Book Review by Military History Journal of Kaveh Farrokh’s 2017 Textbook on Sassanian Army

The below 2017 book by Kaveh Farrokh has been reviewed by Richard A. Gabriel of the Military History journal on April 29, 2018. This is available on-line at HistoryNet and Academia.edu:

The Armies of Ancient Persia: The Sassanians, by Kaveh Farrokh, Pen and Sword Books, Barnsley, U.K., 2017.

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Following Alexander’s conquest of the Achaemenid empire, rule of the region passed from the Seleucids to two succeeding powers: the Parthians (247 BCE–224 CE) and the Sassanians (224–651). Before Muslim armies ultimately overwhelmed the latter, the Sassanians earned due recognition as the most formidable rival of the Roman–Byzantine empire. Over more than three centuries the two powers fought a number of major and minor wars, conflicts that weakened both, until the armies of Islam overran the Sassanians. Much of what historians later attributed to Muslim culture in art, architecture, military technology and medicine was mostly Sassanid in origin, spread through the Mediterranean world by the expansion of Islam.

Despite their contribution to Western military history and its technological advances, the armies of ancient Persia have received scant attention from Western military historians. Focusing on the armies of the Sassanians, this book is the first in a three-volume set intended to address that oversight.

Author Kaveh Farrokh is a historian born in Greece who speaks Persian, among several other languages, attributes that enabled him to access source materials inaccessible to most Western scholars. The book is well researched, edited, organized and written. His 46 pages of footnotes, 15 pages of references and 14 pages of maps place a trove of source materials in the reader’s hands, though general readers may find the level of detail somewhat overwhelming. The result is a major work of scholarship that is long overdue.

Savārān officer engaged in archery. Recreations by Ardashir Radpour (courtesy A. Radpour & H. Martin).

Article by Kaveh Farrokh and Taraneh Farhid on Achaemenid Era Edicts, Stele and the Cyrus Cylinder

An important recent contribution to the field of Iranian Studies is the publication in 2018 of the following textbook:

Arj-e-Xirad: Papers in Honour of Professor Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh (edited by Farhad Aslani & Massoumeh Pourtaghi). Tehran: Morvarid Publications.

Professor Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh (Hamburg University, Iranian Studies) is a doyen of Iranian Studies much like Dick Davis and those who have passed such as Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014) and Shapour Shahbazi (1942-2006).

The above textbook includes scholarly articles by world-class scholars such as Dariush Akbarzadeh, Dick Davis, Richard Foltz, Shaul Shaked, Gholamreza Karamian, Jurgen Ehlers, Touraj Daryee, Kamyar Abdi and a slew of other scholars.

Kaveh Farrokh and Taraneh Farhid have also contributed the following article to the above textbook [this can be downloaded in pdf from Academia.edu]:

Farrokh, K., & Farhid, T. (1396/2018). [استوانه کوروش بزرگ و اسناد “دیگر” در بابل, مصر و ستون سنگی یادبود خانتوس] “Other” Cylinders and Records before and after Cyrus the Great: Kelar, Babylon, Egypt and Xanthus. Studies in Honor of Professor Jalal Khaleghi Motlagh (ed. F. Aslani & M. Pourtaghi), Tehran: Morvarid Publications, pp.379-394.

The above article challenges a number of new Eurocentric theories proposed since 1979 with respect to the history of Cyrus the Great and the Cyrus Cylinder. The new theories were promoted in Spiegel Magazine (by Matthias Schultz, July 15, 2008) and the Daily Telegraph (by Harry de Quetteville, July 16, 2008) … these however were responded to by Kaveh Farrokh:

The Cyrus Cylinder housed at the British Museum (Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney).

New Textbooks on Sassanian Military History (2017-2018)

As of May 20, 2018, Kaveh Farrokh has published six books on the military history of Iran/Persia [see this section in Academia.edu]. His first two books have also been translated into Russian (see Персы: Армия великих царей, Cерия: Военная история человечества, Москва…) and Persian, notably by major Persian-language academic press publication outlets such as Amir Kabir [انتشارات اميركبير], Qoqnoos [ققنوس], Taghe Bostan of University of Kermanshah [طاق‌ بستان], etc. [see this section in Academia.edu].

