Sassanid (Sassanian) Persians
224 - 651AD

List by Gareth Harding with the text by Iain Dickie

Born in a revolution against the Parthian dynasty the first Shah n Shah (King of Kings) sought to reinforce his legitimacy by associating many aspects of his administration with the Achemaenid dynasty. After beating the Parthians in a series of battles the empire was divided into four satraps and the Zorastrian religion of the Achemaenids became the state religion. The gesture of holding down the two middle fingers with the thumb so fond of cool kids and rappers can frequently be seen on Sassanid monuments and is thought to be the Zorastrian equivalent of making the sign of the cross.

Other religions were also tolerated and used to further military and political objectives. A military expedition was mounted to support the Christians of the Yemen against persecution, horse armour being adapted to fit local camels, and vast numbers of Christians, probably including some fanatics, were recruited to capture Jerusalem from the Romans reportedly carrying off the true cross after the victory.

Although the famed or notorious levy frequently accompanied the army there were occassions when a wholy mounted force took the field usually without elephants. There are also near contemporary writings which mention both a required level of equipment and "drilling".

The Shah n Shah was also entitled brother of the sun and moon and was required to be physically perfect. However, that didn't stop him being eccentric. In a treaty with the Hepthalite steppe nomads one promised not to pass the great boundary stone between their two territories. So, when he came to invade the stone was dragged in front of the army by four elephants.

Military buildings were not neglected with forts being built at the Straits of Hormuz, the mountains of Turkey and the great Red Wall being constructed from the Caspian sea south to the mountains to stop steppe nomad incursions.

For most of the time the neighbouring power of the Late Romans/ Byzantines was the chief enemy and in a superhuman effort in the early 7th century the Sassanids conquered from Egypt around the eastern mediterranean up to the southern banks of the Bosphorous. Surviving ruins of Magnesia in Turkey show a huge wall disecting the interior of the city built to reduce the defended area and keep out the Sassanids at this time. Shortly after the armies of Islam erupted from the Arab peninsular and in a bitter series of battles conquered large parts of the Byzantine Empire and all of the Sassanid Empire. The knowledge and architecture famed as "Arab" was largely learnt by them from the Sassanids.