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Subject: Weighing in on Carlin's assertion: Assyria > Greece? rss

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Henry Rodriguez
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I was listening to the informative and engaging podcast Kings of Kings (Hardcore History Ep. 56) by Dan Carlin. Great stuff!

But one of Carlin's statements made me think, would the Assyrian army of the 8-7th Centuries BCE have defeated the Greek armies of the 5th Century BCE (including Sparta's)?

His enthusiasm for the Assyrian military capabilities shows. He does not think they could have withstood Alexander's Macedonians, but believes they would have overcome the Greek hoplite armies.

Thoughts?

PS - Check out the podcast here: http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-56-kings-of-kings/
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Ivor Bolakov
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Carlin is not a historian. He makes errors frequently and often gets carried away. His assertions are not really worthy of serious consideration.
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Robert Lesco
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Now if it was GEORGE Carlin speaking it would be very worthy of consideration.
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Henry Rodriguez
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OhBollox wrote:
Carlin is not a historian. He makes errors frequently and often gets carried away. His assertions are not really worthy of serious consideration.


I realized he was not a historian, but I would hope that a good journalist (is he one, a good one I mean?) would do his homework.

But even if the assertion is not worth serious consideration, my question can still be fun mulling over. We miniature wargamers frequently put ahistorical armies up against each other for speculative fun.
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Scott Gillispie
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Same response as to "Hoo'dwin - Thor or the Hulk?" - Depends on who's writing the story.

I think I'll take Xenophon.
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Jason Cawley
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Henry - Well Alexander's army would have eaten the entire Assyrian military for breakfast and had time to relax by noon. Tiny city state contingents are a different matter. But not because the Assyrian military was efficient or its basic tactics were sound - the little city states just had armies with a 0 chopped off the end in size terms - sometimes 2 0's.

Assyrian chariots were worthless against later armies; their bowmen were no threat to hoplites with shields and full bronze armor; their foot melee forces were an afterthought and would never have stood up to e.g. a Macedonian pike charge. The pre Alexander greeks might have had some weakness in cavalry; Alexander definitely did not. Nobody still trying to use their hopelessly outdated military system in the 300s, for example, would have beaten anyone who counted.
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Bruce Jurin
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One of the big problems here is that we have very few sources for Assyrian strength for real - although a lot of secondary sources give figures, anything we have about that era comes from extrapolation from fewer sources.

Some of the historians view that Assyria during its height in the 8th and 7th centuries would have fielded very large armies - perhaps 150,000 men.

For instance, http://www.assyriatimes.com/assyrian/knowledge/assyrian-mili..., says field armies were about 50,000 men. This seems to be in accordance with most of the secondary sources I've read.

This article: http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0009.htm
supports armies of that size.

This is a very scholarly article, talking bout much smaller types of numbers: http://www.helsinki.fi/science/saa/4.1%2003%20Fales%20Grain%...

This is a good article on Assyrian military capabilities:
http://www.ancient.eu/Assyrian_Warfare/


When we talk of the Greek armies in the fifth century, we have rather small city state armies - obviously if you somehow put them together, as they did to some degree against the Persians, you can field larger armies, but getting 50,000 at a time would be difficult.

What about quality?

First, let's remember one important item - Assyria had no navy to speak of, and the Greeks, especially the Athenians at that time, had a wonderful navy- The Greek Navy's victory at Salamis over the Persians was very important in winning against Xerxes' invasion.

Generally, I would put the quality advantage to 7th century Assyria over 5th century Greece. Greece's army was almost exclusively heavy infantry, and at that point, was largely based for fighting on flat terrain, but would have done badly against a cavalry army. Most importantly, they were still Hoplite armies, with few auxiliary troops (Peltasts), having non-professional soldiers fighting in a Phalanx. These included old and infirm men. The exception here clearly is Sparta, who had a small elite army, since their Helot slaves could perform the necessary farming.

