Battles and Sieges
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Categories: Ancient, Medieval, Modern

Battles and Sieges

Eannatum of Lagaš’s Stele of the Vultures in the Louvre, from

Academic histories sometimes get very narrowly focused. There are some good reasons for this, but its not so good to read a book on archaic or classical Greek warfare which barely acknowledges that Italy or the Hellenistic period existed. Did I fall into that trap in my book on Achaemenid armies and warfare?

To find out, I made a list of all the battles and sieges which I mentioned in my forthcoming book. Edit 2024-01-11: periods are the same as in Armour in Texts

Ancient: 15 fights (7 battles, 8 sieges)

  • ??? BCE Eannatum of Lagash’s victory in battle over Umma as recorded on the Stele of the Vultures (Jerrold S. Cooper, Reconstructing History from Ancient Inscriptions: the Lagash-Umma Border Conflict (1983))
  • ??? BCE Megiddo, battle of: Thutmosis III of Egypt surprises the defenders of Megiddo and they flee inside the walls
  • ??? BCE Kadesh, battle of: Muwatallis II of the Hittites ambushes Rameses II of Egypt who claims victory
  • ??? BCE Tollensee, battle of the: inter-regional coalitions fight along a boggy river ⛏️⛏️
  • ??? BCE Samaria, siege of: Ben-hadad of Syria besieges Samaria in Israel then mysteriously withdraws
  • 853 BCE Qarqar, battle of: Šalmanessar III of Assyria fights a coalition of kings and cities and claims victory
  • ??? BCE Hasanlu, siege of: unknown forces take and burn this city in the Median / Urartian / Assyrian borderlands ⛏️⛏️
  • 701 BCE? Lachish, siege of: Assyrian or Babylonian forces take a citadel of the kingdom of Judah ⛏️
  • ??? BCE Old Smyrna, siege of: Alyattes of Lydia besieges a city on the sea ⛏️
  • ??? BCE Gordion, Cyrus’ siege of: Cyrus the Great takes a city in Phrygia ⛏️
  • ??? BCE Sardis, Cyrus’ siege of: Cyrus the Great takes the capital of Lydia ⛏️
  • ??? BCE Phocaea, siege of: Achaemenid forces take a city on the sea ⛏️
  • 525 BCE Pelusium, 525 BCE battle of: Cambyses’ forces from Mesopotamia and Iran take the eastern gateway to Egypt
  • 522 BCE Zazana, battle of: Darius the son of Hytaspes and his party defeat Nidintu-Bēl of Babylon and his people
  • 514 BCE? Barce, Persian siege of: Achaemenid expeditionary force on land and sea from Egypt besiege a city in Cyrene after its people kill their king, take the city by treachery and impale the murderers (Hdt. 4.200-203)

Classical: 33 fights (19 battles, 14 sieges)

  • 497 BCE? Old Paphos, siege of: Achaemenid expeditionary force takes a rebel city on Cyprus ⛏️⛏️
  • 497 BCE? Soli on Cyprus, siege of: Achaemenid expeditionary force besieges a city for five months and takes it by undermining the walls (Hdt. 5.115)
  • 494 BCE? Miletus, Persian siege of: Achaemenid coalition besieges and takes a rebel city (Hdt. 6.18)
  • 490 BCE Marathon, battle of: Achaemenid punitive expedition repulsed by the natives
  • 480 BCE Thermopylae, battle of: Achaemenid army annihilate a force of natives barricading a pass ⛏️
  • 480 BCE Salamis, battle of: natives give an Achaemenid fleet a bloody nose
  • 479 BCE Plataea, battle of: natives defeat an Achaemenid expeditionary force
  • 479 BCE Podidaea, Artabazus’ siege of: Achaemenid detachment tries and fails to take a rebel city
  • 479 BCE Mycale, battle of: natives land on the coast of the Upper Sea and defeat an Achaemenid army and navy
  • 432 BCE – 430 BCE Potidaea, Athenian siege of: Athenians and their allies take a rebel city
  • 429 BCE – 427 BCE Plataea, siege of: Spartans and Boeotians take and destroy a free city
  • 401 BCE Cunaxa, battle of: brother of the reigning Achaemenid tries to take the throne but loses his life in Mesopotamia
  • 397 BCE Motya, siege of: Dionysius of Syracuse takes and massacres a city in Sicily despite the arrival of a Carthaginian fleet with reinforcements ⛏️
  • 371 BCE Leuctra, battle of: Boeotian League defeats the Spartans and their allies
  • 364 BCE Elean attack on Olympia: people of Elis attack Olympia to reclaim the site from the Arcadians (supposedly during the games!) ⛏️
  • 348 BCE Olynthus, siege of: Philip of Macedon besieges a city on the sea and takes it by treachery after hard fighting (Diodorus 16.53.2). ⛏️
  • 341 / 340 BCE Perinthus, siege of: Philip of Macedon tries to take a city on the sea but fails when the Achaemenid king intervenes
  • 334 BCE Granicus, battle of: Alexander the Great defeats an Achaemenid frontier army
  • 334 BCE Miletus, Alexander’s siege of
  • 334 BCE Halicarnassus, Alexander’s siege of
  • 333 BCE Issos, battle of: Alexander the Great defeats Darius III and his royal army
  • 332 BCE Tyre, Alexander’s siege of: Alexander the Great takes and destroys a free city ⛏️
  • 331 BCE Gaugamela, battle of: two armies march into a dust cloud. The army of Alexander the Great marches out.
  • 330 BCE Persian gates, battle of the: Achaemenid forces try and fail to keep Alexander the Great out of Persis
  • 326 BCE Hydaspes, battle of the: Alexander the Great crosses a river and defeats the army of Porus in the Punjab
  • 305 BCE – 304 BCE Rhodes, Demetrius’ siege of: wandering warlord tries and fails to take a free city ⛏️
  • ??? BCE Tall-e Takht, siege of: unknown forces destroy the citadal at Pasargadae ⛏️⛏️
  • 241 BCE Aegates Islands, battle of the: Romans and their allies annihilate a Carthaginian fleet ⛏️
  • 191 BCE Magnesia, battle of: Romans and their allies defeat a Seleukid royal army
  • 42 BCE Philippi, battle of: Caesarean forces defeat Caesar’s assassins in Macedonia
  • 31 BCE Actium, battle of: Gaius Octavius defeat Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra of Egypt ⛏️
  • 9 CE? Kalkriese, battle of: indigenous forces annihilate part of a Roman army ⛏️
  • 235 CE? Harzhorn, battle of the: imperial forces battle natives in Germania ⛏️⛏️

