"And about you, Assur, the Lord has determined: there will be no more seed with your name."
So, as we see it on the bas-reliefs that have come down to us, the Assyrians were very cruel people who adored war and violence.
One of the main treasures of the British Museum is the reliefs from the palace of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in Nimrud. Stone slabs depicting lion hunts adorned the walls of the royal palace, excavated in the mid-19th century by British archaeologist Henry Layard. They date back to about the middle of the 7th century. BC. Every detail of ammunition and equipment is shown on them with all the care that a stone carver can only be capable of.
Assyria first established itself as a world power around 1350 BC. Then, after the collapse of the Hittite Empire in the Middle East, a period of chaos began, but by 1115 BC, when Tiglathpalasar I became king of Assyria, it again turned into a powerful country, which, under the protection of a strong army, led a lively trade. When Assyria and Egypt exchanged ambassadors, Pharaoh even sent the Assyrians an unusual gift - a live crocodile.
By the middle of the 10th century BC, no one could resist the Assyrian armies, and Assyria itself was like a huge military camp. Every man was obliged to learn to wield weapons, large stocks of which were stored in the citadels of all the main cities. Rich people had to buy their own weapons: a bow and arrow, a spear, an ax, and even a chariot with horses. Both horses and camels were used in the cavalry.
Another scene from the relief "The Lion Hunt of King Ashurbanipal" in Nimrud. Like many Egyptian reliefs, a procession of warriors-archers is depicted here. But how different they are from the half-naked Egyptians. Each has the same helmet with headphones, a shell made of plates, a bow, a quiver behind his back and a short sword on his belt.
Numerous spies worked for the Assyrian kings, who regularly sent reports, so they knew exactly where and when it was best to strike. The Assyrian army could both fight in the open field and lay siege to cities - and in this matter the Assyrians achieved great art.
And this is another stripe-binding from the gate from the palace of King Shalmaneser II in Balavat. British museum. It masterfully shows the Assyrian army on the march: horsemen, archers, chariots. Those who obey them prostrate themselves before them.
Usually their army stood up in a fortified camp near the besieged city, after which the engineers began to assemble assault weapons: ladders, rams, and siege towers. It was the Assyrians who came up with the idea of making such machines so that they could be disassembled into parts when crossing rivers or when driving over rough, mountainous terrain. Even chariots could be transported piece by piece on pack animals. One Assyrian relief depicts soldiers swimming across the river in full armor - they are kept afloat by leather bellows filled with air, without which they would have drowned, as they are dressed in heavy leather shoes and plate armor. Climbing the walls of the city or breaking holes in them with battering rams, the Assyrians quickly prevailed over the enemy; the prisoners were often impaled or decapitated. Then the booty was loaded onto the captured carts, and the city was burned to the ground.Those high-ranking townspeople who were spared their lives were driven barefoot to Assyria, and even forced to carry woven nets behind their backs with the severed heads of their own rulers.
Relief from the northwest palace at Nimrud (room B, panel 18, British Museum); OK. 865-860 BC. Here we see the military equipment of the Assyrians - a ram on a six-wheeled chassis, closed on all sides and equipped with two turrets at once. In one, apparently, there was a commander who watched the enemy through narrow horizontal viewing slots, in the other there were warrior-archers, who did not let the defenders interfere with the work of the ram with their arrows.
Battering ram close-up.
As for the images of the warriors of ancient Assyria, they have come down to us thanks to the excavations of its ancient cities - Nineveh, Khorsabad and Nimrud, where among the ruins of the palaces of the Assyrian kings, well-preserved reliefs were found depicting scenes from the life of the Assyrian state. On their basis, we can conclude that it was the Assyrians who created an army from different types of troops and clearly used them in battles, preventing the mixing of units with each other. In the first place was the cavalry, which operated together with the war chariots, but it was among the Assyrians that it became an independent branch of the army. It can also be considered that the art of equestrian combat in Assyria went through three stages in its development.
Another scene with a battering ram and archers. The ram has a slightly different device.