Assyria appears to have created a true professional army in the 8th century. We see writers talking about logistics detachments, communications, etc. They didn't develop cavalry before the 9th century, but by the 8the century they had at least chariots providing a cavalry role and playing a major part.

The one item that EVERYONE in the ancient world seems to talk about is the Assyrian siege train. Assyria was able to take walled cities, one of the reasons they were the terror of the ancient world.

Although Greece's heyday as a world power was in the 5th century before the Peloponnesian War (I'm not counting Macedon here), their military capabilities at a per unit level appear to be much greater after the Peloponnesian War. There are a few reasons for this, but mostly the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War forced the Greeks to learn to fight in situations where the old hoplite tactics weren't sufficient. We see the emergence of mercenaries, larger contingencies of Peltasts, and smaller amounts of bronze armor by hoplites in favor of mobility. In the 4th century the spears become much longer, becoming more like Pikemen.

So although the great Athenian and Spartan 'empires' were no more, Greek armies were more efficient on a unit by unit basis in the fourth century. New tactics may have appeared, including the Theban victory over Sparta at Leuctra (although Hansen for example disputes the Theban innovation).

Perhaps even greater is the innovation in Greek Siege warfare. Look at Demetrius' siege of Rhodes and the end of the 4th century as compared to the Peolopennesian war, and we see that Greek PER UNIT military capabilities were greater than they had been -although again, the non-Macedonian armies weren't that politically powerful any more. Or you can decide if the Diodachi armies are 'Greek' or not.

The Greek small use of cavalry, though, was probably more from lack of availability than from a lack of understanding of its use. Hansen views that very small cavalry units had powerful impacts on the Pelopennesian war; my favorite ancient historian, J. B. Bury, felt that in 370BC, Jason of Pherae was the greatest power in Greece because of his cavalry, and hadn't he died in 369, could have predated the work of Philip II in hegemony over the traditional Greek city-states.

Weaponry

Here again I think we give the edge to Assyria. Ancient sources (again, remember these are limited and of suspect authority), seem to agree that one of Assyria's key advantages was iron weapons. In the 5th century, the Greek army was still largely bronze, and the iron probably gave them an advantage over their foes (see again some of the source above).

Other

It is hard to evaluate the leadership skills of the Assyrians, but they had a military culture, more so than the Greeks (perhaps besides Sparta, Thebes, a few others) and appear to have turned out a bunch a top notch conquerors. It isn't likely anyone could match Alexander (who could?) but generally, I don't see any reason to favor Greek generals over Assyrian if we aren't counting Alexander.

The Assyrians are also very strong at propaganda, terror, and psychological warfare.

Where the Greeks shined, of course, was hoplite warfare, and I suspect nobody could beat them in a tight formation battle, as they learned the trick of interlocking shields and straight ahead combat.

My Vote

I'm going with Assyria. It appears their armies were much larger; or perhaps because they were unified, they could field an army as opposed to having military strength diluted across many city-state. They seem to have a more integrated, combined arms army. They appear to have superior weaponry. They clearly had a military culture. They emphasized siege warfare.

In the fifth century, the Greeks didn't have a professional army (besides Sparta and the Athenian Fleet) until the Pelopennesian War; they didn't seem to have any sort of combined arms, they were not tactically innovative, and they didn't appear to have great siege abilities.

So in total, I'm voting for Assyria.

But we have to remember the Greeks DID win the Persian War. It may be useful to look at Rupert Holmes' article in the Oxford Companion to Military History – he felt the Greeks won because both at Salamis and at Marathon and Plataea, the Greeks fought where their military system had an advantage. The Persian Fleet's larger and faster ships were a disadvantage in the narrow straits at Salamis; and at the land battles, the Persian mobility/cavalry advantage couldn't be exploited in the terrain used. My point here is that the Greeks were tough! So although I'm going with Assyria, I don't want people to think I'm downplaying Greek military might.

