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The History of weapons is a vast subject and involves a step by step account of the various weapons that were invented or conceived in the course of time. Weapons can be defined as a tool to hurt an individual or a group or threaten or defend. Weapons are also used for hunting and gathering purposes. Weapons have always played a crucial role in moulding and changing the course of History. They have destroyed civilizations and created new ones. In the ancient days, when Egypt was at its peak, the Hyksos invaded it only because they had superior weapons. They marched into Egypt using chariots which amazed the Egyptians themselves who are known to be the most ancient civilized people. The Macedonians surged ahead of all other tribes by innovating siege weapons like the Catapult. Romans subsequently improved the quality and technology of siege weapons. The Germans after their defeat in World War I, started devising new methods of creating superior weapons. The invention of weapons that began with clubs and sling later advanced to bow, arrow, swords and further later, to gunpowder weapons, rifles, machine guns and eventually to nuclear weapons. The evolution of these weapons helps us understand the technology used in different periods and the society that produced such weapons.

Weapons of the Pre-historic age[edit | edit source]

When humans came into existence, it took time and knowledge for them to hunt animals. They made most of their weapons using stick and stones. With the growing threat from animals, humans started to use the uneven branches or logs in a more effective manner. They started sharpening them with sharp edged stones.[1] They started using clubs and slings for hunting and defending themselves from carnivores animals and other enemies. Cave paintings in Africa, said to be as old as 6,000 BC, have revealed that people during those days were armed with clubs and other sharp weapons resembling maces. Clubs made of wood were used in Africa for a long period of time. Later, clubs were made of metal and they were called maces.[2] Even the wooden axes that were basically used for cutting wood were now made of metal. Axes were mostly used in Europe and Asia. Down in places like Australia and New Zealand people used boomerangs. These boomerangs however were not designed to come back. In Asia people used slings initially, but with the discovery of copper and metal, they started using bows, arrows and spears. Meanwhile in China, staff was used effectively to fight the enemies. A stone was tied to the top of the staff and it was used as a weapon. The Indians used wooden axes which were comparatively smaller in size. They used weapons that were light and easy to use. Most of these weapons were used for hunting.[3]

The Club[edit | edit source]

A fairly primitive weapon, it was used by the nomads. Clubs were mostly used in Europe while other tribes used wooden axes. In popular culture most of the monsters, or giants are shown to use clubs. This weapon was the most easiest weapon to handle. A club is generally small enough to be wielded in one hand. Clubs vary in size, weight and come in many shapes. These clubs were later converted into maces after mining began. Maces were basically a sophisticated version of clubs. The mace came with a heavy head on the end. In Africa, people called clubs as Knobkierrie. The clubs that were made in Africa were much heavier. They came with a heavy rounded knob or head. The tribes in Africa started carving faces and other symbols on it. The club was the traditional weapon of the Ethnic African groups.[4]

Mace[edit | edit source]

Mace evolved from the traditional club. Maces had sharp edges at the end which helped the warriors in close combat. Maces of good quality could penetrate into armours and inflict grave injuries. They too came in varied shapes and sizes. Some maces came with unique shapes, haft and a metal ball with spikes.[5] There are old texts that mention the existence of such maces in the ancient period. They were widely used by the Celts and other North African tribes. Initially, stones were used for the production of maces, but gradually, the blacksmiths started to use copper and bronze and improved its quality. The Greeks were one of the first people to have produced top quality maces. Dorians were said to be the first people who used maces in Europe. The Dorians had a proud military tradition and dominated Crete and southern Greece. The warriors hailing from Sardinia used similar maces when fighting for Rameses II against the Hittites. The mythological stories of India Ramayana and Mahabharta also has a mention of people using wooden stick with bronze heads known as Gada in battles. It is evident from these facts that maces were used in ancient Indian warfare.[6]

Ancient Spear[edit | edit source]

The spear is one of the oldest man made weapons. It started to be used in battles during the Old and Middle Kingdom of Egypt's Dynastic period. The spear had a typical pointed blade that was attached to a long wooden shaft by a tang. The pointed blade, in those days was made of copper or flint. Later, the new kingdom made these spear in bronze and improved its make. Many of these spears were used in the form of javelins. But bow and arrow were more popular than spears in Egypt. Spears, nevertheless were kept as a backup, as an auxiliary weapon of the charioteers, who would be out of arrows.[7]

Weapons of Ancient world[edit | edit source]

The earliest form of weapons were stone tipped spears. There are records that the Chinese used leather armour and cut weapons out of jade. Armours were mostly made out of buffalo hide. The common man in the ancient world used a plain straight stick as the basic weapon to protect himself from enemies. In the medieval east, the first person to construct a stone throwing mangonel was Nimrod, the king of Babylon.

