Monday, December 27, 2010

Ancient Battle History IV. Continued.

Note: Again, some information was learned at Wikipedia, and the "50 battles" "50 weapons" series by William Weir, and "100 Decisive Battles" by Paul K. Davis.

Image from lakeside ministries.

This image is of Persia's vast empire. It covered just about all of Europe. Persia was even able to conquer Babylon and Assyria, two major ancient superpowers. There was just its main rival, Greece, that was in the way of total domination.

Alexander was ready to take on Persia, his highly disciplined army was capable of handling large foes. But Persia was no picnic, they were a dominating superpower, and their army was one of the best the world had ever seen.

The Persians were led by King Darius III, he was a pretty honorable king, and it is said that the Persians were known for treating brave warriors with respect. This could have been one of the reasons he maintained his empire so well, he would usually treat the places he conquered with certain rules. He would allow them to pretty much live a normal life in their own province, but they would have to pay taxes to the Persian Empire.

Alexander himself was also respectful to the places he conquered, and could maintain all of Greece pretty well. One of the things that started to happen though, was that Greek mercenary soldiers started teaming up with the Persians. With this Darius could learn the style of Greek fighting, and use them in his own battles. Alexander was aware of this however, and he had conquered places that used Greek soldiers against him. Now, though, he would fight one of his greatest battles ever.

Alexander's main motive for invading Persia was to get revenge for the damage Xerxes had done to Greece in his invasion in 480-479 BC, in which he burned Athens to the ground twice. However, Alexander also wanted to show the other places in the world Greek culture, ideas and thinking.

Darius had been defeated by Alexander at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC, two years later, Darius was regrouping and gathering up his army for another fight. This time he had an absolutely massive army, including the mercenary hoplites. The number of men could have possibly been around what Xerxes had when he invaded Greece.

Darius chose the land to fight, a flat land, called Guagamela which means something like "Mount Camel" or "Camel pasture" due to the shape of the hill that looks like a camel's hump, it is also called Arbela. He chose to have a nice flattened pasture to maneuver his fearsome scythe chariots around, this type chariot had two razor-sharp blades protruding from either side. Darius thought he could win this, but there was just one critical problem.

The chariot had been a very good and effective weapon for a long time, used by the Egyptians, Assyrians, and the Persians themselves. The thing was, then people started using cavalry, which is more versatile then a chariot, and cavalry can overwhelm a battle field, this basically replaced the chariot. The strength of Darius right now was in his numbers, besides his infantry, he had 200 chariots and 15 elephants.

But Alexander wasn't alone, though outnumbered greatly compared to Darius, he had about 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry. This mixed together with his strategic mind could be used to great effect.

Darius, with the field of his choosing, and with far superior numbers, set up his entire army and waited for Alexander. But then something happened, Darius, expecting a surprise attack, stayed up all night with his army. Alexander however, had his men rest the whole night and get refreshed to fight the next day.

When day came, Alexander and his army, refreshed, and ready, got prepared and marched out to the battle field. Darius and his men were tired, grumpy and restless. Alexander had his men ready, but this was something that surprised Darius. Alexander's army was set up in a simple but effective formation, an easy "right oblique" formation. Alexander's right flank would clash with the left flank of the Persians, having support around him, he could sweep into the side of the chariots and make it difficult to maneuver and fight back. Darius immediately responded, he sent out his cavalry, Alexander responded and drove through. Darius quickly unleashed his chariots to catch Alexander's infantry which were behind the cavalry. The chariots drove forward, but Alexander sent in the Macedonian mounted peltasts and archers to dispatch of them. Behind the chariots came the Persian cavalry, but they intentionally drove through the battle and into the Macedonian camp to rescue the family Darius had left behind at Issus. This left a gap in the Persian line, Alexander immediately charged forward. Darius saw this, in despair, he tried to muster his army, but then turned around and fled. His army saw him leave, and without any leader they began losing heart. Alexander pursued Darius, but eventually turned around and helped out the rest of his army. Poor Darius had failed, he returned to his place knowing that Alexander was eventually coming after him. Sadly when he got back, he was dispatched by one of his own governors, Bessus.

Alexander had won, he eventually marched into the weakened Persian empire and won anything he could. He now conquered Persia and spread Greek culture as far as he could. After all this, however, he wasn't satisfied. He wanted to conquer all of India, but his army refused to go any further. Alexander returned with his army to Babylon. Sadly, In 323 BC, Alexander at the age of 32, was sick with a fever from alcoholism and died. He was young and had his flaws, but he left a massive empire and legacy behind him. The rest of his men had a tough time trying to decide who should take over in his place, eventually after various civil wars, his empire began to fall apart, some being gathered back up again by his general Diadochi.

