Nine Things You Didn’t Know About Ancient Warfare

As the British Army looks at reductions to personnel and ongoing development of modern weaponry, we thought we’d turn our attention to the origins of warfare itself.

Here, award-winning author and historian Simon Elliot gives us nine short and unusual facts about ancient warfare. Enjoy!

  • The world’s first major fortified wall circuit was that of Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Jericho which was built between 8,200 BC and 7,600 BC.
  • This was 600m in length, 2m wide, 4m high and featured an 8.5m high tower.
Maryannu chariots in action. (Kingdom of Mitanni, 1500 – 1250 BCE).
  • This incredible fortification took 10,400 man-days to complete, yet the most striking thing about it is the process by which it was designed, basically using sticks to draw in the sands on the shores of the Dead Sea.
  • The region’s first formal armies were those of the Sumerian, and later Akkadian, city-states in Mesopotamia.
  • The composite bow, featuring a laminated construction technique using layers of wood and bone, was first used by the Akkadians.
  • The chariot, as used extensively in the Levant, originated with the Scythians north of the Black Sea.
  • Its vector of transfer to the Minoans, Hittites, Mitanni, Assyrians and Egyptians was through the Hurrian speaking peoples of the Zagros mountains.
Canaanite axe blade from the early 2nd millennium BCE.
  • The Neo Babylonians and Egyptians both used Greek hoplites as heavy infantry mercenaries.
  • You really, really didn’t want to cross the Neo Assyrians. One punishment given to the rulers of defeated nations was to grind the bones of their forefathers to dust!

Old Testament Warriors
By Simon Elliot

The period covered in the Old Testament was one of great technological development and innovation in warfare as competing cultures clashed in the Middle East. This authoritative history gives an overview of warfare in this period, from the Sumerians use of bronze to the Assyrians development of chariot warfare through to the Babylonians soldiers who were granted land for their service. Simon Elliott explores how archaeology can shed light on events in the Bible including the famous tumbling walls of Jericho, the career of David the boy warrior who faced the Philistines, and Gideon, who defeated an army that vastly outnumbered his own.

9781612009544 | Hardback | Casemate | £20.00 | May 2021
Available to order through Casemate UK

Dr Simon Elliott is an award-winning and best-selling historian, archaeologist and broadcaster, and a leading expert of warfare in the ancient world. He is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent and a Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, and has published many books on subjects covering conflict in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. He frequently appears on broadcast media as a presenter and expert discussing a wide range of historical themes.