Chapter 8 - A Time of Times
The people hastened their packing and loading with difficulty as they tried to contain their excitement. Spontaneous singing by large groups began and carried on for many minutes with such heartfelt emotions that they left nothing to be said. By the end of the day, all had moved across the bridge, and it was torn down and packed up to the waving of trees and the warbles of songbirds trying to imitate the humans in their harmonies and melodies.
Again the caravan moved out, kicking up dust and eventually becoming stretched out across almost two leagues of distance. It was a momentous effort taken by Si-tatious and his men to keep the wagons, carts, animals, and people all together under the protection of the army. Soldiers on horseback continuously moved up and down the line to shout encouragement, and at times, getting off their mounts to assist in the changing of a wheel or the pulling forward of an ox that characteristically had had enough of the walking and pulling.
Each day, more and more groups of people streamed to the caravan asking and pleading for admittance or help, of which all gradually became accepted. Each man, woman, and child, if able, were to read the law code and sign off on it, indicating they understood and accepted it. If someone could not read, a scribe would read it out loud while putting his or her name down, with two witnesses attesting to the acceptance and signature.
At this point, Talmido and Si-tatious had a registration done again, as all men of military age were to register for the militia and receive training. The population total came to 41,598 souls. The total additional men added to the military reserves amounted to 6,385 for a total of 24,006 military personnel. The training continued without letup, even as recruits joined.
At various times, troops were sent to neighboring towns to purchase foodstuffs, clothing, other mundane necessities, and animals. The people were directed to send in their lists of items along with their gold to obtain them. If they did not have the gold, a charity was set up to assist them, and loans were issued to be paid back with either gold or labor. It was a fair system, and one on which all had agreed.
It was here, twenty-three leagues from their destination that scouts galloped into the camp of the caravan and stopped for the night. Jumping off their mounts, they rushed to their army’s central command tent to inform their captains that the Babylonian army had crossed the Tigris River.
“Sir, the Babylonians are now camped just seven leagues northwest of us. They are readying for battle,” an out of breath messenger said.
“Let the Captains know to be ready for troop deployment within the next quarter night shift,” Si-tatious said.
“Yes, sir,” the messenger said then saluted, turned about and left.
“What do you think, Talmido? Do we have enough time to get the caravan packed up and moving?” Si-tatious asked.
“It will be tight, but yes, I think we can do it. Please prepare the group leaders for departure, and I will take care of the militia,” Talmido replied.
“Sounds good. Hopefully, we will be ready to move out within the early morning shift,” Si-tatious remarked.
“Yes, I hope so as well, but if not, we will need to march the troops out to meet the Babylonians, giving the caravan enough time to ready themselves for departure,” Talmido said. “We will use the militia as a buffer to slow the Babylonians down. It is risky, but I am sure it will work.”
Orders were given for the military to pack up and move three leagues northwest toward the Tigris River to cut off the advancing Babylonian army. Emissaries were dispatched to Susa, requesting assistance from the Elamite king, and scouts were sent out to determine the strength of the enemy while the soldiers readied themselves for the march and ultimate battle. It was eerily quiet. No one said a word. The wives and children had become accustomed to this life; tears were shed, hugs and kisses given, as the men whispered words of love before departing.
“Have the orders been given for the caravan to move out?” Si-tatious asked.
“Yes, sir, they are now beginning their withdrawal,” the aide replied.
“Good. Let the captain know we will meet up with them as planned within four days.”
“Yes, sir,” the aide said, then left the command tent to deliver the orders.
The caravan was instructed to move out immediately one hour before sunrise and continue on its way toward the final destination. Three hundred and fifty men were left behind with a proven and capable captain to lead the caravan and keep order. Si-tatious and Talmido needed to be with the army to prepare and plan the battles. They could not stay behind.
That moment was a defining period when men would either become legends or lost for all time to iniquity. There was no singing or shouts of courage. The men quietly moved with their shoulders hunched up to ward off the cold bite of the early-morning air. There was no fanfare or celebration of waving families and friends sending those men off. It was a march of desperate soldiers determined to win a battle for their loved ones or die. They had been witness to all kinds of inhuman acts of depravity. These were not men who were weak of heart or mind. The fact they were now in an army of free men was a testament to their resolve.
The Assyrians arrived upon a valley adjacent to the Tigris River; they pitched their tents and rested before the coming battle. Scouts came and went with regularity, and they indicated the Babylonians had amassed three leagues to their northwest. A call went out for all the men to get ready to march.