Copper Age[edit | edit source]

The humans discovered new natural resources beneath the Earth's surface, they, at once used their new found resources judiciously and effectively and replaced their traditional clubs with maces. Copper had significantly contributed to the ancient world and helped flourish the cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Indus and China. Copper replaced stone. Copper then was the only metal known to man for a long period of time.[8] During the copper age maces were much in demand. The Sumerians were the first people on record to have used copper weapons. The native Americans used copper for ceremonies and intricate decorations. The weapons they used were mostly flint spears and knives. The ancient artisans soon discovered the drawbacks of copper for producing armaments. Weapons made of copper could be sharpened easily, though they were not able to hold their edge for a longer time. [9] Apart from maces, bows and arrows, that had replaced slings were used for wars. Bow and arrow was preferred over spears because they were easy to handle provided greater mobility and were more accurate, also they did not require much raw material. Bow and arrows were a boon for hunters. They could hunt more effectively with a bow and arrow than with a spear. The bow enabled the ancient man to become the most efficient hunter. After the discovery of pure copper in Anatolia, around 6000 BC, copper metallurgy spread in Egypt, Mesopotamia. In 3500 the art of metallurgy spread into India, China and Europe.[10]

The Sumerians[edit | edit source]

Known to be one of the earliest civilizations, the Sumerians lived in what is currently Iraq. The land was open to enemy attacks. These people were attacked by many barbarian tribes but they always drove them away from their land. The Sumerians warriors were equipped with maces, clubs and slings. They were losing many people and their civilization had begun to crumble. Then an emperor came to the rescue. Sargon of Akkad, (2333-2279 BC)- who is believed to have saved the Sumerian civilization from total collapse. Around 2300 BC, Sargon assembled an army of 5,000 soldiers. Since they had domesticated animals, they thought of using them for battles. Thus donkeys were employed for pulling chariots. The Sumerians had devised a strategy to attack the enemies while riding chariots that would keep them away from enemy weapons and at the same time rout the hostile troops. They used bow and arrows which proved to be effective as they were the perfect guided missiles of the ancient period.[11]

Bows and arrows[edit | edit source]

Bows and arrows changed with changing times. Bows were made from wood. The bow brought about a revolution in ancient warfare just like gunpowder for medieval warfare. Since arrow heads were discovered in Africa, the historians have presumed that the bow and arrow were invented there at around 50000 BC. The bows were quite effective against the enemies that were far from the archer.[12] Archers were recruited in armies. When people started horse riding at around 2500 BC, composite bows were created. In 1200 BC, the Hittites, originating from Anatolia, shot arrows using their bows, on light chariots. In 1000 BC, some of these horse riding archers from Central Asia invented the recurve bow, which were in the shape of W and had a more improvised elasticity. People from the Nile used relatively long bows for better accuracy. They also used composite bows. Civilizations all over the world produced bows according to their respective vegetation. The Chinese made bows from bamboo sticks while others who did not have the right kind of wood needed for making bows produced composite bows. According to Chinese beliefs and mythology, a story is narrated and written in old Chinese texts which says how bow and arrow were invented.

ONCE upon a time, Huangdi went out hunting armed with a stone knife. Suddenly, a tiger sprang out of the undergrowth. Huangdi shinned up a mulberry tree to escape. Being a patient creature, the tiger sat down at the bottom of the tree to see what would happen next. Huangdi saw that the mulberry wood was supple, so he cut off a branch with his stone knife to make a bow. Then he saw a vine growing on the tree, and he cut a length from it to make a string. Next he saw some bamboo nearby that was straight, so he cut a piece to make an arrow. With his bow and arrow, he shot the tiger in the eye. The tiger ran off and Huangdi made his escape.[13]

The Egyptians[edit | edit source]

The Egyptians for a long time enjoyed their strategic location which was free from enemy attacks. Egypt was considered to be peaceful in the ancient world. They never did consider training an army for the sake of invasion or defense of their own province.[14] But to their dismay, a tribe known to be the Hyksos surprised the Egyptians. They marched into Egypt during the 15th Dynasty in the Second Intermediate Period with chariots and took the people of Egypt by surprise. The invaders used composite bows as well as improved recurve bows and arrowheads. According to Historians, they came from Mesopotamia, but the exact location from where the Hyksos came is still a mystery. Unlike the Sumerians, the Hyksos had horse-drawn chariots and not donkeys. They wore mailed shirts and metal helmets. They were also armed with superior daggers and swords.[15] Chariotry was introduced to the Egyptians by the Hyksos. Tribes like that of the Hyksos had access to new and superior weapons which were most probably developed further away in Asia. These tribes using these new and sophisticated weapons started to conquer new lands and at the same time exchange their knowledge of weapons with other civilizations. The Egyptians, after a civil war with Hyksos came to power once again. The Egyptians started to use horse-drawn chariots. Even before the Hyksos invasion, the Egyptians did not have a cavalry as it is believed that the horses were smaller and not strong enough to support a rider.

