Norwegian Vikings purchased Silk from Persia

The article by Yngve Vogt below appeared on the Appolon Research Magazine on Nov.1, 2013. For more information consult:


The Vikings did not only go West to pillage and plunder. Most of the silk found in the Oseberg ship may have been purchased by honest means from Persia.

The Norwegian Vikings were more oriented towards the East than we have previously assumed, says Marianne Vedeler, Associate Professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo in Norway. After four years of in-depth investigation of the silk trade of the Viking Age, she may change our perceptions of the history of the Norwegian Vikings. The silk trade was far more comprehensive than we have hitherto assumed.

Persian SilkPersian Patterns: Silk textiles from the Persian region were found in the Oseberg ship. Among the motifs, we can see parts of special birds associated with Persian mythology, combined with clover-leaf axes, a Zoroastrian symbol taken from the Zodiac. The textiles have been cut into thin strips and used for adornment on clothing. Similar strips have also been found in other Viking Age burial sites (Photo Source: Past Horizons & KHM- UiO).

The Norwegian Vikings maintained trade connections with Persia and the Byzantine Empire. A network of traders from a variety of places and cultures brought the silk to the Nordic countries. Her details are presented in the book “Silk for the Vikings”, to be published by Oxbow publishers this winter, but in this article you can glimpse some of her key findings.

In the Oseberg ship, which was excavated nearly a hundred years ago, more than one hundred small silk fragments were found. This is the oldest find of Viking Age silk in Norway.

At the time when the Oseberg silk was discovered, nobody conceived that it could have been imported from Persia. It was generally believed that most of it had been looted from churches and monasteries in England and Ireland.

Lots of Viking silk

Since the Oseberg excavation, silk from the Viking Age has been found in several locations in the Nordic countries. The last finding was made two years ago at Ness in Hamarøy municipality, Nordland county. Other Norwegian findings of silk from the Viking Age include Gokstad in Vestfold county, Sandanger in the Sunnmøre district and Nedre Haugen in Østfold county.

The highest number of burial sites containing silk from the Viking Age have been found at Birka in the Uppland region, a few miles west of Stockholm.

– Even though Birka has the highest number of burial sites containing silk, there are no other places where so much and such varied silk has been found in a single burial site as in Oseberg, says Marianne Vedeler to the research magazine Apollon.

osebergThe Oseberg longship which transported Persian silk, at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo (Picture source: Heritage Trust).

In Oseberg alone, silk from fifteen different textiles, as well as embroideries and tablet-woven silk and wool bands were discovered. Many of the silk pieces had been cut into thin strips and used for articles of clothing. The textiles had been imported, while the tablet-woven bands most likely were made locally from imported silk thread.

Marianne Vedeler has collected information on silk and its trade in the Nordic countries. She has also studied manuscripts on silk production and trade along the Russian rivers as well as in Byzantium and Persia.

– When seeing it all in its totality, it’s more logical to assume that most of the silk was purchased in the East, rather than being looted from the British Isles.


Vedeler believes that in the Viking Age, silk was imported from two main areas. One was Byzantium, meaning in and around Constantinople, or Miklagard which was the Vikings’ name for present-day Istanbul. The other large core area was Persia.

The silk may have been brought northwards along different routes.

– One possibility is from the South through Central Europe and onwards to Norway, but I believe that most of the silk came by way of the Russian rivers Dnepr and Volga.

The Dnepr was the main route to Constantinople, while the Volga leads to the Caspian Sea. The river trade routes were extremely dangerous and difficult. One of the sources describes the laborious journey along the Dnepr to Constantinople:

– A band of traders joined up in Kiev. Along the river they were attacked by dangerous tribesmen. They needed to pass through rapids and cataracts. Then, slaves had to carry their boat.

Persian patterns

On the basis of the silk that has been found, there are indications that more silk came to Norway from Persia than from Constantinople.

– Large amounts of the Oseberg silk have patterns from the Persian Empire. This silk is woven using a technique called samitum, a sophisticated Oriental weaving method. Many of the silk motifs can be linked to religious motifs from Central Asia.

Shoso-In-Persian style[Click to Enlarge] Persian textiles also traveled east along the Silk Road; this reproduction is from one housed in the 8th century Shōsōin (正倉院) Imperial Repository in Nara, Japan (Private collection Great Britain; Picture source: The Heritage Trust).

