Military-History-Monthly-November-2014

Military History Monthly article on Sassanian Army (Spah)

The British Military History Monthly Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the Sassanian army of ancient Iran (Spah):

Farrokh, K. (2014). Soldiers of the Sassanian Empire: Rome’s unbeaten rival in the East. Military History Monthly, November Issue 50, pp.62-66, 68.

Military History Monthly-November-2014

[Right] Cover of the November edition of the British Military History Monthly journal [left] Sample page of the article in the British Military History Monthly article. Note that the image of the Sassanian knight is by Ardeshir Radpour (photo credit: Ardeshir Radpour & Holly Martin).

As noted in the beginning of the article: “With all its success and brilliance in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa, Rome never conquered the Spah (‘Military’) of the Sassanian Empire. Roman Emperors such as Alexander Severus, Valerian, and Julian the Apostate tried and failed to subjugate Persia. Thanks to European and Iranian military historians, as well as Classical, Iranian, and Islamic sources, we now have a clearer picture of the Sassanian Spah.

Julian's failed invasion of Persia in 363 AD

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]- Emperor Julian is killed during his failed invasion of Sassanian Persia in June 26, 363 AD. Above is a recreation of  Sassanian Persia’s elite cavalry, the Savaran, as they would have appeared during Julian’s failed invasion.  Note the heavily armored Sassanian elite guardsman (Pushtighban) whose lance has pierced a Roman infantryman. Further right is a Savaran officer whose sword is drawn in what is now known as the “Italian grip” which is Sassanian in origin. To the far right can be seen a Zoroastrian or Mithraist Magus brandishing a Sassanian era symbol. Also of interest are the armored elephants in the background. Armored elephants were especially prized as their cabs afforded very high elevation over the battlefield, which was ideal for Sassanian archery ( Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, -اسواران ساسانی- Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).

The article provides an overview of the tactics, armaments and key characteristics of the Sassanian Spah.

45-North Iranian belt

[Click to Enlarge] Iranian belt from the Sassanian era found in the Caucasus (Picture source: Farrokh, page 214, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-Picture printed in text was under the Courtesy of the Institute of Manuscripts, Georgian Academy of Sciences and printed specifically  with the permission of Dr. David Khoupenia) .

It is further averred in the article that: “Persia’s elite knights were not unlike later European chivalry and Japanese Samurai“.

Late Sassanian era swords-Kaveh Farrokh

Late Sassanian sword (Farrokh 2004; reprinted Hughes 2010, p.51). Entire sword from front [1] and back [2]; sword handle at front [3] and back [4]; sword mount at front [5] and back [6].

The legacy of the Spah centuries continued to endure centuries after the fall of the empire to the Arabo-Islamic invasions of 637-651 CE. One example of that legacy is cited as thus: “The Mongol armies of Genghis Khan perfected this stratagem with the dictum ‘march divided, attack united’…“.

Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1The most recent translation of Farrokh’s third text Elite Sassanian Cavalry (translated into Persian by Maysam Alaie), Sassanian Elite Cavalry made in 2014 by Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر) of Iran. For more information see -خبرگزاری کتاب ایران- (Iran book News), and -خبرگزاری اریا- (Arya News).

4-EliteSassanianCavalry-Versions-1

2005 Farrokh Book translated by Amir Kabir Publishers into Persian

Kaveh Farrokh’s first text, Elite Sassanian Cavalry (July 2005; 64 pages; ISBN: 9781841767130; Osprey Publishing) is the first to specifically discuss the Sassanian dynasty’s elite cavalry (Savaran). This text has outlined the specific Pahlavi terms of the Sassanian cavalry’s elite units (e.g. Gyanavaspar; Zhayedan, etc.), military tactics, insignia and pitched battles. The role of Iranian women in the Sassanian military system has also been emphasized.

Kaveh Farrokh-Elite Sassanina CavalryThe original English language publication of “Elite Sassanian Cavalry” in 2005 (see review by Dr. David Khoupenia of the University of Georgia in Tbilisi).

