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Thread: The Size of Persian Armies

  1. #21
    Ἀπολλόδοτος Α΄ ὁ Σωτήρ's Avatar Yeah science!
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    Default Re: The Size of Ancient Armies

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    So some guy did not talk more or less all the Athenians into making themselves impoverished refugees at the mercy of Sparta (a state not exactly in love with them) and throwing the dice on winning a risk navy fight where they were outnumbered? That seems a tad total.
    Without modern mobilization techniques, communication lanes and road networks, I'd find a relatively homogeneous city-state, alongside its nearby countryside population, to be more reactive and able to fully utilize its resources, as opposed to a far-flung heterogeneous empire which would need to assemble its distant subjects in another part of their empire and empire materialize them on the opposite part.

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Was their some other invasion on tap I missed?
    While I'm not aware of any powerful nomadic confederations poised to assault the Achaemenids in the East and capable of capturing cities such as Baktra, we do know of various nomadic tribes launching raids in the Upper Satrapies, and perfectly capable looting villages and small towns. In addition to those external threats, up until 19th Century, hill-dwelling tribes would sometimes descend to the valleys to loot and pillage across many parts of Afro-Eurasia, and the Achamenid Empire was full of such tribes.

    For instance I suggest reading about one such tribe, the Uxians, whom Alexander fought, not on the behalf of the Achaemenids, but because they tried to extort Alexander in a similar manner they did the Persians, despite living deep in nominal Achaemenid territory.

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Maybe true maybe not really depends on which boss they thought would be better and how bad the pillaging would be. But Darius did have the cash on had to fill palms and belay worry for the moment over the prospect of gain.
    Most of the Achaemenid subjects were neither Iranian nor Zoroastrian and those who were and were in high positions weren't all selfless and loyal people, Mazaeus, a Persian, simply allowed Alexander to take heavily fortified city of Babylon, while Bessus did what he did. Various tribal kings living in difficultly accessible areas weren't impressed enough with Achaemenid power to even pay them taxes, sometimes they preferred to actually tax them. And by taxing I mean robbing.

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    The think is Alexander was the near and clear present danger and he had yet to show his supposed cultural clemency. He started the war based on a nominal revenge crusade.
    Speaking of Darius' regard or understanding of Alexander's true intentions, I think it would be good to mention that he didn't lend much support to his Satraps in Anatolia, and in relation to that how numbers Alexander faced began to increase after he'd already conquer most of Anatolia.

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Again I not arguing the fantastic numbers. Just the range of possibly should not be constrained by the minimal normal possibility give the dire state Darius faced and the resources he had.
    Mustering a Million men, if its true, is a quite an achievement, one that even the great Roman Empire didn't manage.

    Which is why it's interesting to compare the numbers, as well as few other factors, between the Roman and Achaemenid Empires.

    - Roman Army at its peak had 450K troops, according to Cassius Dio in the Battle of Lugdunum in 197, 300K were deployed, modern estimates range from 110K to 150K. This battle was a part of a civil war between Severus and Albinus and thus all the troops were Roman.

    -Size of Achaemenid Army at its peak is unknown, however according to Herodotus they were capable deploying up to 2.65M during the Second Invasion of Greece, modern estimates range from 200K to 500K. we don't know if Persian had mobilized all of their available troops for this endeavor, however I personally suspect they haven't left their satrapies under-garrisoned and in my opinion they would have to do so in order to muster such massive numbers. In addition to that it took them several years to bring troops to Sardis and from there continue towards Greece.

    After glorious days of Darius I and Xerxes I, the Achaemenid troops seems to have dwindled to "mere" 1M according to ancient sources, still better than the pathetic Romans with "puny" 450K and this is a relatively certain number.

    When discussing the plausibility of numbers, one needs to talk of population.

    The Roman Empire usually had 50-60 Million people, under Trajan around 70M Million, Achaemenid Empire 17-35 Million people. From this every 4th is an adult male. I can't stress enough that I'm being quite generous here because until the 19th Century couples usually had more than two children.

    Romans had 450K troops out of, 50M, I'll use the lower estimate here which brings us to 12.5M adult males, that means that nearly every 28th adult male was a soldier, if we take that the Achaemenids had 1M troops out of, I'll use the highest population estimate of 35M which brings us to 8.75M adult males, that means that nearly every 9th adult male was a soldier.

    Even when skewing the numbers in favor of the Achaemenids, by several factors, such as population number and breakdown, deployment - 1M were at a single battle, while Roman 450K never were, which would mean that the Achaemenids would need to extract an even greater number than 1M because, as I've said previously, someone needs to man the garrisons, such ability to mobilize every 9th male not withstanding serious economic and political consequences, would require a tremendous logistical and organizational effort and their deployment would be severely hampered by the state of Achaemenid geographic constraints.

    Now onto actual battles.

    Until Granicus in 334 it appears that Darius didn't consider Alexander as a massive threat that would require the maximum mobilization of his troops which can be seen from the fact that Alexander's numbers at Granicus were merely matched, a single year later 600K troops are at Issus and 2 years after 400K more. In short, by ancient sources at Granicus Alexander faces 40K, at Issus 600K, at Gaugamela 1M, by modern estimates it's Granicus 40K, Issus 108K, Gaugamela 120K.

    Maybe modern estimates are two low and losing battles when having 2.7:1 and 2.5:1 advantage against a not just superior, but brilliant tactician, isn't that much of failure when you're a decent commander, however losing when having 15:1 and 21:1 advantage is beyond spectacular failure, even if one's an inferior commander. If we halve the numbers and get 7.5:1 and 10.6:1 advantage the failure is still spectacular.

    Why did Darius even fight at Gaugamela when seeing how bad he was at Issus, when defeated at Gaugamela why did he even flee eastwards, at that time the Iranian Plateau was still far less populated and poorer than Mesopotamia and he lost a 1M troops, it's highly unlikely he'd be able to find another 1M, and let's face it how bad he is he'd need at least 2M, to get that decent 42:1 advantage.

