Military Heritage article on Emperor Julian the Apostate

The Military Heritage Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh:

Farrokh, K. (2015). Julian the Apostate. Military Heritage, March Issue, pp.8, 10-13.

Military Heritage-March 2015[Right] Cover of the March 2015 edition of the Military Heritage journal [left] Sample page of the article in the British Military History Monthly article.

 As noted in the beginning of the article: “when Emperor Julian had received the wound [in Persia], he filled his hand with blood, flung it into the air and cried, Thou hast won, O Galilean” (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book III). Emperor Julian (r. 361-363 CE) had received that fatal wound during his last duel with the Savaran armored knights of Persia…”. The article provides a detailed overview of the life and career of Emperor Julian the Apostate. Following his brilliant victories over the formidable Germanic warriors of Western Europe, the Emperor’s ultimate nemesis proved to be the Savaran Knights of Persia. The legacy of the Savaran Knights continued to endure centuries after the fall of the Sassanian Empire to the Arabo-Islamic invasions of 637-651 CE.
 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 were especially prized as their cabs afforded very high elevation over the battlefield, which was ideal for Sassanian archery ( Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).
 Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1

Turan Tiger Hunted in Central Asia in the 1930s

The information cited below was forward to by Kooshan Mehran on December 6, 2013. It was originally posted in the Georgian National Museum.


From a period ranging between 1918 until the early 1930s, the Red Army was engaged in battles against the anti-Soviet Basmachi rebellion in Central Asia. The battles were especially fierce near the border to the north of Afghanistan in Tajikestan.

During this time, Soviet soldiers engaged in the hunting of wild game when not engaged in battles. A favorite hunt for these soldiers was the Turan Tiger.

Turan Tiger-1This Turan specimen has just been hunted by Soviet soldiers in Central Asia sometime in the early 1930s (photo undated-Photo sent by Kooshan Mehran to on December 6, 2013). It would appear that this photo was taken somewhere along the banks of the river Panj.

The Turan tiger-Male, Panthera (Tigris) Virgata species is now unfortunately extinct. The sample seen below was hunted near Tbilisi, Georgia in the Caucasus. The tiger shown below is believed to have come to Georgia from Iran, before meeting his demise in Lelobi.

Panthera-virgataThe Panthera (Tigris) Virgata above who originated in Iran and met his end in the village of Lelobi, near Tbilisi in Georgia (for more see here…). This is one of the last known specimens of this species of Tiger, now believed to be extinct (Picture Source: Georgian National Museum).

Turan Tiger-2Another snapshot of Soviet soldiers in Central Asia with the Turan Tiger (photo undated-Photo sent by Kooshan Mehran to on December 6, 2013). One interesting detail in reference to the trooper walking second from left: he appears to have a shoulder strap with a rectangular flashlight; this would have probably been an ingenious device in the early 1930s.

Armina (Armenia) in the Achaemenid Empire

The article below “ARMENIA and IRAN i. Armina, Achaemenid province” by R. Schmitt in the Encyclopedia Iranica was originally published on December 15, 1986 and last Updated on August 12, 2011. This article is available in the print volumes of the Encyclopedia Iranica (Vol. II, Fasc. 4, pp. 417-418).

Kindly note that the article below contains pictures and captions that do not appear in the Encyclopedia Iranica version.


Armina is named as a province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid empire; the inhabitants are called Arminiya- “Armenian.” As a by-form of the country’s name, the form Arminiya-, is attested six times in DB 2.33-63, but only in the locative form Arminiyaiy (on this word see R. Schmitt, Acta Antiqua 25, 1977, p. 96 n. 16). Armina is the source of Greek Arménioi “Armenians,” Armeníē, Armeníā [scil. Khṓrā] “Armenia;” it is rendered phonetically in Elamite as Har-mi-nu-ya (-ip), etc. The inscriptions’ Babylonian versions, however, use KURú-ra-áš-ṭu “Urartu” and LUú-ra-áš-ṭa-a-a “Urartean,” i.e., the name of the kingdom (and its inhabitants), mighty in former times in nearly the same region; the old name was preserved by the indigenous pre-Achaemenid cuneiform tradition. The Armenians’ name for themselves, attested from the 5th century A.D., is Hay, plural Haykʿ, with Hayastan “Armenia” and other derivatives.

