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Thread: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

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    Default A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    First off let me say that this is much a chance for me to collect my thoughts and test out some ideas as it is a theory. So I fully welcome criticism and ideas to help develop my understanding.

    Secondly the reason I am choosing the period which Darius and Xerxes ruled over is because I believe the Persian army was truly professionalised under Darius and after the disastrous defeats of Xerxes it underwent significant reform which is another topic for another day. If you disagree with the idea of reform then this analysis would simply cover more chronological territory.

    I want to illustrate a sort of descending view of the military structure beginning with the king himself and radiating outwards from his bodyguards all the way to the Persians performing their national service. I will also be sticking entirely to the Persian ethnos as they are a tricky enough subject by themselves without expanding the analysis to every foreign levy. Fortunately the parts of my analysis covering the Persian regulars will apply, more or less, to many other Iranian contingents and thus cover the most important elements of the Persian army anyway.

    I do not want to get into a discussion on the cavalry as their structure is much harder to define and of a lesser importance to the early Persian military which was an infantry based army. Neither do I want to get into a long discussion on how effective these troops were and end up with yet another Greeks vs Persians thread. This is about Persian structure and armament only.

    For the purposes of this analysis:

    Regiment = 10,000 men
    Division = 1,000 men
    Platoon = 100 men
    Squad = 10 men

    So without further ado -



    The King

    The Persian King was depicted and proclaimed as the ultimate paragon of manly virtue and martial prowess. Unlike the Assyrians, the Persian Kings took great pains to ensure that their boasts of soldierly achievement were always qualified with the notion that they were fighting evil doers. This is particularly obvious in the Behistun inscription of Darius the Great where what is clearly an ode to Persian military skill is constantly punctuated by the reiteration of the defeated people's evil intentions. It is however in the tomb inscriptions of Naquesh-e-Rustam and many of the coins and seals we have from these Kings that we see the message of the Kings military skill most highly praised. It was plainly a virtue which the Persians considered to be central to the idea of Kingship.


    Seal of Xerxes depicting the King triumphing over a hoplite. This seal is argued to illustrate Xerxes' depiction of the war in Greece as a personal success.


    The Royal Bodyguard - Apple bearers (Old Persian unknown or non-existent)

    The royal bodyguard I refer to are the 1000 men detailed to protect the King in war and in the palace. They are often confused with what many now know as 'The Immortals' but this is in fact an entirely different division. Herodotus describes a unit of 1000 men that followed directly behind Xerxes on his march that were the 'Noblest of the Persians' and had golden apples for counterweights on their spears (Herodotus, 7. 41).

    Also known as the Apple Bearers, this division of spearmen appears to have been recruited from the Persian nobility. This ties in very well with what we also know about the division of Spearbearers in that Darius himself served as a spearbearer for Cambyses II. Moreover, the Behistun inscription amongst others depicts Darius with a noble behind him carrying a spear and given the caption of 'spearbearer'. This could either mean he is carrying the King's spear or more plausibly that he is the captain of the king's bodyguard and was known as the 'hazarapatis' (commander of one thousand). The Hazarapatis acted as something of a first minister as well as a chief of security. It was through him that all audiences with the King were granted or petition's heard (Nepos, Conon, 3. 2-3. Plutarch, Life of Themistocles, 27. 2-7. Aelian, VH 1.21).

    The fact that they are depicted as wearing the same head dress as the Great King on the Persepolis reliefs lends credence to the idea that they were of noble stock. Moreover it is a particularly sensible idea to tie the loyalty of the youth of the nobility to the King so directly. Unless, if you believe it of course, you happen to recruit an overly Machiavellian, ruthless genius by the name of Darius into your personal guard.

    It is difficult to tell how the apple bearers would have been attired on campaign but in the palace they are dressed to mirror the King himself, certainly a high honour. Sekunda goes so far as to suggest that they were even permitted to wear robes of similar colour and patterning (Sekunda, Persian Army, 11-12). But the most interesting thing about the Apple Bearers is the size of their spears. The reliefs at persepolis have regularly fluctuating spear lengths due to the restrictions of the stone space available to the artist. But the Apple Bearers depicted in the audience scenes have spears far longer than any of their soldierly counterparts. They are also depicted without any bows or projectile weapons. This is clear enough evidence that the Persians had at least small divisions of infantry entirely dedicated to melee combat.


    Audience relief at Persepolis depicting the King recieving the hazarapatis. The Apple Bearers are stationed to either side of the relief. Note the long spears and headgear. Also of note are the heir apparent standing behind the throne, the Royal chamberlain behind him and finally the weapon bearer of the King carrying his axe and more importantly his bow, the royal insignia.


    The Elite Spearmen - Arstibara

    It is often surmised that the so called Immortals were the picked elite of the Persian army but this is an erroneous theory. They might have constituted the backbone of the army as its standing, professionalised core of dependable soldiers and could be considered elite when compared to a regular regiment but it appears that the Persians maintained a picked division that ranked even higher.

    Herodotus also mentions a body of Persians that marched before Xerxes that numbered 1000 men. In this case, however, he does not say that they were picked for their rank but merely that they were chosen men(Herodotus 8. 40). This is not the first time divisions of elite spearmen are to be found in the Persian empire. Oroetus was said to keep a bodyguard of 1000 Persian spearmen, perhaps in imitation of the King, before he was executed for rebellion. Interestingly enough it was these very bodyguards that, once they had been told that Darius had ordered the death of Oroetus, performed the excecution (Herodotus 3. 127-128). It is tempting to suggest that the decision of these spearmen to side with Darius and demonstrate such loyalty was the precursor to their redesignation as the elite division Herodotus later refers to. Either way, divisions of devoted, commoner spearmen appear to be attested.