They had witnessed scouts spying on their army camp, so they expected the Babylonians to show up in this valley for the battle to ensue. It was bright and spacious with stunted trees, the Tigris River on its left, and the foothills of the Zagros Mountains on its right. The company commanders barked their orders, preparing the men, stealing nerves, and focusing minds on the day’s task at hand.
The men cleaned their equipment and checked each other’s armor for any broken plates or misaligned leatherwork. It was solemn and quiet; there was no need to expend energy before this battle, as every ounce of energy was required from the men to achieve victory.
The battle plan was simple and direct. Two groups of cavalry would flank the archers, who were lined up behind the phalanxes of spearmen, with the shield and buckler units positioned directly behind the phalanxes.
Ramparts were built one hundred cubits behind the archers with fifty ballistae positioned on them. A locking mechanism incorporated into the construction of each unit did away with the use of horses. Of the fifty ballistae constructed, ten were one and a half times larger and able to throw twenty-pound and twenty-five-pound stone projectiles at a distance of four hundred cubits.
In addition to the ballistae, all the arrows were iron-tipped and all the axes and spears made of iron. It could be a defining factor in the Assyrian success, and Talmido, Si-tatious, and the rest of the men knew they needed to use that advanced technology to their advantage.
The cavalry was instructed not to directly engage any of the foot soldiers as they would focus on killing their horses to dismount the men. The cavalry was a harassment force to keep the Babylonian cavalry away from the archers and the ballistae while the phalanxes of spearmen and shield and buckler men engaged the enemy with a three-pronged frontal attack.
From the beginning of the foothills to the Tigris River was half a league of distance. It meant the Assyrian men needed to keep the Babylonians from outflanking them and coming in from behind to destroy their archery groups and ballistics. That would not be easy. They estimated there were at least fifty to seventy thousand men in the Babylonian army contingent and thought the odds were possibly three or four to one against them. Those odds did not look good for them; however, with superior weapons, tactics, and resolve, the battle could still be won.
Talmido and Si-tatious sat upon their horses surveying the Babylonian army. They paced back and forth in front of the soldiers waiting patiently behind them.
Talmido turned his horse around and faced the groups of soldiers with a grim look upon his face and shouted, “Today is the final battle of our resolve. What will it be men? Will you fight or will you cower? Will you live or die on your feet or on your back? It is but a moment away now, our freedom from oppression, fear, hunger and death for our loved ones. Hold fast to your strength and focus. Do not give out. We will win if each and every one of you stand firm with your brother to your right and your brother to your left. For we are all brothers in this fight. We are all part of a family desiring our freedom of choice. Are you with me?”
The message ran through the lines and the columns of men roar out their approval and acceptance. The captains began to bark out orders and the columns moved into line. Si-tatious continued to run up and down the lines shouting out encouragement and commands.
“Hold your ground. Do not back down. Yes, the Babylonians look fierce, yes they look strong but you, you are vicious, not afraid of death and you have the strength of five armies. Hold your shields up. Protect the man to your left. Remember Ashur is on our side. Enki will not have its reward today by your death. Keep your resolve men and remember your loved ones and your ancestors. The day will be ours.” Si-tatious shouted out.
The men continued to shout out their pent up anxiety, stress, fear and anticipation creating rolling waves of sound like thunder on a clear day. The Babylonian army units assembled five hundred cubits in front of the Assyrians to much horn-blowing, shouting, and stamping of feet. The Assyrian men kept quiet as there was no need for the expenditure of energy. No tent of meeting was set up for negotiation, as there would be no mercy.
Both sides looked at each other as banners of silver and gold glinted in the sunlight while linen flags of various forms snapped in the breeze. It had become a battle of nerves as the Babylonians continued to move forward and stretch out from the Tigris River to the foothills to a depth of two leagues. They were awe-inspiring and terrifying to any man who saw their show of force, but to Talmido, it was all bluster. He knew the tactics and failings of the Babylonian army. He knew what had to be done to defeat them, and he had set in place all the required parameters to win the war. There was nothing to do but implement the plan and kill as many of the enemy as possible in the shortest period.
The cavalry of the Babylonian army moved back and forth across the rear guard of their frontline battle units, shifting positions and jockeying for a more strategic point of egress toward the Assyrian army. Horns started blaring out into the sunshine-filled day, commanding the Babylonian units to move forward, at which time a shudder ran through the frontline units as they took their first step toward the Assyrians. They pulled their helmets down tight, and they held their spears straight out with the firm resolve to inflict as much death and pain as possible. Another horn blew, and the column stopped; archers ran forward through the columns, aimed their arrows up into the sky, and repeatedly fired with deadly accuracy.
