The Assyrian Cavalry’s Rise to Prominence, Part 2

The Assyrian Cavalry’s Rise to Prominence, Part 2

As cream rises to the top, the Assyrian cavalry rose to the top of their military echelon in battle. The horsemen’s esteem soared as they trampled triumphantly over all who opposed them; they became the pride of Assyria and the nation gloated over their continued success. However, after a surprising, humiliating defeat at the hands of the Babylonian cavalry, the Assyrians feared their stranglehold over the entire territory was now in jeopardy. King Sargon II was furious and during the battle debriefing he vowed to assemble a new and magnificent cavalry, one that would never know defeat. Trusting no one with the challenge, he personally took on the task to build his new cavalry. Upon the conclusion of the debriefing meeting, Sargon II immediately began organizing a regiment devoted to rounding up herds of wild horses. The finest horses were sought after and the search did not end at the Assyrian borders. Raids were designed to steal horses from outlying provinces such as Urartu, Phrygia, and Northern Babylonia. The tribute paid by vassal countries now included their finest horses; all area nations became victims of the Assyrian roundups. King Sargon II reasoned that the cavalry had always been at the core of the army; their history went back to Assyria’s first rise to power. To recapture that status, Sargon demanded that his men and horses train from sunup to sundown in an effort to become the best. The long spears received new designs and renamed lances. Some were made from hard wood with a sharp metal head embedded at the end and could easily be dislodged from its victim. Other spears, made totally of metal, penetrated most body armor when thrust from a high speeding horse. In addition to improved weaponry, new light-weight fabric armor now covered the horses. As the cavalry training continued and the new designs of weapons and protection passed expectations, the king grew increasingly pleased with his new cavalry. Assyria had other pressing matters beside their cavalry. The Northern provinces fought continuously against each other over border disputes. As overseer of the entire region, Assyrian duties included keeping peace between rival provinces. Urartu agreed to give 500 timbers and many men for labor to Emperor Sargon II to help build his new palace at Dur Sharrukin. When their neighbors, the Cimmerians, raided the Urartuan countryside and King Midas of Urartu could not force them out, he sent a request to Assyria for support, in accordance with the treaty between Assyria and its many provinces. The treaty promised Assyrian aid to the provinces against invaders. For an unknown reason, King Sargon II never gave assistance to Urartu and that failure utterly outraged King Midas, especially after...

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