5 Ancient Wars that Destroyed and Created Civilizations

By | July 26, 2015

The word “war” came from the Old High German word, “Werran” (to confuse or to cause confusion), through the Old English word, “Werre,” which is:

“a state of open and usually declared armed conflict between political entities such as sovereign states or between rival political or social factions within the same state.”

Carl Von Clausewitz, a Prussian military analyst, in his book, On War, calls it, “continuation of politics carried on by other means.”

The history of man is liberally sprinkled with armed conflicts which, ironically, destroyed and created civilizations and/or nations. Here are the most ancient:


1. Mesopotamia (2334-2279 BC)


Sargon - http://www.ancient.eu/image/161/Sargon (photo via ancient.eu)

Mesopotamia (“between two rivers” in Greek) was an ancient region in the eastern Mediterranean bounded by the Zagros Mountains in the northeast, and the Arabian Plateau in the southeast. The two rivers are Tigris and Euphrates. Today, it is Iraq, and partly Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Around 4000 B.C., the cities in the region began developing. But they were almost always at war with each other.

Until Sargon the Great subjugated them all and unified the region under the Akkadian Empire.

But as history tells, it is easier to win wars than peace. Mesopotamia broke up into smaller countries which are all geo-political hotbeds in the Middle East.


2. Egypt (3100 BC)

The first dynasty of Egypt is thought to have been formed by Pharoah Menes who united its Upper and Lower regions sometime in 3100.


King Menes - http://www.britannica.com/biography/Menes

King Menes (photo via britannica.com)

He was also the first ruler of Ancient Egypt to leave a written record of rule.


3. China (1046 BC)

Ancient China was composed of eight states which were always in constant war against each other. Then in 1046, the Zhou Dynasty under its ruler, Qin Shi Huang, defeated them all and unified China.


Zhou Dynasty - earlyworldhistory.blogspot.com Zhou Dynasty (photo via earlyworldhistory.blogspot.com)


Emperor Qin also started the construction of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, the longest canal or artificial river in the world. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a famous tourist destination.


4. Carthage (236 – 183 BC)

Legends have it that Carthage was founded by the Phoenician Queen Elissa (better known as Dido), sometime around 813 BC. It is now Tunisia, North Africa.

In ancient times, it was constantly at war with Greece and the Roman Republic.

Carthage was also the hometown of the famous Carthagian general Hannibal who, through his brother, Hasdrubal, gave the Romans a real beating in 211 in the Battle of the Baetis Valley, a Spanish territory bordering Rome.


Carthagian War - www.sights-and-culture.com Carthagian War (photo via sights-and-culture.com)


With Spain under Hannibal, the Roman Senate was constantly agitated of their neighbor and wanted to drive him out. The problem was that no Roman general wanted to take the job.

Except, Scipio Africanus Major (the title was given to him because of his brilliant victories in Africa). He was born Publius Cornellus Scipio in 236, of Etruscan (Italy and Corsica) descent and his family belonged to the Patrician upper class.

Scipio sailed for the coast of Spain with 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry to battle with Hasdrubal’s force of 40,000 men. After careful intelligence-gathering, he saw the weakness of his opponent, Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, and launched an evening attack.

He not only drove him out of Spain but well into the Alps to join Hannibal. Scipio’s victory, not only rid the region of Hannibal and his army but paved the way for the birth of the Roman Empire – and more wars.


5. Macedonia (359-336)

Macedonia was a region in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Nowadays it has been chopped into six Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo. In ancient times, it was Macedon, a weak and backward country King Philip II inherited from his father, King Amyntas III.


King Phlip II - http://www.ancient.eu/image/2883/ King Phlip II (photo via ancient.eu)


Its army was ineffective and undisciplined. But King Philip molded them into a formidable, efficient military force which he used to subdue the territories surrounding Macedonia, including parts of Greece.

King Philip II also had a son who would create the largest empire of the ancient world (from Greece to Egypt, to India) - Alexander the Great.


Wars are horrible, they are destructive; they lay waste untold amounts of money in properties and lives.

Wars are the preferred tools of people for whatever purpose they have in mind. What would start as a simple defense of territorial integrity of a country can easily escalate to aggressive intrusion and occupation of another, like Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.

WW I caused the deaths of 17 million, and the wounding of 20 million. That of WW II was more than 48 million. If we factor in casualties of other wars since Macedonia until now, the toll is unimaginable.

Sadly, they will be with us for as long as people can’t settle their differences without resorting to the use of force, or continue to covet that which are not rightfully theirs.