Armed with nothing but a small shield and a handful of javelins these men risk their lives in closing with the enemy with only the lightest of equipment. These men deploy in a cloud before the heavy infantry dashing back and forth to release their deadly missiles. These infantry skirmishers fought in open formations so as to maximize the number of men able to get a throw and minimize the effect of enemy missiles. Lacking armour, training and heavy weapons these light infantry stand no chance if committed to melee.
Historically, most armies of the classical period found use for poorly equipped levies as skirmishers, very often as javelinmen, as these troops required relatively little training and financial investment, relying mostly on widespread natural skills and scant gear, while still providing some useful service.
Slings are very easy and cheap to make and, yet, they are a respectable weapon. It is for this reason that they are so prevalent among the poverty-stricken hill tribes of the eastern lands. In battle, slingers are used as light skirmishers, troops with no armour or melee weapons but who rush forward against the enemy to pepper them with stones, only to flee when threatened. The best method of releasing a stone from a sling is by an underhand motion. These missiles can leave the sling in excess of 60 miles per hour. A well trained slinger can hurl a stone as far and as accurately as a good archer. The effect when they strike is nothing short of devastating.
Historically, slingers came from the shepherd boys of the highlands who use slings to herd sheep and goats. They stand guard in the upland pastures, and if they see an animal straying, they sling a stone in front of it to ward it back to safety. Ancient hand slings generally consisted of a single long strip of leather or woven wool, with a central "pocket" for the stone. The longer the sling, the greater would be its range. Long-range slings were about 3 feet long.
These men are skirmishers only and not inclined to close with enemy troops. These men would have the fully sleeved, long Persian Kapuris tunic. Often brightly coloured these traditional tunics would end just above the knees secured at the waist by a wide woven belt. They would also have a woolen cap, loose trousers and soft felt shoes. They would be armed with the powerful composite bow and a long dagger suitable only for defense. A plain leather quiver would be strung over their back. They would also have a simple woolen cap.
Historically, the mainstay of the Parthian infantry were foot archers. These foot archers almost certainly represented the poorer elements of the various infantry levies of Parthia. The tradition of mounted archery in Parthia and the northern steppe peoples makes it almost inevitable that a massed levy would produce significant numbers of foot archers as well. The station usually assigned to these Parthian bowmen is behind the first line of spearmen and forward of them in skirmishing lines. These troops are vital to any armies plan, harassing and confusing enemy troops as they advanced, and shielding the flanks of the battle line from light cavalry and other enemy skirmishing units.
The Tabargân are steadfast warriors, aggressive and impetuous in temperament, valued by Iranians, and Hellenes alike for their ferociousness and courage. These hillmen are recruited as irregulars from the mountains of Iran, not least from the Zagros and Elburz ranges, areas that breed toughness and have done so for centuries. Though certainly not as disciplined as Hellenic heavy infantry, nor even comparably attired, They are armed with the Sagaris, or the "Persian pick-axe" (Ironically being Scythian in origin) which they wielded with skill, and a bundle of javelins, they were prepared for guerilla warfare tactics such as ambushes, surprise attacks and particularly fond of broken terrain where disciplined troops accustomed to fighting in formation would fare badly. This is facilitated by their light attire, as they bear no armour and the only true means of protection is a light shield, nimble movement and dauntless impetus, casting themselves into the fray. Distinguished by traditional Iranian highlander garb such as the Kyrbasia cap, baggy trousers, a woolen tunic, boots and a thick sheep-skin jerkin, these tough hillmen could almost be mistaken for shepherds or nomadic herders. However these hardy hillmen are nothing to scoff at, as the pick-axe could puncture helmets, and penetrate bronze and iron armour. The Tabargân were no less skilled with their javelins, in which the usage of javelin-thongs increased the stopping power and accuracy of the javelin, giving it a spin during flight. Using them properly, they will give a good account of themselves. Using them poorly on the other hand may prove suicidal and their dauntless bravery may quickly turn into fragile bravado.