Another pattern depicts a shahrokh, a bird that has a very specific meaning in Persian mythology; it represents a royal blessing. In the Persian myth, the shahrokh bird is the messenger that brings the blessing to a selected prince. In a dream, the bird visits the prince holding a tiara, a tall head adornment, in its beak. The prince then wakes up and knows that he is the chosen one. The image of the imperial bird was popular not only in silk weaving, but also in other art forms in Persia. The motif gained widespread popularity in Persian art.

– It’s an amusing paradox that silk textiles with such religious and mythological images were highly prized and used in heathen burial sites in the Nordic countries as well as in European churches.


In the Orient, silk was essential for symbolizing power and strength. There was an entire hierarchy of different silk qualities and patterns reserved for civil servants and royalty.

Even though silk was a prominent status symbol for the Vikings, they failed to get their hands on the best silk.

– Most likely, the bulk of the silk imported to Scandinavia was of medium or below-medium quality.

In Byzantium, major restrictions were imposed on the sale of silk to foreign lands. The punishment for illegal sale of silk was draconian. The Persian lands also imposed strict restrictions on the sale and production of silk.

Byzantine Silk-Sassanian style[Click to Enlarge] Detail of a Byzantine silk in the Sassanian Persian style featuring a quadrigas (four-horse chariots) pattern within in roundels (typical of Sassanian arts), from the tomb of Charlemagne, Aachen (Picture source: Musée National du Moyen Age, Cluny, Paris & Réunion des Musées Nationaux).

In Byzantium, it was illegal to buy more silk than what could be bought for the price of a horse. A foreign trader was allowed to buy silk for ten numismata, while the price of a horse was twelve numismata.

– However, several trade agreements that have been preserved show that traders from the North nevertheless had special trade privileges in Byzantium.

Silk was not only a trade commodity. Certain types of silk were reserved for diplomatic gifts to foreign countries, as described in Byzantine as well as Persian sources. In Europe, silk became especially popular for wrapping sacred relics in churches.

– Some of the silk found in Norway may be gifts or spoils of war, but archaeological as well as written sources indicate that silk was traded in the Nordic countries.

– So the Vikings were more honest than has been assumed?

– We may safely assume that the Vikings engaged in trade, plunder, exchange of gifts and diplomatic relations in equal measure.

A possible example of loot found in the Oseberg ship is a piece of silk with an image of a cross.

– This was long before the introduction of Christianity. The silk piece may have been sewn locally, but it is also highly likely that it was purloined from an Irish church.

Possibly China

At Gokstad, thin strips of hammered gold wrapped around silk threads were among the findings.

– These threads are highly exclusive. We do not know their origin, but we suspect that they may have come from even further east, in the direction of China, says Vedeler, who will now travel to China to find out more.

As yet, Vedeler must draw conclusions regarding the origin of the silk by investigating weaving technologies and patterns. With time, she wishes to make use of a new method which is being developed at the University of Copenhagen and which will be able to reveal the geographic origin of artefacts.

Tribute to Babylonian God Marduk discovered at Persepolis

The Voice of America Persian Service has reported that a joint Iranian-Italian archaeological team has discovered at Persepolis a sample of brickwork depicting the Babylonian God Marduk (see report in Persian here…– complete Persian text available below this posting). Ali-Reza Asghari Chavoshi, a professor at the University of Shiraz and head of the Iranian wing of the archaeological exploration team (علیرضا عسگری چاووشی، استاد دانشگاه شیراز و رئیس ایرانی هیئت کاوش) noted the following points to the Cultural Heritage (میراث فرهنگی) organization:

1) -نماد ایزد مردوک و دیگر نقش های این بنا بعد از کورش دیگر در هنر هخامنشی دیده نشده است- the portrayal of the god Marduk and other forms at this post-Cyrus site has not been seen in Achaemenid arts.

Marduk Patron God of Babylon[Click to Enlarge] A Snake-Dragon image-symbol of Marduk, the Patron God of Babylon (Panel of glazed earthenware bricks, Ishtar Gate, c. 604-562 BCE; Picture source: Detroit Institute of Arts). Instead of plunder and destruction, like the former kings of the preceding Assyrian Empire, Cyrus paid homage to the local Babylonian god Marduk and ensured that no looting, plunder or destruction took place in that ancient city. 