However, Assyrian might appear to have been substantial. Indeed, although many scholars liked to ask 'What caused the fall of the Roman Empire?', people used to also wonder how the mighty Assyrians were defeated? The Assyrians get a bad rap, and I suspect they deserve it. They finally had civil wars, and the Chaldeans (Babylon) led a revolt that eventually included the Medians and the horse archer nomads (Scythians and/or Sarmatians), and joined in by other numerous enemies. So despite their military prowess, their fall as hinted at in biblical prediction, may indeed have been caused by their seemingly well-attested wickedness.
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Cameron Taylor
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rlesco wrote:
Now if it was GEORGE Carlin speaking it would be very worthy of consideration.


For a second, looking at the thread title I actually thought this.
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marc lecours
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It depends on where the war is located.

In Greece proper, the Assyrians would have lost to the Greeks just as the Persians did. Too far from home. Too many supply line problems. Less navy than the Persians.

If the war was in Asia minor then the Assyrians would have beat the Greeks. Just as I believe the Persians could have beat the Greeks in Asia minor. No supply problems. No need of navy.

All three would have lost to Alexander and his Macedonians whether in Greece or in Asia minor. In fact at the battle of Issus the Persian apparently used about 10000 Greeks mercenaries as infantry as part of their army. So in a sense the Macedonians did beat the Greeks.
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Jason Cawley
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Riddled with inaccuarcies...

First, Greece went through the iron age transition already by the time of the classic city states. Their armor was indeed bronze because it is considerably lighter; their weapons were iron. The Assyrians used iron scale mail, but it is dubious at best that it gave better protection than bronze plate. Especially against piercing weapons (as opposed to slashing ones).

Second, cavalry was rarely decisive against heavily armored infantry phalanxes. Hannibal at Cannae is about the first time it proved strong enough to turn a battle against it, and that still depended on the steadiness of the veteran Carthaginian infantry to hold in the (mostly green) Roman infantry. Also, the Assyrian cavalry arm wasn't very developed yet - they relied still on chariots, which give a mounted force 10-20 times less numerous, that relied on the bow to kill from range or on panic in defenders - neither was going to do anything to a Greek hoplite phalanx.

Yes all sources agree that Assyria was particular known for having a seige train, but this is because they are comparing it to flat nothing. A few rams, onagers, and towers let them assault fortified cities, but are of no use in a field battle, the subject under discussion. They were also nowhere near the later sophistication of Rome in seige technique, use of the spade, artillery in every legion, etc.

On army sizes, 150,000 might well have been the size of the Assyrian military at its height, but not of one field army. They couldn't possibly supply it. 50,000 is much more likely. Note that the large army the Persians brought to Greece needed a large fleet immediately offshore to keep it supplied and fed, and the loss of that fleet instantly forced the large army to break up or starve. As you noted, the Assyrians didn't have one.

The big difference is simply the quality of the infantry. The Assyrian infantry relied on bows, and its melee ability was an afterthought to hold lines while chariots and archers fought, then to follow up a broken enemy. There is no account ever of Assyria infantry simply destroying an enemy army by charging home with melee weapons and putting the enemy to flight. The Greeks and Macedonians are doing so on every page. Particular against a line of 18 foot Sarissas (the Macedonian arm of choice), they would not have had a prayer.
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Bruce Jurin
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JasonC wrote:
Riddled with inaccuarcies...

First, Greece went through the iron age transition already by the time of the classic city states. Their armor was indeed bronze because it is considerably lighter; their weapons were iron. The Assyrians used iron scale mail, but it is dubious at best that it gave better protection than bronze plate. Especially against piercing weapons (as opposed to slashing ones).