Historically, the northern Iranian highlands are known for their hardy mountaineers who held all transgressors at bay. These men of the mountains were lightly ruled by all Persian Grandees who valued their warrior skills over what meagre income their mountain homes might bring. These men would be recruited from the warlike Gîlânî and Dailamî tribesmen of Verkhânâ (Hyrcania), and other similar peoples of northern Media. The earliest origins of these people are unknown, although the Dailamites could be the descendants of such ancient peoples as the Delumïoi (Delumioi) and Karduchoi (Kadousioi or the Cadusians) mentioned by Ptolemy in 2 AD. Classical historians mention Dailamites, 'Dolomites' or other very similar names repeatedly and their name is particularly mentioned in context with the later Byzantine Varangian Guard. Due to the mingling of migrant tribes with the indigenous residents of the region, several new clans were formed, of which, the two tribes of 'Gill' and 'Daylam' formed a majority. In the 6th century BC, the inhabitants of Gîlân allied with Kûroush (Cyrus) the Great and overthrew the Medes helping to establish the Achaemenid Persian Empire. The Dailamites would later during the Sassanid dynasty form a core of heavy infantry with fine equipment including brightly painted shields and two-pronged javelins, meant to be pitted against the finest Roman infantry. However, that is a long way from the continuously more declining irregular force, the Takâbarâ as they were called by the Achaemenids, and in Parthian history, the Tabargân are merely the residue of the Iranian highlander spirit, not exclusive to the Elburz range but to all areas of Iran where the environment breeded toughness.
In the Seleucid and Bactrian armies, these medium Median cavalrymen are very prevalent. Descended from the lesser Persian nobility they now render good service to their new masters. They are excellent medium cavalry, capable of skirmishing, charging, and fighting fairly well in melee. These cavalry are raised from the old Persian estates that had not seized by the Macedonian invaders. They are equipped with a cavalry spear and the single bladed Tabar axe with a vicious back-spike, well capable of penetrating heavy armor. The battle-axe was often used, especially by North Iranians. The spear was usually used over arm as a thrusting weapon. The shield used by these horsemen was the crescent shaped Scythian Taka shield. A conical Persian helmet of iron is worn with brightly colored helmet plume. Their armor is a scale cuirass with scaled shoulder guards and stiffened leather pteruges hanging from the waist. Loose richly embroidered trousers and a long sleeved tunic extending down to just above the knees, is secured by a leather belt. The horse has a stuffed Persian saddle and thick, bright colored saddle cloth. The tails were tied up to prevent it being grabbed by the enemy. The forelock was left long and tired with ribbon to form a plume above the head.
Historically; The Macedonians came to Persia as invaders, sharing neither a common culture nor a common enemy. These lesser nobles are quick to make cause with any rebel, and the Greek upper class know this well. The Seleucids, and Baktrians intent on Hellenizing Iran, cannot rely on these men who are descended from a proud tradition, the Huvaka, Kinsmen cavalry who had faced Alexander the Great during late imperial times. It is for this reason that the Greeks often preferred to rely on mercenaries and Greek settlers, but these men are still able to be used in some roles and are conscripted in times of need. Some of these minor noble houses have intermarried with their Macedonian overlords and are thus somewhat more loyal than their neighbours might be. Still, they are often present in native revolts, due to the fact that they can often lead these revolts and have fewer opportunities due to their Iranian blood.
Kôfyârên-î Verkhânâ, or Hyrcanian Hillmen are bands of warriors from the various clans in Hyrcania (Northern Iran, by the shores of the Southern Caspian Sea). These men are highly adept at guerrilla warfare and can serve a general, be he Hellene or Iranian, as fierce light infantry. They wear simple tunics and are armed with spears, axes and shields. They are fierce warriors and will give a good account of themselves, but more elite, disciplined infantry will come better out of it in combat. They represent the basis of the later elite Deilamite infantry who fought like heavy infantry, often pitted against the finest Roman infantry, during the later Byzantine-Persian wars. While the current Hyrcanian hillman begs to differ from the green-clad and sometimes heavily armoured Deilamites of Sassanid times, their weapons of choice remained essentially the same, where their distinguished traditional skills with the tabarzin (Axe) was retained, their javelins developed into a fierce two-pronged combat spear attached to thongs for both skirmishing and melee, and their simple shields developed into a large, oval and brightly painted shields. These men were also given longswords in Sassanian times making them a very versatile infantry, and indeed Sassanian combat infantry where hallmarked by versatility, being equipped for both melee and skirmishing. Usually at the sacrifice of elaborate armour.
