left his infantry behind and swiftly
rode out - with only a third of his chariots-to rout the Gutians, "whose
numbers arc count less as the sta rs of heaven, and who know how to
plunder." 14 Bur when Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244- 1208) boasts of invading
Guti itself and of slaughteri ng " the armies of the Kuri (in their ) mountai n
J.4 Luckenbill, Ancia'll Records of Assyri,;l Jnd Babyl onia, vol. I, no. 117.
fastnesses," 15 we mu st ass ume th at th is was done by a n infantr y capable of
han d-to- hand figh tin g. Perhaps th e Assyr ian s' long ex pe rience in in fa ntr y
warfar e wa s not unrelat ed to the fan that the kingdo m of Assur was one of
the few to survive the Cata strophe.
In ki ngdo ms other th an Assur depende nce o n an offensive infa ntry mu st
have been unusu al. In the Aegea n, the pa laces in th e pl ains may have been
occasio na lly rai ded by mo unt ai neers ea rly in th e Lat e Hell ad ic per iod ;
a lt ho ugh th e pla ins co uld be defen ded by cha r iot s, ret ali ati on wou ld have
been und ertak en by infantr ies. T he famous " Ca pt ain of t he Black s " fresco
from Knossos seems to have show n a t roo p of black spe ar men, led by a
" Minoa n capta in. I '; Wha t rema ins of the Pylos "Battle Scene (see pl at e
2) shows the pal ace's wa rri or s overco ming a gro up of savages clad in
a nima l skins. I ? This is not a barrle between in fan tr y fo rmat ions but a
guerrilla in whi ch each of th e pa lace 's men duel s with an oppo ne nt. Sinc e
t he Pyli an s wea r boar's-rusk helmet s, they a re o bvio usly wa rri ors of high
sta tus (the tusks of mo re than sevent y bo a rs we re required to make a single
helmet ). But wh ether t he Pylos fresco reflects co ntemporary life o r recall s a
legendar y event, we do not know-and at a ny rat e it is doubt ful tha t in the
pax My cenaica the pal aces were ofte n t hrea te ned by bar barous o ppo ne nts.
T he Hittite kin gs ha d more oppo rt unit ies to use an inf ant ry. From tim e to
ti me they campai gn ed agains t ba r ba r ia ns who fled into hilly or moun-
ta ino us country, and on such occas io ns the Hittite king boasts of havi ng
pursued the fugitives on fool. It may be th at the first phase of such a war
featu re d the Hittite chari ot ry, a nd the second phase-in rough ter rai n-
the infantry. Even for t he Hittites, howev er, inf antry figh tin g was unusu al.
In hi s stu dy Richar d Beal ident ified th e Sumerogr am ERIN. MES Gi R. tJ LA as
t he st rict equivalent of o ur word "infant r y" (as in th e express io n " t he
cha ri otry and the infa ntry " ) but found o nly seven inst an ces of th e term in
the Hittite texts.! " Referen ces to infa nt ry in docu ments from o the r Lat e
Bro nze Age kin gdoms see m to be eq ually sca rce.
In a ny case, wha t evidence we have sugg es ts that pr ior to the Ca tast ro-
phe infa nt ry ba tt les occur red only in pl aces t hat char iots co uld not go . In
t he pl a ins a nd in "normal " ter ra in, where the ch ariot fo rces were at home,
,\ lbid., no. 152-
I f> On th i-, fresco see Arthur The ['oJlole/? ofA1illo :;at !\.JIUSSO:;; . ve l. 2., pa rt 2 (London,
1Y2Xl. 7S5 - 57 and the acco mpanying color plate (plate xiii ]. The black sold ier running,
behind the " captain" seems to ca rr y 3. single spear. The da te of the fresco ca nno t be
ascertained (ir W.I S founJ near-s-but not in- thc House of the Frescoes). Evans noted that the
fn gl11t:nl s " diner in chn ructer " from those In the fresco crock and " seem ro have helou ged to J
somewh.n later dare. ,.
17 For the fLTr,mellts in their st.ire J OlI for Pier de jong's reconstru ction see
L ing, Th e [><11.,,--(' of Nestor at P)'/o j 111 \X!{'st er n ,\ ft' 5> senioJ. vol. 2: The ir escnes (Pr inceron .
1%9), pl.uc \ 1 ' 12 H 04,: for Lon):\ comment , sec pp. 42-47.
t x BeJ.!. 103 - 4.
. ••-:.:.:.:-:.:.:
-:-:-;«-:-"' .«.:-:-:-:-:-:-:«-;--.-;.,;-;.:- -: .
r LATE 2. Reconstr ucted " Bat tle Scene" fresco from Pylos
the cha riotries th emsel ves did the fighti ng. In the Late Bronze Age char iots
did net serve- whether as a scree n in the fro nt or as pincer s on th e fla nks-
to suppo rt mass infa nt ry format ions.
On di e cont ra ry, before the Ca tas t ro phe foor soldie rs see m to have sup-
port ed the cha riotr y, O n the ma rch , footso ldiers ca n be assumed to have
served as an escort for th e cha riots movin g in column a nd as a gua rd for the
nightl y encampment (in whi ch a cha riot ar my, its horses a ll un yoked a nd
tethe red , would have been exceptio na lly vulnerable), In the afterma th of 01
vict ory, infantr ymen wo uld pro babl y have pur sued fug it ives who tled to
144 A .\ 11 L I T A RYE X P LA S A T l O S
PLATE 3. A sliardann skirmi sher slaying ,1 Hittite charioteer at Kadesh. Abydos
fortification). Possibl y on so me occasions ski r mishers rode into battl e on
their co mrades' cha r iots (the Greek apobates comes to mind her e) a nd
di smounted when their vehicles began to close with the en emy. Alt er-
nativel y, skirmishers may ha ve moved as a troop. In reliefs, sq uads of four
Egyptian infantrymen are so me times shown mar ching al on gsid e a cha rio t
as it proceeds toward battl e, the four ca rryi ng shields and eithe r spears or
sickle swords. The Arnorite ne'arim wh o saved the Amon ca mp in 1275
s .c, see m to ha ve reached the ca mp as a co mp any.
The unusu all y real isti c Abydos reli efs of the Kadcsh battl e show th at
Egyptian runner s mu st have worked closel y with their chariot squadro n,
their fun ct ion being to deal with th ose of th e enemy who were on foot. In a
cha r iot battle, the enemy on foot wo uld have included not only the o ppos-
ing runner s but also cas ua lt ies from th e cha riots themselves: skir mishe rs
mu st thus have been respon sibl e for " finishing off" an enemy cha riot crew
whose vehicl e had been immobili zed. We ca n assume rh.rr in a ny cha riot
barrlea r.ipidlv moving char iot host would leave its casualties in its wak e.
Th ese might be indi vidual men , wounded or simply fallen from th eir cha r-
iots ; or the cas ualty might be an ent ire cha r iot .md its crew, on e of th e
horses having been killed o r wounded, or perhap s the vehicle itself havin g
been immo bilized by a broken wheel o r ax le. The disp at ching of these
stra nde d cas ua lt ies , it is clear from Egypti an picto rial evidence (see plat es J
and 4), was left to foor soldiers. Armed with a shorr spea r and dirk . the
skirmishe r was indeed indi spensabl e for " II ph ases of a chariot battle. W,
mi ght say that whereas in Greek and Roma n times horse troops suppo rted
the infa ntry fo rma t ion, in cha riot wnrt a rc infant rymen as indi vidu a ls or in
sma ll squ ads supported the horse troop to which they were attached.
Alt hough very lit tle ca n be learned a bo ut the se runners, we ca n hardl y
avoid supposing th at ever y cha riot co rps held them . Although detected in
Egypt by Schulma n, the y ha ve not yet been spott ed in the lexicographi cal
fog that enve lops mil ita ry matter s at Knossos, Pyle s, and orh er sites wi th
limited pictori al evidence on war fare . It is nevertheless possible that the
ahu in fourteenth-century N uz i was a cha rio t runner. Lit erall y, the ahu was
a " bro the r," but the designation was in fact used for a certain kind of
warri or a nd most likel y for a cert a in kind of foorsoldier attached to the
PLATE 4 . Ashurd.m.i skirmisher cut t i ng off the hand of a slain Hittit e ch ariotee r at
Kadesh, Ahydos relief
chariorry. Kendall 's anal ysis shows that these warriors were neither char-
iot eer s nor cha riot warriors but were attached to chariot units, and that
there were two such brothers for every cha norcer.>
It is certain that the Hitt ite kings used cha riot runners, but littl e can be
said about them . Beal 's survey turned up several references to troops who
were to " run before" the Hittite king.
No Hittite term tor "c ha riot
runner " emerged from the texts, although the piran huyatalla (" forerun-
ne r" ) may in several passages have some such rneanin g.> It is also possible
that the shariluuoa troops, who seem to have been a tertium quid alongside
"infa nt ry" and cha riotry, were skirrnishers.?" The importance of runners
in Hitt ite cha riot warfare was after all great enough that Rarnesses II
ment ion ed them immedia tely afte r the cha riots themselves. The " poetic"
acco unt of the Battle of Kadesh declar es that Rarnesses .. fou nd twent y-five
hundred cha riot-teams sur rounding him in his road, together with all the
runners belongi ng to the foes of Hatti and the numerous count ries which
were with him." 30 These Hittite runn ers must be cont rasted wi th the stolid
ranks of infantry that sta nd mot ionl ess, in the reliefs, around the fortress of
In Linear B tablets no term has yet been int erpret ed as the equ ival ent of
ski rmis her or runner. The professional warri or s employed by the Pylos and
Knossos palaces, however, may very well have been intended to serve in
that capaci ty. There may be a bit of pictorial evidence for Mycenaean
runners (or, more accurately, walkers). On a late thirteenth- or ea rly
twel fth- century krater from Tir yns two warri or s, each armed with a short
spea r and a sma ll, round shield, pro ceed on foot in front of a chari ot.
I It is
Kendal l, \VtITfarc. 73. finds that " the ' brothers' and cha rioteers h.r..'e the same
co rmna nding officers, and that the former are genera lly twice .1S" numerous the: lar rer. "
!' B<., I. Organization. 23 4- 35. 1.37. 23811.723. and 555 .
I N For references see ibid.. 554- 59; Ik:tl's own preference is to translate the ter m J S
" lea der " or " vanguurdsma n." -
.... Bea t. ibi d.. 125- 27, cires a number of texts rh.rr refer to "rile infant ry, the ho rse rroopv,
.ind rhe sharikllwd." but no text the basis for rhe different iation. Cf. Beal's sum-
mary: .. If the sarikuusa- we re neit her infantry no r ho rse tr oops, what wert: they? . . . On the
basis (.I f pr esenr evide nce ir is impossible to SJy what so rt of rroop s rhey were , " In private
co rrespo ndence Beul wel comes the idenrificatio n of the sharik uu -a tro ops >IS cha riot runners
bur regrt.' rs th ar "ir canner be proven one way or anot her. "
h' Kadcsh poem. lilies 84-85. " tr anslated by Schu lma n, " Egyptia n Chariotry," 90 n. 111
(d. p. 89 n. 106 ); the Egypt ian term used here is pbrr, accompanied by an ideog ra m of :I
running man armed with shi eld and spe.u. In Gardi uer 's rranslan on (KJdt!5h, P85) the wo rd is
rr.msl.ued nor AS "runners " but .1S " cha mpion s. " In his nore o n the line G.lf uiner explai ns :
"PI,TT means hrera lly 'runner,' but \'It''' , i 54 1. 14-I X shows that ir WJs A gener al term for
doughry warriors, " On the Hitti te runn ers see .1150 0 Stillman a nd Talli s, Annie's , 41.
n Vcrmeu!e and K.lrJ.geo rghi\ . M y t-t'l hll'u H PJill tillg, 108- 9, with plat e X, I .
Although the .m isr did not show th e warriors wi th ;lny other weapo ns, he mJy have intended
rhe .:; p e; l r\ .I S rhmw ing-vpea r-, o r the sha ft is with the fingerrip s of .1 coc ked
lu nd, The .tut horv J;He the vase [0 the tr.rnvirion between LH JUB.1I1d me.
also poss ible that the apobates known from first-millennium athletic con-
tests was the distant descendant of a seco nd- millenn ium chariot runner. V
Let us summarize what can be deduced abo ut the role of infant rymen in
the Late Bronze Age kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean. Infant ry
battl es of a guerrilla type were evidently fought in ba rba ria, or in local es
impas sab le for cha riots. Kings also required an infantry for such stationary
assignment s as the siege or defense of a cit y. When the cha riotry was on the
march, foorsoldiers would have prov ided an esco rt and guarded the en-
campment . During the battle itself footsoldiers were appa rently employed
in one of two ways. Many of them seem to have served as a cordon, a haven
to which wor sted chariots could flee. Others served as hand-to-hand
skirmishers-or runners-who fought in immedia te support of the cha r-
iot squa dro n to which they were attac hed . These vario us responsibilities
were all importa nt , but they were neverth eless ancillary: infantrymen sup-
plement ed the cha riotry, rath er than the other way a round. Prior to the
Catastrophe there is no evidence for a clash of close-orde r infantry form a-
tions or tor chariot warriors support ing their comrades on foot.
The recruitment of footsoldiers by the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms is
consis tent with the secondary role that infant ry played in the Late Bronze
Age. There is, first of all, no evidenc e for a general call-up of adult males in
these ki ngdoms: nothing, that is, to par allel the citizen militias of Archai c
Greece and Italy or the tribal militi as of Israel and Ju dah in the earl y Iron
Age. Before the Catastrophe, kings depended upo n professional s rather
than upon mobilized civilians, and many infantrymen were apparent ly just
as professional (even though of relat ively low status) as were the chariot .
crews. Assyria, agai n, may have been exceptional. Since Assyr ia was a
front ie-r kingdom, the tradition of a tri bal milit ia may have prevailed there
in the second millennium, as it app arentl y did in the first (although the
pr act ice cannot be demonstrated from the few Mid dl e Assyrian document s
that survive). At any rat e, in those kingdoms for wh ich there is substantial
evidence the genera l population was never mobili zed.
Some kings ordered a conscri ption on occasion, but the num ber of men
called up was sma ll. Levies in Egypt tr aditionall y took one of every ten
templeservitor s for military service, but Rarnesses III pr ided himsel f on
II N. B. Crowther, "Th e Apob arcs Reco nsidered t Demosrhencs Ixi 23-9). " j ll S III
! 1991 ): 174- 76. bri ngs rogerher J II the Greek texts referring 10 rbis obscure athlete, who
leapt from J. cha riot ro acco mplish several feJrs of running .tud wa rfare . Crowrher (p. 174j
notes that fourth -centur y At heni an s irn.rgmed rh. rr rht' u/)011£lt,11 whom t hey were watchi ng
were replicati ng rhe WJy that "Greeks :1110 burbn ri.mv In Homer made war JgJinst each
ot her . "

",,/t.X- AOJ--
148 A MIL I T A R Y EX r L A N A T I () N
having forgo ne even thi s mod est exacnon.P For his toorsoldi ers he will
have relied upon rhe professiona ls whom he hired. These included bot h
"picked men " of Egypt and bar bari ans. The Egyptians were apparently nor
employed as runners, since a Mediner Habu inscription differentiarcs rhe
two grou ps.>'
Th e Hittite kings depended pr imar ily upon their regul ar a rmy, the pro-
fessiona l infant rymen known as UKU.USa nd sba rileutoa. When a serious
campaign was plann..d, thi s "standing ar rny ' W:lS routi nely supplement ed
by t roop s sent, under treaty, by pacified dist ricts on the front ier, especiall y
to the north of Harti (where thousan ds of Kasknns, renowned for thei r
valo r, were to be found).3) Onl y in emerge ncies was it necessary for the
Great King to levy troop s from the civilian popul ati on of Harri itself; and
when such levies were held, the recru its were discha rged as soon :IS
In Uga rit, Helrzer found some evidence for conscripnon.F indi vidu al s
from various villages being issued bows by the pal ace or being assigned as
rowers on the king's ships. But agai n, their role W:l Smar ginal , and for the
most part the king of Uga rir relied upon his professionals-the mdrglm-
guards and the tn nm (the latter seems to have meant something like "ha nd-
to-hand w:lrri or s" ).·lHThe entire milit a ry force at Ugarir, acco rding to
Hclrzer 's calculari on, was only 20 77 men, with one-twe lfth- or about 175
men-serving in :lny given month. Alt hough this figure may be much too
low (He lrzcr himself not es that the king of Ugarir may have had a thousand
cha riots), Hclr zer 's winnowing of the tabl et s has at least shown that there is
no evidence for any massed infantry in that cit y. Th e single lar gest conti n-
gent in his list a re the mdrg!m-gua rds, who acco unt for over hal f (1050
men) of his roral.! "
In the Mycenaean kingdoms there may have been no conscription at all.
At Pyla s, where there were severa l hundred chariots, the cha riot crews
must have been al most as numerou s as the infant ry. As indicated above, the
estimates fo r the pop ulat ion rul ed by the Pylos palace-range from 50,000
to 120,000 people, bur nowhere do we hea r of thousan ds of Messcnians
H Brea sted. AR. vol. 4 , no. 354; d. Gar din er. Egypt, 293.
\4 Edgert on an d Wi lson, Hist orical Recor ds of Ramscs III , plat e 29 : "The ar my is nssem -
bled. an d rhey ar c the bulls of rbe lan d: every pi cked ma n [of J ail [Egypt\ a nd the runne rs."
\,:: Be.il, OrgJ 1I iZJtio1l, 220-40.
I n On Hitt it e levies see ibid .• Ll3- 46.
r- Helrzer, Internal Org<1"i: JtlO" . 108- 11.
h i !\-1. Dietrich and O. Loretz, " Die Schard an a i n den Texren vo n Ugarir, " in R. St ieh l an d
G. A. Lebm.m n. cds .. Annls c und Unioersalgescb ichte : Festschr ift Hans Erich St ier (Munst er.
1972), .; J, sugges t "Nah kimpfer " as a rra nslarion of tnnrn, a te rm rhar ar Uga rit is almost
i nterc ha ngeable wi th shardan« .
,.... Hclrzer, Int ernal 105 - 8.
f 0 0 T S() L l) I L R S 149
being called to the colors. Th e five o-lea rablet s enumerate 77 0 pediieue, a
word thor is probabl y to be equated with classical Greek pedieis and
sho uld ther efore mean " foorsoldiers" (although it mu st be said that some
Mycenologisrs have recentl y deni..d that the o-ka tablet s have anyt hi ng to
do wit h military matt ers).'!" At :lny rare, the 770 men listed in these tablets
would be by far the largest number of men arresrcd for militar y pur poses
at Pylos, and the etbnica designati ng them suggest that they were not
Messcni nn nat ives."! That there were no militias in the pal ace-star..s of
rhirr cenrh- cenru ry Greece may seem a her etical view, since the Mycenaean
!awagetas is usually thought of as being a Homeri c "s hepherd of the host"
and so as mar shal of a vast a rray of infantry format ions . But in all of the
tablets the only reference to the Iau/agetas in a context that might conceiv-
ably be milita ry is an ent ry menti on ing " the cha rioteer of the latoagetas."42
At Knossos, cente r of a ki ngdom rulin g well over 100 ,00 0 people, the
largest numbers of men recor ded in the Linear Btablet s a re 900 and 428.
Here roo, as Jan Driessen has arg ued, what few infa nt rymen are attested
are very likely professional and non-Creran.O
One must suspect that in those Near Eastern kingdo ms in which con-
scriptio n was practiced the ca libe r of the levied troops was not very high.
Even in battl e the conscript may have been mor e a civilian than a soldier. In
Egypt, as not ed, one our of ten temple servit or s might be con scripted for
military duty, and persons so infrequently levied are not likel y ro have had
prior milit ary experience. Hi ttite records indi cate that the men collected in
a royal levy might be assigned ro a variety of menial tasks: serving as a
too rsoldie r was one, but alte rnatively the dr aftee might be ass igned to carry
ice or har vest a vineya rd.":' At Nuzi, the typical sab shepi (" footsoldier ")
was ap pa rently a conscript : in one of the few references to such a t roop, the
'UOn the pcdiieue in the o-ira ta blets see Lejeune, " Ci vilisat ion. " 31. Alexander Ucbi rel,
" On the ' Military' Cha racter of th e O · KA Tab lets ." Kadmos 23 (19X4): 136-63. argues rhar
the o-leatablets have nothing to do with military matters and instead refer to "some sort of
agr icu lt ur al wor k. probably plou ghing" (p. 163). Uchirel's argume nt has been str ongl y en-
do rsed by james T. Hooker. "Titles and Functi ons in th e Pylian State. " in Killen. Stud ies in
Mycen ocJn and Classical Greek Present ed to John Chadwick, 264- 65. If the o-i:a men we re
" foreigners, " ho wever, as they seem to have been , it is likely tha t their occupanon was
"omething mo re special ized th an wor king in the field s.
<I J. M. Driesse n and C. Macdon al d , " Seine Mil itary Aspects of the Aegean in th e Late
Fifteen th and Early Fourteenth Centu ries e.c .," AIJSA 79 ( 19X4): 49.
-I ': Lejeune, "Civilisation, " J 1 and 49.
" \ Driessen. .. Aspecrv," 5 1- 52 and 55 - 56 . lind ... no evide nce for " native " infan-
trymen i n th e service of the Knc ... sos pa lace . If th e designat ion s of the several gr oups of
infantryrneu mentioned in the ta blets are indeed eth nic, th e men we re ver y likely of foreign
origi n, "since these design.mons ca nnot he connected wit h Cretan pl ace-names menti oned in
the Kno vsr.m archi ve O f late r " (p. 52 j.
-l4 Beat, O rg J tI;:,uI '-Oll . 140- 4 1.
150 A M I LI T ARY E XP LA N A TI O r-; F O O T S OL D I E RS 151
from their ga rb, hair, and weapons one wou ld suppos e th e men to be nat ive
Among foreign professional s, the lowest level seems to have been th at of
the hapiru (or ' prw ), free-lancers who were hired merel y for a season or
campaign. Egypti an , Ugaritic, and Hittite text s all make menti on of hap-
iru, both as hired troop s a nd 3S tr oublesome elements agai nst whom actio n
had to be tak en. Th e " Hebrew" tr adition s in earl y Isr ael indicate th at
man y of the hapiru who fou ght for the phar aoh were hired from th e less
sett led popul ation s in the sout hern Levant . Etymologically, the word hap -
iru seems to have had no specifically milit ary connot ation, meaning some-
thin g like "vagrants or "t hose who have crossed boundaries," and clearly
not all bapi ru were warrio rs. But in the Late Bronze Age many hapiru
were associated wit h mer cenary milit ar y service, and app arentl y th ey were
hired for han d- to-hand rather than for long-ran ge combat. The Sumeria n
ideo gra m that is ofte n used alongside or in place of the word hapiru is
Sft GAZ, which seems originally to have meant " he who commit s aggres-
sion," or "one who knocks down," or even " kill er. "50 The bapiru, or
SA.GAZ, seem to have fought in conjunction wit h cha riot s but were not
themselves chariotee rs or char iot archers.\ )
A preferable sour ce of seaso ned infa nt rymen for tempor ary servi ce was a
vassa l state or a province on the front ier. As indicated above, the Hitti te
kings (who rar ely hir ed hapiru) seem to have assembl ed th e considerable
infantry need ed for a major campaign by requiring every subject distri ct to
send to the Great King a certain number of troops. If one were to beli eve
Rarnesses the Great's account of the Bartle of Kadesh, the ki ngs of
Ha rt i depended very much upon mer cenar ies. Accor di ng to Rarnesses,
Mu watall is st ripped his t reas ury bare in or der to hire manpower for the
showdown at Kadesh. Alt ho ugh Rarnes ses provid es us wit h a great list of
places that sup plied troop s to Muwatallis, it is not clear which of th ese were
Hittite vassa ls and which were simply areas from which volunteer s or
mer cenari es may have come. At any rate, few of Muwarallrs's thirt y-seven
thou sand infant rymen were conscri pts fro m Hatt i: Ra rnesses refers to bo th
grou ps of Muwarall is' s infa nt rymen as "tbr warrior s," a word that may
mean "champions" or " valiant men" bur t hat more objectively seems to
G Jr co lor illustration set:' Yadin, Ar' vol. 1. 11 6- 17.
4'" Of J sco re of st udies on t he lrapiru the:rnosr recenr is hy NJJJ VNa ' aman, " Hap iru and
Hebrews: The Tran sfer of 3 Soci al Term ro t he Litera ry Scene, " ]Nl S 45 (1986): 271-88; see
also H, Cazelles, "The Hebr ews," in D. Wi semJ n, ed.. People> 0{ Old -Testament Times
(Oxfor d, 1973 ), 1- 28,
' " M3ry Gr3y, "The Ij j boru·Hebr ew Prob lern in t he Lighr of rhe Source ,..,131er;31Avarl.ible
at Prevent," Hebreur Union College Annual 29 (1958 ): LJ7fi'.
'>I W. Heick. Die Bt. 'ziehtmga t Agvpten» :.u vorderasien im J. urrd2. [abrt.nc end P. Chr.
(Wiesb.IUl"l1, 19611. 521- .11, pro posed rhat th e rcrrns marva un u J nJ ' pr u-stood respecnve lv
tor chanorr y .mJ
tabl et specifies that of seven foot soldiers one was a full er, two were smit hs,
and one was a templ e official.
How such recruitment might have been co nducted in th e Lat e Bro nze
Age is not indi cat ed, so far as I know, in any of our records. In the Middle
Bron ze Age, we cat ch a glimpse of how things mi ght have proceeded at
Mar i. TIle officer in charge of recruitment there decided, as Watki ns ob-
served.v' th at somet hing must be don e " pour -e ncourager les autres and so
sent to King Zi mri-Lim a mod est proposal : " If my lord wi ll agree, let me
execute a cr iminal in the priso n, cut off his head and par ade it all aro und
the town. . .to make the men afraid so that th ey will assemble qui ckly. "
How conscripts were used in Lat e Bronze Age warfar e is uncl ear. At Uga rit,
as mentioned, t hey were sometimes issued bows, and perhaps we may
imagine th em employed in eit her assa ulting or defend ing a fixed positi on.
Possibl y some of the thirty-seven thousand infant rymen who sto od wi th
Muwata llis at the gat es of Kadesh were conscr ipts, although Rarnesses'
inscri pt ion does say th at the se men were all thrwarrior s, a term th at mean s
something like " valiant " and was applied to experi enced troops. No text
mention s the tr aining of conscripts, and we may suppose that th ey were
assigned duties of a routi ne nature. Th ere is no reason to th ink th at co n-
scripts were expected- or able- to engage in hand-to-h and comba t .
We may turn, the n, to the profession al foorsoldier s, who appear under a
variet y of designati on s. In th e first cent uries of th e Late Bron ze Age mos t
prof essional foorsoldiers may have been natives of the kingdom in which
they fou ght. In lat e fifteenth-century Nu zi there is littl e eviden ce for foreign
infa ntry me n. In Eighreenth-Dynasry Egypt the infant rymen wh o sup-
ported the chariotry were probabl y Egyptian ntnu, which liter all y may
have meant "young men" but which Schulman tr an slate s as "elite tr oop s. "
On the Konosso stele, Thut mose IV described his force s as he attacked a
Nubi an prince who had rebelled : "The chariot ry was in ba ttl e-lines beside
him, his infantry was with him, the strong-of-arm consis ting of the nfru/
who were (usually) beside him on both tlan ks." 47
"Even at th e end of th e Eightee nth Dynasty the phar aoh 's chariot runner s
were proba bly still nat ive Egyptians. On a ches t from the to mb of
Tut ankhamun, from the middl e of the fourtee nth cent ury, is a painting of a
battle in the Levant . TIle pharaoh, acting as both chariot eer and chariot
warri or, dominate s the scene, shooti ng the enemy's chariot horses. But the
wor k of dispatchin g th e crews of those chariots that have been immobili zed
is Performed by foo tso ldiers who attack with short thrustin g spears; and
i '
!i, §Vf'I.·
"$ ",At
" II /
I' h....c.. btl-It
!:efl l o (. I gt4
I '
l ' Dvn ' , ' h cl ire di ' ' N" ' f
i . ,1 Ken dall , V' /aTfare, 148 ; It IS syrnptornanc t at ie entire rscussson ot Ull S in anrry ( I n
. ' I _ u 'j be co ntained on rhis one page.
r 4f, \'<' atk ins, .. Begmnings ," 27; fo r rhe rext see Archives Royaies de Mar;, vol, 2, no . 4 8.
J • 47 Trnndarion from Schu lma n. "Egypti an Cha riorry, " 76,
FL'.4N-l-I""IA :/J,
Jolt"",,; "p
.s4.c.r J0.1\ "
I-Iv.je .40>-\1 J-
distinguish seasoned veterans from conscript troops. 52 Egyptian kings also
depended on frontier vassals for auxiliary troops. The Amorite ne'arim
who fought for Ramesses 11 in 1275 B.C. may have been furnished by his
vassals in the Levant.
