Published on

Major changes in warfare from antiquity to modern

  • avatar
    Predrag TASEVSKI

Analyse the major changes in warfare from antiquity to modern days. What are the most significant changes? What has remained unchanged?

Before we start the discussion about the major changes in warfare from antiquity to present day we will precede with definition of War and its significant and remained unchanged changes.

WAR in its literal meaning is fighting, for fighting alone is the efficient principle in the manifold activity which, in a wide sense, is called war. But fighting is a trial of strength of the moral and physical forces by means of the latter. That the moral cannot be omitted is evident of itself, for the condition of the mind has always the most decisive influence on the forces employed in war (Graham, 2002).

Humanity has wedged war since antiquity through nowadays for million causes, national and religious freedom, hatred, grudge, human rights, liberating the enslaved etc. But one principle in war has always been present from the depths of history till today, that is, wars are fought for one purpose only, conquest of new territory from which economic benefit is to be acquired for the soul use of the conqueror. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the armed clashes of the beginning of the XXI century, when under the pretext of human rights countries are being robed from their natural resources and air-raids are killing those whom should protect.

After we met with the theory of war and moral principles, it is time to consider changes that have occurred between the ancient and modern times. The military of ancient Egypt had introduced the new technologies of metal, where they used bronze in the Middle Kingdom as main weapons source, after it changed to iron in the New Kingdom and all during the Late Dynastic Period. The Old Kingdom soldiers were equipped with a great variety of weapons: shields, spears, cudgels, maces, daggers, bows and arrows. The New Kingdom carried spears, battle axes, sickleswords (MdC transliteration: xpS – khepesh or khopesh) and daggers. After the bowmen, either on foot or on chariots, had softened up the enemy forces with a shower of arrows (Dollinger, Dynasties XVIII to XX, 2004), the infantry would rush in, breaking their ranks with hand weapons, maces with wooden handles and stone – later metal – heads, battle axes, hatchets, clubs, swords, sickleswords and daggers (Dollinger, Weapons, 2010).

Persian Army had only three wars, started from 490 BC until 478BC, the army was very multicultural, were organizes in a decimal basis, regiments, units and corps were grouped in tens, hundreds and thousands (Drury, 2006). Officers were being responsible for ten men, another for one hundred, one thousand and ten thousand. Heavily equipped with weapons, which are: Thrusting Spear, palta, Akinakes , Xiphos, kopis, bow etc (Wildfiregames, 2004).

Greece war, first nine years of the war consisted of both war in Troy and war against the neighbouring regions, where destroyed Trojan economy, allowed Greeks to getter a large amount of resources. The Greeks won most of the battles, but they still could not break the walls of Troy. The weapons that were used in those battles were bows and arrows. As for strategies the famous Trojan horse, when Odysseus had a perfect idea to build a big wooden horse where inside will be field with the soldiers, which bring and invasion of Troy from the Greeks (Rita, 2010).

Army of Macedonia was the army of ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. It considers a grate military force where there were reforms constructed from the suggestion of King Philip II of Macedon and then his son Alexander the Great. The introduction was in innovation of weapons and new tactics, along with unique elements combination of military elements, which bring a great intercontinental empire (Ellis, 1979). Philip II had implemented in Macedonian phalanx army separation which one group were on a mission to conquer a city and the other to conquer castles. Each phalangite carried as his primary weapon a sarissa, but the phalangite were not the focal point for the battle, they have used other forces like: skirmishers, range troops, reserves of allied hoplites, and artillery (Hellenica, 2005).

Rome in the wars had adapted weapons, armour and tactics of many enemies they fought. Main weapons of Rome soldiers were Spanish sword – gladius, it had two throwing spears, a large shield, body armour and a helmet. They have also operated with the fire supported weapons, scorpios, carroballistas, onagers. For a fest moves they started to build bridges, so that the soldiers and the army can move faster. The army can march up to 30 km a day. They were very evil, trained to stab a 5 cm deep wound, after breaking the enemy, Romans tended to kill as many enemies as possible and their cavalry pursued fleeing enemy.

After the Rome the medieval Europe warfare followed, which was the war of legal and acceptable justification, nobility (knights) and the main force on the battlefield was a heavy cavalry, where the law of the armed conflict was born. The second largest empire in human history was the Mongol empire. Mongols army had the capacity to move up to 150 km a day. The weapons of the army consisted of massive fire (bow) speed and manoeuvres.