Historically, the northern Iranian highlands are known for their hardy mountaineers who held all transgressors at bay. These men of the mountains were lightly ruled by all Persian Grandees who valued their warrior skills over what meagre income their mountain homes might bring. These men would be recruited from the warlike Gîlânî and Dailamî tribesmen of Verkhânâ (Hyrcania), and other similar peoples of northern Media. The earliest origins of these people are unknown, although the Dailamites could be the descendants of such ancient peoples as the Delumïoi (Delumioi) and Karduchoi (Kadousioi or the Cadusians) mentioned by Ptolemy in 2 AD. Classical historians mention Dailamites, 'Dolomites' or other very similar names repeatedly and their name is particularly mentioned in context with the later Byzantine Varangian Guard. Due to the mingling of migrant tribes with the indigenous residents of the region, several new clans were formed, of which, the two tribes of 'Gill' and 'Daylam' formed a majority. In the 6th century BC, the inhabitants of Gîlân allied with Kûroush (Cyrus) the Great and overthrew the Medes helping to establish the Achaemenian Persian Empire. Hyrcania itself was mainly rough and hilly which in turn (and also because it was relatively poor) meant the nomads of the Central Asian steppes bypassed it. The Hyrcanians themselves controlled the mountain passes in the region and it seems the different steppe peoples made arrangements with the Hyrcanian rulers to use these passes when they went raiding, often to fall upon peoples the Hyrcanians disliked, and also when retreating back to the steppes. Hyrcania was more or less independent during Seleukid rule (Dubbed “Hyrkania” according to Hellenic naming conventions), while under Pahlavan rule the Pahlava took more direct control, which was the reason the Hyrcanians were often in revolt and Hyrcania was considered an unruly area.
These Asiatikoi horsemen represent a light, but versatile unit well able to skirmish and to perform screening duties. They have their uses in pursuit and thanks to their skills in using spears in melee, they are also the bane of light infantry. As light auxiliaries, they are also armoured with a linen corselet giving them light protection and more staying power than most other light cavalry. They are not suited for combat-intensive tasks, and will root if bogged down in melee, in particular against heavier contenders, whether they be mounted or on foot. Their low morale is also marked by the fact that these men often enlisted as mercenaries measuring loyalty by the amount of gold.
Historically, the Epigonoi were originally thoroughly Hellenized Persians, a part of Alexander's plan in fusing together Hellenic and Iranian traditions. Even if its originator's death put a dent to the success of that plan, this later extended to native Mesopotamians, Iranians and Scythians who were prevalent around the Near East. Epigonoi would be the Hellenzsed Asians who were born and raised by their non-Hellenic parents in Hellenistic poleis, who could speak Greek and be part of the Hellenistic world. Most of whom, however, weren't given that chance, thus turning to soldiery as a means to sustain themselves. Later on they would revenge the Hellenistic world for this injustice by turning into rebels or joining their enemies. As such, their equipment, albeit light, reflect local traditions in a military sense: They are armed like Hippakontistai or mounted skirmishers, armoured with a lineothorax, and a Phrygian cap. They are armed with a bundle of javelins and a thrusting spear for melee combat. As such, this unit represent Eastern horsemanship and attire, in combination with Hellenistic equipment.
These medium cavalry represent a versatile task-force well able to perform a wide range of roles in battle. They are excellent screeners well-suited to guard the flanks of a battle-line, well able to cut lighty armed horsemen to ribbons, as well as their qualities in pursuit. Such qualities would make them a worthwhile addition to any commander. They are armed with a thrusting spear, which they bear in an overhanded manner, and a vicious axe with a back-spike allowing them several advantages in melee. As such they are also suited for flanking and supportive roles. Still however, they are not well-suited to take on heavier cavalry or elite infantry formations, and their loyalty is only marked by the measured weight of gold.
Historically, these horsemen were prevalent around Asia Minor, the Near East, and further eastwards, marking them as an ethnically diverse contingent consisting of "Eastern" peoples, including Medeans, Persians, Albanians, Iberians, Armenians, Cappadocians and Syrians willing to fight for any wealthy master in exchange for whatever that may feed their horses and themselves for a longer term. As such, their equipment and clothing would also have differed, though not always were such horsemen drastically diverse in ethnical disposition. Comparatively they may be seen as a heavier variation of Pantodapoi horsemen.
Armed with spear and bow these troops are not well regarded by their Greek masters having formed the bulk of the Old Persian army defeated by Alexander the Great. Seen as skirmishers and auxiliaries with the heavy Greek infantry forming the battle line. These Iranian Spearmen are recruited from the eastern reaches of the Iranian plateau and are very common in the armies of Baktria. They are the backbone of the traditional tribal militia and form a major part of the Baktrian tribal levy. They are armed with the traditional Iranian weapons, an 8' spear and a composite foot bow. A large decorated brown leather quiver of arrows would be slung on the left side with the bow case on the right. A long plain yellow tunic with close fitting sleeves at the wrists. The tunic would be held with an narrow embroidered Parthian linen belt. Trousers are worn under the tunic and are close fitting. Soft felt ankle shoes are secured with leather or fabric straps.