In the thirteenth century, however, many kings preferred to secure the
services of valiant barbarians on a permanent basis. In return for a plot of
land, and for some other compensation, the warrior would be available for
annual campaigns and might perform guard or sentinel duty at other times
of the year. The advantages of having such men 111 one's service were, for a
Near Eastern king, considerable. For natives of Egypt and other kingdoms
of the Near East life was normally pacific, and consequently they were not
such keen hand-to-hand warriors as were men from less settled lands. In
the royal reliefs, the native Egyptians engaged in hand-to-hand warfare
fight in squads of four, the four standing shoulder to shoulder and so
presenting a solid wall of oblong shields. The barbarian skirmisher, on the
other hand, fights on his own; with no comrade to right or left, he depends
on his own round shield. Mobility rather than solidarity was essential. For
offense, the native Egyptian skirmishers wielded either thrusting spears
or long metal staves, with which they beat their opponent to the ground.
Such weapons were suitable for the compact squad, since a man was not
likely to injure his fellows if his weapon was parried or misdirected. The
barbarian was a far more efficient skirmisher: ferocious in his horned or
feathered helmet, he used his long sword to threaten opponents in a wide
Although the Egyptian pharaohs procured many of their professionals
from Nubia and Libya, some of the best (and perhaps the most pictur-
esque) skirmishers evidently came from Sardinia. Both in Egypt and at
Ugarit a term sometimes applied to foreign professionals skilled at hand-
to-hand combat is shardana.t> As I have argued in chapter 4, the word
originally must have meant "a man from Sardinia." That phrase, however,
although entirely meaningful when spoken by a Sardinian native living in
Egypt, would have meant little or nothing to a native Egyptian, who had
never seen a sea, an island, or a map. The proper noun therefore may
sometimes have been used as a common noun denoting a man's function in
society and his physical type. In Egyptian inscriptions the phonetic render-
ing of the word shardana is occasionally illustrated by a determinative: a
warrior wearing a horned helmet (between the horns is a small disk) and
usually carrying a small round shield and either a sword or a spenr.v' As
Heick concluded, whenever we see warriors in horned helmets depicted in
S2 On the thr warriors see Heick; Bcsiehungen, 531-32; Heick translures the term ,1.')
"Garde" or "Held."
q Dietrich and Lorera, "Die Schardana in den "lexren VOIl Ugant," 39-42; (;, A.
Lehmann, ,"lykclltsdJe Welt, 33-34.
)4 Heick. "Die Seevoiker," 9.
Egyptian reliefs we may reasonably "sic als Sardin identifizicrcn.t"> How-
ever, we must also suppose that for a thirteenth-century Egyptian scribe the
word shardana had a semantic field quite different from that of our word
Sardinian. So far as the provenance of such warriors was concerned, the
Egyptian scribe perhaps knew only that they came from a barbarous place
"in the midst of the sea."
The first Sardinians attested in Egypt were raiders who ravaged the Delta
in 1279 and were defeated and captured by Ramesses the Great. They had
come "in their warships from the midst of the sea, and none were able to
stand before them."56 Once impressed into Ramesses' service, the Sardi-
nians evidently served him very well. They were an important and conspic-
uous part of the army he took to Kadesh in 1275 B.C.: in the Abydos reliefs
(see plates 3, 4, and 5), some Sardinian runners-warriors wearing horned
helmets and carrying dirks or short swords-are slaying the fallen Hittite
chariot crewmen and cutting off their hands, while others serve as personal
bodyguards for Ramesses. By the end of the thirteenth century, as the
Papyrus Anastasi suggests, a great many Sardinians (there are 520 in Hori's
imaginary force) were employed by the pharaoh. As noted above, in the
Medinet Habu reliefs we see warriors in horned helmets doing yeoman
service for Rarnesses III against the Philistines, and the accompanying
inscription divides the pharaoh's army into "the infantry, the chariotry, the
troops, the Sherden, and the Nubians." 57 At the same time, some warriors
in horned helmets had been recruited by the Philistine side. At least some of
these, too, were shardana in the narrower rather than the generic sense,
since one of the Medinet Hahu reliefs identifies as a shardana a captured
chief who wears a horned helmer.V At.er the eventful battles of his early
years, Ramesses III still employed many shardana and other barbarians
(especially from Libya), since in the Papyrus Harris the dead king addresses
"the princes, and leaders of the land, the infantry and chariorry, the Sher-
55 Heick, "Die Seevolker," 9.
56 From the Tanis stele, as translated by Gardiner, Egypt, 259.
57 Edgerton and Wilson, Historical Records of Ramses III, plate 29.
S8 Sandars, Sea Peoples, figs. 68 and 79. There is no reason, however, to suppose that all
warriors in horned helmets came from Sardinian stock. Sand.irs pointed out (ibid., 106-7)
that the homed helmet has an ancient pedigree in the Near East, going back to Naram-Sin of
Akkad. Perhaps it would be safest ro think of me horned helmer as appealing to a variety at
European, Mediterranean, and Near Eastern warriors: 3 professional warrior who wished to
look and feel formidable could hardly do better man strapping on his head the horns at a bull.
Most if not all Sardinian warriors serving in the eastern Mediterranean may have worn the
horned helmet. But Sicilians may also have worn it, since in the Medinet Habu relief of the
naval battle in 1179 B.C. the enemy wear horned helmets, and the accompanying inscription
identifies Shekelesh hut not Shard.ina among the enemy. We need not identify 3S Sardinians
the soldiers on the Mycenaean "'Warrior Vase," simply bee.ruse they wear horned helmets, nor
the sirml.irly accoutred Ingot God at Cyprus.
PLAT E 5. Sbardana bodyguards 01 Rarnesses1I, ;1t Kadesh. Abydos relief
den, th e numero us archers, and all th e citizens of t he land of Egypt."
Further on in th e papyru s he boa sts th at he had "Shcrden and Kehek
wit ho ut nu mber" in his service and that con di tio ns in his kingdo m were so
peaceful that "the Sherden and the Kehek in their villages . . . lie at night
full len gth witho ut any dread. " .19 And in th e reign of Ramesses V (1149-
45) th e Wil bour Papyru s identi fies shardana as prop rietors of land gra nted
to them by the king.
In the Levant, Sardi nians apparently serve d as mer cenaries alread y in the
Ama rna perio d. In corresponde nce denouncing Rib-Addi of Byblos, shar-
dana arc mentioned three t imes, and they are quite clearl y soldiers." ! In t he
Uga rit t ablet s there are severa l references to shardana, although by ca.
1200 B. G. the ter m may here too have denot ed functi on rather than prove-
nance. Helrzer regards the shardana as " for eigners in the royal service of
' " Breasted , AP., vol. 4, nos. 39 7, 402, and (;ISrransl.ired in Ga rdi ner, Egypt. 293) 410.
h I) Ga rdiner, Egypt. 2.96- '17. .
.. I He lck, "Secvo lker." S. concludes " dass sit' Solda ren sind, Ob sic im Dienst d e'S Ribadd i
srchen odc r zu eine r Einh eir geboreu. ist nichr erkennbar. "
F O O TSO LD I E R S 155
Uga rit. s-' and in some sense they undou btedl y were fore igner s. Yer one of
the few sbardana menti oned by name is " Arnar-Add u, son of Murbaal. "
The names of fat he r a nd son arc bot h Semiric. Anot her shan/ana seems ro
have inheri ted fields at Uga rit.s-' t he normal pr act ice bei ng that the shard-
ana recei ved land fro m the king in return for militar y ser vice, It thus
appea rs that at Ugarit some of the shardana may have been fairly well
assimilate d int o the general populat ion. At Ugarit some shardana served as
mdrglm-guards and as tnnm; the latt er term, ,is noted above, evidently
means " ha nd- to -ha nd wa rriors. "".. .
The ki ng Harti seems to have recru ited much of his sta nding army- J I
the UKU.US and t he sharikutoa-s- ircnn men living near o r beyond the k..
fron tier and especially alon g the Pont ic ran ge in the north. Her e lived the k-
bar bar ou s Kaskans, a source of danger as well as manpower. After sub-
jugatin g some of the Kaskan lands, Hattusili s III brou ght back warriors to
serve with his UKU. U.s.65 The ki ng of Ugari t may also have kept a t roop of
Kaskan s, Liveran i at a ny rare suggested that what seems to be a reference,
in a Ugari t ic text, to t he " capo dei K3Ska" ca n best be explained on the
ass umpt io n th at " si tr at ta di un gruppo di soldat i merccna ri, ' w,
Fo r th e Aegea n wo rl d, th ere is lirtle evidence on our topic. Wh :lt t here is,
however, sugge sts th at pri or to the Catast rophe th e Myc enaea n pa laces
might have dep end ed almost ent irely on "for eign " professionals for thei r
infant ry forces. The "Captain of the Blacks " fresco at Knoss os may have
portrayed an Aegea n cap tain leading a company of black tr oops (one
thin ks of the Nub ians who fou ght for the Egyptian pha rao hs). The " Barrie
Scene" fresco fro m Pylos (see plate 2) shows thr ee pa lace wa rrio rs who are
surely professiona l but who seem t o fight in th e same style-and wi th the
same weapons-as th eir " wi ld" opponents. TIle six groups of men named
in the o-ka tabl ets from Pylos arc likel y to be six et hnic designat ion s.v?
Alth ou gh non e of th e designat ion s sugges ts a proven ance from outside the
Aegean, there is some reas on to see these men-if they ar e indeed soldiers,
as they are usuall y t ho ught to be-as " foreign" professionals, Dr iessen has
ar gued that at Knossos t he designation lccsenuu/ ija is an cestr al to th e
classical Greek xenoi, a wo rd t hat literall y mean s "st rangers" but mu st
ofte n be tr anslat ed as " mercenaries. " Since t hree o r poss ibly four of th e
Pylos o-ha gro up s show up in t he Knoss os a rchi ve, Drie ssen concl udes th at
th e Greek rulers of Knos sos brough t in "foreigners" o r mer cenari es to
62 .... Helrzer, Internal O rganiza tion, i27.
oJ On bo th rhese indivi duals see Hel rzer, lnternul Organizati on, 126.
M Dietrichand Loretz , "Scha rdana , " 41.
h i Beal , Organiza tion, 121- 13 ,235. an d 2..1 7 ; see al ..o E. La roche , " Lerrr c d 'u n prefer au
rOJhirrire," Ret-ue bittitr et asianique 07 (l9()O): S I- St> .
nh Liverani , Stor ia di Ugant , 154.
,.- Driessen. ...\ 1ilitary A Spt-'CfS, "
156 A MI I.I T A R Y E XP L A !'l AT ION
maintain the kingdom's securiry.r" Th e pl ace-names that can he got out of
(or read into) the terms sugges t that the xcnoi C H ill' from backward areas of
the Aegean." Since the foreigners show up on tabl ets registering land
ullotmenr s, it may be " t hat small gro up' of for eigner s were admitted to the
Pylian kingdom and were allotted sma ll fiefs of land for cultivation. In
return, they had to cont ribute ,1 certa in amount of flax and ren der milit ar y
serv ice in the Pylian army. At Knossos there is no dir ect evidence for this
pract ice, hut Driessen t hinks it likel y th at there too the palace brought in
for eigner s "who rendered milit ar y serv ice in return for fiefs of land. "
So far as our limited evide nce goes, then, we may suppose that My-
cen aean infantrymen were normally professional s and came from the less
pacific part s of the Aegea n. Elsewhere I have argued that in th e Lat e Hell -
adic peri od the lower classes in the palace sta tes of Boeot ia, the Pelopon -
ncse and Crete still spoke the pre-Greek lan guage that had been current
throughout the a rea in Early and Middl e Hellad ic times: most subjects of
the palaces, that is, would at best have had only a limit ed acquaintance
with the Greek language spoken by the lords of the palaces and their
chari ot eer s. I would therefore her e sugges t that when the Pylian king, for
exampl e, hired professional infant rymen, he hired North-Greek speakers
from the mountains beyond Boeotia. It is likely th at the mount aineers were
more warlik e than the Messenian natives, whose rel ati onship to the palace
seems to have anti cipated that of the helots to their Dor ian masters in the
Iron Age.
Such indi cati ons as we have of numbers sugges t th at the typical foreign
contingent was composed of several hundred (and not several thousand)
men. In the Papyrus Anasta si army, the lar gest forei gn cont ingent we are to
imagine is tha t of the Qeheq , a Libyan tri be, who would account for sixteen
hundred of the five thou sand-man force. When Ugaritic texts make refer-
ence to sbardana, the references ar e not to hundreds but to gro ups of four
and five, a nd Helt zer calculates their total as about sixry.?' The Linear B
tabl et s are unu sually informati ve on this point. The o-ka tabl et s from Pylas
- show th at two hundr ed okara men for med the lar gest conti nge nt, the
sma llest being a group of seventy urupiiaio. t ? The Pylos pa lace did not ,
however, have ;I II two hundred okara serving together but broke them up
,,' Ibid.• 50- Sli.
t.'" Driessen. ibi d., 50, sugg ests that the JUJJsn wer e troops who carne from Iaso s, that the
Unfpiic.J;fl were tTOOpS from Olymp ia. 3nJ rhar J.II the troop 'i "were origina lly
non -Mcsscni .m lin n. 5 Driessen passes on the suggesnon rhar two of the o ther conti ngent...
ma y hovc (o rne from Cc rcyra .rnd Skyros ). I would suggest o nly rhar Urupijdjo is more likely
to poinr to Mr . Olympus t han to Pclopormesian Olympia; rhe latt er na me seems to be derived
from rhe fo rmer, JnJ there i"i no reaso n to suppo se rhar ir is muc h o lder than the sanctua rv.
-o Ihid. '
"' 106-
and 126.
7 2 Lejeune, " Crvrlis.mo n, " J4- -HJ.
into sma ller groups and pos ted them in several locati ons. In the Knossos
archive, ta blet B164 refers to at least 368 men , appa rently all of them
"forei gner s. "7 '
When Mer yre of Libya-s-a bour to .urack Egypt in 1208 B. C.-
supplemente d his Libyan force by recru itin g warriors from "all the north-
ern lands, " he was foll owing a tr aditi onal pra ctice. Wh.lt W;I S not tr adi -
tional is th at the runner s who m he secured were not cast in ,1 suppo rting
role to cha riot ry, since Mcryre ha d no cha riot ry of ;lny significance. In-
stead, the skirmishers we re themselves assigned the task of destroying the
Egyptian chariot a rmy. Tha t hatt ie belon gs to the Catast rophe and we shall
rerum to it in our fina l chap ter, but Mer yrc's scheme and the Catastro phe
can only be und er stood against the background of what infantry for ces
were availabl e to the Lat e Bron ze Age kingdoms.
To summa rize: Insofar ;IS our evidence illumin at es such thin gs, it ap -
pears that pr ior to the Ca tas tro phe an easte rn Medit err anean king might
send infantrymen int o the mountainous hint erl and to punish barbarians
who had misbeh aved. Such comba t was probably a melee rath er than a
conflict' of d ose-order format ions. When two civilized kingdo ms went to
war, the hand-to -hand fight ing was subordinated to and int egrated with
the chariot battl e. In chariot warfare there was no engagement of mass
formations of infantry, and wh at hand-to-hand fighti ng was required was
the responsibility of professional chariot runners, or skirmishers. In the
thirteenth century these men were rarely natives of the kingdoms in which
they fought and tend ed to come from barbari an lands such iIS Nubia,
Libya, and Sardinia or from the more backward parts of Greece and the
Levant. Their service as skirmishers was und oubtedl y hazardous and de-
manding and must have req uired a great deal mor e stamina, skill, reckless-
ness, and perh ap s ferocity than could be found in the typical resident of
Ugarit, Messeni a, or Memphi s.
During the Catast rophe, some rul er s tr ying to defend their cities and pal-
aces app ar entl y mad e significant cha nges in their armed forces. As we shall
see in det ail in chap ter 14, the agg resso rs were runn ers and skirmishers,
and they therefore had to be conta ined and countered by infant rymen. For
the first time in four centuries, at least a fcw battles in the plains and in
defen se of the pal aces themselves seem to have been primaril y infantry
clash es.
I '7 In 1208 B.C. Merneptah seems to have relied greatly on his cha riot ry to
e..v:<! e-sce. : def eat the Libyans, but he also celebrated !iIS hand-to -hand warrior s and"a
"rn iliria" (ml l fy t ) of Egypri ans.?" When Rarnesscs III fights aga inst the
Phili stin es in 1179 not o nly arc his hor ses like falcons but his infantry are
" like bull s read y on the field of battle." And to counter the Libyan infant ry
in 1176 Ramesses leads forth not only his chariot ry but also " t he mighry
. men [who m he had ] tr ain ed [to ] fight." 75In both batt les Ramesses himself
T4, v-!iAS was of cou rse a peerle ss archer in his royal cha riot , as New Kingdom
(' ! ph ar aoh s had always been . But he is also, sur prisingly, a footsoldier wh o
"f?.. ,'1' y c ", ,zltfO>1 tights hand-to-hand. One relief shows Ramesses dismounted from his
J , / ' cha riot and overp owering the enemy, and the accompanying text lauds his
er' c. - pr owess "on his two feet."76
".k"J 7 In the land battle agains t the Phil ist ines, Rarne sscs' footso ldiers are
'/ , cons picuo us, some of them in tr adition al Egypti an headdress and others
wearing the shardana helmet (sec plat e 6). The latter, as they always had ,
tend to fight on their own, as indi vidu al s, each slrardan a auxi liary taking
on one o r more of the enemy with his swo rd or thrusting spea r. Th e
Egypt ians, on the ot her hand, fight in their tradition al squa ds. The a rtis t
shows them in groups of four, all four men moving and st riking in conce rt .
Although the divine Ramesses and ot her chariot warriors are shown on the
right-hand side of the Land Battle Relief, each of the five regist er s of the
relief is primarily a depicti on of the valor of Ramcsses' hand -t o-h and war-
ri ors. Egypt probably owed its survival to Ramesses' recruitment or tr ain-
ing of thousands of foot soldier s who could take the offensive against t he
raiders. Although his barbari an profession als could fight in guerrilla fash-
ion , the Egyptians need ed to be placed in or ganized units, eac h man being
thus suppo rt ed and assisted by his comra des in a close-order format ion .
In the sea battl e (see plat e 7) the main burden fell on nat ive Egyptia n
infantrymen. In orde r to catc h hi s o ppo nents before they landed, Ramesses
assembled a grea t many boats and manned them with Egypti an arc hers
(so me of the se, of course, co uld have been chariot ar chers) an d hand-t o-
hand warrior s. The latter were Egyptia ns, armed with the usual shields an d
staves, and wer e respons ible for dealin g wit h th ose of the enemy wh o tri ed
to board the Egyptian boat s. In Rarnesses' vaunt , hi s boat s were filled from
bow to stern with warrior s: "The milit ia (m ll f }'!) , con sistingof every pi cked
man of Egypt, were like lion s roaring up on the mountain tops." ? How he
7.. Breasted . A R. vol. 3. no. 578 .
' i .md Wil, ,,n. i i isnmcal Recurd s 0"Rumscs III. plates 31 and 80-83 (pp. 77-

' . Edgerton Jnd WIlson , ibrd.. plate 6S; d . Breasted . A R. vol. 4, no. \Il6.
':' - Edger ton and \Vil..on. Hi storic.tl Recor d»n( Ramses 1/1 , plate 46. pp. 54- 5'5. ln a nore
nn [hei r rransl.iriou of Iw ,l yt ,J s " rtuliri.i" rhc authnrs observe [hat "l11n fyt -eerns ro be In
cu nrr J ' [ Cil tbv:"
f OOT S , l L D I E RS 161
recru ited these " picked men of Egypt " we can no t know, but it is important
to nore the unu sual cffort to augment t he profession al infant ry.
In Greece tOO, it ap pears, the communities that ca rne through the early
horrors of the Catast rophe began in the IIIC period to create forces of
loorsoldiers. Since we have no writt en document s from the pe riod, we must
he re dep end entirely on picto rial evidence. Professional skirmishers, first of
all, seem to have en joyed an unwonted status in IIIC communities. Individ-
ual war riors, relati vely well armor ed, appea r on krarers of LH lll C dat e at
Tiryns and on pot s at Na uplia and Letkandi . Lirta uer and Crouwel have
pointed out t hat these warr ior s, carried in chariots, a re foorsoldiers, appa r-
ently en route to a barrle.> As suggested in cha pter 10, t he Homeri c
descr iption of chariots as battle tax is may be a reminiscence of thi s twelft h-
century development. Possibl y in Ill C Greece the hor ses and vehicles that
survived from the pre-Catastrophe cha riot forces became not hing mor e
t ha n pr estige vehicles fo r the profession al warriors who unt il t hen had been
runners in the chariot corps. Th e chariot on t hese lIIC vases, at any rate,
suggests that its passenger is a toorsoldier of unusual stat us, and we may
sup pose that he was an individual ski rmisher, capa ble of ho lding his own in
a man -to -man encount er wi t h any barbarian raider.
But in addition to t he indi vidu al skirmishers, who may have been re-
garded as the promuchoi or "champions" of their communities, the IIIC
towns may also have fielded for ces of non professio nal foo tsoldiers. In
order to sta nd their gro und in han d-to-hand combat against t he barbar ian
raiders, these men would necessar ily have been put int o a close-order
company. Lines of foot soldiers app ea r on t he Warrio r Vase and the Warrior
Stele from Mycenae, both of whi ch date eit her to the lll C pe riod or to the
very end of lIIB.79 On the krarcr, t he " front " panel (see plate 8) shows six
bea rded soldiers wea ring horned helmet s, a sleeved co rslet th at reaches to
the wa ist, a fringed leath er skirt, and greaves (whether t hese are to be
understood as being made of bron ze or of leather cannot be determined).
Each of the soldiers ca rries a six-foot spe:l r and a round shield. Th e five
soldiers of t he rear panel brandi sh shorter spears and wear " hedgehog"
helmets but ot herwise resembl e their counterparts on the front. On the
W3rrior Stele there are again five infant rymen, almos t identical to those on
t he reverse of t he vase, bra ndishing spe3rs. In both repr esent at ions t he
infant rymen are in close order, ma rching with spears on their shoulde rs, or
::"k Lirrau er. " Military Use, " 145- 46; Lit ruuer arid Crouwel, "Chari ots in Late Bronze Age
Greece," 189- 90; for the representations sec Vermeule .ind Kar.i georghis, Mycenaean Picto -
rial Vase Painting, nos. Xl. Ia- b. X1.1 6. Xl. iX, XI.2X.
:-'i The represenr ancns aft' USU.1l1y dared ro the IIIC per iod. Verrneule and Kara-
georghrs. rbid., 130- 34. with plates XI.42 .1110 XI.-H, them to thei r " tran sit ional "
peri od . N' r an argument rhar rhe rcprcscnrari ons dar t' to rhe end of the IIIII peri od see john
"The EnJ of Mycen.ie.m An ." II I Thomas. Fnrschungcn, ,- ,]- 7:".
162 A M I LI T A R Y EX PL AN A TI 0 N
P I.ATE 8. :'Warrior Vase" from Mycenae, Side A
present the scenes on the Warrior Vase and Warrior Stele as examples of
"rypical " Mycenaean pra ct ices of the Lat e Bronze Age. Similarly. the Me-
dinet Habu reliefs of Ramesses Ill's battle aga inst the Phili stines and the
Libyans sho uld surely not be used as a guide to Egypti an milit ar y pr act ices
in the reigns of his Eighteenth- and Ninereenrh-Dynasry predecessors.
These represent ati on s were made after the Catastrophe had run much if
not most of its har rowing course, and they must not be to rn from that
chro no logical co ntext. The Mycenae vase and stele, whether dat ed to the
end of IIIB or to HIC, were at any rat e made several decades afte r Troy VI
and Th ebes had been destroyed, and after Mycenae and Tir yns were fort i-
fied and the Isthmus wall was begun. The Medinet Habu reliefs show what
the Egyptia n army look ed like in 1179 B. C. , by which time palaces and
cities had been destroyed all through Greece, Anarolia, Cyprus, and the
Levant , and Egypt seemed about to becom e the next vict im. The represen-
tations therefore do not show us the militar y cha racter of the eastern
kingdo ms at their zenith but instead reveal how so me kingdoms that had
thu s far survived the Ca tas t rophe were responding to their dire situation.
Professional skirmishers were never more valued and perhaps provided
mu ch of the def ense against their predatory kinsmen. ln addit ion, forma-
tions of native infant rymen-e-sc difficult to find in our pre-Catastrophe
document ati on-were now being armed and tr ained, as the few centers
still flourishing sought to escape the fate that had by that time overtaken so
much of the eas tern Me diterranean world.
about to throw their spears in a " ceremo nial volley" (the stele is certai nly
and the vase is probabl y funera ry). It is perhaps possible that the a rt ist
- inte nded one of the groups to represent foreigners, since the horned hel -
met s are an exot ic element , whereas the " hedge hog" helmet appears o n
- man y LH [IIC sherds. But it is mor e likel y th at bot h gro ups are intended to
- represent nati ve troops: the wa rrio rs in horned helmet s pa ss in fro nt of a
wom an wh o is either bidding the m farewell or mourning, and eithe r a
farewell or a funer al sugges ts that these are men fro m the localit y in wh ich
th e vase was cherished.
Th e scenes sugges t that the art ist an d his patrons were familiar with
inf antry forma tions and more particul arl y with formations of spearmen,
all the so ldiers being uniforml y accoutred and armed and all having a n
assigned positi on within the relati vel y dense formation. These Mycenaean
inf antrymen were not about to do battl e with chariots: the y had been
o rga nized and equipped- with a hand-to-hand weapo n, a shield, and
bod y armor- in order to confront infantrymen in close combat.
Alth ou gh it has often been commit ted, it is a methodological sin to
Chapter Twelve
HE LAST two cha pters have argued that , fro m the late sevent eenth
to the late thirt eenth century, for the eas tern Mediterranean king-
doms wa rfar e was a contest be tween o ppos ing cha riot fo rces, and
the only offensive infa nt rymen who parti cipat ed in batt le we re the
" runners " - the skirmis hers who ran among the cha riots. Th e present
cha pter will review wh at we know ab out wa rfa re in the ea rly Iro n Age.
Alt hou gh ther e is di st ressingly little in format ion fo r the centu ries following
the Cat ast rophe, wha t there is suggests that all ove r the easte rn Mediterr a-
nean t he princ ipa l ro le in batt le was now borne by offensive infa nt rymen .
Thus cha riot warfa re, which in the Late Bronze Age had dist inguished
cit ies a nd kingdo ms fro m the ba rbarou s hint erl ands (where horses and a
cha riot wer e a luxur y t hat few, if any, co uld affo rd), did not survive into the
Iro n Age, and even t he wealthie st kin gs had now to depe nd primarily up on
foot soldi er s,
It is gene ra lly recogni zed that the chariot was less importa nt in th e Iro n
Age than in the Late Bron ze Age. By the reign of Ti glath-Pileser III (745-
27) the light , two -horse chariot rarel y appea red on t he batt lefield, I si nce by
that ti me the tasks hithert o assigned to cha riots were normall y ca rri ed out
by ca valry. As a result, t he Neo- Assyria n cha riot beca me an eno r mo us and
cumberso me vehicle, ca rrying a va riety of passengers and dr awn by t hree
o r fo ur ho rses. Such vehicles had littl e in co mmo n wi th t he war cha riot of
the Bronze Age and seem to have served as prest ige conveyances fo r the
king and lesser di gn itari es. " In cla ssical times (if we except the dreadf ul Out
ineffec tive "scyt hed " cha riot s of the Per sians) the cha rio t was associ ated
almos t ent irel y wi th stat us, pa rades, and recreat ion, We may thu s sav that
in the Iron Age cavalry " replaced" cha riorry as an effective militar; ar m.
Pri or to t he Catast rophe the re wer e, so far as our evidence ind ica tes, no
t roops of cava lry o r ca mcl ry. Th e Egypriun reliefs, however , do include
occasiona l ind ividu al s on horseback. and so me of these figures are depi ct ed
as ca rr ying a bow and quiver. Witoout saddle or stirrups riding a horse was
I Litraue r and Crou wel, WhedcJ vehicles, 130- 31.