Ancient naval weapons[edit | edit source]

Fish was a major source of food and the Egyptians eked out a living in whatever river Nile had to offer to them. Papyrus boats are reported to have been first constructed in the pre-dynastic for fishing purpose. Most of the Egyptians used boats to transport warriors. In order to intercept a foreign boat, they used large stones. They would hurl big stones in the direction of enemy boats, physically or using a catapult. The Egyptians traded with the Phoenicians in around 2200 BC. For safety of their boats they would fix a bow. The New Egyptian kingdom re-organized the standing army and also focused on making new and improved boats. During this period, Egypt's navy was extensive. Bigger ships of seventy to eighty tons suited to long voyages became quite common. Many cargo ships were converted into battle ships. Seafaring wasn't safe and in order to have smooth trading relations, they built a large fleet and took control of the sea. The temple of Medinet has paintings depicting the fleet of Ramses II fighting in the sea. This was probably the first properly documented sea battle. The Phoenicians are said to have developed a first of its kind war galley in the ancient world with a battering ram in the front.

War Chariots[edit | edit source]

Pharaoh in his chariot defeats the Hyksos

Chariots—a mode of transportation, were converted into a weapon by the ancient people. The Hittitites used chariots to crash into enemies. The Egyptians used to stay away from enemies and attack them by arrows and spears. These primitive vehicles were first made in Mesopotamia by the Sumerians. This four wheeled wagon was pulled by four donkeys. The wagon had a driver and a warrior armed with spears or axes. Some historians believe that chariots were first developed in the Eurasian steppes, somewhere near Russia and Uzbekistan. After the introduction of horse, an animal that was found to be much faster than donkey, the chariot became a more fierce weapon with the combination of speed, strength and mobility.[16] The Hyksos introduced chariots in Egypt. These chariots were later modified into the Egyptian style. The parts were changed and decorated with Egyptian symbols and paintings. However, by 15 century BC, Tutmoses III made 1000 chariots for military expedition. Each chariot carried two men, one to drive and one to shoot arrows. Much later, the Egyptians changed their strategy and divided the charioteers into five squadrons, with twenty-five chariots in each and two men in each chariot: a driver and a soldier armed with bows and arrows, a shield, a sword, and a javelin. If arrows were exhausted they would always keep swords as a backup for close combat.[17]

The Khopesh sword[edit | edit source]

‎ Khopesh also called as the Canaanite "sickle-sword" was used mostly by the Barbarian tribes who lived near Mesopotamia. These tribes used to attack the Egyptians occasionally. Khopesh was their main weapon. These tribes later started trading with Egyptians. The Egyptians were so impressed by the shape and make of the sword, they decided to adopt it. Ramses II was the first pharaoh to have used the khopesh in warfare. The army of Ramesses II used the Khopesh in the battle of Khandesh. The Khopesh was considered to be the best designed sword which could be used as an axe, a sword or a sickle. Khopesh eventually became the most popular sword in all of Egypt and a symbol of royal power and strength. The origin of Khopesh sword can be traced back to Mesopotamia. The Assyrian king Adad-nirari I (r. 1307–1275 B.C.) used to display this sword during ritual ceremonies. Such curved swords could be seen in Mesopotamian art and paintings. Some of these Khopesh swords were black in colour and came with a full tang. The average length of the Khopesh was around 40 to 60 cms.[18]

Trident[edit | edit source]

As the barbarian hordes from Germania were still using clubs and maces the classical Greek civilization had mastered the art of making spears. Trident or Gig was another form of spear popular with the Greeks. The trident is a three ponged spear that was formerly used as an agricultural tool. This weapon was used in the east by the Indians who called it Trishul (three spears). Trident was used in Ancient Rome by the Gladiators known to be net fighters. These net fighters would cast the net onto their enemies and once their enemies were trapped and helpless in the net, they would then use the trident to kill him or inflict serious injuries. The trident is also associated with mythoglogical gods. Poseidon, the sea god in Greek mythology, holds the trident, as does the ancient Roman god Neptune and Shiva, a Hindu god.[19]

Bronze Age Weapons[edit | edit source]

Bronze, a fusion of copper and Tin. Copper and bronze were used extensively in Asia. The Indus Valley Civilization flourished as a result of improvised metallurgy. Neolithic communities who lived primarily in the upper Yellow River, in China also used bronze items extensively as a number of artifacts were recovered at the Majiayao site. Bronze was produced on a large scale in China for weapons. From the excavations at Zhengzhou, it is evident that the Chinese during the Shang dynasty had well built walls, large buildings, bronze foundries, and bone and pottery workshops.[20]

Assyrian Empire[edit | edit source]

The Assyrians originate from Ashur, Northern Mesopotamia. After total destruction of the Sumerian civilization, a new cities were built by the Assyrians. Assyrians were known for their war-like culture. It was King Shamshi-Adad I at the start of 18 century BC who conquered lands to the west, uptill the Mediterranean and established the first Assyrian empire.[11] The Assyrian were first known to be barbaric, blood thirsty people. Some part of this was true according to historians. They had setup schools to teach military warfare involving demolition of walls and mining city walls. The Assyrians were surrounded by hostile, powerful and aggressive tribes. It was thus important for them to train their people. The Assyrian army was feared mostly for their iron weapons. They were the first people to use iron in their weapons. Unlike the rest of the civilizations, the Assyrian charioteers had a crew of three people. An extra crew member was added to protect the rear. They were the first to introduce cavalry and the first develop siege craft with siege towers and battering rams. The cavalry had completely replaced chariots in late 600 BC. The Assyrians had a very well organized army. The King stood in the middle on a chariot, flanked by bodyguards and the standing army. The archers stood in front of the king and were covered by powerful spearmen and shielded carriers who fought in close combat with the enemies. Then there were the heavy chariots and the horsemen who would charge into enemy lines with brutal force.[21]