Historically, the vast Iranian plateau gave rise to a form of infantry rarely seen in the west. Armed with 8' spear and composite short bow these infantry are well suited to conditions in the east facing nomadic enemies relying on long range archery to which they men are well able to respond. Nomadic cavalry is reluctant to engage close order troops and these men can fill both roles. They are versatile and can be dangerous if used properly. They are however no match for heavily armored infantry. Individually, they are skilled but not outstanding warriors, but their versatility ensures that they will be useful to any commander. These men however, prefer to rely on archery to inflict harm on the enemy. They can hold the line against weaker infantry and cavalry but they cannot be relied upon to put up an extended fight if the situation is not in their favor.
The Kardaka are armed with the Iranian longsword, and a long thrusting spear. These guards also carried the large hoplon-shaped shield known as the Aspis. The armour to protect the torso was usually composed of iron scales and was worn over a brightly decorated tunic hanging down to just above the knees, however this was far from uniform so any rudimentary armour, including bronze scales, linen and even quilted cloth could suffice depending on individual wealth or the available equipment of the local armouries. As the Kardakâ, originally a late Achaemenid imitation of a hoplite, grew to become gradually more Hellenized, in particular during Seleucid times where the linen corselet also known as the linothorax became more popular. Their grey iron helm would have a slightly oval thimble shape though here it is shown as an Eastern version of a modular Attic helmet, with protection for the neck, particularly popular around Lycia and Cilicia. They would have loose trousers and short light brown leather boots. They would also have a thick linen cloak of dark blue or deep red. Well drilled, close order infantry these men form the core of most eastern armies. They were however relegated to garrison duty in Parthian service. They are capable and disciplined troops.
Historically, these troops were a late imperial Persian attempt to make a native Hoplite like infantry. These men come from the old Persian core Satraps of Persis and Media, willing to serve the Seleucids as easily as the encroaching Parthians. They are versatile in the sense of providing a reliable platform, fending off cavalry and faring decently in close combat, without being restricted by the inflexible Macedonian phalanx, making them some of the finest infantry to the disposal of the Pahlavân. Still it must be remembered that while they can give a good account of themselves as heavy infantry, they will likely turn out to be inferior to comparable Hellenic infantry, and should therefore be used a little bit differently by Eastern armies who rely more on cavalry; The Kardakâ may rather be used as an auxiliary rather than as the backbone of an Eastern army. The Kardakâ or Cardaces/Kardakes as they were called by Greek sources were subject to a wide range of different accounts regarding their combat performance, between being mediocre to full-fledged elites and equally their equipment, in particular their shields ranged from the hoplon to the more traditional wicker shields. Though it can be argued that the Kardakâ must have retained some uniformity during Achaemenid times, with the royal treasuries withdrawn and being deployed by Eastern nations who have rather turned their eyes towards cavalry, they do also inevitably represent a continuously declining unit type.
The Khûveshâvagân used to be the most expensively attired cavalry in the world, and were indeed the sign of the equestrian power of the Achaemenid world order. With the coming of Macedonian cavalry tactics, the Khûveshâvagân had undergone several changes. The final product was an extra-heavy cavalry unit, magnificently equipped with the finest technology mustered by the Achaemenids. Financed by the royal treasuries, they were made into a contingent of specific honour, The Kinsmen. Armed with a xyston, and a machaira along with the deployment in column formation, this unit was purely equipped for melee combat, like the later cataphracts. The mount being barded with peytrel, chamfrôn and the parameridia or armoured saddle, made this unit a particularly headstrong opponent worthy of respect.
With the royal treasuries withdrawn and the adoption of additional Macedonian conventions, the Khûveshâvagân are no longer "Kinsmen" per se. Only in appearance have most of the fearsome features been retained. Still heavily armoured they make a respectable contender, and a reliable heavy cavalry they are only truly inferior to the proper cataphracts in the matter of equipment and tactics. Armed with a xyston and a machaira this full-contact unit can mount a terrible charge, wreaking havoc upon the enemy and additionally being clad entirely in bronze and the horse being armoured with an exotic combination of chamfrôn, peytrel and the parameridia, it must certainly have been a most impressive unit, both an ornament to whomever affording these warriors and a fearsome enemy. However, the unit being in decline (Due to being financed by nobles rather than the royal treasury) and increasingly archaic vis-a-vis to the torrent of improved cavalry equipment being developed in the steppes, will make this unit only useful as an option of heavy cavalry before cataphracts can be fielded.
