The Ancient Assyrians Paperback – Jan 30 1992
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About the Author
Mark Healy was born in 1953. He has a Master's degree in Political Theology from Bristol University. He is by profession a schoolteacher and is head of the Humanities faculty in a large school in Somerset. He has written a number of Osprey titles including Elite 40 New Kingdom Egypt and Campaign 16 Kursk 1943. He has a great interest in both the ancient and modern periods, is married with one son and lives in Dorset.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
These books are very entertaining introductory histories of their various (military) topics. The illustrations demonstrate their intent quite clearly: to entertain as much as to inform. These books are intended for laymen who enjoy military history, possibly the re-enactment crowd, and definitely bright adolescents. As "Illustrated Histories" go, they're quite excellent and I'm collecting them for my kids.
*WARNING-THESE BOOKS ARE NOT APPROPRIATE AS SCHOLARLY RESEARCH MATERIALS*
There are no footnotes, endnotes, citations, and no bibliography. There is the occasional (usually relatively minor) inaccuracy which is not a big deal for kids and laymen but is a major issue for academics.
That said, these books could help you out as introductions to material. For example, I bought and read this one as a general introduction to Assyrian military practices. It gave me enough of a grasp of the material to focus the thesis of my paper and know what kinds of things I should research. I did not use this book as a source!!
It is what it is, and as an entertaining introductory read for youths and laymen it is great. You ought not to expect a mass market paperback to live up to academic standards. If thats what you want, you should know that books meeting those standards are usually published by "(Insert name of Institution) Univeristy Press" or are primary sources (people who were there and wrote down what they saw).
First of all, the title is a bit misleading. The book is centred on the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and more particularly on its last 150 years (from BC 745 to the fall of Nineveh on BC 612), rather than on the whole history of Assyria, which begins in circa BC 1800. The previous periods are dealt with in three pages which are intended to provide background.
Second, the book lacks both a table of contents, which is not much of a problem, but also a bibliography. The latter is more problematic, if only because books in this collection are meant as illustrated introduction to a topic. One could expect them to provide the means for interesting readers to learn more about the topic that they cover, as more recent Osprey publications seem to do systematically nowadays. There is a second - more specific - reason to regret this absence and this has to do with the topic itself. Given its location (in northern Irak), archaeology and excavations have not exactly been a priority over the last two or three decades. Apart from some publications which tend to cover middle-eastern civilizations more generally, and a few others which cover very specific aspects of the Ancient civilizations of Irak (religion, for instance), there are very few recent publications that are centred on the Assyrians themselves, and ever fewer on the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Having mentioned this, and as far as I can make out, the overview provided by this book seems to be complete and a good one. The reasons for the Assyrian expansion - it was essentially surrounded by hostile neighbours and had not direct access to vital mineral resources such as bronze and tin - are well presented. So are the reforms and the development of the army, the various services, and how the army was organized when on campaigns. Very appreciated are the various sections on the main campaigns of the main Assyrian warrior-kings from Tiglath-Pilaser III who introduced the first reforms to Assurbanipal, the last great king of what had become the Assyrian Empire and whose last years saw the Empire begin to crumble.
Angus McBride's illustrations are, as always, quite wonderful. They are also well chosen since they cover the evolutions of the war chariots, from light to heavy, and the development of the cavalry, also from light to heavy. They also show on a double page a superb illustration of an Assyrian siege with the warrior king taking part in the assault. Assyrian kings figure prominently in three of the illustrations. This is hardly surprising given that they spend perhaps most of their lives on campaigns putting down rebellions or conquering new territories.
Then there is the fearful reputation that the Assyrian forces earned for themselves, with massacres and mass deportation among other niceties. They were neither the first nor the last to use such means. These partly reflect their ruthless efficiency (a bit like the Romans a few centuries latter) but also deliberate policy choices made by their kings. With limited resources and surrounded by enemies, deportations was a good way of both weakening the potential of vanquished kingdoms that had been transformed into vassal states and of increasing the labour force in particular, and the population more generally, of the victor. The Hittites and the Egyptians, just to mention these two, did it also. Besides, there were, of course, no such niceties as Geneva conventions or even human rights at the time and behaviours that may strike us as horrific - and certainly were when you were on the receiving end - might have been much more common than what some of the sources (in the Ancient Testament, in particular) would seem to imply.
The volumes so far in Osprey's "Elite" series appear to be much like the longstanding "Men-at-Arms" series, only more so. They're thicker, with extended text, more color plates, and many more photos, maps, and diagrams. ("Elite" seems a misnomer when you're considering an entire culture, but that's just marketing.) Healy is an educator but not particularly an academic specialist in the ancient world. Still, his style is fluid and he does a good job in this overview, both in surveying Assyria's geopolitical goals and in interpreting the stone carvings which provide most of the pictorial evidence for what the Assyrian military was like. The plates, painted by the talented Angus McBride, are very good indeed, especially in showing detail and in pointing out the slow evolution of costume, armor, and weapons over three hundred years.