    It all boils down to whether or not Alexander's victories were impressive enough unless he was outnumbered at least 4:1, personally I'd say yes. If the numbers are true, Darius was either mentally impaired, or it was true what so many ancients believed, Alexander was divine. Lastly, ther's something special about the Achaemenids because no other state deployed such numbers on the battlefield apart from the Chinese during the Warring States, if we are to believe their ancient sources, and If I'm not mistaken, even they didn't have a 1M on the battlefield.
    "First get your facts straight, then distort them at your leisure." - Mark Twain

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  2. #22
    Ἀπολλόδοτος Α΄ ὁ Σωτήρ's Avatar Yeah science!
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    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    Quote Originally Posted by Azorica View Post

    In my opinion our divergence in this subject is almost a semantic one. I have a tendency of considering "true" feudalism the act of land grant in exchange of service, in an almost client-style relationship, because I feel that including proto-feudal and tribal/tributary/vassal-overlord relationships of indirect rule to be a slippery slope that could lead to a "everything is feudalism" problem, because most pre-modern states, either more decentralized or centralized used forms of local government that could be considered to have feudalistic traits. Roman governors had great powers in their provinces, colonial powers appointed viceroys but they never had real control of the land as in de facto being able to use it at will. It is a feudal-like trait and could be considered by your point of view feudalism, although i would not consider it. That's why I apply the same for the persians since the satrap was in charge of the land as an administrator, had judge duties, controlled local officials, tribes and cities but was advised by a persian council that oversaw his stewardship.

    So, for me, feudalism and centralization are mostly exclusive because the practice of feudalism chips away royal central power by creating petty kingdoms within the kingdom. However the depopulation, ruralization, demonetization and colapse of central bureaucracy in Western Europe following the colapse of the Empire and rise of the barbarian kingdoms made it the most efficient way, if not only way, of having a semblance of control in large states.
    True, however while Satraps tended to be appointed and thus not hereditary owners of the land this doesn't preclude the existence of powerful, not fully cooperative, landowners under the satrap who can afford their own little armies.

    The Sassanid Empire is a prime example because we know more about their internal dynamics than that of the Achaemenids. The great Houses had large estates, living in private palaces, scattered around the empire and over them there were satraps, yet on account of income from their estates they could have relatively large armies loyal only to them, complete with flags and sigils signifying their House, like in Medieval Europe, and thus had to be negotiated with. Naturally they didn't have hereditary satrapal rule, but Sassanid Shah was forced to appoint their members as satraps, or grant them military or other administrative posts at the expense of someone less powerful.

    If I had to guess I'd say the situation was somewhat similar during the Achaemenids, the only difference being that there weren't any notably powerful single family that could threaten them, while for instance the Sassanids almost lost throne twice to the Mihranids.
    Last edited by Ἀπολλόδοτος Α΄ ὁ Σω February 15, 2019 at 09:54 AM. Reason: spelling
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  3. #23
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    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    Quote Originally Posted by Ἀπολλόδοτος Α΄ ὁ Σωτήρ View Post
    True, however while Satraps tended to be appointed and thus not hereditary owners of the land this doesn't preclude the existence of powerful, not fully cooperative, landowners under the satrap who can afford their own little armies.

    The Sassanid Empire is a prime example because we know more about their internal dynamics than that of the Achaemenids. The great Houses had large estates, living in private palaces, scattered around the empire and over them there were satraps, yet on account of income from their estates they could have relatively large armies loyal only to them, complete with flags and sigils signifying their House, like in Medieval Europe, and thus had to be negotiated with. Naturally they didn't have hereditary satrapal rule, but Sassanid Shah was forced to appoint their members as satraps, or grant them military or other administrative posts at the expense of someone less powerful.

    If I had to guess I'd say the situation was somewhat similar during the Achaemenids, the only difference being that there weren't any notably powerful single family that could threaten them, while for instance the Sassanids almost lost throne twice to the Mihranids.
    Totally agree with you. Although it can be argued that the Achaemenids were a centralized state, it still was a aristocracy-based society. Could be more merit-based than contemporaries but it is fair to assume that court plots and power plays of nobles vying for influence and nominations was frequent and that incomes from their estates allowed them to have personal bodyguards, retinues and even whole companies. Satraps of both satrapies and their internal divisions more often than not tried to solidy their power base and since they were allowed to keep local troops, some even revolted. Darius I was plagued by such revolts, one of the reasons he reformed the system. It wasn't a perfect system, but more efficient than the government systems of the time.

    Such occurrences happened with the Achaemenids, the Seleucids, the Parthians and the Sassanids, with the added bonus that both the Parthians and Sassanids having a more decentralized model, so what you describe about it, i feel its totally plausible and as Sassanids are not my "area of expertise" I'll your word for it

  4. #24

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    I'm really just making note of the figures given throughout the years. So yes the ancient sources are clearly wrong, even Curtius Rufus 245,000 is impossible. But also I am saying that modern estimates of 90,000, 100,000 or 120,000 can't be correct either.
    Agreed. Inflated numbers from ancient sources are wrong for a variety of reasons, however 100,000+ is still possible in my view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    Taking into account the losses at Issos and the loss of territory in the west, including the loss of the extremely crucial Egyptian wealth and Anatolian recruits... Darius III would have been entirely raising his army from the eastern half of the empire. Knowing this fact the Persians at Issos would logically have more resources to raise a larger army and yet it is at Gaugamela when the Persians have the larger army.
    You’re not taking into account that Darius did not lose all his army at Issus. He wasn’t starting again from scratch. In addition, Darius had at least 2 years to prepare. That’s a lot of time, and Persian highways were the best in the ancient world. He also still had control over the world’s largest empire -even with the loss of Asia Minor, Egypt, and parts of the Levant, so no I’m not buying the argument that Darius suddenly lacked for resources either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    Persians recruited most of their troops from the east, some local provincial levies, specialists like people from Egypt for instance and the warlike peoples of Anatolia and occasionally some Greek mercenaries...
    Unless ancient Iran had clone trooper factories or massive settlements then you can't ascribe to them the numbers which you are claiming.
    Your argument here is contradictory – because if Darius still controls the east then his recruitment base is still intact. Even so, I’m not buying the argument that Persian forces were dependent on peasants and lacked other population pools to recruit from – including urban areas. Herodotus writes that Xerxes army consisted of 47 nations (and mostly from Asia Minor) and it’s usually regarded that actual Iranian recruits only ever up a minority in Cyrus’s army.

