« AnteriorContinuar »
At the age of fifty they might demand their discharge; or if they preferred it, they might continue in arms.
In Greece too, the armies consisted for the most part of free citizens, whom the laws of their country obliged to appear in arms, when they arrived at a certain age, on the summons of a magistrate or commissioned officer. In Athens, as in Palestine, the youth were not led to the field till they had attained the age of twenty, though they were appointed to guard the city and the forts belonging to it, at eighteen years of age. But they were not permitted to retire from the service till they had completed their sixtieth year."
The Jews never spake of levying troops, but of choosing them ; because all the males, from twenty years old and upwards, being liable to serve, they had always a great many more than they wanted. In allusion to the general muster of the people, and the selection of a certain number for the service of their country, our Lord observes, “ Many are called, but few are chosen." The great mass of the people were called together by sound of trumpet, and on passing in review before the officers, those were chosen who were deemed most fit for service. This is the reason, the Hebrews usually called their soldiers young men, and bahurim, chosen. But no man, who felt a disposition to serve his country, was rejected; though an Israelite was not chosen, he might volunteer his services, and was then enrolled.
Nearly the same forms were used by the Romans during the republic. The consuls, after they were entered on their office, appointed a day when all those who were of the military age were summoned to appear in the capi• Potter's Gr. Antiq, vol. ii, p. 1, 2.
• Matt. xx, 16.
tol. On the day appointed, the consuls, assisted by the military or legionary tribunes, held a levy, when they ordered such as they pleased to be cited out of each tribe, and
every one was obliged to answer to his name under a severe penalty.
The armies of Israel were often extremely numerous. Six hundred thousand men capable of bearing arms, marched out of Egypt to take possession of Canaan, the inheritance promised to their fathers; and after their establishment in that country, such immense masses of men appeared in the field, as fill the inquirer with equal surprise and hesitation. Unable to conceive how the narrow limits assigned to the twelve tribes, could furnish such powerful armies ; some have questioned the purity of the text, and others have denied its inspiration altogether. It is readily granted, that the statement of numbers in all ancient records, is liable to great and important errors, especially when they are expressed by letters, as in Hebrew, many of which nearly resemble one another. But while this is admitted, still a variety of circumstances present themselves to the notice of a candid mind, which render the gross amount of the numbers given in the sacred page not only possible, but actually entitled to credit. In judging of this question, it is unfair to apply the usual proportion of fighting men to the mass of the population in modern Europe ; for the cases are quite dissimilar. It is equally unfair to overlook the extraordinary fruitfulness of Canaan ; its minute division among the tribes; the frugal habits of the people, and the peculiar composition of an Asiatic army, in which it is computed, that every soldier has commonly ten or twelve followers, and
d Adams' Roman Antiquities, p. 368.
often many more. The soil of Canaan, throughout its whole extent, swarmed with a hardy race of cultivators, all of whom, from twenty years old and upwards, were enrolled and liable to be called out to war. Numerous as their levies were, they did not exceed those of Xerxes, Darius, and other eastern monarchs. But as the accounts of these are supposed to be justly liable to suspicion, let us turn to the authentic page of Knolles, and from his “ History of the Turks” state the numbers in the contending armies of Bajazet and Tamerlane. The army of the Tartar chief consisted, by the testimony of that historian, of " four hundred thousand horse, and six hundred thousand foot ; or, as some others that were there present affirm, three hundred thousand horsemen and five hundred thousand foot, of all nations.". To arrest his progress, Bajazet assembled an army of three hundred thousand men, or, as some report, of three hundred thousand horsemen and two hundred thousand foot. The contending armies, in the late destructive war, were said at one time to be nearly as numerous.f
These were indeed mighty empires, which may well be supposed to raise forces, to which the small state of Judea was incompetent. But if the Jewish armies were composed like those of their neighbours, which cannot be reasonably doubted, the competency of that small kingdom to send such a force into the field, is by no means incredible. The justness of this remark will appear from the statement of Baron du Tott, in relation to the armies raised by the Cham of Crim Tartary.
“ It may be presumed,” says he, “ that the rustic frugal life which these pastoral people lead, favours popue Knolles' Hist. of the Turks, abridged by Savage, vol. i, p. 142, 143.
f The war of the French Revolution.
lation ; while the wants and exeesses of luxury, among polished nations, strike at its very foot. In fact, it is observed that the people are less numerous under the roofs of the Crimea and the province of Boodjack, than in the tents of the Noguais. The best calculation we can make, is from a view of the military forces which the cham is able to assemble. We shall soon see this prince raising three armies at the same time; one of a hundred thousand men, which he commanded in person; another of sixty thousand, commanded by the calga ; and a third of forty thousand, by the nooradin. He had the power of raising double the number, without prejudice to the necessary labours of the state.”
To this important account may be added the following observations from Volney's Travels. “ Sixty thousand men with them, are very from being synonimous with sixty thousand soldiers, as in our armies. That of which we are now speaking, affords a proof of this ; it might amount in fact to forty thousand men, which may be classed as follows: Five thousand Mamlouk cavalry, which was the whole effective army; about fifteen hundred Barbary Arabs, on foot, and no other infantry, for the Turks are acquainted with none; with them the cavalry is every thing. Besides these, each Mamlouk having in his suit, two footmen, armed with staves, these would form a body of ten thousand valets, besides a number of servants and serradgis, or attendants on horseback, for the bey and kachefs, which may be estimated at two thousand; all the rest were suttlers and the usual train of followers. Such was this army, as described to me in Palestine, by persons who had seen and followed it.”g
f Du Tott's Memoir, vol. i, p. 113. 8 Volney's Travels, vol. i, p. 124.
66 The Asiatic armies are mobs, their marches ravages, their campaigns mere inroads, and their battles bloody frays. The strongest or the most adventurous party goes in search of the other, which not unfrequently flies without offering resistance. If they stand their ground, they engage pell-mell, discharge their carbines, break their spears, and hack each other with their sabres: for they rarely have any cannon; and when they have, they are but of little service. A panic frequently diffuses itself without cause ; one party flies; the other pursues and shouts victory; the vanquished submits to the will of the conqueror, and the campaign often terminates without a battle.h
These extracts clearly prove, that the soldiers compose but a very small part of an Asiatic army.
“ In fact," says Calmet, “ when we deduct those whose attendance is of little advantage; it may be not very distant from truth, if we say nine out of ten are such as in Europe would be forbid the army; and I would not absolutely despise the suggestion, that when we read 40 instead of 400, the true fighting corps of soldiers only are reckoned and stated. However that may be, I think we have seen enough to justify the possibility of such numbers as the Scripture hath recorded, being assembled for the
purposes of warfare; of which purposes plunder is not one of the least in the opinion of those who usually follow a camp. I think too, we may be pretty certain, that no conclusive estimate of the population of a kingdom can be drawn from such assemblages, under such circumstances; and therefore, that no calculation ought to be hazarded on such imperfect data.” ḥ Volney's Trav. vol. i, p. 126.
Taylor's Calmet, vol. iii.