2) در زمانی که کورش در سال۵۳۹ پیش از میلاد بابل را فتح کرد، کاهنان بابلی ایزد مردوک را به عنوان بزرگ -ایزد آسمان ها و زمین می پرستیدند و در آن زمان به دلیل ثروت و قدرت بابل، این ایزد قدرتمند ترین ایزدان بین النهرین بود. باستان شناسان احتمال می دهند که پس از فتح بابل، کورش، در ادامه سیاست رواداری فرهنگی و مذهبی خود، به کاهنان بابلی اجازه داد که نیایش گاه خود را در تخت جمشید، که مرکز سیاسی هخامنشیان بود، بناکنند و عده ای از هنرمندان و معماران بابلی را برای بنای معبد پرستش مردوک به تخت جمشید آورد-Summary statement: When Cyrus the Great (r. 559-530 BCE) conquered Babylon in 539 BCE … historians surmise that in the continuation of his policy of religious and cultural tolerance, Cyrus allowed Babylonian artisans/craftsmen to build a worship center for their God Marduk at Persepolis.

Wailing-WallThe West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel. For more see here…

This astonishing find is yet another indication of the policy of religious and cultural tolerance practiced by the Achaemenid Empire till its final days before the invasions of Alexander (356-323 BCE).

tomb-of-cyrus-the-great-at-pasargardaeThe Tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae  where Alexander paid his respects. The tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


پیش برای شناسایی شهر پارسه، در پاسارگاد به حفاری های باستان شناسی در اطراف تخت جمشید دست زده بودند موفق به کشف بنایی منحصر به فرد از دوران کورش هخامنشی شدند. به گزارش خبرگزاری میراث فرهنگی این هیئت در جریان کاوش های خود در سه سال پیش به تلی آجری برخوردند و حفاری در آن را آغاز کردند.

تل آجری در واقع بنای باستانی بزرگی ست بازمانده از دوران هخامنشیان که در سومین دوره کاوش های باستان شناسی این هیئت در نزدیکی تخت جمشید کشف شده است. علیرضا عسگری چاووشی، استاد دانشگاه شیراز و رئیس ایرانی هیئت کاوش در تل آجری به خبرگزاری میراث فرهنگی گفته است این بنا از خشت و آجر است که خشت ها در داخل دیوارها و آجرهای لعاب دار در نمای خارجی دیوار ها به کار رفته اند و آجرها با لعاب ها و نقش های حیوانات افسانه ای تزئین شده اند. به گفته آقای عسگری «این بنای شگفت انگیز حداقل ۳۳ در ۳۳ متر است و در ساخت آن هزاران آجر لعاب دار به کار رفته است». او ضخامت دیوارهای این بنا را ۱۰ متر اعلام کرده و گفته است:« کشف چنین بنایی با این عظمت، حجم و تعداد آجرهای لعاب دار در منطقه فارس بی نظیر است». به گفته او در این بنا کتیبه ای به خط میخی اکدی بابلی نیز به دست آمده است.

به گفته آقای عسگری آجرهای لعاب دار این بنا دارای نقش هایی از اسطوره های ایران باستان و بین النهرین باستان است به طوری که حتی قالب هایی که برای تزئین نقش ها بر آجرها به کار رفته اند با قالب و نقش هایی که برآجرهای لعابدار دروازه معبد ایشتار در بابل به کار رفته یک سان است. شواهدی ازوجود نقش موشخوشو، نماد ایزد مردوک، گل های لوتوس شانزده پر، و روش ها و فنون تزئین آجرها، رنگ ها و نقش ها و استفاده از قیر برای محافظت آجرها، همه حکایت از آن دارند که این بنا در دوره کورش هخامنشی ساخته شده است. نماد ایزد مردوک و دیگر نقش های این بنا بعد از کورش دیگر در هنر هخامنشی دیده نشده است.

رئیس گروه ایرانی هیئت باستان شناسان می گوید در زمانی که کورش در سال۵۳۹ پیش از میلاد بابل را فتح کرد، کاهنان بابلی ایزد مردوک را به عنوان بزرگ -ایزد آسمان ها و زمین می پرستیدند و در آن زمان به دلیل ثروت و قدرت بابل، این ایزد قدرتمند ترین ایزدان بین النهرین بود. باستان شناسان احتمال می دهند که پس از فتح بابل، کورش، در ادامه سیاست رواداری فرهنگی و مذهبی خود، به کاهنان بابلی اجازه داد که نیایش گاه خود را در تخت جمشید، که مرکز سیاسی هخامنشیان بود، بناکنند و عده ای از هنرمندان و معماران بابلی را برای بنای معبد پرستش مردوک به تخت جمشید آورد.

