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Prelim History Notes

Topic 1: Palmyra
Palmyran Infrastructure
Temple of Bel
 Founded in 32 AD, one of the best preserved until destroyed by ISIS in 2015
 Temple consecrated to the Mesopotamian god Bel, shows shifts in religious ideals
 Temple shows similarities of ancient Greco-Roman architecture
 One of the biggest temples and was the centre of religious life in Palmyran society
 Also showed that Palmyra was very much in architectural lingua franca with Rome
The Agora
 Designated area where free-born citizens could gather to hear civic announcements,
muster for military campaigns or discuss politics
 Later the Agora defined the open-air, often tented, marketplace of a city where
merchants had their shops and where craftsmen made and sold their wares.
 Based on the Roman and Greek Agora’s (Agora of Athens and The Forum)
Tariff Court
 Southeast of the Agora where caravans would paid their taxes due to the city
 Inscriptions of the taxes can be found on the walls
 The law regulated the tariffs paid by the merchants for each commodity sold at the
marketplace or exported from the city
Importance of Palmyra
 It was situated midway between the fertile zones surrounding the Euphrates River
and the Mediterranean and separated from the great coastal Syrian cities by desert
o Allowed Palmyra to keep a certain amount of political independence
 It held a strategic position on the two most important trade routes in the ancient
world, connecting the Chinese, Indian, Persian and Roman empires
 It sat between the two great empires of Rome and Parthia and was directly affected
politically, culturally and economically by both.
 A sea route (Spice Route) gave Palmyra access to India, Babylon and the Euphrates
Silk Road
 The particular route taken by traders to travel through the middle-east
 Goods such as silk, such as textiles, spices, grain, animal hides, woodwork,
metalwork, religious objects, art work and precious stones were carried
 Hazards along the Silk Road included:
o The terrain: high mountain ranges which contained deserts and rivers
o Unscrupulous rulers exacting heavy tribute on the route up the Euphrates
o Desert bandits, hunger and exhaustion
 Palmyra benefitted from these problems on the silk road as it provided a sanctuary
 This resulted in more travellers coming through Palmyra and having to pay taxes
Benefits of the Silk Road
 Merchants used the road for trade, and thus would pass through Palmyra
 Gave political protection by Rome as it was a vassal state
 Acted as a barrier, adding a layer of protection for the eastern Roman Empire
Palmyra Tariff
Trade and Taxes
 Palmyra was intensively planted with olives, figs, pistachio and barley, however food
items needed to be imported to feed the huge population
 The Palmyra Tariff provides some idea of the regular items of exchange brought into
the city and sold to the residents at the local markets, and of the local Palmyrene
goods that were sold elsewhere, and the taxes imposed on them
Benefits of the Palmyra Tariff
 Provided revenue for Palmyra to flourish (state-funded projects)
 The revenue was also used to pay the Roman Empire since Palmyra was a vassalstate, in return they were given adequate protection (political)
Topic 2: Assyrian Warfare
Siege of Lachish
 701 BC, battlefield was the walled city of Lachish, situated on a hill
 Judean King, Hezekiah refused to pay taxes and became a rebelling kingdom
Strategies and Tactics
 Assyrian military engineers built a ramp to the east of the main gate where Assyrian
and Jewish troops began engaging in close combat.
 The Assyrians meanwhile brought siege engines to the ramp and broke the wall; the
Jewish defenders could not hold the Assyrian army and retreated
 The Assyrians gathered large stones to build a massive ramp to reach from the
saddle to the upper city wall.
Judean Army
 The Jewish military force was inferior to the professional Assyrian Army
o Mostly included local militias and mercenaries, not very organised
 Barely any cavalrymen and chariots in the Jewish army which included infantry
 Infantry consisted of either close combat spearmen or long-range combat archers
Psychological Warfare
 Reliefs and inscriptions depicting their military expeditions acted as propaganda
 Some showed the Assyrians throwing babies from high towers and inflicting torture
 The Assyrians intimidated potential enemies long before their armies ever set out
 Some display powerful men, ripped and ready, killing lions in hand-to-claw combat.
