Ancient Mesopotamia & Near East: Historical Figures  - Printable Version
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Ancient Mesopotamia & Near East: Historical Figures  - Enzo - 10-12-2009 08:42 PM
Ancient Mesopotamia and Near East: Historical Figures
* Cyrus the Great
* David Takes Command
* Harpagus the Mede
* Sargon the Great
* Zenobia, Queen of the East
Cyrus the Great
By Darius of Parsa, 31 October 2007; Revised
The ancient Middle East was home to one of the greatest and strongest warring factions in all of history. The sands were stained red with blood of all who have died in her deserts. The sixty years before 500 B.C experienced some of the most well known rebellions in history, where fathers fought fathers, and where brothers fought brothers. The rebellion of Persia in 550 B.C led by Cyrus II (later called Cyrus the Great) conquered much of the known world. The king created an empire that stretched from the border deserts of Egypt to the mountains of Asia Minor, all the way to the lush rainforests of India. In total, the new empire covered two million square miles and was the largest nation up to it’s time. Cyrus the Great was called a man of peace, a man of human rights, and a man that carved one of the greatest empires in history, The Achaemenid Persian Empire. Before Persia’s reign as the ultimate and supreme superpower, there were four nations which covered Asia (Middle East). These nations were Egypt, Lydia, Babylon, and Media. At this time Persia was a tributary state to the Median Empire and had an occupation. According to Herodotus there were six peoples that were the Medes. Herodotus says the tribes were the Magi, Budii, Arizanti, the Struchetes, Paretaceni, and the Busae. All of these tribes migrated from the west, when the kingdoms of Mesopotamia were in complete glory. The peoples migrated with what they could take, some men brought horses and other pack animals on their journey to lighten the load, and improve the speed of travel. This type of traveling was much alike the colonization of the western frontier of the early United States in the 1800’s A.D. The peoples, whom crossed the Zargos, neglected the use of writing, mathematics, and other skills useful for life in large towns, years earlier. The men and women, who crossed the mountains, didn’t eat or drink for days at a time, filling up their provisions whenever they came to an oasis. The tribes united due to the constant barbarian raids from the north and the threat of an Assyrian invasion from the west. These people east of the Zargos came to be known as Aryans by the neighboring empires. The Aryans soon adopted the religion taught by Zarathrustra, a prophet born between the years of 1000 to 660 B.C. He sometimes called a Mede, other times a Persian, sometimes a Bactrian, and sometimes as a divine being. Nevertheless, Zarathrustra promised that if someone was to worship Ahura Mazda (the Wise Lord), then that person was given a life of prosperity. “It is where one of the faithful makes a home with cattle, wife and children, and where the cattle thrive and the dog, the wife, the child, the fire are thriving . . . where the faithful one cultivates corn, grass, and fruit in good measure; where he irrigates dry ground and drains the ground that is too wet . . . the gift of a pair of fowls to the faithful is as a gift of a house with a hundred columns” were such promises of a devoted Zoroastrian.
During the years when Persia was under Median rule, the Persian’s task was to defend the six Median tribes from southern raids from apposing tribes and empires. If Persia was unsuccessful at defending the region, the Medes had enough time to react to the situation and send military aid. The Persians became restless and furious. Just the thought of being a supplement to the Medes made the Persians outraged and offended. For over three hundred years they executed function and now it was time to start their own kingdom and their own superpower, all done under their king, Cyrus II.
A Controversial Birth
There are a number of tales of Cyrus’ birth and his childhood. According to Herodotus’ version, Astyages, king of the Median nation, appointed his daughter and Cambyses, a royal Persian, to marry. The couple gave birth to a son by the name of Cyrus. Herodotus wrote an excerpt that states that Astyages had a dream that their son would testify against him, Astyages ordered Cyrus to be killed. Harpagus, a trusted general of Astyages was to carry out the deed. The general did not kill Cyrus, but got rid of him by giving Cyrus to a farmer’s family. Astyages discovered Harpagus’ treason doing and Astyages ordered his son to be killed. He was tricked into eating his own son’s meat that had been mixed in with his dinner. The Median lord also ordered an interpretation of his dream, which was very common during his time. Astyages’ board told him that his dream was indeed false and Cyrus did not appose any threat to himself or his empire.
Formation of an Empire
The months before 550 B.C, were months of propaganda for Persia. People across the Persian state spread the word of a new age, a new life, and a new empire. Cyrus’ asked for people to congregate at one location, most likely by a hill, or a high promontory. Hundreds of ready Persians stood before him and listened. Cyrus spoke loud and clear above all else about freedom, liberty, and justice. He boosted the Persians moral, they needed it, they were about to march north to Media, one of the most powerful empires in the history of the world. After the speech, there was total silence, they knew what they had to do, and it was time for the Persians to go to war. In the morning, the Persian forces grabbed their spears, checked their bowstrings, and readied their horses. The Mada were doing the same. The Persians walked for miles to the north. The Mada went south. The Persians confronted the Medians. The Medians confronted the Persians. To a Persian solider the sight must have been heart-stirring. In front of the Persian stood the Median army, their weapons glistening in the mid-day sun, and they were numerous across the scrub landscape. The Medians were better trained than the Persians, they had to be to protect their empire, the Persians on the other hand were weaker compared to the Medians in ways of training and weaponry.
The forces engaged, one side fighting for a new empire, and another fighting to save an old one. The clanging of the blades, the yelling of the combatants and the shouts of their commanders must have been deafening. Hours into the battle the victor was clear, and out of the dust came a new empire, the Achaemenid Persian Empire. According to Greek accounts, the famous city of Pasargadae was built at the same location were the battle had been fought. Persia was in complete control of Media by 549 B.C, after the capture of Ecbatana, the capital of the Median nation. There were no battles after that between the Persians and Medians, besides small skirmishes around lightly controlled areas of the Persian occupied Media.
Cyrus claimed total control over Media in 546 B.C and accepted his crown and title of King of Persia. Croesus of Lydia, Nobonidus of Babylon and Amasis II of Egypt couldn’t believe what they have witnessed, a total collapse of the Median empire. Xenophon, a Greek historian, wrote about Cyrus, “He was able to extend the fear of himself over so great a part of the world that he astonished all.” The leaders became furious with Cyrus of Persia and created treaties with themselves to unite against Cyrus and his new empire. Alliances against empires have been a solid part in ancient history. About one hundred years before Cyrus’ campaign, the Assyrian Empire ravaged the surrounding empires with their professional and well trained armies. The Assyrian army was made up of outstanding spear infantry, the new edition of cavalry, and devastating chariots. The Assyrians were also some of the first peoples to employ siege equipment. The Assyrian engineers were capable of building siege shelters, battering rams, large ladders for scaling walls, and sophisticated ramps. They also hired miners to dig under the enemy’s walls, uttering them obsolete. The armies of Assur crushed any peoples that resisted their rule, but before the Assyrians declared war they often tried to scare their opponents into surrendering. The reputation of an Assyrian soldier was alarming; they were very well trained, brutal, and ruthless. This was a combination every empire feared, no matter how large or powerful. After conquering a town, the Assyrians gathered countless numbers of commoners and preformed acts of torture. The Babylonians and Medians allied to destroy the Assyrian Empire. By 626 B.C, Assyria was crippled after loosing a battle against Babylon about three hundred kilometers away from the city of Babylon in Mesopotamia. In the year of 612 B.C, the Median King Cyaxares crushed Nineveh, and the Assyrian Empire was defaced from the world. Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt all thought that if the alliance against the Assyrians worked, then the Persians should be no problem at all.