Second, cavalry was rarely decisive against heavily armored infantry phalanxes. Hannibal at Cannae is about the first time it proved strong enough to turn a battle against it, and that still depended on the steadiness of the veteran Carthaginian infantry to hold in the (mostly green) Roman infantry. Also, the Assyrian cavalry arm wasn't very developed yet - they relied still on chariots, which give a mounted force 10-20 times less numerous, that relied on the bow to kill from range or on panic in defenders - neither was going to do anything to a Greek hoplite phalanx.

Yes all sources agree that Assyria was particular known for having a seige train, but this is because they are comparing it to flat nothing. A few rams, onagers, and towers let them assault fortified cities, but are of no use in a field battle, the subject under discussion. They were also nowhere near the later sophistication of Rome in seige technique, use of the spade, artillery in every legion, etc.

On army sizes, 150,000 might well have been the size of the Assyrian military at its height, but not of one field army. They couldn't possibly supply it. 50,000 is much more likely. Note that the large army the Persians brought to Greece needed a large fleet immediately offshore to keep it supplied and fed, and the loss of that fleet instantly forced the large army to break up or starve. As you noted, the Assyrians didn't have one.

The big difference is simply the quality of the infantry. The Assyrian infantry relied on bows, and its melee ability was an afterthought to hold lines while chariots and archers fought, then to follow up a broken enemy. There is no account ever of Assyria infantry simply destroying an enemy army by charging home with melee weapons and putting the enemy to flight. The Greeks and Macedonians are doing so on every page. Particular against a line of 18 foot Sarissas (the Macedonian arm of choice), they would not have had a prayer.


I stand by what I said. I can provide the sources I used for this analysis and largely did. Obviously you can disagree with my sources, but then you are playing the 'my sources are better than your sources' game.

I do not think it was 'was at best' that the iron armor was better than the bronze armor.

According to this article:http://www.assyriatimes.com/assyrian/knowledge/assyrian-military-facts/71

According to modern tests, the body armor, helmet, and shield of the Assyrians would have provided excellent protection against firearms until Napoleon. The Romans clearly favored Iron armor (but this was almost certainly far superior to the Assyrian iron armor, so we have to be careful here). Of course the Greeks had iron by the fifth century but their ability to get sufficient raw materials has apparently been debated. (Even the sources for bronze have been questioned but we know they did mass produce bronze, where did the tin come from? See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassiterides). However, it is also true that the Assyrians had bronze and could have used it also.

As far as cavalry, both Hansen and Bury disagree with you. It wasn't necessarily their ability to ride down a phalanx, but there are tremendous other uses for cavalry; but Bury describes in detail how Jason of Pherae was the dominant power in Greece in 370 BC and 369 BC because he had a cavalry army, and how Greece was probably fortunate he was assassinated. Both talk about the importance of the cavalry in the Pelopennesian war (especially Hansen). Alexander also clearly used cavalry to great effect. I recognize he didn't face heavy infantry armies, but I think we need to question the importance of cavalry.

By the 7th Century the Assyrians did not rely on chariots, at least to according to my sources; as I said above, the primary source material is not of high quality.

For example, this article states ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_the_Neo-Assyrian_Empire:

The Assyrians experienced fewer problems with cavalry when they were deployed as lancers; under Tiglath Pileser III, the Assyrian Cavalry continued to be paired of but this time each warrior holds his own lance and controls their own horse.[25] By the 7th century BC, mounted Assyrian warriors were well armed with a bow and a lance,[25] and armored with lamellar armour, while their mounts were equipped with fabric armour, providing limited yet useful protection in close combat and against missiles. Cavalry were to form the core of the later Assyrian armies.

So cavalry was indeed 'the core of the army'.

The Wikipedia article quotes Mark Healy's 1991 book the Ancient Assyrians (which I recommend to any one interested, it is an Osprey book). Once again, you can say you know better than Healy – I'm not getting into these arguments, these are my sources and I'm relying on them.