This book has been translated for the third time into Persian (translated by Maysam Alini -میثم علیئی- of Tarbiat Modarress University, Tehran), by one of Iran’s most long-standing and academic publishing houses, Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر):

Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1The most recent translation of Farrokh’s third text, Sassanian Elite Cavalry made in 2014 by Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر) of Iran. For more information see -خبرگزاری کتاب ایران- (Iran book News), and -خبرگزاری اریا- (Arya News).

The peer-reviewed journal of University of Tehran published a book review of Farrokh’s text (following its first translation into Persian by Yusef Amiri, 2009) by Shahnaz Hojati (available also on Academia.edu):

— شهناز حجتی (۱۳۸۹) – ساسانیان سپر تمدن شرقی- تاریخ و جغرافیا – ماهنامه تخصصی اطلاع رسانی و نقد و برسی کتاب – شماره ۱۴۸- صفهه ۹۴-۹۵–Hojati, Sh. (2010). The Sassanians as shields of Eastern Civilizations. Tarikh va Joghrafiya: Mahnameye Takhasosiye Etela-resani va naghd va Baresiye Ketab [History and Geography: Monthly edition for Information, Description and Critique/review of books], no. 148 [August-September edition], pp.94-95 (pdf).

The book was first translated into Persian in 2009 (-مشهد: نشر گل افتاب- Gol Aftab Publishers, Mashad, Iran, translator -یوسف امیری-Yousif Amiri) with the second translation made in 2011 (-سبزان- Sabzan Publishers, Tehran, Iran, translator بهنام محمدپناه -Behnam Mohammad-Shah):

4-EliteSassanianCavalry-Versions-1[Left] Farrokh’s text (Sassanian Elite Cavalry, Osprey Publishing, 2005; [Center] 2009 translation of the Farrokh text entitled-اسواران ساسانی-Sassanian Asvaran by -یوسف امیری-Yousif Amiri, published in 2009 in Mashad, Iran by -نشر گل افتاب- Gol Aftab Publishers; see sample pages (in pdf) [Right] 2011 translation of the Farrokh text entitled -سواره نظام زبده ارتش ساسانی – Elite Cavalry of the Sassanian Army by -بهنام محمدپناه -Behnam Mohammad-Shah, published in early January 2011 in Tehran, Iran by -سبزان- Sabzan Publishers.

 

English translation of the book Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania)

An important and seminal history book “Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania)”, written by the late Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010) was originally published in Persian in 1980, and so far has gone through eight reprints and editions. The book deals in depth with the problems of naming the newly established country of Azerbaijan with a name borrowed from its southern neighbour, the Iranian Province of Azerbaijan in 1918, including the conflicts and problems that this action has created. One of the major issues at present is the official re-writing of history that has been taking place within the Baku establishment as documented in the video below (originally announced in Iranian.com by Dr. Mohammad Ala, recipient of the 2013 Grand Prix Film Italia Award):

The above video (also available in Russian, Turkish, and Persian) documents the process of historical revisionism that has been taking place with the Baku establishment of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Note that the latter was named as “Azerbaijan” in May 1918; prior to that date this south Caucasian region was known as the Caucasian Khanates (i.e. Ganja, Sheki, Shirvan, Darband, Mughan, Kuba, Baku, etc.) and/or Arran. The historical Azerbaijan or Azarbaijan was located (according to cartographic and primary sources) below the Araxes River in Iran. The video has been well-researched and documented.

The book has been translated into English by Dr Ara Ghazarian of the Armenian Cultural Foundation of Arlington Massachusetts. it must be noted however that this project was initiated and finally made possible through the hard work and dedication of Rouben Galichian, an accomplished scholar in his own right.

FrontCover_2014“Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania)” Published by Bennett & Bloom, London, 2014, 174pp with 12 colour plates. Price $25 or £20.