Kaveh Farrokh’s most recent two new books pertain to the armies of the Sassanians. One of these was co-authored with two scholars in 2018 [See in Academia.edu]:

A Synopsis of Sasanian Military Organization and Combat Units 

  • Kaveh Farrokh
  • Gholamreza Karamian (Department of Archaeology & History Central Tehran Branch, Tehran Azad University)
  • Katarzyna Maksymiuk (Institute of History and International Relations, Faculty of Humanities, Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities, Poland)

The book was published by the Publishing House of Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities with the support of the Central Branch of Tehran Azad University.

The results of the research for the above textbook were conducted under the research theme No. 452/16/S (Army of ancient Iran in comparative background) and financed from the science grant granted by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland.

Savārān officer engaged in archery. Recreations by Ardashir Radpour (courtesy A. Radpour & H. Martin).

Note that Kaveh Farrokh’s co-authors (Prof. Gholamreza Karamian and Prof. Katarzyna Maksymiuk) are top scholars. While too numerous to list here, Prof. Maksymiuk is one of the world’s leading scholars of Partho-Sassanian military studies – readers are referred to her Academia.edu page here …

Note that the maps produced by Prof. Maksymiuk in her 2015 textbook [Geography of Roman-Iranian Wars. Military Operations of Rome and Sasanian Iran] have been reproduced in Farrokh’s 2017 textbook on the Sassanian army (discussed further below).

Prof. Karamian has conducted several critical excavations of Partho-Sassanian sites, which have been reported on Kaveh Farrokh, such as the palace of Ramavand, and has also been published in academic format:

Karamian, Gh., & Farrokh, K. (2017). Sassanian stucco decorations from the Ramavand (Barz Qawaleh) excavations in the Lorestan Province of Iran. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, No.6, pp. 69-88.

Karamian’s discoveries of Parthian sites (with the assistance of his graduate students) of the sites of Andika in Khuzestan (in southwest Iran) and Panj-e Ali (in Luristan, western Iran) have also been academically published:

Farrokh, K., Karamian, Gh., Delfan, M., Astaraki, F. (2016). Preliminary reports of the late Parthian or early Sassanian relief at Panj-e Ali, the Parthian relief at Andika and examinations of late Parthian swords and daggers. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, No.5, pp. 31-55.

Plate Šāpūr II (r. 309-379) atop an Elephant (4th-7th centuries), Los Angeles County Museum of Art inv. no. M.76.174.18, (drawing by Prof. Katarzyna Maksymiuk).

Kaveh Farrokh’s second most recent textbook on the Sassanian military “Armies of Persia: the Sassanians” by Kaveh Farrokh was published in 2017 by Pen & Sword Publishing in England.

  • Publisher: Pen and Sword (Oct. 17 2017)
  • ISBN-10: 1848848455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848848450
  • Hardcover: 256 pages

Available at:

Rock-cut statue of a late Sasanian ruler, possibly of Khosrow “Parveez” II (6th century CE), In situ Ṭāq-e Bostān, (photo by Prof. David Nicolle).

The textbook’s contents are organized as follows:

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  • List of Plates
  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Introduction
  • Historical Timeline of the Sassanian Empire
  • Chapter 1: Martial Ardour, Origins and Missions of the Spah
  • Chapter 2: Organization: Military Titles and Recruitment
  • Chapter 3: Military Reforms of the 6th Century CE
  • Chapter 4: Military Training, Polo, the Hunt and Martial Music
  • Chapter 5: Archery
  • Chapter 6: The Savaran
  • Chapter 7: Infantry, Auxiliary Contingents and Naval Forces
  • Chapter 8: Preparations for War
  • Chapter 9: Tactics and Strategies along the Roman and Caucasian Frontiers
  • Chapter 10: Logistics and Support
  • Chapter 11: Post-Battle Scenarios and War Diplomacy
  • Chapter 12: The Spah in Central Asian: Warfare, Military Developments and Tactics
  • Chapter 13: Military Architecture
  • Chapter 14: Siege Operations
  • Chapter 15: Sassanian Military Culture
  • Chapter 16: Military Weaknesses of the Spah
  • Chapter 17: The Fall of the Spah and the Empire
  • Chapter 18: Post-Sassanian Resistance and Rebellion against the Caliphate
  • Chapter 19: Legacy
  • Maps
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

