Sunday, November 17, 2013

Assyrian Heavy Infantry

    By popular demand (two people, that's almost a crowd, right?), here is the first of a series of posts concerning my Assyrian army. The vast majority of the figures are Minifigs, among the last (and nicest) of their 25mm figures released, dating from the mid to late 1970's. These were painted expressly for use with our gridded Ancient wargame rules, which I have named Legio Quaternarius. In those rules, a unit occupies one three to four inch square (or hex), and  usually has 2 stands, with with a 60mm frontage, generally following the basing convention of the Wargames Research Group (WRG). For use with other rules, they are grouped into larger units. Each of these larger units has its own color for its robes,
denoting the "Division" it belongs to: Orange for Shamash (sun god), Green for Ishtar (goddess of lover, fertility,. and war), Purple for Nergal (god of the Underworld), Blue for Nabu (god of writing and wisdom), Yellow for Ashur (god of Assyria, and of war), and White for Sin (Moon god). The sub-units are then distinguished by their "facing color" (you can tell I started in Napoleonics. right?), typically displayed on the fringes of their robes. There is no historical justification for any of this that I am aware of but I still like the system for organizational purposes! Indeed, as I recall, the names of god and goddesses above and the color associated with them were inspired by a fantasy novel where the character had a vision of visiting Babylon, from whence much of Assyrian culture derived). 

   The Assyrians are known to us first from the Bible, where they are certainly not seen sympathetically at all, and second from the inscriptions found in their palaces and temples, which emphasize conquest and their cruel treatment of foes who refuse to submit to the might of Assyria. Considering that boasting of the King's conquests and power was pretty par for the course for this era, one might question if the Assyrians were all that much worse than anyone else of the times. I am going to use some poetic license (literally), and use Lord Byron's poem, "The Destruction of Sennacherib" (published in 1815) for mood:

 The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,

That host with their banners at sunset were seen:

Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

 For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;

And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

 And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,

But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;

And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

   And there lay the rider distorted and pale,

With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:

And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

 And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,

And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;

And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Byron's account follows the version of  events told in the Bible; Sennacherib himself merely records the submission of Jerusalem with payment of tribute, making no mention of plague nor losses... not that Kings (or sacred texts) have ever recorded their own versions of events that might be less than historically accurate form an impartial perspective, of course!

Speaking of accuracy, the large cane shields seen on the units of heavy archers above were probably only used at sieges; never mind, they are far to nifty and iconic not to use!



  1. Great stuff, Peter! Throwing Lord Byron in to augment your photos was a nifty bonus.

    1. Thanks, Jon. Just trying to bring you guys a little Kulture!

      (Byron was of course quite the Romantic, and a rather scandalous character! He died young in Greece at the age of only 36, going there to fight for Greek independence from the Turks).

  2. Well, I think I am one of the two guys who wanted to see that...Great looking, but GREAT LOOKING Assyrians HI Peter. The second picture is my favourite, I can see myself in front of such troops, so impressive!!
    I like them!

    1. Phil, I think I may have been the other!

    2. Thanks, Phil!

      Just be sutre to crouch if you're standing in front of those Heavy Archers when they let loose! :-)

    3. And yes, Jon, I believe it WAS you and Phil... so it is fitting that you have the first comments, eh?!

  3. You can't beat old Minifigs, and these are wonderful. As for Byron; mad, bad and dangerous to know.

  4. Glad you enjoyed them.

    Lord Byron certainly knew enough women (in the Biblical sense), and probably at least a few men as well, but I think we are safe from all that now! :-)

  5. Nice looking units. I like the color themes. I try to make army color themes because I find if you go too realistic (for fantasy/medieval/dark age) you can't tell the forces apart.

  6. Thanks Sean. I would agree that from a practical standpoint, it is useful to be able to fairly easily differentiate the various units in an army (as well as the opposing sides). Piquet family rules, for example, have variable unit ratings, so two identically equipped units might have quite different combat ratings.

  7. Excellent post; good looking army and Byron's poetry. I don't think I've read Byron since the '70's; now to find that book.