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Assyria was located on the upper Tigris River and its empire reached its height about 681 B.C. The Assyrian Empire was very powerful and was strong for several reasons. First was the way the Assyrians organized their army. They were one of the first to organize their army into regular units of uniform numbers—tens, hundreds, thousands—with standard equipment and commanders that could be promoted or demoted for performance. Another reason for their strength was the technology used by the Assyrians. Assyrians built large, powerful chariots pulled by as many as four horses. Though the Hittites were the ones to develop a method of working iron, the Assyrians borrowed this knowledge and exploited it by creating weapons out of iron, which were superior to earlier bronze weapons. Military engineering also played an important role in the strength of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians built roads wide enough for their wheeled vehicles allowing them to move their armies quickly to where they were needed. Military engineers also created battering rams to knock down the walls of fortified cities and developed methods to dig tunnels under these walls. They also built ladders to scale these walls. Finally, the Assyrians used terror to conquer. They were cruel warriors, often burning buildings and torturing and beheading prisoners, as well as enslaving women and children. This reputation for brutality allowed the Assyrians to conquer people without a fight.
There were a number of factors that allowed the Assyrians to become the most feared fighting unit in the world. Geography, especially the lack of natural protection from attack played an important role. The Assyrians came to realize that their survival depended on a strong national defense. King Tiglath Pileser III established, by decree, a standing professional army that would be composed of highly trained professional soldiers. The idea of a soldier working in the military as a full-time profession was unique in the ancient world. This army was also the best-equipped outfit in the entire world, particularly because of their ability to produce a wide range of iron weapons.
Another aspect of the Assyrian army that led to its success was the specialization of jobs within the military. Some of these positions included infantry, bowmen, charioteers, and engineers. The Assyrians also benefited from a reputation for brutality. This allowed the Assyrians to grab territories without even having to fight a battle.
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