What's the difference between a sling and a slingshot? Was there any difference between the swords used by ancient Egyptians and those used by the Romans? Could you explain the difference between a simple bow, a compound bow, and a complex bow? How were ancient cities protected and defeated?
The questions above illustrate the fact that there is a tremendous gap between modern civilized cultures and the ancient world. Houses, clothing, dishes and hundreds of other aspects of daily life have changed dramatically. This is especially apparent in the realm of weapons. The inventions of gun powder, combustible engines, and flying machines have forever changed the way we conduct warfare. The arsenal of modern armies is vastly different than that of the ancients.
The purpose of this blog will be to examine and explore the fascinating world of ancient weapons. During the next few posts, we will begin with a general introduction of the different types of weapons. Yet before we begin it will be helpful to lay some groundwork.
First of all, how can we categorize ancient weapons? In general, there are two broad categories: offensive weapons and defensive weapons. Defensive weapons include helmets, shields, and body armor. Within the offensive category, there are several subcategories based on the range of the weapons, namely: short-range, mid-range, and long range. Swords, daggers, maces, and axes are examples of short range weapons; spears and javelins are mid-range weapons; and bows and arrows along with slings and slingstones are long-range.
Secondly, what else should be included in this study besides weapons? In addition to equipment that the ancient soldier carried, there were also larger pieces of equipment which assisted him in a battle, such as chariots and battering rams. There were also defenses which the soldier had to overcome such as city walls, gates, and ramparts which affected which weapons were used and how they were used. And then there were various tactics employed by armies and defenders that made the weapons more or less effective. So anything within the realm of ancient warfare is fair game in this study. Near East weapons is the catalyst we will use to discuss various aspects of ancient warfare.
Third, what sources are available for us to use in this study? There are three resources which provide us with information about weapons in the ancient world: writing, art, and artifacts. Ancient writings sometimes provide us with descriptions of ancient weapons and they tell us how those weapons were used. Ancient art forms, such as Egyptian and Assyrian reliefs, provide us with pictures of these weapons created by people who were familiar with them. Finally, the weapons themselves are sometimes found in archaeological excavations which can help fill in gaps in our understanding. Each of these sources has its strengths and weaknesses, but combined they can help us go a long way in understanding what weapons were used at various points of history, how they were used, and how they were made. This study will include material from all three of those sources.
In the next post, we will begin our study by discussing ancient swords. I hope you will join us.