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Various topics of the book (combat units and organization of the Sassanian army) were expostulated by Kaveh Farrokh in a major presentation at the Tenth Annual ASMEA (Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa) entitled “The Middle East and Africa: Assessing the Regions Ten Years On” on October 19-21, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, delivered the keynote address at the Tenth Annual ASMEA Conference.

(Right) Textbook by Kaveh Farrokh on the Sassanian Army published in late October 2017 on display by the LSS at the ASMEA Conference on October 19-21, 2017 – note that at the LSS display, to the left of the Sassanians text is displayed Dr.  Ilkka Syanne’s new textbook, Military History of Late Rome (284-361); (Left) Cover page of 2017 ASMEA Conference brochure.

Use of Misleading Terminology for “Convenience”?

Below is a recent article of Dr. Sheda Vasseghi (April 29, 2018) posted in Evakdat in which she discusses a document written by a well-informed CIA official (whose name has now been redacted from the original document). As cited by Vasseghi in her article below:

In the CIA Memo, the author claimed that the CIA tends to be “alert and responsive to official changes in the names of individual political entities.”  However, when it comes to geographic terms, the CIA adheres “to usages that are imprecise, egocentric, and anachronistic“. … According to the CIA Memo, terms such as “the Middle East” are, and always were, imprecise and egocentric given they reflect “the world as viewed from London and western Europe.”  The [CIA] author is alarmed at how widespread the usage of these imprecise terms among the intellectual circles were, including as part of titles for respected publications such as The Middle East Journal

Kindly note that readers are also referred to the article by Dr. Mohammad Ala (Recipient of the 2013 Grand Prix Film Italia Award) entitled:

The “Middle East”: A 20th Century Neologism Or Malapropisms?

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In connection with below-linked article Farrokh & Vasseghi (2017) on the 20th century “invented term”—the Middle East—one may refer to a declassified, internal memo by the CIA’s Office of Basic and Geographic Intelligence (OBGI) to Deputy Director for Intelligence dated February 26, 1973 (the “CIA Memo”), in which the author, whose identity is redacted, noted his “strong aversion” to the use of the term “the Middle East.”

In the CIA Memo, the author claimed that the CIA tends to be “alert and responsive to official changes in the names of individual political entities.”  However, when it comes to geographic terms, the CIA adheres “to usages that are imprecise, egocentric, and anachronistic.”  One of the common ways in which the CIA ignores precise geographical names is by “the use of longitudinal compass directions as nouns” (emphasis in original).

The term “Middle East” was first invented by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914). Mahan’s invention first appeared in the September 1902 issue of London’s monthly “National review” in an article entitled “The Persian Gulf and International Relations”. Specifically, Mahan wrote: “The Middle East, if I may adopt the term which I have not seen…”.  The term – “Middle East” – when examined in cultural, anthropological and cultural terms makes very little sense. Iran and Turkey for example are not Arab countries and in fact share a long-standing Turco-Iranian or Persianate civilization distinct from the Arabo-Islamic dynamic. Instead, the Turks and Iranians have strong ties to the Caucasus and Central Asia (Image: Encyclopedia Brittanica).

 

 

According to the CIA Memo, terms such as “the Middle East” are, and always were, imprecise and egocentric given they reflect “the world as viewed from London and western Europe.”  The author is alarmed at how widespread the usage of these imprecise terms among the intellectual circles were, including as part of titles for respected publications such as The Middle East Journal.

The author of the CIA Memo is concerned with how those in the field of intelligence defend the use of imprecise geographic terms by arguing that everyone knows to what location one is referring when, for example, one says, “the Middle East,” so why worry about it.  Further, correcting such terms may cause confusion and inconvenience!  The author responded to these officers by reminding them that as responsible leaders in the intelligence community, they “should always strive to be practitioners of precision” in written materials.