2 In from rhl' lasr ccnrurv or Asvyri.m hisror)· these huge' chariots are frequentl y
sr.mdi ng servi ng J.:lo lofty .md wen prote cted rbut hJ\ i(,.JHy vrarionarv] plarfo rrnv i rom
whu..h J ( ('W p nv ileged ar(hC' r'i co uld shoot their bo wv. Sec l.irt auc r a nd Crou wel, ibid.. 13 1-
I x F A N T R Y A 1': 0 110 R S f T I( o 0 I' S 165
difficult eno ugh, and the Bronze Age rider was not yet able to cont rol his
mount and shoot a bow at the sa me time, Perhaps, therefo re, the bow
car ried by a Bron ze Age rider was meant for self-defense , and the few men
on horseback were sco uts o r messenger s rat her than mounted a rche rs.>
Th e ea rliest represent at ion s of archers shoot ing from t he backs of gal-
loping hor ses are ninth-century Assyrian rel iefs. These reliefs show the
cavalry archers operati ng in pai rs: one cava lryma n holds t he reins of bot h
his own and his pa rtner's hor se, allowing the partn er to usc his hands for
the bow and bowst ri ng. The early cavalry team s thu s par all el exactly the
charioteer and cha riot archer.:' The cava lry ar che r was undoubtedl y less
accurate than his cou nterpart o n a cha riot (bou ncing on a horse's back was
less co nducive to a good sho t than sta ndi ng-knees bent-on the leat he r-
st rap pl at form of a cha riot ). But in othe r respect s the cava lry teams wer e
sur ely supe rior. They were ab le, first of a ll, to operate in terrain too rough
for wheeled veh icles. And their cha nces fo r flight, when things went wrong,
were mu ch bett er: when a cha riot horse was injured, both crewmen were in
immediat e dan ger, but if a cava lryman's hor se was killed o r injur ed the
cava lryman could immedi ately leap o n the back of his part ner's horse and
so ride Out of ha rm's way. Yet anot her advan tage of cavalry over chariot ry
was economic, since t he cost of purchasing and maint aining a vehicle was
co nsiderab le. The Chronicler claims (2 Chro nicles 1.17) th at in the tenth
centur y the cha riot itself cos t twice as much as the team that pulled it.
How early in the Iron Age kings began to use cavalries in place of or
alongside cha riorries ca nno t be determined , since there is so littl e docu-
men tary and pi cto rial evidence for th e period 1150-900 B. C. By the mid-
dle of t he ninth cent ur y cavalries w-.re obviously well esta blished, since at
the Battl e of Qarqar Shalrnaneser III faced man y men o n ho rseback (and
so me on the backs of camels) and since he hi mself claimed to have 2,002
chariots and 5,542 cavalrymen.> For ea rlier centuri es all we have ar e
Hebrew tr ad it ions, and althoug h they arc hard ly tru stworthy it must be
noted that they rout inel y associate cava lries with the kings of the period.
Solomo n was said to have maintained twel ve thousand parashim; David
was bel ieved to have defeat ed eno rmous horse troops co nsist ing of both
cha riots and cavalrymen; and Saul was repo rted to have been slain on Mr .
Gilboa by Philistine parashim.
More rel iable Hebrew trad itions in fact imp ly that the subst it utio n of
.1 &3 1. 94: Stephanie Da lley, "Foreign Ch.m orry and CJ\-"J1 f!' in the Armies
of Tigl .irh-Pdeser III and Sargon II." lraq 47 {I 'JRSj: .17- H .
..I l.irtaucr ;JnJCrouwel. \t'heelcJ Vehicles. 1.15: "The ch.arior complement - warrior and
... imply rr unsferr ed to the back of its ream. the men 's respect ive functio ns remai ning
the same. "
\ ,\\. Hit. "111< Campaign' 01Shalm.mescr III ag.lln, . Aram and Israel, " IE] 25 (1'175):
166 A LI T A R )' E X P L A N AT I O N
cava lry teams for cha riots began in the Ca tastrophe itself. Poetic references
in Ge nesis and Exodus to "the horse and his rider" among Israel ' s enemies
indi cat e that at least a few kings began to put some of their archers on
hor seback as ea rly as the twelfth century, In the "Son g of the Sea the poet
exults that not only " Pha raoh's chari ot s a nd his host " but also " the hor se
a nd his rider have been thrown int o the sea (Exodus 15.1 and 2 1). In the
" Blessing of Jacob " the patriarch pr omises (Genesis 49.17-18) that the
tribe of Dan "shall be a serpent in the way, :I viper by the pa t h, that bit es
th e horse's heel s so that his rider fall s backward." >
It appears, then, that the use of cavalry began in the twelfth century, that
by the tenth century some kings employed thousands of cava lrymen, a nd
that the ninth -century Assyrian kings had at least as many horses in their
cava lry as in their cha riorry, Th e final o bso lescence of cha riorry came with
the discover y, in the eighth century, of new techniques for reining a ridden
horse. The new meth od. apparent in the reliefs of Ti glarh-Pileser III, al-
lowed cavalrymen to operate independentl y rather than in pai rs, each rider
now co nt rolling his own mount." With every rider an archer, the " fire-
power " on the backs of a hundred cavalry horses was doubl e the firepower
dr awn by a hundred chariot hor ses. Thus by ca. 750 B. C. the replacement
of chariots by cavalry was more or less complete.
But horse tro ops of any kind, whether chariotry or cavalry, were of much
less importance in the Iron Age than had been their pred ecessors in the Lat e
Bro nze Age. Whereas before the Catast rophe warfar e was the swirl of
chario t squadrons, with drivers charg ing, wheeling, and then charging
agai n while the ar cher s sent volleys of a rrows against the onco mi ng enemy
cha riots, in the Iron Age the focus of the acti on was combat between
oppos ing infantri es. Here a hor se troop's initi al mission was to deal with
th e oppo nent 's hor se tro op. but the ultimate mission was to assist in de-
stroying the enemy infantry, by encir cling, flan king, or di viding it. Assyri an
reliefs show that cavalr ymen were also used for pursuin g and dispat ching
individual fugiti ves aft er the enemy infantry-had been routed, and for thi s
ass ignment the lan ce rather than the bow was the appro priate weap on .
From the twelfth centu ry to the end of antiquity hor se troops did not
esta blish the battle but played a supporting role. On occasion, as at Issus or
f, It is sometimes said th at the lines refe r to cha riorr y, the assumption being rhat caval ry was
still unk nown when the poems were written. See, fur exam ple. Corrwald, Tribes olYahweh .
540: "The hor se .md rider which Dan att acks . .. refers al most cer tainly to horse-drawn
( harlots. . . . It is now well document ed t hat cavalry units wen: onl y int rod uced effect ivel y
into the: Near East by rhe Assynans in t he eighth -ninth centuries." Th a t cavalry was inrro-
duced int o the Ne ur E.ht hj" AssyriJns in the' ninth centu ry is not documented at all ;.we kn ow
o nly that in t he middl e of the: ninth century t he: Assyrians had an enormous cava lry.
"7 Lirrauer an d Crouwt:t. V/ ht'e/t!d vehicles, US;..: f. Dalle-y. " Foreign Cha r iorrv," 37 -JH,
who refer s to J. Spruyne, "LJ condu ire du cheval chez Parche r assyrien, " Plai sirs Equestres
129 tI 'lS J) : 66- 71.
I :-I F A :-.i T R )' A:-':O H O R S E T ROO P S 167
Adria nople, that supporting role might be decisive, and we even hear of
armies (t he Parthians at Ca rrhae) that co nsisted almos t ent irely of cava lry.
But the normal expec tatio n of Cha ldaea ns. Persians, Carthaginians,
Greeks, and Rom ans was that a battle was in essence a clash of infantries.
Thus cha riorry, and th en caval ry, made important contributi on s in Iron
Age warfare, but what we see in the Iron Age sho uld not be ca lled "chariot
warfare. "
Th e cent rality of an offensive infantry is clear when our documentation
resumes in the ninth century, with the inscriptions and reliefs of Ashur-
nasirpal Il and Shalmaneser III. Although Shnlmanesers horse tr oops were
impressive, they were evident ly seconda ry to his infantry, whi ch in a major
campaign numbered more than 100,00 0 men. Another inscr ipt ion of th e
earl y ninth cent ury describ es an Assyri an army of 1,3S1 cha riots and
50,000 foorsoldiers." Th ese eno rmous infantries were of co urse levied
from the gene ral populati on in Assyria , where the traditi on of militia
service seems to have been still flour ishing in the ninth cent ury." Although
neith er reliefs nor inscripti on s and liter a ry acco unt s give us a clear picture
of a ninth- century battl e, what can be pieced together indi cates that in the
armi es of Assyri a, Israel, a nd Judah an adva ncing infant ry formed the
cent er of a battle line, and hor se troops o perated on the wings "for pincer
movement s and efforts to overwhelm and turn the enemy fla nk ." 10 In the
ninth centu ry, in other words, infantry units no longer serve d merely to
escort chariotries on the mar ch and. in battl e, to provide a haven for
chari ot s in t rouble but were now at the cente r of the offensive action. The
Assyri an infantr y included compa nies of a rchers (protected by defensive
armor and armed with co mpos ite bows) and of spea rmen, and all carried a
st raight swo rd as a seco nda ry weapon.
But if we have reason abl e documentation for ninth- century war fare , the
three centuries from the Catast rophe to Ashurnasirpal 's reign are a dark
age. Nevertheless, we have just enough evidence to conclude that in this
peri od roo, in the immedi at e aftermath of the Ca tast ro phe, inf antries al -
read y played the primary offensive role. Egypt, whi ch tells us so much
about Lat e Bronze Age warfare, has almost nothing to offer for the early
Iron Age. But although we have no adverti sements of victori es by the later
Rarn essids and the weak kings of the Twenty-First Dynasty, pap yri from the
!l Elnt, "Ca mpaigns of Sha lrnanese r," 27; Luck en bill, Ancient Records of Assyria and
Babyloni a, vol, I , no . 65H; Stillman and Tallis, Antr ics, J 1.
., W.ll tha Manitius, "Das stehende Hecr der und seine Or ganisation, " ZA
24 ( 19 10}: 104-5, emphasized thar the militia was th e: nor mal force fur ninth-cen tu ry As·
syn an kings an d t hat 3. sta nding. professional ar rnv was not introduced until t he eight h
centu ry.
10 Stillm:tn an d T;,1 l1i" Annies. see als o the ir ex.. .ellent presentation on run mili-
tar y o rgani za tion. pp_!6-J I.
168 A ,\ llL1TARY EXP L A:--< ATIO N
reign of Ramesses IX ( 1137-11 20) refer to grea t number s of barbar ian s-
especially Libya ns and Meshwesh - wh o we re creating distur ba nce s at
Theb es.J! Since Libya ns and Meshwcsh in Egyp t were traditi onall y offe n-
sive infa ntrymen, perh ap s we are just ified in assum ing that the t ro uble-
ma ker s at Th ebes were a lso pr ofessional infan rryme n. whom the ph ar aoh
had sen led in Upper Egypt as a mil it ar y reserve. Ult imately a Libya n, o r
more precisely a "c hief of th e Meshwe sh, seized roya l power and inau gu-
rat ed the Twenty-Second Dynasty (ca. 940 B. C. ).
Assyria was the one Late Bronze Age ki ngdom in which an offen sive
infa nt ry was impo rta nt, and so it is no t surprising to find here a reli an ce on
infan try in the ea rly Iron Age. T he o nly we ll-documented reign in th e
twelft h a nd eleventh cent ur ies is that of Tiglarh-Pileser I ( 1115- 10 77).
Whe n thi s king marched north into th e Elazig region of eastern Anarolia he
defeat ed 20,000 Mus hkian tribesmen on "Mount Kashi ari , a difficult re-
gio n, " Il and for that battle he mu st have had a formidable infantry, St ill
further north , he suppress ed the Kaskans who had taken over the cities of
Hart i, and he ca ptured 4 ,000 of their men and 120 cha r iots. 13 To th e eas t ,
Tig lath-P ileser had to confrolit th e C urians, a tr aditi onal sco urge from th e
The sons of the [mounra ins r ] devised warfare in their hearts.
They prepared fur battle, they sharp ened their weapons.
The enemies iniriured their war.
All the highland(ers) were assembled clan by clan. . ..
ihe Guriun seethed. .i flam« with terri fying splendor.
All the armies of the mounr ui ns, the Confederation of the Habhu lands
came to e.u h ot her's aid in strength. H
Since Tiglarh-Pileser ca rr ied the battl e into the mountaineer s' homeland,
we must agai n imagin e him rel yin g primaril y upon Ioorsoldiers.
Anatolian warfare after the fall of th e Hitt ite kingdom is quite unknown .
Virt ua lly a ll th at we ha ve a re the Assyri an insc ri pt ions ci ted a bove, which
indicate that at the end of the twelft h cent ur y the M ushkians a nd Kas kans,
at least , had very few cha riots a nd a great man y me n on foot. This is of
co urse wha t one wo uld ex pec t from barbar ous tr ibesmen, and in Ana rolia
aft er the Catas tro phe there evidentl y W3S no Great Kingdom (the kings of
Ca rchcmish, as a lready noted, usurped the title "Great King of Harri" after
th e fall of Hatt usas)-and perha ps no kingd oms at a ll.
" Ga rdmer, Egypt, 299 .
11 Lucken bill, A,, ( io lt Records of ,lid HJh)'lo1l1.:1, vol. 1, no . 221.
11 lbid., no . 22t1 .
1-1 Victor Hur owirz .md Joan "'I.KA h3: A He roic Poe m in Celebration of
Tigl .ith -Prlcser 1' .> Mus ru-Qumanu Campaign, " }ounlJI ({ CUI1r.:ifnrm Studies 42 ( t 9YOj: 5.
For Dark Age Greece we ha ve the ill corpore weapons found in Proto-
geomet ric and Geo me t ric graves, a few figured vases de picting co mba t, and
of co urse the problema tica l battl e descripti on s provided by Horner. All
three types of evidence would sugges t that th e Da rk Age Gree ks commonl y
fought on foot (arrowheads, for example, hardl y appca r at :111 in Dark Age
grave s). But th at fai rly o bvious gene ralization was for a lon g time obscu red
by the a ut ho rity of Ar istotle . Accordi ng to Aristotle,
Among the Greeks, g.lVernment from the beginning (after t he end of kingship;
depended on those who did the fighting in war. The earli est of the polities was
based on the hippcis, since in war rhe decisive and overwhelming force was that
of the hippeis: for without organized formations a hopli re force is useless, and
among the ancients there was no experience in tactical matt ers. It W.1S for that
reason that the real strength was in the hippeis.' >
Classicists under stood Ar istotl e to mean th at until the perfecti on of the
hoplite phalanx (usually thought to have been a tta ine d in the ea rly sevent h
cent ury ) t he typica l Greek battle featured the clash of a few noble caval ry-
men. Since it was a lso understood that Gree ks did not ordi na r ily use the
bow, it was imagined that these earl y "knights" fought with thrusting
spears. T his picture, of armored and spear-thrus ting knights dominating
the barrleficld in ea rly Greece, was until the 1970s widel y accepted. 16 But it
does not stand up und er careful scrutiny, P.A.L. Gree nha lgh showed that
although the Geometr ic "knights" may have ow ned horses, they did not
fight fro m horseb ack; atte nded by a squire , the bippeus would ride to the
battlefield and th er e dismount to fight as an infa ntryma n. 17
\Vith th e mo unted lan cer s out of the way, we can now begin to see what
wa r fa re in Da rk Age Greece may have looked like. Recent a na lyses of
Homer's battle descri pti on s sugges t th at d ur ing the Da rk Age the typical
battle bet ween Gree k pol eis featured ma ssed infantries th at we re drawn up
in a line, or phalanx, of spea rmen (a mass, o r a co mpany seve ra l phalanges
dee p, W3S call ed a stix). Duel ing nobles are essential for the poet 's story, but
in rea lit y the promachoi were mu ch less impor ta nt th an the anonymous
multitu de in wh ose front ran k they sto od . I " The evidenc e from graves
" Ar istot le. Politics 129 7b; cf. 1289b, 1306a.
10 See. for exa mple, V. Ehrenbe rg. Th e Crc, k State (Oxford. 19601: 2 1: "Single combat
whi ch-almost exclusivd y- ruled (he tac tics of the .l g.t". . . .. urvived in the name of the
' knighrs.' the hippeis ." cr. A. Alfiild" "Die Hcrrsch.rtr der Reit erei in Gnec henlund und Rom
rmch dem Sturz de r Kijni ge, · Gestalt lind Ccschichtc: F..-, t;chr i/ t K. Sche{old (Berne. 1967):
13- 47; J. Bury and R. Mei ggs. A History ofCreecc, 4t h ed. (London. 1975) 94.
,7Greenhalgh, Early Gree k War(aTt', 40- h l.
I N For the o rganired, massed infantries of Homeric warfa re see J. Laracz, K.unp{piJr:inese.
.. un si K.Jmp(w irklidJkcit in dcr 1Ii.J5. bci Kullutos und 1) 'TtJ i0 5 (Munich.
1977}; .md Hans van " Leaders of Men? i\ l llirary Or garuzati on in the lli,rd," CQ 36
suggests that a very small proportion of the adult males in a Dark Age
community were able to afford both a sword and a spear, and defensive
armor is conspicuously lacking.!" In the Ionian poleis a relatively well
armed basileus might therefore have had a sword, a spear, and a leather
shield, and perhaps wore a helmet, corslet, and greaves all made of leather.
The men under his command would have had no more than spears and
shields. The Dori.ms were perhaps better armed: whether or not their
name was derived from the dOrtl,20 these were "spearmen" par excellence
and In the Geometric period formed a privileged military caste in Crete,
Laconia, the Argolid, and other places where a non-Dorian population was
protected and exploited by a Dorian elite. Among the Dorians there was no
tradition of either chariotry or cavalry, nor even of wealthy hippeis riding
to the battlefield.
Greek infantries in the Dark Age were hardly impressive by later stan-
dards, but the important point here is that an infantry was a community's
principal-and, in most cases, its only-defense. We have seen that the
noble cavalrymen, described from Aristotle's time to our own as the bul-
wark of the nascent polis, are imaginary. Nor was chariorry revived after
the Catastrophe. Although a few wealthy individuals must have continued
to use chariots for pleasure or prestige in the Dark Age, chariots were no
longer used on the battlefield. This is indicated not only by Homer's igno-
rance of the subject bur also by the complete lack of archaeological evi-
dence for chariots in Greece berween the twelfth century B.C., when they
were represented on LH mc pots, and the eighth century, when the chariot
reappears both on Geometric pottery and in bronze and terracotta figu-
(1986): 2H5-303, for criticism see Singor, "Nine against Troy," 17-62. On the role of the
busilcis as pramachov see Van Wees. "Kings in Combat: Rattles and Heroes in the /liad," CQ
38 (1988): 1-24.
1'1 Snodgrass, Arms and Anllour, 38.
10 Classical Greeks derived the name of the Dorians from an eponymous Doros, son of
Hellen. Moderns have often supposed that the Donans got their name from tiny Doris, but the
borrowing seems to have been reversed: the Spartans created Doris Metropolis as a counter-
weight to Atheru.m influence in the late fifth century. On Doris see now D. Reusser. "Les
Donens de la Metropole, I," BCH J 13 (1989): 199-239. The derivation of "'''''ltC,,; from
bOQll was accepted by Meyer in the second edition of Ceschichte des Altertums, vol. 2, 570-
71: "Die Dorer. .. sind ein knegensche Stamm, dessert Name als 'Lanzenk.impfer' zu be-
zcichncn scheint." Hermann Bengtson, Grieclnschc Gesrhichte; 4th ed. (Munich, 1969): 52,
stared Without further ado that Dorieis is indeed a "Ku rzform" of dorimachoi. P. Ramat, "Sul
nome dei Don," l'urnla .lcl Passato 16 (] 961): 62-65, argued that doru was indeed the base
of the name, but the dum Ram at had in mind was J tree ruther than a spear (the tree being
something of a totem for the "Dorrans "). Singer. "Nine against Troy," 30, has most recently
given the etvrnolonv lukewarm endorsement.
rincs.>' Thus the infantry militias of Dark Age Greece offer a sharp contrast
to the chariot-based armies attested for the Late Helladic kingdoms.
Finally, we must look at the Levant and the dubious evidence that the
Old Testament provides on post-Catastrophe warfare. For the first century
and a half after the Catastrophe the various tribes of Israel and Judah were
scarcely urbanized and had no centralized state. But late in the eleventh
century the tribes of Israel appointed Saul as their king, with a residence at
Cibeah. and soon thereafter the men of Judah made D;wid kingat Hebron.
The fusion of these two kingdoms by David resulted in a highly centralized
and remarkably wealthy regime, and the rr.ippings of monarchy soon
appeared. Along with splendid buildings (palace and temple) in Jerusalem
came a magnificent display of horses and chariots. Solomon was known for
his horses, and is reputed to have maintained four thousand chariot teams
and twelve thousand cavalrymen (parashim).22 If these fabulous figures are
21 See Crouwel, Chariots, 143-44; Snodgrass, Farlv Greel: Ar11lour ami Weapons, pp.
160-63; Greenhalgh, Early Greek Warfare, 38. The scenes of chariot combat on
eighrh-cenrury Geometric kruters in Attica are not reflections of J<.luJI chariot warfare. As
Snodgrass and argue, the eighth-cenrurv artist was inspired by by reports of
chariots in use in the Ncar East. and by surviving Mvcenaenn representations of chariots.
L! 2 Chronicles 9.25. At 1 Kings 4.26 Solomon is SJiJ to have had not tour thousand bur
fony thousand 'l1no<'d horses and chariots, and twelve thousand par.tshnn, in this case the
Chronicler's figure is more likely to be "correct" (which is to S,lythat the textual tradition of 2
Chronicles 9.2.5is sounder than the textual rradinon of 1 Kings 4.26). The meaning of 'urwor
has been well explained by G. I. Davies. "'Urulf5t in I Kings 5:6 (Evv. 4 :26) and the Assyrian
Horse Lists," [ournsl o(Semitic Studies 34 (1989): 25-38. Davies calls attention to Assvrian
parallels suggesting thar "urwot does not me-in "stalls." ot "stables," JS most tr.mslators huve
thought, but "reams." Whether Solomon in truth h'IJ four thousand teams of chariot horses
and twelve thousand paras him is another question; if the figures are not grossly ex.lggerateJ,
they might account for the resentment rhar Solomon's subjects harbored against him and his
A less persuasive part of Davies's argument does away with Solomon's cavalry, leaving only
the chariots. Davies concluded that the original meaning of 1 Kings 4.26 was as follows:
"Solomon hJJ 4000 teams of horses for his chariotrv, namely 12,000 horses." The figure of
four thousand, instead of forty thousand, is justified by the Septuagint reading and by the
par.rllel accounr at 2 Chronicles 9.25. But that the Chronicler intenJeJp,fr,Tshim JS""horses"
or "chariot horses v-c-saying, in effect, that the four thousand teams consisted of twelve
thousand horses, three to each team-is most unlikely. According to Davies's argument the
Chronicler, using so unfamiliar J term as "urwot , accommodated his re-aders by spelling out
for them what this obscure term meant (Jt p. 36n.35, Davies suggests that the conjunction be
understood as In "explic.mve W(IW" JnJ be translated not .15 "JnJ" but as .. namely"). But if a
writer wanted to cl.mfv for his readers that these four thousand 'urwot of horses were-in
plain Hebrew-s-twelve thousand horses, he would surely have used the word S14Si111. The very
worst way to clarify the exotic term 'urwor woulJ be to write rh.ir Solomon hJJ "four
thousand 'utwor of hor ses and twelve thousand p.vr.ishim." The l.irrer word must here mean
"cavalrvruen," as It does in other passages and ,IS the' Septuagint translators assumed it does
172 A ~ 1 1 LIT A R Y E X PL A :-; A T l O S
close to the mar k, Solomo n acquired the great est horse trOOP that the
ancient world had ever seen. But Solomo n never went to war, and so it is
difficult to say how these hor semen might have been depl oyed in :1 battle.
Certainly there was no enemy in sight against whom such a gargantuan
horse troop mi ght have been used.
David, unlike his son , had been a warrior and in the early tenth century
had established a kingdom that was perhaps the most powerful in the
wo rld. Renowned as a "slayer of myri ads, - David won his victo ries wit h
footso ldiers.A' We ar e told that when he captured a thou sand chari ot s from
Had adezer of Zoba h he "h oughed" all but a hundred of the chario t
tearns.>' The tr aditi ons about him quite consistently present him as ma k-
ing no use of chariots in battle and as fightin g under the aegis of the
infantryman's god, the Lord of Hosts.
David' s infantry consisted of both professional " mighry men " and a
levied mil itia .2
The former group was relatively small (six hundred Git-
rites, the same number of judahires, and the mysteri ous " Pelct hire and
Kerethite guards") and constit uted his regular arm y. David's militi a was
sa id by the Chronicler to have numbered 288,00 0 men, but its actual
strength is usuall y es timated at onl y a half or a third of that figure.
"mighty men " were evidentl y well armed, whereas the militi amen may
have had spears and shields but nothing else.
The farther back one goes in the hist ory of the Isr aelite monarchy, the
greater the rol e that one finds for the militiamen of the inf antrv, Saul seems
to have had no regular army of profe ssion al s, and no hor se troops, Tradi-
tion s ab out his great victo ry over the Ammonites, as well as abo ut hi s
defeat at the hands of the Philistines, speak onl y of infantrymen (t he Phi -
listines, on the other hand, surely had horse troop s, since Saul was hunted
down on Mr . Gilboa by Phil istine chari ot s and parashimi: Finall y, before
the creation of the Israelite monarchy the-people of Israel, as of Judah,
2.l Yadi n, AI1of War{.ue. vel. 2. 285; Stillman an d.Ta llis, Armies, 37.
!4 2 Samu el 8.3-4 (d. I Chronicles 18.3-4).
H This has been well tr eated by A. van Sel ms, "The Armed Forces of Israel under Sau l and
David. ' in Studie s on the Book , of Samuel: Paper, Read at the 3rd Meeting of Die O. T.
Werkg,'meen, kap in Suid· Afrika ( 1960): 55 - 66.
, . Yadin, Art of War{.lTe, vol . 2, 279-82, argued that the figur es from the Chro nicler (J
Chronicles 27. 1- r5) in th is instance wert'derived from an accurate Source. The mili tia figures
for th e ea rly mon archy in Israel were scaled down dr astically by George Men denh all , "The
Cen sus Lists of Numbers 1 and 26: ]BL 77 (1968) : 52-66. Whe reas Numbers 1.32. for
exampl e, says that the uu rnber of those." men in Ephraim wh o were "a ble to go forth to war"
was 40,500, Mend enhall red uced the figure to J mere 500 men, organized in 40 units . But
Mendenh al l's argument re-s ts on JnJlugi cs from Mar i: like most other ...ch ola rs, of cou rse,
Mend en hall JiJ not reckon With the revolutio nary changes in the Jrt of wa r t hat occurred
between the sevent eenth century .InJ the tenth. In fact, the co ncept of.l mili tia WJ.c, unknown
in seventeenth-century Mari.
depended for secur ity ent irely on a militia .
It is true th at by the lat e
elevent h cent ury thi s style of fighting was no lon ger very effective: the
league of Philistine citi es, with a small er but well-armed and regular force,
soundly defeated the tribal militias rallied by the priests of Yah weh and
added insult to injury by seizing the Ar k of the Covenant. But in the twelfth
centu ry the trib esmen were evidently quite formid able .
Sheer number s were essent ia l to thi s early Israelite renown: "The fort y
thousand of Israel " (J udge s 5.8) was prob abl y an optimistic figure, but it
sugges ts that a general mobilizati on of the tri bes living in Isr ael could and
did furn ish tens of thousands of warri or s. Alth ough untra ined and hardl y
well armed, trib esmen so numerous- especiall y when stirred to furor by
oracles from the Lord of Host s-must have been a force with which neith er
the coastal citi es of Canaan nor the later Ramessids in Egypt cared to do
battl e. An index of how dr astically warfare had changed in the Catastrophe
is that thereafter the militi amen of Israel , without any horse troops at all,
were able to maintain co mplete ind ependence from the last Rarnessids and
the Twenty-First Dyna sty kings of Egypt. Prior to the Catas t rophe, the land
of Israel had for almos t four hundred years cha fed under Egyptia n hegem-
ony, a condition so unthinkable in post- Cat astrophe circum stances that
tradition seems eventually to have t ran sformed it int o fou r hundred year s
of Israelite " bo ndage" in th e land of Egypt.
1 7 Yadin, Art of Warfare. vol, 2, 28 4.
Chapter Thirteen
N A FEW DECADESbefore and after 1200 B.C. the eastern Mediterra-
nean world underwent a transform ation in the too ls of war. Aegean
archaeologists, as noted in cha pter 9, have long been aware that new
types of weapons and armor came int o use at the end of the LH IIIBperiod,
and some arch aeologists have recently emphasized the range and compre-
hensiveness of the innovati ons. As Jeremy Rutter pointed out at the Brown
Conf erence, the rapidit y with which "virtu ally all forms of offensi ve and
defensive weaponry" change ca. 1200 stands in sharp cont rast to "the
conserv atismof developments in milit ar y gear during the palati al peri od ."1
But the findings of archaeologists have not yet been translated int o his-
tory. Although there has been some suspicion that the innovati ons appar-
ent from the material record must reflect the advent of a new style of
warfare, historians have barely begun to explor e what this new style and it s
signifi cance might have been.! In particular, it has not yet been proposed
that the new types of armor and weaponry reflect a historic shift from
chariot warfare to infant ry warfare. Th at the new ar ms and armor be-
lon ged to foot soldi ers has of course been clear all along, but the signifi-
cance of thi s fact has been obscured by the assumption that infantri es had
played the primar y role in warfare all thr ou gh the Late Bronze Age. Ha ving
seen, in chapters 10-12, that before the Catastrophe chariot warfare was
the norm for the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms and that offensive infan -
trie s came to the fore in the early Iron Age, we are now in a position to
appreciate the historical significance of the military innovations that ar -
chaeologists have documented for the decades of the Catastrophe.
