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This blog presents my different wargames armies, after action reports, campaigns which I have run, some scenarios and a presentation of some of the different rules I play. The pages at the top of the blog contain historical information on the periods that interest me. They are an aid to my poor memory, and not in any way exhaustive nor necessarily correct. As I am an Englishman living in France, some pages are in English and others in French...sorry, I am too lazy to translate...

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jeudi 16 août 2012

Later Amorite (1800-1750)

This army can represent that of Mari, of the Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia, of Babylon or of the western Amorite kingdoms (Yamhad, Qatna and the rivals of the future Old Hittite Kingdom, such as Haššum and Uršum). Nonetheless, it should be understood that all the evidence for this army comes from cuneiform tablets discovered at Mari.

Professional troops
There was no full-time, paid army as such at Mari. However, there existed a class of citizens whom, in return for a non-hereditary lease on a plot of land, owed military service (the ilku system). (1)
These ilku-soldiers were organised into shifts, one shift relieving the other on what seems to have been an approximately monthly rotation. Whilst off-duty, the ilku-soldier could return home and cultivate his fields.
There were however exceptions : the ilku-soldiers who took part in Yasmah-Addu's expedition to Qatna, for example, were in that foreign land for four years. Hammurapi of Babylon's famous law code includes dispositions for ilku-soldiers on long-term duty far from their fields.
On the other hand, certain ilku-soldiers voluntarily sought such affectations, and were effectively on permanent duty.
They no doubt cultivated their land with hired or family help, and lived off war booty. Yet other ilku-soldiers could avoid military duty altogether (except during times of full-blown warfare and general mobilisation) by providing a substitute (puhat).
The ilku-soldiers and/or their puhat thus formed the standing army of the kingdom, formed of :

- The sâb bêliya ("King's Troop"), made up exclusively of Bedouins of the King's own clan (2)
- The sâb bâb ekallim ("Army of the Palace Gate"), affected to the guard of the royal palace. Samsi-Addu's palace guard was 400 strong, half of rich men and half of poor men. (3)  I have portrayed them as spearmen of the Old Akkadian empire, which is of course purely conjectural, but they possibly used the imittum (heavy spear).

- The sâbum birtum (uban garrison troops), placed under the control of the regional governors and stationed in the main cities of the kingdom. (4)

- The sâbum kar-ta (port militia), the garrison of Mari itself. It was either 300 or 600 strong. (5)
- The bazahâtum ("commandos"), also placed under the control of governors. These elite forces (sâbum damqum) numbered around 100 men per garrison, were citizens of the kingdom (ie; not Bedouins), and took part in all aspects of skirmish warfare (information gathering, raids for prisoners, rounding up deserters, holding key fords etc; ahead of the main army,...). (6)

Note that sâbum kibittum (see the DBM list), represents the army in full array, with pack and baggage, and not a specific troop type. A good translation would be "the main army".

The kingdom of Mari could count on around 4,500 professional troops (7). During periods of full-blown warfare, the King could muster, in addition, several thousand conscript troops, the pihrum, drawing them from subject Bedouin tribes as well as from the urban population.  Although conscripts, most were soldiers of considerable quality, having seen and survived several campaigns in a context of continual war.

The sick, the aged, and qualified artisans are exempt from conscription, as are "sons of rich men". Otherwise, the modalities are unclear. There seem to exist both basic conscripts but also "reservists" (egir). One text (8) clearly indicates the greater worth of the egir, but it is not clear whether they are more experienced soldiers, or whether they are perhaps more prominent members of the community. In either case, it is uncertain when they were actually called out - in times of great emergency ? If a conscript did not show up ? On some sort of rota ?
It is also uncertain just how efficient the conscription system was. It is often noted that the Mariote army was relatively small (10,000 men at most), but as nothing is really known of population levels, it is impossible to indicate what percentage of the male population was mobilised in an emergency.
Several texts (9) demonstrate that the most enthusiastic conscripts were the Bedouin of the King's own tribe; other Bedouin were more recalcitrant (10). Renowned raiders even in peacetime, the Bedouin were naturally better soldiers than the urban conscripts.   One such text, sent to the king of Mari from the front reads "the enthousiasm of the nomads is never extinguished".