I didn't know that we were simply discussing field battles - I was talking about the professionalism of the Assyrian military vs. the Greeks. That's why I talked about the navy. Obviously the navy isn't important in just a land fight. This also applies to my comment about the cavalry -I do agree in a straight up formed battle, the Assyrian cavalry would have been able to do little against the Greek phalanx unless it was broken first.

In terms of the size of a field army, didn't I say the field army was about 50,000? Isn't that on the third line of my post?

However, I do agree that there is no question that the quality of the infantry was much higher in Greece. In a straight on fight between the Greek phalanx and the Assyrian infantry, I'm betting the Greeks would rout the Assyrians easily.

And this is the issue with these kinds of discussions. The Assyrians would be crazy to fight the Greeks like that; this was my comment about the Persians. In a closed battlefield like Marathon or Plataea the Greek heavy infantry is strongly favored over the light armies of the Persians. The Assyrians seem to be about half the way between the Persians and the Greeks, an efficient mixed army force; they were cavalry/missile based in the open, used their mobility, and then if the enemy hid behind their cities, they used their siege craft. Their infantry was mid-heavy, but it wasn't their main force, it was there to stabilize the army.

If there were a war, the Assyrians would be advised use their mobility and take advantage of their missile weapons; and they would try to engage in a large area where they could attack the phalanx in the rear. No cavalry army is going to fight a phalanx in a narrow field.

So if the question is, 'If we had a fight between the Greeks and Assyrians in the perfect terrain for the Greek heavy infantry who would win?' I'd be totally shocked if the Greeks wouldn't win then, they are a heavy infantry army. If we are on an open field with exposed flanks and the Assyrians can harass the Greeks, that is what they would be well advised to do.

Incidentally, the 18 foot sarissa was a 4th century change, usually ascribed to Philip; at this point he had professional infantry, and didn't have old men in the ranks. The fifth century Greeks used a Dory that was about 10 feet.

For example, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dory_(spear) for the Dory, here for the Sarissa:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarissa

I'm not getting into a flame/pissing war on this – this is my opinion, I have some knowledge of the subject material, I have quoted most of my readily available sources. If you have sources that say that the 7th century Assyrians used chariots, or that the 5th century Greeks used Sarissas, please provide those sources so I can see where I am 'riddled with inaccuracies'.
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SeriousCat wrote:
rlesco wrote:
Now if it was GEORGE Carlin speaking it would be very worthy of consideration.


For a second, looking at the thread title I actually thought this.


I was disappointed when I clicked through and found it wasn't George Carlin.
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patton1138 wrote:
SeriousCat wrote:
rlesco wrote:
Now if it was GEORGE Carlin speaking it would be very worthy of consideration.


For a second, looking at the thread title I actually thought this.


I was disappointed when I clicked through and found it wasn't George Carlin.


As was I. However, I do find it interesting the dude that sang the piña colada song is a military historian...
 
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Sean Chatterton
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callidusx3 wrote:
I was listening to the informative and engaging podcast Kings of Kings (Hardcore History Ep. 56) by Dan Carlin. Great stuff!

But one of Carlin's statements made me think, would the Assyrian army of the 8-7th Centuries BCE have defeated the Greek armies of the 5th Century BCE (including Sparta's)?

His enthusiasm for the Assyrian military capabilities shows. He does not think they could have withstood Alexander's Macedonians, but believes they would have overcome the Greek hoplite armies.

Thoughts?

PS - Check out the podcast here: http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-56-kings-of-kings/


I tried to listen to a couple of these, expecting Hardcore to mean what it said, rather than being to the level of detail I had to deal with back in middle school.