 Established as dominant power, preserved reputation
 Booty in the form of saves and money
 Regained control of important city and quelled rebellion
Sennacherib’s Campaigns
Date/People/Country Reason for Attack
Role of King
Result and
703 BCE/Babylon
Revolt conducted by
Babylonian chief
against Sennacherib
Subdued areas and
authorising the
Seizure of chariots,
horses, wagons and
mules from the battle;
Gold, silver, precious
stones, Merodach’s
harem, officials,
singers and craftsmen.
208,000 people and
702 BCE/Kassites
Kassites’ refusal to
submit to Assyria
Took pride, boasted
about enlarging
Assyria borders
through conquest
Exacted tribute,
deported montane
tribes while destroying
their settlements.
700 BCE/Chaldean &
Bit-Yakin tribes
To quell insurgent
Led the forces to the
tribes, later appointed
a king to the region to
officiate later
Won the campaign
and hunted down
opposing leader
Assyrian Army
 Religion played a significant role in the general decisions that the higher-ranking
positions in the military made as to where and when to invade.
 Prayer to gods of war for victory as well as sacrifices by the King of the Empire were
common before invading or declaring war in the spring.
 Assyrian frontal offensives were designed to shock the enemy and surprise them.
 Army was ruthless, archers played a major role in the army
 Iron played a pivotal role in the Assyrian military, iron was cheap, strong and
malleable meaning that with the plentiful resource, the Assyrians were able to
exploit their resource to give them a tactical advantage.
Extra Info
 Military expeditions expanded the empire and gave legitimacy for the king
o Gave important minerals and commodities such as iron
 Army played an important role in policing the empire
o Army was out-posted through different vassal-states
o Assyria could effectively rule their empire, consolidating the king’s authority
Topic 3: Roman Warfare
Marius’ Military Reforms
 Marius relaxed the recruitment policies by removing the necessity to own land, and
allowed all Roman citizens entry, regardless of social class.
 Poorer citizens were drawn to lifelong service, as they were rewarded with the
prospect of settlement in conquered land.
 Making the army professional (introduced army pay), increasing loyalty
 Marius organized the military into legions
 The total number of men in a full strength legion was about 6,000, with 4,800 actual
soldiers. The rest were classified as non-combatants.
 The internal organization of a legion consisted of 10 cohorts of 6 centuries each.
 The century fought as a unit, marched as a unit and camped as a unit.
 The century carried with it all the arms and accoutrements required to feed and
maintain it as a fighting unit.
 The legions were kept in peak physical condition and discipline by constant training,
one of the best in the ancient world.
Marius’s Mules
 Every legion had a baggage train of 500–550 mules, 1 mule for every 10 legionaries.
 To keep these baggage trains from becoming too large, Marius had each man carry
as much of his own equipment as he could, including his own armour, weapons and
15 days' rations or about 50–60 pounds (22.5–27 kg) of load total.
 Marius issued each legionary a forked stick to carry his load on his shoulders.
 According to Plutarch, Marius replaced one of the two iron rivets which held the
spearhead to the pilum's shaft with a wooden rivet.
 With this decrease in strength, the point would break off upon impact.
 This made it impossible for the enemy to return the weapon against the Romans.
 The Roman camps were
always constructed according
to a set pattern, laid out like a
city bisected by two streets
leading to four gates
 Even temporary camps used
when the army was on the
march was always fortified,
surrounded by a deep ditch
and a wall
Units in the Army
Infantry and Cavalry
 A legion consisted of several cohorts of heavy infantry known as legionaries.
 It was almost always accompanied by one or more attached units of auxiliaries, who
were not Roman citizens and provided cavalry, ranged troops and skirmishers to
complement the legion's heavy infantry.
 The cavalry was originally the most prestigious unit, where wealthy young Roman
men displayed their skill and prowess, laying the foundation for a political career.
 The Roman army became a volunteer, professional and standing army which
extended service beyond Roman citizens but also to non-citizens that could sign on
as auxilia (Auxiliaries) rewarded Roman citizenship upon completion of service and
all the rights and privileges that entailed.
 Provided additional infantry and the vast majority of the Roman army's cavalry.
Praetorian Guard
 The Praetorian Guard was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army whose members
served as personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors.
 During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force
for high-ranking officials such as senators or provincial governors like procurators.
