The Dailamites of Northern Persia

The term Dailamites may derive from the “Dimilii” who were a tribe of Medes who migrated into Northern Persia (roughly modern Gilan and Mazandaran today). Their descendants survive to this day in northern Iran.

These Medes would have come from what is roughly the northwest of Iran – they still exist as the “Dimili” among the ZaZa-Kurds of today who are believed by linguists to speak a variant of the Parthian Pahlavi language distinct from modern Kurmanji (Bahdenani and Sorani) spoken by the majority of modern-day Kurds.


Girl from the ZaZa clan in Turkey derived from the ancient Mede tribe of the Dimili.

The pace and timing of the Dimilii migrations are not exactly clear when this took place, as migrations were gradual, however we are certain that by the time of Sassanian king Khosrow I (6th century), the Dailamites were fully established in Northern Persia.

What is certain is that the Romano-Byzantines had a high respect for Dailamite skills in face to face combat (see writings of Agathias for example). They are reported as having fought with weapons such as daggers, swords, and javelins. They fought usually in the Caucasus against Turkic incursions into ancient Albania (modern Republic of Azerbaijan – different from Albania in Europe).

When the Sassanian Empire (224-651 AD) collapsed in the wake of the Arabian invasions it was in the north where Iranian resistance finally solidified. The one singular Arab failure in all of their otherwise spectacular successes in Iran, Byzantium, Central Asia, Syria, North Africa and Spain, was in northern Persia. The Dailamites solidly blocked Arab troops from entering northern Persia. As noted by Overlaet

Daylaman remained unconquered…until at least the 8th century AD…early Daylamite rulers even exhibited extreme anti-Arab attitudes and sought the restoration of the Persian Empire and the of the ancient religions” (1998, p.268).


The main difficulty the Arabs faced was that they were facing very “European” terrain of mountains and dense forests in Mazandaran, Gilan and Rasht and were unable to stand up to the tough Dailamite infantry. The Arabs thought very highly of these warriors whom they called “Al-Hamra” (Red-faced ones) and recruited some of these for their own armies to fight in places as far away as Spain. The vast majority of the Dailamites however refused to bow to the authority of the Caliphs, even after the complete collapse of the Sassanians.

Local legends of Mazandaran report of female resistance leaders, one such figure being a certain Azadeh.


Girl from Chelsio region in Manzadaran. Many of the resistance fighters in the 600s and 700s AD from Northern Persia were women.

The Abbasids did manage to enter the region in 771 BC and stayed for nearly a century, but even then their authority proved sparse at best. During the reign of Harun al-Rashid (763-809 AD), many Muslin Shiites fled to the Dailamites to seek refuge from the persecutions of the Sunni authorities. The most notable of these were the Alids, who were either the descendants or followers of the Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad.  Prominent among these was a certain Sheikh Zayd, who began to win converts to Shiite Islam among the Dailamites. By the time the Buyid dynasty of the Dailamites seized power and took over much of Iran and Mesopotamia (including Baghdad), northern Persia was still non-Muslim, however Shiism was gaining ground.

What is very interesting about Dailamite arms is that (despite being infantry), they were armed with the same weapons as the Sassanian Elite Cavalry (the Savaran). Note the late-Sassanian Dailamite sword handle and top of sheath below:


Dailamite sword found in northern Iran. This is of the late Sassanian type. The fact that the Dailamites were allowed to carry swords of the elite Sassanian cavalry is an indication that the Dailamites were among the most respected warriors of the Sassanian Dynasty.

Photograph of the locket-suspension section of a late-Sassanian sword of the late Sassanian Savaran cavalry by Dr. Manouchehr Khorasani, a leading authority of Iranian military hustory.

Further readings:

Khorasani, M.M. (2006). Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the end of the Qajar Period. Legat Verlag Publishers.