Urban dwellers and Bedouins
Putting aside a minority of "Akkadiens" and resident foriegners (Hurrians, Kassites and so forth), the population of northern Mesopotamia was made up of Amorites (a Semitic people). These were divided into tribal groups, the Bensimalites (comprising two clans, the Yabasu and the Ašarugayu) and the Benjaminites (Uprapeans, Yariheans, Yahrureans, Amnenaens and Rabbeans) (11).
Among the Bensimalite rulers were Yahdun-Lim and Zimri-Lim of Mari; Benjaminite rulers included Samsi-Addu and his two sons, as well as Hammurabi of Babylon. In general, the ruler could rely most on the Amorites of his own clan. Tribal antagonisms were frequent, but not permanent : Zimri-Lim, for example, led an alliance of Benjaminite and Bensimalite tribes when he overthrew Yasmah-Addu, and the two united against the great Elamite invasion.
Another major division was in the mode of life. Some Amorites settled into urban life, although a large majority (referred to here as "Bedouins", but known in the texts as hana, "those who dwell in tents") kept to a semi-nomad sheep-herding lifestyle. Relations between nomads and sedentary peoples were extremely complex, with many individuals moving from one state to the other and back again depending on individual fortune, inclination, and so on. 
Many so-called "nomads" also cultivated fields, or served as part-time agricultural labourers at harvest time.
Most of the Benjaminite clans nomadised along the Euphrates, often crossing the desert from Mari to Qatna depending on needs, opportunities and even royal invitations. Others herded their sheep down into the vicinity of Babylon. The Bensimalites were more prevalent in the Upper Djezireh (the western part of the Habur triangle).
The ratio of urban to nomad populations is unknown, but the kings of Mari were heavily dependant on those Bedouin clans who had sworn allegiance to them. Nomads represent perhaps 70% of the conscript army, and no doubt a similar proportion of the sabum birtum garrison troops (as has been discussed, a Bedouin owning and cultivating an ilku-plot has nothing paradoxical about it). (12).

Mercenaries and allies
- Suteans. The Suti nomadised not only between Mari and Qatna, and in the desert west of Babylon, but down into the oases of northern Arabia. It was customary at Mari to sell undesirables to them as slaves, knowing that they would be taken far, far away ! The Suti had a fearsome reputation. They had no allegiance to Mari, but often fought for its king as mercenaries. They were also an important part of Hammurabi's Babylonian army (13)

- Suheans. The Suhi are the "People of the South", and are nomads. No doubt they also ranged into Arabia. 600 of them fought with the Mariote army that marched against Elam (14)

- Sarrârum. Certain Bedouin clans swore allegiance to no king, for the simple reason that their seasonal movements took them through several kingdoms. If this was considered acceptable behaviour, the name given to such Bedouin, sarrârum, nonetheless signifies "liar by nature".
Their position is akin to that of modern day gipsies, who are generally tolerated but sometimes persecuted, and never accepted. That said, kings often relied on them - albeit unofficially - for their armies. (16)

- Guti. The Guti dwelt in the Zagros mountains. They were dreaded by the dwellers of the Mesopotamian plains, and their attacks, which brought down empires, seen as the instrument of divine punishment. In reality, they are known only through the eyes of their enemies. Their tongue - what little is known of it, mostly through personal names - cannot be attached to any known linguistic group. They served as mercenaries in most armies of the period.

- Kassites. The Kassites are another Zagros people. Their linguistic group is unknown, but they seem to have been influenced by the Indo-Aryan migrations that, at this time, were underway on the eastern flank of the Zagros.
As of the 18th century BC, Kassites had settled in number in and around Babylon, and especially at Sippar. They were skilled horse-rearers, and are credited with the introduction of the chariot into Mesopotamian warfare. A Kassite dynasty came to rule in Babylon itself in 1595 BC.

- Turukkeans. Occupying the valleys of the Zagros foothills in the region of Aššur (the future capital of the Assyrian empire), the Turukkeans represent a confederation of valley-states, under the authority of a King. They appear in the Mari texts as town-dwellers, but ever ready to return back to nomad life, and given to large scale raids and aggressive migrations, under the pressure of the Guti to their south, who seem to have been their hereditary enemies. The Turukkean leaders have Semitic names, but it probable that they are one of the many Hurrian-speaking peoples.

