Assyrian army

Assyrian army

Thursday, 8 June 2017

First of the new Persians

Well, did the first test runs on the new moulds - be a while before I've got them fully sorted. I'm also continuing with the 8Bw elements of Immortals and have completed another one.

This is the current state of play, 3 Immortal 8Bw elements and 1 Mede 8Bw element.

I like the colour scheme on the new Immortal element - could be convinced to use it for a full sized unit. On the other hand, it's another 'blue' unit.

Only managed to produce 6 useable Medes on the test run so added an officer and standard bearer. The figures themselves are not quite as good as the Immortal figure - the hat and hair simply being from the officer figure is not as convincing as I would like. It's a green unit, which I'm short of, so does suffer a bit from 'green overload' with the base.

So overall a reasonable start, need to get a few more of the robed Persian archers for the next element.


  1. Great job - very colourful!

  2. Lovely addition to your collection!


    1. Certainly intend building on them.

  3. Replies
    1. Certainly the blue unit looks really good at a distance - which is the idea. Close to, not so much...

  4. I quite like the look of these. Very classical Persian-ish if that makes any sense.

    The Medes look ok to me. I've occasionally wondered what their stiff caps were of but these look very much like stiff felt, like the domed caps, and suddenly that makes sense.

    1. Yes, felt seems reasonable - the Peleset/Philistines had headgear that looked similar but I believe were just a horse crest (back in the 70s always thought they were feathers.) Always thought these were just court dress and Medes, but someone posted on TMP (it still has it's uses) which shows this dress being used in battle by Persians? But then the round felt cap would reasonably be Mede as the Persians are supposed to have adopted Mede dress for war... Still, who really cares? Funken describes it as Mede dress, good enough for me.

  5. Presentation

    The sparabara belong to the army of the Persian Empire at its zenith, that which followed Cyrus II the Great, Cambyses, Darius I and Xerxes I in their conquests, the one that then resisted The Western Front to the League of Delos.

    Because from -450, the nature of the army changes profoundly, with the appearance of archers with shield-shaped crescent, then the kardakes.

    Even if sparabara are mentioned in Cunaxa (-401), it is not certain that it is really the traditional infantry (but which then?) And its disappearance of the art towards -450 suggests that " It was replaced by the new infantry, at least in the western regions.


    The two palaces of Darius I, at Persepolis and Susa, abound with more than a thousand representations of infantry, but no cavalier.

    If we do not neglect the role of the mounted troops, it does not strike me as exaggerated to say that the infantry are the heart of the Persian Army of high epoch.

    The fighter mode of the bulk of the Persian infantry has shed much ink.

    Indeed, it is difficult to reconcile the four different sources, namely Greek authors (especially Herodotus), Greek art (especially representations on vases), Perseus Persian art and Susa (which particularly represents the Palatine Guard ) And other Persian representations, especially on cylinder seals.

    If the best-known guards at Persepolis have no shields, or a shield in the form of eight, other representations clearly show them with a large square shield, which corresponds to the gerrha (wicker shield) of Herodotus and Of the "walls of shields" which he evokes at Platée (IX 61) and at Mycale (IX 102).

    We know that the Persian word for this kind of shield was spara, hence sparabara, "bearers of spara".

    The difficulty is that Herodotus gives Persian soldiers shield, lance and bow; Now, the soldiers of Persepolis never have the three together.

    What is more, Greek art most often shows an archer without a shield, who fights in hand to hand with a sword or an ax.

    It is not a mere artistic convention, for the shields in crescent archers later are amply illustrated.

    From these findings came the idea – alas, far from being universally accepted, for there is no artistic or literary representation – that the first line of the Persian infantry was equipped with a spara and a While the next ranks were archers.

    It is also evident from the art that the spara could stand upright by a hold, which would eventually have liberated the hands of the spear to use his bow according to the tactical situation.

    What Herodotus mentions.

    The rationing tablets of Persepolis mention a "leader of a row of ten", which gives the probable depth of the formation.

    Herodotus also indicates that once their wall of shields destroyed by the hoplites, the Persians went out to fight "in groups of ten, sometimes more, sometimes less", which is concordant without being conclusive.

    As for Xenophon, he mentions a "chief of five" but for a much later period (around -400).

    Even if it is not the only explanation possible, it seems reasonable.

    However, I will make one additional observation.

    Given the recruitment of part of the Persian Army (see below), and the fact that each soldier clearly brought his own equipment, it seems unlikely that one in ten soldiers should bring equipment different from the others , Which requires a complex

  6. organization.

    So there are two solutions:

    - all the soldiers of a unit brought the same equipment, that is to say, bow, lance and spara.

    The archers of the rear ranks picked up their spears in hand-to-hand combat.

    In disavowal of this idea, the Greek vases never show an archer with a spear.

    In his favor, the spear is not shown even when the spara is present; And two Persian seals-cylinders that show an unshielded archer attacking a hoplite with a spear.

    - either the first soldier in each row is a trained warrior, provided by the hatru recruitment system or its equivalent (see later).

    He must therefore bring a spear, shield and probably a bow, and he learns to use them together with his comrades at the annual gatherings which are amply reported.