Well, this is eventually what happened. After all this, we see the one who is really in control. The one who is the real master, stronger and wiser then any empire, we see God in all of this, bringing down the proud, and exalting the small. We see again how none of this happened by accident. We see how war, though it is sad and brutal, is used in things like this. Initially war wasn't here, it is a result of sin, something serious. But Jesus who takes away sin, is more serious. Jesus can take away all the damage that sin has done, and he will through us trusting in him. Thats the real battle, fighting against sin, and fighting for Jesus Christ.

Ancient Battle History III: Alexander the Great

In the last two posts I mostly covered the Persian empire's second invasion of Greece, and the victory Greece won. Now we will look at God's providence and guidance in the campaigns and histories of Alexander the Great, and his terrific army.

Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC, he was tutored by Aristotle and was raised in Macedon, under his father King Philip. After his father's reign, Alexander succeeded him as King. Philip of Macedon brought just about all of the city states in Greece, except for Sparta, who was being reluctant, together and made them into one single nation. Sadly, Philip was assassinated. When Alexander took the throne he calmed the startled Greeks and continued in his father's footsteps.

Alexander had a brilliant strategic military mind, and constantly repelled attacks made by the Persian Empire, under King Darius III. His father, Philip, had greatly modified the Greek style of fighting, and had made additions to the efficient Phalanx. the Greeks had one of the most powerful and disciplined armies in the world.

In addition to the older Hoplite weapon, the 8 to 10 foot dory spear was replaced with the 18 to 20 foot sarissa spear, it was so big, it was held with two hands, and the smaller shields, which had about a 2 foot radius, were strapped on to their arms. These were now called Phalangites, they used less armor then the older Hoplites, and were a bit quicker. They still used the sword as their secondary weapon, the double edged, leaf-bladed Xiphos and also the Kopis, a single-edged sword that curved inward. Also used by the Macedonian cavalry, it is said that the hacking power of the Kopis could actually split a bronze shield, and helmet.

Now that the Phalanx had been so greatly modified, this Phalanx relied on the distance and spear length, instead of the shorter, versatile spear version relying on heavy armor and close distance. Between the lines, the Phalangites could be further separated, and now that they had a powerful cavalry, they could work together.

The Macedonian cavalry used a 12 foot spear called a Xyston, like a modified Sarissa, it was made a bit shorter so it wouldn't throw the cavalry rider off balance. The cavalry had very skilled riders, the stirrup had not been invented yet, so a lot of skill was absolutely essential. Macedonia is also famous for its particularly fast and powerful horses. Alexander had tamed the mighty horse Bucephalus, and used him as his horse in many of his battles.

The Macedonian army also had archers and javelin-men. The people who used the javelin, a type of throwing spear, were called peltasts. The archers were also a new addition to this style of fighting. The army of Macedon also probably had slingers, who used the sling and stone, a very simple, but effective weapon, made of usually wool and leather, with the leather pouch in the middle.

Although the army had changed somewhat, they still had rather heavily armed troops called Hypaspists. They looked more like the older hoplites, and were an elite and effective group of soldiers.

This was a very powerful and effective fighting force, but they also had another kind of weapon, artillery. The ballista, and gastraphetes two very effective long range weapons were similar and a bit different. The word ballista basically means "throw" and for a pretty good reason. It basically was a giant crossbow, and so big you would have to roll it on wheels. The cords of the bow were made of rope, or twisted horsehair, and it could fire a missile that could be about two feet, it was a very effective siege weapon.

The gastraphetes was a bit smaller, and it was hand held. You would hold it at your hips and aim and position with your hands. Gastraphetes means "belly bow", to reload it, you could prop it up against something, and wind back the cords, and place in the missile. Alexander used both of these weapons at various times in his campaigns.

Alexander had always wanted to conquer the world. And he started with Persia, the world's most powerful empire at the time.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ancient Battle History, part II.

Note: Some information I learned from Wikipedia, and the "50 battles" "50 weapons" series by William Weir, and "100 Decisive Battles" by Paul K. Davis.

The Persian army was led by King Xerxes, who’s father Darius had invaded Greece ten years before in 490 BC. His father’s invasion, however, was unsuccessful. The Greeks had a brilliant victory at the Battle of Marathon, in which the Greek general Miltiades successfully led them. The Persians wanted revenge. King Xerxes, whom the Greeks called the Great King, spent years building his huge army and planning his attack. He finally started his attack. In an amazing feat, he built a long bridge made of boats and crossed the Hellespont, which is north of Greece, and marched in leading his enormous army.

When the Greeks heard of this they took a counsel and decided they would send the Spartan King Leonidas and about 7,000 other Greeks, with 300 of them Spartans, to block the Persians at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. The Athenian general Themistocles went with his Navy to stop the Persians at the strait of Salamis, which is near Thermopylae.