Historically, the late Achaemenian heavy cavalry was an amalgam between Iranian horsemanship and an increasingly higher need for resilient and headstrong cavalry for shock tactics. Chariots, in particular scythed were most fearsome with a ample support, specifically heavy cavalry. The cavalry reforms of the latter half of the 5th century reached its apex during the patronage of the Persian Commander-in-Chief Pharnabazus, distinguished through Xenophon as a capable general, where the Persian "Cuirassiers" were not lined up for close combat but rather organized in columns for a sustained momentum in a charge. In accordance with the relief of Bozkir and some clear depictions of a parameridia (The armoured saddle), and earlier mention of horse armour in the form of peytrel and chamfrôn (As a nose-plate), this cavalry must have been quite heavily armoured. This cavalry, other than being depicted as the bodyguard of Cyrus The Younger during the civil war of Achaemenid Persia, was about to get a second overhaul, a step closer to the heavily armoured cataphracts of later Iranian dynasties. By then, the Persian army was beginning to become more Hellenized, which included certain Greek sabres.
During 372 BCE, Datames replaced Pharnabazus as the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian armies, and other than being accredited for the concept of a Persian hoplite'esque troop type, the Cardaces, Xenophon in his written work "Horsemanship", does not only recommend the parameridia, but also lauds an invention called "The arm", a very possible and likely addition of laminated armour, or as they are called in Greek, the "cheires". It is often suggested that Seleucid heavy cavalry came to adopt the banded/laminated armour for the arms from the Achaemenians. However, before the demise of the Achaemenians, a third reform was made during the reign of Darius III Codomannus, after the battle of Issus. Modelled after previous Achaemenid as well as Bactrian style armour, and combined Sakae and Macedonian cavalry tactics, the Hûvakâ of Darius was an interesting, but nonetheless fearsome amalgam. By the end of the Achaemenid dynasty, the Persians had two types of shock cavalry, the most popular undoubtly the scythed chariot often pulled by armoured horses and lead by heavily armoured crew. The second being an exotic variety of extra-heavy cavalry, household but also recruited from the Bactrians, Massagetae, Sakae, Cappadocians, Armenians and even westernly Scythians. The interesting aspect is that instead of completely relying on local traditions, the Achaemenians pursued their own reforms of the heavy cavalry. While for most of its lifespan being more of a extra-heavily armoured skirmisher cavalry with the ability to mount a charge in column formation, it evolved into a unit meant for full contact. It was aptly named the "Hûvakâ", meaning "The Kinsmen", something translated by Pahlavî as "xwesawand" or "Khûveshâvagân".
Naturally this would also require not only great physique and vigour of the mountee, but the requirements of the mount would be more strict as well. A horse, able to support a heavily armoured rider and some barding needed to be heavy-boned, tall, and muscular. Historically, by the end of the Achaemenian era, Persian emperors were given tribute, often in the form of horses. Cyrus The Great himself valued horses besides good weapons and chariots, as quoted from Herodotus. The main breeds for heavier cavalry were the Cappadocians, as earlier trained to serve as mounts for the famed Lydian lancers and subsequently the Perso-Hellenic kingdom of Pontus, as well as the Armenian horses known for their resilience, and finally the Mede and Parthian (Nisaean) breeds, in which especially the latter was not only known as perhaps the bulkiest of horses but also remarkably speedy, said to outrun the Iberian horses used by the Romans. Therefore it would seem that Achaemenian cavalry tradition formed the basis of subsequent Armenian and Pontic heavy cavalry, as well as providing the Seleucids with a vast range of not only heavy cavalry auxiliaries but also a variety of mounts. The Armenians and the Persian nobles of Pontus, being greatly influenced by Persian trends would most certainly have continued the tradition.
As a means of support for chariots, it could facilitate the sheer violence of the chariot charge as written by Xenophon: "The soldiers had got into the habit of collecting their supplies carelessly and without taking precautions. And there was one occasion when Pharnabazus, with 2 scythed chariots and about 400 cavalry, came on them when they were scattered all over the plain. When the Greeks saw him bearing down on them, they ran to join up with each other, about 700 altogether; but Pharnabazus did not waste time. Putting the chariots in front, and following behind them himself with the cavalry, he ordered a charge. The chariots dashing into the Greek ranks, broke up their close formation, and the cavalry soon cut down about a hundred men. The rest fled and took refuge with Agesilaus, who happened to be close at hand with the hoplites." (Xenophon Hellenica IV,1,17-19)
These archers are the result of numerous Achaemenid Persian reforms, in themselves more or less inspired by Greek military traditions. They wear a soft, padded cap of leather, often of the ingenious kyrbasia design, in addition to their armour which could either have been quilted cloth, leather or quilted leather, often studded with bronze or iron rivets, offering some rudimentary protection without compromising too greatly on mobility. This may at first seem like quite needless additions, however understanding the Achaemenid military structure and relationship between the defensive contingents, the spearmen, and the archers as well as how they interacted as a unit in their decimal formation, reveals that the additions were vital and in this formation, the Persian archers were renowned, not only for their skill and marksmanship but also their discipline, with the formation being instrumental in outlasting their enemies when exchanging volleys. With the Achaemenid world order not existing anymore, Iranian archery traditions have remained strong in spite of Hellenic martial traditions, and will serve Hellenes and Easterners alike. Replacing their simple bows with a Scythian-influenced composite bow, they have greater range and penetrating power than their Achaemenid forebears and with their basic armour are not as vulnerable as their more lightly equipped brethren, neither in volley exchanges nor in melee. Still, they are not by any means capable of sustaining themselves against melee infantry and as such are only meant to be used as an auxiliary.
