Friday, July 23, 2010

Neo-Assyrian kingdom and her neighbors equids

Neo-Assyrian Kigdom ( List of Assyrian kings  ) and its  art ( wiki/Neo-Assyrian_Empire Arts of Assyria  ) always invokes the strongest feelings because of a degree of brutality shown (in this XIX century book there are many images taken from Assyrian sculptures showing that side of their art  Assyria  ).
But at the same time their art is the best place where to find images of fabulous horses, horse tack and ample evidence of horsemanship for the period between 900 to 600 ( I millennium) BC (BCE).
From the cuneiform tablets we can learn that the best breeding ground for the  horses were in Mannea, east and south of Lake Urmia (  wiki/Lake_urmia  ).  Their horsemen were allegedly the first non-steppe cavalry organized in the so called civilized world of Western Asia, and their art gives ample proof of gradual changes in the horse tack, seat and weaponry and armour for these horsemen.
Paintings from Til Barsip, strategic Assyrian stronghold  located along the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, c.100km northeast of Aleppo, Syria, provide beautiful examples of Assyrian horses and their tack eg til barsip chariot  some originals at Louvre and Aleppo Museum, many paintings copied by Lucien Cavro (I got mine from Andre Parrot, The Arts of Assyria Arts Assyria Parrot  )
Assyria had many enemies, including Egypt, Syrian princedoms, Elam elam , desert nomads, Medes, Persians, Anatolians, Babylonians to name a few. War was essential to their survival and wealth, while a mighty stallion, whether mounted or pulling a chariot, was the symbol of it.

But since a picture is worth a thousand words lets show some links and pictures to these images.
horse head
horse head II
horse head III
horse head IV
this one is interesting as it shows king hunting the lion with a spear from horseback, a theme so common in the Iran's Sassanian art more than a thousand years later king with spear attacking a lion
onager or wild ass
hunting lions from a chariot
chariot horses
4 horses' team in king's chariot
using a horse whip while riding
a lion attackiing a king's saddle horse
grooming and watering horses
metal head protection -frontelet
luristan bronze horse tack
Assyrian influenced Cypriot bridle from VII century
enemies of Assyria Urartu Chariot
 Assyrian spolis Urarartian captured_horses
 Assyrian fighting the camel desert nomads
 Assyrian troops return
 Balawat palace door of Salmanassar
Balawat palace door of Salmanassar2

 elamite chariot
Assyrian horsemen
no metal breastplate for the Assyrian horse have been found thus far but this one was found at Mannean site of  Hasanlu Tepe, Iran ( CAIS hasanlu   hasanlu MET   CAIS porada-hasanlu   ) where best horses were bred for the Assyrians and their enemies alike,  and is dated to around 800 BC  hasanlu breastplate
with a book on this horse breastplate breastplate book

'Horse' books to read : 'Selected writings on chariots and other early vehicles, riding and harness' Littauer et al    Hyland Horse in the Ancient World   Azzaroli
Finally, from Assyria we get the very first image (during the reign of Ashurnasirpal II or Shalmaneser III  - palace at Nimrud, ancient Kalhu) of so called 'Parthian Shot,' a tactic of turning around in the 'saddle' and shooting arrows,  from one's bow while  sitting astride a cantering or  galloping horse, at the pursing enemy. 
Here, the  Assyrian royal chariot is pursuing these most likely Iranian Skuda mounted riders and one of  them is about to fire his arrow at the chariot crew.

Head hunting and bow shooting Cimmerians and later Scythians/Skuda/Saka 

attacked and wrecked the kingdoms of  Assyria's enemies from Anatolia -   kingdom of Urartu and Phrygia  and  Mushki, but then next wave of these horsemen  lent their hands and bows   (in alliance with the Medes, who had finished off Urartu ) to the final destruction of  Assyria herself, at the end of the VII century,  and  the fall of the city of Harran marks the end of the Neo-Assyrian empire. Assyrian art would later surface in the Persian arts of the Achaemenid Empire etc.

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