Group of Warriors from Bornu

Group of Warriors from Bornu


Idris Alooma: Warrior King of the Bornu Empire

Today, I will be talking about Idris Alooma (also Idris Alaoma , or Idris Alauma ), the only Bornu King whose name has survived the test of time. This article is long overdue, as it focuses on the Bornu and Kanem-Bornu empires.

Idris Alooma’s reign belonged to the great Sayfawa or Sefuwa dynasty which ruled the Bornu empire from the 16th and 17th centuries. According to the Diwan al-salatin Bornu , Idris Alaoma was the 54th King of the Sefawa dynasty , and ruled the Kanem-Bornu empire located in modern-day Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. In many works, he is known by his mother’s name, Idris Amsami , i.e. Idris, son of Amsa . The name Alooma is a posthumous qualificative, named after a place, Alo or Alao , where he was buried. He was crowned king at the age of 25-26 . According to the Diwan , he ruled from 1564 to 1596 . He died during a battle in the Baguirmi where he was mortally wounded he was later buried in Lake Alo , south of the actual Maiduguri, thus the name Alooma .

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

Idris was an outstanding statesman, and under his rule, the Kanem-Bornu touched the zenith of its power. He is remembered for his military skills, administrative reforms and Islamic piety. His feats are mainly known through his chronicler Ahmad bin Fartuwa . During his reign, Idris avoided the capital Ngazargamu, preferring to set his palace 5 km away, near the Yo river ( Komadugu Yobe ), in a place named Gambaru . The walls of the city were red , leading to a new architecture using red bricks characteristic of his reign. To this day, some murals still exist in Gambaru and are over 3m tall . These are vestiges of a flourishing empire. Idris Alooma was known by the Kanuri title of Mai for king.

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

His main adversaries were the Hausa to the west, the Tuareg and Toubou to the north, the Bulala to the east, and the Sao who were strongly implanted in the Bornu region (and will be decimated by Alooma’s military campaigns). One epic poem extols his victories in 330 wars and more than 1,000 battles . His innovations included the employment of fixed military camps with walls, permanent sieges and scorched earth tactics where soldiers burned everything in their path, armored horses and riders as well as the use of Berber camels, Kotoko boatmen, and iron-helmeted musketeers trained by Ottoman military advisers. His active diplomacy featured relations with Tripoli, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire, which sent a 200-member ambassadorial party across the desert to Alooma’s court at Ngazargamu. Alooma also signed what was probably the first written treaty or ceasefire in Chadian history.

Alooma introduced a number of legal and administrative reforms based on his religious beliefs and Islamic law. He sponsored the construction of numerous mosques and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he arranged for the establishment of a hostel to be used by pilgrims from his empire. As with other dynamic politicians, Alooma’s reformist goals led him to seek loyal and competent advisers and allies, and he frequently relied on eunuchs and slaves who had been educated in noble homes. Alooma regularly sought advice from a council composed of heads of the most important clans. He required major political figures to live at the court, and he reinforced political alliances through appropriate marriages (Alooma himself was the son of a Kanuri father and a Bulala mother).

Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires

Kanem-Bornu under Alooma was strong and wealthy. Government revenue came from tribute (or booty if the recalcitrant people had to be conquered) and duties on and participation in trade. His kingdom was central to one of the most convenient routes across the Sahara desert. Many products were sent north, including natron (sodium carbonate), cotton, kola nuts, ivory, ostrich feathers, perfume, wax, and hides, but the most profitable trade was in slaves. Imports included salt, horses, silk, glass, muskets, and copper.


The territory now known as Chad possesses some of the richest archaeological sites in Africa. [2] A hominid skull was found by Michel Brunet, that is more than 7 million years old, the oldest discovered anywhere in the world it has been given the name Sahelanthropus tchadensis. In 1996 Michel Brunet had unearthed a hominid jaw which he named Australopithecus bahrelghazali, and unofficially dubbed Abel. It was dated using Beryllium based Radiometric dating as living circa. 3.6 million years ago.

During the 7th millennium BC, the northern half of Chad was part of a broad expanse of land, stretching from the Indus River in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, in which ecological conditions favored early human settlement. Rock art of the "Round Head" style, found in the Ennedi region, has been dated to before the 7th millennium BC and, because of the tools with which the rocks were carved and the scenes they depict, may represent the oldest evidence in the Sahara of Neolithic industries. Many of the pottery-making and Neolithic activities in Ennedi date back further than any of those of the Nile Valley to the east. [2]

In the prehistoric period, Chad was much wetter than it is today, as evidenced by large game animals depicted in rock paintings in the Tibesti and Borkou regions. [2]

Recent linguistic research suggests that all of Africa's major language groupings south of the Sahara Desert (except Khoisan, which is not considered a valid genetic grouping anyway), i.e. the Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan and Niger–Congo phyla, originated in prehistoric times in a narrow band between Lake Chad and the Nile Valley. The origins of Chad's peoples, however, remain unclear. Several of the proven archaeological sites have been only partially studied, and other sites of great potential have yet to be mapped. [2]

At the end of the 1st millennium AD, the formation of states began across central Chad in the sahelian zone between the desert and the savanna. For almost the next 1,000 years, these states, their relations with each other, and their effects on the peoples who lived in stateless societies along their peripheries dominated Chad's political history. Recent research suggests that indigenous Africans founded of these states, not migrating Arabic-speaking groups, as was believed previously. Nonetheless, immigrants, Arabic-speaking or otherwise, played a significant role, along with Islam, in the formation and early evolution of these states. [3]

Most states began as kingdoms, in which the king was considered divine and endowed with temporal and spiritual powers. All states were militaristic (or they did not survive long), but none was able to expand far into southern Chad, where forests and the tsetse fly complicated the use of cavalry. Control over the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region formed the economic basis of these kingdoms. Although many states rose and fell, the most important and durable of the empires were Kanem-Bornu, Baguirmi, and Ouaddai, according to most written sources (mainly court chronicles and writings of Arab traders and travelers). [3] Chad - ERA OF EMPIRES, A.D. 900-1900

Kanem-Bornu Edit

The Kanem Empire originated in the 9th century AD to the northeast of Lake Chad. Historians agree that the leaders of the new state were ancestors of the Kanembu people. Toward the end of the 11th century the Sayfawa king (or mai, the title of the Sayfawa rulers) Hummay, converted to Islam. In the following century the Sayfawa rulers expanded southward into Kanem, where was to rise their first capital, Njimi. Kanem's expansion peaked during the long and energetic reign of Mai Dunama Dabbalemi (c. 1221–1259). [4]

By the end of the 14th century, internal struggles and external attacks had torn Kanem apart. Finally, around 1396 the Bulala invaders forced Mai Umar Idrismi to abandon Njimi and move the Kanembu people to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad. Over time, the intermarriage of the Kanembu and Bornu peoples created a new people and language, the Kanuri, and founded a new capital, Ngazargamu. [4]

Kanem-Bornu peaked during the reign of the outstanding statesman Mai Idris Aluma (c. 1571–1603). Aluma is remembered for his military skills, administrative reforms, and Islamic piety. The administrative reforms and military brilliance of Aluma sustained the empire until the mid-17th century, when its power began to fade. By the early 19th century, Kanem-Bornu was clearly an empire in decline, and in 1808 Fulani warriors conquered Ngazargamu. Bornu survived, but the Sayfawa dynasty ended in 1846 and the Empire itself fell in 1893. [4]