Historically, the Iranian plateau has always bolstered a fine archery tradition where the rugged environment encouraged skills in using missile weaponry. During all four native Iranian dynasties of Iran, archery has always been valued, however prior to the great Iranian migrations, peoples such as the Elamites were lauded for their archery skills, especially by the conquering Assyrians who had faced them in battle. The Elamite skills did not wane by the destruction of their kingdom, but survived well into the Neo-Elamite era where they established connections with the Persians and the Medes. During the Achaemenid era, the Elamites were accorded a position of honour as skilled archers, even though they were not allowed to either bear the akinâkâ, a gilded short sword, or to enlist as the Ânûsîyâ, or the 10,000 Immortals. As a result, archery was in general a praised practice, something not exclusive to the Iranians among who the Achaemenians added it as one of their three virtues, but to the native peoples who lived there as well. The Achaemenid military organization was clearly made to facilitate archery, where a satâbam, or one hundred men, would mainly consist of archers who from the second rank (As the first rank consisted of spearmen who formed a defensive wall with the spârâ which in turn a decorated pavise of wicker) would continuously increment the angle, to the tenth rank. This would require a great discipline and a good number of junior officers, also ranked accordingly in a decimal manner to coordinate the formation properly. The wicker shields would be vital in outlasting the enemies in volley exchanges, but individual additions of armour facilitated this effect as well.
Many Iranian peoples inhabit the hills and mountains around Central Asia. As the nomads advance into these lands, they often avail themselves to these tough hillmen who can operate in lands that even a steppe pony may have difficulty. Armed with javelins and an axe, and armored only by a small buckler, these soldiers, like most Eastern infantry can not hope to survive in a fight against either settled infantry or nomadic cavalry. Even so, they can do heavy damage against unwary opponents, and are far more manuevarable than armor-laden heavy infantry. Willing to fight for most people who control their lands in return for money and booty, they can help the often infantry-challenged nomads even the odds in more conventional battles as well as sieges.
Historically, Baktrian hillmen or at least soldiers like them have been around in the same lands for many years, serving the Persians and now the Greeks. From the earliest states to emerge in Central Asia to the recent establishments of Hellenic kingdoms, troops like these have often been levied for support infantry duty or just to fill the ranks of the army with greater numbers.
These poorly trained, levy infantry are supplied by the great nobles (Azads) from their estates in the more settled regions of the Persian Empire. They are armed with an infantry spear and brown, leather-covered, wicker shield, a smaller version of the old spara (gerron) of imperial days, and a short sword or axe. Their primary order of battle would consist of spearmen fighting in ordered ranks. Groups of spearmen such as these are trained to form rows across and files deep and to march in step. Grouping together bolsters morale and the shield wall helps to neutralize arrows. However, the oft-repeated myth of 'roped or chained' Persian troops is an invention of literature. The Arabic term 'silsilah' is very likely a poetic device meant to imply soldiers organized into close order units. The same term is used to refer to both Sassanid Persian and Byzantine cavalry, neither of which could have conceivably been physically tied together in groups!
Historically, the Parthian Nobility displayed the same distrust of armed peasantry as many other feudal elites, The Gund-î Nîzagân were as close as they came to putting that uncomfortable idea into practice, but these foot troops were generally drawn from the poorer classes of Parthian society and were often badly equipped and barely trained. When the indifferent quality of these troops was added to the pace of Parthian warfare, it meant that the Nizag Gund would rarely be committed to heavy action. Their duties would generally include garrison and baggage guard, but they could also form a spear wall in pitched battles.