    I also think your badly serving yourself by discounting total population. Persia’s population would still have numbered at 10s of millions – a ridiculous number compared to ancient contemporaries, not to mention populations from Asia Minor -including Greeks- fleeing Alexander and wanting revenge for their cities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    Not really, Alexander's fear was that Darius III wouldn't give battle. Ultimately both leaders were gambling on a pitched battle but that says nothing about the size of either army. If Alexander was really so completely outnumbered then his decision would have been madness, not genius.
    It was madness. Which is why Parmenio advocated hard for a night attack.

    Alexander is the luckiest general who ever lived – and all the ancient sources agree he was badly outnumbered.

    Even if you don’t agree with that, luck still played a part, and Alexander’s risk taking proves that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    No we shouldn't. Arbela is all the way in northern Mesopotamia along the Tigris. Darius had to collect and march his army from the Iranian plateau and all the way in the east, march down through Khuzistan or Kermanshah directly to Babylon and then march north to Arbela. It probably makes more sense to assume that Darius III assembled his army in Babylon in order to march the other troops through the Iranian plateau as various columns. Then Darius III marched his army north from Babylon, towards Arbela and then had to deploy his whole army near the hill of Gaugamela where they camped for some time waiting for Alexander to arrive. However long they spent marching along the way and then however long they spent in Babylon should be taken into account as well. "Proximity" isn't really a factor anyway and in this case the proximity argument isn't even true either.
    Here is a map of the royal roads. As you can see all rivers and highways lead to Arbela.



    Persian highways of course (according to Herodotus) were the best in the ancient world, and a postal messenger could travel from Susa to Sardes (1700 milies) in 9 days. And the march was probably 90 days on foot – which was lined with resting areas and storehouses along the way.


    Given the map, Babylon was the perfect place to assemble an army (connected to all cities), and Arbela was a logical meeting ground that made optimal use of geography and roads for use in logistics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    Some 47,000 is already a massive army. Not just for Alexander and the Greeks but in general.
    Is there really any reason to assume that the Persians had a 2:1 advantage?
    Yes. A logical way to do this is to compare battle lines. If we have accurate numbers for Alexander, accurate knowledge of the terrain, and a decent account of what happened, we can begin to make estimates for Darius force.
    Given Darius’s envelopment tactics with cavalry and Alexander’s disposition, I argue 2:1 is in the realm of possibility.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    uuuuhh... Hannibal enveloped the largest Roman army ever put to the field with less than 60,000 men.
    The Roman army was not in danger of overextension at Cannae. Alexander’s was. Every source says Alexander was outnumbered at Gaugamela and Darius planned to spread superior numbers across an open plain to envelop Alexander. Knowing this, Alexander prepared a second battle line behind his first.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    1.It makes no sense to account for the total population of the Persian Empire. The people used for military campaigns were mostly people from the east. Mostly Iranic peoples in the Iranian Plateau and people from Central Asia. The other major area for recruitment was Anatolia.
    Strabo’s geography suggests that the Persia practiced some form of universal conscription, mostly with Iranian boys. That may be where you’re coming from. Regardless you still need to explain away who made up the 60,000 kárdakes at Issus (hint nobody knows). And you still need to explain away the 47 nations (according to Herodotus) that made up Xerxes army.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    2. Horses were largely bred in Central Asia and the Iranian Plateau because those were the nomadic people who raised herds and who rode them into battle.
    Which Darius still had access to. Not to mention gold that could purchase horses from anywhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    3. The total population is irrelevant….Having hundreds of thousands of conscripts which are useless in combat and can't be supplied is actually counter productive. Self defeating in a war of annihilation or war of attrition.
    Which was partially why the Persians couldn’t defeat the Greeks. With 47 nations, 100,000+ armies, mercenaries from all over, and everybody speaking a different language, Persian command & control and unit cohesion in battle was pathetic. The Persians could do no better than swarm their opponent or stand their ground. Sophisticated maneuvers were not on par with Alexander and the Macedonian phalanx.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    4. Territory is irrelevant. The only areas conducive to horse breeding would have been Central Asia, the area of Media and the Caspian, roughly the plains of Susa since Fars is actually mountainous, the plains in the east around Khorasan and the plains of Anatolia and Armenia.
    Territory is not irrelevant. Its Alexander in this case who has to worry about scorched earth and overstretched supply lines. In addition, territory control is precisely why Persia was the wealthiest and most populous empire in the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    5. Most of this doesn't matter anyway because by the time of Gaugamela, Darius III only had the areas in the east. So his horses, supplies, recruits would have all been from the east. Darius could very well have 25,000 or 40,000 mounted troops but the question is can he march all of these troops over the mountains, to Babylon and then up the desert terrain towards Arbela and keep them in good shape and supplied. We're only looking at a portion of the empire by this point.
    Again, you’re still discounting the ridiculous advantages Darius still had in terms of time, available manpower, proximity to urban cities, and material wealth. Even with the loss of the west, Darius still had what remained from Issus along with the rest of his empire.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    6. It isn't a question of totals, it is a question of how many can be assembled, supplied and deployed. …. Hence a manageable force of 50,000 or 60,000 makes more sense.
    100,000 men seems more reasonable when compared to a 35 million population that lives close by. Having a population that large already implies food stores that could support a 100,000 men army. Not to mention the administrative skills and bureaucracy required.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    The society of the Persians, that is to say the Iranic people was similar to Feudalism. We could call it something else but so long as the point gets across that society was divided and a class of people functioned as essentially a warrior class.
    Not buying this at all. Cyrus the Great founded an empire based on toleration and equality of laws for all people. There is no grand feudal system of indebted servitude to speak of. There was very little slavery, there was a merchant class, there was not an enforced division of labor, no preordained cultural hierarchy, and even peasants could own land or become bankers.

