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Thread: A question on Persian military equipment

  1. #1

    Default A question on Persian military equipment

    I remember reading this book of Duncan Head about the Persian army and remember him saying that the Iranian big and rectangular shield (Spara) fell into disuse in the late 5th century, being replaced by the pelte shield (moon shaped shield).

    Now, I have seen the Spara type of shield in the game and I want to ask : Were they still in use in the 4th and 3rd centuries?

    Admittedly, the book might be outdated since it's from 1992 but I just want to know because I want to resolve this doubt

  2. #2

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    This was found in Dura-Europos. Sassanid (so, much later) period. It might be Roman... But given how consistent it's with the "spara" description, one can assume that this type of shield did not disappear from use:

    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.




  3. #3

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    Yeah, but is there any evidence of it's use in the 3rd or 4th centuries?

    I remember reading that the Palmyrene infantry also used this shield and that the Sassanids revived ancient Persian equipment, units and institutions in the Achaemenid model.

    But still, this doesn't resolve my doubt.

  4. #4

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by NapoleonMaster View Post
    Yeah, but is there any evidence of it's use in the 3rd or 4th centuries?

    I remember reading that the Palmyrene infantry also used this shield and that the Sassanids revived ancient Persian equipment, units and institutions in the Achaemenid model.

    But still, this doesn't resolve my doubt.

    I don't see any reason to doubt. Large cane or basketwork shields were used on the Middle East since the Bronze Age. They never fell out of use. It's a weird thought that "budget" model shields were used by levies before, then disappeared, then were intentionally re-introduced. Sassanids didn't put this much effort into their levied infantries.

    Also, one has to be careful with any theories based on Greek writers calling shields "pelte" or Greek artists painting them. The moon-shaped pelte was also a liguistic and visual shortcut used by Greeks to call shields smaller than aspis or thureos.


    Edit:

    To further complicate things, it isn't entirely clear how often spara was used. Herodotus is mentioning a wall of shields used in a defensive way, like the Medieval pavises. But Greeks were also painting Persians with peltes and gerrons when fighting individually. Might be that the shield was used only as a pavise for shielding archers.
    Last edited by Satapatiš; May 28, 2020 at 01:10 PM.
    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.




  5. #5

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    I guess this can of worms is not going to be opened then.

    Much research on Persian military equipment relies too much on Greek sources and speculation because there aren't Persian accounts or records.

    Many say that the shieldwall was used to protect the archers behind but they also say that this type of formation was replaced in the late 5th century.

    We know that Archers and cavalry were the backbone of Persian military early on but later on, Cavalry is still essential and archers too but what about heavier infantry? Yes, they used subject peoples and Greek hoplites (the latter being a essential element in late Achaemenid armies) but what happened to the early non-archer Iranian infantry that wielded large shields and spears?

    Were they replaced with infantry wielding smaller shields or did they kept using the same shields like earlier armies?

    This is the lingering doubt in my mind everytime I read about Persian armies be it in Duncan Head's book, Ian Heath's book or in other books.
    Last edited by NapoleonMaster; May 28, 2020 at 01:12 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    It's unclear if melee infantry was using spara, even in the earlier Achaemenid period. Herodotus mentions it in a stationary deployment. This would be consistent with the Middle-Eastern way of using heavier infantry for protecting missile troops. But then Greek art was also depicting other kinds of shields, same like the Persepolis reliefs, and those also might be of basketwork construction. Mods like Rise of Persia or EB 1/2, or any TW mod can't make this kind of deployment in a single unit anyway so usually you get one unit with spara and one of archers or archer/spearmen and you place archers behind the stretched shield-bearers.


    Edit:
    The catch with the Dura-Europos shield is that it was found in a context of a besieged city so it says little about the shields of this kind being used (or not) in the field.


    Edit2:
    Here's another problem with the spara. It's described by a Greek historian. It's shown on the Greek pottery (the Brygos's cup). But I'm not sure if it's prominently featured on the Persian reliefs (granted, those warriors on them are dressed for a parade, but they still carry shields). It might've been used only like a pavise.
    Last edited by Satapatiš; May 28, 2020 at 02:04 PM.
    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.




  7. #7

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by NapoleonMaster View Post
    I remember reading this book of Duncan Head about the Persian army and remember him saying that the Iranian big and rectangular shield (Spara) fell into disuse in the late 5th century, being replaced by the pelte shield (moon shaped shield).

    Now, I have seen the Spara type of shield in the game and I want to ask : Were they still in use in the 4th and 3rd centuries?

    Admittedly, the book might be outdated since it's from 1992 but I just want to know because I want to resolve this doubt
    There is depiction of spara shield from later period on carpet from Noin Ula(1st century BC/1st century AD).
    http://kolizej.at.ua/_fr/3/5544183.jpg

  8. #8

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    Also, Pazyryk kurgan shield. There's continuity of this kind of shield construction. Smaller but made in a technology similar to the Dura-Europos one:

    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.




  9. #9

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    Hello. Sorry if this is a bit off topic. Fantastic image of the shield from Dura Europos. It is interesting what materials were considered appropriate for the construction of shields in 'ancient times'. Just wondering if you have seen the fascinating discovery of an Iron Age shield by archaeologists from the University of Leicester at Everards Meadow in Leicestershire, UK. Made from bark would you believe! I don't know if it is permitted to post links. If you google The Enderby Shield make sure you go to the University of Leicester site as it contains all the details and has a cool laser scan animation and some interesting ideas based on tests carried out with a reconstruction. It was found in 2015 but they have only just finished conserving it. I apologise if this is old news to you all.

  10. #10

    Default Re: A question on Persian military equipment

    I always found the Persians' perchant for wicker shields very odd. It never occurred to me that they were mostly used as mobile, light walls to protect archers. Guess it also explains why Persian infantry tends to be very unimpressive in the mod, they were mostly operators for these walls.

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