Assyrian reliefs from the British Museum show the siege of the city of Lachish, one of the strongest Jewish fortresses, with all the details. Let's take a closer look at it: on the right, two warriors, a shield-bearer and an archer, are jointly shelling the city walls. The shield bearer has a small shield, and in his right hand he holds a naked sword. Two more warriors - the same pair, is depicted below the first, with the shield-bearer again holding the sword naked. Apparently, these were the rules. Very carefully depicted a sword in the belt of a seated archer. It is known that the Assyrians already knew iron, made weapons from it, but depended on its supplies from the South Caucasus. Therefore, it is not surprising that their swords were so thin and resembled bayonets from a Gra rifle - this was their design that helped save precious iron! In the background, it is shown that the defenders managed to grab the ram's log with a chain and pull it up, but two Assyrian warriors prevent them from doing so and are trying to free the ram. The dead are falling down from the wall, and a deep tunnel has already been dug under the wall …
So, on the reliefs of the era of the reign of King Ashurnazirpal II (883 - 859 BC) and Shalmaneser III (858 - 824 BC) we see lightly armed horse archers, some of whom are shown with two horses. Apparently, the horses of that era were still not strong and hardy enough, and the soldiers had to change them quite often.
These are the bas-reliefs in the halls of the British Museum. Yes, there is something to consider, what to shoot and what to study in the most careful way …
Usually the riders of this time act in pairs: one of them - the shield-bearer - holds the reins of two horses at once, while the second warrior shoots from a bow. That is, the functions of the Assyrian horsemen in this era were purely auxiliary and were reduced to the role of archers riding horses. In practice, these were just "chariots without chariots." Rice. Angus McBride.
Assyrian infantry, late 8th century BC. Rice. Angus McBride.
Under King Tiglathpalasar III (745 - 727 BC), the Assyrian army already had three types of horsemen. Moreover, the lightly armed warriors with bows and darts, most likely, belonged to the nomadic tribes neighboring Assyria and acted as allies or mercenaries. The Assyrian horse archers proper had protective armor made of metal plates, but besides them there were already heavily armed horsemen with spears and round shields. Most likely, they were used to attack enemy infantry.But the war chariots at this time only supplemented the Assyrian cavalry, no more.
This is what he was, this Tiglathpalasar III. British museum.
The Assyrian horse archers were obviously good riders, but they could not get even better, since they were greatly hampered by the lack of a saddle and stirrups. After all, they had to stay on horseback, either by throwing their legs over the croup, or by hanging them down, as Assyrian reliefs show us.
Therefore, the reins were short and tight, but the bits were made in such a way that it would be difficult to pull them out of the horse's mouth. Such bits injured the lips of horses, but apparently they put up with this, because without a strict bridle, and - most importantly, without saddles and stirrups, it would be quite difficult to ride them. Rice. Angus McBride.
Most likely, the Assyrians, like the North American Indians, controlled their horses not so much with the reins as with their legs (squeezing the sides with their feet) and, perhaps, giving them a command with their voice. Note the warrior slinger in the background and the heavily armed spearman on the right. Both have plate shells and helmets. The spearman's shield is similar to the Egyptian one - it is also rounded at the top, but unlike them, it has a metal umbo, which significantly increases its defensive capabilities. The riders' clothing resembled an English coat and had slits in the front and back. The plates of the carapace corset on it could be tied together with leather straps, which made it easier to fit it to the figure. The Assyrians decorated the horse harness of horses with bronze plaques and woolen tassels. Rice. Angus McBride.
In this graphic drawing by a modern artist from Assyrian bas-reliefs, we see infantry warriors: two with round shields and, again, an archer and a shield-bearer. Interestingly, the first two warriors have clearly metal comb helmets, but only a disc on their chest as a shell. Outwardly, they are very different from other warriors in conical helmets and shells made of plates and, it is quite possible that these are precisely the warriors of auxiliary units recruited from allies or mercenaries. The arrangement of their shields is interesting. We can see that from the inside they look like parquet floors. Most likely, this is the way it is, that is, the blocks of some strong wood were typed one to the other, glued together with hoof glue, the second row went across, and the third, say, was slightly shifted diagonally. Outside, the shield was covered with leather, the edges of which were curved inward. As for the shield of the shield-bearer warrior, it is most likely a panel of bundles of reed tied together, inserted into leather cases from above and below.
After the fall of the city of Lachish, its king and his entourage humbly beg for mercy from Sinacherib. British museum.
At the same time, judging by the bas-reliefs, the Assyrians did not always wear conical or hemispherical helmets with a small crest on top. So, on the heads of two slingers from the wall of the palace of King Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, you can see not helmets, but conical caps with earpieces, obviously sewn from several strips of fabric or from felt. Perhaps it was later from such hats that the ancient Assyrian conical helmet appeared, which seemed so convenient to everyone that it subsequently spread all over the world.