    In addition, the Persian king maintained centralized authority through use of inspectors (literally “eyes of the kings”) and could remove and appoint governors as he saw fit. None of the Satrapies was meant to be more important or more powerful than another, and all affairs (including taxation and domestic polices) were bound to the king.

    The only bone I could throw to you -if I even can- is that was no such thing as Persian citizenship and that the Satrapie system worked based on loyalty to the king. Yet even this argument collapses when “king of kings” was meant to claim absolute power– he literally owned and controlled everything and backed it up through appointed officials, distribution of funds, tax collection, and divine right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    The Persians were most definitely not urbanized. The Persian people were semi-nomadic and lived in the mountains and plains of the Iranian plateau. Most of the Iranians lived in tents and only had very few settlements, not at all comparable to massive cities like Babylon, Damascus etc.
    The Persians were an urbanized empire and usually had more than one capital city. I don’t understand limiting this to the Iranian plateau when the empire’s borders clearly stretched beyond that.

    In addition, Herodotus descriptions of Xerxes army prove that the empire could recruit forces beyond the Iranian plateau, along with Persian gold that was accepted anywhere – even in Greece.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    What is more we could use the precedent argument. When did anyone field armies this large until now?
    When Cyrus established an empire of 35 million+ - the largest yet in history. Not to mention the urbanized society, merchant economy, and organized infrastructure that followed.

    No one else ever had material wealth and population before on such a scale.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Oda Nobunaga View Post
    The only consideration we really need to take into account is moving supplies as well as being capable of organizing however many troops.
    Then here you go:

    -Royal roads – and couriers that could travel 1,600 miles in 9 days on horseback – 90 days on foot.
    -An actual navy – along with the first suez canal and merchant fleets that could collect resources as far away as India.
    -The best engineers and quartermasters in the world – capable of projecting power into Greece and diverting rivers; including sustaining Xerxes campaign into Greece.
    -A standing army – complete with universal conscription, elite units, and a professional class of administrators, and local garrisons.
    -The largest urban centers in the world – and proven agricultural systems for sustaining large populations
    -Interior lines of communication, national currency, rudimentary budgets, and uniform systems of weights and measurements for logistical planning.
    -Admin systems of satrapies and administrators capable of national effort
    -Gold that is accepted anywhere and could buy supplies and recruit forces from anywhere.
    -A culture that was self-obsessed with raising horses.
    -Use of lightly armed infantry, who could use cheap and plentiful weapons.
    -Two years to prepare and nothing to lose.
    -Possible economic benefits of raising an army.
    -Underestimated value of the ox cart (carrying capacity of 5 horses)
    -Proximity to urban centers and a population that numbered in the tens of millions.
    Last edited by Dick Cheney.; February 18, 2019 at 12:20 PM.
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  5. #25
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    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    To go a bit offtopic: Darius III had two years after Issos... what did he do in this time?
    Sure, he had to rebuild (or build) an army, make sure no further satrapes swap sides, (maybe) quell some Rebellions, make sure that the other noble houses stay in line and deter babarian Invasions on the north-eastern front.

    But what else? Why no forrays into Asia minor, while Alexander (and his Army) was busy sieging Tyros or marching to Egypt?
    Why didn`t Darius threaten the lines of communication / intercept reinforcements?
    Especially since the Royal Road gave such an awesome way to project power into Asia minor?

  6. #26

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    Couldn't or wouldn't; it's not like Alexander's intent was unknown, or that he had such a mastery of diplomacy that he could paralyze the Persian court from reacting to his invasion.

    He couldn't if he didn't have the raiding forces, and that seems unlikely, or wouldn't, if he didn't trust his commanders or men to desert or defect to Alexander once they are beyond his reach.
    Eats, shoots, and leaves.

  7. #27

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    When people talk about "exaggerated" numbers of persian troops ,sometimes fail to apply their calculations ,to their opponents.
    If thessaly and macedonia could master 45 k troops prior to Alexander's march to Asia (30k on him,15k stayed home ) ,then the Persian Empire that had 70 times the size and 45 timesthe population ,it is quite spectacular to assume it could only muster 100k troops for a do or die battle.
    How people fail over the decades to apply their logic to the Persia's enemies,is beyond me.I find it quite strange.

    Just put down the numbers.Athenians could muster 40k men for the Sicily campaign ,one mediocre population wise city ,and a whole Empire,hosting some of the most densely populated cities of the time could not muster 400-500k?

    I said i amazed of this fact,but not surprised.Sadly,the root of this discussion (not reffering to OP of this thead and forum ,but to the general theme) is a political one.
    Persia's numbers on the field are on the same page of the book,with "Black Athena ,"babylonian philosophers" "indian nuclear scientists bc" "egyptian mathematicians " and what other shenanigan was invented in the 70s to discredit the greek civilization.

    Greeks won over Persians?no big deal ,they were on par with numbers....Sometimes.Cause they are "serious" proffesors right there that with all seriousness support that Greeks were more than the persians in Platea at 479bc...