    Going back to the Persepolis reliefs there is a particularly interesting frieze which depicts a comparitively smaller body of troops marching together armed solely with spears and the dipylon shield. It is not possible to tell how long the spears might have been since there was not space on the stone to carve the sorts of long spears that the apple bearer's carried. But it is logical to assume that a unit devoted to melee fighting would choose the long spear over the short if both were ready to hand. We can also assume that a unit of such prestige and melee focus would wear the customary Persian scale armour but there is absolutely no evidence for Persian infantry wearing helmets. They would have worn the campaign head dress that tied around the chin known as the 'kidaris' or 'tiara'. The relative silence on the matter of Persian heavy infantry with long spears can be readily explained by the rather small size of the unit itself. However, it is possible that this division was the very same '1000 best men of Persia' that fought to the death with Mardonius at Platea (Herodotus, 9. 63). It is more reasonable to explain that the drawn out length of the fight which Herodotus describes and the success he attributes to these Persians was due to the fact that they had a dedicated unit of melee infantry ready to fight. This is much more preferable to the idea that Mardonius was supposedly inflicted casualties and faring well in a stand up fight against a phalanx with a body of 1000 horsemen. Still, they weren't hoplites nor am I suggesting that they fought in what could be described as a phalanx.


    Persian infantry marching in close formation with spears and solid wooden, bronze bossed shields with bronze rims. The Crenellated head dress is similar to all common Persian soldiers depicted in parade dress at Persepolis.

    Now it is possible that the soldiers depicted here are in fact the Apple Bearers marching to war. However there are a few problems with this idea. Firstly they are wearing a parade head dress but not their own noble one. Persians are never depicted as wearing the crenellated crown in battle except for the King who is heroically illustrated with just his royal robe and as such does not constitute an accurate depiction. Moreover they are still wearing their parade robes rather than trousers or armour. Lastly this goes against the distinction Herodotus makes between the noble division and the picked division.

    Now the next idea is purely conjecture but it doesn't much affect the rest of the analysis. It is possible that Mardonius did not pick the immortals to stay behind with him in Greece and that he instead chose this division of spearmen. It is a tactically superior choice since the Immortals were armed and fought in much the same way as any Persian infantry regiment that he could request but what Mardonius needed were dedicated spearmen. Moreover the strange departure of Hydarnes, the immortals commanding officer, suggests that perhaps they did all go with Xerxes to maintain order in Asia minor/suppress the Babylonians. It is obvious that the more important theatre of war for the Persians would have been on the home front. But either way this does not add much to the analysis it is simply a suggestion.


    The Professional Army, A.K.A the Immortals - Anusyia

    From here onwards I will be referring to the Immortals as the Anusyia and I urge everyone else to do the same because its a far more accurate term.

    The Anusyia are the most famous Persian regiment, probably almost entirely by the virtue of their name. Always kept up to full strength and always under arms they constituted the heart of the Persian army; they were armed with bow, shield, spear and sword they were capable of tackling most situations offered to them(Herodotus 7. 61 and 83).

    It is perhaps neccesary to point out that every Persian infantry regiment would, at its creation, field 10,000 men and consist of troops armed with bows, spears, shields and swords. It is perhaps a grave mistake to assume that within the regiment of the Immortals, every trooper carried every weapon. But Herodotus tells us the Persian regiment of 10,000 that accompanied the King with the elite units all carried spears. It is seemingly implausible that someone carrying all that equipment would even be able to discharge a bow but if the accepted equipment is reconfigured it may make more sense.

    It is usually accepted that the Anusyia carried the Dipylon shield since it is often taken as a given that it was a superior shield to the Spara. However, for the style of fighting which the Anusyia practiced the Spara would make considerably more sense. The Anusyia were intended to be able to win archery duels before they engaged and the Spara is integral to the defense of the line troopers from missile attacks. Moreover we know from the reports at Mycale that the Spara shield, when propped up, could stand without the support of a soldier. This, if we assume the soldier has planted his spear in the ground, would allow the Anusyia to carry all their weaponry as they are described and still function as they are described.

    Therefore it can be surmised that the only troops who carried the Dipylon shield were the Arstibara who would have needed it for their role and possibly the Apple Bearers due to the unweildy nature of the Spara and the melee designation of the bodyguards. However, in contrast to the average Persian regiment the Anusyia were considerably better paid according to Herodotus and it is likely that every man in the regiment could afford a corslet of iron scale armour making the unit a very large and versatile formation.

    As a final note it is often surmised from Herodotus that the troopers with golden counterweights surrounding the silver ones on Xerxes' march comprised an elite division (Sekunda, Persian army, 6-7) but these 1000, Golden troopers were in all likelihood the Squad leaders for the 1000 platoons (Old Persian: Datapatis).