It was, first of all, during the Catastrophe that the infantryman's corslet
made its appearance. Prior to ca. 1200, corslets were design ed for the
chari ot crew. The mail-covered, leather sariam, a robe reaching to the calf
or even the ankle , provided reason abl e protection for a man in a chariot,
I Rutt er, " Cultural Novelt ies," 67.
, f or the suggestions of and Sanders see p. \In .
I N ARM OR 175
and for him the fact that it was difficult to run in such a robe W.1S nor a
serious liabili ty. Apparentl y some infantrymen in the Late Bronze Age
wore a simpli fied, much less expensive version of the charioteer's corslet :
the Luxor relief of the Battl e of Kadesh porrrays aline ot Hittite auxiliar ies
in full stride, and most of them wear wide-skirred and ankle-length
"robes.".' Possibly the robes were made of leather rather than of linen, but
obvio usly they were nor covered with metal scales.
Alternatively, some l .are Bronze Age skir mishers went int o battle wear-
ing only a helmet and a kilt. A parallel here would be the primitive tribes-
men of a century or two ago, who were as na ked in battle as in everyday life.
The sha rdana in service to the phar aohs are shown with no defensive
armor other than a helmet , and the same is true for the Pylian warri or s in
the " Batt le Scene" fresco (they wear boar's tusk helmets, and kilts ).
There is no documentary or pict orial evidence at all for " heavily ar-
mored" infantrymen in the Late Bronze Age. That foot soldi ers in My-
cenaean Greece wore bronze armor is somet imes asserted on the basis of an
ill corpo re find: a plate-bronze corslet found in 1960, in a cha mber tomb at
Dendra." Th e Dendra Corslet, which dates from late in the fifteenth cen-
tury B.C ., has been identifi ed by several scholars as an corslet
and as an example of the kind of armor that Mycenaean infantrymen
would generally have worn in the LH II and LH lilA period." Such an
int erpretation, however, cannot be correct. The Dendra Corslet encases the
bod y from the neck almost to the knees, and the girdle of bron ze around
the thigh s must have prevented the wearer not only from ru.nmng but from
even walk ing at a normal pace. It must therefore have been worn a man
who in battle would be requir ed to step only occasionally, and then in half-
strides, and such conditions point necessaril y to a char iot crewman. It is
also relevant that the Dendra Corslet bear s some resemblance to one of the
corslets that a Linear B ideogram records as being distributed to chari ot
In the Catastrophe, on the other hand, we have pictori al evidence for
infant rymen's cors lets. The Medinet Habu relief of the sea battle in 1179
shows that not onl y the Philistine and Shekelesb aggressor s but also the
Egyptian defenders were protected with wai st-length corslets and leather
ski rts. The corslets were apparent ly strengthened Withstrips of metal sewn
1 Wreszmski, Atlas, vol. 2, plate 87; cf. Sanda rs. Sed Peoples, fig. 13.
• for descript ion see Carling, "Panzer." 96-98. On the tomb see Paul Amom, The Cuirass
Tomb and Other Finds at Dendra (Goreborg, 1977).
.5 Hard ing, A,1 ycetruea1f5and Europe, 151 and 174 (sec p. 175 for reconstru ct ion
b)" K. Mcb.t rron , of Dend ra warr ior as an infantryman, wit h swo rd and spea r), Crouwel,
Chariots, 127.
• Bouzck, Aegeal1. 11)8.
176 A M I LI T A R Y
to the leather,' In the Aegean , roo, corslets for infantrymen Jp pea r only at
the end of the Ill Bor beginning of the lll C period , The Mycenaean infan-
trymen depi ct ed on the Warrior Vase and Warrior Stele wear corslets , In
place of metal st rips, these corslets seem to have copper or bronz e scales."
And like their Philist ine and Egypt ian cont empo raries, the Mycenaean
warrior s wea r leath er skirrs that reach to midthigh. But it is not just at
Mycenae, and not only at the transitio n fro m lll Bto lIl C t11Jt the infa nt ry-
man 's corslet ap pears in post-Catastrophe Gre ece. Figur ed IllC sherds
fro m several other sites show footsoldiers (although some rid ing in cha r-
iots) wearing hedgehog helmet s, waist-length corslets, and leather ski rts ."
Ever y read er of Homer knows that the Achaeans who sacked Troy were
" well greaved, and specialists are quite awa re tha t metal greaves came
suddenly into vogue ca. 1200.
Again, however, we must emphasize the
obvious: t he wa rriors who used the new armor were infant rymen. Th is
innovati on was mostl y limired to the Greek world, perhaps beca use all
throu gh the Lite Bronze Age men in Greece pro tect ed t heir lower legs with
leath er " spats when at work (so, for example, old I.aert es wea rs knemides
as he di gs around his fruit trees at Odyssey 24.22 8-29) or at war (in the
Pyla s "Bartle Scene" fresco [see plate 2], t he Pylian wa rrior s a re naked
above rhe waist but wear leath er spa ts). And Late Helladic smiths had
occas ionally made metal greaves: ca. 1400, the Dendra wa rrior whose
corslet we have just discussed wore bro nze greaves. I I Wit h his plat e cor slet
prote cti ng him from collar to knee, and with greaves protecting at least the
fronts of his lower legs, the cha riot crewma n buried at Dendra was a r-
mo red as completely, although not as comfor tably, as a Nuzi cha rioteer
wh ose sariam reached from colla r to midcal f. Thus met al greaves may in
Mycenaean Greece have been worn now and then by charior crewrne n who
for some reason preferred plat e arm or to scal e arm or. But it is unlikely that
infa ntry men before ca. 1200 wo re met al greaves.
Thereaft er it is quite a di fferent sto ry. In Cyprus, two bur ials dating ft om
ca. 1200 have pro duced bronze greaves. Another pair has bee n found in a
chamber to mb at Kallirhea in Achaea, dating from the early twel fth cen-
7 For diSCUSSIOn and color illustr anon see Yachn, Ar' o( W.Jr(.1rc, vol. 2.25 1 and .140- 4 1;
fo r J. det ailed discussion of these co rslets see l.or imer . Homer and the .\1on>J men!s, 199- 200 ;
cr. Carling, " Panzer." l IB.
• Cal ling, ibid.. IUS; Snod grass. Arms and Armol/r, .11.
o Cal ling, ibid.. 105.
10 N. K. Sanda rs, "Nort h and South at the End of the Mycenaean Age: Aspects of an Old
Probl em, " Ox (nrd [ouma l 0{ Archaeology 2 ( 1983): 43- 68: Ha rding. Myren"""" s and
Euro pe, J 78- 8U.
t t On the greaves see Carling, -Ikin\ \:hienen, "in Buchholz and Wiesn er. Kr iegsu-csen , vol.
I. 15.1.
C H A N G E S I N A R " lO R A S u W E A I' 0 N S 177
rury (the same tomb yielded a Naue Type II sword). I ! Finall y, yer another
pair, found in 1960 on the sout hern slope of the Athe nian acropo lis, seem
also to dat e from the twe lfth century B.C. U All these twelfth-century Greek
and Cyp riote greaves were evident ly locall y made and were perhaps extem-
porized by local bronzesmiths. Although Go liath was said to have worn
bro nze greaves, they were never popular in the Nea r East . No r do they seem
to have been worn in temperate Europe before they appea r in Greece.
Har ding not es that the ear liest greaves thus far found in Ital y belong to the
tenth century, whi le those from centr al Euro pe a nd the Balkans " appear to
starr at the same time as the late Mycenaean exa mp les. " H 61"
After the middl e of the twelft h cent ury, greaves di sappear from the ar-
chaeological record in Greece and do not reappea r unt il the end of the
eight h cent ury. Carling assumes that in the Dark Age leather leggi ngs came I-;/j 0 r
back into use. 15 Various scholars have noted that Homer knew little about " ".
greaves, ot her than the fact that the Achaeans had them, and his vagueness Cfil'1l-
may indicate t hat in his time bronze greaves were only a memory. It thus
seems that the use of met al greaves in the ea rly twel fth century was a short-
lived experiment , restri cted mostl y to Gr eece and Cyprus. Th e obsoles-
cence of the bro nze greave aft er ca. 1150 can most easily be explained as a
result of the general poverty, and especially the sca rcity of bronze, that
Snodgrass has documented in The Darl: Age at Greece. Th is would be all
the more understandable if, in an age when bronze was very dea r, the
bro nze greave was regard ed as not very "cost- effect ive." Th e bronze
greaves from the early rwelfrh cent ury arc not impressive pieces. The Ka-
llirhea specimens were simply hammered our of shee t bronze, an d Carling
noted that the smith made (1(' effort to mod el the greaves to the musculatu re
of the leg. And all these ea rly greaves are relat ively thin: those from Enkomi
are two millimet ers thi ck, but modern experiment s have shown that even a
thickness of t hree mill imeters can be ent irely cut t hrou gh by a slashing
sword. 16
Perha ps the most important item of defensive armor that comes into use
at the end of the thirt eenth centu ry is the round shield, with its conica l
sur face running back from the bos s to the rirn.t ? Hel d with a center-gri p,
rz lbid., 152- 53; for .1 full descri ptio n of the Kallithea to mb and its contents see N.
Yalnuris. " Mvkeni sche Bronzeschurzwatfeu. " l\ IDAI 75 42- 67.
I.l 'The find was origi nally assigned to rhe Geometric period but has been redared
by Penelope Mount joy, "The Bron ze (jreuvev from Athens: A Case for a LH IIIC Dare, "
Opuscula Atbeniensia 15 ( 1984): 135- 41> .
14 Harding, A'fyct·t1de.. tn s and Europe, 17'J .
" Carling. " Beinschienen," ISS.
1( . lhid.. 156- 57.
, - On shields see Heide Borchhardr, " Fruhe gnc chischc Schi ldfo rmc n. " ill Buchholz and
Wiesner, Kriegsuvs en, vul. 1. I- 56.
178 A .\11 LI T A RYE X r LA N A T I 0 :-.I
thi s symmetrical shield (" balanced all-around" is a common Homeri c
epithe t for the aspis) made up for irs relativel y sma ll size by a superior
design. Unt il rhe int roduction of the round shield, toor soldi ers of the east -
ern Mediterranean kingdoms carried lar ge shields of various shapes. The
Mycenaeans in the LH 1and II periods (and possib lyalso in LH ili Aand B,
although evide nce is lacki ng) favored the huge " figure eight" shield, which
enveloped the warrior on thr ee sides from neck ro ankles, while providing
some freedom of movement for the arms at the indentati ons. An alterna tive
for the Mycenaeans, in use also in Egypt, was the slightly smaller "half-
cylinder" shield, with sides arc hing back. Although such a shield protected
a man from neck ro shins, rhe absence of a rm inde ntati ons must have
severely restr icted his wield ing of an offensive weapon . The Hirrire shield
seems to have been rect angular and relati vely flat but had scalloped sides or
"cu routs" for the arms. The sta nda rd Egyptian shield was oblong with a
rounded top, thu s offering some pro tection for the neck. III All these Late
Bronze Age shields, if held frontally and at the pro per height, wou ld have
covered most of a footso ldier's body, far more in fact than did a round
shield. The Homeri c sa kos-the great shield- was evident ly used with a
long lan ce (the encboss, both items indicati ng an intention to keep one's
dist ance in dispat chin g a n oppo nent. The size and design of these pr e-
('0-" J Catas tro phe shields are qu ite underst andable if they were intended for
defense primarily against missiles, a nd onl y occa sionall y again st hand-to-
. ;5 r hand weapons. .
-I ' i The round shield, on the other hand, was certainly meant for a hand-to-
. I Y- 01, hand fighter. For him, agility and counted for much, and he
:; . l f' l sacnfi ced the of a shield Ir1 orde r to be fast on.his.feet and
, e.. I" r""" ...s. ro have free use of hISoffensive a rm. The round shields vaned 111size from
less than rwo ro mor e than thr ee feet in diameter, but even the largest did
not cover a man below midthi gh. But because it was per fectly balanced, the
rou nd shield was unusuall y maneuverable. That quality, together with its
unifor ml y slo pi ng surfaces, gave the warr ior good protection at the Spot
that he needed ir.
With one except ion , there are no round shields attested anywhere in the
eastern Mediterranea n kingdoms before the lat e thirt eenth cenrury.l? The .
exception-from ca. 1270-appea rs in a Luxor relief of the sto rming of
Depur, a Hitt ite st rongho ld in the Levant, by t roops of Ramesses rhe Great.
Round shields are carried by severa I of Rarnesscs' skirmishers in horned
IX On t hese Late Bronze type s see Bor chhardr, ·Schildfo rrnen, - 6- 17 and H -27. and
the fold out p. 56.
I'" lbid., 30 : "1m gescmt en ag.iischcn Bereich w it" im Vortlt:rt. 'n Orient ist der runde Schild
erst mit dem Ende des 1J. j ah rhundert s cindeung nach zuv.. -eisen, nach dern [eweil igen
der eben mit der Seevolkerbewegung in Zusa mrnenh. mg geb rachr
worden kann. "
C H A N G E S I A RM 0 RAN 0 WE A r o :-.I S 179
helmet s, and the likelih ood is fai rly strong rhar the Egyp tia n a rt ist int ended
these figures to represent Sardi nian auxiliaries.!" Thus there is reason to
bel ieve that the round shield was introdu ced to the eastern Medit err anean
bv bar bar ian skirmishers fro m the west. Its ult imate pr ovenance is un-
known . Although round shields were common in temper ate Europe afte r
1000, Hard ing found rhar only one has been assigned (by at least some
scholars) a dare earlier than the twelfth century.I!
Although Sardinian runners were using the round shiel d on Nea r East -
ern battlefields in the early rhirree nth cent ury, it eviden tly remained a
specialty of the ba rba rian skirmis her for another sixty or seventy years.
From late in the thirt eenth cent ury or earl y in the twelft h come several
represent ations of the round shield, found at Megiddo : one on a sherd a nd
two more on ivory plaques.s-' Th e possibilit y that ca. 120 0 the round shield
was becoming fami liar in the sout hern Levant is strengthened by the fact
rhar all the aggresso rs who attacked Rarnesses II I in 1179 had round
shields. In the Mediner Habu reliefs (see plates 6 and 7) it is carried not
only by the west ern Medit erranean warri ors in horned helmet s-both the
shardana fighting for Rarnesses a nd the Shekelesh fightin g against him-
but also by the Philistin es and Tiekker. Ramesses' Egyptian infant ryme n,
however, carry the traditional Egyptian shield (oblong, with rounded top).
In the Aegean the round shield - the aspis - scems to have come into use
rather suddenly soon after 1200 and then qui ckly become standa rd. The
ea rliest evidence for it in Greece may be the Tiryns Shield-Bearers Krat er,
dating to the transiti on from LH IIIB to 1I1 C. !J On the Warri or Vase (see
plate 8) and Warrior Stele the spea rmen of all thr ee lines carry shields that
are round except for a sca llop on the botrorn.>' These shields , carried by
men in close-order formations, a re not iceabl y larger than those carried by
the skirmishers. The round shield also appea rs on LH IIIC sherd s from
Tiryns and Nauplia, on a vase fro m Mycenae, on two mir ror -handl es from
Cyprus, and in the ha nds of the " Ingot God" from Enkorni.s>
The innovatio n of the infan tryman's cors let , greaves, and the round
shield in the armies of the eastern Medit err anean reflect s the imp ort ance
that was sudde nly attac hed, during the Catastrophe, ro hand -to-hand
fighring. The round shie ld had long been favored by Sardinian skirmishers
bur was now in general demand. The infant ryman's corslet was perhaps
lll lbiJ ., 28.
1 1 Har din g, A'fyccnJeatJs and Europe 177. The single earl y spec imen W;JS found in west
Bohemia .
" ):'din, An of \fIu'f"rc, vo l. 2. 24 2, da res them to ca. 12t1lJ. Cf. Bor chhar dt. "Schrldfcr-
men," 30.
I Verm eu le and K.JrJgt.-orghi:o. , M yt:t'nJeilH I'ictona! \ Jst' HJmti"b, J OX-'-JJ IIJ plate X. I.
l' rbi.L, plate X1.42.
,. lhrd., plates XI.I, and l b, and XI.2X: Borchhardt , "Schildformen, " 2'1 and 3 1.
improvised by the defenders of the eastern kingdoms, in order to steel
themselves for a type of combat that was unfamiliar and unnerving. The
use of gre:lves may have begun :lmong either the sackers or the defenders of
the Aegean palaces (Homer associates gre:lves with the marauders at Troy,
while the in corpore evidence shows them in use by defenders of the mc
communities). Altogether, the armored infantryman W:lS in large part a
creation of the Catastrophe.
In weapons, as in armor, there were major innovations at the end of the
Bronze Age. Although the advent of a new type of sword is perhaps the
most conspicuous and dramatic of these innovations, there seems to have
been another that was equally important but has hardly been noticed. I
refer to the proliferation of a small, long-range weapon that we may call a
javelin, although it could also be called a large dart. This was not the javelin
familiar from modem track-and-field events but a much smaller missile.
The weapon that seems to have played an important role in the Catastro-
phe W3S perhaps only half or a third the size of today's sporting javelin,
which is almost nine feet long and weighs almost two pounds (eight hun-
dred grams). A closer parallel to the Bronze Age weapon would be the
Roman iaculum, which Polybius (6.22) describes as two cubits long and
thick as a finger.
The Medinet Habu relief shows that in 1179 the typical Philistine or
Tjekker warrior carried two spearlike weapons, slightly over a meter in
length and with diameters small enough that two could be rightly grasped
in the palm of the hand. In discussing the relief, Yadin reasonably con-
cluded that these weapons were javelins.>: He did not, however, see their
presence as remarkable, and in most subsequent discussions of the arms of
"the Sea Peoples" the javelin has not appeared ar all.
Even highly spe-
cialized studies have overlooked the popularity of the javelin in the late
second millennium. De Maigret's classification of Near Eastern spears
recognized two types of javelin but noted no increase in their use toward the
end of the Bronze Age. On the Aegean side, Lorimer made no mention of
javelins, and in Avila's Lanzenspitzcn there is no category for javelins (as a
result, in this otherwise very useful typological study javelin heads must be
sought among either the spearheads or the arrowheads). In discussing the
importance of javelins in thirteenth- and twelfth-century warfare, then, we
cannot simply summarize expert opinion but shall have to look at the
primary evidence in some derail.
'" Yadin, Art o(War(are, vol. 2, 251-52.
r r Neither Sanders's Sea Peoples nor Strobel's Sceuollcersturrn (both of which JiSLU'sS rhe
aggressors' weaponry at some length) mentions the javelin.
It is generally recognized that in the Late Bronze Age [avelins were used
by hunters.v" One fresco at Tiryns shows a young man who is presumed to
be a hunter shouldering two javelins grasped in the left hand; another
shows two hunters, each with a pair of javelins in the right hand.!" Athird
fresco, at Pylos, shows a hunter about to throw a javelin ar :l running
stag.") Since the Homeric word aiganee apparently means, etymologically,
something like "glnt spe:lr, n that we3pon m3Y originally have been used
for hunting wild g03tS.
The javelin 3S:l hunter's we:lpon W3S common in
antiquity and among primitive tribes down to our own time.'! Strabo
(4.4.3) described the Cauls' skill in hunting birds with javelins, declaring
that the Gallic hunters were able to throw their javelins farther (and appar-
ently with no less 3CCUr:lCY) than they could shoot an arrow,
In classical times the javelin was of little importance on the battlefield:
whether hoplites threw javelins ar each other before closing is debated, but
it is agreed that in either case the "real" fighting did not begin until the
thrusting spears were brought into play. In Rome, the uelites threw their
iacula, but it W:lS the legionary's pilum (a much heavier missile) and sword
that determined the outcome of the battle. In primitive societies, on the
other hand, the hunter's javelin was also the primary weapon when a tribe
was involved in a guerrilla with its neighbors. In Herodotus's catalog
(7.71-79) of Xerxes' army the javelin is the main weapon of the Libyan,
Paphlagonian, Thracian, Mysian, and Marian contingents, and in still
another group of auxiliaries each man carried two "wolf-destroying"
spears. Thucydidcs (3.97-98) gives us a vivid picture of the Aetolian jav-
elineers, whom the Athenians suspected of eating raw meat, picking off
"the best men of Athens" when Demosthenes led 3 force of hoplires into
the Aetolian mountains. In Arrians history of Alexander's campaign, some
of the most memorable chapters feature the heroics of the thousand Agri-
anes, javelin men from the mountains of Paconia. But these exploits of the
javelineer were exceptions to the rule that in classical antiquity javelins
were of limited military v3Iue.
Toward the end of the second millennium, 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
21\ See Olaf Heckmann. "Lauze und Speer," in Buchholz, Kriegswesen, vol. 1, 289-90.
24 Hackmann, "Lauze und Speer," fibS, 74:1and h. The frescoes belong to the earlier and
later Tiryns palace respectively.
.10 lang, Palace ot Nestor, plare 12 (no. 16 H 43).
~ I Hockrn.mn.r'Lmze und Speer," 315 .
.12 E. Norman Gardiner, "Throwing the javelin." ]HS 27 (1907): 257, noted that the
thonged javelin "is essentially the weapon of less highly civilized peoples. It IS a weapon of the
chase, :1 weapon of the Lammon people, but it plays hrrle parr in the heavily equipped citizen
armies of Greece and Rome."
n On the lightly .irmed [avelineers of classical Greece see SnoJgr3sc;, Arm.' ,md Armour,
67 and n-so.
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 javelincer 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 Rarncsses the Great's account of his valor at Kadesh: in the
"poetic" inscription Ramcsses 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. 34
b 1- 4'sb .cJ The Agrianes mentioned above show the efficiency of javelineers against
r-.. ' f"> a chariot force. When he learned that Darius had a hundred scythed char-
t, - iots in the middle of his line atGaugamela, Alexander responded by plac-
I ing his Agrianes (as well as Balakros's javelineers) as a screen for his heavy
fe{MJ4rl'"'s infantry. The mountain men were deadly marksmen, and not one Persian
chariot got through the screen.V An argument can be made, despite the
fact that the evidence is exiguous, that something similar must have hap-
pened time and again during the Catastrophe, and that the javelin played a
key role in bringing the era of chariot warfare to an end. A horde of
javelineers swarming through a chariot host would have destroyed it: at
forty or fifty meters a team of horses would even at the gallop have made a
far easier target for a javclincer than he-small, running, and protected by
his shield-would have made for the chariot archer.
From the centuries before the Catastrophe there are occasional illustra-
tions of what seem to be javelins carried by warriors, although these are
somewhat larger than those carried by the Philistines in 1179. A few of the
Shoshu tribesmen whom Seti I defeated early in the thirteenth century may
have brought javelins to the contest with the Egyptian chariots, since in a
relief (see plate 9) one tribesman is depicted grasping two thin spears of
moderate length in his right hand.w The same was true when Seti's son,
Rarncsses the Great, campaigned against the tribesrnen.J" In the Aegean,
javelins seem to be carried by the captain (but not by his men, who evi-
dently carry thrusting spears) in the "Captain of the Blacks" fresco: lying
across his shoulder are two long and thin lines, which may represent the
\4 Gardiner, Kadesh, P135-40 and PI60-65.
.II Arrian, Anab, 3.13.5.
" Battle Reliefs of King Sety I, plate 3.
P For relief showing J Shoshu warrior grasping two thin and fairly short "spears" in his
right hand see Yadin, Art o{ Warfare, vol. 1,233.
" ;;<:



'" c
'" v
slender shafts of javelins.t" If the fresco depicts a squad of skirmishers on
their way to a battle, perhaps the captain intended to engage the enemy at
long range while his Nubian troops closed in hand-to-hand combat with
their thrusting spears. Finally, a few short javelins are portrayed in
thirteenth-century warfare: these are tassel-stabilized darts, hardly a meter
in length, carried on Egyptian chariots (see plate 1). Bonnet observed that
this "Wurfpfeil" first appears on Nineteenth-Dynasty chariots, the crews
apparently keeping several of these missiles available for use at a range too
close for a bow.!"
In the twelfth century military javelins are portrayed in greater numbers.
There is, first of all, no doubt that the javelin was the weapon that the
Philistines and Tjekker brought to Djahi in 1179. The Medinet Habu relief
portrays many of the enemy holding two small (three- or four-foot)
"spears" but never using one for a thrust. Since the fighting is hand-to-
hand, the javelins appear to be a useless encumbrance. But it was not only
the enemies of Egypt who used javelins in the twelfth century. Another
relief shows them in the hands of Rarncsses III's own barbarian skir-
mishers.v' evidently for use against enemy infantrymen (this king is not
known to have fought against a chariot army). In Greece too we can see the
importance of the short javelin as a military weapon in the twelfth century.
An LH mc sherd from Tiryns shows a warrior armed with javelins."! Since
the warrior is riding in a chariot, we may identify him as a skirmisher on his
way to the battle zone rather than as an infantryman who fought in a close-
order company. Another LH mc skirmisher is represented on a krater
sherd recently found in the Unterburg at Tiryns: the warrior in this scene
rides on a chariot and carries two javelins in addition to his round shie'd.f-'
Yet another mc sherd, this one from Lefkandi, seems to show (the scene is
too poorly drawn for us to be certain) an armored warrior holding two
javclins.f' It thus appears that by the early twelfth century javelineers were
to be found in the kings' armies as well as among their barbarian oppo-
nents. The kingdoms' employment of javelin men probably began before
18 See, for example, Hockmunn. "Lanze und Speer," 288-90. Snodgrass, Early Greek
Annour and Weapons, suggested that the rwo lines (almost as long as the captain
himself) may be outlines of a single spe ar ; but the captain's body is visible between the lines,
and if the lines do outline a single spear. it is massive, with :1 diameter almost as great as the
captain's arm. The black man who follows rhe captain seems to carry a single spear of normal
diameter (see Evans, Palace of Minos, vol. 2, 2, plate xiii).
W Bonnet, Waffen, 105-6. For thirteenth-century innovation see also 'radin, Art of
Warfare, voL I. 88, and his illustration at pp. 240-41"
.. J)) See Sandars, Sca Peoples, fig. 14,
41 Vermeule and Karageorghis, MYL"eu.leJn Pictorial VasL' Painting, no. XLUL
41 Ibid.. no. XL28.
4' Vcrmeule and Karageorghu, in ibid.. no. Xl.61 (p. 136), suggest that the sherd portrays
"a sharp-fared soldier in a crested helmet with rwo light ravelin-, and an oval shield."
the Catastrophe, with runners using javelins to assist in bringing down
enemy chariot teams, but the twelfth-century javelineers of Tiryns and
Lefkandi presumably threw most often at a human target.
There is a bit of literary evidence that late in the second millennium the
javelin was used against tootsoldiers. In the Iliad there are occasional
references to akontes, and when Pandaros shoots Menelaus with the bow
Menelaus's life is saved by the waistband that he wore as "a barrier against
akontes" (Iliad 4.137). A more surprising source is the story of David and
Goliath. Yadin presented an ingenious argument that the story was origi-
nally about an Israelite who killed a famous Philistine warrior whose
weapon was a javelin.v' Weall know that Goliath carried a spear "like unto
a weaver's beam," but that does not help much in a world even less familiar
with looms than with spears. Yadin explored the term 0''"'1\ 'UI.J and
found that it has nothing to do with size: it was, instead, a shaft of very
slender proportions. What was distinctive about it, however, were the 7h,O!,J' 11
loops that it carried. Yadin concluded that the original Hebrew story de- /I rt.oy)
scribed a Philistine warrior who carried a spear equipped with a throwing- "" 4. I. JI -..:
thong (the ankyle ofthe classical Greeks, and the amentum of the Romans). 7 -eo G
With a thong spiraled around the shaft, a warrior could rifle a javelin as he I-: r
threw it, thus adding to its accuracy and its range. Although the story of .., "'to} 'I J?
Goliath and his spear "like unto a weaver's beam" was eventually attached 1\1);
to King David, it was also told of Benaiah of Kabzeel (1 Chronicles 11.22-
23) and Elhanan of Bethlehem (2 Samuel 21.19) and may well have origi-
nated in a real event."; It would appear that the use of the thonged javelin
was exceptional in Canaan late in the second millennium and was perhaps
limited to a few warriors in Philistia. In Greece the thonged javelin may
have been especially distinctive of the north and of Thessaly in particular. 46
How much in corpore evidence we have for the javelin in the second
millennium is difficult to say. Many bronze weapon-heads from the period
have been found, but in the absence of the shafts one cannot be certain
whether the heads were attached to spears, javelins, or arrows. Because the
military use of a short, dartlike javelin has scarcely been recognized, how-
ever, I believe it likely that many javelin heads ftom the late second millen-
nium have been erroneously identified as arrowheads.