Cyrus and his fellow Persians soaked in the advantages Media had to offer. Media had better horse pastures, a way to attack Babylon and Lydia, and men ripe for military involvement. One of these men that were ripe for military action was a Median general Harpagus became one of Cyrus’ subjects. Texts say that Harpagus was in charge of the Median army against Cyrus, but quickly changed sides. Regardless, Harpagus helped Cyrus in many battles as either a trusted general or an advisor.
War against Lydia
Croesus of Lydia became impatient, and he found Cyrus’ conquests insulting and undeserved. Croesus ordered his Lydian army to attack the Persians at the town of Pteria in the Cappadocia mountains. Cyrus expected this, an attack by the enraged superpowers of the ancient world. The Achaemenid king was not just a man of war, tactics, and empire; he was also a man of diplomacy. Cyrus asked the Greek Ionian city states to send military assistance. Ionia did not think the idea was intelligent to attack their overlord. If the Persian-Ionian army were to witness defeat, the Lydia would of surly punished Ionia for treason and revolting against Croesus. The Ionians kept their infantry-based army within their walls and kept their clean record. Cyrus called on his Persian and Median warriors to rescue the citizens of Pteria. The Persian lord collected his forces of horsemen, bowmen, and infantry units and sent them to Pteria, and the outer edges of his empire. The battle of Pteria was a harsh and cruel one. The amounts of casualties on both sides were heavy, and the injuries were numerous. There was no victor from the fields beyond Pteria, in the end Croesus, still undefeated, retreated back to his capital of Sardes. The Persians recaptured the fort by dawn. No doubt Croesus took slaves along with him back to Anatolia, and used them to complete difficult tasks throughout the empire. Slavery was very common throughout the ancient world. When an empire took over another, slaves were often transported back to the subjugator’s homeland, often the capital. One example is the completion of the pyramids, completed by the work of thousands of slaves, the Athenian architecture, and the enslaved Jews sent to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. After the battle Cyrus sent diplomats to Croesus, asking him to give up his title as king of Lydia, and recognize the Persian lord as the supreme leader. Cyrus also promised that Croesus would still be given the right to lead his own people of Lydia, under Persian supervision. Persia always tried to talk to her enemies before engaging in battle, there would be no reason to waste men and resources to fight a neighbor, if they could rather entice the enemy to surrender. The Lydian king did not accept the proposal, and that left one alternative, total war.
After the Battle of Pteria, the Lydians returned home to fight another day. Crosesus could not comprehend what just happened; he always achieved victory, in every battle he had fought. The previous battle was different; Cyrus, a leader who years before had little experience dealing with military matters, had almost achieved victory against the battle ridden leader of Lydia. Croesus sent ambassadors to his allies, asking for their armies to help reinforce his, and fight Cyrus before another battle arose. Persian spies overheard what Croesus was planning, and before the allied force was united, Cyrus ordered the invasion of Lydia, at her capital Sardis. The Persians had two choices, to travel the snow ridden mountains of Cappadocia, or march across the plains of Northern Babylonia, to arrive at their destination, Sardis. Cyrus decided that taking the mountain route was too dangerous, considering that it was the winter season. The leader chose to travel over the plains instead, the chance of a Babylonian flanking maneuver was relatively low, as the Babylonians did not have enough time to muster her forces and lead an attack. The battle came to be known as the Battle of Thymbra, one of the most decisive battles in all of history. Harpagus, Cyrus’ trusted general suggested using dromedaries before the battle, instead of using horses. Cyrus accepted the idea, and ordered his men to dismount, and use the pack animals as animals of war. The tactic worked, the Lydian cavalry was frightened by the smell of the camels, and disengaged from the battle field. The Lydian army of 100,000 was defeated by an army of only 30,000, less than one-third its size. The Persians annexed another empire, Lydia in 546 B.C. Along with Lydia; the Greek colonies of Ionia were also under Persian occupation. The conquered Ionians referred to Cyrus as a strong and righteous ruler, which was very uncommon in the ancient world for a conquered nation to say good about their new overlord. Croesus was exiled to Media that same year.
In the battles against Lydia, Cyrus observed Lydian tactics and incorporated them in his own army, willing Lydian men into his military and Lydian customs into his empire. Cyrus let the leaders of defeated empires to remain leaders, and govern their own portions in the Persian Empire, much like Alexander the Great of Macedonia centuries later. This fact holds true with Achaemenid history from its rise in 559 B.C to its fall in 323 B.C. The Persian Empire existed on the countries it conquered, the ideas of many, and the peoples of numerous nations. Cyrus even familiarized himself with Assyrian strategies and used them in his battles against the nations that testified against him.
Attention turns to Babylon
Cyrus turned his sword to the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which held the fertile lands of Mesopotamia and many surrounding lands. Early peoples of the ancient world called the area between the Tigris and Euphrates “The Land.” The dwellers often created tales and stories about this area of the world. The Land was well known to the dwellers as a land of mystery, where creatures arose from the water and spoke with men. One of these creatures was Oannes, who seems to be part-man, part-fish, who rose up from the water and taught the river peoples how to farm, write, create laws, sculpt, and how to bring about scientific achievements. The tribes, over time, created nations, borders, and sets of governments. The Ur dynasty was feasibly the most powerful of them all. The clans were united and therefore could take up arms against intruders, instead of attacking each other. These wars are much alike the battles between Greek city states, where different ideas about how the world should be run, and who should rule over the common territories clashed. The differences often lead to war. In the kingdom of Ur, this type of bloodshed was not present, making the empire capable of other military interests. With such long periods of relative peace, the empire could also focus on the arts and city management. Unlike the earlier Ur dynasty, the Neo-Babylonian Empire was under a weak and feeble ruler, named Nabonidus. Cyrus took advantage of his enemy’s burden, much like he did when he attacked Croesus, years before. The Persian King’s intent was to march into southern Babylonia and take the capital of Babylon itself without much dispute, but his army was confronted by a Babylonian army near the town of Opis. Although Cyrus was victorious, the battle was a close one, neither side inflicting significant damage on the other. The Persians took over the city, and in turn caused a nearby city, Sippar to fly the white flag. Nabonidus ordered a large division of troops to patrol the Euphrates River in order to control law and order in his slowly dieing empire, and to protect the empire from an anticipated Persian attack. Nabonidus hoped that the natural defense would give his army the upper edge when another wave of troops descended on them. This tactic had been used by innumerable Babylonian kings before him, with great success, but in the year of 539 B.C, the strategy rendered fruitless. The Persians did not confront the Babylonians on there terms, and marched down the Tigris instead. The Achaemenid army reached the walls of Babylon shortly after giving the destination. According to Herodotus, the Persians won a battle not far away from Babylon itself, and that the remaining Babylonian army retreated to the walls of their city. Herodotus also writes that Cyrus did not attack Babylon directly, but derived canals on the Euphrates. The river then was drained to a height “to the height of the middle of a man’s thigh”. The Persian army then walked under the walls of Babylon itself.
