China

The Largest Armies in World History

A reproduction of a battle between Persians and Macedonians painted on glazed tiles
This battle scene is crowded, but just how many men are supposed to be involved? A detail of the reproduction of the Darius Mosaic from Pompeii in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo by Sean Manning, September 2015.

The most recent issue of Ancient Warfare magazine (X.6) contains an article on the battle of Chang-Ping in the Warring States period where allegedly several hundred thousand conscripts lost their lives. In western Eurasia, the first reliable evidence that anyone brought a hundred thousand or more combatants to a battle appears around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. (I could talk about what counts as reliable evidence, but suffice it to say that this is an empirical question and that numbers in stories about armies long ago and far away do not count). Occasionally one hears higher figures from India or China. Does any of my gentle readers know if those sizes are based on any real evidence, or just the usual choice between the various numbers given in stories about the battle?

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On the Internet as in a cavalry fight, there are too many things flashing in front of your face. Unknown painting of an incident in the Thirty Years’ War, Heeresgeschichtliche Museum, Wien. A village in France has preserved the bedroom of a young officer who died in the First World War... Continue reading: Link Dump