    It is perhaps worth mentioning where and when the Anusyia were most likely formed. This is of course just a theory with little evidence but it is at least logical. The most telling thing about the Anusyia is that their name means 'followers' or 'supporters.' When set in the context of the chaotic times in which Cambyses died and the empire was in the throes of usurpation. To set the scene, the throne had been taken by Cambyses' brother but a Royal army was still operating in Egypt. Darius had possibly served as Cambyses' Hazarapatis in Egypt and on his death it is seemingly the case that the Persian troops supported his promotion to head of the loyalist army. In the wake of Darius' elevation to the throne, whilst every province was eager to rebel and aggrandise itself, the army which followed Darius stayed true and helped him restore the empire. Their reward appears to have been higher pay and constant re-supply. Their impressive battle record and obvious experience seems to have led to the creation of the standing military tradition.



    The Anusyia's parade dress appears to be a direct copy of the Elamites dress or perhaps an homage to their urban mentors. The glazed brick troopers often shown to be what a Persian soldier looks like are either a genuine depiction of Elamites or the Anusyia on parade.

    Regular Infantry - Pasti

    The regular infantry were armed fairly similarly to the Anusyia but it seems unlikely that they were trusted to operate on every tactical level. The usual depictions of Persians in attic pottery have them either as spearmen or archers giving rise to the opinion that the regular infantry operated in the traditional 'thick crust,' shielded archer formation.

    The major difference however is how these regiments were recruited, used and disbanded. There is agreement between Xenophon, Herodotus and Strabo that Persian youths were instructed in military training at a young age up until they were fit for service when they were conscripted into regular regiments and after their service was done they were rewarded with land grants by the King under the Hatru system. Once given their land they remain liable for military service in the case of a major campaign or emergency but they were only required to send a man for every piece of land so they were not directly obligated to go themselves.

    Where Herodotus, Strabo and Xenophon disagree is on the age of the Persians before they were first trained, how long they spent in the military as a soldier and how long they were liable to be called up again. It is also important to note that this system was most likely instituted under Darius since Cyrus and Cambyses probably did not have the regulation and organisation to practice such a system. Their population of Persis was also unlikely to have been fully enjoying the lack of taxes and abundance of free labour that they did under Darius.

    The Persian empire was almost always at war with someone or another but there were enough garrisons throughout the empire to fill with Persian regiments on service rotation. One imagines the average Persian youth considered garrison duty to be the cushiest job available.


    Persian archer exposed to a hoplite's wrath after losing his spearman bodyguard.





    As I said before, the above is a collection of ideas rather than a statement of proposed facts. Any questions will only help improve my research. By the same token, simply saying that you might have learned something or agree with my conclusions would be just as helpful.
    Last edited by rez; January 21, 2010 at 03:58 PM.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Nice thread...

    the reason I am choosing the period which Darius and Xerxes ruled over is because I believe the Persian army was truly professionalised under Darius
    I have a different opinion about that my friend,the only thing that be professional at this time I think it was only the Greek called "Immortals" part of Persian army...but like you said,it is another topic for another day...


    About apple bearers...


    The relief of the northern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis is one of the most important examples of Achaemenid art. It shows how a king (usually identified with Darius the Great) and his crown prince receive an important official, perhaps Pharnaces.



    He is followed by two soldiers. They are not in battle dress. To their right, we can see the decoration of the tent in which the king grants the audience.



    The two soldiers can be identified with the elite troops that the Greeks called Immortals or "apple bearers". They owed this remarkable surname to the fact that the metal counterweight of their spears had the shape of an apple. These "apples" were covered with silver or gold; to protect them, the soldiers placed their spears on the tip of their shoes

    source

    Achaemenid Persian Army Summary:
    By Duncan Head
    Montvert Publications

    The Early Achaemenid Persian Army


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Persian army was very multicultural in its make up. It consisted of trained regular units of Persian and Median infantry and cavalry supplemented by conscripts from subject nations within the empire and well as hired mercenaries or garrison troops from within or from outside the empire. The full time regular soldiers such as the Immortals were supplied with arms and armour and so are uniformly equipped, many allied contingents supplied their own equipment and fought in their own style.

    Hordes of lightly armed bow and javelin-man and non fighting camp attendants, wives, concubines and slaves account for the vast numbers that were characteristic of the Persian army.
    There is a reasonable amount of reference material available for us to gain an understanding of the Persian army's organisation, training, uniforms and equipment. Some of it is very detailed, some misleading and some fictitious.

    Persian armies, like earlier middle eastern armies and later Asian armies, were organised on a decimal basis, regiments, units and corps were grouped in tens, hundreds and thousands. An officer being responsible for ten men, another for one hundred, one thousand and ten thousand.


    Number of Troops
    Name of Unit
    Title of Commander

    10,000
    baivarabam
    Baivarapatiš


    1,000
    hazarabam
    Hazarapatiš


    100
    satabam
    Satapatiš


    10
    dathabam
    Dathapatiš



    Achaemenid kings from Cyrus to Darius III acted as the Commander in Chief of their armies for most battles and campaigns but would at times, hand control to one or more of their generals. The king appointed the army's chief of staff and the army generals.

    These were either Satraps, (Provicial Governors), or men of high birth, mostly of Persian or Median decent and generally a close relative to the King. The Satraps would normally assume control of the troops from their satrapy or region but could also be promoted to command divisions or armies of mixed nationalities. The generals to turn were responsible for appointing the Baivarapatish and Hazarapatish or captains of 10,000 and 1,000.