The book has so far been translated into Armenian and Russian, but until now there had not been an English translation of this extremely valuable work. This gap had to be filled and Galichian decided to act upon it. In 2008 he spoke to Professor Reza asking his permission to translate the book to English, to which he graciously consented. Galichian began the hard work of the translation but due to other urgent projects and commitments the partially completed work had to be abandoned.

YSU-4-Prof Galichian-2Rouben Galichian at the opening seminars in November 1, 2013, at (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department  entitled “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics). Galichian has written numerous books outlining the history and cartography of the Caucasus. He is also the author of a number of cartographic articles published in various magazines and has lectured extensively in Europe, the USA, Iran and Armenia. For his services to Armenian historical cartography, Rouben was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia in November of 2008. In 2009 he was the recipient of “Vazgen I” cultural achievements medal. He is married and shares his time between London and Yerevan. Kaveh Farrokh wrote a review of Galichian’s recent text “The Clash of Histories in the South Caucasus” for the prestigious IranNameh Persian language journal.

Then, in 2011, Galichian heard from his friend and scholar Dr Ara Ghazarians of the Armenian Cultural Foundation of Arlington Mass., that he has started the translation of Dr. Reza’s work. Galichian encouraged him and promised to locate suitable maps for the book. Afterwards, Galichian assisted in getting the financial backing and the publication for the English translation of the book. This has resulted in Dr. Ghazarians’ excellently translated and beautifully produced book, to which he has added important explanatory footnotes and complementary information.

Dr Ara GhazarianDr. Ara Ghazarian, curator of the Armenian Cultural Foundation in Arlington, Massachusetts. Ghazarian holds a PhD in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Editorial assistant and manager of the Armenian Review (1987-91) and Director for Resources and Archives of the Zoryan Institute (1989-90), he has been on the faculty of the Emerson College (1984-1998) and translated and edited nine books, among them Heinrich Vierbücher’s Armenia 1915 (2006) and Murad of Sepastia by Mikayel Varandian (2006), Jakob Künzler’s In the Land of Blood and Tears (2007), The Widening Circle and Other Early Short Stories by prolific Armenian writer and journalist Hakob Karapents (2007), and The Astrologer of Karabagh by the nineteenth century Russian novelist Platon P. Zubov (2013).

Subject of the book

Historic defeats of the late Qajar period resulted in loss of territories for Iran to its north and east. In the early decades of the twentieth century, a group of political leaders in the historic Aran (Caucasian Albania), to the north of the Araxes River, which, during the 17-19th centuries was known as Shirvan, renamed their country Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

2-Ottoman Map-1893Ottoman map [Click to Enlarge] outlining Western Iran and the Caucasus in 1893.  Note that Azarbaijan is clearly shown to be the land below or to the south of Aras (Araxes) river – the territories corresponding to the present Republic of Azarbaijan were not known as “Azarbaijan”, but variously as the Caucasian khantes (i.e. Baku, Sheki, Nakhchevan, etc.) or as “Albania” or “Arran”.

Prominent Iranian scholar and historian, Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010), based on extensive research of historical geography of Iran and the Caucasus, provides a picture of the boundaries and the two territories of Azerbaijan to the south and Aran to the north of the Araxes River, respectively, and the advent of the Turks on the world stage, their movement and penetration into Azerbaijan, the Caucasus and Anatolia. A chapter in this book discusses the cultural character of these lands at the time of the arrival of the Turks, followed by a response to the claims of the Pan-Turkist historians in Turkey and Azerbaijan, who claim that the Turkish racial element had been present in these territories before others. Other topics in the book include a discussion of the arrival and incorporation of the Turkish language in Azerbaijan and the Aryan roots of the people of Azerbaijan upon whom the Turkish language has been imposed.

Post-Soviet Propaganda Map

A post-Soviet era propaganda map produced in Baku. The above map (click on the above map to see the video) promotes the false notion that a “Greater Azerbaijan” was divided in two by Russia and Iran in 1828. Historically false claims such as these were first promoted by the pan-Turkists of the early 20th century which were then propagated by the former Soviet Union and the Communists, notably Joseph Stalin and Mirjaafar Baguirov. Unfortunately the legacy of historical amnesia has continued to persist at the official level in the Caucasian state.