On the specific assertion, what would your reaction be if Carlin suggested that a Napoleonic French army would defeat the current Belgian or Swedish army?
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Dave Crater
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Wow! This is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn from the educated members of BGG. my knowledge base of u s civil war to modern day is no help in this debate. It always fascinates me to pop into the interesting discussion on ancient warfare. I appreciate all of Bruce's citations for verification by scholars. I too would like to see Jason cite his go-to references. As a infrequent listener of Mr Dan Carlin, the current discussion will make me download the podcast.
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Dave Crater
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Man, you must've had an awesome middle school. In texas the only 2 things about Greece we learned was it was good for pans and wheel bearings.
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jubjub wrote:
Man, you must've had an awesome middle school. In texas the only 2 things about Greece we learned was it was good for pans and wheel bearings.
yes a agree Sean must of had a awesome middle school, most of my reading after I left school.

As far as historical podcast go I think dan is one of the better ones. He has mentioned that he reads several books on the subject beforehand for his podcast, so shrinking that down to a couple of hours is a fairly good effort, bits will be glossed over.

If you would like something more in depth than there is audible and "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" for volume 1 for 40 plus hours, I know it is a different subject but from what I've read no stone is left unturned. Until I have that's much spare time Dan Carlin will have to do.

The other podcast that I find really good is "when diplomacy fails."

Onto the original subject in another life I use to play ancient miniatures and we found it almost impossible to have a historic correct battles because both sides were fairly well read and knew what was in the other army list then would manipulate our own army list as best as possible to combat the opposition. We found it very hard to do the atypical army because there was no such thing it would be the soldiers available for that campaign of 6 weeks and then be different next year different troop mix with Greece different alliance and allies.

I would be inclined to give the advantage it to the Assyrian mostly because they have a more central government and better command system rather than Greece, mostly because they struggled all through their history to work together.
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OhBollox wrote:
Carlin is not a historian. He makes errors frequently and often gets carried away. His assertions are not really worthy of serious consideration.

True, Carlin is not a historian, a fact that he frequently points out. However, I've found he's careful to qualify the inaccuracies of his source material by pointing out biases and disagreements, both between period sources and among modern historians. In cases where there are few, if any, sources, he just uses common sense and expresses his own sentiments. His assertions are therefore simply opinions, just like the rest of us living millenia later. Fortunately, they are very entertaining opinions.
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Bruce Jurin
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jubjub wrote:
Wow! This is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn from the educated members of BGG. my knowledge base of u s civil war to modern day is no help in this debate. It always fascinates me to pop into the interesting discussion on ancient warfare. I appreciate all of Bruce's citations for verification by scholars. I too would like to see Jason cite his go-to references. As a infrequent listener of Mr Dan Carlin, the current discussion will make me download the podcast.


You are welcome Dave!

The sources I gave I found to be readily available (websites) -my 'real' sources come from the books I've read on the subject.

There are dozens of great books on Greek history and warfare. My favorite for understanding the initial, ritualistic warfare the Greeks fought against each other is Victor Hansen's The Western Way of War:

https://www.amazon.com/Western-Way-War-Infantry-Classical/dp...

Critical here are the amateur nature of the armies - there is a case of a (I think ) Athenian citizen who was 60 years old and blind but wasn't excused from military service! The key to understanding ancient Greek warfare was the closed formation phalanx which 'pushed' through the enemy lines,but that this type of warfare required effectively both sides to agree to the fight condition. He also talks about how heavily armored they were, and that over time they actually reduced armor for weight.

Now,as with many fields of scholarship, others have pushed back. (Pun intended).

The Greeks learned to fight 'real wars' in the fifth century and Hansen's book on the Peloponnesian War telegraphs this message with its title : A War Like no Other. Here are the incidents I mentioned, how even 30 cavalry could be important in a battle with a few thousand Hoplites.

https://www.amazon.com/War-Like-Other-Athenians-Peloponnesia...

In the discussion of the fifth century Greeks, you will see that they had powerful political entities in Athens and Sparta, but that warfare capabilities were limited and grew throughout the century. Teh fourth century Greeks were substantially more advanced. The other poster will NOT find references to sarissas in the fifth century, with their amateur armies using shields as an advance weapon, smaller pole arms are needed. Sarissas require two hands and professionally trained soldiers.