    Herodotus lists the troops in Xerxes' invasion force in 479 BC and the names of their commanders. He also partly describes the delegation of command,
    "The marshalling and numbering of the troops had been committed to them; and by them were appointed the captains over a thousand, and the captains over ten thousand; but the leaders of ten men, or a hundred, were named by the captains over ten thousand. There were other officers also, who gave the orders to the various ranks and nations; but those whom I have mentioned above were the commanders. "
    Xenophon in "The Education of Cyrus", described a similar decimal organisation but mentions a 'leader of five', which is believed to be a reference to a 'file closer'. He describes a system of promotion, men who distinguished themselves by their courage or leadership could be promoted to a captain of 5 or 10, or a leader of one thousand men. It would seem that a common soldier could possibly be promoted as high as a 'Hazarapatish' (commander of 1,000).

    The ten thousand Immortals are an example of promotion within the Persian army. The term "Immortals" was the Greek word to describe how their number was always kept at full strength. Any vacancy was filled by men being promoted from other regiments. Not only did the Immortals receive a regular pay for their services, they had the prestige of being allowed to bring their wives and concubines with them on campaign.

    Herodotus' description of Xerxes' infantry & cavalry guard regiments of 1,000 also supports the idea of promotion within the Army. He says the 'spear-bearer's were, "all men of the best and noblest Persian blood".
    This system of rewarding bravery and skill may have had its drawbacks. Although the Persian were noted for their strength and courage in battle, their desire to be noticed by their King or commander may also have attributed to men breaking ranks to rush out at the enemy. Herodotus described the Persians at Marathon as fighting in disorder, groups of 10 men or less would break from the ranks to attack the Greek line.

    Mercenary troops were more characteristic of later Achaemenid Persian armies but even in the early 5th century, Greeks were being employed in the service of Persian commanders. The term medizing came to describe such troops who were seen to be pro-Persian or in Persian service. Medizing comes from the word Mede which was the general term used by the Greeks to describe all Persian/Medean peoples.
    Ionian Greeks supported the Persian invasion of Scythian territory in 512 B.C. Although they revolted against Persian rule in 499 B.C. and fought and lost a war lasting 6 years to keep their independence, they still served in the Persian army in 490 B.C. Fighting side by side with the Persians at the battle of Marathon. A battle in which would have meant the end of independence for the rest of Greece.

    Scythians

    The Scythians, or Sakae, were extremely good archers and fighters and were employed as mercenaries by both the Persians and Greeks. They are quite often seen portrayed on Greek vases.
    When the Greeks and Persians met at Marathon the Scythian mercenaries employed by Athens refused to fight their Asiatic brothers, and a group of them even switched sides during the battle. (Proabably not their wisest decision considering the outcome.)

    Datis the Persian commander must have respected their fighting abilities as he positioned them in the Persian centre, a position of honour in any army. There they distinguished themselves by breaking the Greek centre.
    Interestingly, Scythians were also employed by the Persians to teach their troops the art of archery.

    Persians placed little value or prestige in camels and riding one into battle certainly did not appeal to them. However camels did have a significant part to play in at least one of their battles. The Arabs supplied archers mounted on camels to Xerxes in 480 B.C and possibly to aid Cambyses II conquest of Egypt in 525 B.C. However, the most famous use of camels in the Persian army or posssibly any other would have to be Cyrus' use of camels against the Lydians. Xenophon and Herodotus both describe an improvised unit of camels, animals that had been captured or taken from the baggage train. Each animal carrying a pair of archers. Although they managed to frighten the Lydian horses they apparently took no part in the fighting and were afterwards returned to the baggage train.

    Chariots


    Chariots were still being used throughout the Achaemenid period in a number of different roles. Foreign contingents still maintained their use, however Persian's military use was now limited to that of a command vehicle, with a number of exceptions.

    Although the chariot was not longer the main offensive arm it was still seen as a symbol of authority and power. Generals would still use them in cultural and military parades, for hunting and to transport themselves to battle.
    No only is Xerxes recorded as being carried in a chariot during his invasion of Greece but he also took with him the sacred chariot of Ahura-Madza.

    The golden solar chariot that was dedicated to the one great god. It was pulled by eight white horses with the charioteer walking behind holding the reins as no mortal was allowed to ride in it.
    In Xerxes invasion of Greece, both the Indian and Libyan contingents were said to have brought a chariot force.

    Cyrus the Great, according to Xenophon, would never refuse two gifts, horses and good weapons. He captured many chariots but considered them an inefficient use of horse and human resources. " He abolished this system in favour of the war-chariot proper, with strong wheels to resist the shock of collision, and long axles, on the principle that a broad base is the firmer, while the driver's seat was changed into what might be called a turret, stoutly built with timber and reaching up to the elbow, leaving the driver room to manage the horses above the rim. The driver's themselves were all fully armed, only their eyes uncovered. He had iron scythes about two feet long attached to the axles on either side, and others, under the tree, pointing to the ground, for use in a charge. Such was the type of chariot invented by Cyrus, and it is still in use to-day among the subjects of the Great King."

    Cyrus is said to have fielded a force of 300 Chariots divided into 3 commands of 100 against Croesus. One hundred of his own, a hundred from his Assyrian ally Abradatas of Susa and a hundred converted from the old Median chariots.

    There is debate about whether the Scythed chariot were used by the Early Achaemenid Persians, Xenophon is the only reference to their use by Cyrus the Great and they do not appear to have been used by Darius or Xerxes in their campaigns against Greece.

