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Ancient Inventions - War And Conflicts

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Ancient Inventions

War And Conflicts

Relief of Ramses II located in Abu Simbel fighting at the Battle of Kadesh on a chariot.

New weapons development can dramatically alter the face of war.

In prehistoric times, fighting occurred by usage of clubs and spears, as early as 35,000 BC. Arrows, maces, and slings were developed around 12,000 BC. Chariots, pulled by animals like the onager, ox, donkey, and later the horse, originated around 2,000 BC.

The chariot was an effective, fast weapon; while one man controlled the maneuvering of the chariot, a second bowman could shoot arrows at enemy soldiers. These became crucial to the maintenance of several governments, including the New Egyptian Kingdom and the Qin dynasty.

Some of the military unit types and technologies which were developed in the ancient world are:

  • Slinger
  • Hoplite
  • Auxiliaries
  • Infantry
  • Crossbowmen
  • Chariots
  • Cavalry

For settled agrarian civilizations, the infantry would become the core of military action. The infantry started as opposing armed groups of soldiers underneath commanders. The Greeks used rigid, heavily-armed phalanxes, but the Romans used mobile legions that were easily maneuverable.

Cavalry would become an important tool. In the Sicilian Expedition, led by Athens in an attempt to subdue Syracuse, the well-trained Syracusan cavalry became crucial to the success of the Syracusans. Macedonian Alexander the Great effectively deployed his cavalry forces to secure victories. In later battles, like the Battle of Cannae of the Second Punic War, the importance of the cavalry would be repeated.

Hannibal was able to surround the Romans on three sides and encircled them by sending the cavalry to the rear of the army. There were also horse archers, who had the ability to shoot on horseback – the Mongols were especially fearsome with this tactic. In the Middle Ages, armored cataphracts continued to fight on horseback.

Even in the First World War, cavalry was still considered important; the British mobilized 165,000 horses, the Austrians 600,000, the Germans 715,000, and the Russians more than a million.

The early Indo-Iranians developed the use of chariots in warfare. The scythed chariot was later invented in India and soon adopted by the Persian Empire.

War elephants were often deployed for fighting in ancient warfare. They were first used in India and later adopted by both the Persians and Alexander the Great against one another. War elephants were also used in the Battle of the Hydaspes River, and by Hannibal in the Second Punic War against the Romans.(The effectiveness of war elephants in a battle is a matter of debate)

There were also organizational changes, made possible by better training and intercommunication. Combined arms was the concept of using infantry, cavalry, and artillery in a coordinated way. The Romans, Swiss, and others made advances with this, which arguably led to them being unbeatable for centuries.

A Greek trireme

Naval warfare was often crucial to military success. Early navies used sailing ships without cannons; often the goal was to ram the enemy ships and cause them to sink.

There was human oar power, often using slaves, built up to ramming speed. Galleys were used in the 3rd millennium BC by the Cretans. The Greeks later advanced these ships.

In 1210 BC, the first recorded naval battle was fought between Suppiluliuma II, king of the Hittites, and Cyprus, which was defeated. In the Persian Wars, the navy became of increasing importance.

Triremes were involved in more complicated sea-land operations. Themistocles helped to build up a stronger Greek navy, composed of 310 ships, and defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, ending the Persian invasion of Greece.

In the First Punic War, the war between Carthage and Rome started with an advantage to Carthage because of their naval experience. A Roman fleet was built in 261 BC, with the addition of the corvus that allowed Roman soldiers onboard the ships to board the enemy ships. The bridge would prove effective at the Battle of Mylae, resulting in a Roman victory.

The Vikings, in the 8th century AD, invented a ship propelled by oars with a dragon decorating the prow, hence called the Drakkar. The 12th century CE Song Dynasty invented ships with watertight bulk head compartments while the 2nd century BCE Han Dynasty invented rudders and sculled oars for their warships.

Fortifications are important in warfare. Early hill-forts were used to protect inhabitants in the Iron Age. They were primitive forts surrounded by ditches filled with water.

Forts were then built out of mud bricks, stones, wood, and other available materials. Romans used rectangular fortresses built out of wood and stone. As long as there have been fortifications, there have been contraptions to break in, dating back to the times of Romans and earlier. Siege warfare is often necessary to capture forts.

Some of the military unit types and technologies which were used in the medieval period are:

  • Artillery
  • Cataphract
  • Condottieri
  • Fyrd
  • Janissary
  • Knight (see also: Chivalry)
  • Crossbow
  • Pikeman
  • Samurai
  • Sipahi

Bows and arrows were often used by combatants. Egyptians shot arrows from chariots effectively. The crossbow was developed around 500 BC in China, and was used a lot in the Middle Ages. The English/Welsh longbow from the 12th century also became important in the Middle Ages. It helped to give the English a large early advantage in the Hundred Years' War, even though the English were eventually defeated. It dominated battlefields for over a century.

A small English Civil War-era cannon

In the 10th century, the invention of gunpowder led to many new weapons that were improved over time. Blackpowder was used in China since the 4th century, but it was not used as a weapon until the 11th century.