  8. #28

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    [QUOTE=Dick Cheney.;15746394]


    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    You’re not taking into account that Darius did not lose all his army at Issus. He wasn’t starting again from scratch. In addition, Darius had at least 2 years to prepare. That’s a lot of time, and Persian highways were the best in the ancient world. He also still had control over the world’s largest empire -even with the loss of Asia Minor, Egypt, and parts of the Levant, so no I’m not buying the argument that Darius suddenly lacked for resources either.
    I agree that Lord Oda may have been incorrect in assuming that the best army would have been at Issos, due to access of recruits from crucial recruiting areas like Anatolia, but he is correct that Darius lost potential resources; this was ultimately his main point and which you're attempting to disregard. It is true: the loss of the eastern seaboard and provinces of the Anatolia and Egpyt (cf. Memnon's successful naval campaign against Alexander before Issus), not to mention Syria and others would have been a devastating blow. To try and reduce it as anything less is ridiculous.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Your argument here is contradictory – because if Darius still controls the east then his recruitment base is still intact. Even so, I’m not buying the argument that Persian forces were dependent on peasants and lacked other population pools to recruit from – including urban areas. Herodotus writes that Xerxes army consisted of 47 nations (and mostly from Asia Minor) and it’s usually regarded that actual Iranian recruits only ever up a minority in Cyrus’s army.

    I also think your badly serving yourself by discounting total population. Persia’s population would still have numbered at 10s of millions – a ridiculous number compared to ancient contemporaries, not to mention populations from Asia Minor -including Greeks- fleeing Alexander and wanting revenge for their cities.
    That's correct...IF the Achaemenid Empire was in the stages of developing mass mobilisation. The Empire was feudalistic in nature, and very decentralised. I wouldn't try and argue this point further either, I could procure several quotes from specialists on the Persians and the era in general regarding this. In a feudal-esque society, the warrior class is naturally small; and as such the Achaemenid Empire's armies are increasingly being seen by modern scholars as not huge, but small, and not rabble, but in general quite high quality.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    It was madness. Which is why Parmenio advocated hard for a night attack.

    Alexander is the luckiest general who ever lived – and all the ancient sources agree he was badly outnumbered.

    Even if you don’t agree with that, luck still played a part, and Alexander’s risk taking proves that.
    Parmenio's advocation of a night attack has been suggested as more than likely being a literary device used to heighten Alexander's character and risk-taking, and to make the reader more taken into Alexander's personality. Night attacks are very risky, especially against an army standing in battle formation (if it actually was). We can't really gather much here, so I'd probably drop it.

    So what if the sources all agree? They all come from the same original sources: the Greek side. And of course the Greek version of events is going to portray Alexander, the propaganda king, as being heavily outnumbered and facing seemingly impossible odds. I'm quite sure most modern scholars wouldn't place the Persians at any more than 100,000 strong, and I personally wouldn't place them much higher than Alexander's own army, but that's irrelevant at the moment.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Here is a map of the royal roads. As you can see all rivers and highways lead to Arbela.



    Persian highways of course (according to Herodotus) were the best in the ancient world, and a postal messenger could travel from Susa to Sardes (1700 milies) in 9 days. And the march was probably 90 days on foot – which was lined with resting areas and storehouses along the way.


    Given the map, Babylon was the perfect place to assemble an army (connected to all cities), and Arbela was a logical meeting ground that made optimal use of geography and roads for use in logistics.
    You'd have to explain then how it was logistically feasible to feed hundreds of thousands of people in what would have amounted to virtually a city's worth of people. This is especially true for the cavalry component. Horses require a lot of food and water, and cavalrymen usually had more than one mount, as well as attendants/squires for themselves. Even in Napoleonic times, where the art of logistical supply evolved to such a level (initially in France, mostly) that started inflating armies significantly, cavalry forces rarely ever exceeded a concentration of 40,000-50,000. Yet the feudalistic Persians were capable of such feats? Especially after losing vast tracts of land and income? Hmmm.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Yes. A logical way to do this is to compare battle lines. If we have accurate numbers for Alexander, accurate knowledge of the terrain, and a decent account of what happened, we can begin to make estimates for Darius force.
    Given Darius’s envelopment tactics with cavalry and Alexander’s disposition, I argue 2:1 is in the realm of possibility.
    So your primary argument that that ratio was at least 2:1 is battle lines? Alexander's disposition and Darius' plan mean absolutely nothing. Darius could have a moderate advantage against Alexander in cavalry and still have a large enough force to facilitate an envelopment of Alexander's flanks and Alexander adopting those dispositions. So why then do we jump instantly to "it has to have been 2:1"? You can envelop an enemy in a variety of situations, you don't need to grossly outnumber them, especially when we're talking about a cavalry focused army like that of Darius' at Gaugamela.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Strabo’s geography suggests that the Persia practiced some form of universal conscription, mostly with Iranian boys. That may be where you’re coming from. Regardless you still need to explain away who made up the 60,000 kárdakes at Issus (hint nobody knows). And you still need to explain away the 47 nations (according to Herodotus) that made up Xerxes army.
    Yes, and Iranians made up only a fraction of Persia's total population. The Iranians were part of the aristocracy, and it therefore makes sense that they were trained as such. Blanket applying this to every people of the empire is a jump in logic; especially considering that, again, Persia was largely decentralised. The idea that Persia was using universal conscription across the entire empire is ridiculous, and I challenge you to find any serious accredited scholar that believes as such.

    As for the "muh 47 nations", consider this considerably insightful quote from Hans Delbruck on the nature of forming the army at Gaugamela from Darius' perspective:

    It was useless to draw up loose-knit groups of an unmilitary people against a hoplite phalanx, and the Persians understood the art of war well enough to know that and to prefer to use all their strength for the reinforcing of the cavalry, instead of involving themselves in insuperable supply difficulties through useless mass levies.

    Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity, 212.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Which Darius still had access to. Not to mention gold that could purchase horses from anywhere.
    Yeah, because horses can be trained as warhorses very easily, right? Wrong, it required extensive training for the mount.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Which was partially why the Persians couldn’t defeat the Greeks. With 47 nations, 100,000+ armies, mercenaries from all over, and everybody speaking a different language, Persian command & control and unit cohesion in battle was pathetic. The Persians could do no better than swarm their opponent or stand their ground. Sophisticated maneuvers were not on par with Alexander and the Macedonian phalanx.
    Ludicrous. Explain to me how the Persians were incapable and only able to swarm or stand their ground. Any Persian scholar versed in the military history of the Achaemenid Empire would disagree with you. There's this common misconception that the Persians were all numbers and swarming, this is incredibly wrong, and I'd like to see you either provide scholarly citations to back this up, or concede the point.

    Yes, the Persian infantry forces, as they were, were not nearly as capable as the Macedonian phalanx. Keep in mind that the phalangites of Alexander's army were veterans of twenty years under Philip, and were lead by veteran officers and generals. It takes time to create such a force, and the Persians naturally put their focus on their strength: the cavalry. Even our Greek sources make note of how effective and highly trained the cavalry drawn from around the empire were, especially from Anatolia and Baktria.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    Not buying this at all. Cyrus the Great founded an empire based on toleration and equality of laws for all people. There is no grand feudal system of indebted servitude to speak of. There was very little slavery, there was a merchant class, there was not an enforced division of labor, no preordained cultural hierarchy, and even peasants could own land or become bankers.
    No one is arguing that the Persian empire was strictly feudal in the context of Medieval Europe, only that it shares a lot of similarities with the system. You're again forgetting that the empire was decentralised precisely BECAUSE of Cyrus' policies. In contrast, Philip's policy of heavily centralising all levels of Macedonian society allowed him to field extreme numbers of Macedonians and keep that levy under arms permanently.

    I have other quarrels with your post, but I've responded to the main issues for the time being.

  9. #29

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    But as an actual force in the field even the large army at Gaugamela could not have numbered 100,000 due to it being a logistical impossibility. Even if we accepted 65,000 as the size of the Persian army in the field we would also be required to take into account the logistics of camp followers and attendants. That in itself would probably amount to around 100,000 people which would need to be fed and organized. Now imagine how large that total would be if the Persians actually fielded say 80,000, 90,000, 100,000 or 120,000 troops.

    ============================================================================================

    Persia held a third of the worlds population, it had a market economy and a road net.

    lets compare Herodous Persian numbers and see if they feasible on logistical grounds.

    1700,000 Mil, rest non coms, total 4200,000 men in three columns, is 1400,000 per column. The Mil element of each column in 566,666, is an 8 wide column of march. 70833 men long.( column is 8*70833) at 3 feet per man this is a frontage of 24 feet, and depth of 212449 feet. Persian units were in decimal, so 566 units, with 10 paces between units when moving yields:5660 feet, for Mil only total of 218109 feet inc space between formations. Thats 40 miles depth and road space for the Persian Military.

    Non coms, these are the herders of sheep etc, and are even less road bound than the mil, some will be on the road and some not, but the mil element sets the pace at 20 miles a day, marching for 5 hours of daylight to achieve 20 miles, the same as Romans were accustomed to doing. The non coms would be spread further in frontage than the mil march column, and the secured space for this would be 30 mins to either side of the column which would be the min the column would cover to prevent from surpise attack, this is 4 miles frontage, and the mil mtd elements cover this area as the column advances. 4 miles frontage and the same depth as the mil element, is a box 4x40=160 sq miles, with 833,337k people in it, lets double the depth to 80 miles,giving the non coms 4*80=320 sq miles to graze and move in, the Persian mil elements are in the first 40 miles and then there is another 80 miles of only non coms. Total depth of the column is 120 miles, the mil elements are in the front 40 and the non coms spread over that, plus 80 more miles, total erea the column comprises, is 32 miles frontage and 120 miles deep.

    Think of this ( the mil element) like a Roman column that can wheel to face any threat, with non coms on either flank than fold back away from any threat, the mil column moving mostly on the roads and faster than the non coms, and is embedded and leading a compact column inside a large box area of slower moving non coms, that the mil element stretches back into for roughly half the total depth.

    The cav elements of the army therefore cover the 20 miles at a slow trot, 8mph, so it takes 2.5 hours to cover the daily advance of 20 miles, 2 hours grazing and .5 hours care, for the mounts leaves 3/4 hours of daylight, so it can move to each side of the Inf column for 2 hours to procure supplies and return with it to the column. The column is therfore power projecting its mtd elements 32 miles, making each days advance cover 32 miles frontage and 20 miles depth, ie 32*20=640 sq miles is covered by procurement elements for supplies, average population for Asia minor would be c18 per sq mile, so the cerial food stocks for that area covered would be, assumig 2 crops a year, 3 lbs per person ( a very low figure for all cerial crops but wheat at 3lbs a person will suffice) 3*18*640*176=6,082,560 lbs in the fields or in storage bins as these is the number value of crops to sustain 18 people per sq mile every 6 months.

    1400000 men at 3 lbs a day require 4,200,000 lbs of cerials day, and the column is each day moving over land that contains 6,082,560 lbs to confiscate.

    They dont need to carry any supplies of there own if they simply want to take want they need from the population they move through. Persian Skudra with a pop level of 750,000 people has enough crops in the fileds or in storage between harvest, at any point in time, to fully supply over 2 million who are passing through.

    Or they can get all they need from the storage dumps H tells us where placed along the march route, or port it with them, (1400000 men at 30 lbs on average is a forward day lift of 42,000,000 lbs, c 10 days carried at any point in time)) or they can use the 3000 transport ships that H tells us supplied the march route, 3000 ships at 80 tons each is a sea lift of 240,000 tons,(480000000lbs) at a consumption of 30 days duration, is 16000000 lbs a day, for 4.2 million Expedition total,that gives 4 lbs a day per person per day for 30 days.