    In support of Xenophon, scythed chariots are recorded on both sides of the battle at Cunaxa 401B.C. The difficulty of transporting them overseas in the invasion of Greece. Four horses, and the carriage would not only take up valuable space on board a boat but also when the army was in march, the presence of numerous chariots would greatly lengthen the army's march formation. This could cause delays was well as making it harder to defend against attack when on the march.. They would be useless in any attacks on cities or fortifications. And finally they inclusion or not in the army would be dependent on the individual preferences of the King or commander.

    Xenophon describes Cyrus' mobile towers as a car with 8 poles, drawn by eight yoke of oxen, to carry the lower compartment of the battering engines, which stood, with its wheels, about twenty seven feet from the ground. The towers were built with galleries and parapets, each of them could carry twenty men. They were built of planks as thick as the boards of a stage.

    According to Xenophon's description of the battle of Thumbra, they were positioned behind the first line of infantry. The Egyptians forced the Persian infantry backwards until the war wagons behind came into shooting range.





    Early Achaemenid Bowmen were organised into ranks 10 deep. A shield bearer (sparabara), made up the front rank/s to protect from enemy archery and more importantly to set up a barrier to allow the bowmen to withstand cavalry and infantry assaults. The sparabara were armed with spear and large wicker shield.
    (pic from Mr Head's book)

    source

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    Originally Posted by Ferrets54
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    ________________________________________________________________

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by Starlightman View Post
    Nice thread...

    I have a different opinion about that my friend,the only thing that be professional at this time I think it was only the Greek called "Immortals" part of Persian army...but like you said,it is another topic for another day..
    Not at all. I'm not suggesting the entire armed forces were all professional troops. What I'm suggesting is that Darius created a professional core and professionalised the recruitment, training, deployment and retirement of the additional conscript forces. Essentially the logistical support structure for fielding armies.


    The two soldiers can be identified with the elite troops that the Greeks called Immortals or "apple bearers". They owed this remarkable surname to the fact that the metal counterweight of their spears had the shape of an apple. These "apples" were covered with silver or gold; to protect them, the soldiers placed their spears on the tip of their shoes
    As I have dealt with the immortals are not the same as the apple bearers.

    Achaemenid Persian Army Summary:
    By Duncan Head
    Montvert Publications

    The Early Achaemenid Persian Army
    That doesn't appear to be Duncan Head's work. I have a copy in front of me and I can't find any of that spiel. Head's a much better scholar.

    But whoever that is, merely copying what he, and others, have posted largely outside of the chronological or thematic remit of what the thread is dealing with does not really give me anything to work with.

    If you could instead focus on analysing or challenging the theories positied it would make this much more rewarding for everyone.

    Early Achaemenid Bowmen were organised into ranks 10 deep. A shield bearer (sparabara), made up the front rank/s to protect from enemy archery and more importantly to set up a barrier to allow the bowmen to withstand cavalry and infantry assaults. The sparabara were armed with spear and large wicker shield. (pic from Mr Head's book)
    It is not Early Achaemenid bowmen that were organised this way but the vast majority of all Achaemenid infantry. My only dispute with this system is when referring to the Anusyia as I have explained above.
    Last edited by rez; January 13, 2010 at 08:17 PM.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Ι would like to see some info in Later Persian army with reforms introducing heavier infantry like Kardaca infantry and also info on client armies

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    Not at all. I'm not suggesting the entire armed forces were all professional troops. What I'm suggesting is that Darius created a professional core and professionalised the recruitment, training, deployment and retirement of the additional conscript forces. Essentially the logistical support structure for fielding armies.
    I agree with that point of view but I suggest to edit OP with your above comments about the term "professionalized army"...

    As I have dealt with the immortals are not the same as the apple bearers.
    I agree too with that...I'm waiting to see more about them...

    That doesn't appear to be Duncan Head's work. I have a copy in front of me and I can't find any of that spiel. Head's a much better scholar.

    But whoever that is, merely copying what he, and others, have posted largely outside of the chronological or thematic remit of what the thread is dealing with does not really give me anything to work with.
    I don't think so...as I said,this subscription are a summary...I send you the link with that...
    Maybe we must send e-mail to Mr Head to tell us more about...

    If you could instead focus on analysing or challenging the theories positied it would make this much more rewarding for everyone.
    I think that we are not here to challenging theories who historians can't deal with them too(except if you are a historian,I am not),we are here to share our knowledge and thoughts...

    It is not Early Achaemenid bowmen that were organised this way but the vast majority of all Achaemenid infantry.
    true,a copy from mr Head's book that you have has also some illustrations,actually more reliable from osprey books...

    Quote Originally Posted by jo the greek View Post
    Ι would like to see some info in Later Persian army with reforms introducing heavier infantry like Kardaca infantry and also info on client armies
    Kardakes...not Kardaca...

    I think rez have his mind to post about them later and I don't want to change his plans...

    read Strabo(XV.3.18),Polybios(XII.17.7) and Nepos, Datames (VIII.1)...about them...

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    a good initative given all the discussions that lately came up on the true quality and nature of the Persian army.

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    It is often surmised that the so called Immortals were the picked elite of the Persian army but this is an erroneous theory.
    I have read that the "Immortals" only appear in Greek sources and no Persian references exist for them. Is that correct?

    Still, they weren't hoplites nor am I suggesting that they fought in what could be described as a phalanx.

    I always thought that their shields would suggest that. While the right cut seems to be to allow stabbing with the spear "through" the shield, the left cut doesn't make much sense unless we would suppose the next man standing with a smilar shield so close to him that we could speak of a "shieldwall".

