National Geographic : 1951 Jan
"Modernized Warfare" Was Known 45 Centuries Ago ONE OF THE best known centers of Early Dynastic Sumer (third millennium B. c.) is the city of Lagash, modern Telloh. Excavated by the French in the course of 20 archeological campaigns, Lagash has revealed itself bril liantly to our own age, thanks to the artistic merit of its remains as well as the eloquence of the written accounts left us by its rulers. Some of these so-called priest-kings-older books refer to them as patesis, but the correct title is ensi-managed at times to overthrow powerful cities like Ur, and even to make their own might felt outside Mesopotamia, in the country of Elam to the east. Our illustration has drawn upon the combined evidence of written and material remains and has utilized not only the monuments and smaller objects from Lagash itself but also the existing finds from Ur. The scene depicts a battle between Lagash and its tradi tional 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 partly on the so-called War Standard from Ur and partly on the finds from the Royal Tombs at that site. 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 toidentify chariots, as has been done here, butthe slight liberty taken byarche ologist and artist in making the illustration serves agood purpose. The animals which are drawing the chariots are not horses but onagers, or wild asses.For the sake of contrast, the chariots of Emma have been copied from the smaller ofthe 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 2,000 years later, inAssyrian times, three straps passing under the forepart ofthe animal's belly hitched harness and pole together. The foot soldiers includelancers and archers. The head gear consists of a helmet, ofleather or metal, depending on the soldier's rank. The heavy cloaks arejoined only atthe neck to allow greater freedom of movement. The members of the massive phalanx,which anticipates the classical phalanx by 2,000 years, are protected by curved shields. Victory was usually celebrated byasumptuous banquet, such as is depicted on thePeace Standard from Ur. The festivities were followed bymore constructive occupations: repair of the damage caused bythe war, the building of temples, and the extensionofirrigation works. The desert must foreverbekept from encroaching on the sown land, and constantattention toirrigation was thus the most effective guarantee ofprosperity. Modern Iraq has a long way to go to match the industry and the per severance of its inhabitants of45centuries ago.