Overlaet, Bruno (1998). Regalia of the Ruling Classes in Late Sassanian Times: The Riggisberg Strap Mountings, Swords and Archer’s Fingercaps. In Riggisberger Berichte – Entlang der Seidenstrasse – Abegg-Stiftung, Riggisberg, pp.267-297.

Price, M. (2008). Iran‘s Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook. ABC-CLIO.

Kanduan in Azarbaijan and the Legacy of Marc Antony

The beautiful village of Kanduan near Tabriz in Azerbaijan of Iran is of interest. This is the site of world’s sole modern hotel that has been literally carved inside a mountain. Note the 3 photographs below of the Kanduan Hotel near Tabriz:


  Hotel Entrance

Guest Suite

Dining Room

This hotel is again a testament to Iranian engineering skills, one that harks back to the days of the Medes, Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes…

Azarbaijan is indeed one of Iran’s oldest provinces, known to Greco-Roman historiography as Media Atropatene. Few Iranians or westerners are aware that this area (near Tabriz) is not far from ancient Praaspa, the site where the legendary Roman leader Marc Antony failed to capture in 36 BC. Antony’s expedition in fact ended in disaster with heavy losses to the Romans in men and materiel.


Marc Antony (83-30 BC) Roman statesman and military leader. His expedition into ancient Praaspa (near modern Tabriz)ended in disaster in 36 BC mainly at the hands of Iranian Parthian armored knights and horse-archers. In one of the engagements, the Mede infantry destroyed 10,000 Roman legionnaires. Marc Antony and his surviving troops fled into Syria and from there to Egypt where Ptolemid Queen Cleopatra provided them sanctuary and shelter  (For more details consult Farrokh, 2007, p.144-146).


Painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema showing Queen Cleopatra of Egypt receiving Marc Antony. Hollywood and western entertainment outlets often produce movies and narratives of Antony’s love affair with Cleopatra. Interestingly these depictions avoid any mention of Antony’s disaster in Parthian Persia.

Azarbaijan has indeed contributed much to Iran’s rich and ancient legacy and has often been at the forefront of  defending the borders of ancient and modern Iran again invasions.

Restoration of Cyrus the Great Tomb Completed

The restoration of the Cyrus the Great tomb has been cited as completed by Iranian news agencies on November 28, 2008.

Iranian news agencies have raised concerns  regarding the methods used in the restoration. According to the reports the historical authenticity of the tomb may have been compromised by the restoration methods. Final definitive conclusions however await the full and detailed report to be issued in due course by UNESCO which has declared the tomb as a heritage site.

Kaveh Farrokh on YouTube

There is now a YouTube link for the WAALM event of October 31st, 2008 in which Kaveh Farrokh won the “Best History Book of 2008” Persian Golden Lioness Award:

It cites the book, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War as being 

“…unbiased, and supported by proof and credentials…”

This evaluation is based on the collective decision by a 14-member panel of world-class academics of Iranica.

Farrokh Book cited twice in Kayhan Newspaper

Kaveh Farrokh’s book, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War has been cited twice in the Kayhan Newspaper of London in relation to its nomination as the Best History Book of 2008, as also reported in the BBC and the widely read website.

The first citaiton occurred in the November 6-12 2008 issue of the London Kayhan Newspaper.

Page one of the November 6-12 2008 issue of the London Kayhan Newspaper citing the WAALM Golden Persian Lioness Aaward ceremonies in London for October 31st, 2008.

Page seven of the November 6-12 2008 issue of the London Kayhan Newspaper citing WAALM Golden Persian Lioness Award winners (Farrokh’s name highlighted with 2 horizontal dark lines) in London for October 31st, 2008.

The second citation by the London Kayhan Newspaper occurred in the November 13-19 2008 edition:

One segment of a long article by the London Kayhan Newspaper (November 13-19 2008, page seven) discussing the WAALM event of October 31st, 2008. Page seven of the issue of  citing WAALM Golden Persian Lioness Award winners (Farrokh’s name highlighted with 2 horizontal dark lines) in London for October 31st, 2008.