- Habiru. Economic and political refugees, escaped slaves, rebels and idealists, all such individuals were pushed out to the geographical margins of society. They often ended up forming a society of their own. The habiru were bands akin to the Free Companies of the late Medieval period. In the 18th century BC, they were an unimportant phenomenon, hardly mentioned in the Mari texts; but I thought them worthy of a quick note, as they nonetheless existed and served as mercenaries. 400 years later, they would contribute to the destabilisation of numerous Syrian kingdoms. Note that modern scholarship denies all relationship between habiru and Hebrew, having shown that the former are not a people, but a state of existence.

- Syrian allies. The kingdom of Yamhad (modern Aleppo) often intervened in the Euphrates valley, and Mariote armies came west to Ugarit and to Qatna.
When fighting as allies of Mari, the troops of Yamhad or Qatna could easily represent half the army - and generally an unenthusiastic half.

- Elamite allies. One of the major discoveries in the recent publications of texts from Mari was the role of the sukkalmah of Elam, who was considered by the Amorite rulers of the Euphrates to be their overlord. The strength of Ešnunna seems to have relegated his role to distant and infrequent control, rather than continual interference, until of course the great Amorite-Elamite war during the reigns of Zimri-Lim and of Hammurabi. It is nonetheless feasible that Elamite troops fought alongside those of the Amorites.

If different weapon names are known (with more or less certitude), it is rarely possible to attribute particular weapons to particular units. Authors rely on certain textual references and a dose of probability and common sense.
One of the very names for the "army" was derived from that of the šukurrum, the light spear. Mounted on a wooden shaft, its bronze tip weighed from 170 to 340g. This was the main weapon of the urban part of the pihrum, the conscripts, and doubtless of other units. It was generally associated with a javelin. In the army lists, I have not given the conscript troops missile capability, as a) them being so armed is uncertain and b) correctly throwing a javelin, at least over a useful distance, is not as easy as might be imagined for a man with no military experience. I remember my PE lessons...

The Bedouin were characterised by the zamrâtum, a light javelin with a bronze point weighing from 50 to 100g. Several texts refer to them as hana naši zamratim, "javelin-wielders". 
They also used the waspu (sling).
Another weapon mentioned, on occasions, in the texts is the imittum. This is a heavy spear, whose bronze head could weigh up to 1kg. It was probably a parade weapon, but I have spuriously considered the palace guard to have been armed with it and to fight in appropriate close ranks, giving them a cohesion bonus.
Swords were virtually unknown, no doubt due to the shortage of metal. Axes do not seem to have been widely used, but examples of their use exist (16), and they were definitely popular among Syrian Amorites. (17)

Both the simple bow (qaštum) and the composite bow (tilpanim) were employed, with arrowheads weighing from 2g to 40g (the latter seemingly used in sieges). The bow (at least, used efficiently) was no doubt restricted to professional troops, given the technical skill required and the cost of maintaining the weapon.  There do not seem to have been "archer" units; the bow was used in the ranks by such soldiers as possessed one and knew how to use it.  This lack of specialisation is typical of ancient armies.

Cavalry were unknown in this period in the Euphrates valley. Horses, however, were employed by the Hurrians and the Kassites (probably under Indo-European influence), as well as by the peoples of Anatolia (Hittites, etc.), and had penetrated into Mesopotamia by the 18th century BC. Zimri-Lim, who had spent time as a refugee in Anatolia, occasionally rode on horseback - a famous text, sent by one of his counsellors, suggests that he avoid such un-Amorite behaviour when he arrives at Mari. Generals more typically fought on foot, or rode mules. (18)

As for chariots, although the Sumerian-type platform cars were still used, they had no tactical function. The more manouvrable chariots that appeared on the battlefields of the 16th century BC are not mentioned in the Mari texts (19). Nonetheless, Hurrian or Kassite mercenaries could be considered to have them, to add extra flavour to the army.

Protective equipment
Protective gear consisted, for the vast majority of troops, of a leather pot helmet (qurpîsum) and a shield (sinnatum). The shield was made of reed-bundles, which was within the productive capacities of the small Amorite kingdoms.  It could however include metallic parts (20). 