My all time favorite historian is J B Bury – in terms of detail, style, and insight, I think he is beyond other writers. Unfortunately his work is now 100 years old, so it is best to get updated versions (filled in with other authors). He isn't primarily discussing military history, but his discussions and analysis, in my opinion, are magnificent. He was chosen of all of the scholars of the time to put together the venerable Cambridge Ancient History. This is a magnificent series but getting copies now if you don't have one is outrageously expensive, but I think you can get electronic versions, or use a library. Once again, though, a lot of the information is out of date.

My favorite Bury book is:
https://www.amazon.com/History-Greece-Death-Alexander-Great/...

With books on ancient Greece, there are so many, the hard part is choosing which one to pick up. Unfortunately, Assyria has dropped from being a major topic a century ago to a largely forgotten empire in modern times. Indeed, the original question here expressed some incredulity a the notion of how tough the Assyrians were, but that would NOT have been an issue in the past. The Assyrians are largely forgotten.

There are again some GREAT books on Assyria written very long ago, but again, modern research has changed results, much more so than for books on Greece,largely because on Greece, we had then and now substantial primary material,although of course substantial amounts have been added, including the translation of linear B; primary material is much newer for Assyria. Classical writers actually knew little about Assyria, most of the knowledge starts in the 19th century with Layard discovering Nineveh. For example, the aforementioned Cambridge Ancient History has a part of one of its books on Assyria.

For modern books, I recommend the book by H. W. F. Saggs

https://www.amazon.com/Might-Assyria-Great-Civilizations-civ...

Note that Saggs also wrote the book on Babylon in the Empires of the Near East series. Interesting, the four empires here are the Hittites, Babylonians, Persians, and Egyptians. To me the critical question is: why no Assyrians?? And even in popular parlance, people seem to know the Persians and Babylonians, and maybe even the Hittites, better than the mighty Assyrians.

The ancient Persians had a 220 year run, starting in their overthrow of the Medians in about 550 until their conquest by Alexander (323 or so). Babylon is famous, and the Amorite kingdom was a world leader under Hammurabi, but they declined soon after and were sacked by the Hittites in 1594, with about 300 years of power to some degree; about 1000 years later, the Chaldeans would work out a new empire in Babylon.

But the rise of the Chaldeans, the Medes,and their successors, were all based on the critical issue – the destruction of the great world power -Assyria. From the end of the 14th century to the 7th, the Assyrians were the powerhouse of the near east,even during the bronze age collapse where Assyria did better than their neighbors. This worked out well for the Persians, it was the Assyrians who destroyed the original people living in Iran, non-Iranian peoples like the Elamites.

The basically beat everyone near them -several dynasties in Babylon, Elamites, other non-Persian peoples of Iran, subjugated the Medes and Persians, defeated the Mitanni an Hurrians, Hittities, Phyrigians, Urartu, Northern Kingdom of Israel, the coastal City states, Cimmerians, and conquered Egypt. A complete list is three times as long. Unlike some other conquerors, they held on to many of these for some time.

Unlike Greece, though, Assyria had pretty much only great claim to fame – military prowess. But at warfare, they were very good.
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L. SCHMITT
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Quote:
On the specific assertion, what would your reaction be if Carlin suggested that a Napoleonic French army would defeat the current Belgian or Swedish army?

I also remember someone in an old Command mag pretending Alexander would have beaten the armies of Waterloo. laugh
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santino el cato wrote:
Quote:
On the specific assertion, what would your reaction be if Carlin suggested that a Napoleonic French army would defeat the current Belgian or Swedish army?

I also remember someone in an old Command mag pretending Alexander would have beaten the armies of Waterloo. laugh


Arther Ferrill iirc.
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Robert Stuart
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santino el cato wrote:
Quote:
On the specific assertion, what would your reaction be if Carlin suggested that a Napoleonic French army would defeat the current Belgian or Swedish army?