Baguirmi and Ouaddai Edit

The Kingdom of Baguirmi, located southeast of Kanem-Bournu, was founded in the late 15th or early 16th century, and adopted Islam in the reign of Abdullah IV (1568-98). Baguirmi was in a tributary relationship with Kanem-Bornu at various points in the 17th and 18th centuries, then to Ouaddai in the 19th century. In 1893, Baguirmi sultan Abd ar Rahman Gwaranga surrendered the territory to France, and it became a French protectorate. [5]

The Ouaddai Kingdom, west of Kanem-Bornu, was established in the early 16th century by Tunjur rulers. In the 1630s, Abd al Karim invaded and established an Islamic sultanate. Among its most impactful rulers for the next three centuries were Muhammad Sabun, who controlled a new trade route to the north and established a currency during the early 19th century, and Muhammad Sharif, whose military campaigns in the mid 19th century fended off an assimilation attempt from Darfur, conquered Baguirmi, and successfully resisted French colonization. However, Ouaddai lost its independence to France after a war from 1909-1912. [5]

The French first invaded Chad in 1891, establishing their authority through military expeditions primarily against the Muslim kingdoms. The decisive colonial battle for Chad was fought on April 22, 1900 at Battle of Kousséri between forces of French Major Amédée-François Lamy and forces of the Sudanese warlord Rabih az-Zubayr. Both leaders were killed in the battle.

In 1905, administrative responsibility for Chad was placed under a governor-general stationed at Brazzaville, capital of French Equatorial Africa (FEA). Chad did not have a separate colonial status until 1920, when it was placed under a lieutenant-governor stationed in Fort-Lamy (today N'Djamena). [6]

Two fundamental themes dominated Chad's colonial experience with the French: an absence of policies designed to unify the territory and an exceptionally slow pace of modernization. In the French scale of priorities, the colony of Chad ranked near the bottom, and the French came to perceive Chad primarily as a source of raw cotton and untrained labour to be used in the more productive colonies to the south. [6]

Throughout the colonial period, large areas of Chad were never governed effectively: in the huge BET Prefecture, the handful of French military administrators usually left the people alone, and in central Chad, French rule was only slightly more substantive. Truly speaking, France managed to govern effectively only the south. [6]

During World War II, Chad was the first French colony to rejoin the Allies (August 26, 1940), after the defeat of France by Germany. Under the administration of Félix Éboué, France's first black colonial governor, a military column, commanded by Colonel Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, and including two battalions of Sara troops, moved north from N'Djamena (then Fort Lamy) to engage Axis forces in Libya, where, in partnership with the British Army's Long Range Desert Group, they captured Kufra. On 21 January 1942, N'Djamena was bombed by a German aircraft.

After the war ended, local parties started to develop in Chad. The first to be born was the radical Chadian Progressive Party (PPT) in February 1947, initially headed by Panamanian born Gabriel Lisette, but from 1959 headed by François Tombalbaye. The more conservative Chadian Democratic Union (UDT) was founded in November 1947 and represented French commercial interests and a bloc of traditional leaders composed primarily of Muslim and Ouaddaïan nobility. The confrontation between the PPT and UDT was more than simply ideological it represented different regional identities, with the PPT representing the Christian and animist south and the UDT the Islamic north.

The PPT won the May 1957 pre-independence elections thanks to a greatly expanded franchise, and Lisette led the government of the Territorial Assembly until he lost a confidence vote on 11 February 1959. After a referendum on territorial autonomy on 28 September 1958, French Equatorial Africa was dissolved, and its four constituent states – Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), the Central African Republic, and Chad became autonomous members of the French Community from 28 November 1958. Following Lisette's fall in February 1959 the opposition leaders Gontchome Sahoulba and Ahmed Koulamallah could not form a stable government, so the PPT was again asked to form an administration - which it did under the leadership of François Tombalbaye on 26 March 1959. On 12 July 1960 France agreed to Chad becoming fully independent. [7] On 11 August 1960, Chad became an independent country and François Tombalbaye became its first president.

One of the most prominent aspects of Tombalbaye's rule to prove itself was his authoritarianism and distrust of democracy. Already in January 1962 he banned all political parties except his own PPT, and started immediately concentrating all power in his own hands. His treatment of opponents, real or imagined, was extremely harsh, filling the prisons with thousands of political prisoners.

What was even worse was his constant discrimination against the central and northern regions of Chad, where the southern Chadian administrators came to be perceived as arrogant and incompetent. This resentment at last exploded in a tax revolt on November 1, 1965, in the Guéra Prefecture, causing 500 deaths. The year after saw the birth in Sudan of the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT), created to militarily oust Tombalbaye and the Southern dominance. It was the start of a bloody civil war.

Tombalbaye resorted to calling in French troops while moderately successful, they were not fully able to quell the insurgency. Proving more fortunate was his choice to break with the French and seek friendly ties with Libyan Brotherly Leader Gaddafi, taking away the rebels' principal source of supplies.

But while he had reported some success against the rebels, Tombalbaye started behaving more and more irrationally and brutally, continuously eroding his consensus among the southern elites, which dominated all key positions in the army, the civil service and the ruling party. As a consequence on April 13, 1975, several units of N'Djamena's gendarmerie killed Tombalbaye during a coup.

The coup d'état that terminated Tombalbaye's government received an enthusiastic response in N'Djamena. The southerner General Félix Malloum emerged early as the chairman of the new junta.

The new military leaders were unable to retain for long the popularity that they had gained through their overthrow of Tombalbaye. Malloum proved himself unable to cope with the FROLINAT and at the end decided his only chance was in coopting some of the rebels: in 1978 he allied himself with the insurgent leader Hissène Habré, who entered the government as prime minister.

Internal dissent within the government led Prime Minister Habré to send his forces against Malloum's national army in the capital in February 1979. Malloum was ousted from the presidency, but the resulting civil war amongst the 11 emergent factions was so widespread that it rendered the central government largely irrelevant. At that point, other African governments decided to intervene

A series of four international conferences held first under Nigerian and then Organization of African Unity (OAU) sponsorship attempted to bring the Chadian factions together. At the fourth conference, held in Lagos, Nigeria, in August 1979, the Lagos Accord was signed. This accord established a transitional government pending national elections. In November 1979, the Transitional Government of National Unity (GUNT) was created with a mandate to govern for 18 months. Goukouni Oueddei, a northerner, was named president Colonel Kamougué, a southerner, Vice President and Habré, Minister of Defense. This coalition proved fragile in January 1980, fighting broke out again between Goukouni's and Habré's forces. With assistance from Libya, Goukouni regained control of the capital and other urban centers by year's end. However, Goukouni's January 1981 statement that Chad and Libya had agreed to work for the realization of complete unity between the two countries generated intense international pressure and Goukouni's subsequent call for the complete withdrawal of external forces.

Libya's partial withdrawal to the Aozou Strip in northern Chad cleared the way for Habré's forces to enter N’Djamena in June. French troops and an OAU peacekeeping force of 3,500 Nigerian, Senegalese, and Zairian troops (partially funded by the United States) remained neutral during the conflict.

Habré continued to face armed opposition on various fronts, and was brutal in his repression of suspected opponents, massacring and torturing many during his rule. In the summer of 1983, GUNT forces launched an offensive against government positions in northern and eastern Chad with heavy Libyan support. In response to Libya's direct intervention, French and Zairian forces intervened to defend Habré, pushing Libyan and rebel forces north of the 16th parallel. In September 1984, the French and the Libyan governments announced an agreement for the mutual withdrawal of their forces from Chad. By the end of the year, all French and Zairian troops were withdrawn. Libya did not honor the withdrawal accord, and its forces continued to occupy the northern third of Chad.

