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ON THE SASSANID ARMY – Part II

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

sassanian  cavalry

sassanian cavalry 2
A reconstruction of a Sassanian medium cavalryman by Ardeshir Radpour. He bears a mail cuirass, a helmet of composite structure with mail visor adopted by the Romans as well, forearm-guard plates, light lance, a composite bow of the Sacian type (heritage from the Parthian predecessors of the Sassanids) and a cavalry sword (Image by  Ardeshir  Radpour).

CONTINUED FROM PART I

The infantry (and partly cavalry) of the Qadisini and the ‘Immortals’ are also mentioned in the medieval sources (mainly Byzantine) as parts of the Sassanid army. The Qadisini were the Arabo-Aramaic people of Qadisiya (in Arabic), a Semitic region subject to the Persians in modern Western Iraq. The ‘Immortals’ (Varhranigan khvaday in Iranian) were the elite corps of the Persian army, the palace guard of the Great King, corresponding to the homonymous personal guard of the ancient Achaemenid kings of Persia. Xerxes’ ‘Immortals’ had fought against the Greeks in 480-479 BC without success. The Sassanian Empire, claiming steadily the whole Achaemenid heritage had reestablished this unit. Another unit under the direct orders of the Sassanid monarch was called ‘self-sacrificing heroes’. One of the commanders of this unit was of Byzantine origin. This possibly indicates that they were mercenaries or foreign fugitives sheltered by the Persians.

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ON THE SASSANID ARMY – Part I

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

sassanian
A reenactment of a Sassanian horseman by Ardeshir Radpour. Note the common elements of his helmet with the Roman helmets of the Persian group in my article ON THE HELMET TYPES OF THE LATE ROMAN CAVALRY, mainly the strong backing in the eyebrow area and the composite construction. The Romans added cheek-protectors to the original Persian type. Note also the  mail visor of this  helmet (Image by Ardeshir  Radpour).

The Sassanids or Sassanians were a Persian priestly dynasty of Fars (Pars, Persis, the cradle of the Persians) who in 224-226 AD overthrew the Arsacid  royal dynasty of the Parthians and occupied the whole Parthian Kingdom thus turning it into Sassanid Kingdom. The Sassanid Empire was stronger than the Parthian, relying on a strong and large army. In this way, the Sassanians successfully dealt with a number of powerful enemies at their borders, mainly the Kushans (Tokharians), the Romans/Byzantines and the Hunnish tribes, especially the dangerous Ephthalites. The empire was maintained until the early 7th century, when a suicidal war of King Khosroes II against the Byzantines brought its exhaustion. Thereby when the armies of Islam appeared on the western border of the Sassanid Kingdom, its exhausted and dwindling army was almost unable to repel the invaders. By 649 AD, the whole Sassanid territory except the small Daylami country, was conquered by the Arabs and the last Sassanid prince took refuge in China of the Tang Dynasty. There the renowned Persian dynasty faded away from home. Later the Daylami people became Muslim as well.
Like their predecessors the Parthians, the Sassanid Persians relied heavily on cavalry. However they did not commit the same error as the first who ‘annihilated’ the role of the infantry. Generally, their army was more aggressive and more effective comparing to the Parthian.

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THE FIRST ARAB ATTACK ON CONSTANTINOPLE (AD 674-678)

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

Walls of Constantinople

The Walls of Constantinople today.

In 661 AD, the new caliph Muawiyah (Muāwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān AD 602–680)became the absolute master of the Islamic-Arab Caliphate after the murder of his antagonist, Ali. He made Damascus the Arabic capital, while Syria became the new political center of the Islamic world. The advanced peoples of Syria-Palestine and Egypt were the main supporters of the new Ummayad Dynasty (AD 661-750) of caliphs founded by Muawiyah. The new caliph based his power on the old Byzantine administrative officials, because the Arabs had not yet the required experience in governance issues. The Ummayad Caliphate had its political-administrative center in former Hellenistic Syria and used the Greek of the former Byzantine rule as its administrative language (and also used the Greek/Byzantine administrative infrastructure), thereby closely resembled to a more extensive Seleucid Kingdom. The main politico-military supporters of the Ummayads were the pre-Islamic local Arabs of Syria and Palestine (the Arab tribes of the Ituraeans, Palmyrans, Gasanids and others), who had become Muslims.
After the proclamation of Muawiyah as caliph, the Arab forces moved again against Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire), following two directions of attack. A portion of them was carrying out devastating raids in Asia Minor, while another portion attacked the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa (modern NW Africa). One by one the Byzantine fortresses and the (Berber) tribes of the Numidians, Mauri and Maurusians were subjugated by the Arab invaders.

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