The Assyrian army returns home from the campaign. British museum.
The Assyrians' swords were rather long, but with thin blades and, most likely, resembled daggers or shortened rapiers. At the ends of the scabbard they had wing-shaped fetters, as evidenced by figures from the bas-reliefs from Assyrian palaces. Moreover, the swords of the Assyrians are either tucked into the belt, or hang on it so that their handles are right at the chest, and why this is so is understandable. After all, if a warrior fights while standing on a chariot, then the scabbard should not dangle between his legs, because in this case he can catch on to them and fall! Well, the shackles are necessary as a support at the moment when the long sword is pulled out of the long sheath!
On Assyrian reliefs, the mace in the hands of the warriors is also present. Moreover, it has not even a smooth, but a corrugated warhead, very similar to the "lemon" grenade of the early 20th century, but unlike it, it is mounted on a long wooden handle!
As already described in the first part, wars were fought for the sake of plunder. The Assyrians did not set any special political goals for themselves and did not think about their future at all.
The cuneiform "Taylor prism" is a valuable historical document found by the English Colonel Taylor in 1830 among the ruins of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. A total of three such prisms were found, one of which is in the British Museum, one in the Museum of the University of Chicago and another in the Israel Museum.
Since there is a translation of the text of "Taylor's prism" on the Internet, it makes no sense to cite it in the text of the article, it is better to read it yourself (http://archive.is/vmSsj). In short, we can say that these are all laudatory descriptions of campaigns and victories, a listing of captured booty, captives, talents of gold and silver, burned and captured cities. But amid all this bragging, there are many interesting things. For example, "auxiliary troops" are mentioned, therefore, this term already existed then, and also that the Assyrian kings sent cavalry and chariots to pursue the enemy defeated in a field battle, that is, they complemented each other!
Back in the 50s, an album of paintings on the history of the Ancient World was released for school history teachers. This one seemed especially impressive to me as a child - the Ishtar gate in ancient Babylon. However, this is what it meant to live behind the "Iron Curtain" and not be able to look at them with your own eyes: the artist's gate is not at all the same as those that were recreated on the basis of bricks and glazed tiles found during excavations.
This is how the real "gate of Ishtar" looks like.
But we will not be able to admire this historical monument - "The Gate of God" near Mosul, except that they can someday be rebuilt. Militants of the Islamic State terrorist organization, banned in Russia, have savagely destroyed a two-thousand-year-old monument of ancient architecture, as reported by The Independent, citing a source at the British Institute for the Study of Iraq. The gate was a structure that guarded the entrance to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, which at that distant era was the largest city in the world.
So, summing up, we can say that it was the Assyrians who were the first to create an army in which infantry with different, but quite uniform weapons were involved - archers, slingers, shield bearers, spearmen with round shields, spearmen with growth shields, horse archers, horse spearmen, warriors in chariots and a whole corps of pontooners who provided crossings, and military engineers who were engaged in ramming and digging. This was not the case anywhere else in the Ecumene at that time!
P.S. Of course, Assyria - the "den of lions", as a state formation, has sunk into oblivion. But … the people stayed! In 2014, while in Cyprus, I decided to go to the excavations of Khirokitia, and in order not to be tied to the bus, I took a taxi. The driver of the car turned out to be a hunched-nosed and dark-skinned man with a beard, who spoke Russian quite fluently, clearly not a Greek. We started talking about nationalities, and it turned out that his wife is Russian from … Kazakhstan, owns a ballet school in Larnaca, but he is a real Assyrian! We talked about Assyria, and he was very pleased that I also named the Assyrian kings to him and large cities, and even was aware of the export of their cultural values by the British to London. And so he told me that there are actually a lot of Assyrians. Today there are more than four million people, although of all their achievements, only one breed of dog - the Assyrian mastiff - has survived to this day! They live in different countries, but remember their roots, honor traditions and culture.When a population census was carried out in Russia in 2002, it turned out that more than 11 thousand Assyrians live on its territory. Mostly in the Krasnodar Territory. And there were several waves of their migration from Asia to us! So they turned out to be staunch people. After all, God himself was angered, but you see, they still live for themselves, albeit in a rather small number!