Hay_persArmenian tribute bearer carrying a jar decorated with winged griffins – detail of relief sculpture on stairway leading to Apadana at Persepolis (late 5th century BCE (Source: Public Domain). This may be part of a gift-bearing procession for the Nowruz.

The references to Armina in the Bīsotūn inscription (DB) from about 520 B.C. are the earliest. But these and the other Old Persian lists of peoples and countries (DPe 12, DNa 27, DN XX, DSe 27, DSm 8 [?], XPh 20, A?P 20; see Kent, Old Persian, pp. 136ff., M. Mayrhofer, Supplement zur Sammlung der altpersischen Inschriften, Vienna, 1978, pp. 13f.) do not indicate the exact area inhabited by that people. Bordering on Media, Cappadocia, and Assyria, the Armenians settled, according to classical sources (beginning with Herodotus and Xenophon), in the east Anatolian mountains along the Araxes (Aras) river and around Mt. Ararat, Lake Van, Lake Rezaiyeh, and the upper courses of the Euphrates and Tigris; they extended as far north as the Cyrus (Kur) river. To that region they seem to have immigrated only about the 7th century B.C. Afterwards Armenia was part of the Median and Persian empires (see, e.g., Xenophon, Cyropaedia 2.4.22).

Silver Rhython-Armina-Achaemenid EraA Silver Rhython of the Achaemenid type from Yerznka, Armenia (5th Century BCE) (Source: Public Domain).

About the Armenians’ nationality in Achaemenid times we can say almost nothing. The ethnonym itself and all other names attested with reference to the rebellions against Darius in Armina (the proper names Araxa, Haldita, and Dādṛšiš, the toponyms Zūzahya, Tigra, and Uyamā, and the district name Autiyāra) are not connected with Armenian linguistic and onomastic material attested later in native Armenian sources. They are also not Iranian, but seem related to Urartean (see Schmitt, “”Armenische” Namen in altpersischen Quellen”). Armina, a great and wealthy land (Xenophon, Anabasis 3.5.17; cf. Herodotus 5.49.6) on the so-called “Royal Road,” was part of the 13th tax district (nomós) according to Herodotus (3.93.1). The Armenians, who are called in this connection “descendants of the Phrygians” are equipped like the Phrygians and stand together with these under the order of Darius’ son-in-law Artochmes in the military review before King Xerxes in Thracian Doriscus (Herodotus 7.73).

Orontes_IOrontes I (401-344 BCE). NOTE: Above coin dated to 362 BCE therefore coin is not Orontoes II (Source: Public Domain). 

While so-called “Western Armenia” belonged to a governor Tiribazus in 401/400 B.C. (Xenophon, Anabasis 4.4.4), the satrap of Armenia at the same time was Orontes (Xenophon, Anabasis 3.5.17); one of the Armenians’ leaders in the battle at Gaugamela, hence the presumed satrap of that province under Darius III Codomannus, is also called Orontes (Arrian, Anabasis 3.8.5). From the fact that at different times homonymous persons served as satraps of the same province, it may be inferred that this satrapy was (at least partly) hereditary within one family, in fact a family which can be traced to the famous “Seven Persians.”


V. Bǎnǎţeanu, “Les arméniens des inscriptions de Behistūn,” Studia et Acta Orientalia I, 1957 [1958], pp. 65-81.

R. Schmitt, “‘Armenische’ Namen in altpersischen Quellen,” Annual of Armenian Linguistics 1, 1980, pp. 7-17.

The Lalesh Temple and Ceremonies of the Yezidi Kurds

The term “Yazidi” is often incorrectly confused with the Arabian name “Yazid“. The term is originally “Yazdi” derived from Iranic “Yazata” broadly meaning “Angels”, hence the prime Zoroastrian spiritual entity term “Ahura-Mazda“, terms for surviving Iranic cults in Kurdistan known as the “Yazdan” (lit. cult of Angels), and the surviving name of “Yazd” for the city of that name in Iran today. There are various mystical orders that have theological ties to the “Yazdi” or “Yazidi” such as the “Yar-esan” and the Qaderi clans of Western Iran. The Yazidis are an ancient community, concentrated in northwestern Iraq but also found in Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Yezidi Kurds-12-Youths 1950sYazdi or Yazidi youth in the 1950s in Lalesh (