The Persians[edit | edit source]

Persian and Median infantry

When Cyrus II, also known as Cyrus the Great succeeded his father Cambyses I to become the emperor of Ashnan, that was located in Southwest of modern day Iran, he declared war on King Astyages (r 584-c550 BC), the ruler of Medes. After defeating him, he formed an empire of his own that was known to be the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus took all steps to form a standing army in order to stretch his empire further. Cyrus with a well trained army conquered vast territories including the whole of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. His son, Cambyses II continued his conquests by conquering Egypt. Darius the Great—the third Achaemenid king pushed the boundaries of the empire further afield. The inhabitants living under Darius were happy, but were expected to be available for military campaigns whenever needed. Most of Darius's army consisted of merceneries and soldiers supplied by various satraps, which included the well trained, personal bodyguards to Darius himself -- The Immortals.[11] According to Herodotus, they were elite warriors who wore soft felt cap, embroidered tunic with sleeves, a rich coat of mail with silver linings. They carried light wicker shields and short spears for close combat, bows with cane arrows and swords. There are very few texts or sources that describe these warriors.

Ancient Greek weapons[edit | edit source]

Ancient Greece was surrounded by hostile neighbours such as Persia, Macedonia, and later Rome. The Greeks had adopted a totally different pattern of warfare and even fashioned their weapons differently. They had adopted a very strategic style of fighting. They researched the strengths and weaknesses of their enemies and accordingly developed their weapons.[22] After incessant threats of a Persian invasion, the Greeks came together and formed the Delian league. The Spartans were ready for a ground assault while the Athenians relied on their navy that was strong. Sensing the military might of the Athenians, the city states and settlers of Asia Minor requested them to lead the league. The Athenians had a formidable navy. They produced an overwhelming number of battleships and soldiers and in return demanded tribute from the league members. The Athenians had made dozens of warships known as Trireme to defend Greece. Trireme was a warship, that was also many times used as a cargo ship as well. The crew consisted of 200 men which included the Captain, ten dignitaries who may have been commanders, several archers, a few soldiers, and 170 oarsmen. When the Persians met the Greek army they outnumbered it three to one. The Persian army consisted of infantry and an excellent cavalry. Their tactics were of a defensive nature since their main weapon was the bow. The Greeks used long spears, shields, helmets and breastplates. The Greeks had no cavalry at this point in time. As soon as the Persian army came to the battle ground, the Greeks already started to charge into the enemy lines to avoid the showering of arrows. The Shield of the Greeks were so strong that it broke the spears of the Persians, much to their surprise. Their long spears, with sharp iron spearhead on a wooden shaft and a bronze butt helped them break enemy ranks and routed the Persian army. If their sprear was broken they used their swords for close combat. Ancient Greeks brought many changes in the technology of warfare.[23]

The Macedonians[edit | edit source]

After evading danger and defeating the Persians at the battle of Marathon and the Battle of Thermopylae and Artemisium, the Greeks became more cautious. But soon a battle between Athens and Sparta broke out, the classical Athenian culture was destroyed after its defeat. Then emerged a new power – The Macedonians. Father of Alexander the Great, King Philip II had unified the Greek City states and formed the Corinthian League to fight the Persians. King Philip had gained a reputation of a great military leader equipped with superior weapons. The Macedonians had followed the traditional military strategy adopted by the Greek city-states, the phalanx of the army in a rectangular formation which guarded against loss from the enemy. The Macedonian infantry were equipped with "sarissa", a spear as long as 15 feet with an iron leaf shaped spear heads. They also possessed a good cavalry. The Macedonians engineers had developed heavy weapons, artillery pieces, with enough power to breach the gates and walls of a fortification. Torsion catapult were also developed a little later. Heavy weapons such as the ballistae, and the smaller, and more portable weapons, cheiroballistra were improved by King Philip II and Alexander the Great.[24]

The Romans[edit | edit source]

After Rome was sacked by the Gauls in 390 BC, they regrouped and formed an alliance of the city states. They deployed thoroughly trained soldiers in the north western frontiers to protect Rome from further attacks. They eventually defeated the Gauls and gained total control of the Italian peninsula as well as North Western Europe. The Romans never used complex weapons, instead they chose to use the more simple and unusual weapons of warfare. The armor and weapons were used under excellent supervision, great leadership and discipline that enabled the Romans to create superior military forces, both regular and irregular armies including mercenaries and allies, that were able to conquer their opponents. The Roman soldiers were divided into two groups, Legionaries and Auxiliaries. Legionaries were Roman citizens whereas Auxiliaries were recruited from tribes and allies of Rome. The Roman army efficiently used their weapons during the invasion of Britain. They put forward a battle that the ancient world had never seen. They efficiently used their weapons and defeated the Britons. It was quite evident that the barbarians were influenced by the Roman army.[25]