Rebel commando groups (Codos) in southern Chad were broken up by government massacres in 1984. In 1985 Habré briefly reconciled with some of his opponents, including the Democratic Front of Chad (FDT) and the Coordinating Action Committee of the Democratic Revolutionary Council. Goukouni also began to rally toward Habré, and with his support Habré successfully expelled Libyan forces from most of Chadian territory. A cease-fire between Chad and Libya held from 1987 to 1988, and negotiations over the next several years led to the 1994 International Court of Justice decision granting Chad sovereignty over the Aouzou strip, effectively ending Libyan occupation.

Rise to power Edit

However, rivalry between Hadjerai, Zaghawa and Gorane groups within the government grew in the late 1980s. In April 1989, Idriss Déby, one of Habré's leading generals and a Zaghawa, defected and fled to Darfur in Sudan, from which he mounted a Zaghawa-supported series of attacks on Habré (a Gorane). In December 1990, with Libyan assistance and no opposition from French troops stationed in Chad, Déby's forces successfully marched on N’Djamena. After 3 months of provisional government, Déby's Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) approved a national charter on February 28, 1991, with Déby as president.

During the next two years, Déby faced at least two coup attempts. Government forces clashed violently with rebel forces, including the Movement for Democracy and Development, MDD, National Revival Committee for Peace and Democracy (CSNPD), Chadian National Front (FNT) and the Western Armed Forces (FAO), near Lake Chad and in southern regions of the country. Earlier French demands for the country to hold a National Conference resulted in the gathering of 750 delegates representing political parties (which were legalized in 1992), the government, trade unions and the army to discuss the creation of a pluralist democratic regime.

However, unrest continued, sparked in part by large-scale killings of civilians in southern Chad. The CSNPD, led by Kette Moise and other southern groups entered into a peace agreement with government forces in 1994, which later broke down. Two new groups, the Armed Forces for a Federal Republic (FARF) led by former Kette ally Laokein Barde and the Democratic Front for Renewal (FDR), and a reformulated MDD clashed with government forces from 1994 to 1995.

Multiparty elections Edit

Talks with political opponents in early 1996 did not go well, but Déby announced his intent to hold presidential elections in June. Déby won the country's first multi-party presidential elections with support in the second round from opposition leader Kebzabo, defeating General Kamougue (leader of the 1975 coup against Tombalbaye). Déby's MPS party won 63 of 125 seats in the January 1997 legislative elections. International observers noted numerous serious irregularities in presidential and legislative election proceedings.

By mid-1997 the government signed peace deals with FARF and the MDD leadership and succeeded in cutting off the groups from their rear bases in the Central African Republic and Cameroon. Agreements also were struck with rebels from the National Front of Chad (FNT) and Movement for Social Justice and Democracy in October 1997. However, peace was short-lived, as FARF rebels clashed with government soldiers, finally surrendering to government forces in May 1998. Barde was killed in the fighting, as were hundreds of other southerners, most civilians.

Since October 1998, Chadian Movement for Justice and Democracy (MDJT) rebels, led by Youssuf Togoimi until his death in September 2002, have skirmished with government troops in the Tibesti region, resulting in hundreds of civilian, government, and rebel casualties, but little ground won or lost. No active armed opposition has emerged in other parts of Chad, although Kette Moise, following senior postings at the Ministry of Interior, mounted a smallscale local operation near Moundou which was quickly and violently suppressed by government forces in late 2000.

Déby, in the mid-1990s, gradually restored basic functions of government and entered into agreements with the World Bank and IMF to carry out substantial economic reforms. Oil exploitation in the southern Doba region began in June 2000, with World Bank Board approval to finance a small portion of a project, the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development Project, aimed at transport of Chadian crude through a 1000-km buried pipeline through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea. The project established unique mechanisms for World Bank, private sector, government, and civil society collaboration to guarantee that future oil revenues benefit local populations and result in poverty alleviation. Success of the project depended on multiple monitoring efforts [8] to ensure that all parties keep their commitments. These "unique" mechanisms for monitoring and revenue management have faced intense criticism from the beginning. [9] Debt relief was accorded to Chad in May 2001.

Déby won a flawed 63% first-round victory in May 2001 presidential elections after legislative elections were postponed until spring 2002. Having accused the government of fraud, six opposition leaders were arrested (twice) and one opposition party activist was killed following the announcement of election results. However, despite claims of government corruption, favoritism of Zaghawas, and abuses by the security forces, opposition party and labor union calls for general strikes and more active demonstrations against the government have been unsuccessful. Despite movement toward democratic reform, power remains in the hands of a northern ethnic oligarchy.

In 2003, Chad began receiving refugees from the Darfur region of western Sudan. More than 200,000 refugees fled the fighting between two rebel groups and government-supported militias known as Janjaweed. A number of border incidents led to the Chadian-Sudanese War.

Oil producing and military improvement Edit

Chad become an oil producer in 2003. In order to avoid resource curse and corruption, elaborate plans sponsored by World Bank were made. This plan ensured transparency in payments, as well as that 80% of money from oil exports would be spent on five priority development sectors, two most important of these being: education and healthcare. However money started getting diverted towards the military even before the civil war broke out. In 2006 when the civil war escalated, Chad abandoned previous economic plans sponsored by World Bank and added "national security" as priority development sector, money from this sector was used to improve the military. During the civil war, more than 600 million dollars were used to buy fighter jets, attack helicopters, and armored personnel carriers.

Chad earned between 10 and 11 billion dollars from oil production, and estimated 4 billion dollars were invested in the army. [10]

War in the East Edit

The war started on December 23, 2005, when the government of Chad declared a state of war with Sudan and called for the citizens of Chad to mobilize themselves against the "common enemy," [11] which the Chadian government sees as the Rally for Democracy and Liberty (RDL) militants, Chadian rebels, backed by the Sudanese government, and Sudanese militiamen. Militants have attacked villages and towns in eastern Chad, stealing cattle, murdering citizens, and burning houses. Over 200,000 refugees from the Darfur region of northwestern Sudan currently claim asylum in eastern Chad. Chadian president Idriss Déby accuses Sudanese President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir of trying to "destabilize our country, to drive our people into misery, to create disorder and export the war from Darfur to Chad."

An attack on the Chadian town of Adre near the Sudanese border led to the deaths of either one hundred rebels, as every news source other than CNN has reported, or three hundred rebels. The Sudanese government was blamed for the attack, which was the second in the region in three days, [12] but Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Jamal Mohammed Ibrahim denies any Sudanese involvement, "We are not for any escalation with Chad. We technically deny involvement in Chadian internal affairs." This attack was the final straw that led to the declaration of war by Chad and the alleged deployment of the Chadian airforce into Sudanese airspace, which the Chadian government denies. [13]

An attack on N'Djamena was defeated on April 13, 2006 in the Battle of N'Djamena. The President on national radio stated that the situation was under control, but residents, diplomats and journalists reportedly heard shots of weapons fire.