When the Babylonians woke from they’re slumber, they found themselves under Persian rule. Cyrus freed all the Israelite slaves, and let them return to Israel if they wished. The Achaemenid King did not punish the Babylonians, but confronted a temple prayed to the god of Marduk. Cyrus confined Nabonidus and announced himself as “king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad”. In the years between 549 B.C until his death, Cyrus the Great was constantly subjugating and conquering tribes and nations on the fringes of his empire onward. The Persian king conquered Bactria, modern day Afghanistan, all the way to the Jaxartes river. Cyrus carved his name into stone in the city of Cyropolis, marking one of his longest journeys in his military career. From one end of his empire to the other, was over three thousand miles, every nation conquered in less than twenty years. Even the Assyrian Empire, hadn’t of come close of achieving such miraculous feats.
Death and Legacy
Cyrus himself died in battle in the August of 529 B.C against the Massagetae, a tribe on the northeast fringes of the empire. Croesus of Lydia himself warned Cyrus not to attack the Massagetae, but Cyrus ignored him and pressed his attack anyways. Before his death, Cyrus ordered that his army abandon their camp, making a fake retreat. Queen Tomyris, the leader of the Massagetae, found the facilities completely empty. Her army rejoiced at their victory, and drank the alcoholic wine within the tents. The Persians attacked the Massagatae during their celebration. The Massagatae, having dropped some of their equipment panicked and rushed to draw their weapons. The Persians won a great and cunning victory, but the Queen was still alive and still capable of commanding the remainder of her army. Another set of Massagatae warriors met up with the Persians and slaughtered them. The Persians not only suffered heavy losses, but a capable leader, Cyrus the Great. Sometime in the battle Cyrus was struck with an enemy arrow, Cyrus fought on thereafter, but the pain got to him, and died on the battlefield. Queen Tomyris requested the body of Cyrus, when it was brought to her; she chopped the head off the torso, and dipped the head in blood. This was to show her power as the supreme leader of the ancient world. Cyrus the Great’s memorial told on what he had done during his lifetime. The beginning line wrote “I am Cyrus, King of Kings.” Most citizens of the Achaemenid Empire agreed, Cyrus the Great was indeed one of the greatest kings ever to walk on Earth.
David Takes Command
By Alexander J. Knights, 13 October 2007; Revised
" So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in Power "
-- 1 Samuel 16:13
Background and Early Years
David was the second King of Israel. His predecessor, Saul, had died in battle with his son, Jonathan, a dear friend of David’s. However, it is before and during his reign that David is most celebrated. He exemplified a good king; divine, visionary and a sound administrator, but also possessed basic flaws such as jealousy and revenge. While children worldwide can recall him slaying Goliath the Philistine, there is much more to the embellished life of David. This article will look at his military antics, both prior to and during his reign as King of Israel.
In his teenage years, David was a young shepherd boy. He lived with his brothers and father, Jesse. His years spent in the wilderness and guarding sheep against danger created a strong sense of protection, accompanied by a warrior’s fighting ability. It is even recorded that David killed a bear and lions with his hands to protect his flock.
Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, was responsible for anointing God’s chosen one for the position of King. Hence, Saul was anointed as Israel’s first King. However, Saul did not keep to the Lord’s commandments and he swerved off into idolatry and rebellion. As a result, Samuel rebuked him, saying “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as King”. The Lord told Samuel to seek out and anoint the next King, so he went to Jesse. Jesse’s sons were tall and handsome – perfect for a King in the eyes of the world. However, the Lord did not have eyes for them and he instructed Samuel to anoint the shepherd boy – David.
David’s first taste of the military was after Saul requested him to come into his service. Jesse sent David to the King, where he was accepted as an armour-bearer. David would play his harp in Saul’s court, bringing peace and serenity to an otherwise hostile environment.
David and Goliath
The Philistines and Israelites had been at war for many years, and the mighty Philistine army was on the brink of Israel, pressing for battle. They sent forth a man named Goliath to challenge any Israelite soldier in single combat. Goliath was a giant of a man, even for modern times.
" He was nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armour of bronze weighing five thousand shekels (125 pounds/57 kilograms). On his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels (15 pounds/6 kilograms) "
-- 1 Samuel 17:4-7
Goliath let out a terrifying roar demanding that someone meet him in combat. For, if he should win, the Philistines would become servants to all of Israel, and, vice versa, if Goliath should slay his opponent. The Israelites were terrified and cowered in fear. Each man refused the challenge, but one. David had trust in the Lord and went to Saul to ask for permission to fight Goliath. Saul knew David was a small boy and inexperienced too, and disallowed him from engaging. But as the Philistine army grew impatient, Saul changed his mind and allowed David to take on Goliath. His armour did not fit David, so David went armed with only a sling and stick.
" Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine "
-- 1 Samuel 17:40
David slays Goliath
Goliath confronted the boy with an attitude of humour, as if David had come as a joke. The confidence possessed by David allowed him to stand his ground. Though seemingly harmless, David could hurl a shot at over 100 miles an hour from his sling. Goliath advanced on David, who promptly removed a pebble and flung it at the giant. The shot hit him smack bang in the forehead, sinking in deep and killing Goliath instantly. David approached the fallen Goliath and decapitated him with his own sword.
A roar erupted throughout the Israelite camp and they surged forward. The Philistines fled in mass panic, but were cut down on the road back to Gath. Their camp was plundered and all booty and weapons were brought back to Israel. David was very popular among the people for his success and Saul made him a high officer.
Nonetheless, Saul grew jealous of David.
The Battle of Keilah
Shortly after the Goliath incident, the Philistines reverted back to attacking Israel and her neighbours and allies. David inquired of the Lord regarding their actions and was instructed to save the sacked city of Keilah. David was not confident in himself, but found strength in the Lord. Though vastly outmanned, David and his men marched on the Philistine army at Keilah and inflicted heavy losses. He returned with livestock belonging to the vanquished. However, Saul had grown jealous of David and marched on Keilah to besiege him. David learnt of this and fled with 600 of his men.
He fled into Philistine territory, where he was fostered by the King of Gath, Achish. Saul gave up when he heard news David had been accepted in Gath. Achish even gave David and his family and men, their own town – Ziklag. David remained in Philistine territory for 16 months. David and his men raided the nearby Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites, but did not inform King Achish of who exactly he was raiding. This ensured Achish’s trust. Consequently, David was made Achish’s bodyguard for life.
The prophet Samuel died soon after, giving Saul the opportunity to advance upon the Philistines. The Philistines made camp at Shunem and the Israelites at Gilboa. Between them was the Valley of Jezreel, the only part of Israel where you could traverse from east to west without crossing mountains. The Philistines were aiming to split Israel in half, making full use of the flat terrain for their chariots. The Philistines lined up for battle at Aphek, opposite the Spring of Jezreel, where the fear-ridden Israelites were. It was prophesied to Saul that he and Israel would be beaten by the Philistines, and the army’s morale was reaching defection or desertion level. While the front lines approached, King Achish and the rear guard (accompanied by David and the bodyguard) were confronted by other Philistine rulers. They demanded that David and his men be returned to Ziklag. Achish pleaded, saying he had found no fault in David from the day they met. But, this was to no avail and, due to a fear of David turning against them, they sent him back to Ziklag.
