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Military History: Assyrian Protective

Gear

Bryan Marcell
History 134
2/19/2017
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In todays standards, having a strong military is very important in that nations ability to

strive. In ancient times, it was much more important. The backbone for the Assyrians survival

was their military and the gear they used to protect their military. At the time when the empire of

the Assyrians was striving, they were known for being the most ruthless and brutal army for the

time. Dominating the Middle-East, they have been compared to Nazi Germany. While

historians tend to shy away from analogies, it is tempting to see the Assyrian Empire, which

dominated the Middle East from 900-612 BC, as a historical forebear of Nazi Germany: an

aggressive, murderously vindictive regime supported by a magnificent and successful war

machine. As with the German army of World War II, the Assyrian army was the most

technologically and doctrinally advanced of its day and was a model for others for generations

afterwards. The Assyrians were the first to make extensive use of iron weaponry [and] not only

were iron weapons superior to bronze, but could be mass-produced, allowing the equipping of

very large armies indeed (Anglim). Their dominance came from the fact Assyrian soldiers were

more organized, had better training and most importantly the equipment like weapons and armor.

Their skilled work with iron for weapons and armor was a great advantage over their

enemies at the time. Iron weapons could be mass-produced the equipment a much larger

fighting force than was previously able to be put into the field and, of course, were stronger than

bronze weapons (Assyrian Warfare). As they started to conquer and their empire grew, the

amounts of iron they were able to retrieve and use for their weapons and armor grew as well, it

became very easy for them to use the act of war to gain more supplies to boost their dominance

of the region.
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The Assyrian military had a keen grasp on organization, they used that combined with

them being the largest army of soldiers and their iron weapons to easily dispose of any forces

that stood in their way. With their wide array of soldiers, archers, chariots, advanced engineers

who would create weapons or any tools they may need, made them a force to be reckoned with.

For the time, they could be considered one of the first longer range armies, using chariots and

horses to navigate their vast network of roads. They were also very skilled with the combat from

their chariots, the chariots had two people, one was the rider and the other was an archer who

could take out enemies from a distance. The Mesopotamian people used chariots, for fast

mobility the chariots top speed is 40 miles per hour (Armor and Weapons). They were excellent

craftsmen, they used inflated animal skins to cross rivers and would carry little to no supplies,

living off the land or using their enemies supplies to fit their needs.

Another great advantage the Assyrians had was the protective gear they used to keep safe

from any harm as to keep the fight and pressure on the enemy. Having better iron weapons would

be meaningless if they were not able to keep their vitals safe from even the inferior bronze

weapons a lot of empires still used at the time. The only enemy at the time that could rival their

protective equipment would have been Egypt, they used thin pieces of bronze sewn onto leather.

The Assyrians used that as a basis for their armor but improved on it by using iron instead of

bronze for added protection, that armor was known as lamellar armor. Lamellar armour consists

of small platelets known as "lamellae", which are punched and laced together, typically in

horizontal rows. Lamellae can be made of metal, leather cuir bouilli, horn, stone, bone or more

exotic substances. Metal lamellae may be lacquered to resist corrosion or for decoration. Unlike

scale armour, which it resembles, lamellar armour is not attached to a cloth or leather backing

(although it is typically worn over a padded undergarment). In the orient, lamellar armor
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eventually overtook scale armour in popularity as lamellar restricted the user's movements much

less than scale armour. (Lamellar Armor). It was originally longer, going to the knee but they

started making it shorter to the waist, giving them more mobility.

The majority of helmets for the time were crafted out of cloth, leather, copper and bronze

but the Assyrians like all their advancements took it one step further and started making theirs

out of iron. They used leather or wool for the inner part of the helmet which could help absorb

the impact from a blow and help with the heat from the sun on the iron. They also innovated

them even further by making them in a cone shape, an axe or sword would slide right off of it.

Referred to as huliam by the Assyrians, the conical helmet can be described as a calotte helmet

that rises to a point above the head and was made mostly of iron due to its lower cost (Evolution

of Arms and Armors).

Their advanced mastery in the use of iron also gave them a great advantage with their

weapons. Their infantry used iron spears, which were lighter and faster than other armies who

still used bronze. The spear was their basic weapon, wood handled with an iron tip for

penetrating. They carried iron daggers for close combat when things got to that point. The

archers were a great force for the Assyrians, they used two different kinds of bows. The basic

bow was crafted out of wood but the more advanced bows would be reinforced with animal

horns, giving them a range of 600 yards. Their arrows were iron tipped but also could shoot fire

tipped arrows as well. They also used a sort of sling to launch stones, they could be flung up to a

quarter of a mile in distance. Another great advancement was the use of a siege engine; the

Assyrians would craft these large vehicles once they reached a heavily fortified city. It was a

huge wooden tower that was wheeled on four wheels. It had a huge battering ram on the front

that they would use to ram or bash a weak point in a wall or gate allowing the soldiers to storm
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in. They would use leather or animal skins to protect it from any fires, if a fire broke out, they

had people designated to put the fires out, it could be a very dangerous weapon. More than

anything else, the Assyrian army excelled at siege warfare, and was probably the first force to

carry a separate corps of engineer. Assault was their principal tactic against the heavily fortified

cities of the Near East. They developed a great variety of methods for breaching enemy walls:

sappers were employed to undermine walls or to light fires underneath wooden gates, and ramps

were thrown up to allow men to go over the ramparts or to attempt a breach on the upper section

of wall where it was the least thick. Mobile ladders allowed attackers to cross moats and quickly

assault any point in defences. These operations were covered by masses of archers, who were the

core of the infantry. But the pride of the Assyrian siege train were their engines. These were

multistoried wooden towers with four wheels and a turret on top and one, or at times two,

battering rams at the base (Anglim).

The Assyrians were one of the most ruthless and feared army for this time period. The

advancements they made with their skilled iron work that contributed to their protective gear and

weapons gave them an even greater edge. Without their organization and military power, they

may not have survived. At the end of their reign, the empire was starting to collapse onto itself

but it took the Babylonian king Nabopolassar and along with Cyaxares of the Medes to finally

destroy Nineveh in 612 BCE ending the Assyrians.


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Works cited

Anglim, Simon. "Assyria." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

"Assyrian Warfare." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

"Armor and Weapons." The World Of Mesopotamia. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

"Lamellar armour." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

Taken from Oriental Armour, H. Russell Robinson, Publisher Courier Dover Publications, 2002.

"Evolution of Arms and Armors." Evolution of Arms and Armors. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.