On November 25, 2006, rebels captured the eastern town of Abeche, capital of the Ouaddaï Region and center for humanitarian aid to the Darfur region in Sudan. On the same day, a separate rebel group Rally of Democratic Forces had captured Biltine. On November 26, 2006, the Chadian government claimed to have recaptured both towns, although rebels still claimed control of Biltine. Government buildings and humanitarian aid offices in Abeche were said to have been looted. The Chadian government denied a warning issued by the French Embassy in N'Djamena that a group of rebels was making its way through the Batha Prefecture in central Chad. Chad insists that both rebel groups are supported by the Sudanese government. [14]

International orphanage scandal Edit

Nearly 100 children at the center of an international scandal that left them stranded at an orphanage in remote eastern Chad returned home after nearly five months March 14, 2008. The 97 children were taken from their homes in October 2007 by a then-obscure French charity, Zoé's Ark, which claimed they were orphans from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. [15]

Rebel attack on Ndjamena Edit

On Friday, February 1, 2008, rebels, an opposition alliance of leaders Mahamat Nouri, a former defense minister, and Timane Erdimi, a nephew of Idriss Déby who was his chief of staff, attacked the Chadian capital of Ndjamena - even surrounding the Presidential Palace. But Idris Deby with government troops fought back. French forces flew in ammunition for Chadian government troops but took no active part in the fighting. UN has said that up to 20,000 people left the region, taking refuge in nearby Cameroon and Nigeria. Hundreds of people were killed, mostly civilians. The rebels accuse Deby of corruption and embezzling millions in oil revenue. While many Chadians may share that assessment, the uprising appears to be a power struggle within the elite that has long controlled Chad. The French government believes that the opposition has regrouped east of the capital. Déby has blamed Sudan for the current unrest in Chad. [16]

Regional interventionism Edit

During the Déby era, Chad intervened in conflicts in Mali, Central African Republic, Niger and Nigeria. [ citation needed ]

In 2013, Chad sent 2000 men from its military to help France in Operation Serval during the Mali War. Later in the same year Chad sent 850 troops to Central African Republic to help peacekeeping operation MISCA, those troops withdrew in April 2014 after allegations of human rights violations. [10]

During the Boko Haram insurgency, Chad multiple times sent troops to assist the fight against Boko Haram in Niger and Nigeria.

In August 2018, rebel fighters of the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR) attacked government forces in northern Chad. Chad experienced threats from jihadists fleeing the Libyan conflict. Chad had been an ally of the West in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa. [17]

In January 2019, after 47 years, Chad restored diplomatic relations with Israel. It was announced during a visit to N’Djamena by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [18]

In April 2021, Chad's army announced that President Idriss Déby had died of his injuries following clashes with rebels in the north of the country. Idriss Deby ruled the country for more than 30 years since 1990. It was also announced that a military council led by Déby's son, Mahamat Idriss Déby a 37-year-old four star general, will govern for the next 18 months. [19] [20]


Politics

Alauma II, current Mai (king) of Bornu

The politics of Bornu take place within a framework of a unitary, parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy. The current monarch, Alauma II, is the country's head of state.

The unicameral parliament, called Bornu Assembly, is responsible for passing laws, adopting the state's budgets, and exercising control of the executive government through its elected representative, the Prime Minister - currently Simplice Sarandji.


7. Miyamoto Musashi

Miyamoto Mushashi is, without a doubt, the finest swordsman to have ever lived, ever. What Melankomas did with fists, Musashi did with swords. Throughout his life he was never once defeated in combat. It got to the point where Miyamoto was so good at giving people katana enemas that he just up and stopped using swords altogether, though he didn’t stop sword fighting.

For the rest of his life Musashi, accepted (and roundly defeated) all challenges using a simple wooden sword. Basically, he was like Ryu from Ninja Gaiden when controlled by someone really awesome. Musashi split open more heads than a thousand B-movie gorefests, and he did it all while being a travelling warrior poet. That’s just straight-up pimping.


When the Zaghawa (people of Kanem) arrived in the area around Lake Chad, they found independent walled-cities states from the Sao civilization, a civilization which had flourished around the 6th century, with its center around the Chari river, south of Lake Chad. The Zaghawa adopted some of the Sao customs, but fight among the two lasted from the 7th century until the 16th. The conquest of Kanem by the Zaghawa was done under the Duguwa dynasty which was started by King Sef (also known as Saif… some people eager to change African history state that the Zaghawa were from Yemen… but we all know that they were local people) about 700 CE . The dynasty, Sayfawa or Sefuwa, is named for King Dugu , one of Sef’s sons, who was ruling about 785 CE . Abandoning their nomadic lifestyle, the Zaghawa established a capital at N’Jimi (meaning “south” — the location of this town is still unknown, but it is believed to be around Lake Fitri). Under the rule of Dugu, Kanem expanded to become an empire. The Zaghawa kings, called maï , were regarded as divine and belonged to a ruling establishment known as the Magumi . They were recognized for a great amount of horses. Kanem’s expansion peaked during the reign of Maï Dunama Dabbalemi ( ca. 1221-59 ) and extended northward into the Fezzan region (Libya), westward into Kano (Nigeria), eastward to Ouaddaï (or Wadai), and southward into the Adamawa grasslands (Cameroon). They converted to islam around the 11th century CE.

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

By the end of the 14th century, internal struggles and external attacks had torn Kanem apart. Between 1376 and 1400 , six Maïs reigned, but were killed by foreign invaders. Finally, around 1396 the Bulala invaders forced the once strong Sayfawa dynasty to abandon Njimi and move to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad. Around 1472 , Maï Ali Dunamami fortified the Bornu state, and established the capital at Ngazargamu, which had more fertile lands. Over time the inter-marriage between the Kanembu and the Borno people created a new people, the Kanembu, and a language called Kanuri .

The Kanem-Bornu empire peaked during the reign of Maï Idris Alooma (ca. 1571 – 1603 ) who is remembered for his great military and diplomatic skills. His main adversaries were the Hausa to the west, the Tuareg and Toubou to the north, and the Bulala to the east. One epic poem tells of his victories in 330 wars , and over 1,000 battles . He was a true military genius, and some of his innovations included the use of fixed military camps (with walls), permanent sieges, and “scorched earth” tactics, armored horses and riders, the use of Berber camels, of skilled Kotoko boatmen, and of iron-helmeted musketeers trained by Turkish military advisers. He had very strong diplomatic ties with Tripoli, Egypt, and the Ottoman empire, which at some point sent a 200-member ambassadorial party across the desert to Alooma’s court in Ngazargamu. The state revenues came from tribute from vassal states, trans-saharan trade route, and slave trade. Many products such as cotton, natron (sodium carbonate), kola nuts, ivory, ostrich feathers, perfume, was, and hides were exported north via the Sahara desert.

Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires

By the end of the 17th century, the empire started declining, and by the 18th century, it only extended westward into the land of the Hausa. By the early 19th century, the declining empire could not sustain the advance from the fulani warriors of Usman Dan Fodio who proclaimed the jihad war against the non-muslims.


Idris Alooma: Warrior King of the Bornu Empire

Today, I will be talking about Idris Alooma (also Idris Alaoma , or Idris Alauma ), the only Bornu King whose name has survived the test of time. This article is long overdue, as it focuses on the Bornu and Kanem-Bornu empires.

Idris Alooma’s reign belonged to the great Sayfawa or Sefuwa dynasty which ruled the Bornu empire from the 16th and 17th centuries. According to the Diwan al-salatin Bornu , Idris Alaoma was the 54th King of the Sefawa dynasty , and ruled the Kanem-Bornu empire located in modern-day Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. In many works, he is known by his mother’s name, Idris Amsami , i.e. Idris, son of Amsa . The name Alooma is a posthumous qualificative, named after a place, Alo or Alao , where he was buried. He was crowned king at the age of 25-26 . According to the Diwan , he ruled from 1564 to 1596 . He died during a battle in the Baguirmi where he was mortally wounded he was later buried in Lake Alo , south of the actual Maiduguri, thus the name Alooma .