Though a part of the Philistines for 16 months, David had not once touched his countrymen in Israel. At all costs he had avoided raiding them and bluffed his way through having to do so. It is unknown whether David would have turned to fight for Israel, or whether he would have remained loyal to Achish.
Pursuit of the Amalekites
The Amalekites had raided the towns of Negev and Ziklag while David and the Philistines were on campaign. Upon David’s return, he found Ziklag burnt to the ground, and all the women and children inhabitants had been taken away by the Amalekites. David’s men were angry with him, but he finds strength in the Lord. He is instructed to pursue them and arrives with his 600 men at the Besor Ravine. Here, 200 are too exhausted to continue and 400 traversed the ravine in hot pursuit. They came across an Egyptian man in the fields. He was a slave to the Amalekites, and he promises to show David to their camp, in exchange for his life. So, the sickly Egyptian led David’s army to the Amalekite camp. They were celebrating their victories, reveling in their plunder. David fell upon them and fought from dusk to dusk – 24 hours. All but 400 Amalekites were slaughtered, the 400 escaping on camels. Subsequently, he recovered lost livestock and plunder, as well as his and his men’s wives and families.
David returned via the ravine to collect the 200 men and marched back to Ziklag. Plunder from the Amalekites was sent as gifts to all of Israel’s elders. Immediately following this, the Philistine army and the Israelites engaged on the plain of Jezreel near Mount Gilboa. Saul and many of his officers, including Jonathan, his son, were slain in the battle as prophesied.
Meanwhile, a power struggle erupted between the House of David, and that of Saul. Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, teamed up with Abnar against David. David sought the help of three brothers, fiercely loyal to him - Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Joab was the foremost of these and he accompanied David out to Gibeon to meet the House of Saul. Before the battle commenced at a place that became known as Helkath Hazzurim (Field of Daggers), each side selected twelve men. These men faced each other and, on command, drew their daggers and slew their opposite. The battle that supervened was bloody, but David and Joab were victorious of Abnar and Ish-Bosheth in that engagement.
David takes on Goliath
David’s troops pursued the routing Israelites, in particular Asahel who was intent on killing Abnar. He relentlessly harassed him until Abnar thrust his spear into Asahel, killing him. Abnar and the remnants of his army took up a fortified position on the hill of Ammah. Nearing evening, Joab was coerced from finishing off Abnar and his men. Abnar fled and Joab returned to the main camp of David. David’s army had suffered 20 losses, one of which was Asahel. David’s army had annihilated the opposing force, taking 360 lives. The civil war lasted for awhile longer, with several engagements resulting in the overall weakening of the House of Saul. Raids and skirmishes followed in a bitter guerilla campaign. Abnar and David could not reach an agreement, so Joab and Abishai decided to take things into their own hands.
Their fierce loyalty for David and anger at the loss of their brother at Gibeon drove them to seek revenge against Abnar. They took Abnar aside, while Joab stabbed him through the stomach. David was distressed by this and cursed Joab’s household. David’s men and women were in mourning for the ensuing days.
Recab and Banaah too wanted to please their master, David. To gain favour with him, they assassinated Ish-Bosheth in his own bed. They brought his head back to David, who ordered their hands and feet cut off, followed by hanging by the pool in Hebron.
David is crowned King
After the civil war, David was crowned King over Israel and Judah, which he reigned over for 33 years. The Lord said to David:
" You will shepherd my people, Israel, and you will become their ruler "
-- 2 Samuel 5:2
David’s first military maneuver was to take the city of Jerusalem. It was a Jebusite stronghold, famed for its fortifications. The Jebusites were so confident of warding off the siege, they exclaimed “You will not get in here; even the blind and lame could ward you off". David added fortifications, and with the assistance of a generous donation from King Hiram of Tyre, David had a palace built in his capital – Jerusalem.
News rapidly reached the Philistines of David’s conquest, so they sent out a large force against him. David headed to the Valley of Rephaim, where he defeated the Philistines at Baal Perazim. David stated in triumph that “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me”. Thus, Baal Perazim was named, meaning “the Lord who breaks out”.
The Philistines fled, but David was not instructed by the Lord to issue a frontal assault. Rather, David was to come around behind them, attacking them guerilla style. From Gibeon all the way to Gezar, the Philistine army was harassed, and annihilated.
David extinguished the Philistine threat in a number of victories, and then subdued them completely after taking the stronghold of Metheg Ammah. He also conquered the Moabites, exterminating two-thirds of their population. They subsequently became subjects of Israel, bound to regular tribute.
King Hadadezer of Zobah challenged David’s attempt to regain control over the Euphrates River region. A large scale battle resulted in a crushing victory for David. His army captured 1000 chariots, 7000 (or 1700 depending on sources) charioteers, as well as 20,000 infantry.
David decided against keeping the chariots. This may have been because he did not have the resources or time to train charioteers, nor would they be economic in the mountainous terrain of Israel. The allies of King Hadadezer, the Arameans, from Damascus, came to his aid, but were too promptly defeated by David. Twenty two thousand men were slain in that battle and David remained undefeated in battle. He placed garrisons in Damascus and other settlements of the Arameans and they became subjects to Israel.
Tebah and Berothai were two towns belonging to Hadadezer, until they were besieged and taken by David. He sent the golden armour back to the Palace in the City of David – Jerusalem.
Tou, the King of Hamath, had been at war with Zobah. Upon hearing news of King Hadadezer’s subduing, Tou sent his son, Joram, with silver, gold and bronze articles as a gift for David. David dedicated them to the Lord, as with all other silver and gold he plundered or was given.
So David had subdued Edom, Moab, the Philistines and Amalek, along with the Arameans and Zobah. Most impressive was his victory over eighteen thousand Edomites at the Battle of the Valley of the Salt. This could be a reference to the Dead Sea Valley, but it is unlikely.
Raphael's "Triumph of King David"
Subduing of the Ammonites
In the course of time, the King of the Ammonites died. Nahash, and his son, Hanun, took over the throne. David sent out an envoy to sympathise with Hanun over his father’s death. But the nobles convinced Hanun that the envoy were undercover spies, so Hanun seized them, shaved half of their beards, and cut off their garments. The envoys were greatly humiliated, and David ordered them to remain at Jericho until their beards had regrown. Sensing David’s inevitable hostility, the Ammonite King Hanun hired twenty thousand Aramean infantrymen from Beth Rehob and Zobah. In addition, the King of Maccah and one thousand men, and twelve thousand from Tob, were hired to bulk up the Ammonite forces. The mercenary army was stationed in the countryside, numbering thirty- three thousand men, while the Ammonite troops formed three battle lines outside their city.
David had Joab and Abishai sent out to claim victory over the Ammonites. They took all of Israel’s fighting forces with them. Behind them in three lines of battle were the mercenaries. Joab told his brother he would deploy a small portion of Israel’s forces, the elite, with himself to face the looming threat from behind. He ordered Abishai to march on the Ammonites with the rest of the Israelite force. The battle plan was that if either were struggling, the other could fall back to provide assistance. So, Joab and the elite guard charged at the thirty-three thousand strong force of mercenaries, who routed. The Ammonites saw this, and fear and panic spread within the ranks. Abishai gave the call to charge and the Israelites routed the disoriented Ammonite army, who fled back behind their walls. Joab and Abishai returned to Jerusalem victorious over the Ammonites.