Now, Thermopylae was a thin stretch of beach which had mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other. It was said that you could only fit one chariot at a time across the narrowest part of Thermopylae Pass, so this would make a wonderful defense, and perfect for a Phalanx to defend it. In fact, Thermopylae made such an ideal defense, that in World War II a British force used Thermopylae to block a Nazi invasion.

Xerxes and his vast army arrived at Thermopylae, when they saw the Greeks and realized they had them greatly outnumbered, Xerxes sent a messenger to Leonidas and said that if he would fall back and give in, they would give them new land to stay on. Leonidas and his army refused. Now rather impatient, Xerxes firmly ordered Leonidas to lay down his weapons, to which Leonidas replied “Come and get them.” By this time Xerxes would have been angered, he took his army and prepared to attack the Greeks.

Leonidas with his army set up their position on Thermopylae and Xerxes sent in his army. Xerxes first sent in his light infantry troops and they charged at the Greeks. The Persians were completely blocked and thrown back, they tried again, and divisions of Xerxes army were stopped and forced away by the Greek phalanx. Xerxes was furious, he regathered his troops and sent in the Persian Immortals. A very skilled group of warriors consisting of 10,000 men. The Immortals charged, and they too were absolutely stopped. For three days Xerxes tried and each time the Persians were stopped, with no success. Xerxes was enraged, he pulled back his army and waited.

The Greeks were having great success, but then the unthinkable happened. One of the Greeks, hoping for a reward, betrayed Leonidas, and showed Xerxes a path leading behind him. When the Greeks heard of what had happened and saw the Persians approaching, the rearguard fell back, and the Greeks regrouped, deciding what to do next. With the Persians on their way, many of the Greeks panicked and retreated, but Leonidas with the 300 Spartans, and about 700 other men from a small Greek town, stayed back, refusing to retreat.

The Persians surrounded the Greeks, and could now close in on them. Leonidas and his army charged full force into the Persians. The Greeks fought to the end, making a valiant last stand, but the Persians eventually prevailed, overwhelming the Greeks. Xerxes now had Thermopylae, and could advance to sack Athens. But Leonidas and his army had courageously fought, and this allowed the other Greeks to escape.

Xerxes now went to Athens, but he found it nearly deserted, he then burned Athens to the ground, and moved on to Salamis, where Themistocles and his Navy had their position. Themistocles craftily lured the Persians into his trap, saying that if the Persians attacked and won, he would surrender. The Persians advanced, but they were moving into a narrow strait, the Persians strength was in their maneuverability and speed, in this position, they would have lost both. The heavier Greek ships, called Triremes, were stronger and bigger, and could hold out in a situation like this.

Xerxes had his throne set up on a hill, overlooking the battle, and expecting his victory. But for Xerxes, the worst happened. The Persian vessels crashed and piled up behind each other in the narrow wedge, not being able to go forward or back. The Greeks advanced, going over the lighter Persian ships, mowing them down. Xerxes was in awe, now his huge navy had been defeated. Angered, Xerxes retreated.

The Greeks had won Salamis and had thrown Xerxes back. The next year in the summer of 479 BC, the Greeks, under the Spartan general Pausanias, decisively defeated the Persians and their General Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea. Using their strategy and discipline, the smaller Greek forces had defeated the massive Persian army. Xerxes returned with his army to Persia, for good.

Like David defeating Goliath, the outnumbered Greeks craftily achieved victory. If the Persians had conquered Greece, democracy and Greek ideas would have been done for. Alexander the Great would not have spread Greek culture to the western world, and none of the Greek influences would have come into the other countries. All the way, to the Roman empire and the birth of Christ. The Greeks victory against the Persians did NOT happen by chance. It was all part of God’s providential guidance, sovereignty and will, that all these things happened.

King Xerxes, who was rather prideful, had been defeated. However, he eventually acknowledged God, and ruled Persia successfully. After his rule he gave the throne to his son Artaxerxes, who also plays a great part in history and God’s plan. The Persian empire was eventually conquered by Alexander the Great, and Greek culture was spread into the western world. After this, the Roman empire eventually rose, and God’s plan of Jesus Christ and redemption continued onward.

Ancient Battle History, part I.

Ancient Battle History: Warriors and Weapons.


Ancient battle has made an enormous impact on the world today, in fact entire nations today would have been a lot different if it wasn’t for some Ancient battles. But it is impossible for these to have all happened by chance, it was guided by the sovereignty of God. God cared about every single soldier that ever stepped foot in a battle, He knew each moment from when the warrior placed on his helmet and took up his weapons and armor, to when he was charging on the battlefield. The Lord Jesus Christ was watching this the whole time, and He has put this all together for his amazing plan. Now we are going to take a look in detail at the warriors themselves and the weapons they wielded.

The Ancient Greeks.