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

Idris was an outstanding statesman, and under his rule, the Kanem-Bornu touched the zenith of its power. He is remembered for his military skills, administrative reforms and Islamic piety. His feats are mainly known through his chronicler Ahmad bin Fartuwa . During his reign, Idris avoided the capital Ngazargamu, preferring to set his palace 5 km away, near the Yo river ( Komadugu Yobe ), in a place named Gambaru . The walls of the city were red , leading to a new architecture using red bricks characteristic of his reign. To this day, some murals still exist in Gambaru and are over 3m tall . These are vestiges of a flourishing empire. Idris Alooma was known by the Kanuri title of Mai for king.

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

His main adversaries were the Hausa to the west, the Tuareg and Toubou to the north, the Bulala to the east, and the Sao who were strongly implanted in the Bornu region (and will be decimated by Alooma’s military campaigns). One epic poem extols his victories in 330 wars and more than 1,000 battles . His innovations included the employment of fixed military camps with walls, permanent sieges and scorched earth tactics where soldiers burned everything in their path, armored horses and riders as well as the use of Berber camels, Kotoko boatmen, and iron-helmeted musketeers trained by Ottoman military advisers. His active diplomacy featured relations with Tripoli, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire, which sent a 200-member ambassadorial party across the desert to Alooma’s court at Ngazargamu. Alooma also signed what was probably the first written treaty or ceasefire in Chadian history.

Alooma introduced a number of legal and administrative reforms based on his religious beliefs and Islamic law. He sponsored the construction of numerous mosques and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he arranged for the establishment of a hostel to be used by pilgrims from his empire. As with other dynamic politicians, Alooma’s reformist goals led him to seek loyal and competent advisers and allies, and he frequently relied on eunuchs and slaves who had been educated in noble homes. Alooma regularly sought advice from a council composed of heads of the most important clans. He required major political figures to live at the court, and he reinforced political alliances through appropriate marriages (Alooma himself was the son of a Kanuri father and a Bulala mother).

Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires

Kanem-Bornu under Alooma was strong and wealthy. Government revenue came from tribute (or booty if the recalcitrant people had to be conquered) and duties on and participation in trade. His kingdom was central to one of the most convenient routes across the Sahara desert. Many products were sent north, including natron (sodium carbonate), cotton, kola nuts, ivory, ostrich feathers, perfume, wax, and hides, but the most profitable trade was in slaves. Imports included salt, horses, silk, glass, muskets, and copper.


10 of the Greatest Ancient Warrior Cultures You Should Know About

Illustration by Angus McBride.

Posted By: Dattatreya Mandal September 8, 2016

The episodes of war and human conflicts are persistent when it comes to the rich tapestry of history. And in such a vast ambit of wanton destruction and death, there have been a few civilizations, tribes and factions that had accepted warfare as an intrinsic part of their culture. So without further ado, let us take a gander at ten of the incredible ancient warrior cultures that pushed forth the ‘art of war’ (or rather the art of dealing with war) as an extension of their social system.

Note 1 – In this list, we are NOT implying the ten greatest ancient warrior cultures, but rather implying ten OF THE greatest ancient warrior cultures (before Common Era). Preference for choosing the said cultures is partly based on their variant geographical power-centers.

Note 2 – The list doesn’t reflect the cultures’ successes in battles or wars, but it pertains to how they perceived the scope of war or conflict (from a social perspective).

1) The Akkadian Warrior (circa 24th century – 22nd century BC) –

Akkadian archer wielding a composite bow, while being protected by an infantryman.

Circa 2334 BC, the Akkadians carved up the first known all-Mesopotamian empire, thereby momentously uniting the speakers of both Sumerian and Akkadian. In fact, by the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, the Akkadians managed to create a culturally syncretic scope (that encompassed a melting pot of different ethnicity and city-states), which ultimately paved the way for the emergence of Akkadian as the lingua franca of Mesopotamia for many centuries to come. However, beyond just cultural affiliations with the advanced Sumerians, the Akkadians also adopted (and loaned) many of the military systems and doctrines of their Mesopotamian brethren.

One example of such ‘transmission’ of military ideas relates to how the Akkadians probably fought in a phalanx-like formation long before the Greeks (as did the soldiers of the Sumerian city-state of Lagash). This tactic in itself alludes to how the soldiers of Akkad must have been disciplined and trained, thus hinting at their professional status, as opposed to most ancient armies. A few steles also showcase how the Akkadians (and their preceding Sumerians) made use of the armored cloak – a panoply that probably consisted of a leather skin (or cloth) reinforced with metal discs and helmets for further protection in brutal melee combats.

But the practical superiority of the Akkadian (and Sumerian) warrior culture must have related to the use of wheels – an invention that not only allowed for more complex logistical support but also heralded the development of chariots, the ponderous heavy shock weapons of the Bronze Age. Moreover, Sargon of Akkad, possibly the first known military dictator of an empire, implemented the use of composite bows in his otherwise lightly-armed citizen army. Historically, the effective range and punch of such powerful bows (in the hands of skilled archers) surely must have given the Akkadians the military advantage over their Sumerian neighbors – many of whom still relied on javelins.

2) The Hittite Warrior (1600 BC – 1178 BC) –

The Hittite chariots (on right) clashing with the Egyptians at the Battle of Kadesh (circa 1274 BC). Illustration by Adam Cook.

Almost 3,700 years ago, a power rose in central Anatolia thus effectively making its presence felt in the ancient Near-Eastern world. Historians term the realm as the Kingdom of Hatti, and its inhabitants are known as the Hittites. By late 14th century BC, the Hittites probably controlled the most powerful empire of the Bronze Age, with their dominions stretching all the way across Anatolia to touch the Aegean Sea, while being complemented on the east with their expansions into Syria (and finally even Mesopotamia) with the defeat of their longtime rivals, the Mitanni.

Interestingly enough, the martial culture of the Hittites was often represented by their kings who were also the commanders-in-chief of their armies. In essence, kingship was intrinsically tied to the display of martial prowess and commanding capability on the battlefields and as such the kings were expected to prove themselves in battles.

Because of such an ingrained cultural aspect, the future candidates (for kingship and other elite political roles) were often trained in warfare skills from their childhood. To that end, much like warlords, many of the Hittite kings led their troops in the thick of the battle and possibly even engaged in melee combat with the enemy. However, in most practical scenarios, the ruler probably donned his role as a commander and directed his troops from protected vantage points.

As for the composition of their armies, most of the Hittite infantrymen were lightly armed with spears and rudimentary shields. But much like other contemporary powers (of both Near East and the Mediterranean) the elite section of the Hittite army was composed of chariots. In that regard, by the time of the momentous Battle of Kadesh (circa 1274 BC), the Hittites probably ‘modified’ their chariot-based tactics by placing three men on the vehicle (as opposed to two men).

And while this made the chariot more ponderous, it was compensated by the extra protection offered by a shield-bearer who guarded the other two armed with throwing spears and bow-and-arrows. This technique, though risky, might have been instrumental in shattering the first division of their Egyptian foes, thus providing the Hittites with the initiative in the encounter.

3) The Spartan Warrior (circa 9th century BC – 192 BC) –

According to Xenophon, the crimson robes and bronze shields carried by the Spartans were mandated by their legendary lawgiver Lycurgus.

An ancient warrior culture that has often been exaggerated in our popular media, the Spartans nevertheless espoused their brand of rigorous military institutions. In fact, the Spartans (or Lakedaimonians) maintained the only full-time army in all of ancient Greece, while their social structures were geared towards producing hardy soldiers from ordinary citizens. One prime example of such a military-oriented scope obviously pertains to the agoge – the Spartan regimen for boys that combined both education and military training into one exacting package.