    The tenth soldier in each line, who is probably his non-commissioned officer, might as well come from the hatru.

    As for the others (80% of the unit) they come from wider levies.

    They bring the bow of which, according to several Greek authors, each Persian knew how to use, and a sword or an ax that they use at best.

    In favor of this interpretation is Greek art, and the reputation of the Persians in an author like Herodotus, who indicates their bravery but their lack of training.

    The lancers who served as bodyguards to certain prominent persons (for example, the royal prince mentioned in Mycale, Herodotus IX 107) would be the same who fought in the front row.

    In view of all this, it transpires that the spara was made from a thickness of leather, in which was inserted willow branches to form a characteristic pattern, perhaps painted as if to distinguish the units.

    Evidently the spears of the sparabara were shorter than those of the Greeks.

    The soldiers could wear the "Mede" coat, and it is probable that the infantry was composed not only of Persians, but also of Medes and perhaps other Iranians, such as Bactrians.

    Some were unarmed, others could wear a padded linen armor, a Greek-style linothorax, and sometimes an armor of bronze scales, which Herodotus mentions.

    Some archers show a characteristic sword, the kopis, and a very particular ax and very popular in Greek art, the sagaris.

    The absence of other units of infantry can surprise: the army of Xerxes gathered more than 50 national contingents in the famous description of Herodotus that you will find on this forum ...

    However, the parade he describes is more of an imperial logic - the defile before the monarch of the subjected nations - than of a military logic.

    The Greek authors are clear, especially the Iranian troops - Persians, Medes, Bactrians, Scythians - who actually fight.

    Thus, after the defeat of Salamis and the departure of Xerxes, it was exactly these four contingents that Mardonius chose for his army.

    He added only the most formidable foreign troops - the Indians and sailors of the Egyptian fleet - but among the 47 other contingents only "the most valiant men" (Herodotus VIII 113).

  7. Habit "Mede" and coat "Perse"

    The wearing of a tunic and trousers is common to all Iranian peoples, and it is clear that the so-called "Mede" coat was also that of the Persians also, originally.

    Although it is, in my opinion, risky to reject the testimony of Persian art, Greek art in any case suggests that it was this "Mede" coat that was privileged in combat for its practical qualities.

    The pants were decorated with patterns in geometric rows.

    One or two tunics were worn, one shorter than the other and generally of different colors, with or without patterns. One or the other could be sleeveless.

    Over his tunics, the warriors sometimes wore a thick long-sleeved jacket, the kandys.

    In warmer weather, the kandys served as a cape, the sleeves then running along the back.

    The nobles wore a purple-colored kandy, to which the Great King added a white band.

    The famous headgear of the "Mede" costume, which Herodotus calls the tiara, is a soft cap whose crown falls forward or to the side.

    Only the Great King is entitled to wear the "right tiara" (which is seen on the head of Darius III on the famous mosaic where he confronts Alexander).

    This headgear has three tabs, one of which falls on the neck and the other two on the cheeks. The wearer can also tie them behind the head, under the chin, or even to cover the mouth. Above the king and the nobles could wear a circle of precious metal.

  8. The so-called "Perse", which is abundantly represented in Persepolis and is well known by the so-called "Immortal" reliefs, was probably borrowed from the Elamites, who exerted considerable influence on the young Iranian kingdom.

    Undoubtedly a court dress before all, it is nonetheless sometimes worn in combat, especially by the king but not exclusively.

    The recruitment of the Achaemenid army

    The subject of their recruitment is interesting to measure the quality of the Achaemenid troops.

    When the Persians conquered Babylonia, they implanted a new system - even though it had precedents in the area - called hatru.

    This system probably existed in Persia itself, and it is not improbable that it was exported to other parts of the Empire, as evidenced by practices in Egyptian Achaemenid.

    Hatru is a community that receives a territory that it cultivates in the form of family lots, which are inalienable but can be given as an inheritance.

    In return for this royal gift, the operator owes a set of obligations that are collectively known as ilku.

    Ilku includes taxes, chores and, often but not systematically, a military obligation.

    In the latter case, the lot is known as the "arc domain" (bit qašti), "horse domain" (bit sisi) or "charging domain" (bit narkatbi), depending on its importance.

    Such hatru must provide, for each lot concerned, the sab Šarri, that is to say, "the soldier of the king", equipped like archer on foot or as a rider according to the obligations which weigh to him.

  9. The discussion is very technical, but as I understand it, one soldier is in charge of each lot, and these lots are held by several people in division or joint ownership.

    Thus one reads contracts between two holders of a lot, where one volunteers to be sab šarri if the other undertakes to equip it.

    Because the sab Šarri are provided with their equipment and with the sum of money necessary to reach the place of mobilization.

    Obligations sometimes weigh heavily; In an example reported in a Babylonian shelf, the sab Šarri, here a rider, must take with him 12 infantrymen lightly equipped.

    I do not know what equipment the narkabti bit matches; This is certainly not to be related to the late floats because the texts are much earlier.

    The texts mention hatru farmers who are indebted to equip the saršarri by the mortgage of future harvests.