I also remember someone in an old Command mag pretending Alexander would have beaten the armies of Waterloo. laugh


I'm sure he would have, given updated weapons and the time to retrain his army.
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Robert Stuart
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callidusx3 wrote:
I was listening to the informative and engaging podcast Kings of Kings (Hardcore History Ep. 56) by Dan Carlin. Great stuff!

But one of Carlin's statements made me think, would the Assyrian army of the 8-7th Centuries BCE have defeated the Greek armies of the 5th Century BCE (including Sparta's)?

His enthusiasm for the Assyrian military capabilities shows. He does not think they could have withstood Alexander's Macedonians, but believes they would have overcome the Greek hoplite armies.

Thoughts?

PS - Check out the podcast here: http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-56-kings-of-kings/


I can't see a 7th century Assyrian force doing any better than the 5th century Persians in invading Greece. On the other hand, I can't see the 5th century Greeks being able to conduct a successful offensive operation into Assyrian territory. For that they would have needed a military machine which would include a well-trained and hard-striking cavalry arm (which is what the 4th century Macedonians created).
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ironregime wrote:
OhBollox wrote:
Carlin is not a historian. He makes errors frequently and often gets carried away. His assertions are not really worthy of serious consideration.

True, Carlin is not a historian, a fact that he frequently points out. However, I've found he's careful to qualify the inaccuracies of his source material by pointing out biases and disagreements, both between period sources and among modern historians. In cases where there are few, if any, sources, he just uses common sense and expresses his own sentiments. His assertions are therefore simply opinions, just like the rest of us living millenia later. Fortunately, they are very entertaining opinions.


What he fails to point out or correct are his frequent errors. Stating repeatedly that you are an entertainer and not a historian doesn't excuse your errors when you are talking about history. It really doesn't excuse those errors when they are pointed out to you, as I have watched actual historians inform Carlin of mistakes, and nothing happen as a result, a stark contrast even to other laymen who put forth media on historical subjects, who are often happy to add corrections.

"My dad could beat up your dad." is an equally worthwhile discussion.
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rubberchicken wrote:
It depends on where the war is located.

In Greece proper, the Assyrians would have lost to the Greeks just as the Persians did. Too far from home. Too many supply line problems. Less navy than the Persians.

If the war was in Asia minor then the Assyrians would have beat the Greeks. Just as I believe the Persians could have beat the Greeks in Asia minor. No supply problems. No need of navy.

All three would have lost to Alexander and his Macedonians whether in Greece or in Asia minor. In fact at the battle of Issus the Persian apparently used about 10000 Greeks mercenaries as infantry as part of their army. So in a sense the Macedonians did beat the Greeks.


The other determining factor is that even aside from the supply situation, the terrain would have heavily tilted the contest in one direction or another. In Greece, with its notoriously narrow valleys, pretty much any competent Greek army was going to be heavily favored. Their armies were built for that kind of terrain. As the Persians found out, relatively lightly armored Eastern armies were no real match for heavily armored guys with long spears. In Assyria, on the other hand, the Greeks would have had (a) open flanks and (b) not enough cavalry and (c) a really hard time coping with bow armed chariots and swarms of foot archers.

In other words, both the classic Greek phalanx and the classic Assyrian army were specialized constructs optimized for their "home" terrain. Either army would have been tough to beat at home, particularly by a force structured to fight in different terrain. Kind of like asking which team was better -- the Jordan Bulls or the Montana 49ers. Depends on the playing surface and rules.

Which is actually an interesting point -- neither of these two armies was structured as a general-use army. Both were heavily tailored to their locality. This is very much in contrast to later armies with wider operating theaters. For example, although Alexander's Macedonians started out optimized for Greek terrain, they (he) showed great adaptability in changing his force structure on the fly. The Imperial Roman army demonstrated the same flexibility and range of terrain. Ditto Napoleon's Grande Armee and a number of the armies in WW2.
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