King Hadadezer of Zobah had restored vigour and confidence in beating David, and he rallied a force of Arameans from beyond the Euphrates. Shobach commanded the army, which made camp at Helam. King David heard of this and marched a force across the Jordan to face the army of Hadadezer. The Arameans formed their battle lines, but were humbled by a dominating Israelite force. The army of Hadadezer fled, leaving 700 charioteers dead along with forty thousand infantrymen. Their commander, Shobach, was also struck down and killed in the battle. All the vassals of Hadadezer made peace with Israel and the Arameans threw out their allegiances to the Ammonites. David was victorious wherever he went.
David’s son, Absalom, was never disciplined properly and he conspired against his father. By pretending to go on a pilgrimage to Hebron, Absalom rose to power in Hebron, increasing his following. David was caused to flee from Jerusalem in fear of his life. His household and officials accompanied him. A small force, Kerethites and Pelethites, as well as Gittites had deserted Absalom for their true King, David. Ittai, the Gittite, spoke out against Absalom and was accepted into David’s elite. The pursuit through Israel that followed dwindled David’s resources. A ‘deserter’ of David went to Absalom’s camp convincing Absalom to hold back the pursuit for a short while, and Absalom took the bait. This gave David more time to consolidate his resource base. He then decided it was time to engage Absalom.
David split his army into three contingents, under Joab, Abishai and Ittai. David was eager to march into battle, but the three lieutenants saw it best fit that David remain unseen. David’s final order was that Absalom was not to be killed. The Forest of Ephraim played host to the battle and twenty thousand men lost their lives. Israel was defeated by David’s valiant forces.
Absalom was riding his mule when his head got caught in an oak tree. He was left helplessly hanging. A soldier notified Joab and Joab questioned him as to why he didn’t strike Absalom down. The soldier said he was obeying the King’s orders. Joab unexpectedly struck three javelins into Absalom, killing him.
David was deeply distressed and he let out a poignant cry over his dead son, Absalom. This drew morale to an all time low within the army, which Joab made a note of to David. The rebellion was quelled and David, in turn, regained power over all of Israel.
The Final Years
Four battles took place against the Philistines during the end of King David’s reign as King. The first nearly saw David’s death – he grew tired, and a man named Ishbi-Benob was bent on killing him. Abishai came to David’s rescue and slew Ishbi-Benob. Never again did David march into battle, but rather, commanded from outside the hostile zone. The next three battles took place at Gob and Gath. Both battles at Gob proved victorious for David, and, finally, at Gath, David managed to quell the re-emerging Philistine threat. These were his last military campaigns.
De Gelder's impression of King David
Though David faced tremendous odds throughout his military career, his trust and faith in the Lord brought him strength and he remained undefeated. Numerous exiles and amazing odds culminated, with enemies hard-pressing from all angles, to make an arduous militaristic reign. However, David overcame all these burdens and hurdles to forge a great empire. His son, Solomon, affirmed Israel’s greatness, forming a strong bond with Hiram of Tyre. The story of David is truly one which inspires awe.
1 and 2 Samuel., 1 Chronicles., "Student Bible - New International Version"., (Zondervan: Michigan, 2002).
References and Notes:
1. ^ 1 Samuel 17:34-36
2. ^ 2 Samuel 5:6
3. ^ Hiram sent messengers to David, accompanied by stonemasons and carpenters, with the famous cedars of Lebanon
Harpagus the Mede
By Penelope, 14 October 2007; Revised
First, an idea of how the world was both before and during the time of Harpagus and, of course, much of this will coincide with events which led to the founding of Persia.
It is the 6th Century BC. Two super-powers, Media and Lydia, are embroiled in all out war. This war, which consisted of a series of annual campaigns, went on for 6 years, finally coming to a bloody end on the afternoon of May 28, 585 BC at the Battle of the Eclipse, in which an actual total eclipse of the sun terminated the fierce battle. The eclipse has been established by modern calculations, which place the phenomenon as having occurred late in the afternoon on that very date. King Cyaxares of Media died shortly proceeding the battle, and, as a result, his very superstitious son, Astyages, was crowned. King Astyages found himself master of a large and stable empire, in alliance with King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon and King Croesus of Lydia. This stability would endure for an unprecedented 32 years.
A bas-relief depicting two Medes
There is very little, if anything, recorded about Harpagus describing his early years. He was a member of the House of Astyages, being the "courtier", which is catagorised as being a very privileged position awarded by a very powerful person, usually the head of state, and, in this particular case, the head of state is King Astyages, whose reign is tentatively dated from 585 to 550 BC. The King, being very superstitious, is said to have had two dreams which foretold the overthrow of his dynasty. The second dream included his grandson, Cyrus ll, son of daughter Mandane, and Cambyses l, King of Anshan. Astyages. Taking heed to the dream, which he perceived to be a warning and/or omen, he turned to his courtier, Harpagus, and ordered him to kill the boy, who, in his mind, would save his dynasty. Harpagus, instead of following the orders of the King, gave the boy to Mithridates, the shepherd who would raise him. It is not clear why Harpagus gave the boy to the shepherd. Was it because Harpagus was unwilling to spill his own royal blood? Or did he feel that killing a helpless child would be a dishonorable act, one which might have remained in his conscious, especially since he himself had a young son? Many even believe that Harpagus simply "wanted someone else to do it". Whatever the case may be, Astyages discovered 10 years later that the boy was still alive, and, as punishment to Harpagus, he had his son killed, chopped to pieces, marinated, cooked, and served at a banquet. All of the guests, including Harpagus himself, began to eat. Once made aware of the scandalously wretched deed, Harpagus, in silence, gathered all of the remaining pieces of his son, to make ready for burial.
Lycian Acropolis of Xanthos which shows the Palace destroyed by Harpagus
In 559 BC, the man who would change the world and forever be remembered as Cyrus The Great, was crowned King of Anshan. At this point in time, the Median nobles had begun to turn against Astyages. It is not known for sure who or what may have caused the unrest, however, it is highly probable that Harpagus and other members of the House of Astyages fanned the flames. Harpagus remained in contact with the newly crowned Cyrus, who had just united the remaining tribes of Persia under his rule. Cyrus had long wanted to "through off the yoke" of the Median empire and free his nation from the despotic Median rulers and their policies. Harpagus, knowing this, may have finally found a way to avenge his son's death! Following the rebellion of Anshan, King Astyages exacted to gathering his army and appointed Harpagus as general. Cyrus led his armies against the Medes, and, at the Battle of Pasargadae, the Medes, under Harpagus, switched sides and merged with the Persians. This gigantic army then marched on to defeat Astyages, giving birth to the greatest empire the world had ever seen. Harpagus commanded the loyalty of the army, which was seen by Cyrus as a tool in which he could benefit from a very wise decision indeed.