The Gladius[edit | edit source]

Gladius was a light and short traditional Roman sword used for a quick kill. A legionare would cover himself with the shield and would draw his light sword and quickly stab the enemy on any given opportunity. This was a short sword, not more than 60 cms, made with an iron blade to which a bronze-covered wood, or ivory cross guard, pommel, and grip would be attached. Gladius often varied in length and size as Roman legionaries of different ranks used Gladius measuring around 34.5 and 64 centimeters. The gladius was widely used for thrusting and so had limited effect when wielded from horseback.[24]

The Pilum[edit | edit source]

Roman soldiers were equipped with the gladius and pilum, a javelin with a long iron head. They carried two pila to throw at the enemy. The pila were designed in such a way that they could easily stick into the enemy's shield and would bend instantly due to the impact. This way the enemy, if unharmed, could not throw back the pilum.

Weapons in the Early Medieval Ages[edit | edit source]

The Barbarian tribes from Germania kept penetrating deeper into the Roman territory. Some of these tribes were the Osthrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals and Franks. After the death of Marcus Aurelius, Rome became vulnerable to attacks from all directions. The Huns, a tribe said to be from steppe regions of Central Asia started to push other barbarian tribes into Roman territories. The Huns not only attacked other barbarian tribes but eventually attacked Rome. By this time the Roman Empire was divided into East and West. The Huns always fought a battle on horseback as they were not used to infantry lines. Their favourite weapon was the composite bow.[24] Flavius Aetius forged an alliance with the Visigoths, Alans and the Vandals and provided them with Roman arms and armours to fight against their common enemy, the Huns. His barbarian filled forces defeated the Huns. Later, the very barbarian tribes under the leadership of Alaric I burnt Rome to the ground and marked the end of the glorious ancient civilization.[24]

Military Organization[edit | edit source]

After the defeat of Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium empire held on. The barbarian kingdoms had already set up their kingdoms in place. They started the process of recruiting and advancement of soldiers. A warrior was highly respected according to the barbarian tradition. A brave warrior was often rewarded by alotting land, titles and other benefits. These land owners later became medieval nobles.[24]

Weapons of the Barbarians[edit | edit source]

Frankish throwing axe of the 5th and 6th century AD

Many barbarians had served the Roman army so it is clear that they used similar weapons when fighting against the Roman troops. However, after a brief period, the barbarian tribes including the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks started to develop and make their own weapons. According to Historians and Archaeologists, the weapons of the barbarians were far superior to Roman weapons of the fifth century. Archers began to fire iron-tipped arrows. The cavalry and infantry both initiated the use of longer two-edged swords. The Franks meanwhile used a variety of weapons. They chose not to wear their armour and instead carried more weapons. In 470 Sidonius Apollinaris recalls his first meeting with Frankish soldiers and according to him, the Franks hung their swords onto their shoulders, they also carried with them barbed lances and throwing axes. Many Frankish warriors also did not wear helmets. They carried their traditional double edged axe and never carried any missile weapons.[26] Amongst all the barbarian tribes, Merovingian kingdom of the Franks became the most powerful realm in Western Europe. Most of the power was exercised by the military lords who eventually gained total control of the Merovingian kingdom in late 600 AD. Pippin II, who had gained total control of the Merovingian kingdom passed mayorships to his illegitimate son, Charles Martel, in 714. Charles Martel was responsible for modernization of the Frankish army and the defeat of Muslims at the Battle of Tours. During the battle, the Franks had carried with them swords and axes. The iron head of their weapons were exceedingly sharp. Their axes were forged from a single piece of iron. However by the end of the seventh century production of axes ceased as the number of skilled axe throwers started dwindling.[27]

The Byzantium Armoury[edit | edit source]

During the reign of Justinian, the emperor of Constantinople, the Byzantium empire became military active. He sent a huge army to re-capture the North African provinces from the Vandals. By 534 AD, the Byzantium general Belisarius had destroyed the Vandal power and then marched to Italy to conquer Rome from the Ostrogoths. By 565, the Byzantines wiped the Ostrogoths from Italy. The Byzantines were witnessing great advances in military engineering. They possessed a highly disciplined military force and military technicians who contributed to the development of siege weapons that the civilized world had never seen.[28] In around 672, an incendiary substance known as Greek Fire was invented. Greek fire was sprayed from early flamethrowers on ships known as dromons. Researchers have been unable to duplicate this substance today. Some of the early devices used by the Byzantines were torsion powered engines used to shoot arrows with greater intensity. The Byzantine military engineers were learning and developing more sophisticated siege weapons. By the tenth century they had adopted engineering techniques used by the Muslims.[28]

Weapons of the Mediterranean[edit | edit source]

