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A battle cry is a yell or chant taken up in battle, usually by members of the same military unit. Battle cries are not necessarily articulate, although they often aim to invoke patriotic or religious sentiment. Their purpose is a combination of arousing aggression and esprit de corps on one's own side and causing intimidation on the hostile side. Battle cries are a universal form of display behaviour (i.e., threat display) aiming at competitive advantage, ideally by overstating one's own aggressive potential to a point where the enemy prefers to avoid confrontation altogether and opts to flee. In order to overstate one's potential for aggression, battle cries need to be as loud as possible, and have historically often been amplified by acoustic devices such as horns, drums, conches, carnyxes, bagpipes, bugles, etc. (see also martial music).

Battle cries are closely related to other behavioral patterns of human aggression, such as war dances and taunting, performed during the "warming up" phase preceding the escalation of physical violence. From the Middle Ages, many cries appeared on standards and were adopted as mottoes, an example being the motto "Dieu et mon droit" ("God and my right") of the English kings. It is said that this was Edward III's rallying cry during the Battle of Crécy. The word "slogan" originally derives from sluagh-gairm or sluagh-ghairm (sluagh = "people", "army", and gairm = "call", "proclamation"), the Scottish Gaelic word for "gathering-cry" and in times of war for "battle-cry". The Gaelic word was borrowed into English as slughorn, sluggorne, "slogum", and slogan.

History[edit | edit source]

Antiquity[edit | edit source]

  • The war cry is an aspect of epic battle in Homer: in the Iliad, Diomedes is conventionally called "Diomedes of the loud war cry." Hellenes and Akkadians alike uttered the onomatopoeic cry "alala" in battle, a cry not far from "Alleluia".[1]
  • The troops of ancient Athens, during the Medic Wars and the Peloponnesian War were noted for going into battle shouting "Alala or Alale!", which was supposed to emulate the cry of the owl, the bird of their patron goddess Athena.[2]
  • The Western Huns attacked with terrifying battle cries.[3]

Middle Ages[edit | edit source]

  • Each Turkic tribe and tribal union had its distinct Tamga (seal), totemic Ongon bird, and distinct Uran (battle cry) (hence the Slavic Urah "battle cry").[4][5] While tamgas and ongons could be distinct down to individuals, the hue of horses and uran battle cries belonged to each tribe, were passed down from generation to generation, and some modern battle cries were recorded in antiquity. On split of the tribe, their unique distinction passed to a new political entity, endowing different modern states with the same uran battle cries of the split tribes, for example Kipchak battle cry among Kazakhs, Kirgizes, Turkmens, and Uzbeks. Some larger tribes' uran battle cries:
    • Kipchak – "ay-bas" ("lunar head").[6]
    • Kangly (Kangars) – "bai-terek" ("sacred tree").[7]
    • Oguzes – "teke" ("mount")[8]
  • Santiago! was a war cry of Spanish troops during the Reconquista, and of the Spanish Empire.
  • The Takbir (Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر), "God is Great") has traditionally been used by Muslims as a battle cry.
  • On August 14, 1431, the whole Holy Roman Empire army (of the 4th anti-Hussite crusade) was defeated by the Hussites in the Battle of Domažlice. Attacking imperial units started to retreat after hearing Ktož jsú boží bojovníci ("Ye Who Are Warriors of God") choral and were annihilated shortly after.

Pre-modern[edit | edit source]

  • "Har Har Mahadev", was the battlecry used by the Marathas during their rule in Indian SubContinent.
  • The Sikh slogan or jaikara, battle cry, Bole So Nihal...Sat Sri Akal popularized by Guru Gobind Singh.
  • The rebel yell was a battle cry used by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War.

Modern[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Guilhem Pepin, ‘Les cris de guerre « Guyenne ! » et « Saint George ! ». L’expression d’une identité politique du duché d’Aquitaine anglo-gascon’, Le Moyen Age, cxii (2006) pp 263–81
  1. Burkert, Walter, 1992. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influences on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, p 39f.
  2. Per Hesiod, Penguin Edition of Works and Days
  3. T.J. Craughwell, 2008, The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars who Razed the Old World and Formed the New, Fair Winds Press, p. 41, ISBN 978-1-59233-303-5
  4. Shipova E.N., 1976, Dictionary of Türkisms in Russian Language, Alma-Ata, "Science", p. 349
  5. Dal V.I., Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language, vol. 4, p. 507, Diamant, Sankt Peterburg, 1998 (reprint of 1882 edition by M.O.Wolf Publisher), (In Russian)
  6. Zuev Yu. , 2002, Early Türks: Essays of history and ideology, Almaty, Daik-Press, p. 76, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
  7. Zuev Yu., 2002, Early Türks, p. 73
  8. Karpovdun G.I., Тіркмöн uruuluk en tamgalary. maalymattarynyn negizinde, in Karataev O.K., 2003, Kyrgyz-Oguz History (Кыргыз-Огуз Тарыхый - Этникалык Байланыштары), Kyrgyz Utuluk university, pp. 199-207
  9. p.3, The Cambridge history of Japan, by John Whitney Hall, 1988 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-22352-0

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