Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Jaredite Practice of War

After examining the concept that a body of thought existed among Jaredite society, examining how that compared to other ancient societies and how that knowledge transferred to Nephite society I intend to focus on salient features on the Jaredite Art of War. The following list are brief points that stood out to this reader.

Equipment of Battle: This includes shields, breastplates, headplates, and people "clothed" for war (Ether 15:15). There is no word beyond the steel swords in Ether 7:9 about what weaponry they used. Although quickly after that, Shule regained the Kingdom (for his father). This could suggest a new innovation in weapons that allowed Shule a tactical edge in battle. Sword and shield are mentioned in Ether 15 but the phrase sounds like a literary convention. More significantly, they "marched" to battle. (see mode of combat for the importance of that point)

Building an army: It seems that the armies were only mass conscripted towards the end of Jaredite society (Ether 14:15) Although, perhaps these were extreme examples due to incessant warfare. Armies seemed to consist of ones "kinsfolk" with possible the possible addition of short term conscripts. It is tough to say for sure, but many ancient armies consisted of a few well trained regulars augmented by masses of conscripts. See my discussion of full time soldiers for more.

Causes for War: Many of the wars were started for standard reasons: money and power. Ether 10: 5 describes the benefits of ruling- taxes, women, spacious building(and silk is mentioned elsewhere). But there were two types of usurpents, the first was a member of the ruling family that sought the kingdom and if successful, placed the previous ruler in captivity. The second kind assassinated the ruler through the use of secret combinations. Ether also points out the fact that rulers were killed "while on the throne" (Ether 9:4-5). I can't put my finger on it, but it seems the juxtaposition of secret combinations v. other usurpers, and killing the King while on the throne v. keeping them captive. The secret combination suggest something that is cultural abhorrent but widespread in competition with "proper" statecraft.

Additionally, one secret combination gave a ruler "strength" (Ether 14:8). This is a confusing statement, possibly this refers to the new conscripts that were recruited through the ties of loyalty in a secret combination. The first secret combination consisted of ones "kinsfolk" (Ether 8:13), this implies that a ruler's household soldiers were the first source of the armed strength. Perhaps this ruler gained strength by getting well armed and trained retainers as replacements who could act as a solid corps of the ruler's army.

Locations and mode of Combat: Many of the battles took place on the "Plains of Agosh" and the "Valley of Gilead". (Ether 13:29-30) A weaker power would hide in the wilderness and could negate a superior power in that location. In Ether 14:3-7 Coriantumr pursued his enemy into the wilderness and had to retreat and besiege it. After being defeated in battle Coriantumr had to hide in the wilderness. But it was productive enough that he could use it for two years to gain strength.

The final battle takes place at the Waters of Ripliancum. (Ether 15:8) The water and the wilderness are not conducive to Chariot combat. Chariots were the dominant weapon form the about the 18th century B.C. until cavalry combat much later. (3rd century B.C. in China, while in Europe the Phalanx became dominant around 300 BC) The terrain mentioned favors chariot combat and exposes its implied limits. Wilderness and watery or swampy areas prevent the use of the heavy weapons of the state. The southern Chinese and Greeks knew this, which is why they employed infantry heavy forces. And the final battle of the Jaredites conform to this principle- infantry combat in terrain that is difficult for Chariot warfare.

BUT, there is not a single mention of a chariot, let alone chariot warfare in the book of Ether, and there is only one mention of a chariot in the entire Book of Mormon. Alternatively, the warfare in the Greek mainland consisted of groups of infantry meeting for brief shock battles in the plains and valleys. Thus the terrain mentioned in Ether is also condusive to infantry only combat. And giving the lack of internal evidence for chariots, and possible lack of external evidence (depending on which geographic model you subscribe to) infantry combat seems the more likely mode of battle.

Conclusion: Considering that Moroni only wrote "a hundreth part" of Ether's account, its amazing that we have an account of warfare, from how and why they were created to where and how they fought.


thefirestillburning said...

I really appreciate these pages, Morgan. I'll be watching for these things on my next pass through Ether.

One point struck me. In Ether, "swords and shields" go together. But among the Lehi descendents, the weapon mix that goes together the way we say "bow and arrow" is "sword and cimeter".

Cimiter is generally considered a (misspelled) anomaly for scimitar, which is itself a curved sword, most strongly associated with later eras of the Mid-East. It is clearly a strange usage, about which I have some ideas related to military issues. But before I contaminate my own thinking, I wondered if you knew of any standard "apologetic" answer in the LDS church for the existence of the term.

Morgan Deane said...

The book Warfare in the Book of Mormon discusses it. Basically the word can refer to any slashing/thrusting weapon with a curved blade. And they showed a picture from the Bonampack mural where a soldier was carrying the standard sword (a machuahitl [sp] in Mesomamerican terms) and a curved sword. They also went into some etyomology and thought that maybe some Jaguar Claws could count as cimeters as well.

Hamblin (or Roper) said there is almost no extant weapons, and only a handful of visual evidence from this age, so they have to guess. Although they vigorously dispute the exclusive conclusion that scimeters were unkown before the Middle Eastern word became popular. They have evidence of curved weapons from all over the near east, they were just called different things.

Hope that helps, its been awhile since I read those sections of Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

thefirestillburning said...

It was the etyomological connection I was looking to see, since I'd found it scattered through several sources and I wanted to know if they were common or independent. Jaguar in Meso would have the same glyph as lion in the Middle East and there seem to be at least two connections of early names of an Egyption curved sword connected to "foreleg" (because of its shape) or "lion's claw". The foreleg also seems to have had significant religious symbolism associated with it.

Knowing that I'm not completely crazy, then, I'll continue to think about what that says about the campaigns of the first Moroni.