The holiest Yazidi or Yazdi site is the Temple of Lalesh, situated in a valley near Dohuk in Nineveh Province (roughly an hour and a half drive outside of Erbil in northern Iraq). This is an ancient cultural and theological site with strong ties to ancient Iranic religions such as Zoroastrianism and ancient cults such as Mithraism and Zurvanism. The movement however also features interesting ties to Christianity and Islam and welcomes their holy books into their theology.

 Yezidi Kurds-5-lales-piraEntrance portal to the Temple of the Yazdis or Yazidis at Lalesh (

The Yazidi or Yazdi religion is believed to have its origins as late as the 11th century, however it is generally agreed that the faith has derived much of its theology from the ancient Zoroastrianism religion of pre-Islamic Iran. From what is known, the Yazidi or Yazdis do not have or write holy books like the Abrahamic faiths; they tend to pass on their traditions in an oral fashion with stories, poems and songs. Interestingly one cannot simply convert to the Yazidi or Yazdi religion; one can only enter this by having been born into the faith.

Yezidi Kurds-2-Yezidi-khatunExcellent depiction of a Khatoun at an ingress into the Temple in 1907 ( The term Khatoun in this cultural context designates a matriarch; ancient cults such as Mazdakism, Yazdanism, Yazdism as well as the ancient Zoroastrian faith, have often held men and women in equal regard, especially with regard to learning and leadership roles (for more see here).

The Yazidis are expected to engage in a six-day pilgrimage (minimum once a lifetime) to Lalesh to visit the tomb of Sheikh Adi and other holy sites. Sheikh Adi is the primary figure of the religion of the Yazidis.

Yezidi Kurds-8-plan of lalesDetailed architectural plan of the Mausoleum at the Temple at Lalesh (

Yazidis also engage in a yearly pilgrimage for the local autumn Festival or “Feast of the Assembly“.

Yezidi Kurds-18-CeremonyThe Yazidi faithful engaging in their “Festival of Eid al-Jamma” (photo taken on 7 October, 2010 & displayed the International Business Times).

Note the image of a large black snake on the wall in the above photo. One legend narrates this as having been once alive, and causing havoc among the local residents of the sanctuary. Sheikh Adi then intervened and transformed that snake into its present solidified form as it tried to climb up the same wall it is now transfixed in. Yet another tradition narrates that it was Sheikh Adi’s companion, Sheikh Mend, who transformed himself from human form into this black snake. Sheikh Mend had done this to repel the Haweri Kurdish tribe who were attempting to force the Yazidis to convert to the Islamic faith.

Yezidi Kurds-15-CeremonyYazidis lighting candles outside the Lalesh temple in celebration of the Yazidi New Year (photo taken on April 17, 2007 & displayed the International Business Times). The Yazidis celebrate the ingress of light into the world.

The Yazidi theology of creation is of interest, especially given its parallels with Zoroastrianism and other ancient Iranic faiths. In the Yazidi version of creation, God created the universe and entrusted its welfare to seven angels. The prime angel or “Yazata” of the seven angels is “Malak Tawous” (Persian: Malek Tavoos), broadly translated as “Lord/king Peacock”. In Yazidism this is a Yazata that has been incarnated in the physical realm in the body of a peacock.

Yezidi Kurds-4-Meleke TawusMetalwork representing the spiritual entity Malak Tawous (

The peacock has held a special significance among Iranian peoples since antiquity and is well represented in the arts during the pre-Islamic and post-Islamic periods.

Yezidi Kurds-16-Kurdish danceLocal Yezidis engage in the traditional Kurdish dance outside the Lalesh temple (photo displayed the International Business Times).

The Yazidis have had to contend with several persecutions in history. Their very existence has been threatened up to modern times, notably by the former Saddam Hussein regime and more recently by pan-Muslim ideologues.