    Persain Skudra that is moved through, also inclues the bread basket Black sea region that supplied Greece grain. A single Athenian fleet of 230 ships brought in 36,800,000lbs. http://www.pontos.dk/publications/books/..._04_moreno Thre same region was suppling Greece with 13,000 tons per annum of cerial crops, 26,000,000lbs, when it was Persian controlled it supplied Persian needs. Skudra was c80,000 sq miles from Byzantium to Macedonia, so a pop density of c10 per sq mile.


    Persian logistical requirements:
    Skudra Thrace 250 miles to enter Macedonian lands. At 20mpd requires 25 days. Daily consumption at 3 lbs cerials per person, 4,200,000 lbs per column, three such columns.

    1,400,000 Column with a forward lift of 30lbs per person: 42,000,000lbs each column can carry 10 days without any cart of horses used.

    Persain fleet 3000*80=:480000000lbs Fleet can supply one column for 114 days, all three columns for 38 days.

    Duration of operation 25 days.
    4,200,000*25=105,000,000 lbs per column required.Total for all three, 315,000,000.

    Pop in region being moved through,32 miles by 120 miles=284 square miles, at 9 per per sq mile and 25 days (384*9*3*25=259200lbs)

    Army of three columns and pop of area the Army moves through total requirement.315,258,200 lbs

    Available per column:
    Carried by column:42,000,000 lbs
    Carried by Fleet 480000000lbs/3 =160,000,000 per column.
    Existing in region covered each days march at 9 person per sq mile using 2 crops a yearSad384*9*3*176=1824768lbs).
    Existing in the dumps prepared for the armys passage, zero.

    Total available: 523,824,769

    Persian expedition was logisticaly sound anda feasible mil operation, using the numbers given by H.

  10. #30

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    I believe the size of persian armies is slightly exaggerated in texts,but is far more noumerous than the tiny amounts given by modern historians.

    1.People do not trust the numbers given by ancient texts cause they compare these data,to the known data of latest times;
    However nowadays it is a trademark of our culture,to consider as mainstay of our civilization,that as every era passes,the next will be more advanced.
    But sometimes this is not the case.
    We have a cultural bias to discredit automatically everything that challenges this theorem and thesis.
    The challenge of the persian numbers on the field,given by ancient sources ,falls into this paradigm.
    "how can persians logistically support 500k + men on the field?later armies could not.Obviously this is a mistake and an exaggeration"

    I will argue that ancient persia was far more advanced in logistics than any medieval european army.Persia had inherited the same bureaucratic system from the previous states that occupied the region.
    Persian way of dealing with conquered people was to incorporate them into their state ,not to subjugate them.Examples Medes,Elam,ionian Greeks,Assyrians.
    My point is ersia had a logistics tradition going back one and a half millenia at least.It had the roads,the organization,the offices,the chain of command ,to supply and move great masses of men.
    On the contrary,european medieval states had no such tradition,and except rare examples they could not maintain infrastracture that required minimum effort.(ex roman aqueducts)

    example:
    http://www.historywiz.com/minoanplumbingandheating.html
    Knossos ,1500bc.Flushing toilets for a significant percentage of the living population of the palace.
    https://lifeoftheroyals.wordpress.co...of-versailles/
    France ,Versailles 1700ad.
    Only toilet for the king ,rest were using the gardens.
    I know the example is kinda hillarious ,but aside from that,just think of it.A small island civilization,20 times smaller than late medieval /renainance France had flushing toilets.
    3000 years later a state 20 times its size ,and far more richer,it had not...

    In ancient times civilization was far more advanced than late medieval europe.If something cannot be done in 1700ad,does not mean that a priori is impossible in 400bc...
    We tend to judge the past,wearing the glasses of today.Sometimes this does not work.

    2.Another example,which sadly I cannot provide a link :/
    The challenge of the numbers given by Herodotus ,started when a french explorer in the late 18th century ,calculated the population of Thessaly back then.He assumed that the rivers of thessaly could not maintain more people than aldeady did in its time;So Herodotus was wrong.At best Persian invasion in Greece was at 100-200k range ,since ,where do these people drink water?
    Fast forward in 2019 ad and the population of Thessaly plus massive agriculture and industry is around 800k...

    3.Persians since the Egyptian revolution,relied heavily into mercenary hoplites for their core infantry.
    They campaigned against Greece knowing that they could face as much as 60-70k hoplites.So it makes sense that they would bring massive number of less potent troops to offset the large numbers of hoplites.I mean Sbarabara,takabara ,and the various national armies of their vassals.
    Sbarabara typical deapth formation was very deap in an effort to absorb the hoplite formations assault.
    So modern historians account the numbers of persians at Platea at 60k persians ,plus 50k subjugated allied greeks ,against a 40k hoplites and 60k light infantry support men.
    If the thebans had not joined persia,greeks would overwhelm by numbers the persian side.
    Which persian ruller into his mind would campaign against the source land of its most lethal infantry with total forces quality and quantity less than his opponents?
    And after 10 years preparations?

    4.If Persian empire ,after two years after issus ,could not muster 500k men for one do or die battle,but just 100k,then it would never existed at all.
    Just the two nomadic nations north of it ,the Skythians and the Siraces muster a total of 70k men in months notice.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle...e_River_Thatis
    Skythians or any other tribal nomadic natiion would have crushed persians long ago,if persians logistics were so bad as people claim.

    ------------------------

    For me as said before ,the modern estimates are not correct;i believe that ancient Persia could field more or less the numbers given by ancient sources.
    Also I want to note,that while modern scholars dismiss the size of the persian armies,accept with out much questioning the chinese claims about contemporary local warlords fielding 200k men each .
    in an area not much more populated than persian empire.
    I retain my position;
    It is all politics in the end as, said by V.D.Hunson and Mary Lefkowitz.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_Homer%3F
    https://archive.org/stream/Not-Out-O...frica_djvu.txt

    The theme of a society based on martial ethos is not suitable to current political agenda.Since that society was the paradigm for past education and culture ,we have to reinvent that society and fit it into our times theme and ethos.