    The major difference however is how these regiments were recruited, used and disbanded. There is agreement between Xenophon, Herodotus and Strabo that Persian youths were instructed in military training at a young age up until they were fit for service when they were conscripted into regular regiments and after their service was done they were rewarded with land grants by the King under the Hatru system. Once given their land they remain liable for military service in the case of a major campaign or emergency but they were only required to send a man for every piece of land so they were not directly obligated to go themselves.
    So that would be some kind of feudal system. As far as I know, the alloted hatru was not in Persia but in the conquered lands, like Babylonia. Is that correct? And if so, this military service would not apply to the "Persian youths" in total but to those who seaked being given land in reward for the king's service, similar to the system of military settlers later used by the Successors in the same region?

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Good article rez. What makes Persian scale armor customary? Isn't it true that in pretty much all military reliefs the Persian troops have no body armor (which corresponds with much of the testimony in Xenophon and Herodotus)?


    Quote Originally Posted by konny View Post
    I always thought that their shields would suggest that. While the right cut seems to be to allow stabbing with the spear "through" the shield, the left cut doesn't make much sense unless we would suppose the next man standing with a smilar shield so close to him that we could speak of a "shieldwall".
    The Dipylon shield was present since the Homeric times, and has nothing to do with any kind of phalanx line or shield wall. For example if a spear is used as a spoke between two shields, it effectively immobilizes the two shields from any use, and risks itself being broken by a friendly soldier. If anything the cut-outs on its sides are best used in solitary combat, not an organized line, and mainly it is just a fashionable style of shield construction, carried over from the archaic period (1000-500 BC). It actually occurred to me that the Persians very surprisingly hadn't modernized their infantry in terms of style, utilizing shields that were used elsewhere nearby half a millenium earlier.

    I've often wondered if the Persian infantry institutions, with their loss of contemporary importance, and their use of archaic elements, wasn't a shoddy leftover fragment of the pretty glorious Assyrian military a thousand years earlier, which they thought to literally imitate.
    Last edited by SigniferOne; January 14, 2010 at 06:45 AM.


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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Αbout Dipylon i had the impression was a weaker shield nothing to do with hoplos shields.

    Wicker shield is ideal for defent in a war of Arrows and horses.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Ι would like to see some info in Later Persian army with reforms introducing heavier infantry like Kardaca infantry and also info on client armies
    One day

    I agree too with that...I'm waiting to see more about them...
    Theres not a lot more anyone can say with any certainty.

    true,a copy from mr Head's book that you have has also some illustrations,actually more reliable from osprey books...
    The illustrations in Head's book are the best I've ever seen.


    a good initative given all the discussions that lately came up on the true quality and nature of the Persian army.
    Thankyou, but I would again say that I'd like to leave as much of the 'quality' arguments out as is possible.

    I have read that the "Immortals" only appear in Greek sources and no Persian references exist for them. Is that correct?
    Thats true. The term 'Anusyia' comes from the supposed idea that Herodotus mixed up the Old Persian Anusyia for the Greek 'Anausa' which means immortal. Darius uses the term Anusyia many times to refer to the people who helped him restore the empire and, in his mind, save the world. There is something of an artistic reference for them in some Persian reliefs but that requires a lot of imagination. In the context of how the Persian military worked, Persian art and the inscriptions of Darius; the conclusions of the Greek historians don't appear to be too far off the mark.

    I always thought that their shields would suggest that. While the right cut seems to be to allow stabbing with the spear "through" the shield, the left cut doesn't make much sense unless we would suppose the next man standing with a smilar shield so close to him that we could speak of a "shieldwall".
    Sig has answered this already to an extent but I'll elaborate on what I meant. They undoubtedly fought in a sort of shieldwall, although almost all Achaemenid and Greek depictions of Persian spearmen have them fighting overhand. What I mean by them not fighting in a phalanx is, as Sig would say, they did not have the same combat ethos. There would not have been the protection of the man to the left or probably even the charge and pushing match. I've come to understand that the word Phalanx has more conotations than just the shape of the troop formation.

    So that would be some kind of feudal system. As far as I know, the alloted hatru was not in Persia but in the conquered lands, like Babylonia. Is that correct? And if so, this military service would not apply to the "Persian youths" in total but to those who seaked being given land in reward for the king's service, similar to the system of military settlers later used by the Successors in the same region?
    Well yes and no. It began as a way to tie the troops and their loyalty to the King but ended up as a more feudal system towards the end of the empire. The word 'Hatru' is a Babylonian word because the original idea was Assyrian I believe. Whilst we have direct evidence for the land that was alloted in babylonia its not impossible that land was also given in Persis itself. It may also be the case that the Greek sources were wrong about the level of conscription and that military service was taken via a number of youths per family rather than all of them. Lastly it is important to remember that by the time of Darius, Persis had a wealth of free labour to hand in the many deported peoples and POWs that followed the great revolt.

    Good article rez. What makes Persian scale armor customary? Isn't it true that in pretty much all military reliefs the Persian troops have no body armor (which corresponds with much of the testimony in Xenophon and Herodotus)?
    Sorry, what I meant by customary was the style of Persian armour rather than the idea that everybody wore it. Persian art does occasionally show soldiers in armour but its never on the scale of the reliefs which intend to portray heroic figures much like the Greek depictions of naked warriors.