The Assyrian men crouched down and held their shields above their heads to protect themselves from the rain of death. A small number of men were cut down as chaff in the wind. Talmido ordered his archers and ballistae to stand down and wait for the Babylonians to come closer so they could inflict as much damage as possible without wasting assets. Four times the Babylonian archers fired upon the frontline men of the Assyrian army, inflicting slight casualties. Babylonian horns blew once more, and their phalanxes of men began to move forward as one—a monster readied to inflict as much violence upon its enemy as was possible. They moved within two hundred cubits of the frontline Assyrian phalanxes and stopped, waiting for the order to charge, but Talmido had a surprise for them.
An Assyrian horn cried out to the sky and seemed to implore the gods for a victory. The columns of men standing before the Babylonians shifted, opening up gaps between each column to reveal ballistae staring straight down three hundred and fifty cubits at the Babylonian phalanx units. Another horn cried out, and all fifty ballistae fired at once with stones weighing eight to twenty-five pounds. The projectiles flew across the field, smashing headlong into the Babylonian men, crushing, killing, and grinding them into the earth before the eyes of their brothers-in-arms. Successively, the archers let fire a hail of iron-tipped arrows that sliced through the Babylonian ranks like a knife through butter. The archers and the ballistae took turns shooting; as one shot, the other rearmed, and the barrage of projectiles continued until thousands of men lay dead or dying on the battlefield in front of them. The command went out for the Assyrian phalanxes of spearmen to move forward. They marched with a dogged determination and quickly reached the Babylonian front lines while the Babylonians were trying to maintain order and discipline in the face of such carnage.
The Assyrians killed any man lying on the field still alive, stabbing and hacking until their arms grew weary with fatigue. The phalanxes kept cutting through the mass of Babylonian army units, shoving their way deeper into it. The cavalry continued to harass the flanks of the Babylonians with effective archery and javelin thrusts to keep them hemmed in on each side and unable to outflank the Assyrians. Slingers moved up one hundred cubits in front of the archers and began to pick men off with increasing accuracy, creating mayhem and confusion within the enemy ranks.
The Babylonians brought up their reserves and had them wait behind their frontline units as their horns blew, indicating a change in men. Fresh units moved forward, unaware of the carnage, and pressed their attack against the Assyrian soldiers, pushing them back while at the same time increasing the length of their front to try and envelop the Assyrians in an ever-tightening flanking movement. Talmido could see what the Babylonians were doing while standing on a tall platform situated on their center rampart. He sent messengers down to the unit commanders with the order to open up the lines so the ballistae could fire at almost-point-blank range into the new enemy units.
Shortly after that, the phalanxes opened up, and the ballistae fired with devastating effects, mowing down men with great effectiveness. The Assyrians kept up the barrage until their horns blew, indicating a rotation change. The Babylonians were beginning to get desperate and pressed ever harder against the tiring Assyrian army units. The shield and buckler units were now ordered to move forward and start close-range combat with swords and axes, gradually replacing the phalanxes of spearmen at the front. They hacked their way through the lightly armored Babylonian spearmen. Getting in close was the key to defeating any spear phalanx. Axmen could cut spearheads off, giving swordsmen the ability to move straight in for the kill.
It was demonstrated with such effective success now that close-quarter combat was needed. The ballistae, archers, and slingers continued their assault on the army units behind the Babylonian front line to keep up the pressure and possibly weaken the lines before they moved up to encounter the Assyrian front. The Babylonian archers and slingers did likewise, taking their toll on the Assyrian reserves waiting behind the front line.
Three hours had transpired, and the enemy showed no slowing of momentum. They kept the pressure up against the Assyrian army with hand-to-hand combat, trying to wear them down through superior numbers and brute force. What they seemed not to know or were unaware of was the fact that an iron sword, ax, or spear did not become dull as quickly as a bronze one. It not only kept its edge longer, but it also was able to puncture through or slice off appendages with much greater ease and speed. For every Assyrian the Babylonians killed, the Assyrians cut down three Babylonians. Even with that ratio, the Assyrians could not keep up the fight for much longer.
Talmido watched the battle play itself out in front of him, sensing the weakening of his men, knowing they would eventually give out. The ground was slick with rivulets of blood running down toward the Tigris River. The men slipped and fell as they tried to move forward or push back against the Babylonian shield wall. Piles of bodies laid everywhere as the din of fighting filled the air with its gore and destruction. The Assyrians needed a new strategy.
