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Disc: Chariots as a method of warfare.

Poster: Lance Harrop <lharrop@mrj.com>

Lord Aelfgar writes (and quotes):

> Allow me to expand a bit on my previous post. In describing the chariot
> as a less than effective weapon system, I do not imply that it was not
> used in ancient warfare. Allow me to quote from O'Connell's _Of Arms
> and Men_, in a discussion of the Akkadian military:
>    Also, it would be surprising if the Akkadian nobility did not ride
>    into battle on chariots similar to the  four-wheeled, onager-drawn
>    vehicles of the Sumerians. This was a weapon peculiarly suited to,
>    even archtypical of, this kind of warfare. Most sources agree it 
>    was essentially worthless as an instrument of destruction. Yet as
>    an instrument of intimidation its impact was sufficient to win it
>    a stable place in the Eurasion hero-oriented army until at least
>    the time of Alexander.For the implied speed and power of this 
>    multi-equine vehicle served as a reliable means of terrorizing
>    the weakly motivated, fulfilling the traditional role of bluff in
>    intraspecific combat. Meanwhile, it further reinforced the heroic
>    warrior's image of himself as far more valuable in combat than
>    lesser men.

Fascinating choice of sources.  However, the Egyptian and Hittie chariots
were two wheel, not four.  The fighters onboard used bow, javalin, and 
spear to attack their opponents.

By the way, O'Connell might want to spend a little time considering the 
maxims of Sun Tsu, from the "Art of War", who suggests the best way to 
defeat an opponent is to convince him not to fight.  Intimidation has always
been far more effective a method to victory then destruction.  Even in SCA
combat good fighters will seek to intimidate their opponents, rather then
just accept the likely outcome of a contest of skill.  This is because there
is always a chance the better fighter will lose if the lesser stands his 
ground (I figure this must be true because of all the times I've defeated 
> I find this evaluation of the chariot as a visually intimidating, panic-
> inducing but ultimately non-lethal system to be compelling. As I 
> mentioned in my earlier post, as a weapons platform the chariot
> leaves much to be desired. I confess I find myself unable to picture
> any method by which chariots, even in considerable numbers, could be
> effectively employed against steady, disciplined infantry with secure
> flanks.

Again, in war, the objective is not to kill an opponent so much as to 
make him give up fighting.  Fair fights are really stupid ideas, and only
a fool fights in a one-to-one situation.  The chariot is really a nifty 
platform to fight from because if you can't get the opponent's infantry 
to break and run from the threat of your charge, you can stop, or even 
just approach at a reasonable speed, and shower him with far more 
missiles then with which he can reply.  The "ANSWER" to formed and steady
infantry is constant bombardment with missiles.  This, the chariotier could
provide.  In fact it is one of the few early combinations of shock and 
missile fire, only matched by the Cataphrac, a bow and lance armed heavy 
cavalryman of the Byzantine Empire (and others).
> So, to sum up. I do not claim that the ancients did not use chariots in
> battle, merely that their effect must of necessity have been primarily
> psychological rather than physical, and that as armies became more
> disciplined, the chariot quickly became ineffective. They remained
> useful to leaders as a swift method of moving about on the battlefield,
> and a great way to stay as visible as possible.
This is essentially correct.  With the development of the phalanx, and 
through the heyday of the Roman Legion, infantry became the dominant arm 
of combat on the battlefield.  Chariots went out of style, and really 
effective shock then awaited the introduction of the stirrup.

But, as Master Malcolm points out, that still gives the Chariot a 
thousand years as the dominant battle force.  Which was longer then 
either the phalanx or the legion.

In Service
Lord Leifr Johansson
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