    It actually occurred to me that the Persians very surprisingly hadn't modernized their infantry in terms of style, utilizing shields that were used elsewhere nearby half a millenium earlier.
    The reason being that whilst the Dipylon shape might have been out of date in Greece where phalanx warfare was dominant, it still served perfectly in the east where straight infantry clashes were not the driving ideal of combat. Moreover, as i have said, only a very small part of the Persian army were even using this shield.

    I've often wondered if the Persian infantry institutions, with their loss of contemporary importance,
    I'm not sure what you mean by this. From Cyrus to Xerxes the Persian infantry were the foremost military institution in the empire.

    and their use of archaic elements
    Again I'm not sure where you're going with this. Which archaic elements are you referring to? The dipylon shield? The Persian version was solid wood with a bronze rim and boss. It wasn't an aspis but it was a perfectly serviceable shield. Also a minority piece of equipment.

    wasn't a shoddy leftover fragment of the pretty glorious Assyrian military a thousand years earlier, which they thought to literally imitate.
    You mean the Assyrians of about 100 years earlier? Of the many reasons for the fall of the Assyrians one of them can fairly reasonably be attributed to their lack of innovation and their insistence on keeping chariots around.

    Although the Persians did imitate a lot of Assyrian innovations theres no evidence to suggest a direct attempt to copy their military. The only real similarity is their shieldwall formations, which Iranians had been using anyway, and the siegeworks which any smart military would copy.

    Αbout Dipylon i had the impression was a weaker shield nothing to do with hoplos shields.

    Wicker shield is ideal for defent in a war of Arrows and horses.
    Im not sure about the Greek version but the Persian's was made of wood and bronze.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Good article; I wonder whether Achaemenid had units that only for range attack?? I know there was bow bearer, which probably means there was an archer bodyguard for king...
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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    Good article; I wonder whether Achaemenid had units that only for range attack??
    There doesn't appear to have been any need for them. All ranged (infantry) units were protected by spearmen and the spearmen themselves had an easier time of it since whoever they fought would have been soften up and discombombulated by the archers.

    I know there was bow bearer, which probably means there was an archer bodyguard for king...
    The reason we know there was a spear bodyguard for the King is not just because there was a name for the spearbearer in chief but from literary descriptions and Persian art. The Bowbearer has no such evidence for a bodyguard. The closest thing would be the supposed treasury archers of Darius III. Even if they did exist they are outside the remit of this structural analysis.

    Edit: I forgot to add that the word for 'bow bearer' (vacabara) is now thought to be a form of the word for garment bearer and in fact refers to the royal chamberlain.
    Last edited by rez; January 14, 2010 at 04:58 PM.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    There doesn't appear to have been any need for them. All ranged (infantry) units were protected by spearmen and the spearmen themselves had an easier time of it since whoever they fought would have been soften up and discombombulated by the archers.
    I highly doubt that, since an infantry unit that had to carry both melee and range weapons would only increase supply and commanding difficulty. My view is that archers might more or less serve as small detachement that attached to infantry units, and if necessary, might able to operate independantly.

    But I have no evidences to support that, and the idea was came out from my study of Ottoman and Carolingian military.
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    Hellheaven, sometimes you remind me of King Canute trying to hold back the tide, except without the winning parable.
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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    The typical harness elements of an Achaemenid-period bridle, from palace h in Persepolis


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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    I highly doubt that, since an infantry unit that had to carry both melee and range weapons would only increase supply and commanding difficulty. My view is that archers might more or less serve as small detachement that attached to infantry units, and if necessary, might able to operate independantly.

    But I have no evidences to support that, and the idea was came out from my study of Ottoman and Carolingian military.
    The only regiment that would have had to carry everything all at once would have been the Anusyia who were extremely well supplied. The others, whilst still being part of the same unit, are broken up into seperate ranks of spearmen and archers. So they are less 'attatched' and more 'integrated.'

    They don't ever appear to have operated independantly from one another though.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    The only regiment that would have had to carry everything all at once would have been the Anusyia who were extremely well supplied. The others, whilst still being part of the same unit, are broken up into seperate ranks of spearmen and archers. So they are less 'attatched' and more 'integrated.'

    They don't ever appear to have operated independantly from one another though.
    That is rather an inflexible organization... Either way, what is the nature of Pasti?? Were they conscripts that only mobiled when mobilization was ordered??
    Quote Originally Posted by Markas View Post
    Hellheaven, sometimes you remind me of King Canute trying to hold back the tide, except without the winning parable.
    Quote Originally Posted by O'Hea View Post
    The only reason why Charlemagne came into this at all is because Hellheaven thought it'd be a fun way to troll some byzantophiles.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    That is rather an inflexible organization...
    Well the idea was they would never have to operate independently of one another because together they formed an all purpose infantry formation. The point was to be as flexible as was possible. However, when faced with specialised heavy infantry they could not hope to engage successfully without support.

    Either way, what is the nature of Pasti?? Were they conscripts that only mobiled when mobilization was ordered??
    It appears that Persian Pasti were conscripted for national service but other Iranian Pasti were only mobilised when there was a campaign or other emergency situation.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    Well the idea was they would never have to operate independently of one another because together they formed an all purpose infantry formation. The point was to be as flexible as was possible. However, when faced with specialised heavy infantry they could not hope to engage successfully without support.
    That is why I say it was an inflexible organization, since the whole unit had to deploy all together regardless the situation. I highly doubt it was working in this way and there was probably more detailed organzation between range and melee infantries in one unit, which could be operated indepedantly if necessary.

