"Modernized Warfare" Was Known 45 Centuries Ago
The scene depicts a battle between Lagash and its traditional rival, the neighboring city-state of Umma. The victorious leader of the charge is Eannatum, one of the early rulers of Lagash, who in his celebrated Stele of the Vultures left us a record that is significant for both its historical and its artistic content.
The king's chariot and equipment are based on the so-called War Standard from Ur and partly on the fields from the Royal Tombs at that sits. The city emblem of Lagash was a lion-headed eagle sinking his claws into the bodies of two animals, usually lions standing back to back.
A beautiful example of this emblem has been preserved on the famous silver vase of Entemena, nephew of Eannatum.
This symbol may never have been used to identify chariots, as has been done here, but the slight liberty taken by the archeologist and artist in making the illustration serves a good purpose.
The animals which are drawing the chariots are not horses, but onagers, or wild asses. For the sake of contrast, the chariots of Umma have been copies from the smaller of the two known types of that period.
It should be added, to supplement the illustration, that at this particular time stout collars kept the steeds hitched to the pole. Some 2000 years later, in Assyrian times, three straps passing under the forepart of the animal's belly hitched harness and pole together.
The foot soldiers include lancers and archers. The headgear consists of a helmet, of leather or metal, depending on the soldier's rank. The heavy cloaks are joined only at the neck to allow greater freedom of movement. The members of the massive phalanx, which anticipates the classical phalanx by 2000 years, are protected by curved shields.
Victory was usually celebrated by a sumptuous banquet, such as depicted on the Pace Standard from Ur. The festivities were followed by more constructive occupations: repair of the damage caused by the war, the building of temples, and the extension of irrigation works.
The desert must forever be kept from encroaching on the sown land, and constant attention to irrigation was thus the most effective guarantee of prosperity. Modern Iraq has a long way to go to match the industry and the perseverance of its inhabitants of 45 centuries ago.