Upon hearing of the fall of his ally, King Croesus of Lydia invaded the realm of the newly formed empire and sacked the city of Pteria. Cyrus marched to meet the invader and a battle ensued on the plain near Pteria, which proved to be indecisive as the Persians were unable to out-class the Lydian calvary. It was now that Harpagus would introduce the dromedaries, which were used to carry archers and transport heavy loads. The smell of the dromedaries also drove horses crazy, apparently causing them to panic, which made them impossible to control. This ingenious idea would come in handy at the Battle of Thymra in 546 BC. Marching through the winter, Cyrus and his army arrived on the plain near Thymra and were met by Croesus, who had gathered an even larger army. During the ensuing battle, the horses of the Lydian calvary began to panic at the smell of the dromedaries, which caused the horses to be of no use to the Lydians, who were utterly defeated. Shortly afterwards, the city of Sardis fell. Harpagus' dromedary innovation is considered by many to be one of the greatest tactics ever deployed in history. Had Cyrus not considered his idea, there is a good possibility that Lydia would never have been conquered.
Soon afterwards, the Lydians revolted against the Persian satrap, Tabalus. The leader of the rebellion, Pactyus, raised an army of Lydians and Ionian Greeks using stolen funds. In response to this treachery, Cyrus sent his cousin, General Mazares, to crush the rebels and capture Pactyus. After accomplishing what was set before him, Mazares began making preparations to conquer Asia Minor, but, unfortunately, he died, leaving the task to Harpagus.
After crushing a second Lydian revolt, Harpagus drove on with his dromedaries. Using never before seen siege techniques, which included the use of earthwork ramps and mounds, he was able to capture city after city. Initially, several cities fell, including Phocaea and Teos. He subjugated all of Asia Minor, conquering Ionia, Caria, and Lycia. The Lycian city of Xanthos fell after its residents decided to commit suicide rather than fall to the might that was Harpagus. He then marched his army to Phoenicia, and, upon hearing of his approach, many of them boarded ships and attempted to escape to Carthage. After its subjugation, Phoenicia was subsequently divided into four sub-kingdoms, which were to be loyal to the King of Persia: Sidon, Tyre, Lebonon, Arwad, and Byblos. In 542 BC, Harpagus came to the conclusion that "there was nothing left for him to conquer". The Great King Cyrus, having agreed, appointed him satrap of Asia Minor. Harpagus' descendants ruled in Lycia until 468 BC when Athens gained control of it. Persia then re-took Lycia in 387 BC and held it until it was conquered by Alexander The Great.
Harpagus is one of the most superb Generals of all time. His military innovations, which included the use of dromedaries and earthwork ramps and mounds, would be adopted by Cyrus The Great and his successors. Alexander The Great would later use these siege methods during the Siege of Tyre. Cyrus The Great founded the Persian Empire, but there are many questions that may forever be left unanswered. Some of which are as follows: Had Harpagus not revolted against King Astyages, would Cyrus have won? Had Harpagus not introduced new military techniques, would Cyrus have been able to continue his expansion? One thing for certain is that the role played by Harpagus in the founding of Persia should not be overlooked.
As a footnote, the Harpagus bird-of-prey, which resides in both North and South America, is named in his honor.
Stephanos of Byzantium
Strabo of Amasia
Richards, D., "The Book Of The East"
Sargon the Great
Sargon the Great (of Akkad) lived 2334-2279 B.C.E. and turned out to be the first great ruler, the first great military tactician and strategist, and is still amongst the greatest men ever born on this green Earth.
Sargon the Great
By the time Sargon was born, the cities of Sumeria had already sprouted quite a legacy of intercity warfare, and these tools of war have already been found in graves, such as copper axes and blades. The first chariot was used extensively, and the Sumerians would not leave out such a valuable design from their always expanding, always changing, military. Chariots, as early cavalry would later do when first implemented by Cyrus of Persia, were designed as shock troops, needed to punch holes into the enemy lines to allow infantry to merely dig through and isolate pockets and eliminate them. They were also used to harass enemy flanks, and sometimes outflank enemies, and most armies trembled at the site of a chariot force. As infantry the Sumerians used a heavy infantry phalanx, depicted on the Stele of Vultures, which commemorates the victory over Umma by Lagash in 2525 B.C.E. These were very similar to the later Macedonian phalanx, although the ordnance wasn't quite as advanced. They carried spears and large rectangular wooden shields and wore conical copper helmets. Armor was composed of mere leather, which proved hot and uncomfortable. Sumerian armies also made great use of skirmishers to harass an opponent.
Sumerian imperialism first sprung out under Lugalzagesi, who brought most of Sumer under his thumb, with Erech as his capital. And the long legacy of Mesopotamian imperialism would only sprout there - it would never die.
According to legend, Sargon was left by his mother in a basket, floating on a river, and was found by a poor Summerian worker who trained the young boy to be the palace gardener. The king at the time, King Ur-Zababa of Kish, noticed the young man and appointed him his personal cup bearer, a position of high esteem, and it could be that Sargon now had direct access to the king and had his chance to display his genius. Shortly afterwards, Zaggisi, chief priest of the city of Umma, proclaimed himself king of all of Sumer. Zaggisi continued to harass Akadian power by raiding cities and villages, in an almost near constant war. Consequently, Sargon moved to defeat him, although he soon emerged as king of a poor city-state. Sargon quickly relocated his capital to Agade, 70 miles north of Kish, which distanced his capital from the threat of Zaggisi. He put himself to design a new army of mixed Akkadians, and other Sumerians, along the lines of conventional Sumerian warfare, and, instead of directly facing Zaggisi, he marched north and sacked Asshur, capital of Assyria, and then overran Gutium in a ferocious and speedy campaign of destruction. Following these seemingly easy conquests, the king marched back south and annexed Malgium. Following this conquest, Sargon organized a rapid advance into the heart of Zaggisi's Sumer and took Lagash for himself, leaving a garrison behind. Then, in a masterly planned campaign, he left Sumer, and, with the bulk of his army, overran lower Anatolia.
Following his conquests, Sargon felt he had the coffers and the manpower to defeat Zagissi, and soon enough invaded lower Sumer, hitting Erech in a suprise attack. Erech's defenders, apparently, ran and Sargon razed the city walls. Erech's army then faced Sargon, however, it was routed and mostly destroyed in pitched battle. Zagissi organized a relief force and marched south to meet Sargon in battle, and the ensuing conflict appeared to have been located near Erech. The following happenings are unclear, however, it seems that Zaggisi was defeated and his body sent to Uruk, and the walls of Uruks razed as well. Following this battle, Sargon continued his campaign north and captured the remaining cities of Zaggasi's Sumerian Empire. Sargon himself boasted of winning thirty-four battles.
After some years of peace, Sargon continued his wars and conflicted with Elam, and then launched a seperate attack on Syria and Lebanon, and, quite suprisingly, was the first to use amphibious warfare in recorded history. The key to Sargon's victories, however, always lied with his coordination in army movement, his ability to improvise tactics, his combined arms strategy, and his skill at siege warfare, as well as the keeping of intelligence, and always relying on heavy reconaissance. After Sargon's conquest of Sumer, the area enjoyed a relatively peaceful and prosperous era - perhaps their golden age. International trade flourished, merchants going from Sumer to the expanses of the east, and also to the vast resources of the west. Goods from Egypt, Anatolia, Iran and elsewhere flowed into Sargon's gargantuan kingdom. Sargon's legacy was one of trade and one of forming the standing army, which later rulers would use to spread their own havoc. When Sargon died, Rimush, his son, inherited the empire, however, he was plagued by constant uprisings - after he died his brother took the throne. He too was plagued by constant rebellion, and was later usurped by Naram-Sin. Naram-Sin quickly destroyed and dispersed the Sumerian rebels and also went on a vast campaign of conquest, taking his armies to Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and then to Egypt. However, after Naram-Sin, the dynasty went into decline, and soon fell altogether, left to the annals of history.