به نظر باستان شناسان این بنای مذهبی پس از کورش در دوران داریوش اول نیز تحمل می شده اما در دوران خشایارشا و با تمرکز شاهان هخامنشی بر پرستش ایزد اهورمزدا رفته رفته رو به تعطیل گذاشته و پس از هخامنشیان تخریب و غارت شده است. هرچند که هنوز به سبب وجود نکته های مبهم و ناشناخته فراوان ابراز هر گونه نظرگاه قاطع درباره سرگذشت این بنارا زود می دانند.


به گفته کارشناسان چاله هایی که در میان دیوار ها و در داخل عمارت وجود دارد حکایت از حفاری های پی درپی به منظور سرقت آجرها دارد. تا جایی که بخش عمده ای از آجرها مفقود و غارت شده اند.


به نوشته میراث فرهنگی، سرپرستی تیم باستان شناسان ایتالیایی برعهده پیر فرانچسکو کالیری از دانشگاه بولونیاست. این کاوش ها بخشی از پژوهش های باستان شناسی شهر پارسه است که با همکاری مشترک پژوهشگاه باستان شناسی، پژوهشکده باستان شناسی سازمان میراث فرهنگی، بنیاد پژوهشی پارسه پاسارگاد، سازمان میراث فرهنگی فارس و دانشگاه بولونیای ایتالیا انجام می شود.

The Princetonian: Petition challenges Pourdavoud Chair candidate

The article below (The Daily Princetonian: “Petition challenges Pourdavoud Chair candidate”, Chitra Marti, January 7, 2014) was sent forward to by Professor Dariush Borbor (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge and Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS) at Tehran). This pertains to the petition initiated by Professor Ehsan Yarshater which challenges Princeton University’s selection of “Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia”.

Inexplicably, the petition initiated by Professor Yarshater has been disabled; for further details see article below. Note especially the interview with Professor Borbor in the below article.

Dr. Mohammad Ala (Recipient of Grand Prix Film Italia Award in June 2013) made the following revelation on December 14, 2013


 A little research shows that the person behind this agenda is Professor Dimitri Gutas of Yale, who invented the term Greco-Arabian for scholars such as Farabi, Khwarazmi, Ebne Sina etc. to deny their Persianness. Van Bladel happens to have studied with him. The agenda behind this nomination is not known.- – petrodollars, lobby group(s), or self-promotion, but we must prevent not only this nomination, but the very idea of ‘Greco-Arabian’ which is not related to us (Iranians).

Kindly note that the pictures and captions below did not appear in the original Princetonian report.


A petition organized by Columbia professor Ehsan Yarshater surfaced challenging the University’s current candidate for the position of the Ibrahim Pourdavoud Professorship in Persian Studies.

The petition, which has been taken down, argued that having the name of Pourdavoud, a pioneer in the field of pre-Islamic Iranian studies, meant that the professor who occupies the Pourdavoud Chair should continue his work in the field of pre-Islamic studies. But the current candidate suggested by the search committee, according to the petition, was a Greco-Arabic scholar who has not specialized in pre-Islamic culture and who would thus not exemplify the memory of Pourdavoud.

The petition was taken down the week of Dec. 22 for unknown reasons. Yarshater did not respond to a further request for comment as to why the petition had been taken down.

Professor Ehsan YarshaterProfessor Ehsan Yarshater (Picture Source:

The petition, which was addressed to University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, copied Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani ’80 and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani ’74, whose $10 million donation to the University in 2012 will help establish a Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies. The Mossavar-Rahmanis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

However, the Pourdavoud Chair was not established by the Mossavar-Rahmani family. It was separately established by Dr. Anahita Naficy Lovelace ’75 and her husband Jim Lovelace. Dr. Lovelace said they were aware of the petition and declined to comment until after an appointment has been made.

According to Yarshater, the candidate being considered was Kevin van Bladel, a current history professor at Ohio State University. Van Bladel declined to comment for this article and said he had not received any formal offer from Princeton University.

“To allow a chair named after Pourdavoud, who spent all his life teaching and writing about Zoroastrianism and the pre-Islamic culture of Iran,” the petition read, “to be held by someone whose formal academic training has been in Arabic, Syriac, and Greek, and who by and large is unknown in the field, is considered a slap in the face of Iranian Studies, the community at large, and the memory of Pourdavoud.”

Van Bladel has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Yale University and was previously an assistant professor of classics at the University of Southern California. He specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of the Near East in the first millennium CE, focusing on the translation of works between Arabic, Greek, Syriac, Latin, Sanskrit and various Iranian languages such as Middle Persian and Arabic. His teaching also focuses on the ancient Mediterranean and Near East.