Mahan’s invented term “Middle East” was popularized by Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852-1929), a journalist designated as “a special correspondent from Tehran” by The Times newspaper. Chirol’s seminal article “The Middle Eastern Question” expanded Mahan’s version of the “Middle East” to now include “Persia, Iraq, the east coast of Arabia, Afghanistan, and Tibet”. Surprised? Yes, you read correctly -Tibet! The term Middle East was (and is) a colonial construct used to delineate British (and now West European and US) geopolitical and economic interests. These same interests help promote the usage of terminology such as “Islamic arts and architecture”  (Image: Ria Press).

 

 

As examples of changing how these officers think and write, the author of the CIA Memo encouraged them to substitute imprecise terms for accurate ones as listed in the chart below:

           Imprecise and Improper Terms       Accurate and Refined Terms

            the Far East                                                   East Asia

            the Middle East deadlock                           the Arab-Israeli deadlock

            the industrial West                                      the non-Communist industrial nations

            the Near East                                                the Eastern Mediterranean

            the Middle East                                            the Persian Gulf states

Mahan and Chirol’s invention (Middle East) provided the geopolitical terminology required to rationally organize the expansion of British political, military and economic interests into the Persian Gulf region. After the First World War, Winston Churchill (1874-1965) became the head of the newly established “Middle East Department”.  Churchill’s department redefined Mahan’s original “The Middle East” invention to now include the Suez Canal, the Sinai, the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the newly created states of Iraq, Palestine, and Trans-Jordan. Tibet and Afghanistan were now excluded from London’s Middle East grouping. The decision to include non-Arab Iran as a member of the “Middle East” in 1942 was to rationalize the role of British political and Petroleum interests in the country (Image: Wikipedia).

 

 

Sources

Central Intelligence Agency. (1973, February 26). Toward improved precision in regional terminology (Approved for Release 2003/03/28: CIA-RPD80T01497R000100080031-9). McLean, VA: CIA Library.

Farrokh, K., & Vasseghi, S. (2017). The “Middle East”: An Invented Term from the 20th Century. Persian Heritage, 88, 12-14.  Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/35445793/Farrokh_K._and_Vasseghi_Sh._2017_._The_Middle_East_An_Invented_Term_from_the_20th_Century._Persian_Heritage_88_pp.12-14

Traces of Neolithic era uncovered in Iran’s Fars province

The article below “Traces of Neolithic era uncovered in Iran’s Fars province” was published Payvand News on March 25, 2016, based on an original report by the Mehr News Agency.

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The first season of archaeological excavations in Bavanat county in Fars province has led to the discovery of 200 objects with the oldest having traces back to the Neolithic era.

Morteza Khanipour, the leader of the archeological team, said the Hermangan site located west of Jashnian village in Bavanat county, Fars province, has been discovered in April 2015.

A number of objects discovered at Bavant county (Source: Payvand News).

According to him, over 50 per cent of the site has been completely demolished by farmers and only a few parts of it have remained. As noted by Khanipour:

The excavations have so far led to the discovery of two settlement phases … In the older phase, the lack of architecture and the existence of several hearths and scattered ash could be indicative of the nomadic lifestyle of the settlers … on the deposits we discovered stratigraphic architecture including rooms and several other spaces that were painted in white clay, and the walls of two rooms that were painted red by using ocher.”

Due to unauthorized excavation, most of the rooms have been destroyed, thus making it impossible to give an accurate and definite explanation of their functions, he added.

The archeologist noted the discovery of a thermal structure in the trenches that was most probably an open furnace used for clay firing. Khanipour further avers:

By comparing the potteries obtained from this site to the ones discovered in Mushaki Hill, Jeri Teppe, Bashi, and Kushk-e Hezar, one can say that the site dates back to the Neolithic era of Bashi archeological site and the TMB workshop of Mushaki.

He went on place Hermangan archeological site somewhere between 8100-7800 BC.

Other unearthed objects during the excavations include stone tools such as microliths which indicate harvesting and agriculture, as well as protoliths that indicate the production of tools inside the settlement.