De Maigrer's classification does assign one type of socketed " lance-
head" to a javelin, and on this type there should be no argument. Tipo B7
("giavellotti a lama rriangolare acuta ") is large enough-most specimens
44 Yadin, "Goliath's Javelin and the "ruzi," I'EQ ( 1955), 58-69.
45 On the conflarions and contradictions in the story as told in the Masoretic text see
Emanuel Tov. "The David and Goliath Saga," Bible Review (1986): 34-41.
46 Euripides' reference tBaccbae, 1205) to "Thessalian ankylomata.... indicates that his
audience associated the rhonged [avelin with Thescaly and assumed its use there in the heroic
Pfeilspit;:.en have no shaft attachment: the v-base of the blade was simply pressed into the end
of the shaft. Looking at all of these Klasse I speCImens Inos. 163 to 687G), I find that the vast
majority are less than 3 cm. long. For example, of the 318 arrowheads from twelfth-century
Pvlos. the longest is 2.58 em. and the median 1.?4 em. All ranged he-rds (nos. 688 through
773) Avila classifies as Klasse 2 arrowheads. These are considerably larger, the median being
approximately 4.5 ern. But if my contention is correct that heads over 7 cm. ca.ne from
javelins, the typical ranged arrowhead would measure a bit less than 4 em. Thesole arrowhead
found in Troy Vila. barbed and ranged, measured 3.9 em. (a similar specimen from Troy VI
measured 3.8 cm.): see Blegen er al, Troy. vot. 3: Settlements VIla. VIlb. and Vlll (Princeton,
1958): fig. 219. Supporting evidence may be available from a much later date: Mordechai
Gichon and Michaela Vitale, "Arrow-Heads from Horvat ' Eqed, " IE] 41 (1991): 242-57,
report that at this Hellenistic-Roman site forty-three ranged military arrowheads are well
enough preserved to be measured....The median length is 3.6 cm., and none of these ranged
heads measures over 6.1 cm.
S4 In reference to his Tiro A 7 ii, de Maigrer, Lance, 90, notes that these javelin heads had
morphological parallels to Levanrine arrowheads of the l.are Bronze Age. The eleven heads in
this group come from Hazor (no. I, undated); Ugarit (nos. 2-4, fourteenth and thirteenth
centuries); Alalakh (no. 5, thirteenth or twelfth centuries]; Tarsus (no. 6, 700-520 B.C.);
Boghazkdy (no. 7, fourteenth or thirteenth centuries); and Assur (nos. 8-1 I, Old or Middle
Assyrian). Although no. 2 measuresJn em. in lengrh, the others range between I I and 18 em.
ss Compare de Maigret's Tipo A 7 ii Javelin heads (at Lance, 89-91, with fig. 20) and
Avila's Klassc 2f arrowheads tl.aneenspitzen, 112-13, with plate 28).
Sf"> Heckmann. "Lanze und Speer," 290: "die Spitzen offenba r mirrles cines Schaftdorns in
den vorn knaufamg vcrdickren Holzschafr gesreckr sind."
57 Mane-jose Chavane, "Instruments de bronze," in M, Yoner al., Ras Shnrnra-:-: Of/garit
Ill. Le Centre de la ville: 38<-44< Cnntragncs (1978-1984).357. Chav.me, I am happy to
note, does not rule out javelins ("'tteire po.rucs de HecheS ou de raveline").
heads simply because typologists have no classification for a small, dartlike
javelin. On the Near Eastern side, de Maigret arbitrarily established 3
length of 11 centimeters 3S the minimum for the head of a giauellotto; de
Maigret duly recognized as javelins the eleven elliprical ranged heads thar
met this qualification, but he excluded the scores that fell below 11 centi-
meters, leaving them to be dealt with by an eventual rypologist of Near
Eastern arrowheads. \4
More than a dozen heads of the same rype have been found in Greece,
but these Greek specimens have been classified by Avila 3S Pteilspitzen.v:
Although these heads would have met de Maigret's length requirement
(they average 11 centimeters in length), Avila assumed that "spearheads"
must be socketed and that a ranged head could only have come from an
arrow. That assumption, which is certainly untenable for the Near East, is
probably invalid for Greece too, since a Tiryns fresco seems to portray
javelins whose heads are tanged rather than socketed.w
What makes the matter especially pertinent for us is that weapons with
such a head were clearly instrumental in the Catastrophe. In the destruc-
tion level of the central city at Ugarit thirteen such weapon-heads were
found, not in a hoard but scattered in the debris. '7 They must therefore
47 De Maigrer, Lance. 154-67.
4H In Avila's Lanzenspitzen, nos. 143-60 are all "aus Epeiros," and all measure between
I0 and 20 em. in length. including blade and sacker. The dateable specimens come from the
LH IIIB or IIIC period. 0. Snodgrass's Types Band C (F.arlyGreek Armollr and Weapolls,
44 Avila, ibid., 67; Snodgrass, Early Greek Annour and U/eapons
119, calls his Type B
(found especially in Epirus and Kephallenia) "a well-known Danubian type."
5U J. M. Coles and A. F. Harding, The Bronze Age ill Europe (New York, 1979): 179-80.
Coles and Harding date these javelin heads from Cascina Ranza, ncar Milan, to the "earlier
Bronze Age" (shortly before 1300).
SI More than thirty were recovered from the fourteenth-century shipwreck off Ulu Burun;
see Cemal Pulak, "The Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun, Turkey: 1985 Campaign," A]A
92 (1 n8): 23-24.
51 The skeleton was found in Grave 75 at Ras Shamra, with pottery from late LH lilA or
early LH IIlB. See Avila, Lanzenstntzen, I 12-13.
H Since we have no catalog of Near Eastern arrowheads, I base my generalization on
Avila's findings for rhe Aegean. Most of the Late Bronze Age arrowheads in his Lanzen- und
are about 10 or 12 centimeters long-that it can hardly have come from an
arrow; but since the sockets of this type are barely wider than .0Im, neither
could it have been attached to a thrusting spear. The forty -three specimens
ofTipo B7 heads are almosr without exception from the Levant (especially
Megiddo) and date from the Middle and the Late Bronze Age.
Thus it
appears that socketed javelins, with thin (and, one would suppose, short)
shafts, were in use in the Levant all through the second millennium.
In the Aegean we also find a number of socketed weapon-heads, most
dating from late in the LH 1II period, which are reasonably identified as
javelin heads. Many of these, it is worth pointing out, were found in north-
west Greece, just beyond the frontier of the Mycenaean world.:" Because
the "Epirote" specimens have faceted, solid-ring sockets, rather than the
split-ring sockets characteristic of Mycenaean spearheads, Avila proposes
that they are the southernmost extension of types that originated in the
Balkans."? Wemay note that socketed javelin heads have also been found in
Italy in contexts dating to the rhird quarter of the second millenniurn.c?
Despite opinion to the contrary, it is also very likely that a somewhat
! I I r smaller head, this one tanged rather than socketed, came from a javelin.
.!JUfU".i Heads of this type (see figure 2) have an elliptical blade and vary in length
, 1 .J.' from ca. 7 to 13 both tang and blade). They were in
.:II. C'" JD..II. use all through the Late Bronze Age>! but enjoyed their greatest vogue
he.c..J.s during the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. Although found primarily in
the Near East, they were also used in Greece. These heads were certainly
used in hunting, but there is no doubt that they were also used in battle: one
of them was found embedded in the dorsal vertebrae of a man buried at
Ugarit.V Most often they have been identified as arrowheads, despite the
fact that even the shortest is approximately twice the size of the average
military arrowhead.>! In part, I suspect, they have been identified as arrow-
;: .
Illll A MI L I TARY E X P LA I-: AT IO N C H A:-': G E S I N AR M 0 R A i'i 0 W E A I' 0 i'i S 189
M. Yon, Pier re Lombard, and Margo Rerrisio. "L' orga nis.rrion de l' habirat : les rnai so ns
A, B er E. " in Yon, l.e centre de fa uille, 46-48, with figs. 27 an d 2X(o bjects nos. 80/2 70,
80/99 , JnJ 80/7 0). Ch.i vane, " Lcs instr uments de bro nze," 357. announces rhar pu blica tio n
of the thi rteen head s, along with other bro nze pieces, is forthcoming.
5'" Cross, "On Darin g Phoeni cian lnscripri o ns in Sardinia and [he rvt edircrrancan. " AlA 94
(1990): .l40.
eo See. ruos r recen tly; Benjamin Sass. " Inscribed Babylon i.m Arrow heads of [he ' fum of the
Second Millennium and Their l'hocm cia n Co unrerp.irt v." Uf' 2 1 ( 19S9): l4 9- 5'; ; .ind j .·M.
de Tarr agon . .. La po inte de tlcche inscrit c des Peres BLInc.: :;Je j er us.ilcm, " Rt'V. Bib, YH ( l 99 1) :
244 - 51. These " arrowheads,. are undoubredl y from short jJ,vd ills (ehe je rusa lem specime n
measures 8.1 crn.).
"' J.T. Mi lik and Frank Cross, " Inscribed jav elin -Heads from the Period of th e j udges: A
Recent Discovery in Palestine ," RASOR 134 ( 19H ;: 5- 15. Two more hea ds from the sa me
hoa rd, d.it ed paleogr aphically co ': <1. 1100. have since ... ur faced: see Cross. "Newl y found
lnscripriou -, ill Old Ca na.n urc and Earl v Phoenici.ur Snipes, " HASOR 238 i 4- 7.
Unfortu na tely, bet ween 1954 .md 19HOe ro" dowu gr .rded the EI Khadr heads Iroin javelin
he.i d-, [0 .rrrow he.ids.
have been used by eit her the aggressors or the defender s in the city's last
hour s. The three head s from Ugarit th us far pu blished are 7. S.5 .md 8.7
centimete rs in length. ; x
If on e objects to identifying t hese and othe r ellipt ica l, ran ged heads of
the lat e second millennium as comi ng from small javelin s, one's only alter-
native is to argue that at this time ar chers for on e reason or another
developed a preferenc e for eno rmo us arrows. But variou s co nsiderations
ident ify these elliptica l, ranged heads ;I S corning from javelins, Ma ny of the
specimens tha t have been found , first of all, are inscribed. This practice,
which Fronk Cross has called "J fad of the II th cent ury, " >" was especia lly
commo n in the southern Levant but is a lso attes ted for Me sopotamia.':" A
hoa rd of tonged heads ca me to light at EI Khadr, nea r Bethlehem, in 1953,
and five (measur ing between 9.2 and 10.5 em. ) ar e inscri bed ' bdlbt;
whi ch Cross prudentl y translated as "dar t of ' Abd-Labi'r. " 61 Th e Hebrew
is no rma lly an arrow, but because th ese heads seemed t oo lar ge for an
arrow, Cross supposed that the word (auld also have been used for a small
missile that was hurled rat her than shot. Since 1953, another eighteen
head s hove been found beari ng wha t seem to be the na mes of their owner s;
still ot hers, from Mesopota mia. a re in scr ibed wit h royal names. It is less
likely t hat an ar cher wo uld inscr ibe a ll thirt y or forty of hi s arrowhea ds
than t hat a javelineer might inscribe his few javeli n heads.
Not only the size but also the shape of the hea ds suggest s javelins rather
than arrows. A mi litary arrowh ead was nor mally barbed, so tha t the victim
could not retract it wit ho ut tear ing his flesh; but these heads are elliptical,
designed for easy retr act ion. The po ssibi liry tha t an archer could or wou ld
wish to retri eve a spent arro w is unlikel y, bu t a wa rrio r wi th on ly two or
th ree javelins would perha ps have retrieved each of the m several times
during a skirmish.
FICURE 2. Tanged, elliptical weapon-heads of the late second millennium. Scale
approx. 5:6
a and b. From Catastrophe dest ruction level at Ugarir
c. From El Khadr, Israel (ca. 1100 B.C.)
d. From Mycenae (no dated context)
e. From Haza r (eleventh century B. C.)

190 A M I L I T A RYE X l' LA :-; A T I O N
Fina lly, there is the evidence from a votive jar fou nd in St ratum XI (late
eleventh cent ury ) at Ha zer. The jar cont ained (see figure 2e) not only
ranged bronze heads very similar to those from El Khadr, but also shaft
bu tts (the di ameter s of these butts are 1.6 cm. and 2 cm. ).b! Since it is
virt ua lly certain that the shaft butts and weapon head s came from the sa me
wea po ns, the Hazer weapons must be ident ified as javelins and not as
arrows. Neit her of the two Hazer head s exceeds 10 centi meters in length. b .l
To say that all ran ged heads less than 11 centi meters lon g are arrowheads is
therefo re to ignore the only sure evide nce we have for the size of ranged
javelin heads at the end of the second millenn ium.
And t hese small javelins were used in Greece as well as in t he Near East .
Since the Aegean heads that Avila classified as Klasse 2 Pfeilspit zen are
mo rph ol ogicall y ide nt ica l to (and, ind eed, slightly larger than ) the five
inscribed El Khadr heads, we mu st suppose that these too a re javelin
heads.v' The one securely dat ed specimen comes from a LH IIIBcha mber
tom b near Thebes.e>Th at a single such head would be inte rred with a
warrior again ind icat es that we are deal ing here with a javelin rath er than
an arrow. There is lit tle doubt that toward the end of the Lat e Bron ze Age
sho rt javelins of a Levanti nc type were used as mi litary weapon s in
Both the pi ctorial and the in corpore evidence shows tha t Lat e Bronze
Age javel ins had slender shafts and small heads, and undo ubtedly these
javelins would have inflicted much less tr auma than six- or seven-foot
spea rs. But as missiles for wounding cha riot ho rses or lightl y armored men,
t hese humble weap ons were perhaps as important as any in the ar sena l of
t he barbaria n ra iders. In the conventio na l view th at 1ate Bronze Age wa r-
fare was characterized by den se formati ons of heavy infant ry, t he uti lity
and the importance of the barbar ians' javelins would be diffi cult to see. But
., Ci. Y. Yadin; Y. Ahar oui et aI., Hazor: An Accoltnt of t he TI",d and Fourth Seasons or
£ u aI'lltion,. 1957- 1958 {j erusalem, 196 1): plate COl, nos. 6. 7. 10. and II fo r drawing;
for a phorograph 1 ro app ro ximat ely 1: I sca le) see pl.ire CC CX LVII. Fur illust rarion oi the
Hazor votive deposit see Yadin, W,Jr!Jre, vol. 2, 352, and not e hi s com ment there: " The Facr
tha r the butts were fo und in the vessel strengt hen.. the theo ry tha r the:heads were to r javelins
and not for arrows. "
., Th e bla de of no, 10 is bent ; ifstraightened, the length of the piece would revert irom its
current g.5 em. to 10 em. The or her head (no. I I) broken; irs preserved len gth (7.5 cm.) can
be assu med to represent at leasr three-fourrhs of me original.
"'.. I refe r to the fo ur he.ids in A"IIJ's KI.\Sse 2f (nos. 766- 69) : wh ich a verage I I em. in
len gth. Of the fourreen speci mens Avila ca ralogs as ; 70 A- 770M and des cribe>as
"nichr ndhc r bcsrimmbare Pferlspirzen der GrunJtorm :!. . " at leasr ten would be reasonab lv
ide nti fied .IS javelin heads on the h:his ot borh size ,JnJ form. .
,... Avila, Lanzrn spuz en, no . 767 (p. 112).
... ,. Ihid ., II!, unequivocally asvigns type of head a Near F.... astern origin: " Srielspirzen
de r Klasse .!f smd uicht gric(hi'ichen Ursprungs: rhr Hauprver hreirungsgeb ier liegr irn Vor-
dcren O rienr unJ erst reckt sh.:h von Anaroli en und Zypern his zum heut igen Gaza srrei fen. "
C H A N C E.S 1N A R .\ \ 0 R AN 0 W P. A P0 N S 19 1
if it is conceded that pr ior to the Ca tast rophe the eastern ki ngs depe nded
for offense on thei r chariot ries, one can imagine how much the javelin may
have cont ribut ed to the raider s' success . And on th is matter, as on so man y
ot hers in a ncient militar y histo ry, imagi nation is our only resource, since
we have no relief, painting. or text that presents the raid ers thr owing
javelins at chariot horses.
Offensive weap ons other tha n the javelin have been the subjects of spe-
cialized study, a nd so we may mor e briefly review the ir development at th e
end of the Bronze Age. Not sur prisingly, the spear here represents
a wea pon wielded wi th one hand, and "lance" repr esent s a weapon so large
that it was normall y thrust wi t h both ha nds) in twelfth- cent ur y representa -
tions is roughly what it had always been: a sharpe ned head att ached to a
sha ft approxima tely as lon g as its wield er is tall.
Th e ill corpore evidence
ind icates one cha nge in the ma nufactu re of Aegean spea rs: the twel fth-
century spea rheads had soli d- ring sockets, whereas earlier sockets had
split rings. Th at difference resulted from a cha nge in the technology of
bronze working: instead of forgi ng the spea rheads in smithies, twelfth-
cent ury bronzeworke rs cast them in fou ndri es. The so lid-ring socket seems
to have had no military significance, altho ugh the development of fou n-
dries does suggest that mass producti on of bronze artifac ts was suddenly
import ant in the Aegea n. In the elevent h an d tenth cent uries, iron spear-
head s appea red alongside bronze, both in the Near East and in the Aegea n,
and that cha nge too may have resulted in part from the need to produce
mor e spearheads than could be had from the limi ted supply of bronze.
On the Warrio r Vase a spear is the only offensive weap on the warriors
carry and so mus t have been used only for ,1 thrust . Homer called the spea r
an or a bOQu, and since was for him a virt ua l synonym for
" warrior" we must suppose th at in the Dark Age the Gree ks depend ed
pr imar ily upon the ir spears in combat. Before the Catast rophe, the spea r
had been less impo rtant. The word bOQu does not a ppea r in the Linea r B
tablets. Of course the Myc en aeans had spears, but the y seem to have had a
single word-enchos-for both the la nce a nd the spear.r " It is possible
that the word &oQu was popularized by North-Gr eek spea kers who came
sout h in the Iron Age (in chapter 4 it was sugges ted that a was,
etymo logica lly, a " spearman"). 69 Homeric warriors occasi ona lly carry
two dourata, throwing one and thrusti ng the ot her, but whether that prac-
to:' For J discuss ion of thirt eenth- JnJ rwelfrh -cenru ry spea rs in Greece see HOl.:krflJnn ,
"Lanzen unJ Spee re." For individu al type.. vee Earlv G rt'ek Armnll r and Wt!up'm s.
115- ] 9, and Avila, Lanzcnspit zcn . At pp. I ::! R-::!9 Avtla nores the popularity of "Jie man-
nesl.mge Lmze" irom LH II th rough lll'C.
hlo;" Heckmann, "Lmzen unJ Speere. " 3.\4-.\5 .
hQFor ;lgenr noun... tennm.rnn g in ..n l;sct'EJuJrJ Schwyzer. Cn echiscbe Crammaue , \ '( ) 1.
I. (Munich, -1 76- 77.
tice obtained in the real world we do not know.?" In Israel the spear seems
to have been the militiaman' s prima ry weapon du rin g the period of "the
Judges." What the role of the spea r was in twel fth-centu ry Asvyria is
unknown, but in the ninth cent ury an Assyr ian infant ryman carried either
a bow or a single spear as his primary weapon.
It is und ou bt edly safe to say tha t in the early Iron Age hand-to-hand
fighting througho ut the eastern Mediterr anean was a contest of thrustin g
spea rs. Th is weapon was appropriate especially for infantrymen in close
order formations, whethe r in Homeric phalanges and stiches, in Do ric
plrylai and phr atri es,"! or in the "tens, hundreds, and thousands" of the
Near East. Aspear not only had a much greater ran ge tha n a swo rd but was
less apt to injure comrades immediately to one's right and left.
In cont rast to the spear, the lance seems to have become a rar ity aft er
the Bronze Age, at least in Greece. The lance- the enchos of both Homer
and the Linear B tablets- must have been used especially for defense of
the chariot aga inst runners (as noted in chapter 10, it is so depict ed on a
Hitt ite stele)72 and in Greece may have lost its utility when the cha riot
became a prest ige vehicle. How long these lances were is diffi cul t to say,
since the heads (and they are enormous), but not the shafts, have been
preserved. At Iliad 6.3 1Hand 8.494, however, the poet describes Hector's
enchos as eleven ells (5.08 meters) long. Philologists have not ed that in
Homer the enchos is usually paired with the great shield, the sak os, and
seems to reflect an older usage; the younger pair is the doru and the
aspi s.i ?
We come fina lly to the sword, in which the changes ca. 1200- throu ghout
the eastern Mediterr anean- are nothing less tha n revolu tion ary. Both ar-
chaeologists and typologists of weapons have not ed that it is at this time
that a new type of sword, the Na ue Type II, arrived in the eastern Mediter-
ran ean, and it has also been point ed out that this is the first t rue slashing
" 0 One would su ppos e rhar a warr ior who wished to rhr ow a rnissil e ar an o pponent , befo re
hav ing (O engage him with .l thrustin g spear, woul J brmg ro the ha tt ie rwo quire di ffer enr
At £. trly Creek Armour and V/arfJ Tl', 1Jtl-37. Snodg ras s noel'S th.rr a few graves
from (he." Da rk Age yielded one l..lcge and o ne ("mJ.J1 ...pcarh ead••! I1J makes rhl' gO()J
rhar rhe smaller head was h om a missile.
"71 S. R. "Ci ti zenry Di visions in Ancient Greek Poleis: Aspect s or Their
Origi n anJ Development " (Ph.D. di ssert arion, VanJer bilt University, Iq'lll, p resent s an
J rgunleO[ rhar pJry/'l ; begau J;S the primary di vision s-s- a nd ph r3t ries .is subdiv·is io ns- t ,f .1
rruliria , and rhar rhe milita ry orgaruzario n pr efer red b)' rhc Dor ia ns mp art ire,
" Canby. - Hirrire An . " I 14.
:"1 Fo r .1OJ h,hliogr.lphy see HocklO.WII. "Lanzen und Speere. " J.!. 9-3J.

.. .-:
C H A;o; C E S I A 1\ .\ 1 0 It A N D 11.' E A I' U S 193
sword that the area knew. But the revolut ion in swords and swordsmanship
in the eastern Medi te rranean actua lly goes deeper than that. Although not
literally correct, there is mu ch to be sai d for Trevor Watkins's generaliza-
tion that the sword as such was foreign to men of the eastern Mediterra-
nean until " the Peopl es of the Sea " brou ght it forcefully to their atren-
tion.?" Befor e 1200 B.C., wh at swor ds manship there was in the eastern
kingdoms was a monopoly of skirmishers whom the kings had brought ill
from harb aria.
In a useful essay on ancient swo rdsma nship Col. D. H. Gordon provided
a techni cal terminol ogy th at can clarify discussion of the weapons of the
thirt eent h and twelft h ceutu ries.?" Stabbing weapons shorter than four-
teen inches (35 cm.) are knives and daggers. A "s word" between fourteen
and twenty inches long (35 to 50 cm. ) is more correct ly called a di rk, a
"s hort swo rd" falls between twenty and twent y-eight inches (50 to 70 cm.),
and a long sword has a length of at least twent y-eight inches. Although in a
pinch a di rk or even a dagger cou ld be used with a slashing (cun ing)
mot ion , these weapon s wer e of course designed primarily for thrustin g.
Proper swords could be servicea ble for either function, and the shape of the
hlade is the best indication of how one was in fact used. Blades that tapered
conti nuously from hil t to tip were genera lly meant to be thrust. Cont rarily,
a blade whose edges ran roughly pa rallel- and that was at least an inch (26
em.) wide-for most of its len gth was und ou btedl y designed to keep from
hendi ng even when bro ught dow n in a har d slash.?" Thus "a cut-and-
thrust sword is one that ca n be used as effectively as its form permi ts both
for cutt ing and thrusting. " 77'
Ca . 1200 B. C. there appea red in the eastern Mediterranean the thor-
oughly efficient cur-and-thr ust sword known to specialists as the Na ue
Type lI,7s or the Grill::' zmgenseh wert. Let us take a close look at it (see
figures 4a and d) to see wha t a trul y "good sword was, and what it could
do. ?? Th e Na ue Type II was a long (most of them ca. 70 cm. from pommel
to tip) bronze weapon. The blade' s edges were virtually para llel for much
of its length , or even swelling very slightly to a maximum at ap prox imately
twent y centimeters fro m the tip, before taper ing to a sharp point (such a
blade is therefor e call ed " leaf-sha ped" ). Th e blade and hilt were cast as a
single piece of metal. Th e hilt was a lIat tang, a littl e over half as wide as the
:"4 " Be:Jtinni n&- or 25.
7< D. H. Go rdo n, "Swords, Rap iers and Hor se-riders. " Antiquity 27 (1953): 67-7R.
Ch IbiJ ., 70 .
7; IbiJ ., 7 1.
:"J( 'TIle der ives [rom Julius Naue, Die l'Om )nJischen Scbu-er ter JUS Kupfer,
Bron:e und {Munich, 19(3),
; .. Fo r a derailed rypolog ic.rl sru dv sec Carling, " Bronze Cur-and-Th rust Swords in the-
Eastern Medir et r.me.m, " I'I'S 22 ( 1956): 102-25.
194 A ,\ 1 I I I TAR i' F. X P l A NAT I ON
blade, from the edges of which curled four flanges. Hilt-pieces of bon e or
wood were seat ed within the flanges and attached th rough the tan g by
rivet s. With suc h <1 hilt the warrior could be confident that his blad e would
not bend from the rang, nor his hilt-pieces loosen , no matter how jarrin g a
slas h he st ruck . The Na ue Type II could be used as <1 th rustin g weap on,
since the extremity of the blad e was tapered and on both sides two shall ow
"blood cha nnels" ran the ent ire length of the blade. But obviously this
swor d was designed pr imaril y for cutt ing (slashing). In swords whose pri -
mary design was for thrusting, the cente r of gravity was just below the hilt .
On the Naue Type II the center of grav ity was much farth er down the blade
(this was especi all y so for the leaf-shaped blade). In a thru sting sword that
would have been a serious drawback, but it added greatly to the force an d
velocity of a slashing swo rd. With suc h a slashing sword a warrior could
cut off an opponent 's head , leg or arm, or cut him in two: so Diornedes
(Iliad 5.144) severs Hypeirori's sho ulde r from his neck and back. The Na ue
Type II could al so, of course, be used with a thrust, and a warr ior who had
already severed an opponent's limb wi th a slash would thereupon pro ceed
to run him thr ough with a thrust .
Aft er its introduction ca. 1200, the Na ue Type II qui ckly est abli shed
itsel f. By the eleventh cent ury it was virtu all y the only sword in use in the
Aegean, and excavat ed specimens show that it was al so the standard sword
in the Near East in the early Iron Age. The only imp rovement required in
the half-mill ennium that followed its int roduct ion was the subst itution of
iron for bronze, after ironwo rking had been develop ed to the degree that
iron could provide a sharper, stronger, and more durabl e blade. By ca. 900
B. C. swords were regularl y made of iron, but the design remained that of
the thirteenth-century bronze Griffzungenschwe rt. v' The geographical
and temporal extent of thi s weapon's popularit y attests to its efficiency. ln
the Near East, the Aegean, and Euro pe from lral y and the Balkans to
Britain and Scandinavia, the Naue Type II remained the standa rd swo rd
until a t least the sevent h century,
Tod ay it is generally agreed that the Naue Type II swor d had been in use
in cent ral and no rthern Europ e well before it appear ed in the east ern
Mediter ranean. "! ln northeast Ital y too, as Stefan Folt iny pointed out, it is
su On Greece. (or the entire period 1200- 600. see Snodgrass . Fur l)' Greek Armou r an .i
WCu/, OIl S, 10 6: "It is rem.rrk.rhlc rh.ir the pe riod should be so thoroughly dominated, from
beginn ing to end, by o ne typ e." Th e C riffzungenschwerr W.lS vi rruall y the:on ly ki nd of swo rd
kn own in the Prorogeomerric peri od and remained sta ndard un til the sevent h century, when
hoplirc tact ics nude J. sho rt "wo rd more servicea ble. See al so Snodg rass. Arm ,.; •.tnd Armour,
30-.37,58, and 97.
HI Widely believed since the turn of rhe cent ury, hu t exh .1tIsrively; J nd, for the mos r
p.rrr, conv im:ingly) hy j. D. Co wen, " Einc Ein fi'thrung in d ie Ces, hit"hre dc r bronzenen
(; ri rtl unge n... chwerrer in Siiddeurschland unJ Je Tang rcnzcnden Ccbieren." Beri cht JeT Rij·
mist h ( Jc'Tm.mi SLhl.'n Komm;' qlnn 36 {1955}: 52- n. Set.' ;.llso (:0 \\'\.' 11.... "The Fla nge -Hil rt"J
C H :-; , ; E S I '" A R .\I 0 R A:-; D WE A l' 0 :-; S 195
quite well represent ed at an early lr seems to have ori ginat ed in the
area from the eastern Alps to the Carpa thia ns: in Austria and Hunga ry
specimens belonging to the subtype known as Sprock hoff la have been
found dat ing at least as ea rly as 1450.'" Like all northern swords, these
were not forged in smithies (forging was an eastern Mediterranea n art ) but
cast in foundries, a technique rhar encouraged proliferat ion : with a 1I1 0ld
doing most of his work for him, a founder was able to produce a finished
sword in a relativel y short time. From the eastern Alps and Carpathians use
of the Naue Type II spread northward '1I1d westward over most of temper-
ate Europe, and by the fourteenth century swords of this type were in use
from the Rhone to Scandinavia (in fact, the Sprock hoff [a is att ested espe-
cially in Denmar kl.v' Quite remarkabl y, however, nothing comparable was
at that time to be found in Greece and the Nea r East . By the thirteenth
centu ry, the Sprockhoff la had evolved into the fully mature Na ue Type II,
the evolut ion agai n having taken place ent irely in bar bar ia.