Early Medieval: 1 fight (0 battles, 1 siege)

  • 716 CE Byzantium, Arab siege of: Arabs try and fail to take the capital of the Roman empire with a combined land and sea blockade

Late Medieval: 6 fights (6 battles)

  • 1187 CE Hattin, battle of: Saladin annihilates the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and its allies
  • 1191 CE Arsuf, battle of: Richard of England defeats Saladin allowing his army to march freely
  • 1205 CE Adrianople, battle of: coalition of Bulgars, Vlachs, and Cumans destroys an army of Franks who have occupied Constantinople
  • 1340 CE Sluys, battle of: English fleet destroys a French fleet anchored and chained together in an estuary
  • 1346 CE Crécy, battle of: Edward III of England takes a strong position and defeats a series of disordered assaults under Philip VI of France
  • 1415 CE Agincourt, battle of: Henry V of England defeats a French army, allowing his army to escape home with prisoners and booty

Modern: 9 fights (6 battles, 3 sieges)

  • 1521 CE Tenochtitlan, siege of: roaming army of Franks destroys the capital of the Triple Alliance in Mexico
  • 1571 CE Lepanto, battle of: Frankish fleet (with the actual French conspicuously absent) destroys Ottoman fleet
  • 1638 CE Baghdad, siege of: Ottoman army takes city from Safavids, establishing the Ottoman-Persian border for the next 300 years
  • 1757 CE Leuthen, battle of: Frederick the Great of Prussia defeats the Austrian Hapsburgs and their allies
  • 1812 CE Badajoz, siege of: English, Portugese, and their allies capture a border city from its French occupiers
  • 1812 CE Salamanca, battle of: English and their allies smash a French army allowing them to capture Madrid
  • 1815 CE Waterloo, battle of: Prussian, Dutch, and British forces defeat Napoleon’s French before the rest of the Seventh Coalition arrives
  • 1916 CE Somme, battle of the: British and French forces try to take an entrenched position from imperial German forces, both sides suffer terrible losses for little gain
  • 1943 CE Prokhorovka, battle of: Soviet and Waffen-SS armoured forces clash as part of a struggle over the area around the city of Kursk

Up to the year 500 CE, two battles (out of 26: Tollensee and Harzhorn) and three sieges (out of 22: Hasanlu, Old Paphos, and Tall-e Takht) are only known through archaeology (double pick emojis).  Five battles and nine sieges have left important archaeological evidence in addition to written evidence (single pick emoji: the battles of Thermopylae, Olympia, Aegates Islands, Actium, Kalkriese and the sieges of Lachish, Old Smyrna, Gordion, Sardis, Phocaea, Motya, Olynthus, Tyre, Rhodes).

Between 24 and 26 (depending on whether you count Hydaspes or Tall-e Takht) of the 64 battles and sieges in this list involved Teispid or Achaemenid forces.

Even though the book does not cover naval or riverine warfare, I found reason to mention five naval battles (Salamis, Aegates Islands, Actium, Sluys, Lepanto) and four sieges involving naval assaults or blockades (Motya, Tyre, Rhodes, the Arab siege of Byzantium).

I have not counted the legendary siege of Ninus, Trojan War, and battle of Thymbrara and I have not counted all the cities that Agesilaus sat helplessly outside (§6.6.3). I have not counted Herodotus’ version of the death of Cyrus where he is beheaded by the Massagetae.  Nor have I counted sacks like Xerxes’ sack of Athens or Alexander’s sack of Persepolis. Tukulti-Ninurta’s conquest of Babylon, the destruction of the Urartian cities, the Egyptian siege of Harran in 609 BCE (§2.4), and other events that I just cite as events are also not counted. This list was based on the indices to the book and on events where I talk about how the battle or siege happened and not just that it happened. I have not counted the sacks of Mari or Nuzi since I talk about these as living cities.

This list is focused on western Eurasia. I do not mention anything east of Pasargadae, west of Badajoz on the Spanish-Portugese border, north of Tollensee or south of the Nile delta. Western Eurasia is where the Achaemenid empire was, and I cite many of these as examples, so the more familiar they are to the reader the more useful. Someone else is welcome to write a book which teaches us about Chandragupta Gupta and Muhammad Tughlaq or the Mohists and Cao Cao or the great Aztec and Inca war-leaders. But I think I succeeded in citing a broad range of comparative evidence, and placing my work in the context of world history. And I also think I avoided the trap of telling history as if the events which happen to be mentioned in one kind of surviving source (Greek literature, Assyrian royal inscriptions, archaeologists’ site reports) were all that is worth talking about.

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