These cavalrymen are recruited from the clan warriors of Parthia, and originally come from the steppes of Central Asia. Although they now live in Iran, they still learn to ride as soon as they can walk like their ancestors. They are expert archers and expert horsemen, being able to shoot a bow accurately from horseback, and they are the masters of the ‘Parthian shot’, being able to shoot backwards at full gallop. They are best used at weakening enemy formations so that the heavy cavalry can finish them off. Almost impossible to destroy and unwilling to come to grips with well ordered infantry these horsemen use marauder tactics to bring down their enemies. Dense formations of infantry are their favoured target.
Historically, the Pahlava Shivatir formed the backbone of all Parthian armies. Led by the Dehbed minor nobility into battle, these Bandaka (bondsmen or retainers) rely on missile fire as their primary asset. They used probably the best weapon for the light horseman, which was the composite horse bow. It was similar to the simple self bow but used multiple layers of wood, horn and sinew to produce a stronger bow with a greater draw weight—the force built up in the string that will propel the arrow forward to its target— for a small size.
These horsemen from Arachosia are best used in a harassing role and can be very useful trying to tempt enemy heavy cavalry to mount a charge in a vain attempt to catch them. They would be wearing the Persian Kyrbasia, a soft grey-white cloth cap extending down around the neck, made of fabric and able to be pulled down over his face when marching through desert regions. They would wear dirty grey sheepskin coats with bright embroidered trim. They would wear baggy embroidered dark red trousers and knee high, brown leather boots. A coarse rain resistant felt cape, or cherkesska was also donned in winter. Also worn was a leather belt with elaborate buckles, which are decorative in themselves and used to support weapons. They would have a spear and 3-4 javelins in two embossed leather cases mounted just behind the saddle on either side. Up to as many as 6-8 such javelins cold be carried in all the cases. Their protection would be enhanced by a small crescent shaped 'Taka' shield. The brightly coloured saddle cushion would be u-shaped and made of sheepskin or cloth and stuffed with straw.
Historically; Armed chiefly with javelins these horsemen hail from Arachosia, Baktria, Sogdiana, and similarly equipped light cavalry was supplied by the levy from Persis and Media. The flexible nature of this light cavalry makes them well suited to the fluid, aggressive style of warfare so common on the eastern frontiers. Mounted on a swift horse, armed with nothing but a small crescent shaped 'Taka' shield, short spear, and a handful of javelins these swift moving horsemen can be deadly. Their small, nimble mountain ponies can negotiate most terrain easily, and they're capable enough to survive contact with the enemy, but their strength remains in maintaining their loose style of fighting. Equipped with javelins these cavalry would advance on their target at less than a gallop. As each rank came into range, these warriors would turn away, hurling their javelins at the target, and retire to safety before the enemy could retaliate. The result is often a swirling mass of charging and counter charging horsemen as the light horse would reform to charge again.
These Dahae skirmisher cavalry are best used in a harassing role and can be very useful in tempting enemy heavy cavalry to mount a charge in a vain attempt to catch them. They carry an abundant supply of javelins in saddle-cases. The traditional role of mounted archers is well known, but the heavier javelin is more dangerous to armoured opponents. These wild tribesmen fill a vital role in the clan host. While they do make excellent skirmishers, this is not their only calling. They are warriors of the steppe and wield spears with skill and courage, willing to close with the enemy when the odds are in their favour.
Historically, the Daha tribes of eastern Iran are part of the vast conglomerate of Iranian-speaking steppe nomads and members of the great tribal amalgam that spawned the Parni tribe, better known to history as Parthians. By 270 BC the Dahae had spread into northern Margiana, Sogdiana and south of the Aral Sea. While they fielded many horse archers, the javelin was commonly used as well because it had greater piercing power and heavier equipment was getting more and more common on the steppe.
Dahae Riders carry a long spear and a shield besides their bows and are willing to press home a charge if circumstances are right. Even more significantly, they maintain a very useful tactical flexibility as they can skirmish and put their bows to very good use against solidly formed enemies that would repulse a headlong charge. As such, they are some of the finest light horsemen available to the Arsacid Kings of Parthia, the Hellenistic monarchs of Baktria, powerful nomadic rulers or anyone who manages to have them as either mercenaries, allies or nominal subjects.