The spear phalanxes once again moved into the fray. They forced their way forward, cutting down the enemy and pushing the battle units back while the shield and buckler men regrouped and rested. The cavalry galloped into action, attacking the enemy flanks and cutting them down with staggering efficiency. The cavalry would move in and out of the fray at will, hacking at men, cutting through the lines, and leaving swaths of dismembered bodies lying everywhere. Upon finishing, the cavalry would move out of the line to check the flanks for Babylonian cavalry units trying to attack the ballistae, archers, and slingers.
Tens of thousands of men lay dead or dying on the battlefield. The screams of the dying filled the air as the fighting units on both sides continued their savagery. The Assyrian army units, now fully committed to the fight with no reserves left, formed a convex shape to counter the pressure of the Babylonian force. The ballistics units of the Assyrians kept up a steady barrage of arrows and stones, raining destruction down onto the heads of the enemy soldiers.
“Move the cavalry units towards the right flank to harass the enemy archers and slingers. We need those units pinned down immediately,” Talmido ordered.
“Sir, should we move the center troops forward to deflect the encirclement and strengthen our left flank?” a Lieutenant asked.
“Yes, give the order.”
The lieutenant turned, and a messenger immediately departed to the command unit to have the horns sounded.
The cavalry moved along the foothills, galloping at a rapid rate to outflank the Babylonian horsemen and chariots. The chariots were utterly ineffective due to the compressed area of the battlefield. They had no room for movement; hence, they were kept out of the fray and hung back to protect the rear. It was these charioteers that the Assyrian cavalry met as they proceeded along the right side of the battle, trying to gain access to the Babylonian rear flank.
The Assyrian and Babylonian cavalry and chariot units circled each other, firing arrows into each other’s ranks. The Assyrian horsemen kept their distance from the chariots due to the rotating sickles on their wheel hubs. Because the Assyrian cavalry moved faster and was more maneuverable than the charioteers, they were able to eliminate the Babylonian chariot threat and effectiveness.
With practiced adroitness, the cavalry veered hard to the left, shot arrows into the chariot units, and galloped hard toward the archery and slinger detachments. Those men were caught completely unaware by the cavalry that bore down on them with the intent of sending them to their ancestors with all the honor and glory such men deserved.
At the last second, the men realized their impending doom and screamed with desperation as the horsemen plunged into their ranks, stabbing and slicing into them with such violence that it left nothing to the imagination. Arms, heads, and spewing fountains of blood erupted into the air with such ferocity that the captains were speechless with fear.
The formations of archers and slingers began to crumble as the Assyrian cavalry tore through them with such lightning speed and dexterity that they had to wheel about or plunge into the Tigris River quickly. The cavalry soon began to encircle the ballistics groups of the Babylonians, cutting them down with grit and iron. Some of the archery units tried to defend themselves; however, it was useless against hardened battle horses and men determined to cut them down.
It was the beginning of the end for the Babylonians; however, they still pressed on with their frontal attack, hoping their cavalry would be able to take on the Assyrian cavalry and eliminate them. It was not to be the case as the Assyrian cavalry, once finished with the Babylonian ballistics groups, split into two groups with one engaging the Babylonian cavalry and the second pounding its way toward the Babylonian army’s headquarters tent at the center of their camp. They smashed through shelters and racks, bowling over men and animals as they tore their way further into the camp.
There was 2,480 cavalry, of which 1,860 were dispatched to the right flank so they could move into the rear of the Babylonians. Eight hundred cavalry units detached themselves from the main body, galloping into the Babylonian camp, heading toward its army headquarters. Men standing in front of this onslaught could not believe their eyes as the horses with lather flinging off their mouths and eyes red from exertion bore down on them while the men on their backs screamed at Babylonian faces as they cut men in the prime of life down.
The horses and men slammed into the Babylonian army headquarters, wreaking destruction and death on anyone foolish enough to take a stand against them. Again and again, the cavalrymen continued to attack the camp, causing complete devastation.
At the front, the phalanxes of spearmen continued their push against the Babylonian front line, keeping their close-combat units at bay until the shield and buckler men could rush in to provide the final blow.
It was now five and a half hours since the first volley of arrows had been unleashed at the Assyrians. The fight was becoming a battle of sheer will. The men were running solely on the reserves of strength they had left, knowing that to rest was to die. Still, the men would not quit. They fought like a lion that was cornered and had no way out. They struggled with the fear of defeat and the faces of their families and friends being tortured and killed in their minds. They fought with the will of the desperate, with no way out but to survive or die. They hacked, slashed, stabbed, bit, tore, clawed, and screamed at their enemies with every ounce of energy they had, yet it was not enough.
