Let`s discuss the military organization of the Assyrian and Persian empires. What were the reasons for each empire’s success and failure?
The Neo-Assyrian Empire was one categorized as being an extremely militarily organized nation. This empire was led by a warrior culture and that propelled their advantages within the region. The military was very strong and extremely vast. One of the most important characteristics of their military organization was the introduction of skilled foot soldiers to increase effectiveness. The capital of Assyria was Nineveh. This city was not very well guarded and that created complications that made it hard to defend. Instead of concentrating on a prominent defensive mindset the Assyrian Empire utilized swift offensive tactics to overpower aggressors and maintain order. The empire was also known for using large deportation to both decrease resistance and increase assimilation into the Assyrian culture. The Assyrian Empire focused on military advantages and fighting and viewed military power as the most essential element of their society. The leaders of this civilization were known for treating the concurred people harshly and they ruled with an almost tyrannical force. This mistreatment led to encountering a plethora of revolts and small rebellions throughout the empire. A large portion of the military activities that the empire engaged in were to suppress and crush the rebellions and re-establish order. Ultimately, the harsh treatment and oppression of conquered people led to the downfall of their civilization. The military, which utilized a great deal of foot soldiers, required a large portion of the wealth of the country in order to successfully campaign during battles. The army grew so large that the wealth generated by the empire began insufficient to effectively supply the fighting forces and this decreased the overall efficiency of battle. Opposed nations and large groups joined together to create a large rebellion that crippled the strength of the empire and proved too much for the Assyrians to overcome. In 2009, Hunt, Martin, Rosenwein, Po-chia Hsia, and Smith described that after the empire failed to successfully destroy the revolt the nation was invaded by an alliance of the Chaldeans and Medes (p.36).
The Persian military was structured very much like the Assyrian military with a few slight improvements. The success of the Assyrian’s military strategy was used as an example of how to triumph in battle. The Persians, like the Assyrians, utilized war chariots, archers, and shield holders to protect the archers, as well as foot soldiers. Similarly to the Assyrians the Persians filled their ranks with men from conquered regions to establish a powerful fighting force. One of the major differences between the two empires was the treatment that the Persian leaders enforced on the people. Hunt et al. (2009) noted that the Persian leaders exercised more acceptance and leniency than the Assyrians (p. 38). As long as the regions provided the requested tariffs they were mostly left to do as they pleased. There was both religious and organizational freedom for territories within the Persian Empire. The Persian leaders felt that it was their divine right to lead and they established that their power was given to them directly from the gods. The Persian army was mostly comprised of forces from all over the region; however, there were an elite group of soldiers that were all of Persian decent. This group of elite soldiers came to be known as the Immortals. The immortals were born and raised as warriors and acted as the king’s guards and as a Special Forces unit for specific missions of importance to the empire. One of the main reasons for the empire’s success may have ultimately played a major role in its decline. The decentralization of power allowed each region to have more power and that facilitated the peaceful union of the states within Persia. As time progressed and wars became more expensive the taxes that were imposed became extremely steep. The increase in taxes was one of the factors that led to the provincial satrap’s or governor’s disobedience and subsequent revolts. The major underlying factor to the decline of the Persian Empire was that it grew too large and be easily commanded. Just as with the Assyrian Empire, rebellion led to a weakening of the empire which allowed for it to ultimately be overrun by the growing power of the neighboring states. As Butler mentions (2007) the most significant defiance to the Persian Empire was the reign of Alexander the Great who eventually invaded and conquered what remained of the declining empire around 400 B.C.E (Decline and Fall).
Butler, C. (2007). The Persian Empire (c.550-330 BCE). The Flow of History.
Retrieved from http://www.flowofhistory.com/units/pre/2/FC15
Hunt, L., Martin, T. R., Rosenwein, B. H., Po-chia Hsia, R., & Smith, B. G. (2009) The
Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures Vol. I to 1740: Third Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.