Until the mid-15th century, guns were held in one hand, while the explosive charge was ignited by the other hand. Then came the matchlock, which was used widely until around the 1720s. Leonardo da Vinci made drawings of the wheel lock which made its own sparks. Eventually, the matchlock was replaced by the flintlock.

Cannons were first used in Europe in the early 14th century, and played a vital role in the Hundred Years' War. The first cannons were simply welded metal bars in the form of a cylinder, and the first cannonballs were made of stone. By 1346, at the battle of Crécy, the cannon had been used; at the Battle of Agincourt they would be used again.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the first European fire ships were used. Ships were filled with flammable materials, set on fire, and sent to enemy lines. This tactic was successfully used by Francis Drake to scatter the Spanish Armada at the Battle of Gravelines, and would later be used by the Chinese, Russians, Greeks, and several other countries in naval battles.

Naval mines were invented in the 17th century, though they were not used in great numbers until the American Civil War. They were used heavily in the First World War and Second World War.

The first model of submarine was invented in 1624 by Cornelius Drebbel, which could go to depth of 15 feet (5 m). However, the first war submarine as we presently think of it was constructed in 1885 by Isaac Peral.

The Turtle was developed by David Bushnell during the American Revolution. Robert Fulton then improved the submarine design by creating the Nautilus (submarine).

A 155 mm M198 howitzer firing a shell.

The Howitzer, a type of field artillery, was developed in 17th century to fire high trajectory explosive shells at targets that could not be reached by flat trajectory projectiles.

Bayonets also became of wide usage to infantry soldiers. Bayonet is named after Bayonne, France where it was first manufactured in the 16th century. It is used often in infantry charges to fight in hand-to-hand combat. General Jean Martinet introduced the bayonet to the French army. They were used a lot in the American Civil War, and continued to be used in modern wars like the Invasion of Iraq.

Balloons were first used in warfare at the end of the 18th century. It was first introduced in Paris of 1783; the first balloon traveled over 5 miles (8 km). Previously military scouts could only see from high points on the ground, or from the mast of a ship. Now they could be high in the sky, signalling to troops on the ground. This made it much more difficult for troop movements to go unobserved.

At the end of the 18th century, iron-cased rockets were successfully used militarily in India against the British by Tipu Sultan of the Kingdom of Mysore during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. Rockets were generally inaccurate at that time, though William Hale, in 1844, was able to develop a better rocket. The new rocket no longer needed the rocket stick, and had a higher accuracy.

In the 1860s there were a series of advancements in rifles. The first repeating rifle was designed in 1860 by a company bought out by Winchester, which made new and improved versions. Springfield rifles arrived in the mid-19th century also. Machine guns arrived in the middle of the 19th century. Automatic rifles and light machine guns first arrived at the beginning of the 20th century.

Also in the 1860s came the first boats that would later be known as torpedo boats. These were first used in the American Civil War, but generally were not successful. Several Confederates used spar torpedoes, which were bombs on long poles designed to attach to boats. In the later part of the 19th century, the self-propelled torpedo was developed. The HNoMS Rap

At the start of the World Wars, various nations had developed weapons that were a surprise to their adversaries, leading to a need to learn from this, and alter how to combat them. Flame throwers were first used in the first world war. The French were the first to introduce the armored car in 1902. Then in 1918, the British produced the first armored troop carrier. Many early tanks were proof of concept but impractical until further development. In World War I, the British and French held a crucial advantage due to their superiority in tanks; the Germans had only a few dozen A7V tanks, as well as 170 captured tanks. The British and French both had over several hundred each. The French tanks included the 13 ton Schnedier-Creusot, with a 75 mm gun, and the British had the Mark IV and Mark V tanks.

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers performed the first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight; it went 39 meters (120 ft). In 1907, the first helicopter flew, but it wasn't practical for usage. Aviation became important in World War I, in which several aces gained fame. In 1911 an aircraft took off from a warship for the first time. It was a cruiser. Take-offs were soon perfected, but deck landings on a cruiser were another matter. This led to the development of an aircraft carrier with a decent unobstructed flight deck.

Chemical warfare exploded into the public consciousness in World War I but may have been used in earlier wars without as much human attention. The Germans used gas-filled shells at the Battle of Bolimov on January 3, 1915. These were not lethal, however. In April 1915, the Germans developed a chlorine gas that was highly lethal, and used it to great effect at Second Battle of Ypres.

World War II gave rise to even more technology. The worth of the aircraft carrier was proved in the battles between the United States and Japan like the Battle of Midway. Radar was independently invented by the Allies and Axis powers. It used radio waves to detect nearby objects. Molotov cocktails were invented by the Finns in 1939, during the Winter War. The atomic bomb was developed by the Manhattan Project and launched at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, ultimately ending World War II.

During the Cold War, even though fighting did not actually occur, the superpowers – the United States and Russia – engaged in a race to develop and increase the level of technology available for military purposes. In the space race, both nations attempted to launch human beings into space to the moon. Other technological advances centered around intelligence (like the spy satellite) and missiles (ballistic missiles, cruise missiles). Nuclear submarine, invented in 1955. This meant submarines no longer had to surface as often, and could run more quietly. They evolved into becoming underwater missile platforms. Cruise missiles were invented in Nazi Germany during World War II in the form of the V-1.



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