WEAPONS IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
By Tim Lambert
The Sumerians lived in what is now Iraq. By 3,500 BC they had created a highly civilized society. The Sumerians fought with chariots pulled by donkeys. They also used bows and arrows. They also fought with spears, axes and clubs. Although they did not wear armor soldiers did wear leather jackets studded with bronze, which gave them some protection and they wore copper helmets and carried rectangular shields.
Egyptian soldiers went into battle protected only by wooden or leather shields. They fought with spears, swords, axes, daggers and clubs or maces. They also used slings and bows and arrows. (In skilled hands a sling is a very accurate and effective weapon).
In ancient Egypt most men fought on foot but after about 1,700 BC the army also had chariots. Each chariot carried two men, one to drive and one to shoot arrows. (In ancient Egypt horses were mainly used for war. Donkeys were used as pack animals).
However only the most important soldiers wore armor made of bronze.
Life in Ancient Egypt
The Assyrians lived in what is now Iraq. Between 900 BC and 612 BC they created a great empire in the Middle East. They used a combination of chariots, cavalry and infantry. Each chariot carried a crew of 3, a driver, an archer and a shield bearer. Cavalry fought with bows and spears. Infantry fought with bows, spears, swords and slings.
The Assyrians also equipped their soldiers with sturdy boots, which helped on long marches.
Greek armies were based on infantry called hoplites. The hoplite had to buy his own armour and weapons so he usually came from the middle class.
Hoplites were protected by helmets, breastplates and backplates and shin guards called greaves. They carried round, bronze shields.
Hoplites carried 1.8 metre long spears made of wood with a metal point. They also carried swords and daggers.
When they went into battle Hoplites marched in lines with their shields overlapping to form a metal 'wall'.
Only the rich could afford horses so they provided the cavalry. Cavalrymen carried two throwing spears and a sword.
Poor men became archers or were armed with slings. They did not wear armor.
The Athenians also had a large navy. The ships were called triremes. They had three rows of oars. Two rows poked out of portholes. The third row was on the top deck. Ships were armed with a ram at the prow. (To try and ram enemy ships).
Life in Ancient Greece
A Roman legionary wore a helmet called a cassis. His torso was protected by segmented armor called lorica segmentata. He was protected by a curved shield made of layers of wood covered in leather. A Roman shield was called a scutum.
He carried a throwing spear called a pilum but his main weapon was a short sword called a gladius. There were also auxiliary soldiers, both infantry and cavalry. When they finished their service (after 25 years) they became Roman citizens.
When they were on the move Roman soldiers marched at a steady pace. They covered 30 km a day. At the end of each day they built a camp. They dug a ditch and used the earth to make a rampart. An army on the move carried wooden stakes, which were erected on the rampart. The soldiers slept in tents.
Roman soldiers also formed a formation called a testudo (the Latin word for tortoise). They held their shields over their heads to form an interlocking 'roof'. (Soldiers at the front held their shields in front of them to form a 'wall'). The testudo protected soldiers from arrows and javelins.
Life in Roman Britain
The Assyrians lived in what is now Iraq. From 900 BC to 612 BC they ruled a great empire in the Middle East. They used battering rams inside a wooden vehicle on wheels. The ram was a long pole with a metal point. It was suspended on ropes and was swung to smash gates and walls.
The Assyrians also used siege towers made of wood and wickerwork, which were mounted on wheels and were pushed near to the walls of an enemy city. On top were archers who shot arrows into the enemy city.
Later the Macedonians invented a catapult powered by twisted rope. The rope was twisted tighter and tighter then released, firing a stone. It was later used by the Romans. They often called it an onager (wild ass).
A history of weapons