A few helmets were also of metal. Note that bronze was a rare commodity in the Euphrates valley, especially in times of war, since it was their eastern neighbours and most frequent enemies - Elam and Ešnunna - that controlled the flow of tin from Afghanistan.

On one famous occasion, Samsi-Addu considers breaking open the tomb of Yahdun-Lim to extract the bronze from it.
As with weapons, it is impossible to say which units wore protective gear, and which not. There are frequent complaints of insufficient stocks of shields (because of their high rate of wear and tear ?). The urban militia, however, included an element of mârû dumqî, "men of wealth", who in return for access to the royal table during the campaign, paid for their own equipment, which was doubtless the best available.

Men often fought bare-chested and bare-foot, dressed in a kilt with a high waist and reaching down to anywhere from mid-thigh to the ankle. More elaborate costume consisted in a single piece of cloth draped so as to leave bare the left shoulder, falling down to the ankle and decorated with a succession of tasseled fringes.
It seems that Bedouin and urban-dwellers wore identical dress, if certain texts are anything to go by : only their use of javelins distinguised them. (21)
Clothing was made of wool or, more rarely, imported linen. Left natural, wool gives off-white, black or brown cloth.
It can also be bleached white, or of course tinted. The most frequent tints were grey, blue and red (scarlet or crimson). Red- or blue-purple cloth was particularly sought after, as were multicoloured textiles, whose fabrication was the affair of specialised craftsmen. Multicoloured garments were given as presents, by Hammurabi, to the senior ranks of the Mariote expedition during the Elam war (22). The "technicoloured dream coat" of the Hebrew Joseph, and the jealousy it stirred among his brothers, is reminiscent of the value of such garb.

Organisation of the army
At Mari, and probably in other Amorite kingdoms, the humble soldier (rêdû) was affected to a section of ten men (the eširtum), commanded by a "sergeant" (wahlum). Ten eširtu made a company (pirsum) under the orders of a rab pirsim.
Anything from two to three companies (at Babylon) up to ten companies (at Mari) formed a battalion (lištum), under the orders of a colonel (Akk.rab amurrim, Sum. gal.martu). A larger expeditionary force would be commanded by a general, who at Mari was also called a gal.martu, generally of high birth and related to the King.

The army of Mari carried before it the "Eshtars", representations of the Amorite equivalent of the goddess Ishtar.  Although more than likely to have been metal-plated statutes, I have chosen to represent them as painted icons.

Sources and footnotes
An invaluable guide to all aspects of life in the kingdom of Mari is J.-M. Durand, Litterature Antique du Proche-Orient Volumes 16, 17 et 18 - Les documents épistolaires du palais de Mari (LAPO, Editions du Cerf). Vol. 17 is largely dedicated to military matters.
An accessible but thorough guide to Mesopotamian civilisation, with numerous articles on military subjects is F. Joannès (éd.), Dictionnaire de la civilisation mésopotamienne Collection Bouquins, Lafont, Paris , 2001.
D. Charpin, Hammurabi de Babylone (PUF, 2003) brushes an up to date portrait of an Amorite kingdom, with an entire chapter dedicated to Hammurabi's army.
The Dossiers d'Archéologie n° 160 (mai 1991) 'La Guerre au Proche-Orient dans l'Antiquité' is well worth reading.
(1) Ph. Abrahami 'L'organisation militaire à Mari' dans Dossiers 160, p. 37
(2) LAPO p. 362; Charpin, Hammurabi, p. 163
(3) LAPO 645
(4) LAPO p. 380, 645
(5) Ph. Abrahami, Dossiers 160, p. 38
(6) LAPO 620
(7) Charpin, Hammurabi, p. 163
(8) LAPO 573
(9) LAPO 565, 568, 577
(10) LAPO 569-571
(11) LAPO 733
(12) LAPO 448
(13) LAPO 505
(14) LAPO p. 176
(15) LAPO p. 335, 420-421
(16) Charpin, Hammurabi, p.51
(17) Voir T. Wise, Ancient Armies of the Middle East (Osprey Men at Arms, 1981)
(18) LAPO p. 486-487
(19) Ph. Abrahami, Dossiers 160, p.40
(20) LAPO 639
(21) LAPO 548
(22) LAPO 579

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