The Islamic world had already advanced way ahead of others in military engineering. The main reasons according to historians was the trade relations with China. The Islamic world had learnt the Chinese technology which was known to be more superior to the Greeks or the Romans. Arab army generals were encouraging the use of new technology and inherited a highly sophisticated tradition of siege warfare. The Trebuchet, capable of throwing huge stones and piles of rocks was said to have been invented in the Middle East by the Muslim engineers. The trebuchet was probably copied from the Chinese huo-pa’o, which had been adopted by the Mongols and carried west by them.[29] Some trebuchets were used to throw dead horses into a besieged city to spread disease. The Muslims had adopted the technology and traditions of those whom they conquered. Like the Syrians, the Iranians and later the Byzantines. The Muslims had also attacked Byzantine using the most advanced siege weapons. In the mid 8th century, Caliph Marwan II of Syria had had more than 80 stone throwing machines stored with him. The Abbasid Caliphate who had set their capital in Baghdad rather that Syria had specialized in mangonel operations and stationed these devastation military geniuses in all their fortresses.[30]

The Chinese[edit | edit source]

Chinese people had witnessed conflicts and constant warfare much across China. Fifty years after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, China witnessed five successive dynasties in the north along with a dozen small nations in the south in such a short timespan. The quick rise and fall of these countries and the fragmented nature is a result of the rise of warlordism towards the later half of the Tang dynasty. In 960, Zhao Kuangyin staged a coup of his own to take over the dominant northern dynasty of the later Zhou and founded the Song dynasty, he was able to finally reunite all the fragmented states of the south and put an end to the problem of military coups that had plagued China for the last century. The Song established it's capital at Kaifeng on the Yellow river. Some Historians believe that Chinese did not consider gunpowder a particularly important weapon, Though in fact they were the first people to systematically use gunpowders as weapons on a wide scale. Even the Arabs, who had probably been using gunpowder much earlier than the Europeans referred potassium nitrate as 'Snow from China'. . From about 1000 A.D. it had been mostly used in the form of firecrackers, and was used to improve existing weapons (for example. attached on spears for a shock burst upon engagement, or on arrows so they can fly faster mid air or be shot off in large salvos without the need of bows. In the 12th Century, the Chinese were using crude and hand grenades [11] and were starting to use the earliest forms of rockets and cannons in addition to the aforementioned fire cracker weapons.

Later Middle Ages[edit | edit source]

The Normans[edit | edit source]

The Norman knights invaded England, dressed in chainmail and swinging swords from horseback. The Norman knights that finally overcame the English at Hastings in 1066 made history. This is said to be one of the turning points in history.[31] William the Conqueror had successfully landed with his army of Normans consisting of an infantry comprising of spearmen, swordsmen, and archers in Britain to claim his authority over the throne of England. The Norman cavalry was well equipped with maces, swords and leather and boiled armours.

Siege Warfare[edit | edit source]

Western Europe by this time had already reached a level of military sophistication. The Arabs had even started to adopt Ifranji also known as Frankish , a stone throwing engine. The Europeans were by all means trying to outclass the Byzantines, the Indians and the Arabs in siege technology.[32] The Mongols on the other hand had brought about a revolution in siege warfare. They had learnt the art of making siege weapons while conquering northern China. They had recovered some mangonels, trebuchets and rams from Chinese engineers. Meanwhile India remained naive about siege technology and modern weapons. It was an invader from Farghana, named Babur, descendant of Genghis Khan and of the nomadic leader Tamerlane, who laid the foundation for the Mughal empire in India. He introduced sophisitcated weapons that the Indians had never witnessed.[32]

The Crusades[edit | edit source]

The Normans and the Byzantines were successful in driving out the Muslim invaders from the Greek Islands, Southern Italy and Sicily. Though these were little military operations the Europeans, assuming that the Muslims were vulnerable, embarked on a mission to recapture the holy land lost by them centuries before. However, a powerful tribe from the mid-Asian steppes, the Seljuk Turks emerged and started to massacre the Christian pilgrims in Syria. Responding to these attacks, the Byzantines fought a battle against the Seljuk Turks, the battle of Manzikert, where they were defeated. The Byzantines had to pull back all their armies from Asia Minor. Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus, requested for aid from Christians. He petitioned Pope Urban II to aid the Byzantines in regaining their lost territories. Pope Urban II summoned the Christian armies and sent them to recapture the holy Land from the hands of the Muslims. Not much is known about the weapons that were being produced in Western Europe at the time of Crusades. But it is evident that their cavalry used lances. The Europeans armies also used crossbows excessively. It was said to be the best known infantry weapon used by the Europeans. By the late 13th century, the power of crossbows increased. Infantry weapons of the Crusaders varied in shape, sizes and quality. Apart from spears, swords and daggers, foot soldiers were equipped with an extraordinary array of pole-arms, often reflecting their place of origin. The two edged sword was extensively used by both foot knights and mounted knights. The Islamic armies too had a sophisticated military organization. Their armies consisted of the Central Asian Turkish Mamluk or the Ghulam infantry. Further, local Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Persians, were also recruited from all over the Mediterranean. Their weapons were no different from the crusaders. They used daggers, spears, bows and arrows. Their swords had a different design. Most of them were curved and resembled to that of Khopesh. They were known as Cutlass. Muslim Cavalry used daggers, known as Khanjar for close combat. These khanjars were more like short swords. Ironically, their armours were of poor quality since they lacked iron. Muslim troops also carried with them round and kite shaped shields.