For cont rast, let us now review the ar senal of the eastern Medit err anean
kingdoms befo re the arri val of the Naue Type [I. There were "swords" in
these kingdoms during all of the Late Bronze Age, but acco rding to the
standards of a Roman legionar y they wo uld have left much to be dcsircd. t >
One Egypt ian weapon that in reliefs may at first glance ap pear to be a
slashing sword was in fact a bronze rod and would have been more appro-
priate for a Roman lictor than for a legion ar y. With one of these weapons
Curr ing Swo rd of Bronze: \XT.. 1S Ir First Developed in Cent ral Europe, o r in th e Aegean Area ?"
Bericbt fiber den V. lntcrnationalen Kongress {iir \ b r· lind friihgeschifhu (Berlin, 19'61}:
107- 14. Carling. who in I .irgued in Aegean origin, five yea rs later agreed wi th
Cowe.i that rhc evide nce pointed to tempera te Europe: see Ca rling. .. A New Bron ze Swo rd
from Cyprus," A'lf iq uity .J5 ( 1% I ): 115- 22.. For the conclusions of Nancy S" nJ"", ex pert
on the weapons of both the easter n Medit erra nean and temperate Europe, see her •.zPeoples,
9 1- 94.
J<! The lr.ilian specimens of the Na ue Type II wer e lar gely igno red unnl as sem bled and
publi shed by Foltin y, "Fla nge-Hilred Cutt ing Swords of Bronze in Cent ral Europe, Norrheasr
lralv, a nd Greece," /IJA 68 ( 1964 ): 247-5R . Th e definiti ve cata log of prehi stor ic Ita lian
swords i... now V. Bianco Peroni . Die Scbu.erter! Le Spude; thi s catalog doe s nor include Sicily
and Sardini a.
"' Co wen, " Fl.mge-Hilred Cutt ing Swor d," 20 8- 09.
R4 Ibid., 212, fig. 5.
KS Thi s nor been sta red clea rly enough by ou r standa rd authori ties . In hi s chapt er on
the We"p"'1S of the Near East duri ng the Lat e Bronze Age. Yadin (Art vol. I. 76-
114} descr ibed very well what wa s the re hur did not call atte ntio n tv what not ; he
therefore did nor mention the absence at the srraigh r slashing sword (or its a rriva l at rhe end of
the Bron ze Age). Rachel Ma xwe ll-Hyslop, - Daggers and Swor ds ," provided " full "t"log of
rhe wcapo ns from the Nea r bur did nor place [hem in a la rger context. Of rhe fifty-six
rvpes III he r cata log, the overwhelming major ity (fifry-rwo or fitrv-rhrcc of rht" fifr;.-··..ix) are
dagg er... i)r dirk-, {wea pon" rhar Co l. Co rdon defined .1' dirk... are in Maxwcll-Hyvlop 'v rami-
nology <:irher J Jggers o r sho rr ... wo rds;. In .Jddltl on to 'lype 34 (t he Sickle sword Lon ly Types
-HI. 49, .lnd 52 a re 'loworth • .lnJ lton eof these .Jppe.lr the the Bro nle Ag.e.
(which Yadin describes as "a long metal scourge or a long baton")S6 a
warrior neither cut nor stabbed his opponent but broke his bones and beat
him to death. The rod was evidently more than a meter in length and had a
diameter of two or three centirneters.F" Although a standard weapon of
native Egyptian infantrymen, it apparently found no favor elsewhere in the
eastern Mediterranean. The Egyptian infantryman used the rod with a
smiting or clubbing motion, beating his opponent while protecting himself
with an oblong shield held in his left hand. The motion required in wield-
ing the rod was therefore somewhat similar to that required with the
slashing sword. But whereas the slashing sword could cut an opponent in
half, the rod could only knock him to the ground.
Before the arrival of the Naue Type II sword, the only slashing weapon
used by men of the eastern kingdoms was the "sickle sword" (see figure 3a),
found all over the Near East but not in the Aegean.s" This "sword," which
bears some resemblance to an American farmer's corn knife, evolved from
an axel ike weapon of the Middle Bronze Age whose edge seldom exceeded
25 centimeters in length. In the Late Bronze Age the sickle sword sparred a
somewhat longer edge but still provided a slash within a very narrow
range. The entire weapon was seldom more than half a meter long, with the
handle accounting for almost half of that length. One must imagine it
slicing into an opponent's flesh rather than breaking or cleaving his bones.
Although it undoubtedly served very well for cutting off an opponent's
penis or hand during the collection of trophies, it was evidently too small to
cut off his limbs while the battle still raged. Nor did the sickle sword have
much else to recommend·it. Because of its shape it could not be used at all
as a thrusting weapon, nor could it be sheathed: a soldier carrying it would
never have both hands free. Despite its ubiquity ftom Hartusas to Egypt, it
was not an impressive weapon.
Thrusting, or stabbing, weapons of the Late Bronze Age come closer to
our notion of what an ancient sword "should" have been. In many of the
eastern Mediterranean kingdoms a warrior might wear a dagger, dirk,
short sword, or occasionally even a long rapier in a scabbard, as a personal
weapon or a weapon of last resort. The in corpore finds indicate that
daggers, dirks, and a very few shott stabbing swords were the only sword-
like weapons in use in thirteenth-century Creecc.s? Sir Arthur Evans
thought that the Linear B tablets from Knossos inventoried Naue Type II
swords, but that idea has long been abandoned, and Boardman suggests
'6 Art of Warfare. vol. 2. 249.
87 According to Wolf. Bewaffnung. 79. the single specimen preserved intact measures 1.26
"' On the sickle sword see Ibid.• 66-68; Maxwell-Hyslop, "Daggers and Swords." 41-
44; and Yrdin, Art ofWarfare. vol. 1.206-7. and. vol. 2.475.
' ~ Sandars, "LIter Aegean Bronze Swords." !30.
FIGURE 3. Eastern Mediterranean swords of the Late Bronze Age
a. Sickle sword from tomb of Tutankhamun
b. LH II rapier from Plovdiv, Bulgaria
c. Anatolian rapier found near Boghazkoy (ca. 1400 B.C.)
1911 A L I T .\ RYE X P L .\ KA T I (l
th at the ph usgana (pa-k,1-I1J) were in fact daggers." In the Pylos " Bart le
Scene " fresco, whi le o nc of the palace's men thru st s his spear into a savage,
two ot her Pylian s att ack wit h da ggers or short dirks.
A mu ch longer thru sting weap on (see figur e 3b) W3Sevident ly ca rried for
self-defense by early Mycenaean cha rioteers. In the sixteenth an d fifteenth
centuries B_C. many rapi ers (so me over 3 met er in length ) were elegantly
made, bur the cost ly hilt ing W3Sso pr ecari ou s that it is doubtful t hey were
meant for serio us fight ing.
4 1
From the LH Ili A a nd IIIB peti od s in corpore
rapiers have nor been found in Greece , bur vases continue to portray char-
ioteers car rying such weapom in tasseled sca bba rds sus pended fro m the
shoulder. For t he Near East we have less evidence for the lo ng rapi er in
the Lat e Bronze Age.
A fine specimen, however, was found in 1991 by
toad workers near Boghazkoy.91 Measur ing 79 centimeters in lengt h, the
Boghazkoy rapier (sec figure 3c ) has a narrow bl ade that rapers shar ply
from 7. 5 centi meters at the hilt to 3 centi met ers at a quarter's length a nd 2
centi met er s at t he midpoint . An Akkadian inscripti on pr oclai ms that King
Tudhaliyas (Tudhaliyas II, ca . 1400 B. C. ) dedi cat ed " these swor ds " to the
Sto rm God after conquering the land of Assuwa (pro bably " Asia, " in
western Asia Min or ). Th e dedi cat ion suggests that t hese rapiers roo were
cos tl y pi eces as well as usefu l weap ons .
The tt ad irional weapons of the east ern Mediterranean kingdoms cont in-
ued in use until the twelfth century. A relief of Ra rnesses ili on t he north
wall at Med inet Habu shows twenty native Egyptia ns, all ha nd-to-hand
wa rri o rs, guarding a line of captives. Each Egyptian ca rries a spear in his
ti ght ha nd and ano ther weapon in his left . Of the weapon s in the left hand,
six ar c dirks, six are rod s, and seven ate sickle swords ."! Nor on e of the
Egypt ian infa ntr ymen carries a lo ng sword.
A few men did use a long sword in Lare Bronze Age bat tles in the eastern
Mediter ran ean, but these were shardana skirmishers in the Egypti an cha t-
ior cor ps. Many of the shardana ca rried (often in a scabbard across the
»n John Boardman, The Date ol the Knossos Tablet s (O xford, 1% 3 j: 78-X O.
'1'1 Sandars, " Later Aegean Bronze Swo rds." 117; Sand ers ar gues persuas ively (127 - 29)
that even in the lata fift eenth century, by which ti me the hi Iring pro ble ms had been ove rco me,
the elaborate thru sti ng swords from the Warr it)f GrJ.... es J [ Knosso s were essentiall y st at us
symbols .
• , Under her Type 4H, Ma xwell-Hyslo p (" O.lggers JnJ Swords" 54 -55 ) inc luded only
rwo enrr ies J arillg from be fore 1200 . both [rom As!;) t\. fiI10T.
'1.1 I t hank Richard BeJ I for call ing to my att ention the preliminary pub licatio n by Ahmet
Un31et al., "The Hittite Swor d fro m BogJ zk'; y-Hattu, a, n .\fiize (M usell m) 4 ( 1990- 9 1): 50-
52 . Th e ...-omment arv on t he sword mivle.ids on ly in su ring (p. 52) rhur "'a... d cur-and-t hrust
weap on t he sword is evidently important as the basic weapo n of t he Hittite army." The
Bogha zkov swo rd has roo narrow .1 hbJe to ha ve served J S J cut -and- thrust weapon ; and
there is no eY' i J en ("c:': for It", USC.' in the Hitti tt: J rmy.
"'-I Y3. Ji n. Art of \V,JT!J,t? \"01. 2. 252 - 5.3; SanJ Jrs, St'lJ j1cople.s. 1:: 7, fig.
C H AN G ES 1:-; AR 0 It .\:.J D W E Ar o N S 199
breast ) a dir k or sho rt thrustin g swo rd. Th e Ahydo s reliefs (see plate 5)
show wa rriors wi th horned hel mets, quite certainly Sardinians, serving as
bod yguard s fnr Ramesscs t he Great befor e the Batt le of Kadcsh in 1275,
and each of them holds a di rk or sho rt sword in his hand.:" Another relief
of Rarucss es the Great, however, this on e dep ict ing t he sto rming of .i city in
Syri a, depi cts shardana br andi shing long swords.?> In the followin g cen -
tury, some of Ramesses Ill 's barbar ian ski rmishers (see plates 6 and 10) a re
likewise armed wit h the lo ng swor d, some of them almos t a meter in
length . The Egyptian reliefs suggcst th at these long swords of the skir-
misher s were rap iers rather than slashing swor ds. Th e art ists portray an
occasional skirmisher running his sword through an oppo nent, but no
skirmisher slashing off an oppo nent's head or arm. Although it is poss ible
that t he reliefs arc misleading and that the long swords of the skirmishers
were indeed used for cutt ing JS well as for thrusting, it is safer to suppose
t hat the sbardana nor mall y used their wcapons-i-whcthcr dirks or lon g
swords-with a thr ust. Th ere is no independent evidence o n Sardinian
lon g swo rds of the second mill enni um, altho ugh a series of statue-menhi ts
from Corsica indi cat es tha t the long swo rds then in use on the latt er island
wer e cur-and-t hrust swo rds rat her tha n rapi ers."?
A preserved lon g sword with a conti nuous tape r was found at Bet Dagin,
neat G3Z3, in 1910, and is now in the Brit ish Mu seum. Although originally
thought to be a great spearhead, it was identified as " a bro adsword," an d
more particularl y as "a Philisti ne swo rd of 'Shardanu' type" by H. R.
Ha ll."X Subsequent ly jt has come to be called simply "t he Sha rda na
swo rd," and on the basis of this associat ion has convent iona lly been dated
to ca. 1200 or the early twelfth cenrury, Th at daring, however, is apparent ly
incorrect. A spo kesman for the Brit ish Mu seum not ifies me that "recent
ana lytical work undertaken on thi s piece ha s demonstr ated that it is in fact
to be dar ed to the thi rd mill ennium Be. " 99 We therefor e have no ill corpore
speci men of the kind of sword that Egyptian att ists portray in the hands of
Sardi nian skirmi sher s in the thirt eent h cent ury.
Th ere is one representat ion of J native Egypt ian wielding a lon g sword in
the Lat e Bronz e Age, and it dat es to the eve of the Ca tast rophe. A relief at
Karnak , depi ctin g the siege of Ashkelon , shows an Egyptian soldier (in
' H Sandarv, ihid., 66.
'J, IbIJ ., fig. 12.
" Trump, Prehistory of tl»: MedIterranean, 20 1, 2 19, 3nJ fig. 45.
" H'III, Aegeun Archacoloey (London, 19 15): 24 7ll .1. Maxwell -H yslop, " Duggcrs JnJ
Swords," 59. lisrs rhc G.lL:.I sword .I S the first ex.unple of her Type 52. f or a good illusrranon of
rhe swo rd sec Y;J JiH. Ar t of \VurfJrc. \ '01. 2, 344. On ;m .llogy with t he- EgYPoJn reliefs,
:-'h, well-Hyvlop J JteJ the Gal> ,,'",,<! to 1200- 1150 .
..... Per...onal (orre:lopon Jen( t; : 10 J uly 92) (ro m Jon.lth:lll 'N. lilhb. in Bn ti')h .\ t ll ·
St:lIm \ rk p.lrtm t.·nt of \'(; e:",rer o AsiJric..: Antiqui tle... .
200 A ~ I I l. I TAR Y EX P L A !'JAT I 0 ~
PLATE 10. Bartl e of Rame sses !II agai nst Libyans. Line drawing of rel ief from
Medinet Habu
tradition al Egypti an headdress, he is apparentl y a profession al infant ry-
man but not of barba rian extraction) climbing a ladder, and he is armed
with a long swo rd, broad at the base and taperin g st raight t o the point.J?"
Since it flanks the text of Rarnesses II's peace tr eat y with me Hitt ites, the
relief has regularly been assigned to Rarncsses II. Tha t attributi on would
suggest that as ea rly as ca. 1270 the use of long swo rds had been exte nded
from the barb ar ian auxili ari es to professional infantrymen of the native
Egyptian popul ation. Now, however. it appears that the convent ional dat e
for this relief is too high . As was not ed in chapter 2, Frank Ym ca 's inspec-
ti on of the monument reveal ed that the Karnak relief was cut not for
Rarne sses II but for his son, Merneprah , whose sto rmi ng of Ashkelon is
recor ded on his famous " Israel Stele." W I That Mernept ah did make an
' "'' Yadin. Art of Warf,}" . vel. I. 228.
")\ See p. 20.
C HA N G E SIN AR M 0 RAN Il W E A rON 5 20 1
effort to secure long swords for his hand-to-hand fighters is also indi cat ed,
we shall see, by the "Mcrnept ah swo rd" di scovered at Ugarir.
Along sword, evident ly once again ' I rapier rath er th an a slashing sword,
was the weapon upon whi ch many of the aggressors in the Catastrophe
relied in their hand-to-h and fighting. In the Mediner Habu relief (s.:e plat e
6) of the land battl e in 1179 most of the Philistine warr iors are shown with
dirk s or shorr thrustin g swo rds. The relief of the naval battle , however ,
shows the aggre ssor s with long swords. Although in this relief the Phi-
listine and Shek elesh opponent s ar e in utter disarray, many still have
weap ons in their right hands. One has a spear whil e, acco rding to my
count , seventeen have lon g swords. These are huge weapon s. The blad e,
wh ich tapers conrinously, is considera bly wider at the base than the hand
that clenches the hilt . The hilt and blad e together are longer than a man's
arm. Similarly, when the Libyans attacked Rarnesses III in 1182 and 1176
they dep ended on the long sword. Another Medinet Habu relief (see plat e
10) shows a few Libyan s using the how, while the ma jority are armed wit h
long swords- longer in fact than those shown in the rel ief of the sea batt le
against the Philistine s. 102
As in the last yea rs of the Catast rophe, so in its first yea rs the hand-to -
hand weap on pr eferred by the aggressor s was evidentl y the sword. When
the Libyans attacked Mer neptah in 1208, that kin g reponed seizing as
booty only twelve cha riots but 9111 swords.!"! Since that figure almost
matches the number (9724) of peni ses and hands that Mern eptah's men
gathered as tr ophies, we must suppose that for the overwhelming majori ty
of the Libyan king's warrior s (whether coming from Libya or from one of
"the northern land s") the sword was the principal wea pon.
It was apparentl y to trump the raiders' thrustin g swords th at some men
in the eastern Medit err anean began, ca. 1200, to acquire cut -and-thrust
swords, and above all the superb Na ue Type II. A fair num ber of later iron
specimens of the Naue Type II have been found in the Near East,"!' but
ver y few in bronze (it must of course be said that because few to mb deposits
from the period have been found, few twelfth-century swords of 3ny kind
have been found in the Near East ). Carling count ed five in Cyprus (to this
relatively high figure from Cyprus must be added four more, found at
' 02 I'or drawing 01pa rt " I rhe reidsee 'radin. Art ofW."jar". vol. 1, 334-35. In rhe relief
the art ists depi Ll seventee n long swords In a boory pile. Jn J others in the hands uf Libyan or
Meshwesh warriors . For a sketch 0f rhe swo rds in the pile see l .orna G. Haywa rd. "lot:' Origin
01Raw Elepha nt Ivory in Late Bronze Age Greece and the Aegean, " Antiquit y 64 (1990): 106,
fig. I.
l h ' Breasted , AR , vel. J, no. 589.
10 4 Carling. "Br onze Cur-and-Thrust Swords, " Ii i . notes that at Hama ""J subvranrial
number of Naue JIswo rds was found wi rh rhe cremations of which the major ity is of iron. "
None of these iron swords is earlie r than ca. 1100.
202 A :-'1 1 l i T A R Y E X P l A T 10 K
C H A N G E S I N A R MO R A:-':D 203
Enkom i in 1967), 105 but only eight in the rest of the Near Easr. !' > Of these
eight, four ar e undated and three date from the period 1100- 900. Th e
eighth, and ea rliest, is said to have been found in the Egyptian Delta and
bear s the ca rtouche of Set i 1I.
l ll 71
11 e six-yea r reign of thi s pharaoh is dated
1202- 1196 on the low chro nology.
From the Greek worl d, on the ot her hand, the number of in corpore
Naue Type II swo rds is impressive. As Snodgrass has shown, in the Proto -
geo met ric period the Na ue Type II was the only ki nd of swo rd used in the
Aegean. lOS The Protogeometric and Geome t ric specimens, however, were
of iron . Th e br onze specimens are ea rl ier and fewer in nu mber, but the
num ber is nevertheless ext rao rdina ry when we remember that from th e
two hundred year s pr ior to the a rriva l of the Naue Type II virt ually no
Aegean lon g swo rds have been fou nd. In his 1968 survey Ca rling counted
twenty-seven bro nze Naue Type II swords in Greece and the islands of the
Aegea n (including Crete)."!" Subseq uentl y another specime n, very well
preserved, was found in an LH IlfC Arcad ia n tom b, and still another in a n
LM IIIC tomb in the Nort h Cemetery at Knossos.U" To these twe nty-nine
we may also add the nine found in Cyprus, fo r a qu ite remarka ble total of
thi rt y-eigh t fro m what can vaguely be ca lled the " Gr eek wo rld ." Perha ps it
is not su rprising that sc ho lars ea rly in this cent ur y referred to the Na ue
FI GURE 4 . Cut-and-thrust swords from the period of the Catastrophe
a. Naue Type II from Aranyos, Hungary
b. " Merncprah Sword" from Ugarir
c. Sword from " 13 maison du Grand-pretre d' Ugarit "
d. Naue Type II from Mycenae
10.) J. Laga rce, " Quaere epees de bronze provenanr d'une cacherre d'ar rnu rier J. Enk orni -
Al.isia (Chypre), " UgJ';t;C,' VI (paris, 196 9): .149- 68. The four wer e fou nd, a long with th e
hea d of a javelin, ill a pit deposit dari ng fro m the ea rl y twelft h centu ry. In Carling, "B ro nze
Cur-and -Thr ust Swo rds ," nos. 16 through 19 come from Cyprus, 20 th rou gh 26 from the resf
of the Near East. Carling's lat er survey, " LJ,(e Mi noa n and Bronzes 111 Oxford. " ARSA
63 ( 196 8) : 101 - (H, inclu des one addi tion fro m Cyprus an d anot her from the Levan t.
to.. In Car ling, "Bronz e Cu r-and -Th rust Swo rds," nos. 16- 19 come from Cyprus, 2.0- 2.6
from the rest of the Nea r East. Carling's la ter survey... Lat e Minoan 'vases ::I nJ Bronzes in
Oxford," AHSA 6} ( 196 8): 10 1- 4, incl udes one addi tio n fro m Cyprus and another from the
Levan t.
I '" Carlmg, "Bronze Cur-and -Thrust Swords," 116 . Cf. Wolf , B<!!vaffnllng, 103. Evide ntly
th is Naue Type Il was somewhat sho rter th an mo st of the Aegean specimens, since its origin al
1e000'th (both the hilr .ind the tip of the blade are missi ng) is estirnured at La . lil) em.
I Hll Arms and Armour, 37; d . Early Greek Armour and Weapofls, 106.
10· At p. 103 of " Late M inoan Vases," Carling', chart shows fifty bro nze Naue Type II
swords. Of t hese. ten come from " north Greece" [lllyria, Epirus, and Macedonia), an d fo rry
from " rest of Greek world:" However , as his cat egories on p. 102 indi cate, the rubric "res t of
Greek world " includes not only Cyp rus hu t ..Iso Egyp t and the Levant. If we exclude his
thirteen Cypriote and Near Easter n specimens ( il S well .I S the ten from "n o rt h Greece "), we
narrow his list to 27 specimens from the Aegean. Note that to hi s Cypriote speciin ens mu st be
added the four fou nd at Enk omi in I % 7: Jacques l.ag arce , " Q uaere epe es, " .349 ff,
t t ·) On the Arcad ian swo rd see K. De mak op o ulou, Arcbaiologika Analekta Athenon
22611. ; see also H.-G. Buchho lz. "Schlussbernerk unge n," \0 H.· G. Buchhol z, ed .,
AgJi sdft! Broni cirit , 501- ] , .md .ibb . 123. For the Knosvos sword sec " Knossc v.
1'i 7R," AR ( 1978 - 7'1): 4/i.
Type II as the"Mycenaean sword. n But of course the Mycenaeans were
relatively late in adopting it, and it is much better attested to the north and
the west. Over 100 bronze swords of this type are known from Italy (the
majority from the Po Valley), and over 130 from Yugoslavia. I II
What is most noteworthy for the present argument is the suddenness
with which the Naue Type II established itself in the Aegean. Of the more
than thirty bronze swords in the Greek world a few are late, dating from
after 1100. All the others "belong exclusively to the late thirteenth and
twelfth centuries B.C. n 112 Carling's first survey concluded that the earliest
swords which come from reliably dateable contexts "can be put with some
confidence at c. 1200 B.C." 113 Sanders's conclusion was the same: the
appearance of the Naue Type II in the Aegean can be dated "at the end of
the thirteenth century (probably very little if at all before 1200)." 114 These
dates, calculated on the basis of the middle chronology for the Egyptian
kings, can on our low chronology be brought down to the first decades of
the twelfth century. They therefore arrive in the Aegean during the darkest
years of the Catastrophe.
Let US state this baldly and succinctly: for the thirteenth century we have
no long swords at all from the Greek world, whereas for the twelfth we
have at least thirty of a single type. The archaeological evidence indicates as
clearly as one could ask that ca. 1200 warfare in the Greek world changed
drastically. The sword, and the ability to use it, had suddenly become
immensely important in the Aegean and in Cyprus. That a similar revolu-
tion occurred in Egypt and the rest of the Near East is not so clear, since
little has there been learned from tombs in this period. We have already
noticed, however, the Naue Type II sword with the cartouche of Scti II. And
as will be shown below, the French excavations at Ugarit have produced five
more long swords-none of them quite Naue Type II, but all designed for
both cutting and thrusting-that were made shortly before Ugarir's de-
struction. These specimens suggest very strongly that between the acces-
sion of Merneptah and 1185 the sword had become a weapon of para-
mount importance in the Near East also.
Since most of the Naue Type II swords from the Aegean were found in
tombs it is likely that "Greeks
had acqu ired them. That the
swords were made in Greece is less likely, and at any rate they owed much
to non-Greek swordsmiths. Harding has pointed out the striking sim-
ilarities between the earliest Aegean swords of this type and those from
III Cf. Harding, Mycenaeans and Europe, 163; for the Italian swords set': Bianco Peroni,
SchwerterlSpdde, nos. 89-189 (nos. 194-271 dare from the firsr millennium).
III Carling, "Late Minoan Vases," 101.
II.; "Bronze Cur-and-Thrusr Swords." 106.
114 "Larer Aegean Bronze Swords," 142.
C H A ~ C E 5 INA R M 0 RAN D WE A P () N 5 205
notthern Italy, and he concluded that "Italy seems to have played an impor-
tant parr in the production and diffusion of the Greek weapons." 115
Nevertheless, hronzesmiths of the eastern Mediterranean can also be
seen at work in the weaponry revolution. The five swords from Ugarit,
along with several made in Greece, show that at the end of the thirteenth
and beginning of the twelfth century eastern smiths suddenly found
thcmelvcs obliged to begin producing a weapon with which they were not
very familiar. For their models they certainly turned to the Naue Type II,
perhaps-as Harding's analysis suggests-especially the specimens
brought from northern Italy. The results did not quite match the Naue Type
II, but in themselves they are eloquent testimony to the urgency of the
demands placed upon the swordsmiths.
Exhibit A on this matter is the so-called Merneptah sword (see figure
4b), which Schaeffer found at Ugarit in 1953. The sword and several other
bronze objects, along with a clay figurine of a goddess, were found "buried
in a corner of the inner court" of a house to the east of the royal palace.U>
The sword was "in mint condition, n with its edges unsharpened. Schaeffer
speculated that perhaps Merneptah "had ordered from Ugarir swords of
this type, marked with his cartouche, to arm the auxiliary troops. n 117 The
Merneptah sword was almost certainly meant to serve not only for thrust-
ing but also for slashing. As such, it may be the earliest preserved Near
Eastern sword intended for slashing. Measuring 74 centimeters, and with a
wide blade (5 em. at the hilt and 4 cm. at midpoint) whose edges are almost
parallel for most of its length, the Merneptah sword has been likened to the
Naue Type II. Its hilting, however, consisted of a very long and slender tang,
so wispy in fact that it is bent vertically and horizor.tally."!" The bending of
the tang probably occurred during or soon after the sword's manufacture
and may well be the reason why the sword's blades were never sharpened.
Although In) good as a weapon, it was a handsome artifact, especially since
115 Harding, Mycenac<.1lls and Europe, 165; for the distribution of rheItalian specimens
see Bianco Peroni, Scbioertert Spade, tables 69 and 70A.
116 Schaeffer, "A Bronze Sword from Ugarit with Carrouche of Minepruh (Ras Shamra,
Syria)," Antiquity 29 (1955): 226-29; for essentially the same presentation, with a few
additions, see Schaeffer's report in Ugaritica III (Mission de Ras Shamra, vol. 8. Paris, 1956):
117 Schaeffer, "A Bronze Sword," 227. 0. 3150 p. 226: "The sword is not of an Egyptian
rype. It is known that these big swords did not form part of the armament of Egyptian soldiers
till rhe 13th century when Rarnses II and especially his thirteenth son and successor, Minep
rah, began enlisting quire important bands of foreign mercenaries. '"
118 Schaeffer gives the length of the tang as 15 crn.. bur does nor indicate Its width. The
width of the blade ar the hilt end is 5 cm., and the phorographs suggest thar the widrh of the
tang is less than a centimeter. The extent of the:bending is clear from the photographs and
drawings and does not resemble the deliberate bend m "killed" swords ceremonially
it bore a royal Egyptian cartouche, I assume that because it was one of his
most treasured possessions the householder buried it in his courtyard
along with the idol and the other bronze objects, in expectations of recover-
ing the hoard after the danger had passed. At any rate, the Merneptah
sword has aspirations to be a Griffzungenschwert bur has nothing like the
Griffzung of the Naue Type II.
