Post-Hittite “Little empires” in Asia Minor: Phrygia and Lydia

Leave a comment

These are some political maps of the Phrygian and Lydian kingdoms at their greatest extent in the 8th and 6th centuries BC respectively. These two kdms were a kind of “Little empires” of the Anatolian Iron Age that appeared some centuries after the fall of the main Bronze Age empire of Asia Minor that is the Hittite Empire (the last map). The Phrygians were actually invaders from the Balkan Peninsula, kinsmen of the Thracians, the Greeks and possibly the Homeric Trojans. In the Balkans they were known as ‘Brygae’. They were actually a group of tribes, one of which was probably the Proto-Armenians. The main body of the Phrygians settled in an area that included the old Hittite heartland. Gordion and Midas city were their capital cities, and their main sanctuary was at Pessinus.






Full armor of rider and horse of an Ottoman qapikulu (heavy cavalryman of the “court slaves”, similar to the Mamluks). He also has a metal kalkan shield (Museo Stibbert Florence).





An Ottoman full armor of rider and horse (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Port Doha, Qatar.).

By Periklis Deligiannis

In the following images, I present an indicative collection of arms and armour of the Turanic empires and peoples of the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era (according to European chronology) which witnessed the greatest extent of the Turanic realms. They are arms and armour for men and horses, coming from the Sultanate of Delhi, the Mughal Empire in India, the Tatars of the Golden Horde, the Ottoman Empire, the Mamluk Sultanate, the Turkoman-controlled Empires of Iran, the Central Asian Turanic tribes and elsewhere.
The images are taken from museums and organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Furusiyya Art Foundation, Topkapi Palace Museum (Constantinople), Museum of Kulikovo Battlefield (representations by M. Gorelik whom I sincerely congratulate for his lifetime work), Museo Stibbert in Florence, Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, the Royal Academy of Arts (London) and others. If I do not know the museum of origin of an image, I mention that in its caption.





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).


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.




By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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.