This issue of Ancient Warfare magazine focuses on the Persian Empire, one of the most powerful in the Ancient world, and at its peak one of the largest, stretching from Anatolia in the west to Egypt in the south and to the borders of India in the east.
Two articles focus on Cyrus himself. One looks at his conquest of Media, which saw him go from ruler of a subject kingdom to controlling the greatest empire of its time. The second looks at how the stories about his later conquest of Babylon became the basis of a later myth, as recorded in the late Sassanid period, some 1,500 years later. The parallels between the two stories is quite remarkable, even though all of the names had changed, and the author does a convincing job of explaining how the historical story turned into the later epic.
Two articles look as aspects of the early Persian military machine – one looks at the famous scythed chariots in an attempt to discover who they were aimed against and the second at the multinational nature of the army itself. Two more look at the later Sassanians – one looks at their famed archery and the other at the siege of Dura-Europis, an unusual example of a major siege that is only known from archaeology.
Finally there is an article on Artemisia of Halicarnassus, a famous female ally of the Persians during their wars with the Greeks, best known for fighting boldly at Salamis and as a good advisor, and a look at the sympathetic portrayal of the Persians in Aschylus’s tragic play The Persians, which looks at how the news of one of their defeats against the Greeks was received at home.
Away from the main theme there is a look at the attitudes to violence in the Roman world that would have been better without the constant references to how modern historians ignore the subject, which just wastes space. Finally there is an interesting look at how people react to stress and how that might affect the results of battles – in particular looking at how a rout might begin.
Historical Introduction: The empires of Persia at War
How History became myth - Cyrus's conquest of Babylon
Beginning greatness - Cyrus and the conquest of Media
Artemisia of Halicarnassus - My men have turned to women!
Persian grief - Aeschylus' The Persians
A reaping whirlwind - The Persian scythed chariot
Mighty Host - The army of the Persian Empire
Pompeii of the desert - Fortress Europos
Sassanid archers - Formidable archery tradition
Graphic History - Stealing victory
Roman Violence - Defining injurious force
Lines and limits - Roman infantry in battle