Hundred Years War[edit | edit source]

The Hundred Years' War was a series of small and big wars fought between France and England from 1337 to 1453. In the year 1337, the French King Philip VI demanded that the provinces under the English rule, Gascony and Guyenne be given back to the French. However, English king, Edward III denied this demand which led to a war between the two. The English had their eyes on the wool industry in Flanders. Moreover they had a stable government and efficient soldiers ready to fight the French. During this period, most of the Europeans armies relied mainly on infantry. The infantry dominated armies were taking a toll on cavalry dominated armies. Digging ditches, constructing wagon fortresses, or flooding already marshy ground, so that the enemy could attack from only one direction, were some of the methods employed by both the armies during the Hundred Years' War.[33] In the final phase of the war, gunpowder was also used for the first time in Western Europe. Jean and Gaspard Bureau's effective organization of artillery weapons enabled the French army in open battlefields as well as siege warfare. At Castillion the French army annihilated the English effectively using cannons, handguns and heavy cavalry.[34]

Longbow[edit | edit source]

The English longbow was greatly responsible for making England a major military power in the late medieval period. The English had introduced this deadly longbow during the Battle of Crecy. King Edward III was ravaging the countryside during the invasion of France. King Philip VI of France intercepted the English near the town of Crecy. The French had easily outnumbered the English. Apart from armoured knights the French army also had nearly 4,000 Genoese crossbowmen. But the English archers outnumbered the Genoese and rained arrows. The English could shoot five times faster than the Genoese crossbowmen. When the French mounted knights tried to infiltrate into the English lines, the longbowmen turned their attention to them and started to shoot, resulting into chaos. The horses started to crash into each other. The cavalry was destroyed and the French army annihilated.[35] The longbow was made of a simple piece of wood, but its design was fairly sophisticated. The bow's back, the part facing away from the archer, was the more flexible sapwood, that allowed the bow to be bent more sharply without breaking or causing any further damage.[35]

Cavalry weapons[edit | edit source]

The basic objective of a cavalry knight was to charge into enemy lines and create chaos. At this time, the old shields and armours were replaced by newer and more sophisticated and advanced shields and armours. Lances were used by the mounted knights for initial charge. After the initial charge and annihilation of the enemy front lines, the lances were discarded and swords, axes or war hammer were used for close combat.

Gunpowder weapons[edit | edit source]

The invention of gunpowder weapons revolutionized siege warfare. Gunpowder is said to have been conceived in China. It was when the Mongols, after invading China, went on to subdue Japan, their ships sunk by a typhoon. Half of their army drowned in the sea. Marine archaeology has revealed that the Mongols were carrying gunpowder in ceramic pots. Similar, pots with ignited fuses had been shot from mechanical artillery against the Japanese defenders. Even the old Japanese paintings show the Japanese samurai defending themselves against bombs and rockets hurled by the invaders.[36] Some Historians have observed that only 14 percent men in Europe owned guns.[36] Over half of those guns were unusable during the later Middle Ages. So, people in those days still used swords. As far as invention of gunpowder was concerned, it replaced only catapults and onagers. The change was slow . Buying guns, in those days was a costly affair. the cost of one gun was equivalent of two months pay for a skilled artisan.[36]

Renaissance Weapons[edit | edit source]

Medieval weapons were still in service during the Renaissance. Some of the medieval weapons that were still in use included Guisarme, the Halberd, the Mace and the partisan. The Halberd was a traditional weapon used by the Swiss. The Halberd was designed intricately. This weapons was traditional and consisted of an axe-blade balanced by a pick, the head of the shaft would usually seem more like a spike. This weapon was mostly used by the foot soldiers against cavalry. Halberds became obsolete when improvised pikes started to be produced in huge numbers. Meanwhile the Partisan was introduced in England in the 14th century and was used excessively and extensively in Europe and especially in France. Originally the Partisan used to be a spear with small wings added below it. Partisan is also referred to as 'Vulgur Polearm'. The sword still remained the most popular weapon during Renaissance. The sword however underwent many changes during this time. Many new pieces were added and the sword was designed in such a way that it could protect the hands of its owner. The two-handed sword was widely used in Western Europe. This sword was employed both by the rich and the poor. The armies during this period were usually equipped with two edged swords, halberd, arquebus, crossbows and improvised axes.