  11. #31

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    2.Another example,which sadly I cannot provide a link :/
    The challenge of the numbers given by Herodotus ,started when a french explorer in the late 18th century ,calculated the population of Thessaly back then.He assumed that the rivers of thessaly could not maintain more people than aldeady did in its time;So Herodotus was wrong.At best Persian invasion in Greece was at 100-200k range ,since ,where do these people drink water?
    Fast forward in 2019 ad and the population of Thessaly plus massive agriculture and industry is around 800k...
    ===============================================================================================
    Allow me.

    Surface water flowing at 3m a sec, yields a volume of 2.4m ( water sped is slower under the surface and is .8 of surface speed)@ width/depth of the river, a small stream of 2.5 m width and 1 m depth, would be typical around 45% of the total area as moving water, so 1.125 sq m a sec.

    Total water volume capacity in an hour. [email protected]=4050 sq m of water. 1,233,481 litres an hour. H numbers require less than this.

    Water requirement was not a logistical limitation.

  12. #32

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    ^^^
    thank you for the data.I am not good at this and i appreciate your effort.

    In general,I think the xerxes forces in greece have to be calculated ,bearing the numbers the opposing force could muster.
    Then,how many?

    Since Xerxes could not know which Greeks would allign with him,and which not,it is prudent for him to make an army able to subjugate them in any case.
    How many the greeks were?

    We have the numbers given by Herodotus for the battle of Platea:
    38700 hoplites and 74500 support .While the number of hoplites seems well documented with each city providing a spesific number of troops; and none of it makes any excess,all seem reasonable.
    The number of support/ligh infantry seems inflated to me ,except perhaps the documented numbers for the spartan side.7 men for support for each hoplite.Anyway let's cut that number in half: 30000 total
    We have roughly 70k men only by the free cities.
    Let;s add the subjugated greeks that could join the greeks (but did not,Xerxes could not know before hand),and the greek states that did not took part in the conflict;
    Thebans around 10000 hoplites and 10k infantry ,around 1k cavalry
    Mallians and Thessalians 20000 at least
    Macedonians 10000
    Chalkidiki Federation 10000
    Epirotes 10000
    Crete,Rhodes and Aegean Islands:at least 15k men.

    Sicily :50k men
    South Italy 10k men.

    The sum is above 200k men ,half of them hoplites or adequatelly equipped peltasts.
    I did not even counted the athenians rowers and marines.....

    Peter Green argues that Xerxes forces were 50k......
    I think persian commanders were always font of big numbers as shown by the conquests of Lydia and egypt.Since the attacker must have numerical superiority ,but also excess numbers to leave men as garrison in conquest areas,I do not think Xerxes would march with less than 600k men.
    There are clear reports of the negotiations between Syracuse leader Gelon and the greek embassy: going fourth and back the negotiations were frutless but did happen.
    Cretans were also asked but where indifferent.
    even if we just add the numbers Gelon brought furth in Himera battle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Himera_(480_BC) ,plus the theban troops,the greek side could deploy 70 +50+20 =140k men.And Xerxes brought 50k men on him?Sparabara and takabara to sustain the assault of 100k+ hoplites?it clearly makes no sense and is illogical.Xerxes must be the most silly person on earth,to prepare ten years a campaign and bring 50k leser quality troops to bring down 200k in their home soil.

    In Alexander case,in Gaugamela we know the depth of the ranks of each side and the realtive length they occupied on the field.Kardakes/Sparabara were at 50 men depth and the whole persian line outstretched the greek one by 2 or three times.The usual depth of the greek forces were 16 men.
    If the greek forces were around 40k men,then by rough calculations alone ,persians could not be less than 8-9 times more ,plus the separate persian army that were on the hilltops and the untrustfull reserves of Assyrians and Babylonians.Minimum 360k+ men.

    These are rough calculations but I want to show that the modern numbers are completrly unrealistic for the persian side.

  13. #33

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    The Greeks were playing in their home stadium.

    The bottleneck, as I mentioned before, is the Hellespont pontoon bridge, and calculating traffic there over a specified time period would give you a creditable number of personnel in the Persian expeditionary force.
    Eats, shoots, and leaves.

  14. #34

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    3 mph/5klm is walking pace.
    3 meters between those walking. A mile of such walking men is 536 men in a mile long column, 4 abreast is 2150 men.

    H tells us it took 7 days and nights for the hosts to cross. Military on one, and non coms on the other.

    Bridge length 1300 metres. Every 15 minutes those at the end of the bridge reach the front of the bridge and 2150 men have passed over the bridge. And thats them in a 3x3 m marching column, could easily be less compact.

    In 8 daylight hours 2150*4*8*7 is 4.8 million or so, compared to H 1.7 million foot and 80k horse. horses/people combined would be 2 million equivalents, add in time/distance between formations.

    And not close at all to any modern guesstimate of numbers.
    Last edited by Hanny; March 04, 2019 at 03:49 AM.

  15. #35

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    Do any of these ridiculous calculations have any scholarly backup? If not, they're not really worth refuting, despite being outright wrong.

  16. #36

    Default Re: The Size of Persian Armies

    Quote Originally Posted by Condottiere 40K View Post
    The Greeks were playing in their home stadium.

    The bottleneck, as I mentioned before, is the Hellespont pontoon bridge, and calculating traffic there over a specified time period would give you a creditable number of personnel in the Persian expeditionary force.
    How so? There's no way of quantifying the time period, or that the Persians overloaded the pontoon, or the rate of march etc. There's better ways to deduce the size of the Persian force.

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