The agoge was mandated for all male Spartans from the age of 6 or 7 when the child grew up to be a boy (paidon). This meant leaving his own house and parents behind and relocating to the barrack to live with other boys. Interestingly, one of the very first things that the boy learned in his new quarters was the pyrriche, a sort of dance that also involved the carrying of arms. This was practiced so as to make the Spartan boy nimble-footed even when maneuvering heavy weapons. Along with such physical moves, the boy was also taught exercises in music, the war songs of Tyrtaios, and the ability to read and write.

By the time, the boy grew up to be 12, he was known as the meirakion or youth. Suffice it to say, the rigorous scope was notched up a level with the physical exercises increased in a day. The youth also had to cut his hair short and walk barefooted, while most of his clothes were taken away from him. The Spartans believed that such uncompromising measures made the pre-teen boy tough while enhancing his endurance levels for all climates (in fact, the only bed he was allowed to sleep in the winter was made of reeds that had been plucked personally by the candidate from the River Eurotas valley).

Added to this stringent scope, the youth was intentionally fed with less than adequate food so as to stoke his hunger pangs. This encouraged the youth to sometimes steal food and on being caught, he was punished – not for stealing the food, but for getting caught. And finally, on turning eighteen, he was considered as an adult and a soldier of the Spartan society but was still prohibited from entering a marketplace to talk with his fellow adults till the age of 30. In consideration of all these strict rules, Plutarch once observed that the only rest that a Spartan got from training for war was during the actual war.

4) The Assyrian Warrior (Neo-Assyrian Empire 900 BC – 612 BC) –

The Assyrians were known for using imposing siege weapons and towers. Illustration by Angus McBride.

In a conventional sense, when we talk about Assyria, our notions pertain mostly to what is known as the Neo-Assyrian Empire (or the Late Empire) that ruled the largest empire of the world up till that time, roughly existing from a period of 900-612 BC. To that end, many historians perceive Assyria to be among the first ‘superpowers’ of the Ancient World. But as the dictum suggests – ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

In that regard, Assyria’s rise to power was ironically fueled by the land’s initial vulnerability, since it was beset on all sides by enemies including nomadic tribes, hill folks, and even proximate competing powers. And to protect their rich and plump grain-lands, the Assyrians systematically devised an effective and well organized military system (from circa 15th century BC) that could cope with the constant state of aggression, conflicts, and raids (much like the Romans).

Over time, the reactionary measures translated into an incredibly powerful military system that was inherently tied to the economic well-being of the state. And the once-defenders now turned into aggressors. So in a sense, while the Assyrians formulated their ‘attack is the best defense’ strategies, the proximate states became more war-like, thus adding to the list of enemies for the Assyrians to conquer. Consequently, when the Assyrians went on a war footing, their military was able to absorb more ideas from foreign powers, which led to an ambit of evolution and flexibility (again much like the later Romans). These tendencies of flexibility, discipline and incredible fighting skills (that ranged from chariots, archers to siege tactics) became the hallmark of the Assyrian warrior culture that triumphed over most of the powerful Mesopotamian kingdoms in Asia by 8th century BC.

This is what historian Simon Anglim had to say about the ancient warrior culture of the Assyrians –

…regime supported by a magnificent and successful war machine. As with the German army of World War II, the Assyrian army was the most technologically and doctrinally advanced of its day and was a model for others for generations afterwards. The Assyrians were the first to make extensive use of iron weaponry [and] not only were iron weapons superior to bronze, but could be mass-produced, allowing the equipping of very large armies indeed.

5) The Scythian Warrior (circa 7th century – 3rd century BC) –

The Scythians modified some elements of the conventional corselet by arranging the metal (or leather) bits in a ‘fish scale’ like pattern. Illustration by Angus McBride.

When it comes to the popular history of nomadic groups, tribes (and super-tribes) like Huns and Mongols have had their fair share of coverage in various mediums, ranging from literary sources to even movies. However, hundreds of years before the emergence of mixed-Huns, Turkic and Mongolic groups, the Eurasian steppes were dominated by an ancient Iranic people of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists.

These ‘horse lords’ dwelt on a wide swathe of the landmass known as Scythia since antiquity. Epitomizing the very dynamic scope of the nomadic lifestyle – covering an impressive spectrum from workmanship to warfare, they were thus known as the Scythians, the master horsemen, and archers of Iron Age.

And while the ‘Scythian Age’ only corresponded to the period between 7th century to 3rd century BC, the remarkable impression left behind by these warrior people was evident from the historic designation of (most of) Eurasian steppes as Scythia (or greater Scythia) even thousands years after the rise and decline of the nomadic group. Now a part of this legacy had to do with the incredible military campaigns conducted by the Scythians from the very beginning of their ‘brush’ with the global stage.

In fact, even during their earlier ascendancy, the Scythian warrior society was audacious enough to go into war with the sole superpower of the Mesopotamian region – Assyria. Now while Assyrian sources mostly keep mum about some of the presumed Scythian victories over them, it is known that one particular Assyrian monarch Esarhaddon was so desperate to secure peace with these Eurasian nomads that he even offered his daughter in marriage to the Scythian king Partatua. As for the effect of Scythian invasions on the realms of the Middle East, a biblical prophet summed up the baleful nature of the ferocious ‘horse lords’ from the north –

They are always courageous, and their quivers are like open grave. They will eat your harvest and bread, they will eat your sons and daughters, they will eat your sheep and oxen, they will eat your grapes and figs.

Oddly enough, while the socio-political effects of the Scythian incursions in the Middle East can be comprehended to some degree from contemporary (or near-contemporary) sources, historians are still mystified by the logistical and organizational capacity of the military of these nomads from the distant steppes. But it can be hypothesized that like most nomadic societies, the majority of the adult population was liable for military service (including some of the younger women or Amazons). Now the tactical advantage of such a scope translated to how the bulk of the early Scythians had mounted warriors – mostly lightly armored with leather jackets and rudimentary headgear.

Carrying weapons such as arrows, javelins, and even darts, the hardiness, mobility and unorthodox fighting methods espoused by these throngs of horsemen seemingly countered the more ‘sedentary’ battle tactics of the wealthy Mesopotamian civilizations. Furthermore, the light troops were backed up by a core force of heavily-armored shock cavalry that was usually commanded by the local princes – and they took to the battlefield for the killing blow after the perplexed enemy was both ‘softened’ by the projectiles and harassed by zig-zag maneuvers.

6) The Celtic Warrior (circa 6th century BC – mid 1st millennium AD) –

Celts were often lightly armored. Illustration by Angus McBride.

As opposed to the more specific cultures mentioned in this list, the Celts rather represent various population groups that lived in different parts of Europe (and even Asia and Africa) after the late Bronze Age. Now in spite of their ambit of diverse tribes, the Celts spoke pretty much the same language, while also showcasing their definitive art styles and military tendencies for the most part of their history. Pertaining to the latter scope, the ancient Celtic warrior had the reputation of fearlessness and ferocity – qualities that were conducive to many close-combat scenarios. Suffice it to say, the Celts served as mercenaries in various parts of the known world, ranging from colonies in Anatolia to the service of the Ptolemaic ‘Pharaohs’ of Egypt.