Leonardo Da Vinci journeyed to Mantua, resided there for a while and then went from there to Venice. The danger from Turkish fleet was looming on the city. This inspired him to come up with another invention, something like a submarine and a snorkel and diving suit for underwater saboteurs. But the Valentines thought it was not required. So he went back to Florence. In the year 1502, Valentino chose Leonardo Da Vicni as his engineer general. Leonardo sketched new devices for war, something like pointed artillery projectile, bearing very close resemblance to an aerial bomb.[37]

Siege Guns[edit | edit source]

During the siege of Constantinople, Mohammed the Conqueror, sultan of Turkey, ordered his Hungarian engineer, Urban to develop the biggest guns ever seen. Once these huge guns - cannons or bombards - were in position, the walls of Constantinople came down tumbling. The introduction of such bombards had a profound effect on the European society. Engineers started to design their walls keeping in mind the danger the walls could have when facing the newly introduced bombards.[24]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. "Hunting without Guns". http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/kids/hunting/index.html#main. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  2. " A Brief History of Weapons". Tim Lambert. http://www.localhistories.org/weaponshist.html. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  3. Bhattasali, Amitabha (28 March 2008). "Ancient weapons dug up in India". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7315386.stm. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  4. "Club (weapon)". Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/122505/club. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  5. Indian Handicrafts; Antique Armoury
  6. Bhattacharya, Ashok Kumar (1995). A pageant of Indian culture: art and archaeology. India: Abhinav Publications. ISBN 817017273X, 9788170172734. 
  7. Fox, Troy (2005). "Projectile Type Weapons of Ancient Egypt". TourEgypt. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/projectileweapons.htm. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  8. "From Copper to Bronze to Conquest". Discover Copper. copper.org. 2006. http://www.copper.org/publications/newsletters/discover/dc_sum2006/dc_sum2006.html. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  9. Justice, Noel (September 1995). Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Midcontinental and Eastern United States: A Modern Survey and Reference. Indiana University Press. pp. 304. ISBN 0253209854. 
  10. Parkinson, William (December 2006). The Social Organization of Early Copper Age Tribes on the Great Hungarian Plain. British Archaeological Reports Ltd. pp. 199. ISBN 1841717886. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Taylor, Andrew (21 August 2008). The Rise and Fall of the Great Empires. London: Quercus. ISBN 978 1 84724 513 7. 
  12. Selvon Mike; Taking You Back to the Bow and Arrow History; Ezine Articles
  13. How bow and arrow were invented
  14. Edward Mcnall p. 34.
  15. Edward Mcnall pp 37–38
  16. Healy, Mark (1992). Armies of the Pharaohs. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1 85532 939 5. 
  17. Feature story on Chariots
  18. David and Irene Franck. Timelines of War: A Chronology of Warfare from 100,000 BC to the Present. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994
  19. Shaw, Ian (1991). Egyptian Warfare and Weapons. Shire Publications LTD. ISBN 0 7478 0142 8. 
  20. The Golden Chinese Archaeology; Part 2; Bronze Age of China
  21. Essay and Term papers; Assyrian Weapons and Warfare Paper
  22. Adcock, F.E (1962). The Greek and Macedonian Art of War. California: University of California Press. ISBN 0520000056. 
  23. Pillai Maya; Ancient Greek Weapons
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 DeVries & Smith Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "DeVries2007" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "DeVries2007" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "DeVries2007" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "DeVries2007" defined multiple times with different content
  25. Bishop, M C; J C N Coulston (2008 Reprint edition). Roman Military Equipment: From The Punic Wars To The Fall Of Rome. Oxbow Books. pp. 322. ISBN 1842171593. 
  26. Davis, Ralph H C (1999). A History of Medieval Europe: From Constantine to Saint Louis. London: Longman. ISBN 978 0 5824 1861 5.  pp. 108–109.
  27. Bernard S. Bachrach, Procopius, Agathias and the Frankish Military, Speculum 45 (1970): 436–437)
  28. 28.0 28.1 Nicolle
  29. Nicolle p. 4.
  30. Nicolle p. 5.
  31. Fuller, J.F.C. : The Decisive Battles of the Western World, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1954
  32. 32.0 32.1 Nicolle pp. 5–6. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Nicolle6" defined multiple times with different content
  33. Nicolle pp. 169-170
  34. "The Hundred Years War- The Final phase". http://xenophongroup.com/montjoie/hyw_fp.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Hardy, Robert, (1992)Longbow: A Social and Military History, Patrick Stephens Ltd, pp. 244. ISBN 1852604123
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Reid, William (1976). Weapons Through the Ages. New York: Crescent.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Reid William" defined multiple times with different content
  37. Severy, Merle; Thomas b Allen, Ross Bennett, Jules B Billard, Russell Bourne, Edward Lanlouette, David F Robinson, Verla Lee Smith, John J Putman, Seymour Fishbein (1970). The Renaissance - Maker of Modern Man. National Geographic Society. pp. 402. ISBN 0870440918. 

References[edit | edit source]

  • DeVries, Kelly & Smith, Robert (2007). Medieval Weapons: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-526-1. 
  • Nicolle, David (2003). Byzantium, the Islamic World and India AD 476-1526. Medieval Siege Weapons. 2. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978 1 8417 6459 7. 
  • Brinton, Crane; John B Cristopher, Robert Lee Wolff (1967). A History of Civilization -Vol I. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 
  • Burns, Edward Mcnall. Western Civilizations. New York: W W Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393972214. 

External sources[edit | edit source]

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