The book consists of the following main chapters.

1. The names of Azerbaijan and Aran (Caucasian Albania) in ancient times
2. Changes over history in the names for Caucasian Albania
3. Geographical boundaries of Caucasian Albania and Azerbaijan
4. Views of Pan-Turkists concerning the Turks
5. Ethnicity and language of the people of Caucasian Albania
6. Ethnicity and language of the people of Azerbaijan
7. Migration of the Turks and spread of the Turkish language in Azerbaijan
8. How Aran came to be named Azerbaijan

 

Archaeologists uncover Zoroastrian Links in Northwest China

The article below entitled “Excavation ‘very likely’ to redefine the Zoroastrianism’s origin” was published on August 12, 2014 by China’s CCTV network.

Three important notes the CCTV article fails to mention that:

  1. Iranian-speaking Persians, Medes, Saggarthians, Parthians, etc. themselves came onto the Iranian plateau from the Central Asian steppes, areas adjacent to the Pamir and northwest China regions. Those regions themselves were inhabited with Iranian speaking and fellow Indo-European Tocharian (or possibly proto-Celtic) peoples. These peoples were to be largely displaced by the later arrival of proto-Turkic and Hunnic peoples.
  2. It has been speculated for decades that proto-Zoroastrianism may have originated in the Central Asian regions and then bought to the Iranian plateau by Iranian speakers over 2500 years ago. Thus the title of the report “Excavation ‘very likely’ to redefine the Zoroastrianism’s origin” is somewhat sensationalist (if not misleading) as ancient Persia was itself part of a larger Iranic-civilization connected to Central Asia and much of Eastern Europe (through the Iranic-speaking Scythians and later Sarmatians).
  3. Several well-preserved mummies bearing Caucasoid features have been uncovered in northwest China (see pictures below) dated to the timelines of 2500 years past and older. The mummies bear clothing, headgear consistent with the dress of the ancient Medes, Persians, Parthians and Scythians-Saka (of Central Asia and ancient Russia-Ukraine).

Kindly note:

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Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the ancient Persian Empire. Its founder, Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, is thought to have been born in what is now Northeast Iran or Southwest Afghanistan. A 2004 survey by the Zoroastrian Associations of North America put the estimated number of believers worldwide at between 124,000 and 190,000.

UBC-Migrations-1Basic diagram outlining arrival of Iranian speaking peoples (Medes, Persians, Saggarthians) onto the Iranian plateau before the formation of the first Medo-Persian or Achaemenid Empire in 550-330 BCE. The red elliptical markings provide approximate areas where Iranian speaking peoples were located thousands of years ago. The diagram does not show the arrival of several other Iranian peoples such as the Parthians and other Saka peoples from Central Asia or the subsequent arrival of the Alans into northwest Iran in 75 CE (Source: Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – this was also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, the annual Tirgan event at Toronto (June, 2013) and at Yerevan State University’s Iranian Studies Department (November, 2013) – Diagram is Copyright of University of British Columbia and Kaveh Farrokh).

Now, archaeologists in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have discovered major Zoroastrian tombs, dated to over 2,500 years ago. This unravelling is leading to startling controversial speculation about the religion’s origin.

On China’s sparsely populated Pamir Plateau, ancient people lived and battled, and created a marvelous civilization. These massive tombs, now being excavated, are the world’s earliest traces of the religion of Zoroastrianism found so far.

Zoroastrianism took form even before the rise of Persian Empire, which later adopted it as the state religion. The sun and fire are central to the religion, and the signs are found everywhere in the tombs.

Zarathustra-Tomb-China-2Archaeologists in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have discovered major Zoroastrian tombs, dated to over 2,500 years ago. (Caption and Photo Source: Chinanews.com). As noted in the China News report: “This is a typical wooden brazier found in the tombs. Zoroastrians would bury a burning brazier with the dead to show their worship of fire. The culture is unique to Zoroastrianism…This polished stoneware found in the tombs is an eyebrow pencil used by ordinary ladies. It does not just show the sophistication of craftsmanship here over 2,500 years ago, but also demonstrates the ancestors’ pursuit of beauty, creativity and better life, not just survival. It shows this place used to be highly civilized”.