 With the republic's transition into the Roman Empire, however, the first emperor,
Augustus, founded the Guard as his personal security detail.
 Played a major role in the military
 Created the siege engine used in siege warfare, architects designed the machine and
constructed the engine.
 Created bridges when met with obstacles such as rivers (Bridge over the Rhine River)
Battle Tactics
 Fabian strategy: Pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favour of wearing
down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection.
 The Roman Army were successful in siege warfare down to their superior tactics
o 1st Phase: Fortified camps were built near the city preventing the enemy from
bringing in reinforcements.
o 2nd Phase: Ballista fire to cover the approach of the siege towers, which were
full of legionaries ready to assault the wall's defenders, other cohorts
approached the city's wall in testudo formation, bringing up battering rams
and ladders to breach the gates and scale the walls.
 Roman organization was more flexible than those of many opponents.
o The Roman heavy infantry, through their training and discipline, and
operating in conjunction with light foot and cavalry, could quickly adopt a
number of methods and formations depending on the situation.
 The three lines would often line up with alternating gaps, presenting a wider but still
apparently unbroken fighting front.
Weapons and Armour
 A Pugio was a dagger used by Roman soldiers, likely as a sidearm, it had a large, leafshaped blade 18 to 28 cm long and 5 cm or more in width.
 Gladius is the general Latin word for "sword", refers specifically to the short sword,
50 cm-60 cm (24 inches) long, used by Roman legionaries from the 3rd century BC.
 Was advantageous for thrusting, as opposed to cutting as used by other armies
Javelin (Plius)
 Although Romans often used the word pila to refer to all thrown javelins, the term
pilum also means specifically the heavy Roman throwing javelin of the legions.
 Designed to break through shields and break on impact (can’t be used by enemy)
Chain Mail
 Consisted of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.
 Was very good at protecting against a cutting stoke (used often by enemies)
Parma (Shield)
 The Parma was a circular shield, three Roman feet across. It was smaller than most
shields, but was strongly made and regarded as effective protection. This may have
been due to the use of iron in its frame.
 Designed to deflect blows from the centre of round shields, though they also
provided a place to mount the shield's grip.
 Heavy-soled hobnailed military boots known for being issued to Roman legionary
soldiers and auxiliaries
 They were extremely durable and open as to let air in and prevent trench-foot
Battle of Zama
 Fought in 202 BC near Zama (Tunisia) marked the end of the Second Punic War.
 A Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (Scipio), with crucial support
from Numidian leader Masinissa, defeated the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal.
 Hannibal had 36,000 infantry to Scipio's 29,000.
Reasons for Roman Victory
 Numidia provided cavalry for the Roman forces after switching sides from the
Carthanage forces, brigning around 6000 cavalry and infantry
 The Roman armies tactics won them the battle using the 3 line formation
o Infantry was in the middle line, with cavalry on the wings
o Cavalry on the wings  Rome dominated them as their cavalry was superior
“One is not alarmed by robbers, but the road becomes unsafe by fierce lions and tigers”
 Chinese historian, Hou Han Shou
 Dangers of the Silk Road, making Palmyra a ‘safe haven’
“Palmyra became the most luxurious and elegant city in Syria.”
 Historian Albert Dien
 Shows that Palmyra’s economy was prospering and they were becoming wealthy
"Palmyra has its own fate between the mighty Roman and Parthian empires"
 Roman author, Pliny the Elder
 The city was strategically located between both Empires which were known to be
rivals. allowing for the city to be independent through their power struggle
Assyrian Warfare
“First army to systematically combine engineering and fighting techniques”
 American historian, Brendan Nagle
 The army was innovative and tactically superior to their enemies
“At the command of the god Ashur, the great Lord, I rushed upon the enemy like the
approach of a hurricane”
 Syrian King, Sennacherib
 that religion plays a role as the King still recognized and thanked Ashur for their win
Roman Warfare
“Rome’s manpower reserves allowed it to absorb staggering losses yet still continue to field
large armies.”
 Historian, Peter Brunt
 Rome’s size of army allowed for them to adopt the Fabian strategy (war of attrition)
“Recruits should be broad chested with powerful shoulders and brawny arms”
 Roman writer, Vegetius
 Roman army had a harsh recruitment policy, making their army physically superior