Few sources remain available to piece together a more complex history, and long battle narratives are impossible to record. It must be remembered that this was right after the Sumerian prehistoric age, and little survives - or what does is stored and not easily accessible - to record more accurately.
Breasted, J.H., Ancient Records of Egypt
Cavillier, Giacomo, Some Tactical Remarks on the Battle of Kadesh
Ellis, Edward S., The Story of the Greatest Nations:Early Nations and Greece
Gardiner, Alan, The Egyptians
Gurney, O. R., The Hittites
Lichtheim, M., Ancient Egyptian Literature
Sayce, Archibald H,. History of Nations: Ancient Empires of the East
Zenobia, Queen of the East
By Invictus, June 2006; Revised
The Ruins of Palmyra
Palmyra, City of Palm Trees
Palmyra was an ancient settlement built around an oasis in the desert. It was a place lingered with palm trees, from which its name, Tadmor (translated into “Palmyra”) is derived. By the first century B.C., Palmyra had become a metropolis full of trade caravans. At the crossroads between the Rome and Persia, Palmyra’s culture was blend of many different customs, including elements from Greek, Roman, nomadic, Mesopotamian, and Iranian cultures.
Through a great deal of its history, Palmyra was a bustling city independent of foreign rule. But bound between powerful neighboring states, the Roman and Sassanid Persian Empires, Palmyra was naturally involved in foreign diplomacy. In c. 230 AD, a member of the ruling family of Palmyra became a senator in Rome. His name was Septimius Odaenathus, whose family earlier had already received recognition of citizenship from the Roman Emperor. In 258, he became consul. In Palmyra, he consolidated his power, holding the title “Chief of Palmyra.”
While Palmyrene relations with Rome were largely friendly, the Roman Empire was in a state of crisis in what is now known as the “crisis of the third century.” For three decades, Rome had faced endless waves of civil war and usurpers. Emperors could come and go in a matter of months. The western provinces of the Empire had broken away from Rome, forming a rebel Roman state known as the “Gallic Empire.” In the east, Roman frontiers were under pressure from the Sassanid Persians.
In 260 AD, the Roman Emperor Valerian was defeated at Edessa and captured by the Persians. Since Palmyra had been favored by the Romans, Rome’s defeat could mean trouble for Palmyra. Taking a gamble, Oadaenathus threw his total support toward the Romans. He set out with his army and successfully fought against the Sassanid for several years, even reaching their capital Ctesiphon two times. For his outstanding success, he was awarded the titles Dux Romanorum (leader of the Romans) and Imperator (commander) by the Roman Emperor Gallienus. Riding on his victories, Odaenathus extended his influence over Palmyra, styling himself after the Persian rulers with the title King of Kings. Yet despite his glories in battle, Oadaenathus was murdered by his nephew.
Map of Third Century (250-271). The Palmyrene Empire in its greatest extent is shown in Yellow. The Gallic Empire is shown in peach, and stable Roman territory in Purple.
Zenobia, Queen of the East
It is here that Septimia Zenobia enters the story. Her name - Septimia Zenobia - is written on her coins as well as in Latin accounts (or Ζηνοβια in Greek). On inscriptions in Palmyra, she is also known by her Semitic name Bath Zabbai. She was the wife of Odaenathus and had accompanied him on his campaigns against Persia. Now with his death, she quickly realized the power ready for her grasp. Ruling as a regent for her infant son Vaballathus, Zenobia took the reigns of power with which she had already become so familiar.
Zenobia was described as the most beautiful and noble woman in the east. Besides such descriptions of beauty and extravagance, we are also presented with the image of an independent woman capable of performing any tasks of a competent ruler. The Historia Augusta tells that she was even braver than her husband, that she actively took part in military campaigns in person, and that she rode and drank with her generals. Her capabilities as a ruler and leader impressed even the Emperor Aurelian, who justified his honor in his “unmanly” task of defeating Zenobia, a woman, by citing her impressive feats on the field and in administration.
Above all, our descriptions of Zenobia strongly suggest a character of great ambition. Upon securing power, she first expanded her realm into Mesopotamia and nearby areas of Asia Minor. While taking part in conquests, she maintained her friendly relation with Rome, to which Palmyra had been an important ally in the east. However, with Rome’s rich provinces close to her borders, and the fact that Rome was crumbling under the rule of pretenders whom she did not consider as real emperors, it was a matter of time before she would break the alliance.
In 270, Zenobia broke her friendly relations with Rome and advanced into Roman-held territories in the east. Zenobia’s army led by Zadbas arrived in Egypt and defeated the defending army of 50,000. Aided by agents loyal to Zenobia, the Palmyrenes took Egypt. Upon hearing the news of the loss of Egypt, the Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus sent his admiral Probus commanding an army raised in Egypt and North Africa against the Palmyrenes. In a hard-fought campaign, the Romans were defeated and Zenobia’s hold on Egypt was secured.
While the Romans were outraged by their loss of territory, they were largely powerless due to the chaos of the time. Roman failure and Palmyrene success made Zenobia bolder. In the August of 271, Zenobia’s army raised her as the “The Most Illustrious and Pious Queen.” In the same year, she declared his son Augustus (Emperor) and removed the image of the current Roman Emperor from the coins of Alexandria. She then declared herself Augusta (Empress) and also the title Regina (Queen).
At the height of her power, Zenobia held a significant portion of the eastern territories of the Roman Empire. She controlled the cities of Antioch and Alexandria, two of the three largest cities in the Roman Empire. Classical sources show that she lived in great magnificence. She dined and was worshipped like a Persian King. She dressed in royal Carthaginian purple and donned the gold and gems of an Egyptian queen.
But her greed for power, as a modern history reader might see it, eventually became her undoing. Her pompous declarations did not go unnoticed across the sea by the Emperor Aurelian, who had recently taken the throne. Unlike the previous emperors, Aurelian was talented and vigorous. He was a skilled commander and drove back the barbarians who had threatened Italy. He rebuilt the walls of Rome and slew all disloyal senators. As fast as Zenobia could build her empire, Rome revitalized its former power in the Mediterranean.
In 272, Aurelian set out in his campaign against Zenobia. When he reached Asia Minor, the former Roman-held cities of the area revolted in favor of Aurelian. Zenobia and her generals held onto Antioch, with their army positioned at the Orontes River. According to Zosimus, Aurelian caught sight of the heavily armored Palmyrene horsemen, which were superior to their Roman counterparts. He ordered his cavalry to position themselves separately, away from the infantry and avoid any direct engagements against the Palmyrenes. The strategy was successful, as the Palmyrene heavy cavalry soon exhausted themselves in the heat and were outflanked and routed by the counterattacking Roman cavalry. Dismayed at the loss, Zenobia retreated into Antioch. However, she did not want to admit defeat to the citizens of the city, for the fear of a riot. She took a man resembling the Emperor, dressed him up in Aurelian’s gear, and displayed him to the inhabitants of the city. But with Aurelian’s army far behind, Zenobia did not dare to wager another battle. At night, she withdrew from Antioch toward the city of Emesa. Following Zenobia’s withdrawal, Aurelian entered the city and was joyfully greeted by its people, according to Zosimus.