In Ancient Greece all the places were separated into their own city state, or polis. So each one had its own rules, government and laws. Though there were hundreds of these, some of the most famous ones were Athens, Sparta, and Corinth. Athens was mainly a democracy, and very politically based. Sparta was very warlike and fierce. And Corinth was mainly neutral and would sometimes ally with either one.

Athens and Sparta would constantly fight with each other. Mainly because the two places were polar opposites. Though sometimes they would join forces and help each other, most of the time they disagreed with one another.

Athens main strength was in its Navy, whereas with the Spartans it was their disciplined Army. Most, if not all, city states had their very own army. In Athens their warriors would mainly join around the age of seventeen and serve for a couple of years, (later on, the Romans also did this.) In Sparta, every soldier would go through brutal military training, started at the age of seven or eight.

The warriors were called Hoplites, which comes from the Greek word Hoplon. Hoplites were heavily armed Infantry fighters, and were some of the best warriors in the Ancient world. They were held in the same respect that a Knight of the middle ages might be held. Similarly, sometimes kings would hire mercenary Hoplites to fight for them. Like king Darius did, for example, when he faced Alexander the Great.

The Hoplites had good and effective arms and weapons. They wore a bronze helmet that protected their entire head, with just a few small openings for their eyes and mouth. One of the most famous types of these helmets was the Corinthian helmet. Made from a single piece of bronze hammered into a unique shape, it was sometimes dome shaped at the top, which would glance blows as well as block them straight on, sometimes the helmet was plumed on the top with feathers or horsehair.

The Hoplites also wore a bronze cuirass, which protected all of their upper body, and their legs were protected by knee-high bronze greaves.

As for their arms and weapons, they carried an 8 to 10 foot long spear called a Dory. On one end of the spear, there was a sharp, broad, iron point, this was the main fighting end that they would thrust with. At the other, there was a smaller, pointy, bronze spike, with this they could thrust the spear into the ground, or use it as a secondary weapon if the primary end was lost, or if the shaft broke.
The Hoplites sidearm was a short sword called a Xiphos. The single-handed grip was usually made of bronze, but the blade could be made of iron, or roughly forged steel. The Xiphos had a broad, rather heavy, leaf-shaped blade that could be used for both thrusting and hacking. While in most places the Xiphos was around 2 feet, the Spartans preferred theirs shorter, about 20 inches. Certainly the reason it was shortened was so it would fit their fighting formation and style. The word Xiphos in Greek means something like “penetrating light.”

In the Hoplites other hand, he held a huge, heavy shield made of wood and leather, and often coated in a thin sheet of bronze. It was up to 3 and half, to 4 feet in diameter, and up to 24 pounds in weight. Being the Hoplites main defensive weapon, it could block pretty much any weapon of its day. But the shield could also be used as a very effective offensive weapon, being wide and heavy enough. The shield was called an Aspis by the Greeks, but it is also referred to as the Hoplon shield.

The Hoplites fought in a densely packed formation called a Phalanx. Each Hoplite would stand shoulder to shoulder, and shield to shield, with their spears in their other hand, each protecting the other. The entire front of the Phalanx was like a bronze wall, bristled with spears. Often the Phalanx might be about 8 men deep and 8 men wide (64 men overall,) though it would always vary. The Phalanx was ideal for both offense and defense, some of the best examples of this was when the massive Persian army invaded Greece in 480 BC.

The Spartan Xiphos sword. Image from imperialweapons.

Greek Hoplite.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

God's creativity

The mind is one of the most amazing and complex things in creation. A very wonderful thing about it is you can clearly see God's imagination and creativity in it. For example, when you are told something, or given an order, your ears go through a complex system and translate the word as sound and then your brain identifies it as a command or anything else that you hear. That is truly awesome, just think about that for a moment, imagine all the things we can do with our minds! We can create things, solve things, imagine things, comprehend things, and so many others! We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.

My sister Rachel had once said something like "God's creation is His imagination." That really is remarkable. I think God has given us the mind like a gift, so we can enjoy His creation and create our own things. God has given to us a little bit of His own imagination, and we can use it to His glory.

In Christ,

Joseph Read

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Iron Sharpens Iron -

"Iron Sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another." -Proverbs 27:17

Hello everyone, my name is Joseph Read, and I am a Homeschooled Christian guy living in Alabama. I am fifteen years old and one of 9 siblings. I have been homeschooled my entire life by my wonderful Father and Mother. I am motivated by, and continue to try and do my best in everything for Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

I have many interests like working for God and helping my family. One of my favorite school subjects is math. I also like reading, writing, film making, exercising, weightlifting, special visual effects, and also the making of movie props, and things like the art and skill of sword play. I also like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia, being interested in things of that sort.

Well, with some help from my sister Rachel, I have been able to make my second blog, so enjoy, and God Bless.

In Christ, Joseph Read.