Monday, May 16, 2005

Siege History I

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Conflict has been around for a long time; people have been fighting each other over all kinds of things. To win, you have to eliminate the enemy or incapacitate them from getting in your way again and make them accept your terms. When people started to gather together and build towns, it was easy for enemies to locate them. For nomadic enemies you have to find a track or get some info, hunt down the enemy and find them and attack them. This took a lot of time and effort, since the enemy could be anywhere. But now the location of you rival is in a place where he will probably stay for a while. This meant much more time to plan your attacks; so basically, the settling down of life started one of the first military revolutions, and a major one. It was no longer search and destroy, it was search, observe, prepare, then attack and destroy. For now we will not look at field battles, but sieges.

Pretty soon the settled people realized their danger, to keep their place protected they had to guard it. At first they may have used some watchfires and posted lookouts on the highest structures available. Some kind of alarm system would then be used to warn the town. As technology improved and settlements could afford more materials, they may have used specialized buildings that combined the watchfires, lookouts, and alarms into one place, a watchtower, these would be particularly higher than the other buildings for a better field of view. Still, they could be caught off guard and if the attacker rode horses there would be very little time to prepare. By now some rudiment of walls would have been used to pen up livestock in the night, to keep them in and others out. They must have realized that the same thing applied to people. Therefore, some guy decided to put some pieces of wood in a circle around the most important buildings in the village, in the space inside the people and valuables could be hoarded into quickly. The attacker realized this and thought of ways to fight it.

What followed was a military arms race that lasted thousands of years, right up until World War II when the advent of the blitzkrieg and heavy accurate artillery made any kind of walled fortification completely useless. This race lasted thousands of years.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Have you read von Clausewitz's "On War"?