At the plains near Emesa, Zenobia played her second chance. Zenobia’s army boasted 70,000 men, according to Zosimus, with the Palmyrene cataphract heavy cavalry at its core, supported by infantry and allied units, against Aurelian’s eclectic army of Imperial regiments, frontier Legions, allies and axillaries. The battle opened with the Palmyrene cavalry attacking, driving back the Roman cavalry. However, as the Romans fell back, the Palmyrene broke rank into relentless pursuit. The Palmyrene cavalry became worn down in their heavy armor. Tired and disordered, the Palmyrenes were defeated by the Roman infantry. According to Zosimus, a great number of Palmyrene horsemen fell to Aurelian’s club-bearing Palestinian infantry, whose weapons were effective against heavy armor.
Upon the second defeat, Zenobia found herself in a near-desperate position. The city of Emesa was not particularly loyal to her and was not a safe place for refuge. Her advisors suggested that she withdraw back to Palmyra, the city from which her empire was built. During her withdrawal, Zenobia must have received news that the Roman Emperor had entered Emesa, whose citizens like those of Antioch greeted him warmly.
At Palmyra, Zenobia prepared the defenses of the city, which was soon under siege by the Romans. The city’s defense was formidable. Machines and archers lined the walls that seemed impregnable against the Roman assault. Exhausted, Aurelian sent his message to the queen, giving her lenient terms to surrender:
“For I bid you surrender, promising that your lives shall be spared, and with the condition that you, Zenobia, together with your children shall dwell wherever I, acting in accordance with the wish of the most noble senate, shall appoint a place. Your jewels, your gold, your silver, your silks, your horses, your camels, you shall all hand over to the Roman treasury. As for the people of Palmyra, their rights shall be preserved.”
...Continued in next post.....
RE: Ancient Mesopotamia & Near East: Historical Figures  - Enzo - 10-12-2009 08:58 PM
Out of her pride, Zenobia refused the terms: “None save yourself has ever demanded by letter what you now demand. Whatever must be accomplished in matters of war must be done by valour alone. You demand my surrender as though you were not aware that Cleopatra preferred to die a Queen rather than remain alive, however high her rank.”
While Palmyra’s defenses were capable, the situation did not look too optimistic. With the cities she originally conquered now loyal to the Romans, the Romans appeared to have an endless supply chain to maintain the siege while Palmyra’s supply diminished. Even if the city could survive the siege, the empire had already crumbled. Egypt had already been reconquered by a Roman general sent by Aurelian. In an act of desperation, Zenobia mounted on a female camel, riding toward the Euphrates in hopes of personally beseeching help from her former enemy the Persians. Unfortunately, while trying to cross the Euphrates Zenobia was overtaken and captured. She was brought before Aurelian, who was a little dismayed that “in future ages it would not redound to his honour to have conquered a woman.”
But of course, she was now a captive. Zenobia was deprived of her great city of Palmyra, which had surrendered after her flight. At Emesa, Zenobia was brought to trial where she defended herself vigorously, as if not all had been lost. But no amount pleading could excuse her from her capture. Certainly, nothing she could do could return to her the empire that she built.
In 274, Aurelian paraded in Rome in an unprecedented triumph for the reconquest of all the lands lost to Palmyra and defeat of the “Gallic Empire” rebels. Envoys from all parts of the world attended his celebration – as did Zenobia, who was paraded through the streets as Aurelian’s victory trophy. Her feet were adorned with shackles of gold and her outfit embellished with so many gems that she could hardly bear the weight to walk. Far away from the parade, Palmyra laid in much ruins, sacked by Roman soldiers after a failed rebellion to expel the Roman rule that had been asserted over the city after Zenobia’s capture.
Some say that Aurelian was lenient to Zenobia and gave her an estate on the Tiber where she spent the rest of her life. Whether or not this was the case we can never know. But at the very least, as one scholar suggests, Zenobia enjoyed almost as much fame as did Cleopatra, but without the tragic end.
Details from Queen Zenobia Before Aurelian, by Giambattista Tiepolo, c. 1717, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Both Zenobia and Aurelian are shown in anachronistic armor and clothing.
The Legacy of Zenobia
When Aurelian paraded Zenobia in his triumphal celebration, he sent a letter to the senate and people of Rome, justifying his honor in performing the unmanly deed of defeating a woman. Zenobia, he explain, was a great leader who inspired fear and won great victories, a leader who planned wisely, who had a firm grasp on her army, and knew when to use discipline and generosity.
To many, the story of Zenobia is one about the ambitious quest for power and the responsibilities that power entails. The ultimate failure of Zenobia need not undermine her fame and accomplishments. Throughout history, many have failed in the end, including Hannibal and Boudicca. But not many women in history, especially in ancient history, have had a career of conquests like that of Zenobia and a story so vivid. As Rome’s antagonist, Zenobia stands among the most prolific, and at the very least, was certainly the greatest woman who ever challenged Rome.
In history, Palmyra’s rise and fall fits into the chaotic timeframe of Rome’s crisis of the third century. Palmyra is notable in that it stood between two powerful empires: Rome and Persia, and yet it rose to threaten both. Although Zenobia’s defeat was a fall from which Palmyra never recovered, they city would have never reached its fame without her. Today, Zenobia’s rule remains a celebrated event in history in the Middle East, not only in Syria, but also in Byzantium and post-renaissance Europe..
While Zenobia’s story is vivid, it is far from complete, for a character of such a dynamic life. In her time, she enjoyed great fame, but surviving accounts are not in abundance. Today, while sources like the notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta have left us with a few exaggerated descriptions of Zenobia, the reader can easily see that each hyperbole has a basis, and in this case, behind the extravagant passages of the Historia is a figure of once great achievement and splendor.
Zosimus, Historia Nova Bk. 1, c. 500 AD. Translation: Green and Chaplin (1814), (http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/zosimus01_book1.htm). Zosimus’ account provides the most through history on the time of Zenobia. Most of what we know about Aurelian’s campaign comes from Zosimus.
Historia Augusta, sections on Aurelian and Zenobia. Translation by David Magie. (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Historia_Augusta/home.html) The Historia Augusta, also known as the Scriptores Historiae Augustae, is a series of imperial biographies of uncertain origin. The Historia Augusta contains a great deal of descriptions about Zenobia along with quotations. The Historia Augusta is notorious for having fictitious content, but due to the scarcity of sources, its descriptions of Zenobia have often been retold nearly word for word, as was essentially done in this article.
Abbott, Nabia. Pre-Islamic Arab Queens. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures > Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jan., 1941), pp. 1-22
Macurdy, Grace Harriet, Vassal-queens and some contemporary women in the Roman Empire. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937.
G. Downey, Aurelian's Victory over Zenobia at Immae, A.D. 272
Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association > Vol. 81 (1950), pp. 57-68
Seyrig, Henri. Palmyra and the East. The Journal of Roman Studies > Vol. 40, Parts 1 and 2 (1950), pp. 1-7
Knox, George. Giambattista Tiepolo: Queen Zenobia and Ca' Zenobio: 'una delle prime sue fatture'The Burlington Magazine > Vol. 121, No. 916 (Jul., 1979), pp. 408-418 (Picture source
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