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A battle cry is a yell or chant taken up in battle, usually by members of the same combatant group. Battle cries are not necessarily articulate, although they often aim to invoke patriotic or religious sentiment. Their purpose is a combination of arousing aggression and esprit de corps on one's own side and causing intimidation on the hostile side. Battle cries are a universal form of display behaviour (i.e., threat display) aiming at competitive advantage, ideally by overstating one's own aggressive potential to a point where the enemy prefers to avoid confrontation altogether and opts to flee. In order to overstate one's potential for aggression, battle cries need to be as loud as possible, and have historically often been amplified by acoustic devices such as horns, drums, conches, carnyxes, bagpipes, bugles, etc. (see also martial music).
Battle cries are closely related to other behavioral patterns of human aggression, such as war dances and taunting, performed during the "warming up" phase preceding the escalation of physical violence. From the Middle Ages, many cries appeared on standards and were adopted as mottoes, an example being the motto "Dieu et mon droit" ("God and my right") of the English kings. It is said that this was Edward III's rallying cry during the Battle of Crécy. The word "slogan" originally derives from sluagh-gairm or sluagh-ghairm (sluagh = "people", "army", and gairm = "call", "proclamation"), the Scottish Gaelic word for "gathering-cry" and in times of war for "battle-cry". The Gaelic word was borrowed into English as slughorn, sluggorne, "slogum", and slogan.
- The war cry is an aspect of epic battle in Homer: in the Iliad, Diomedes is conventionally called "Diomedes of the loud war cry." Hellenes and Akkadians alike uttered the onomatopoeic cry "alala" in battle.
- The troops of ancient Athens, during the Medic Wars and the Peloponnesian War were noted for going into battle shouting "Alala or Alale!", which was supposed to emulate the cry of the owl, the bird of their patron goddess Athena.
- The Western Huns attacked with terrifying battle cries.
- A common war cry used in ancient Tamilakam was "Vetrivel, Veeravel" (Victorious Vel, Courageous Vel). Vel is the holy lance of the Hindu god of war Murugan.
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- Each Turkic tribe and tribal union had its distinct Tamga (seal), totemic Ongon bird, and distinct Uran (battle cry) (hence the Slavic Urah "battle cry"). While tamgas and ongons could be distinct down to individuals, the hue of horses and uran battle cries belonged to each tribe, were passed down from generation to generation, and some modern battle cries were recorded in antiquity. On split of the tribe, their unique distinction passed to a new political entity, endowing different modern states with the same uran battle cries of the split tribes, for example Kipchak battle cry among Kazakhs, Kirgizes, Turkmens, and Uzbeks. Some larger tribes' uran battle cries:
- Desperta ferro! (in medieval Catalan meaning "Awake iron!") was the most characteristic cry of the Almogavar warriors, during the Reconquista.
- Deus vult! ("God wills it!" in Latin) was the battle cry of the Crusaders.
- Montjoie Saint Denis!: battle cry of the Kings of France since the 12th century.
- Santiago y cierra, España! was a war cry of Spanish troops during the Reconquista, and of the Spanish Empire.
- On August 14, 1431, the whole Holy Roman Empire army (of the 4th anti-Hussite crusade) was defeated by the Hussites in the Battle of Domažlice. Attacking imperial units started to retreat after hearing Ktož jsú boží bojovníci ("Ye Who Are Warriors of God") choral and were annihilated shortly after.
- The Sikh slogan or jaikara, battle cry, Bole So Nihal...Sat Sri Akal popularized by Guru Gobind Singh.
- The Gurkha (Gorkha) soldiers' battlecry was, and still is, "Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali!" ("Victory to Goddess Mahakali, the Gurkhas are coming!")
- The rebel yell was a battle cry used by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War.
- Finnish troops in the Swedish army in the 17th and 18th centuries, would use the battle cry Hakkaa päälle! ("Cut them down" in Finnish), lending them the name Hackapell.
- The Swedish army in the 18th and 19th century would be issued with the command to attack with "För Fäderneslandet, gå på, Hurra!" (For the Fatherland, onwards, Hurrah!)
- In the Texas Revolution, following the Battle of the Alamo, Texan soldiers would use the battle cry "Remember the Alamo!".
- During World War II, Banzai served as a battle cry of sorts for Japanese soldiers, particularly in a "banzai charge".
- Hooah is the war cry of the United States Army and Oorah is a war cry used by United States Marine Corps. The Russian version, "Urah!" has been used by the Imperial Russian Army, the Red Army and is still used by the Russian Ground Forces. It was also used by Yugoslav Partisans as Juriš/Јуриш.
- During the Korean War, the Korean People's Army used the phrase "김일성 수령님 만세" (translated to "Long live the Great Leader Kim Il-sung", or "May Great Leader Kim Il-sung live Ten Thousand Years".
- In Afghanistan, Norwegian troops of the Telemark Battalion would sometimes use the battle cry "Til Valhall!" (To Valhalla!) followed by Oorah.
- Muslim Mujahideen shout 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great).
- During World War 2 Soviet soldiers of the Red Army would shout "URA!" during charges.
During the Greco - Italian war (in WWII) the Greeks would shout "Αέρα !" As their battle cry.
- Guilhem Pepin, ‘Les cris de guerre « Guyenne ! » et « Saint George ! ». L’expression d’une identité politique du duché d’Aquitaine anglo-gascon’, Le Moyen Age, cxii (2006) pp 263–81
- Burkert, Walter, 1992. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influences on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, p 39f.
- Per Hesiod, Penguin Edition of Works and Days
- T.J. Craughwell, 2008, The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars who Razed the Old World and Formed the New, Fair Winds Press, p. 41, ISBN 978-1-59233-303-5
- Kalki R. Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan: The first floods,Macmillan India Limited, 01.01.2000, p. 300
- Shipova E.N., 1976, Dictionary of Türkisms in Russian Language, Alma-Ata, "Science", p. 349
- Dal V.I., Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language, vol. 4, p. 507, Diamant, Sankt Peterburg, 1998 (reprint of 1882 edition by M.O.Wolf Publisher), (In Russian)
- Zuev Yu. , 2002, Early Türks: Essays of history and ideology, Almaty, Daik-Press, p. 76, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
- Zuev Yu., 2002, Early Türks, p. 73
- Karpovdun G.I., Тіркмöн uruuluk en tamgalary. maalymattarynyn negizinde, in Karataev O.K., 2003, Kyrgyz-Oguz History (Кыргыз-Огуз Тарыхый – Этникалык Байланыштары), Kyrgyz Utuluk university, pp. 199–207
- p.3, The Cambridge history of Japan, by John Whitney Hall, 1988 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-22352-0
- Til Valhall - Norwegian Soldiers Battle Cry. YouTube. 5 May 2011.
- Philip Rance, 'War Cry' in The Encyclopedia of the Roman Army - Roman battle cries
- Ross Cowan, The Clashing of Weapons and Silent Advances in Roman Battles - battle cries and the drumming of weapons in Roman warfare