Today, most of the ancient glories lie in ruins. But the dig now offers a glimpse of what life here looked like over 25 centuries ago.

UBC-2-MigrationsMummies bearing Caucasoid features uncovered in modern northwest China; these were either Iranic-speaking or fellow Indo-European Tocharian (proto-Celtic?). Archaeologists have found burials with similar Caucasoid peoples in ancient Eastern Europe. Much of the colors and clothing of the above mummies bear striking resemblance to the ancient dress of pre-Islamic Persia/Iran and modern-day Iranian speaking tribal and nomadic peoples seen among Kurds, Lurs, Persians, etc.  (Source: Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – this was also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, the annual Tirgan event at Toronto (June, 2013) and at Yerevan State University’s Iranian Studies Department (November, 2013) – Diagram is Copyright of University of British Columbia and Kaveh Farrokh).

This is the biggest excavation of the tombs of Zoroastrianism here in Xinjiang’s history. Some archaeologists say the excavation is likely to prove that this religion is originated from the Pamir Plateau, right here beneath of our feet.

Zarathustra-Tomb-China-1Archaeologists in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have discovered major Zoroastrian tombs, dated to over 2,500 years ago. (Caption and Photo Source: Chinanews.com). As noted in the China News report: All the evidence leads to one conclusion: Zoroastrianism originated in the east on China’s Pamir Plateau. To this day, archaeologists are still arguing over where the religion originated, but here, we have found the earliest and the largest scale of Zoroastrian ruins, with all the typical symbols of this religion. Of course, there’s the possibility that there are other undiscovered ruins elsewhere in the world. But at this moment, it’s a logical conclusion that the origin of the religion is here, not in Persia.” said Wu Xinhua, Xinjiang Director, Archaeological Inst., Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Logical, perhaps. Startling and controversial, certainly. And as the excavation continues, the Pamir Plateau is bound to yield more amazing discoveries.

Gun-totting-Iranian-women-Malayer

Fezana Journal article on Ancient Iranian Women

The Fezana Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the ancient women of Iran:

Farrokh, K. (2014). Gender Equality in Ancient Iran (Persia). Fezana Journal (Publication of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America), Vol. 28, No.1, March/Spring, pp. 105-107.

female-scythian-warriorA reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. What is also notable is the costume of the Iranian female warrior – this type of dress continues to appear in parts of Luristan in Western Iran. 

As noted in the beginning of the article: “One topic that has received little attention in academia is ancient Iranian warrior women. There are in fact numerous references to ancient Iranian female warriors, from classical sources to post-Islamic Iranian literature.”

Amazon-3-AchaemenidsA reconstruction of a female Achaemenid cavalry unit by Shapur Suren-Pahlav.

It is further averred in the article that: “The rights of women in Achaemenid Persia were remarkably “modern” by today’s standards: women worked in many “male” professions (e.g. carpentry, masonry, treasury clerks, artisans, winery working), enjoyed payment equity with men, attained high-level management positions supervising male and female teams, owned and controlled property, were eligible for “maternity leave,” and received equitable treatment relative to men in inheritance“.

Gun-totting Iranian women-MalayerIranian women from Malayer (near Hamedan in the northwest) engaged in target practice in the Malayer city limits in the late 1950s.  The association between weapons and women is nothing new in Iran; Roman references for example note of Iranian women armed as regular troops in the armies of the Sassanians (224-651 AD).

The legacy of the status of the women of Iran is emphasized in the article as thus: “To this day, women in Iran’s tribal regions continue to be seen wielding their weapons“.

Amazon-7-FereydanshahrIranian tribal woman in shooting competition on horseback at the 2011 Fereydanshahr Olympiad in Iran.