In the Aegean too we find that early in the twelfth century the first
attempts were made to produce a slashing sword. From the very end of the
LH IlIB and from the mc period come four of Sandars's Class F and G
weapons that were intended as slashing, or cut-and-thrust, swords. These
are clumsy specimens and show only that ca. 1200 a few Greek sword-
smiths began trying to forge a new kind of weapon. A twelfth-century
Class G sword from Perati, in Attica, is reminiscent of a butcher's cleaver:
"the blade is unique, being truly leaf-shaped with the greatest width in its
lower third. "119Two Class F specimens (one complete, the other fragmen-
tary), found at Mouliana in Crete and dating to the twelfth century, are also
slashing swords. A fourth slashing sword, dating from ca. 1200 and com-
ing from Mycenae, is 62 centimeters long bur is also badly designed.
Sandars observes that it is "most unwieldy and eccentric, more so than the
Perati sword, and may be grouped with it and with the Mouliana F sword
as examples of inexpert experimentation." l20
How eastern Mediterranean smiths worked to produce slashing swords
during the Catastrophe is most vividly illustrated by a group of four such
swords found at Ugarit in 1929 (although not finally published until 1956,
by which time, unfortunately, the man who dug them up-Georges
Chenet-had died).121 The four are superior to the "Merneptah sword"
from the same city, since their tangs are suitably broad and strong (see
figure 4c). Because their tangs are not flanged, the Ugarit swords are not
true Griffzungenschwerter, bur in other respects theyare on a par with the
Naue Type II. In length they range from 63 to 73 centimeters. Their tangs
are flat but extend through to a pommel spike, and are all more than 2
centimeters wide (that is, two or three times the width of the Merneptah
sword). The blades have parallel edges for most of their length, ending in a
taper. The four blades vary considerably in width: measured at the mid-
point, they are respectively 2.5, 3, 3.3, and 4 centimeters wide. There is no
doubt that these are cut-and-thrust swords.I '?
119 Sandars, "Later Aegean Bronze Swords," 139.
WI lbid., 140.
III These swords are described by Schaeffer in Ugaritica /II, 256-59. For their initial
announcement, see Schaeffer, "Lcs fouilles de Minet-el-Berda er de Ras Sharnra (campagne du
prinrernps 1929)," Svria to (1929): 295 and plate LX, fig. 3.
IE Cf. Carling, "Bronze Cut-and-Thrust Swords," 121; Snodgrass, Early Greek Armour
and Weapons, 207.
They were never used, however. Cast rather than forged, they are fresh
from their molds and are unfinished in that their points and blades were
never sharpened, and their tangs are without rivet holes. They are part of a
collection of seventy-four bronze objects found underneath "Ia maison du
Grand-pretre dUgarit." Specifically, the excavators found the deposit in a
hollow directly beneath the spot once occupied by the threshold of an
interior doorway (by 1929 the threshold itself had disappeared, perhaps
because it was made of wood). 123
The swords are usually dated to the fourteenth century. That was Claude
Schaeffer's interpretation, based on the sherds found in the fill into which
the pit was dug.J-:' Schaeffer's assumption was that the bronze objects were
a foundation deposit, dedicated when the high-priest's house was built.
There is, however, a much better possibility: the objects constitute a hoard
buried during the final emergency of Ugarit, ca. 1185, in hopes that after
the attackers were gone the objects could be retrieved from their hiding
The fourteenth-century sherds in the surrounding fill can be dismissed as
a criterion for dating the deposit, since on any reconstruction the pit must
have been dug into a preexisting stratum. The question is, When was the pit
dug? Schaeffer proposed that it was dug at the time of the house's construc-
tion, for a foundation deposit, but this is unlikely. Although foundation
deposits under thresholds are known, they tend to contain a sacrificial
victim along with a few vases and figurines (a "lamp and bowl" combina-
tion was common in the Late Bronze Age).125 That seventy-four bronze
artifacts were buried as a foundation deposit defies belief. In 1929 the
ubiquity of hoards at Ugarit was not yet recognized; but in the course of his
forty years at the site Schaeffer himself was to find that almost all of the
bronze articles discovered there had been squirreled away by the occupants
in wall cavities or in hollows under the tloors.i-e
A typological argument puts the hoard at least a century later than the
date proposed by Schaeffer. Among the seventy-four artifacts is a tripod
with pomegranate pendants. Carling noted that the tripod corresponds
closely to many such specimens found on Cyprus, all in contexts dateable
to the period after 1250. Himself an expert on Cypriote bronzework of the
period, Carling concluded that the Ugarit tripod represents an advanced
11.l Schaeffer, Ugaritica III, 253.
124 Lagarce , "Quarre epees," 364n.17, reveals that in private conversation Schaeffer even-
tually conceded that his original dare was J. bit too early, and that the foundation deposit may
have been made .... au debut du xiii'' siecie."
125 Some thirty-five of these are characterized by Shlomo Bunirrtovirz and Ornn Zimhoni,
"'L3mp and Bowl' Foundation Deposits from the End of the Late Bronze Age-Beginning of
the Iron Age in Ererz-Israel," Fret; Israel 21 (1990); J02.
Ill> Schaeffer, "Commenr.nres," 76.3: "rres nombreuses cachetres d'objets precieux eta-
blies par des par ticuiier s dms des murs au sous les planchers de leurs hcbitanons."
208 A ,\ 11L IT A RYE X P LA N A T 10 :-;
stage of the type and could hardly have been made much earlier than the
end of the thirteenth cenrury.t -'?
Finally, the swor ds themselves argue for a date during the Catas trophe.
All four are excellent pieces. From all of the Near East the onl y known
sword that marches these is the Naue Type II, bearing the carrouch e of Seri
II and so dating no earlier than 1202. Enough is now known about swords
at Ugarit, and throughout the eastern Medit err anean, for us to state cate-
gorically that in the fourteenth cent ury swords rniths at Ugarit were not yet
casting cut- and-thrust swor ds of any kind, much less swor ds so typolog-
icallyadvanced as these. We may conclude that the four Ugarit swor ds, like
the four recentl y found at Enkorni, were hoarded in the earl y twelfth
cent ury "d ans I'espoir d'un retou r prochein . n I ! S
It was the misdating of the four Ugarit swords that for a long time
obscured how deficient Late Bronze Age swords in the eastern Mediterr a-
nean were in comparison with those of temper ate Europe. Until Carling
objected, scholars interested in ancient weapon ry accepted Schaeffer's in-
terpretati on as fact. To Lorimer the four swords demonstrated the pr esence
in fourteenth -century Ugarit of Mycenaean immigrants, some of whom
had evidently set up a sword factory. I ! " For V. Gordon Childe , C. F.C.
Hawkes, Col. Gordon, and oth ers, the Ugarir swords suggested that cut-
and-thrust swords were pioneered in the eastern Mediterranean and not in
temperate Europe. U" Even Snodgrass, who found Carling's argument
tempting, still presented the four swords as evidence for "a parall el and
contempor ary evolution" of cut- and -thrust swords in the eastern Medit er-
ranean and in central Europe . 13 I
Once the hoard swor ds from Ugarit ::: re correctly dat ed, it is plain to see
that changes in eastern Mediterranean swords at the end of the Bronze Age
were revolutiona ry rather than evolutionary. The first Naue Type II speci-
mens (in Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt) appea r almos t simultaneously ca.
1200, and a variety of local experiment s attempted to produce a slashing
sword of similar efficiency. Some of the experiments resulted in unusabl e
swords, but by ca. 1185 swordsmirhs at Ugarit had all but perfected their
product. Unfort unately for Ugarit, the time for producing these swor ds,
and for tr aining men to wield them, had run out.
117 Carling, " Bronze Cut-and-Th rust Swords," 12 1: "The Ras Sharura sta nd is rypolog -
ical ly very advanced in the series an d. in isola rion, would almos t c.:crr,a inly be dared a goo d
deal larer than 1250."
• I!H Lagarce, " Qu.it re epees," 36 7-68.
11.,. Lorimer. Homer and the A1mruments . 21 and JJ.
1\,) Childe, "The Final Bronz e Age in rhc Nea r East and Tempe rate Euro pe," PPS 14
( J948): 18.,1f.; Ha wkes, "From Bron ze Al(e 10 Iron Age: Middl e Euro pe, Italy, and the No rrh
and W ~ t , " ibid.. t 9Stt. ; JmJGo rdon, " Swords, Rapier s and Ho rse-Rid ers," 72.
I H J:..ul y Greek Armuur .md \Ve..zpon.s. 207.
Chapter Fourt een
HAPTERS 10-12 present ed an argument that warf are in the Late
Bronze Age was very different from what it was in the earl y Iron
Age (or, for that matter, in any other period of antiqui ty). Befor e
the Catastrophe, a king might send infantrymen against barbarians in the
hills; but combat between two kingdoms was chariot warfare, in which the
only infantrymen who played an offensive role were the chariot runners or
skirmishers. In the Iron Age, on the othe r hand , warfare was syno nymous
with infant ry enco unters: if horse troops rook part in the battle, they were
ancillary to the foor soldiers,
Th e archaeological evidence for armor and weapons, reviewed in chap-
ter 13, locates the period of transition from chariot to infantry warfare
pr ecisely in the decades of the Catastrophe. Thi s was evidenrly the time
when, after chariot armies had been supreme for more than four hundred
year s, infanr rymen once again rook back the field. Although the forms of
some weapons-bows, lances, spears, and javelins-are not known to
have chan ged much in the late thirteenth and early twelfth centuries, their
relative impo rtance evident ly did. Bows and lances, the weapons of the
chariot crew, were far more numerous befor e the Catastrophe than after .
Javelins, on the other hand, thrown on the run by skirmishers, seem to have
prolifer ated at the end of the Bronze Age, and in the Near East remained
important through the twelfth and eleventh centuries. The spear, the
weapon par excellence of the d ose-order infanr ryman. j s well arrested for
the early Iron Age. In Dark Age Greece a single spear normall y accom-
pani ed a dead man to the afterlife .
Other items of infantrymen's equipment are even more telling. Cor slets
and greaves for infantrymen were app ar entl y an innovation in the Catas-
trophe. Round shields had been used by barb ar ian runners in the thir-
teenth centu ry but came into general use earl y in the twelfth. TIle evidence
for swor ds is most dr amati c: the materi al record shows that a revolution in
swordsma nship began in the Aegean, in Egypt, and at Ugarit ca. 1200 B. C.
There was suddenly a demand for long slashing swords, whether for the
Naue Type 11 swor ds brought from northern Ital y or the Balkans or for
mor e experimenta l specimens produced in the eastern kingdoms them-
selves. In sho rt , the archaeological recor d of cha nges in armor and
21 0 A M I L I T A R Y
weaponry pr esent s 3 decisive a rgument that it was in the decades irnme-
diately befo re and after 1200 that there bega n the infantry dominance that
was to conti nue to the end of antiqui ty.
On the basis of the ci rcumsta ntial evide nce we m3Ytherefore conclude
that cha riot war fare ended in the Catast rophe, the rai der s and city-sacke rs
having found a W3Yto defeat the grea rcsr cha riot a rmies of the time. But of
co urse there is a lso di rect evidence that thi s is wha r the Ca tasrrophe wa s
ab o ut . The reliefs at Medi net Hahu show clea rly enough t hat the aggr es-
surs against Rarnesses Ill-the Libyans, the Philis tines and Tickk er, and
t he northerners wh o joi ned in t he arrack-were infant rymen, suppo rt ed
by a very few cha riots . They also sho w that Rarn esses was able to win his
victories over the mar au der s by assembling a grea t number of foot soldie rs,
drawn both from barbari a and from Egypt irsel f. Tha t the aggressors wer e
infant rymen ha s ge nera lly go ne unremark ed becau se it has been assumed
rhar a ncient land battles had altuays been fought prima ri ly by footsoldiers.
Only when one recogni zes that in the Late Bronze Age that was not the case
can one appreciate the significa nce of what is shown in the Mediner Habu
rel iefs.
f rom the reliefs we can a lso infer that the Libyan s a nd Philist ines fou ght
as skirmishers, perhaps as they had tr aditi on all y don e in their tr ibal guer·
rillas, rath er th un as dis ciplined tr oop s in orga nized formations. The Med i-
net Habu relief suggests that the Phil ist ines and Tiekher swarmed, as indi o
vid ua ls o r in sma ll groups, over the field. Wirh a lon g sword as his primar y
weap on for han d oro-hand war far e, the rai der requ ired an "open space, in
which his agi lity and fleetn ess co uld be exploi ted , Bur befor e th e han d -to -
hand lighring bega n, the cha riots had to be overco me, and it was surel y fo r
th is purpose that the rai ders brought their javel ins. Aga in, the javelins
sugges t a swarming tact ic, the [avelinccr ru nni ng forwa rd and rhen hurl ing
his weap on at a team of cha riot hor ses. At Djah i in 1179 Ramesses wisel y
kept his cha riots in the background and relied on the foot soldi er s he re -
crui ted. Bur in ot he r battl es the raid ers musr have used javelins to good
effect, dest roying the char iot armies and ending the era of chari ot wa rfa re.
Th e fact that the marauders were " runners," and therefore dangerous
for a cha riot ry, ca n be infer red from the reliefs out is explicit in t he insc ri p-
tion s. The Great Karnak Inscript ion, afte r enumerating the va riou s lands
fro m which Mer yrc's auxi liaries had co me for t he arrack in 1208, stares
th at the wretched Libyan chief had " taken the best of every wa rrio r and
every phrr of his count ry, " , Th irt y yea rs larer, Rarnesses likewi se referred
to both his Libyan and his Phil ist ine enemies as " ru nners. " After beat ing
back the assault by the Libyans he boast ed , " I have cas t down th e vio lators
of my frontier, prostrat e in their places, their ru nners pinioned a nd slain in
I Bre.rvred, AR. vol. 3. Ill) .
T H E E:--J O OF C H A R I O T W A RFAR E 2 11
my grasp." And of the Philistines and their associates who atta cked in 1179
he said, " 1have ca rried away their runners, pini oned in my grasp, to prese nt
them to thy b ." l
Alth ou gh the barbar ian s were able to defea t the cha riot ries of the eastern
kingdoms becau se their weapon s and tacti cs were suited exactl y to the
task, t he documents also show rhar they owed their success to overwhe lm-
ing number s. When the Libya ns and thei r northern auxilia ries att acked
Mcr neptah in 12011, heboa sted of having slain almos t ten thou sand of
them. A generation later, Ra rncsscs claimed to have killed no fewer than
12,235 Libyans. Even after allowing for pharaon ic exaggerat ion, one
would suppose that on each occasion the attacki ng army mu st have con-
sisred of at least twent y t housa nd men, all of them skirmishers a rmed wi rh
either javelins or lon g swords, or bo th. In legend, " t he forty thousand of
Israel" con fronted the kings of Canaan a nd at least that many Achaean s
descended upon Troy. As the Ca tast rophe spread and mu shroomed, and as
the limit at ion s of the chariot armi es were everywhere reveal ed, barbar ians
all over the Mediterra nean worl d must have been attracred by the prospecrs
of an e3SY victory and rich booty, Small successes bega r great successes,
unt il even Mycenae a nd Hartusas fell. Agai nst th rongs of ra iders no kin g-
dom (wit h the possibl e exception of Assyri a) could have felt secure. Even
the Great Kingdoms had traditionally empl oyed only a few thousand skir-
misher s, and in a sma ll kingdom, such 3S Pyle s or Ugarit, hand-to-hand
fight ers were co unte d in the hundreds. When the scribes of Hattusas and
Ema r speak of these d ries being anacked by "h ordes" we can und er st and
rheir peril o nly when we recall that for defen se the kingd o ms had trad i-
tion all y relied o n a sma ll number of professional milit ar y me n.
finall y, we have a few pieces of litera ry evide nce that the Catast rophe
result ed from the victory of barb ar ian footsoldiers over the cha riot ries of
rhe east ern Med irerran e'an kingdoms. In the Iliad the Trojan War is obvi-
ously not desc ribed as a co nflict between Achaean infantr y skirmishers and
Trojan cha rioteers, bur vest iges of such 3 contlicr may survive in the tr adi -
t ion" Stori es about the Amazons a nd t he Phrygia ns wi th their fast horses,
about Par is slaying Achilles wi th a bow shot, and even about the captu re of
Troy through the ruse of a wooden horse (this story, port rayed on an
eight h-cent ury vase from Mykon os, was evide nt ly cur rent long befo re our
Odyss ey was compos ed).' may have arisen when rhe hor ses and cha riot s of
Troy were still remembered . Th e descript ion of Achilles as " fleet-footed " is
especi ally ap propriate fo r the arcte of 3 runner. And the adjective " ho rse-
taming," the co nvent io na l epithet bot h for Hector and for 311 the Tro jans,
! Edgert on sud Hist orical Rl-'fO, J S 01" R4m, s,·s 1/1. pl.1tC''t 2h JnJ 44 .
J OJ)'55t')' _ 4.271-N tJ JnJ X.-tQ.:! - .520 acvume th ar the: .nrd iencc kne w th e t or rhe
vase vee \thoJ. T' 01•.m XO.
2 12 A MI LI TARY EXPLA :-iAT I O/,;
presumabl y derive s from a real renown of the Tro jan charioteers a nd char-
iot warr ior s.
A far more expl icit traditi on of infant rymen besting cha riot armies was
preser ved in Israel. Much had been lost and othe r things added by the tenth
cent ury, when the traditions were first writt en down, but there was nev-
ert heless a persist ent recollection that " the Conq uest of Canaa n" had been
effected by Israelite foorsol diers agai nst the chariots of the Canaa nite cities.
In our text s of Joshua and Ju dges, the hill-dwellers of Ma nasseh arc for a
time unabl e to take over the plains of Beth-Sha n and Esdraelon because the
Canaanites have " cha riots of iron"; an d in Ju dah too the hill men are
temp orar ily prevent ed by "c hariots of iro n" from seizing the plai ns. Al-
though the expression seems to be the miscon cept ion of a writer in the
Persian peri od," the imager y does reflect the tradition that the conquest of
the most fert ile pla ins in Ca naa n was cos tly beca use of the cha riot armies
that gua rded them.
Two of the oldest pieces of Hebr ew poet ry that have come down to us
com memorate victori es of Yahweh over grea t chariot armies. Th e "Song of
the Sea" (Exodus 15), attr ibuted vari ou sly to Moses or his sister Miriam, '
celebrates Yahweh's drowning of an Egyptian chariot host :
I wi ll sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed glor ious ly;
the ho rse and his rider he has thr own into the sea....
Pha rao h's chariots and his host he cast into the sea;
and his picked officers ar e sunk in the yam suph,
Th e Hoods cover rhem ;
they went down into the depth s like a stone.
Th y right hand, 0 Lord, glorious in power,
t hy right hand, 0 Lord, shatters the enemy. . ..
Th ou didsr blow with thy wind, the sea covered them ;
rhey sank as lead in rhe might y wat ers.
In the prose account that event ua lly gave the song .;] setting, six hundred
Egypti an chariots pur sue five mill ion Israelites "fleeing" from Egypt.
When the Israelites reach the Red Sea (yam SUph),6 Yahweh divides the
wat ers-allowing his peopl e to ma rch th rou gh on dr y land- and then
rolls the water back to cover the purs ui ng Egyptian chariots. On the ot her
• Drews, "The ' Chariots of Iron' of joshua and Judges: j SOT 45 15- 23.
, Frank Cross and David Freedman, "The Song of Miriam," jNES 14 (1955): 23 7- 50.
" The yam suph was transla ted in the Septuagint as Erythra Thalassa, and in the Vulgate as
M,lfe Rubrurn, burthe t rans ianon seems to have heen deducedfromthe Pwriter's routing of
"t he Exodu s" through the Red Sea. Man y biblical scholars , noting that in several O.T.
passages suph mean s " p.rpyru, reed." believe rh,ir the name yam 5uph originally was applied
to J .. Reed St.".J "'Somewhere in the eastern Delta. Difficul ries wi th this view are pointed out by
B. 1' . Barto, "Th< Reed Sea : Req" ;"SCiJI in Pace, " fBL 102 ( 1983): 27-.35. Barto's own
conclusion IS that yam slIph uriginJlly meant "Sea of End /Extinction. "
T H E END O r C H A R I O T WARrAR E 213
hand, the song itself, which must cornrncrnorarea real rather than a rnvthi-
cal event, spea ks repeat edl y of Yahweh th rowing the hor se and rider ' into
the sea, the hor ses a nd chariots sinking into the wat er like a stone or a
leaden weight. Thus the song seems to exul t in the capsizing of ships in a
stor m, perha ps hor se tr ansports making their way towa rd Ca naa n th rough
coastal waters. The only peri od in which " Israel" may have been the objec-
tive of chariot ar mies dispat ched from Egypt woul d be the decades from
Mcrnepruh to Rarncsses IV, afte r whose reign the Egyptians seem to have
abando ned their claims to hegemony in Canaa n.
The second poem is the "Song of Deborah" (J udges 5), which commem-
ora tes a great vietory over the chariots of jabin, king of Haze r. The song
announces itself as a favori te of those
who ride on tawny asses,
who sir on rich ca rpets
and you who wa lk by the way.
To the sound of musicians at the wa tering places,
there they repeat the tri umphs of the Lord.
Since the poem itself is celebratory and excla matory, the narrative is pro-
vided in a prose prologue (Judges 4) that includes some details that are not
found in the poem but that are consistent with it. According to the pro-
logue, j abin, king of Hazor, had for twent y years sorely oppressed the
Israelites. The instrument of his oppression was his commander, Sisera,
who had nine hundred chariots of iron. At last, the men of Zebulon and
Na phta li, north of the valley of Esdraelon and in the immedi ate hinterl and
of Hazar, thr ew off the yoke. Led by Barak, son of Abi noa rn, and on the
strengt h of a n oracle by the prophetess Debor ah , ten thou sand Zeb ulonires
and Naphtalites occ upied Mt. Tabor (some thirt y miles to the sout hwest of
Hazor ), When Sisera learn ed of this, he ca me with his nine hundred char-
iot s to the Valley of jezreel, a part of Esdraelon below Mr. Tabor. Un-
da unted, Deborah prophesied to Barak that Yahweh would that day (or
possibly that night , since the song suggests a night att ack) give him a great
victo ry. "So Barak came charging down from Mt. Tabo r wi th ten thousand
men at his back. The Lor d put Sisera to rout with all his chariot s and his
army before Barak's onslaught." ? All Sisera's men perished ; not a man was
left alive. Sisera himself fled on foot and sought shelter in the tent of Heber
the Kenite. There he was killed as he lay under a rug, hiding from his
purs uers; it was j ael, Heber's wi fe, who killed him, driving a tent peg
th rough his templ es.
The prose acco unt is followed by the so ng itself, whi ch hail s as Bara k's
warri ors men of lssachar and several other north ern di stricts alongside
, 4. 14- 15 i N' " rransla tron).
th ose fro m Zebulon a nd Na pht a li. All of th ese swe pt down, follow ing th eir
mar shal s clan by clan , into th e valley: Yahweh' s peasant ry (lJllpshu )
agai ns t " t he mighty" of Ca naa n:
Kings came, they fought ;
then fought the kings of Cana an,
at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo;
no plunder of silver did they take.
The stars fought from heaven,
the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
The Torrent of Kishon swept him away,
the Torrent barred his flight; the Torre nt of Kishon;
march on in might, my soul!
The n hammered the hooves of his horses,
his chargers galloped, galloped away,"
T he poem th en lauds ja el, who "st retc hed out her han d for the tent peg, her
ri ght hand to hammer rhe wear y," and rejoi ces at th e death of Sise ra a nd at
th e a nx iety of hi s mother, who peer s th rou gh the latt ice looking for th e
cha r iots th at never returned. " So peri sh a ll thine enemies, 0 Lord! "
Joshua 11.1-1 1 pr esents a southe rn (Ephra irnite o r Bcnjarninit c) ver-
sion of the same event." Here th e battl e is fought not a lon g the Kish on but
at " t he water s of Mer om." It is not just th e tribes north of Esdr aclon. but a ll
of Isr ael that defeat s Jab in of Hazar. It is not Bar ak but th e so ut he rn hero,
Joshua, wh o is t he victorious co mma nde r, a nd Debora h is not mentioned
at a ll. Aft er defea ting jabin's a rmy, Joshua hamstrings a ll the horses a nd
bu rns the cha riots. He then pr oceeds to Ha zar, massacres a ll th e inha bi-
ta nts, a nd bums the city to th e gro un d. On thi s point the oral t radit ion was
- ap pa rently co rrect, si nce 'radin's excavat ions demonstrated th at Hazar was
indeed dest royed ca. 1200.
T he few a nd precious poems th at survive from the ea rly Iron Age there-
fore support the co ncl us io n inferred from the a rchaeological evid en ce a nd
from Egyptian reliefs a nd inscr ipti ons: in the Ca tas tro phe, thousan ds of
barbarian skirmi sher s descended up on the plains th at they had hithert o
esc hewed , dest royed th e chariot a r mies on which t he defense of th e pl ai ns
depend ed, a nd t he n sacked and burned th e cit ies. "rom our vant age point
. we Can see th at a ll through the Late Bro nze Age the eas te rn Mediterran ean
kingdoms had been vulne rab le to a co nce rted at tac k by barbari an nei gh-
bors. But for mos t of the period this arcanum imperii Was not per ceived ,
ei t he r by th e ki ngs at risk or by th e barba ria ns th emsel ves. Only towar d th e
, Ibid. , 5. 19-22-
.. On the rwo accounts set" Cot rwald. Tubes of Yahu-eh, 153-54.
T HE E S D O F C H A R I O T W ,\RFA RF 215
end of th e thirteenth ce nt ury d id th e lat ter begin to sense their o ppo rt uni ty
a nd to seize it.
We may dose by speculat ing on th e course of hi story in th e east ern
Med iterranean in the lat e th irt eenth an d ea rly twel fth cent ur ies B. C. For
fifty or sixty yea rs afte r t he Batt le of Kade sh ( 1275) th e eas te rn Med iterra-
nean see ms to have been a rel ati vely peaceful pla ce, In th e Aegea n the
seve ra l pal aces, necessaril y including o ne o n Crete, sup er vised their popu-
lati ons with little fear for th e future. Nei ther Knossos nor Pvlos was forti -
fied, t hei r rulers evid entl y trusting in th e habit of peace th at ba s a ptly been
call ed th e pax Mycenaica. In Anatolia a nd the Levant the Grea t Kingdoms
of Hatt i a nd Egypt prov ided st a bility, eac h Great King suppo rti ng and
suppo rte d by networks of vassal kin gdoms. Afte r his peace tr eaty wit h
Hartusilis Ill, Rarnesses t he Great's hegemony perhap s extended as far as
th e mount ain s of Leban on . More of an in novati on was Rarn esses' init iat ive
towar d Libya: appa ren tly he es tablishe d Egyptia n strongho lds along the
Mediterranean co ast we ll beyond EI Alarnein.!" The wes tward expa nsion
of Egy ptia n a ut ho ri ty wo uld have reper cussions, a lt ho ug h not in
Rarn esses' ow n long reign .
The Catas trophe of th e easte rn Mediterran ean kingdoms see ms to have
begu n a long the northwest fro nt ier (see figu re 1). Here a century a nd a half
of peace mu st have ended dramaticall y wh en Boeotian Thebes and the
great city kn own as Troy VI were captured a nd sac ked. In Gree k legend, the
Seven wh o first tried to take Thebes fail ed to do so , and it was th eir sons,
th e epigoni, who succeeded: wha t th e generat ion of Tydeus attempted th e
generat ion of Di omed es achieved. From t he legends we may extract t he
pro ba bilit y th at "Acha ea n" wa rrio rs (who these " Achaea ns" were I sha ll
sugg est pr esentl y) made an ea rl y a nd un successful assault up on Thebes
a nd th at some yea rs lat er othe r Achaea ns returned, thi s ti me ta king the city.
The sa me gene ratio n of warri ors sacked Troy. The LH IHB pott er y found at
th e two sites permits the co ncl usion t ha t the destructi on of bo t h Thebes
a nd Tr oy VI occur red to wa rd th e end of t he long rei gn of Rarnesses the
Great. In the event, the fate of the se two kingdoms was ahar bin ger of wha t
coul d an d would happen everywhere in th e eas tern Mediterran ean.