“In the perspective of my research, the advent of Islam is not the beginning or end of a period; it can be understood only by reference to what came before as much as to what came after,” van Bladel’s OSU biography states.

van BladelAssociate Professor & Chair Kevin van Bladel of Ohio State University (Picture source: OSU).

Ibrahim Pourdavoud, for whom the chair is named, was a Persian scholar who studied pre-Islamic Iranian history, focusing particularly on Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrian culture. He is perhaps most well known for translating the Avesta, the primary collection of Zoroastrian sacred texts, into Persian and providing explanatory commentary.

Dr. Lovelace said in an email that by naming the chair after Pourdavoud, they intended to “honor him and his life’s work on the occasion of his 125th birthday in 2011, which happened to coincide with [her] mother’s 90th birthday.”

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Yarshater acknowledged that although van Bladel has many strengths, they do not lie in the same field Pourdavoud spearheaded.

“The one scholar that Princeton University was thinking to appoint — although they haven’t appointed yet — was not an expert on any of those things that are Persian history, Persian culture or Iranian language. Even though under other standards he is a very good scholar, he would be more appropriate for chairs in Arabic or Greek,” Yarshater said.

Changing the Selection Process

Yarshater also suggested that the selection process be altered so as to better represent the intentions of a chair named for Pourdavoud.

“In order to do justice to the chair, to the donors and to the name of Pourdavoud, the selection committee should include several people of expertise in Iranian studies,” Yarshater said. “Ideally they would advertise the chair, a number of people would apply, and they will then decide who is the best choice for the chair … The committee would compose of people specialized in Iranian studies, not people in Arabic or Greek or Syriac.”

Dean of Faculty David Dobkin, who was also copied on the petition, said in an email that the selection committee for a chair position is typically made of faculty from the relevant department, or of faculty whose departments overlap with the area of the chair. Often, other faculty with broader interests are also included. Then, the search committee will begin placing ads and sending out requests for nominations to leading scholars in the field.

LIVE.NB_DobkinProfessor David Dobkin of Princeton University (Picture Source: Princeton Alumni Weekly)

Once the search committee has found a potential candidate, Dobkin said, he or she is proposed to the Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements, which solicits input from leading scholars in the field as to the candidate’s suitability for the position.

According to Dobkin, the donor and the University will come to a consensus on a description for a position, and the search committee will begin the selection process from there. Donors are not involved in the identification nor selection of candidates to occupy the chair.

Dobkin declined to comment on the search committee organized for the Pourdavoud Chair, citing the need to uphold the integrity and confidentiality of the selection process.

Greco-Arabic vs. Pre-Islamic

Dariush Borbor, Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies in Tehran, signed the petition, citing his personal and academic belief that the current candidate does not meet the ideals of a Pourdavoud Chair.

“My personal feeling, as many other scholars, most of us agree with what Professor Yarshater has written in his letter that this endowment for the professorship at Princeton was made by two Iranians and they wanted to concentrate on Iranian studies,” Borbor said. “The chair which is named after [Pourdavoud] should be occupied by a person who specialized either in the languages of ancient Iran or the religion or generally the culture of ancient Iran.”

YSU-16-Asatrian-Farrokh-Borbor-3Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Dept., Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston), Kaveh Farrokh and Professor Dariush Borbor (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge and Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS) at Tehran) at Yerevan State University conference “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” (November, 2013). Professor Borbor has often lectured and written about the misconceptions against Iranian Studies perpetuated by Greek scholarship.

Like Yarshater, Borbor acknowledged that van Bladel has many strengths in other fields, but that he may not be suited for this position.

“He may be a very good scholar as well, of his own right, but if he is a scholar specialized on Arabic, Syriac and Greek, I don’t think it’s a very suitable choice … Especially the Greek side, because with most of the scholars who were specialized in Greek studies and on the history or culture of Greece, their interpretation of Iranian studies was often very one-sided and sometimes quite wrong,” Borbor said. “I have, myself, written and lectured in many universities about the misconceptions that Greek scholarship has given to Iranian studies.”

Hosi Mehta, president of the Zoroastrian Association of Chicago, signed the petition as well, also citing a concern for the potential misrepresentation of Iranian history.

“Persian history is really rich, and I was surprised that they could not find somebody who would be into that than finding someone who has the Arabic background,” Mehta said. “I read his qualifications, that he was an Arabic scholar, and the concern was that sometimes things get misrepresented … the winner usually writes the history, so it could be changed in different ways. There are people who say the Holocaust never happened.”

