Ancient Mesopotamia Warfare

The Assyrians were always at war with somebody. Their warriors were fierce, and soon conquered many other people. They tried to conquer the southern regions of Mesopotamia, with an eye especially on controlling Babylonia, but their revolts were put down.

From about 900 B.C. Assyrian kings sent out their armies to conquer new lands. Over 300 years Mesopotamia and lands further to the east and west became part of an Assyrian empire. Conquering foreign cities brought wealth. Regions which had been conquered by the Assyrian army had to pay tribute to the king every year. If they rebelled against his rule, or refused to give tribute, the king would lead his army against them.

After the first world war, Mesopotamia – now renamed Iraq – was governed by Britain under a League of Nations mandate. From 1920 British and Indian troops were involved in fighting with Arab rebels during uprisings against British rule, which finally ceased in 1932 when Iraq became independent.

Armies from poor lands, which produced hardly enough food for themselves, seldom took prisoners. Mesopotamia was one of the first lands productive enough to support all the extra mouths, so their policy was to spare some for slaves. For some reason, the few slave lists that exist only show the names of women and children. Men were either listed separately because they had to be kept with more security, and the list of which was not later discovered by archeologists, or perhaps the men were all just killed.

The Mesopotamians became empire-builders for a variety of reasons. They fought for security, believing that they could protect themselves by expanding into areas where threats might arise. They went to war for economic gain, taxing the peoples they conquered, collecting tribute in land and resources, and taking prisoners to serve as slave labor.

Warfare was also justified on the grounds of religious beliefs. Conquest was considered the divine mission of the king, whose role was to bring more land, people, and goods under the jurisdiction of the national god, Ashur. Use of leather armor was quite common and the plaques and structures unearthed show heavy armor on Mesopotamian soldiers. Soldiers also sported heavy cloaks to prevent attacks from the copper socket axe.

The two handed sword, the club, javelin, lance, pole arm, which was a specific pike, the sling, staff and dagger were commonly used in warfare. But there is no evidence of the cross bow, the war hammer or the long bow being used anywhere despite a series of excavations down the centuries. The spear breaker and the Egyptian bladed mace were also commonly used and they sported some unique designs as well.

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Warfare in Ancient Mesopotamian Times