Wars of the XVI Century were mostly protracted and indecisive. There was insistency on building a fortress that was very difficult to conquer. The most important improvement is the side of the weapons with adoption of light guns and gunpowder. Gustavus Adolphus had guns in his army, he had 1 gun per 83, but his enemies had 1 gun per 2000 men. The main thing was to build and modify the fortresses for safety and hard to conquer.

World War I, sometimes described as ‘the war to end all wars’ (Creveld, 2000, p. 162), the strategies were based on first manoeuvre, and then attrition. Forces and armaments were infantry, cavalry artillery, and surface navy (initially); later – tanks, planes, submarines, chemical weapons. The tactics were manoeuvre, frontal assaults, fortified defence, artillery concentration (initially); the theoretical thinking: seeking the way out of dead end, but not finding the means and ways. The first known bombardment from the sky, using airplanes was by Bulgarian army on the 16 of October 1912 at battle of Adrianople, where they were captivated by the Turkish army. From the German newspaper “Geschichte des Luftkriegs”, Militarverlag der DDR, Berlin, 1975, though the 1912 United Kingdom had 23 air planes, Russian – 99, German – 46, Italian – 22, Japan – 10 and USA – 3 air planes.

Second World War, where the technology and the concept of the war were getting bigger, developed into a prolonged and extremely deadly struggle of attrition. The Germans invented the rockets (vau1 and vau2). Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the first and only events of deployments of nuclear weapons in the world.

Second half of the 20th century, after the valuable technical point, the arms forward for an outbreak of terrorism. That means that wars are no longer big and global; the enemy is no longer in uniforman in force. And size is no longer as great as it was the enemy can attack from anywhere. Therefore, no longer wars head-do met the two armies, but running by partisan / guerillas. Terrorism is an unconventional war de facto, i.e. anti-insurgent operation, i.e. counter insurgency. Which create the kind of combat actions that are performed nowadays in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the 20th century, has one goal, redistribution of resources, i.e. to get to justify the need to test before the war for democracy and human rights. Macedonia is the country that is inclined towards terrorism, the early 20th century, April 28 1903rd in Thessaloniki, the boatmen of Thessaloniki have committed terrorist actions against the capital of Western Europe and Turkey, i.e. have planted bombs in the Ottoman Bank in Thessaloniki, the main post office, and planted a bomb in a ship (Sotros, 2004 December).

As can read above the changes are very drastic. Humanity is fighting for the different purpose; starting from the antiquity to nowadays, not only in weapons that were used and presented, but in the strategies in a tactics and theoretical thinking. Therefore, there are no more battles wars, people are grouping and they can embattle from anywhere, which gives a content of the terroristic activities of the wars. Today the humanity and the scholars should getter together to work around of the problems and solutions for the future, possibilities of internet (social networks, VOIP, IM etc.), net generations1, thus today it is the main source of grouping the population for massive protests or any other actions, which can end-up to a war or scandal.

Consequently the technology and science are rising, the possibilities and the changes in an aspect of wars will change. For instant is Russian – Georgian conflict in 2008 as a result of territorial attack and in sequence with it there was an cyber-attack in progress2; or powerful internet worm repeatedly targeted five nuclear industrial facilities in Iran and many others3. Therefore, nowadays this actions and concept of warfare is different, no more uniforms, battles etc. Warfare’s are getting new aspect and new ways to approach through the technology.


Creveld, M. V. (2000). THE INTERWAR PERIOD. In M. v. Creveld, The Art of War – War and Military Thought. London: Cassell.

Dollinger, A. (2004, November). Dynasties XVIII to XX. Retrieved from Ancient Egyptian history, Link

Dollinger, A. (2010, March). Weapons. Retrieved from Pharaonic Egypt, link

Drury, M. (2006, February). Battles of the Achaemenid Empire . Retrieved from A History Resource by Mark Drury: link

Ellis, J. R. (1979). Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism.

Graham, C. J. (2002). On The Theory Of War, Section: Branches of the Art of War. Retrieved 2011, from Clausewitz, ON WAR: link

Hellenica. (2005, 04). Macedonian phalanx. Retrieved from Hellenica: link

Rita. (2010). The Trojan War. Retrieved from Stanford University: [link](\~plomio/history.html\#anchor202941](/

Sotros, J. (2004 December). The Greek Speaking Anarchist and Revolutionary Movement (1830–1940) Writings for a History. No God-No Masters.

Wildfiregames. (2004, September). Persia: Arms of the Shah-an-Shah – Persian Arms an. Retrieved from 0 A.D. :: Wildfire Games: link

[1] The Net Generation Brain by Don Tapscott (2009)

[2] – Coordinated Russia vs Georgia cyber attack in progress

[3] – Stuxnet virus targets and spread revealed