The Catas t ro phe burst up on Egypt in 1208, the fifth year of Mcrneptah's
rei gn, wh en a Libyan chie ftai n, Meryre, so n of Did, ventured to invade the
west ern De lta. We do no t kn ow wh at motivat ed Me ryre"s pr esumptuous
act. Rarn esses' enc roachme nt on Libya m;lYhave provoked him, o r perh ap s
a drought inspired Meryr e to seize some of the irrigated lan ds of the Delt a,
,I) Gardiner. Egypt , 270. noted rhar st elae of II have been found west of EI
Alamei n. Hayward, "Elep han t Ivo ry. " 105 . report s rha r ".1 fo n ress was built at Za wiya r Urnrn
a r Rak harn, a bout 2.0 km to the west (of B.n e,\ lvl.md, near Juring the reign
of Raru csscs I I." On the proh .rble rol e of Bares's Island in R J fil t'V\ CS' frontier d . Donald
White, "The Third Season at :>'1 .1t", Mnrr uh.- AJA ; 1490); lJO.
216 A .\11L1 T AR Y EXP L A N ATI O N
o r Meryre may simply havecalculated that Merneptah was too weak a king
to resist a determined aggressor. But whatever his motivation, it is very
li kel y that Meryre was enco ura ged in his undertaking by reports of what
had happened in th e Aegean. For we see in the descr ipti on of the battl e an d
it s results that Mer yre did not field mu ch of a chariotry but made up for hi s
defi cien cies in that ar ea by assembling ten s of thou san ds of infantrymen .
Most of these men came from Libya itself, but his recruitment effort s
extended throughout " the northern lands as well. That a Lib yan king
co uld communicat e with much of the Mediterranean is no longer surpris-
ing, since the recent excavations on Bates's Island, ncar Marsa Matruh,
have produced Mycenaean and Levantine pottery and suggest that th e
island was something of an exch ange center for the eastern Libyans.
According to the Gre at Karn ak Inscripti on , Meryre sought out runner s
from all the northern lands, men wh o co uld fight as skirmishers in hand-t o-
hand co mba t. Evide ntl y his appeal for mercenari es fell on fertile gro und in
Sardinia, Sicily, sout hern or west ern Ital y, Lycia, and especiall y northern
Greece. All these lands were in cont act with the civilized ki ngdoms of the
eas tern Mediterran ean but were not themsel ves civilized. Inst ead , they
were barbarous places, in whi ch oppo rtunities for the better things in life
were severely limited. In Parnph ylia, Lycaonia, and Lycia, the rugged tr act
of mountains along Anatolia 's so ut hern coast, there seems to have been
nothing resembling a city in the Lat e Bronze Age. Whil e Mycenaean pot -
tery, and the per fumed oil contain ed in the pots, was shipped in great
qu antities to the cities of the Levant and the Cilici an plai n, the only ships
th at sto pped alo ng the Lycian coast were those that sa nk.
1 1
It is hardly
surprising that as ea rly as the Amarna Age men from the Lycian mountains
tried their hand at piracy, raid ing the comparatively wea lthy coa sts of
Cy prus.
The Achaeans who joi ned Meryre's ca mp aign arc likel y to have been
North-Greek speakers. 12 The mountain s west and north of Boeoti a wer e
11 See figure 53 in Ha rd ing, M ycen,uml s and Europe, for the conr rast between Mycenaean
pottery finds in the Levant a nd in southern Asia Min or (aside fro m the Cilician plain ).
11 Hirrirologist s a re generally convinced th .rt the pl ace-name ...Ahhiya " (or, la ter,
" Ahhiyawa") 01 the tablets refers to the Greek mainland. See Han s Gii terbock, "The Hitt ites
a nd the Aegean Worl d, I : The Ahhiyawa Problem Recon sider ed, " Al A g7 (1983): 133- 38;
a nd Trevo r Bryce. .. Ahhiyaw.ins and Mycenaeans-e- An Anat ol ian Viewpoint. " Oxford j Oljr·
nal of Archaeology g (1989 ): 297- 3 10. But since the "Greek mainland " was not concep-
rualized until modern t imes, the Hi tt ite term must have denot ed so mething differe nt.
It WJ.S, I wou ld sugge st , the na me used in Asia Mi nor fo r the nor th -so ut h land mJSS rha r Asian
sa ilo rs enc ountered when sa iling west fro m t he Da rd anelles . Afte r coa sti ng alo ng Th race fo r
two da ys, a nd rounding rhe Chalci dicc, o ne reaches rhc Varda r (Axios) River, where t he
co astl ine turn s ... hJr ply and decisively sout hward . This IS perhaps wh en: Abhrya began, JnJ it
run to the tip of rhe Pclopo nnese. In ho ok 2 of the Iliad, the land CJ, t of the Axios IS not
Ach.rca: rhe Paioru .ins, who corne "f rom the wiJ e river Axi os, the Axios, whose water is
far more primitive than the pala ce-Slat es. Where:ls the Iatr er were civilized
and Minoani zed (So uth Greek may in tact have di fferenti ated itself from
North Greek because of " Minoan" influences). mOSI of the norrh was an
illiterate hinterland, in wh ich the dialect of the Greek-speakers was rhe
conservat ive No rth Greek. Troy, lol kos, Th ebes. and Orcho menos were
OUlpOSIS on the norrhwesrern front ier of the civilized world, and beyond
these centers there was little di scernible prosperi ty in the LH IIIB peri od .
Th e 1\V0 dialccrs-s- Sourh Greek and No rth Greek-thus seem to reflecr
two rathe r distinct cult ura l zones, and wh en reference is made to "the
Achaeans" we must specify which of the two zones is meant. As I have
protested betimes;" ! the evidence is conside ra ble that the particular
Achaean s wh o sack ed Troy came from the north.
We may imagine , then, that late in the reign of Ramesses II hordes of
these northern Achaean footsoldiers had att acked both Troy VI a nd
Th ebes and succeeded in taking and sacking bo th places.":' The Achaeans
attacked Thebe s, according to He siod, 15 " for the flock s of Oedipus. Prior
to their attacks on these kingdo ms, the northern Achaea ns are likel y to
have served the kingdoms as skirmishers, and we may imagine that it was
during that service that the northerners began to perceive how vulnerable
the royal chariot ries were. Toward the end of the thirte enth century the
rul ers of the Argolid began building a fortificati on wall at the Corint hian
isthmus (having already enci rcled their palaces with stout wall s), indicating
some alarm about wh at was happening in the north. It was perhaps among
these northern Achaeans that Mcryre of Libya wa s mo st successful in his
solicitat ion of skirmishe rs. In the casualty list s, after the Libyans them-
selves it was the Ek ioesh who lost the most men (over two thou sand),
Ever since Maspero tr ansmogri fied them into mi grator y nati ons, the
Shekelesh, Sbardana, and Tursba who joi ned Me ryr e' s ente rprise have
recei ved the most att ent ion from scholars inte rested in the Ca tast rophe.
Numerically, however, they were not very imp ortant , since Meryre rc-
cruired from Sicily, Tyrseni a, and Sa rdinia togeth er fewer men than Achaea
fairest 01 J II" (Iliad 2..849- 50), are the Troj an s' wester nmost allies, while the Acha eans all
come fro m beyond the Axios.
Hi tt ite tablets refer to a Great Kingdom in Ahh iya, a nd this was prob abl y centered at
My cenae. with vassal kingdoms as far north as Atti ca <1I1 J Boeotia, if no t lo lkos. But the mor e
pr imitive peop le who lived hetween the kingdo ms Jn J the Axios were als o" Achaea ns." Th ere
is good reaso n to believe th.u these northern Achaea ns were the:perperr.iror s of the Carast ro-
phe, whil e the Achaeans of the kingdo ms wer e its vict ims.
11 " Argos and Argives, " Il l ·- 15; CominK"l th,· Greeb . 22l-24; see J bove, pp. 117-1 8.
Il As I have argued at • Argos and Argi ves," 1.l2-.1l, the "Argives" led by the Seven
agai nsr Th ebes ca me from the Pelasgic Argo s and no r from the Pelop o nnesc. Iliad 4.370-99
and 6.223 reca ll th at Thebes was sacked by ..Achaeans" but rhar rhe kingdom of Mycenae d id
not par ti cipat e in the ad venture.
I< \l/orks ,md J)Jy>, 161- 6.1.
supplied to him all by it self (it is not impossible th at even the Lycia ns
out numbered t he westerne rs in Meryre's army ). But prospectors for me rce -
naries would undoubtedl y have found the lands of the cent ral Mediterra-
nean a promising vein. Sicily was almost ent irely barbarous, but for a few
Sicil ian s of the southeast coast a wind ow on the wider world had been
opened: on the promontory of Thapsos, jutting o ut from the shore a few
kil ometers north of the Syracusan ba y, tr aders from the easte rn Medit erra -
nean, and perhaps specifically from Cypru s, had built a town for th em-
sel ves by 1300, and the town continued th rough the th irt eenth cen tury.
Here wer e spac ious and rect ilinea r buildings, and the residents of the t own
lived the good life, wi t h eas tern art ifacts and luxu ry items. 16 On th e coasts
of Ital y, whic h was eq ually primit ive, Mycenaeans ha d est ablished emporia
at Scogl io del Torino, on the Gulf of Taranto, and at Luni suI Mignone, in
Et ruria. Fo r those "Tyrsenians" wh o lived nea rby, these emporia must have
advertised the possibilities that the lands to the eas t had to offer. The
co ntact between the eastern Mediterranean and Sardinia, an d the east -
erners' exploitati on of Sardi nian copper, has only recentl y been appreci-
at ed . But it now seems likely that in the thirteenth centu ry mos t Sardinians
wh o lived wi thin a day's walk of the Golfo di Cagliari would have seen the
visitors' shi ps, if not the visitors themsel ves, an d would have been well
aware of the di screpancy between their own condi tio n an d that of th ese
peopl e from the cas t. 17
To be a warri or, then, was in these barbarou s lands no bad thing. since
skill as a skir mis he r mi ght transport a man to a better life in a bett er pl ace.
Men fro m sout hern Sardinia went off to Byblos and Uga rit, and event ua lly
to Egypt, a nd it is unl ikely that many 01th em ret urned home or wished to
do so. In t he eastern kingdoms they co uld enj oy the pleasures of ur ban life
and at the same time be men of stat us and property, with lands assign ed
them by th eir king; in return, they were o bliged only to guard the palace
during peacetime and to run in suppo rt of the fabl ed chariot force s on th ose
I" Ho lloway, frilly and the Aegean. 87: "It required men and ideas to rransform a Sicil ian
village into an empor ium with some urban configuration, and this appears to have been the
wor k of Cypriote resident s in the 14t h and l J rh centu ries." See also Holl oway, "Italy and the
Centra1 Medirerr anean in the Cri sis Years," in W"d and ]ou kowsk y, Crisis Yeurs,41 .
" In the twelft h century Cypriotes wer e prob abl y working met al on the so uthern co ast of
Sa rd inia (see D. Ridgway, " Arc haeology in Sardi nia an d Sou th Italy, 198 3-88." p. 114 ). But
the discovery of LH IIiB ware near Cagl ia n now shows jhar alre ady in the thi rt eent h ce ntury
easremers wert"resident there , perha ps " cast ing copper tor expo rt in the' ingot shape long used
in the east." See Ho lloway. " It, ly and the Ce nt ral Med irerr .mean , " 4 1. Co ntac t wit h the
interioris difficult to estima te. For a much later period Ferrucio BJCTCC;l . "The Phoenicianand
Pun ic Civilizario n in Sardi nia, " in Miriam Batmuth. ed.• Studies in S;.lT.llni.m Arcboeology,
vol . 1.145. has shown that from a nd other sires o n the Cagliari bay "se rrlemenrs bega n
to spread t owar ds the S.HJini.m hinterla nd with I n average penerrano n of about rwenrv
kilometers trorn the coa..ts." '
rare occasi o ns whe n the cha riots gave hatt ie. It is not surprisi ng th .it yo ung
men in Sa rd inia and elsewhere aspired to serve as skir mishers in the cha riot
corps of a wealthy king. All that one needed was co urage, speed, strength,
and an initial investment in the necessary eq uipment : a swo rd or spear, a
shield, and an intimidating helmet.
When Meryre advert ised for skirmishers in Merneprah's early year s,
those wh o responded had undoubtedl y lon g hoped to be professi onal
warriors, whether in Egypt itself or in one of the othe r kingdoms t hat
tr adit io nally hired mercenaries. What was new in 1208 was the mer cen-
aries' enlistment in an army in which th ey were not to play seco nd fiddle to
a cha riot co rps. As not ed above. Mer yre had very few chariots- a defi-
ciency that a decad e or two ea rl ier wou ld have prevented him fro m even
conside ring a war with Mernept ah . But by 1208 Meryre th ought it possi -
ble t hat wi th a huge for ce of skirmishers he could defeat th e lar gest chariot
army in the world. Fo r the hand-to -hand fight ing his men wer e certainl y
armed with long swo rds , since the Karnak Inscript io n reco rds that ove r
nine thou sand of these bronze swo rds were retri eved as booty. For use
against the Egyptian cha riots Meryre must have had men expe rt with long-
range weapons of so me so rt , and there is goo d reason to t hink that these
were javeli ns rather than bows. In the primit ive lands fro m whic h his
au xiliari es ca me there would have been man y men who were sk illed with
the hu nt ing javel in but who had never imagined th at thei r ski ll might on e
day be in demand.
Meryr e's infa ntry was defeated, and it was another gene ratio n before
an oth er Libya n force attacked the Delt a. But Meryre's fai lure, like the
Achaeans' successes at Troy and Th ebes, seems to have publ icized th e
possibilit ies of t he new ki nd of warfare. On the easte rn side of t he Delta,
there was trouble in Ca naa n at about the sa me time that the Libyan s
attacked on the west ern side. Hori, the author of the Pap yru s Ana stasi , asks
his yo uthful co rrespo nde nt to imagine himself in charge of supplies for an
army sent to Djahan (or, possibly, Djahi) " to crush th ose rebel s called
Nearin," I ' The ne'arim of Ca naan were han d -to -hand warriors and had
d istinguished themselves at the Battle of Kade sh in the service of Ra messes
th e Grea t. Now, however, at the end of the Ni netee nt h Dynasty, they have
eviden tly become a problem, and in th e scena rio d rawn by Hori an army
co nsisti ng entirel y of infant rymen, mo st of whom are barbarian sk ir-
mi she rs, is sent OUt to deal with t hem. In this co nnect ion we must note the
recent ly di scovered evid ence that Merneptah did in fact campaign in the
Levant and that among his opponents were warriors from Is rael. The men
of Israel will certainly have fought on foot ,
The " rebelli ou s ne'arim " of the southern Levant did not yet pose a threat
" Trans. Wilson, ANET, 470.
to Egypt itself. There was no king here who organized the tribesmen of
Canaan for a campaign on the scale that Meryre managed in Libya. In
Hori's imaginary army there are only five thousand men, suggesting that
the Levantinc warriors against whom they are sent also number in the low
thousands. But although not yet a danger to Egypt, the warriors of Philistia
and Israel were certainly capable of defeating the vassal cities that were
allied with Egypt. Although Merneptah may have maintained Egypt's tra-
ditional hegemony over the southern Levant, it is doubtful that his feeble
successors were able to do so. Seri II had trouble enough asserting himself
in Egypt, having apparently to deal with a usurpation by Arnenmesse. At
Seti's death, the throne devolved first upon his son Siptah-still a child-
and then upon Twosret, Sen's widow. Neither could have intervened in
Canaan, and it was evidently in Twosret's reign that the sacking of the great
cities of southern Canaan began.
Although we cannot be certain who sacked the cities on the Via Maris-
Ashkelon, Ashdod, Akko, and others-there is no reason to look for the
culprits in some distant place when there are obvious suspects close by.
Undoubtedly the sackers were "Philistines," but that term ought to stand
for the population that had traditionally lived in the hinterland of the
penrapolis. Armed with the javelins and long swords shown in the Medinet
Habu reliefs, the Palestinian tribesmen must have made short work of the
chariot armies by which the pentapolis was defended. Further north along
the coast, the Tjekker must have closed in on and eventually taken the city
of Dor, And the warriors of Dan seem to have made a name for themselves
by their success, probably with long swords, against both chariots and
In the interior, centers such as Deir 'Alia (Succoth), Lachish, and Hazar
were most likely sacked by "Israelites," seminomadic tribesmen who for
generations had scraped out an existence in the hill country flanking the
valleys of the Jordan and its tributaries, and in the desert fringe to the east.
Until the Catastrophe, the best that either Philistines or Israelites could
hope for was service as ne'arim or hapiru in the employ of a petty king. But
now they were in a position to kill the king, loot his palace and his city, and
bum them to the ground. Not all the Canaanite cities between the Jordan
and the Mediterranean were razed. Shechem was spared by the Israelite
tribesmen, the Israelites foreswearing hostilities against the city, and the
Shechemites granting to those Israelites who submitted to circumcision the
rights of connubium and of participation in the venerable cult on Mt.
Gerizim. Gibeon was also spared, having come to terms with the invaders:
in return for their lives, the Gibeonites were said to have pledged them-
selves and their descendants to serve their conquerors as hewers of wood
and drawers of water. According to Israelite legend, when the other Cana-
anite kings took umbrage at the Gibeonires' accommodation and attacked
the city, Gibeon's Israelite champions came to its rescue and slaughtered
the Canaanite force, while the sun stood still over Gibeon and the moon
halted in the vale of Aijalon. It must have been a long and terrible day in
The successes that skirmishers armed with swords and javelins achieved
over chariot armies, and the consequent sacking of famous cities, must
have generated excitement wherever service as a mercenary footsoldier had
once seemed attractive. The motivation for the sacking of a city is not likely
to have been anything so rarefied as religious fanaticism, ethnic hatred, or a
class struggle. The perpetrators of the Catastrophe had more material
objectives: cattle, gold, women, and whatever else caught the eye. The
precious objects squirreled away in pits or wall-caches at Ugarit, Mycenae,
Kokkinokremos, and other places testify that what the residents of these
places feared was an attack by looters. And since at none of the razed cities
have archaeologists found "in the open" anything of material value, we
mav conclude that what the residents feared would happen did happen.
just as the cities of southern Canaan are likely to have been plundered
and razed by warriors from the countryside of Philistia and Israel, so it is
likely that some cities in other regions were sacked by raiders who came
from a hinterland not too far away. In eastern Syria Emar, possibly along
with Carchemish, was sacked by "hordes," and in that part of the world in
the early twelfth century such nameless hordes must have been Aramaic-
speaking tribesmen. In Boeotia, as suggested above, Thebes had been
sacked by raiders from its hinterland. On the Anatolian plateau, Hattusas
evidently fell to Kaskans from the Pontic mountains:
In some areas there was no warlike population of barbarians within
striking distance. In western Syria, so far as the tablets from Alalakh and
Ugarit indicate, there were only peaceful and unarmed villagers. The dan-
ger here was posed by raiders who came from the sea, among whom may
have been freebooters from Lycia, the northern Aegean, Italy, Sicily, Sar-
dinia, and other maritime regions of barbaria. The tablets from Ugarit
warn of the peril posed by marauders who came in ships, and the tablets
"from the oven" suggest that Ugarit itself fell to raiders who appeared with
little warning. A force of several thousand skirmishers, possibly crammed
into no more than thirty or forty boats, would have been sufficient to defeat
whatever chariot force sallied out against them from the gates of Ugarit. At
any rate, Ugarit, along with all the great cities on the Oronres-i-Alalakh,
Hamath, Qarna, and Kadesh-was sacked and burned.
In the civilized regions of southern Greece there likewise was little to fear
from people who lived close by. Within the large palace states administered
from Pylos or Knossos there were no warrior populations, the subjects
there being pacific and helotized descendants of the pre-Greek inhabitants.
Although the palaces in Boeotia may have fallen to raiders from Locris,
222 A !vi I LIT A RYE X PL A ~ A T ION
Phocis, and inland Thessaly, who came on foot, more sites in the Aegean
are likely to have been attacked by raiders who came by sea, many of them
undoubtedly from coastal Thessaly and Achaea Phthiotis. From the citadel
of Koukounaries, on Paros, one looks down a steep decline to Naoussa Bav.
Fifteen minutes after wading ashore, veteran sackers of cities would have
been atop the citadel. The huddled skeletons found there in recent excava-
tions indicate that the population had little warning and no chance to
escape. Pylas and Knossos, without walls, were entirely vulnerable, and we
may imagine that the inhabitants fled at the first alarm. At Troy, Tiryns and
other places some sort of siege may have been conducted, but in the end the
citadels were taken. Mycenae is not likely to have been surprised, since the
citadel is a two-hour walk from Argos Bay, but against several thousand
raiders there would have been no real protection. Even if the attack came in
broad daylight, and even if the rulers of Mycenae were able to mobilize
several hundred chariots, the swarming javelineers would have been elusive
targets and deadly marksmen against the chariot horses. After storming a
city or a citadel, killing or enslaving those inhabitants who had not been
able to flee, and ransacking the buildings for every bit of precious metal,
elegant cloth, and usable artifacts, the raiders would have prepared the
place for burning and then set fire to it. Such must have been the fate of
dozens of the wealthiest cities and palaces in the eastern Mediterranean.
After most of the great palaces had fallen, attempts were made once
again upon Egypt. Ramesses III had to face incursions by Libyans, now
grown persistent, in 1182 and 1176. These were certainly massive assaults,
since Ramesses claims that in the first of these two wars his troops killed
12,535 of the invaders. And by this time the Philistine and Tjekker war-
riors, even without a king to mastermind and finance the venture, posed a
threat to Egypt itself. Inhis eighth year (1179) Ramesses dealt with this
threat on his eastern border. His inscription would have us believe that the
enemies whom he defeated in that campaign were a vast coalition, a can-
spiracy of all lands, that had been responsible for devastating the entire
Near East from Hatti to Canaan and from Cyprus to Carchemish. Such
claims greatly enhanced his own victory and need not be taken literally:
from their letters we know that the rulers of Hattusas, Emar, and Ugarit
were themselves uncertain about the identity of the hordes intent on sack-
ing their cities, and it is unlikely that Ramesses had any better information
on the subject. What Ramesses undoubtedly did know is that the kind of
destruction that the Philistines and Tjekker had wrought in the southern
Levant, and the kind of warfare that these tribesmen practiced, had already
come to most of the great cities and palaces farther north.
The Levantine aggressors in 1179 were armed with javelins and long
swords, wore helmets and corslets, and carried round shields. Inorder co
defeat them Rarnesses had to improvise, and his battle plans seem co have
relegated his chariotry to a subordinate role. Ramesses assembled a consid-
erable number of hand-to-hand fighters, both barbarian skirmishers
(shardana) and native Egyptians. The latter stood shoulder-co-shoulder in
dose-order formations, carried oblong shields, were armed with the tradi-
tional rods or sickle swords, and were hardly :IS effective as their foreign
auxiliaries who fought :IS free-lancers. But infantrymen of both kinds,
helped out by the archers in the chariot corps, were sufficient co win the
battle at Djahi.
Whether on that same occasion or soon thereafter, Rarnesscs destroyed a
great force of Philistine, Tjekker, and Sicilian skirmishers who were caught
on their boats a short distance offshore. The skirmishers had not expected a
battle while still in their ships and were virtually annihilated. With remark-
able foresight Rarnesses had assembled a fleet and assigned to each ship a
detachment of archers (most likely the archers who in other circumstances
and other times would have shot from chariots) and hand-co-hand war-
riors. The Egyptian ships were able to cur off the enemy, who had no usable
long-range weapons. The Philistine and Sicilian warriors would have had
javelins, but javelins on these crowded ships were of no value at all, since a
javelin must be thrown on the run. The Egyptian archers, on the contrary,
were able to shoot their bows far more effectively from the deck of a ship
than from the platform of a bouncing chariot. Even worse for the aggres-
sors, while the Egyptian archers could leave the rowing co the oarsmen
whom Ramesscs had impressed into service, the Philistine and Sicilian
warriors had to do their own rowing. Perhaps the Medinet Habu relief does
not exaggerate the extent of Ramesses' victory at sea in 1179.
Even Rarncsses' victories, however, illustrated how drastically warfare
had changed in the three or four decades of the Catastrophe. The Egyp-
tians' salvation owed little to their chariotry. Most important were the
hand-to-hand warriors, whether Egyptian or barbarian, that Ramesses
had assembled at Djahi. The archers who had been positioned on the decks
of Ramesses' ships had also taken their coli, but the "naval battle" may
have been something of a fluke, contingent on timing and luck. The future
belonged to men who could stand their ground in hand-co-hand combat.
Those who survived the Catastrophe resorted to new strategies against
the probability that the raiders would return. On Crete the small and low-
lying settlements were abandoned for "cities of refuge" in the mountains.
The Arcade-Cypriote dialect suggests that many South-Greek speakers
from the Peloponnese and central Greece fled in two directions, some to the
mountains of Arcadia and others to the island of Cyprus. The flight to
Ionia, on the other hand, seems co have occurred several generations after
the Catastrophe ended.
If towns built in the twelfth century were nor in the mountains, they were
on the seacoast. On Cyprus, as well as in Phoenicia and Greece, large
coastal towns were built and fortified, and the coastal cities of the Via
Maris were rebuilt and strengthened (with refugees from Crete probably
seeking asylum there). The size of the twelfth-century towns indicates a
belief that there was safety in numbers. The coastal location may have been
preferred for several reasons. It provided, first of all, the optimum vantage
point for spotting hostile ships long before they reached the shore. Acity on
the coast, even if it housed few hand-to-hand fighters, was also able to take
some effective offensive measures against raiders who came by sea. As
Rarnesscs' sea victory had shown, one very good way to confront a sea-
borne horde of hand-to-hand skirmishers was to keep them from reaching
land. On board their ships the skirmishers were vulnerable, since they had
no bows (the man fortunate enough to own a composite bow would have
found it warped and deteriorated after several days in an open boat). It is
therefore possible that a few of the coastal towns continued to count on
archers, now shooting from coast-guard ships instead of from chariots. It is
more likely, however, that coastal locations were chosen for defensive rea-
sons: a city on the coast might be able to withstand a siege, while a city in
the interior could be entirely cut off.
But no civilized society could defend itself without putting into the field
infantrymen equipped for hand-to-hand combat. Against the new peril
new weapons were required, and new pieces of armor. InGreece especially
we can see that the Catastrophe created the armored footsoldier, protected
by a helmet, corslet, greaves, and a round shield. A short thrusting spear
was most important as the weapon of men who took their position in close-
order infantry formations. For professional skirmishers, who might con-
front the enemy in man-to-man combat, a long sword was required against
the long swords of the predators. The manufacture of cut-and-thrust
swords began in Merneptah's time, as the unusable "Merneptah sword"
from Ugarit shows. The Aegean productions found at Mouliana, Mycenae,
and Perati are clumsy experiments, but better designs were soon found.
Had there been time to hilt them and edge their blades, the four unfinished
swords from the high-priest's house in Ugarit would have been formidable
weapons. In the mc Aegean, however, what those who could afford it
wanted was the terrible Griffzungenschwert that had long been traditional
in northeast Italy and the Balkans. The carrouche of Seti II on a specimen
found in Egypt shows that there too some of the pharaoh's warriors ac-
quired the very best slashing sword that could be found.
Although weapons and armor were important, even more important
were men who could use them, and on this matter the Catastrophe intro-
duced profound changes. In the Late Bronze Age kingdoms warfare had
been a specialist's concern. Civilian conscripts were apparently used only
for defense, and massed offensive infantries were conspicuously absent
when Late Bronze Age kingdoms (except, perhaps, for Assyria) went to
THE E l' D 0 F C H A RIO TWA R FAR E 225
war. After the Catastrophe, political power belonged to those societies in
which warfare was every man's concern, the adult males of a community
serving as its militia. The Warrior Vase from Mycenae suggests that in the
twelfth century at least some men of Mycenae were learning how to march
and fight in close-order formations, depending on the thrusting spear and
on the new elements of defensive armor. But neither at Mycenae nor in
most other civilized communities could a "warrior ethos" have developed
in the immediate aftermath of the Catastrophe, and military prowess ten-
ded to be associated with the less civilized frontier societies. It is likely that
the "Dorians" were North-Greek speakers who became proficient as dose-
order spearmen. In the Iron Age Levant, communities such as Philistia,
Israel, Moab, Ammon, and Aram (in eastern Syria) depended on mass
infantries. We need not believe, with the biblical author, that in David's
kingdom there were 1,300,000 "able-bodied men, capable of bearing
arms." But the militia was apparently counted in six figures, and we can
perhaps take the author's word for it that when David wished to curse
joab, the best he could think of was "may the house of Joab never be free
from running sore or foul disease, or lack a son fit only to ply the distaff." 19
Typically these frontier societies coalesced into "nations," the nation being
a coalition cohesive enough and large enough to defend itself against any
foreseeable aggression.>"
The solidarity of an Iron Age community, whether of a polis or of a
nation, stemmed from the recognition that in war the fortunes of the
community would depend on every man playing his part. Against mass
formations of close-order infantry, the formations being controlled by an
efficient chain of command, disorganized hordes of running skirmishers
would have been outmatched. The kind of solidarity required in the Iron
Age was, with rare exceptions, unnecessary and therefore unknown in the
Late Bronze Age, since prior to the Catastrophe a king's subjects were
amply protected by the king's chariots and chariot runners. The military
revolution that occurred in the Catastrophe was thus a prerequisite for the
social and political changes that made the world of the Iron Age so different
from that of the Late Bronze Age.
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