Are there actual examples of armies with iron weaponry overwhelming armies with bronze weaponry in the second and first millenniums BCE?

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,997
MD, USA
Was that not one of the advantages of the romans ? notably against the greeks
The Greeks were using iron weapons at the same time the Romans were. They had equivalent armor, too, though of different styles. Bronze was still the metal of choice for armor into the 4th century BC, possibly because working wrought iron sheet out thin enough for armor is a bit tricky. At that point there was still little need for large amounts of cheaper armor since soldiers were largely supplying their own, depending on their wealth.


In this period, iron was considered a precious metal by Alexander. During his world tour of conquest Alexander gave his generals instructions to seize any iron found. Strangely it was not for its merits in weaponry that it received the status of precious, but instead for its application to lapidary work
Lapidary work?? Who came up with that bit of fantasy?? How many tons of jewelry do you need?

Matthew
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,661
San Diego
I truly wish folks would STOP thinking that Iron cultures won out over bronze cultures due to iron weaponry.

Iron weaponry was the least important advantage that Iron conferred.

An ancient soldier on campaign might use his iron sword in actual combat once or twice in an entire year- And iron swords or spear points are no MORE lethal than bronze ones.

What iron did was to dramatically boost the overall ECONOMIES of the cultures that had that technology.
A Miner will use his Iron pick and Drill 10 to 12 hours a day- 300- days or more per year. A woodcutter would use his Iron axes and saws and adzes 10 - 12 hours a day Every Day.
A stone mason could produce 4 times as much work with Iron Tools than with bronze- and cut harder- higher quality stone, to boot.

Iron ore is more plentiful than copper or tin- and therefore Iron not only made for more productive mines in its ability to dig faster- but the fact that you could find iron ore almost anywhere multiplied the number of mines- this vastly greater availability brought the COST of iron WAY down relative to the cost of bronze- and what this meant was that a culture with iron not only had More money to equip and fund armies- they had more raw resources available to exploit. They could process wood 4 times faster in vastly greater quantities- which brings down the cost of building ships- and not just naval ships- but more importantly Cargo shipping- adding to their economic activity and overall wealth.

Iron cultures did not win out because their armies had Iron swords- ultimately they won out because they could afford to field a Larger and more well equipped army- because they had more money. They won out because they could BUY more, build more, and be more important trade partners to potential allies than competing bronze cultures that simply had less money.
They could have economic growth when bronze cultures were in recession.

They Out Produced bronze cultures. Plain and simple. And that they could out-produce them in weaponry was just one effect of greater productivity.

The Iron Swords were made by an Iron ECONOMY- not the other way around.
 
Sep 2017
772
United States
No battle is determined by the equipment each side used. Battles are determined by numbers, tactics, supply lines, communication, intelligence, morale, commander experience, training, topography, weather, surprise, and so on. If you list all of the factors that decide a battle in order of importance, the difference between the equipment that both sides used would be right down near the bottom.
On that note, though, doesn't equipment influence the tactics used, and elements of supply and environment?
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,997
MD, USA
I truly wish folks would STOP thinking that Iron cultures won out over bronze cultures due to iron weaponry.

Iron weaponry was the least important advantage that Iron conferred.

An ancient soldier on campaign might use his iron sword in actual combat once or twice in an entire year- And iron swords or spear points are no MORE lethal than bronze ones.

What iron did was to dramatically boost the overall ECONOMIES of the cultures that had that technology.
A Miner will use his Iron pick and Drill 10 to 12 hours a day- 300- days or more per year. A woodcutter would use his Iron axes and saws and adzes 10 - 12 hours a day Every Day.
A stone mason could produce 4 times as much work with Iron Tools than with bronze- and cut harder- higher quality stone, to boot.

Iron ore is more plentiful than copper or tin- and therefore Iron not only made for more productive mines in its ability to dig faster- but the fact that you could find iron ore almost anywhere multiplied the number of mines- this vastly greater availability brought the COST of iron WAY down relative to the cost of bronze- and what this meant was that a culture with iron not only had More money to equip and fund armies- they had more raw resources available to exploit. They could process wood 4 times faster in vastly greater quantities- which brings down the cost of building ships- and not just naval ships- but more importantly Cargo shipping- adding to their economic activity and overall wealth.

Iron cultures did not win out because their armies had Iron swords- ultimately they won out because they could afford to field a Larger and more well equipped army- because they had more money. They won out because they could BUY more, build more, and be more important trade partners to potential allies than competing bronze cultures that simply had less money.
They could have economic growth when bronze cultures were in recession.

They Out Produced bronze cultures. Plain and simple. And that they could out-produce them in weaponry was just one effect of greater productivity.

The Iron Swords were made by an Iron ECONOMY- not the other way around.
THANK you! I would only modify that slightly by saying that states rarely equipped armies--they required their qualified citizens to equip themselves. Though Yes, the wider availability of cheaper weapons means more men could afford the weapons needed to fight, etc.

But the bit about tools is a telling point. And I'm not even sure I'd say that iron tools made work that much faster than bronze tools, simply (again) that far more people could afford iron tools, while they probably spent the Bronze Age using stone axes, etc. Net result, YES, huge economic growth.

Matthew
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,950
Australia
Iron weaponry was the least important advantage that Iron conferred.

An ancient soldier on campaign might use his iron sword in actual combat once or twice in an entire year- And iron swords or spear points are no MORE lethal than bronze ones.

What iron did was to dramatically boost the overall ECONOMIES of the cultures that had that technology.
A Miner will use his Iron pick and Drill 10 to 12 hours a day- 300- days or more per year. A woodcutter would use his Iron axes and saws and adzes 10 - 12 hours a day Every Day.
A stone mason could produce 4 times as much work with Iron Tools than with bronze- and cut harder- higher quality stone, to boot.
The sentiment is correct but the reasoning is wrong. It has already been said that iron was NOT superior to bronze in terms of performance. Bronze is actually better than iron for many tools. What iron enabled was a much greater penetration into the industry. Bronze tools and weaponry were only available to the wealthy, whereas iron was available to everyone. Instead of one woodsman in 20 being able to afford a metal axe, iron enabled all 20 of them to own one. This is how productivity, and hence the economy, was boosted.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,950
Australia
On that note, though, doesn't equipment influence the tactics used, and elements of supply and environment?
Of course. A good commander will note the equipment his soldiers has and adapt his tactics accordingly. That equipment isn't inherently better or worse than his opponent's, just different.
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,661
San Diego
The sentiment is correct but the reasoning is wrong. It has already been said that iron was NOT superior to bronze in terms of performance. Bronze is actually better than iron for many tools. What iron enabled was a much greater penetration into the industry. Bronze tools and weaponry were only available to the wealthy, whereas iron was available to everyone. Instead of one woodsman in 20 being able to afford a metal axe, iron enabled all 20 of them to own one. This is how productivity, and hence the economy, was boosted.
Ergo my reasoning is exactly correct. Iron was more affordable, more plentiful, and more productive.


And Iron cultures STILL HAD bronze. At no point did iron replace anything that bronze served better for.
 
Dec 2012
446
well in the early modern era bronze cannons were usually considered higher quality than iron ones, but they were a lot more rare due to the fact that bronze was more expensive. I don't think its the innate quality of iron that made it more popluar