    As Xenophon points out, the sab Šarri were subjected to an annual review, for which they gathered at a specific place.

    Undoubtedly several thousand were gathered, for large military exercises.

    I ventured to suggest that these sab Šarri formed the first and last rank of the sparabara to the territorial component of the Persian army.

    This system is to be related to another practice of the Persians, inherited from the Mesopotamian empires, that of deporting conquered peoples; The most famous example is the deportation of the Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.

    These deportations are far from those practiced in modern times.

    If one of the objectives is of course to break the solidarities of the places of revolt, the other is to put into production other regions of the Empire.

    Herodotus states that the population of Miletus, Deported to Sogdiana, suffered no other evil.

    Because the deportees receive hatru, who are therefore of strong ethnic composition.

    Thus, in Babylon of the time of Darius I, there is a hatru of the Saces, a hatru of the Elamites, and so on.

    Euboeans from Greece are settled in Elam, from the Egyptians to Nippur. At Elephantine in Egpyte there is a Jewish community of several thousand souls, with a system similar to the hatru.

    I do not know if these hatru there provided sab šarri and if they were integrated in composite units, but this seems unlikely.

    Probably they provided the "most valiant men" of the contingents whose existence has already been noted.

    Another phenomenon of the Persian Empire is the dôrea (Greek word, the Persian equivalent is unknown).

    The Great King gives land to his favorites, or to princes or princesses of the Achaemenid lineage, or even to sanctuaries.

    They are not "estates" because the land concerned is generally fragmented, thus depriving the beneficiaries of territorial bases too large.

    Moreover, they remain "lands of the king", which can theoretically take them back at any time.

    However, their cumulative surface area may be very large.

    The holders of dôrea are liable for the obligations of the hatru which they group together.

    Thus a noble Persian by the name of Spithridates furnishes at his own expense a troop of no less than 200 cavalry to the satrapal army.

    We can easily imagine that such a troop possesses a cohesion and an unusual combat quality.

    The dôrea can also be held by strangers, the most famous example being Themistocles.

    Exiled from Athens, he found favor with the Great King, who gave him the income of several towns in the region of Magnesia.

    The theory is that the quality of sab Šarri has declined gradually, because with time and economic play, the hatru were no longer in the hands of people wishing to participate actively in the war.

    Some liquidated their obligations in money, which allowed the satraps and the Great King to hire mercenaries, certainly professional but little attached to the Empire.

    It is this process that explains the disintegration of Darius III.

    Briant's research shows, on the other hand, that the hatru was still alive, at least until the middle of the 4th century, and that the obligation of sab Šarri continued to weigh heavily on the colonies.

  10. The mercenaries

    To supplement their forces, or to respond to a specific crisis, especially at the level of a satrapy, the Persians gladly appealed to the mercenarism of the most warlike peoples of their Empire or beyond.

    The mercenary is distinguished from the colonist by enlisting of his own free will, according to the choices of the moment and not according to the obligations arising from past choices.

    The Persians had garrisons at the strategic points of the Empire, and it would appear that many of them were mercenaries.

    The most sought after were the Chalybes of Armenia, the Khaldi of the former Urartu, the Mardes, the Arabs and of course the Greeks.

    The thesis of a military decline of Persia is that the colonists who paid their military obligations by a discharge of money led the Persians to resort more and more often to the mercenaries.

    Greek historiography, at the same time, advances the thesis that the Persians were lost without their valiant Hellenic mercenaries and without the Greek strategists who advised the Persian satraps sprawled in their luxury.

    On the one hand, the Persians have always employed mercenaries; on the other hand, the Greeks were not the only ones, and their role was often secondary.

    On the other hand, it is evident that the Greeks employed in large numbers by Darius III did not allow him to defeat Alexander.

    Under these conditions, the military value of the Persians and their traditional Iranian allies deserves to be re-examined.

    My question is, your figures represent them well their historical models?

    1. Incidentally, when quoting to this extent you need to say what work you are quoting from.

  11. My figures are represent a Persian army as per Funken and a 70s tradition. For a more 'accurate' DBA army of, say, Cunaxa, look at my articles in Slingshot 188,169 and 193 and game described in the Garrison Journal 2012 (of which you have a copy). For 5th Century BC Persia armies you would have to get hold of a copy of Norseman (can't remember which one.) Point is, armies are build to suit a purpose - this one is basically me having fun building an army that it should have been possible for me to make in 1972 - but couldn't.

  12. My sources are Herodotus (ancient Greek όρόδοτος / Hêródotos (-480 to Halicarnassus in Caria - ca 425 BC to Thourioi) is a Greek historian and geographer, considered the first historian and nicknamed " Father of History "by Cicero, insofar as he is the author of a great historical work, the Stories - also called Les Inquêtes - centered around the Medic wars, without limiting themselves to the narrative of these: Herodotus explains the causes of the war and makes numerous digressions, called logoi, on the history, customs and countries of the belligerents and dozens of other peoples all around the Mediterranean, which makes him one of the precursors of And his account of the Dialogue between Otanes, Megabyse and Darius constitutes one of the first authentic documents in which are distinguished and compa The various types of government (democracy, oligarchy, monarchy).