As for the history of the Celtic armies, they made their presence felt in the Mediterranean theater when the Gauls led by their king Bran (Brennus), sacked Rome in 390 BC. The Celts even managed to plunder the sacred site of Delphi in Greece in 290 BC, on their way to Asia Minor. Mirroring the sense of dread, this is what Polybius had to say about the fierce Celtic warriors, circa 2nd century BC –

The Romans…were terrified by the fine order of the Celtic host, and the dreadful din, for there were innumerable horn -blowers and trumpeters, and…the whole army were shouting their war-cries…Very terrifying too were the appearance and the gestures of the naked warriors in front, all in the prime of life and finely built men, and all in the leading companies richly adorned with gold torcs and armlets.

Interestingly enough, while the popular notion of a Celtic warrior is often limited to the physically imposing infantryman brandishing his shield and sword, a few ancient accounts also talk about other types of Celtic soldiers and formations. For example, Julius Caesar described how some of his Gaulish foes used light chariots with impressive maneuvering skills on the battlefield. And even more than two centuries before Caesar’s time, Hannibal made use of heavy Celtic cavalrymen who were instrumental in dismantling their Roman counterparts in the Battle of Cannae.

7) The Dacian Warrior (513 BC – first mentioned by Herodotus early 2nd century AD, Trajan’s war with Dacians) –

A Dacian (on the right) vs. a Roman. Credit: Jason Juta

Trajan engaged the war with hardened soldiers, who despised the Parthians, our enemy, and who didn’t care of their arrow blows, after the terrible wounds inflicted by the curved swords of the Dacians.

This was the rhetoric uttered by Marcus Cornelius Fronto (in Principia Historiae II), and the statement pretty much sums up the presumably devastating effect of the Dacian ‘specialty’ weapon of falx. An Indo-European people, related to the Thracians, the Dacians inhabited the regions of the Carpathian mountains (mostly encompassing modern-day Romania and Moldova).

Interestingly enough, from the cultural perspective, they were influenced by the urbanized Hellenic neighbors to their south, the Celtic invaders from their west and the nomadic Scythians from the Eurasian steppes – thus leading to a unique admixture of martial traditions that was pronounced in their warrior culture.

Now from the archaeological perspective, the skilled Getae-Dacian craftsmen showcased their penchant for furnishing iron weapons, as is evident from the profusion of iron reduction furnaces found across the ancient lands inhabited by the people, circa 300-200 BC. Intriguingly, beyond the weapons manufacturing scope of the Dacians, there was a social angle to the warrior society of these people, aptly represented by the aforementioned falx – a scythe-like weapon that curved ‘inwards’ sharply at the tip.

In that regard, these scythes, with their ability to puncture both helmets and shields, probably had their origins in rudimentary agricultural tools used by the farmers. So simply put, the dual nature of this weapon-type rather mirrors the dual role played by the ordinary folks of the Dacian society who frequently had to don the mantle of soldiers and protectors.

They were also complemented by the perceived upper-classes of the Dacians society – men who were allowed to wear caps and keep long beards. Dedicating most of their time in pursuit of martial activities, the Dacian elite provided the warriors who filled the role of tribal warlords, officers and even reputable divisions within the army (often wearing Sarmatian style scale mail and hardy Thracian helmets, while being equipped with the deadly falx and smaller sica). Moreover, there is also evidence of Dacian priests who used weapons like bows and spears in their rituals, thus suggesting how warfare was an intrinsic part of the Dacian culture.

8) The Roman Warrior (the ancient Roman Republic and Empire, 509 BC – 395 AD) –

Roman legionaries led by a centurion. Illustration by Peter Dennis. Credit: Warlord Games Ltd.

To talk about the ancient Romans in merely three paragraphs is indeed a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, as most history aficionados would know, the Romans in their greatest extent (circa 117 AD, the year of Emperor Trajan’s death) controlled the largest empire in the ancient world, stretching from Spain to Syria and Caucasus, and from North African coasts and Egypt to the northern confines of Britain. These conquests were all the more impressive considering Rome’s initial beginning (circa 9th-8th century BC) as a backwater region that was inhabited by cattle rustlers who made their camps and rudimentary dwellings among the hills and the swamplands.

Suffice it to say, the impressive conquests all over Europe, Asia and Africa were fueled by the ancient Roman warrior culture (and doctrine) that was based on sheer discipline and incredible organizational depth. This was complemented by the inherent Roman ability to adapt and learn from other military cultures.

Pertinent examples would include the initial Roman armies that were composed of ‘hoplites’ inspired by the Greeks of Magna Graecia. But over time they adopted maniples that were possibly influenced by other Italic people (and contemporary social conditions). Finally, this organizational scope gave way to legionaries, an ancient Roman equivalent of professional soldiery that was inspired by a mix of foreign influences, including that of Celts and Spaniards.

However, the greatest of Roman strengths probably pertained to their unflinching capacity to make ‘comebacks’ from balefully disastrous scenarios – because of a unique combination of (societal) logistics and warrior culture. A pertinent example relates to how the Battle of Cannae (a single encounter in 216 BC) possibly snatched away a significant chunk of the Roman male population. In terms of sheer numbers, the bloody day probably accounted for over 40,000 Roman deaths (the figure is put at 55,000 by Livy 70,000 by Polybius), which equated to about 80 percent of the Roman army fielded in the battle!

The male population of Rome in 216 BC is estimated to be around 400,000 and thus the Battle of Cannae possibly resulted in the deaths of around 1/10th – 1/20th of the Roman male population (considering there were also allied Italic casualties). So objectively, from the numerical context, the Romans lost anywhere between 5-10 percent of their male population in their bloodiest encounter for a single day. And yet they were ultimately victorious in the Second Punic War.

9) The Parthian Warrior (247 BC – 224 AD) –

Parthian cataphracts charging the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae (circa 53 BC).

The Parthians amalgamated the military tendencies of their nomadic brethren (like the Scythians) and the cultural legacy of the Achaemenid Persians. The result was a feudal society in the ancient times that was headed by powerful clans who maintained their political presence while granting autonomy to many urban and trading centers throughout the kingdom. As a consequence, the Parthian army was dominated by mounted warriors (an effect of their nomadic origins), with the core composed of the famed cataphracts and clibanarii – heavily armored horsemen mounted atop Nisean chargers. These chosen retinues of the nobles were often accompanied by a multitude of lightly-armed horse-archers.

At times, especially during periods of a protracted war with the Romans, the Parthians also fielded infantry – though they were usually of mixed variety, with preference given to the hardy hill-folks from northern Persia, who were often supplemented by the poorly armed urban militia.

In essence, the military of the Parthians mirrored the armies of Europe during the early middle-ages, where the military (and political) leadership was focused on heavily armed mounted warriors, while the rest of the army played a rather supporting role. And these feudal orientations actually allude to the warrior culture ingrained in Parthian military norms, where the ‘knightly’ armored horsemen epitomized the crème de la crème of the Persian society – a cultural legacy carried forth by the future Sassanians.

And since we brought up the conflict of the Parthians with the Romans, the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC) can be counted among the first instances when the Romans came across the might of heavy cavalry, which was certainly a departure from infantry-dominated European battlefields of the ancient era. In terms of figures, the Romans had seven legions along with seven thousand auxiliary forces and a thousand Gallic crack cavalrymen which came to around a total of 45,000 to 52,000 men. On the other hand, the Parthians had around a total of 12,000 soldiers with at least 9,000 of them being horse archers recruited from Saka and Yue-Chi people, and 1,000 being cataphracts (super-heavy cavalry).

