Sassanid Persian - DBA 73a&b
|Early Sassanid armies utilized cataphract cavalry. These heavily armored lancers are likely successors of the Parthian cataphracts and so would have been fully armored riders on fully armored horses. After contact with the Huns greater importance was placed on mobility and the bow and hence the cataphract fell out of use. The cataphract does not appear in the Later Sassanid List.|
(73a & b)
|The bulk of the Sassanid army is composed of noble cavalry. As with European armies of the time the best equipment was only available to the upper classes of Sassanid culture. Noble cavalry was required by Khosroe I to bring both a lance as well as the normal bow to battle. Obviously not all obeyed. Early horse armour was felt (if any), while later cavalry was partially armoured consisting of metal lamillae.|
|1x3Cv or El
(73a & b)
|The Sassanids made extensive use of elephants they obtained from their Kushan and Indian vassals. Elephants were used to attack the enemy line and to guard the rear and baggage.|
(73a & b)
|Some of the light cavalry used by the Sassanids would be based on the Parthian horse archer armed with the bow, while others would be Arab or Hun allies who would have included javelins and a shield.|
|These spearmen represent the peasant levy who were brought along for siege and fortification work. They were armed with a long spear and a large wicker shield.|
|1x2Ps||Skirmishers would have been shieldless and armed with bow (73a & 73b) or sling.|
The enemies of the Early Sassanid include Kushan (#21b), Early Armenian (#44), Parthian (#51), Middle Imperial Roman (#69), Palmyran (#76), Late Roman (East) (#77b), Hunnic (#79).
The enemies of the Later Sassanid armies include Later Sassanid (#73b), Medieval Hindu (#83a), Early Byzantine (#86), Maurikian Byzantine (#91), Khazar (#93), Arab Conquest (#96).
The greatest strength of the Sassanid army lays in the mobility of its cavalry. The cavalry can be deployed in two mobile wings with anti-infantry center. Against mainly infantry armies the cavalry should be threatening the flanks and exposing the camp. Any enemy elements sent to rescue the camp can be quickly isolated and overlapped.
Care must be taken not to over commit the Early Sassanid infantry against stronger infantry armies. In these situations, it may be best to refuse the spearmen while the cavalry win or lose the battle, especially if facing blades.
I favour the option of taking the elephant, especially when opposed by warband or cavalry opponents. Although the elephant can consume PIPs and will require support against enemy light troops it is the strongest element in DBA and is extremely effective against warband - it is one of the classic "mis"-matches of DBA. Also, do not forget the psychological advantage that the elephant offers as your opponent tries to counter it.
The Sassanid army is weakest in bad going. It is best to stay away from it. The sole Psiloi can guard an important area of terrain.
A suggestion for a camp would be to use an embankment in which was placed the national battle standard, the drafsh i Kavyan (or Kaviani). This was a huge flag perhaps 15 by 22 feet, embroidered in gold, silver, and gems and was placed on crossed timbers. It apparently was present at major battles from the dynasty's inception, it indicated the presence of the King of Kings and was guarded by a circle of spearmen surrounded by a ring of archers.
"Sassanian Armies - The Iranian Empire" by David Nicolle from Montvert. This is an excellent resource containing a general examination of the Sassanian military.
"Rome's Enemies, Parthians and Sassanid Persians" from Osprey Books. (Available in De Bellis Bookstore)
"Rome's Eastern Frontier 400 AD-635 AD", Dodgson & Lieu. This is a good reference containing many eyewitness battle accounts.
Kevan Barwise has been gaming Sassanids in WRG and DBx for the past 20 years. He welcomes your comments and questions. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments, questions and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.
Last Updated: Nov. 7, 2000