Even with their command structure and camp in complete chaos, the Babylonian lines, due to the tenacity and discipline of the captains and men, held and pressed their attack. Slowly the flanks of the Assyrian front line began to bend into themselves, indicating an impending encirclement. It would soon be the end for the Assyrians—the end of it all.
Horns blew into the noon sky, hundreds of them blasting away into the heat of the day, announcing the approach of men, horses, and chariots. Banners shone with the brightness of the sun, and linen flags snapped in the afternoon wind as men marched over the Zagros foothills toward the Babylonian army.
Talmido looked up, his eyes widening with shock and relief. His hands trembled with nerves of steel uncoiling and releasing a plethora of chemical actions and reactions to counter the stress that had been building up over the course of the last few hours.
“Lieutenant, pull the men back. Regroup them for a final assault,” Talmido ordered.
“Yes, sir. Right away,” the lieutenant replied.
“Move those men over there. Pull the cavalry back to form up,” Talmido shouted.
Messengers ran about delivering the orders, and soon the lines began to pull back and reform as Elamite shock troops plowed their way into the Babylonians’ left flank.
The Elamite cavalry charged through the Babylonian ranks at will, dispersing the men and breaking down all form of discipline and momentum. The fresh troops savagely exacted justice on the Babylonians with no mercy or regret, remembering how their ancestors had been treated with such disdain and hatred over the centuries by that enemy.
The Babylonian army units tried to turn toward this new attack; however, the Assyrian battle lines stopped them dead in their tracks. The front line faltered and shivered like an animal caught in a trap, knowing there was no way out. Their greed had overpowered their reason, and now their enemies’ trap was sprung with the finality of the decision.
The men on the Babylonians’ left flank attempted to face the Elamite enemy to no avail, and subsequently tried to flee. The troops behind them were not at first aware of the devastation bearing down on them and impeded their own ability to turn. Thousands were cut down and trampled by their men and the enemy alike. Pandemonium began to display itself and infect the ranks. Men began to throw down their weapons to claw their way through the lines behind them, shouting for a retreat.
The Assyrian cavalry located behind the Babylonian front lines turned its attention now to the men in reserve, who were trying to recuperate and return to carry on the fight. The cavalry slammed into these men, throwing them to the left and the right, breaking bones, severing heads, and trampling them to death. It was war at its finest. It was a sight to behold and be relished by any warrior, commander, or career soldier. The Babylonians were doomed to be destroyed. It would go down in history as a significant battle fought.
The ballistics groups continued their barrage, all the while aiming for the heart of the front lines, mowing men down with such rapidity, shrinking their effectiveness, and allowing the Assyrian and Elamite phalanxes and columns of men to carry on with their work.
Soon the Elamite soldiers were cutting their way across the Babylonian front line, massacring the men with such glee that they sang the songs of their ancestors—songs of justice, retribution, and revenge—while dealing death to these men. The Elamites were an accomplished fighting society. Cowards, they were not. They had forged an empire out of the diversity of their peoples and the rough justice of the land there.
This fight was part of their overall plan to subjugate Babylonia and secure their trade routes to the west. By assisting the deserting Assyrians, the Elamites were helping themselves in expanding their empire economically, politically, and militarily. It would be one fight out of many to come, so now was the time of times to start and see it through to the end, Shutruk-Nahhunte, the king of Elam, reasoned.
So, the Elamite army contingent was sent to assist these fleeing Assyrians and to secure land by the sea above Akkad for Elam. The whole Elamite army contingent of twenty-five thousand men moved as one against the Babylonians, crushing them against the Tigris River and sending thousands to a watery grave. The Babylonians were now in full retreat with no thought of rearguard action. It was every man for himself. Platoons and units tried to carry on the fight but were quickly subdued. By the evening, the fighting had stopped. The fleeing men were being hunted down and either killed or captured.
As those events were taking place, Talmido and Si-tatious had moved off the dais and into the front lines to assist with the fighting. Now covered in blood and mud, the two men watched the Elamites finish the battle. Most of the Assyrian men had stopped fighting out of sheer exhaustion and were grateful for the arrival of the Elamite army.
The din of battle gradually receded from the Assyrian front line. Eventually, the cavalry returned at a languid walk. The horses and men were utterly exhausted from the fight. With no energy left in them, the men sat down where they were to recuperate. Groups of ballistics men moved out to the battlefield to collect the wounded. They were seen running back and forth, gathering Assyrian and Babylonian men alike. Any distinction between soldiers did not occur as they knew who those soldiers mainly were. Perhaps, as before, they would have a change of heart and join the cause, if given a chance.