The battle in itself proved the superiority in the mobility of the Parthian horsemen, as they unleashed a hail of arrows upon the constrained formations of the legionary forces. The final coup de grace was delivered by 1,000 tightly-packed cataphracts atop their mighty Nicean chargers – when they broke the ranks of the disarrayed Romans, who were already afflicted by the elusive horse archers of the steppes. Unsurprisingly, the unexpected defeat had long drawn repercussions, with the Romans (and later Eastern Romans) in time adopting many of the shock cavalry tactics of their eastern neighbors.

10) The Lusitanian Warrior (circa 2nd century BC) –

Paulus Orosius, the Gallaecian Catholic priest, called the Lusitanian hero Viriatus ‘Terror Romanorum’.

Unlike the other ancient warrior cultures mention in this list, the Lusitani (Lusitanians) preferred special tactics used during protracted conflicts, which entailed the very concept of ancient guerrilla warfare. Roughly occupying most of modern Portugal (south of Douro river) along with the central provinces of Spain, the Lusitani were a part of the Celt-Iberian group.

And quite oddly, unlike their Gallic neighbors or even kingdoms from across the Mediterranean Sea, the Lusitanian tribes were never warlike in the proper sense of the word. However, they did show their military acumen and even might, when provoked – as was the case during the Hispanic Wars and the campaigns of Lusitanian hero Viriatus against Rome. It is estimated that the Romans and their Italic allies lost around an astronomical 200,000 soldiers during the 20-year period of war between 153-133 BC!

And even beyond figures, it was the unique essence of unconventional warfare that really made the ancient Celt-Iberians stand out from their contemporaries. As Polybius had noted – the Hispanic Wars were different because of their unpredictability, with Lusitanians and other Celt-Iberians adopting the tactic of ‘consursare‘ (which is sometimes described as ‘lack of tactics’) that involved sudden advancements and confusing retreats in the heat of the battle. Their warrior society also followed a cult of the trim physique, with body slimness being rather accentuated by wearing wide yet tight belts around the waist!

Moreover, many of Lusitani young warriors were known to be the ‘desperados’ of ancient times because of their penchant for gathering riches through robberies. And herein lied their cultural ability to conduct armed encounters even during times of peace. As Greek historian Diodorus Siculus said –

There is a custom characteristic of the Iberians, but particularly of the Lusitans, that when they reach adulthood those men who stand out through their courage and daring provide themselves with weapons, and meet in the mountains. There they form large bands, to ride across Iberia gathering riches through robbery, and they do this with the most complete disdain towards all. For them the harshness of the mountains, and the hard life they lead there, are like their own home and there they look for refuge…

Book References: The Spartan Army (By Nicholas Secunda) / The Ancient Assyrians (By Mark Healy) / The World of the Scythians (By Renate Rolle) / Cannae: Hannibal’s Greatest Victory (By Adrian Goldsworthy) / Rome and her Enemies (Editor Jane Penrose)

And in case we have not attributed or misattributed any image or artwork, please let us know via the ‘Contact Us’ link, provided both above the top bar and at the bottom bar of the page. To that end, given the vast ambit of the internet and with so many iterations of the said image (and artwork) in various channels, social media, and websites it sometimes becomes hard to track down the original artist/photographer/illustrator.


A Countdown Through History’s Most Elite and Deadly Warriors

The Janissaries were forced to swear allegiance to the Sultan and to live a celibate life. Wikimedia Commons.

6. The Janissaries were Europe&rsquos first standing army, hired by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to protect him and forced to live a life of sacrifice and celibacy

Up until the 14 th century, there were no real standing armies in Europe instead, men would just be called up to fight as and when a king or lord needed them. Once a war was over, the men returned to their normal life. The Janissaries changed all this. They were not only the first modern standing army in all of Europe, they were also some of the most-disciplined soldiers the world had ever seen. Attached to the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, they were subject to strict rules and regulations, making them reliable bodyguards and formidable opponents on the field of battle.

The Janissary unit was established towards the end of the 14 th century. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Murad I, ordered that a group of Christian men taken as prisoner of war be converted to Islam and then serve as his personal soldiers. He was so impressed with the results of his little project that he ordered that it be repeated. So, whenever they got the opportunity, troops of the Ottoman Empire would take young Christian boys, usually from the Balkans region, make them convert, and then train them as soldiers.

Following on from the reign of Murad I, the unit grew in size and in strength. The Janissaries became known as the Sultan&rsquos most reliable fighting unit. They were known for their bravery and their speed. In a battle or siege, they would wait for the frontline troops to pierce a hole in the enemy&rsquos defenses and then they would attack, swarming in and showing no mercy with their bows or muskets. Such a tactic was particularly effective during the siege of Constantinople in 1453, and it also enabled the Ottoman Empire to defeat the Egyptian Mamluks &ndash themselves an elite group of warriors &ndash in 1467.

To maintain their discipline, Janissaries were forbidden from taking romantic partners. They were forced to live a life of celibacy. Moreover, they were expected to devote their lives, and their deaths, to the Sultan himself. In return, they were granted elevated status in the Empire, along with good pay and other benefits. Despite the celibacy rule, many regular soldiers and then civilians wanted to be part of the unit. By 1826, Sultan Mahmud II, anxious that the corps had forgotten its original purpose, had it disbanded. To make sure it was finished for good, he had more than 6,000 Janissaries executed.


The transcendence of a military culture to a military ‘caste&rsquo is a very subtle transition, but if one needs a definition of a military caste to work with, then look no further than the Samurai. When observance of the rituals of military culture become interchangeable with the rituals of religion, and when military regalia and weaponry became an artistic statement in themselves, then that is a military caste &ndash and that remains very much the methodology of the Samurai.

Samurai, as just about everyone knows, originated in Japan, and today forms the bedrock of the nation&rsquos political and business elite. The origins of Samurai can be traced to the Japanese ‘Heian Period&rsquo, between 794 and 1185 CE, during which time the term simply described the private armies of wealthy landowners. The word ‘Samurai&rsquo translates roughly to ‘Those Who Serve&rsquo, and early Samurai were no more than a group of armed retainers with simple and violent tendencies.

As was the case with the Mamluk, however, it was not long before a kind of group cohesion began to develop, gradually elevating the Samurai towards something a bit more than the sum of its parts. By the 12th century, the power balance in Japan began to shift away from the imperial court towards the heads of dispersed families and clans, and this inevitably led to war. Between 1180 and 1185, what was known as the ‘Gempei War&rsquo was fought. All that we need to know about this is that it projected a particularly gifted Samurai warlord, Minamoto Yoshitsune, to political power.

Japan then effectively became an hereditary military dictatorship, under a system of government known as a ‘Shogun&rsquo. Under numerous Shogun dynasties, the institution of Samurai became a virtual knighthood of privileged elites, practising a stylized and heavily ritualized system of military and combat discipline. Into the equation, at about the same time, came Zen Buddhism, the essential ideological elements of which blended very well with Samurai. Austerity and simple ritual, along with a belief that salvation comes from within, quickly became the center of Samurai expression.

As its essential symbol, the Samurai sword gained great symbolic relevance, far beyond its utility as an implement of war. The honor of a Samurai resides in his sword, and the artistic accomplishment in the production of an individual sword is of no less importance.

From this higher form of martial expression came the code of ‘Bushido&rsquo. Bushido is the defining moral code of Samurai, and of the Shinto region. Shinto is a wholly Japanese religion emphasizing the veneration of nature, of ancestors and great historic heroes, and the divinity of the Emperor.

Samurai, therefore, morphed over centuries from a band of hired enforcers to a finely tuned military culture that still holds dear its treasured rituals and artefacts, and adheres religiously to tradition.


Watch the video: Jalwa song covered by the warriors crew.