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Size of the armies -how real they were?

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sreenivasarao s View Drop Down

Joined: 02-Apr-2007
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  Quote sreenivasarao s Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Size of the armies -how real they were?
    Posted: 11-Apr-2007 at 08:26

Medieval Indian Armies how really real were those numbers?

Recently I noticed an interesting discussion in the AE History Forum- Ancient Mediterranean and Europe Section under the thread Really only 300 Spartans! .

Somewhere down the line, the discussion veered to the incredibly huge size of the armies said to have been deployed in the wars fought in ancient times. Maziar Shahanshah and Sparten Padishah wondered how the Persians could muster an army of 2.5 million and worse still maintain them? Was the population of the time big enough to supply an army of that size?


A similar situation exists in the Indian context too. The armies mentioned in the Epic battles of ancient India are incredibly huge .They run into tens of millions of foot- soldiers, horses, chariots, elephants etc. Even if we assume these battles were not mythical, they, then, took place too far back in time. There is, therefore, not much use, in either case, discussing the credibility of the numbers cited there. However, when we look at the armies of the medieval India as recorded in history we again run into the same issue-that of credibility.


Armies of Krishna Deva Raya

Krishna Deva Raya is the most celebrated name in the history of South India. His reign      (1509 1530A.D) is regarded as the golden age of the Vijayanagar Empire. Arts, culture, literature, music, religion etc. flourished under his patronage. The rule of Krishna Deva Raya also wrote a glorious chapter in Vijayanagar history when his army emerged as the strongest military power in South India.


Much of our information about his military campaigns   comes from the accounts of Portuguese travelers Domingos Paes, Nuniz and Castanheda.


Ferno Lopez da Castanheda (1500-1559) a Portuguese explorer traveled to India in 1528(in the closing years of Krishna Deva Rayas rule) and authored a book covering events in India from 1497 to 1549 after considerable research and discussions. His book enjoyed a wide audience and influenced other writers of the period. According to him, the king at any time could command a force of one or even two million men, at his will. He also mentions that the king at all times kept, at his own cost, an establishment of 100,000 horses and 4,000 elephants


Fernao Nuniz a Portuguese traveler, chronicler and horse trader who spent three years in Vijayanagara (1535 1537) said that the king in his Raichur campaign( May 1520) deployed 703,000 foot soldiers, 32,600 cavalry and 551 elephants besides the camp followers, merchants, and "an infinitude of people" who joined him at a place close to Raichur. The troops advanced in eleven great divisions or army corps and other troops joined him before Raichur


Abdur Razzaq an ambassador from Persia to Calicut in India during the times of Vijayanagar Empire in 15th century put the strength at 1,100,000 with 1000 or more elephants.


Around the same time Afanasy Nikitin (1472?), a Russian traveler and writer who visited India mentions that in the war against Vijaynagar (1443?) the Bahamani Sultan lead a huge force that included 900,000 foot, 190,000 horses, and 575 elephants


The second volume of Scott's "History of the Dekhan includes a translation of a journal kept by an officer in the reign of Aurangzib (1658 to 1707). Writing about Vijayanagar in former days, at the height of its grandeur and importance, he says, "They kept an army of 30,000 horses, a million of infantry, and their wealth was beyond enumeration."


The Venetian  merchant and explorer  Nicol de Conti, who was in India about a century earlier than the war in question, while narrating his story to  Poggio  Bracciolini(1380 to 1459) mentioned  that the Vijayanagar army consisted of "a million of men and upwards.


It is rather difficult to judge the veracity of the above accounts. All that we can make out is that the King of Vijayanagar had at his command a vast resource of men and material. It does not, however, say how well the men were trained or how destructive the armaments were or even how effective were the strategies employed.


Perhaps we could agree with unicorn Praetorian when he says, I think we should at the first sight neglect the sizes (alleged or quite rational) of the armies and think at the situation of the time and the field tactics. 


The Forgotten Empire
-Robert Swell

Edited by sreenivasarao s - 11-Apr-2007 at 08:35
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ataman View Drop Down

Joined: 27-Feb-2006
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  Quote ataman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-May-2007 at 11:49
It's an interesting subject indeed...
First of all, does anybody know what population of India in 15-16th was?
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