Historical Novels by Gordon Doherty

Gordon Doherty is a Scottish writer, who describes himself as being addicted to reading and writing historical fiction, a task for which he is certainly highly accomplished.

mugshotHistorical writer Gordon Doherty

Gordon Doherty’s most recent book “Legionary: land of the Sacred Fire” is of keen interest to readers of Sassanian Military history as it deals with the Romano-Byzantine’s Eastern frontier with the Sassanian Empire.

Legionary_Land of the Sacred Fire_pb [Click to Enlarge] Gordon Doherty (2013). Land of the Sacred Fire. Available through Amazon.

The book is set in 377 CE, just as Emperor Valens has stripped the Sassanian-Persian frontier of its legions, sending every available man to Thracia in an effort to contain the rampaging Gothic hordes. This allows the Sassanian leadership in Ctesiphon to cast their gaze upon Rome’s trade-rich but (now) weakly-defended  desert provinces. Shapur II (309-379 CE), Shahanshah (King of Kings) of the Sassanid Empire and his many client Shahan (kings) have long challenged Rome’s eastern holdings as theirs by ancestral right, and those lands have never been more vulnerable to a powerful Sassanian military strike. Thus, Valens must grasp at the slimmest of hopes that a Sassanian invasion can be staved off, not by the brute force of absent legions, but by the tenacity of a hardy few.

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” but 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 featured elevated cabs over the battlefield, allowing for more effective Sassanian archery (Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, -اسواران ساسانی- Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).

When Optio Numerius Vitellius Pavo and a select group of the XI Claudia are summoned to the Persian front, they leave Thracia behind, knowing little of what awaits them. They know only that they are to march into a land of strange gods. They whisper tales of the mighty Persian Savaran cavalry and pray to Mithras they will see their homes and families again. All too soon it becomes clear to them that this is no ordinary mission – indeed, the very fate of the empire might rest upon their efforts. But for Pavo the burden is weightier still, for he knows that the east also holds something even more precious to him . . . the truth about his father.

Gordon’s love of history was piqued during spells living and working close to both Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall, sites of rich history winding back through thousands of years. The later Roman Empire and Byzantium hold a particular fascination for Gordon.

Gordon’s Legionary series is set in the Eastern Roman Empire circa 376 AD and follows the adventures of the border legions as the empire begins to waver under the relentless crush of the empire’s enemies, namely the formidable armies of the Sassanians from the east and the menacing Germanic warriors to the north.

Gordon’s Strategos trilogy is set around the build up to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 AD and follows the dark and troubled life of a Byzantine general in a land riven with bloodshed and doubt.

Strategos-Rise of the Golden Heart-6by9n[Click to Enlarge] Gordon Doherty (2013). Strategos: Rise of the Golden Heart. FeedARead. Available through Amazon.

All of of Gordon’s novels are available from good online stores in paperback and eBook format. Just click on any one of them on the slideshow (left) to find out more.

In the coming years Gordon endeavors to provide his readers with more writings about these eras and to explore antiquity to the full. So, as long as the ideas keep coming to Gordon, there will be many more books to enjoy.

Runes from Aknada in Daghestan

Below are photographs sent by Dr. Guseyn Guseynov and Dr. Rabadan Magomedov to These are two stone bricks inscribed with what appear to be ancient rune-type insignia and patterns. The location is in the village of Aknada in Daghestan, located in the northwest Caucasus.

Guseyn-Guseynov-1[Click to Enlarge] The circular patterns resemble the arts of the ancient Celts of Europe as well as the Dailamites of Northern Iran (Picture Source: Dr. Guseyn Guseynov and Dr. Rabadan Magomedov).

Guseyn-Guseynov-2-Svastika[Click to Enlarge] Another stone brick bearing circular patterns resembling the Celtic arts of ancient Europe as well as the Dailamites of Northern Iran (Picture Source: Dr. Guseyn Guseynov and Dr. Rabadan Magomedov).

Tindi[Click to Enlarge] This brick of stone was found in the village of Tindi in Dagestan (Picture Source: Dr. Guseyn Guseynov and Dr. Rabadan Magomedov).

Stone-Bricks-Rabadanov[Click to Enlarge] The above picture is from Magomed Rabadanov, from the village of Shapikh in Daghestan. It would appear that the stone bricks seen in the above photo were originally collected outside of Shapikh in order to build the above wall (Picture Source: Magomed Rabadanov, sent to by Guseyn Guseynov).