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    It appears that Persian Pasti were conscripted for national service but other Iranian Pasti were only mobilised when there was a campaign or other emergency situation.
    But it seems that satraps had power to declare a partial mobilization that only limit to the region they governed; how did Pasti affected by this partial mobilization?
    Quote Originally Posted by Markas View Post
    Hellheaven, sometimes you remind me of King Canute trying to hold back the tide, except without the winning parable.
    Quote Originally Posted by O'Hea View Post
    The only reason why Charlemagne came into this at all is because Hellheaven thought it'd be a fun way to troll some byzantophiles.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    That is why I say it was an inflexible organization, since the whole unit had to deploy all together regardless the situation.
    But the point is that they were able to deal with almost any situation anyway and with proper cavalry support they were ready to deal with anything.

    I highly doubt it was working in this way and there was probably more detailed organzation between range and melee infantries in one unit, which could be operated indepedantly if necessary.
    The evidence disagrees with you. Every Greek historian of the period in question has the Persian infantry as archers protected by a crust of shielded spearmen. Unless you have evidence to the contrary then you have little chance of suggesting a reasonable alternative.

    It is actually quite an unheard of thing to suggest that the Persians deployed infantry that were intended solely for melee combat as I have suggested with the Arstibara. I was hoping some people would challenge that and perhaps bring up some things I might not have thought of.


    But it seems that satraps had power to declare a partial mobilization that only limit to the region they governed; how did Pasti affected by this partial mobilization?
    I'm very interested in how this worked but the majority of evidence we have for satrapal recruitment comes from the western provinces. In this situation it appears they relied almost exclusively on mercenaries (by which I mean paid soldiers enlisted outside of the imperial recruitment pools). It seems that the Persian Pasti were mobilised to send to satraps that required aid such as when Tissaphernes had to deal with the Spartan incursion. What isn't clear is whether these were already on active duty for national service or whether they were raised to directly deal with the problem.

    The whole issue of national service is really rather murky but the greek historians seem very convinced that it was practiced.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    But the point is that they were able to deal with almost any situation anyway and with proper cavalry support they were ready to deal with anything.
    Yes, but my point is it was not manpower wise and it would always require to send more unnecessary large force for every operation.

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    The evidence disagrees with you. Every Greek historian of the period in question has the Persian infantry as archers protected by a crust of shielded spearmen. Unless you have evidence to the contrary then you have little chance of suggesting a reasonable alternative.
    Because I have no real evidence hence I ask that question; however, the Greek historians I have read (Herodotus and Xenophon) give me an impression that the description was not enough to suggest that each Persian unit had both archers and spearmen, but more as two separated units worked together.

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    It is actually quite an unheard of thing to suggest that the Persians deployed infantry that were intended solely for melee combat as I have suggested with the Arstibara. I was hoping some people would challenge that and perhaps bring up some things I might not have thought of.
    The rather suggestion was that Persian infantry unit did not mean for melee, but for protection of range units. However, that does not mean both troops had to organize into one unit.

    Quote Originally Posted by rez View Post
    I'm very interested in how this worked but the majority of evidence we have for satrapal recruitment comes from the western provinces. In this situation it appears they relied almost exclusively on mercenaries (by which I mean paid soldiers enlisted outside of the imperial recruitment pools). It seems that the Persian Pasti were mobilised to send to satraps that required aid such as when Tissaphernes had to deal with the Spartan incursion. What isn't clear is whether these were already on active duty for national service or whether they were raised to directly deal with the problem.

    The whole issue of national service is really rather murky but the greek historians seem very convinced that it was practiced.
    My thought about this was that Persian followed something fairly similar as early Ottoman - a local conscript force reinforced by regular force from central government. You have mentioned that Pasti was formed by landowners, which may suggest that landowners in certain regions had to mobile under local satrap's instruction, and in the same time those landowners had to bring a certain amount of men together. This conscript force would also reinforce by a small regular force sent by King, and the satrap had the freedom to choose whether he should recruit additional mercenaries or not.

    At least, that was my view by studying Ottoman, Carolingian and Byzantium warfare.
    Quote Originally Posted by Markas View Post
    Hellheaven, sometimes you remind me of King Canute trying to hold back the tide, except without the winning parable.
    Quote Originally Posted by O'Hea View Post
    The only reason why Charlemagne came into this at all is because Hellheaven thought it'd be a fun way to troll some byzantophiles.

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    Default Re: A cautious but serious look at the Achaemenid Persian Infantry of Darius and Xerxes

    Rez,

    Another myth which needs to be debunked, and I am not sure if it already is because I'm too lazy to read through everything, is of the homogeneous Greek heavy infantry. I'm pretty sure van Wees covers it all when he states that, besides having a significant proportion of lightly armed men, Greek hoplites of the time still employed shorter spears and looser formations to a certain extent?
    "Romans not only easily conquered those who fought by cutting, but mocked them too. For the cut, even delivered with force, frequently does not kill, when the vital parts are protected by equipment and bone. On the contrary, a point brought to bear is fatal at two inches; for it is necessary that whatever vital parts it penetrates, it is immersed. Next, when a cut is delivered, the right arm and flank are exposed. However, the point is delivered with the cover of the body and wounds the enemy before he sees it."

    - Flavius Vegetius Renatus (in Epitoma Rei Militari, ca. 390)

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