September 17, 2016
During the first millennium BCE, warfare with neighboring civilizations was a constant possibility. The only way a society would be safe would be by having an advantage over its attackers. The Assyrians found that advantage in the new technology of iron weapons. The Assyrian empire reached its height between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C.E., and although it would be in constant war with their various rivals, which included the Babylonians, Egyptians, and the Hittites, their military was much better equipped.1
By 800 B.C.E., the Assyrian army was ruthlessly conquering other territories with their use of iron weaponry, which was superior to the brittle bronze weapons that were still being used at the time. They adopted the Hittite’s technique of smelting iron and were the first to incorporate it in their variety of weapons. The process used involved extracting oxygen from metal ore using charcoal, leaving just the metal alone.2 Most of the iron produced at that time was used for making weapons for both short and long range, as well as armor for protection.
The short ranged weapons included iron swords, daggers, javelins, and spears.3 Iron swords were used for close combat and they gave the Assyrians a great advantage. Unlike their bronze sword counterparts, iron swords suffered less damage, and if bent, they were able to return to their original shape. The daggers were also sturdier and were used commonly on enemies. They were carefully crafted and modeled like combat knives, which were highly valued.4 The next two weapons are considered mid-ranged since they could be thrown if need be. Both spears and javelins were long pointed sticks. The spear was usually a wooden shaft with an iron spearhead and usually measured around five feet. They were used on opponents themselves, while the javelins were used to break their opponents’ shields or puncture their armor.
Other forms of weaponry included those that were long ranged. One of the two main long ranged weapons included the sling. A strong army included specialist slingers who could aim a sling bullet to fire up to 1300 feet.5 It was very practical due to its cheap production cost and lightweight structure. Many soldiers were stationed at a hill fort, and with these iron slings they were able to aim their slings better. The other weapon was the bow, which either used iron tipped arrows or flaming arrows, and they had a range of up to 700 yards.6
Finally, the Assyrian army used three main iron shields, all of which were superior to previous models that had been made of either bronze or wood. The most common shield was the round shield, which could sometimes contain embedded spikes. Another shield was the convex shield, which was similar to a rectangle in shape and could also include spikes to be used as a weapon if need be. Lastly, the conical shield, like its name, was cone-like in shape. 7
Due largely to the fact that the Assyrians were the first to incorporate iron into their daily lives, they were able to build a powerful army. Assyria is remembered for its strong military, improvements in weaponry, and numerous conquests, all of which would not have been made possible without the cheap yet efficient use of iron.
Finding new ways to make stronger weapons gave armies a huge advantage back in the day and when the assyrians discovered iron weapons they quickly used them to conquer other kingdoms. It is interesting to learn about how iron swords differed from bronze and all they different ways they used iron to make their weapons, and how they also improved their shields with iron.
Hi Did the Assyrians use yokes of iron around the necks of their captives?
Raymond Nash Munoz III
History and this amazing article make it quite clear that advancements in technology are necessary in order to gain an edge over others. So, having read this article, I understand the significance and impact of technological advances. Though, instead of me considering the next advancements of our time, I am thinking about how we can incorporate the technology of the past into our world now. I think its important to incorporate things and ideas from our past so we can achieve balance, because balance gives us the hindsight that we easily lose in the excitement of new technologies.