Historically, the Daha, which is the Persian word for "robbers", were a tribe who held the lands to the northeast of Persia. The Parthians themselves were a branch of this people. In common usage the term was used to denote any of the nomadic raiders who made life difficult for the settled peoples of Persia. These raiders would descend on Persian settlements and villages to pillage and burn when the opportunity presented itself. They would be mounted on the steppe pony, renowned for it's courage and endurance. These animals only needed to be watered once a day, and they could dig for grass under the snow, which eliminated the army's need to carry feed. These are strong animals, twelve or thirteen hands high, with powerful chests and necks, large hook-nosed heads and well-built legs; they had a very fast gait. they were hardy and invaluable for long distances. astride small shaggy ponies Many of these horses could carry their masters a hundred miles between dawn and sunset and the same horse would pass the night unsheltered, in pouring rain and sub-zero temperatures, without taking harm from these harsh conditions. As such they are some of the finest light horsemen available to the Arcsacid Kings of Parthia.
Yancai Nobles represent one of the many variations of Central Asian cavalry that combine a long, two-handed lance and a composite bow. This offensive gear can be accompanied by very variable amounts of protection for both horse and rider, from no armour at all for either to full metal scale corselets and bardings. Yancai Nobles are relatively closer to the “light” end along this continuum, with unprotected horses and the riders wearing padded leather jackets with pieces of metal sewn over it. Consequently, they can suffer from missiles or protracted combat against heavier opponents. In exchange, what they wear gives good protection for a reasonable expense and, being relatively light, still allows these troops to rely on speed and agility. Their charges are furious and effective, but they should be repeated, rather than left them mired in melee.
Historically, armoured cavalry had a long tradition in Central Asia warfare being present in peoples like Massagetae, Sakae, etc. since long. Apparently, sometime in the 4th century BCE, probably due to the contact with hard-charging Makedonian cavalry during Alexander’s campaigns, this cavalry evolved into a troop type that, in different forms, would remain an integral part of warfare for centuries to come: the mounted lancer. The Yancai, a group of Iranian nomads probably related, if not descended from the Massagetae and who at I AD became the better known Alans, were practitioners of this style of warfare and contributed to its spread westwards.
These are tough Saka from the north-eastern frontiers of the Parthian Empire and the lands beyond. Living a tough life, they learn to ride as soon as they can walk, and they are masterful horsemen. The Saka nomad's primary weapon is the composite bow, the new asymmetrical so called 'Hunnish' bow rather than the Scythian composite bow. The steppe pony they ride is a hardy beast, though small and shaggy. Considered unattractive by more settled folk, it is well able to survive in the harsh steppe climate and can thrive on grass alone, not requiring the daily grain feed of more finely bred mounts. This allows their nomadic riders to range far and wide, not hampered as more traditional cavalry would be.
Historically, Saka cavalry fought both within and against Parthian armies. Shooting accurately with a bow while on horse-back took long training and, thus, many “Parthian” mounted bowmen were levied from the vassal tribes on the Empire’s border marches, who were renowned for their horsemanship and fighting skill. Most Saka horsemen in Parthian service were part of contingents supplied by tribal allies/subjects, but some might have been mercenaries. Occasionally, they appear to have formed their own units and fought under their own chieftains. In any case, they have their own sense of loyalty and cannot be relied on to fill important roles. They could be used, though, to bulk up the line of horse archers in a Parthian, providing the Parthian Kings with another vital source of light cavalry. When fighting for themselves, the Saka proved a force to be reckoned with. Hostile Saka managed to slay two Parthian kings in battle and when the Parthians finally drove them out, they coalesced with related groups of nomads from further east to overran Northern India, forming the Indo-Saka kingdoms there.
These Subeshi Archers are foot bowmen. Wearing a felt helmet, leather leggings and a thick sheepskin coat with the wool turned inside, they also carry a recurved composite bow in a leather case and arrows with wooden, bone, bronze and iron tips. The bows they carry are a larger version of the Scythian recurved composite bow, enabling them to outrange, outshoot and outpower steppe nomad horse archers, making these foot bowmen the ideal counter to horse archers in a stationary exchange of missiles with the latter. However, despite their advantages in returning fire from the ground, they are extremely vulnerable to heavy infantry and cavalry charges and are suited to harassment and support roles as at close quarters they merely wield a short sword, the akinakes of Scythian origin.
Historically, the people of a state known in Han times as the "Gushi" - which is now considered most likely to be a state in the Turfan oasis to the northeast of the Tarim, were described as a semi-nomadic people. Though they lived in tents and searched for pastures they still had considerable knowledge of agriculture. It was also said that these people owned cattle, horses, camels, sheep and goats. Interestingly, they were said to have also been proficient with bows and arrows and were noted for harassing travelers who happened to take the northern Silk Route from the kingdom of Loulan in the eastern Tarim through the oases south of the Tianshan. This serves as testimony to their semi-nomadic nature and these archers who hail from Subeshi, a place most likely to have been controlled by the Gushi, are representative of these skilled semi-nomadic archer warriors.