Book Review of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran” By Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani

The Persian Heritage journal has published the following Book Review by Kaveh Farrokh:

Farrokh, K. (2019). Book review of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran” By Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani. Persian Heritage, 95, pp.22-23.

Book cover of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“; Orders for this textbook can be taken at: info@mmkhorasani.com

As noted in the book review:

The book presents a thorough and detailed analysis of the introduction and development of historical firearms in Iran. The present book is a result of years of study on historical Persian manuscripts on firearms making, clas sification and usage and as well as an analysis of the Persian firearms kept in the Military Museum of Tehran.

Sample page from the text “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

This textbook is organized into four major parts:

Part I: History of Firearms in Iran

1] Introduction

2] Matchlock Muskets: The Introduction of Firearms into Iran

3] Flintlock Muskets: The Introduction of Flintlocks into Iran

4] Persian Percussion Cap Muskets and Wall Guns

5] Pistols in Iran

6] Gun and Pistol Accoutrements

7] Cannons and Rockets

Part II: Persian manuscripts on Firearms

1] A Safavid Manucript on Casting Bronze Cannons

2] A Persian Manuscript on Rockets

3] A Qajar-period Manuscript on Cannons and Rockets

4] Other Persian manuscripts on Ordnance

Part III: Firearms in Miniatures and Paintings

Part IV: Catalog

1] Matchlock Muskets

2] Flintlock Muskets

3] Percussion Cap Lock Muskets

4] Flintlock Pistols

5] Percussion Cap Lock Pistols

6] Gun and Pistol Accoutrements

7] Cannons

The book review published in the Persian Heritage journal provides an in-depth analysis of the contents. It is important to note that this book is the first comprehensive academic study of the domain of the history of Iranian firearms.

Short video by Dr. Khorasani regarding his text “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

Dr. Ilkka Syvanne’s Book Review of Kaveh Farrokh, Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians

Dr. Ilkka Syvanne (Helsinki University & University of Haifa) has published a book review of Kaveh Farrokh’s 2017 text, Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians in the Persian Heritage journal. This can be downloaded from Academia.edu (pdf):

Syvanne, I. (2019). Review of Kaveh Farrokh, Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians. Persian Heritage, 93, p.15.

The text of Dr. Syvanne’s review in the Persian Heritage journal has been reprinted below. Readers are also encourage to consult the Review of Sassanian Studies by Dr. Matthew G. Marsh as well as Richard AS. Gabriel’s review (2018) in the Military History journal of Kaveh Farrokh, Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians

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The Armies of Ancient Persia: The Sassanians (Pen & Sword, Barnsley  2017) by Kaveh Farrokh is a very welcome addition to the books dealing with Sasanian Persia.  Dr. Farrokh has divided his monograph into thematically organized chapters which deal with all of the issues relating to the Sasanian armed forces so that he analyses for example the organization, equipment, culture, training, personal combat skills, combat tactics, siege tactics, naval matters,  and military history to provide a complete overview of the Sasanian armed forces throughout its history.

  • Publisher: Pen and Sword (Oct. 17 2017) – Available at Pen & Sword or Amazon.com
  • ISBN-10: 1848848455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848848450
  • Hardcover: 256 pages

In addition to this, it includes useful illustrative examples of battles, sieges, equipment (e.g. in the Plates which also includes re-enactor photos) and maps.

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

Farrokh’s monograph is particularly valuable for its analysis of the military terms, changes is tactics and organization and because it corrects many earlier misunderstandings.  The book relates all of the changes in organization, equipment and tactics throughout the existence of the Empire and provides an overview of the influence of Persian military and its military culture on other peoples and on the posterity.  The actual narrative contents are as follows:

1)     Martial Ardour, Origins and Missions of the Spah.

2)     Organization: Military Titles and Recruitment

3)     Military Reforms of the Sixth Century CE

4)     Military Training, Polo, the Hun, and Military Music

5)     Archery

6)     The Savaran

7)     Infantry, Auxiliary Contingents and Naval Forces

8)     Preparations for War

9)     Tactics and Strategies along the Roman and Caucasian Frontiers

10)  Logistics and Support

11)  Post-Battle Scenarios and Diplomacy

12)  The Spah in Central Asia: Warfare, Military Developments and Tactics

13)  Military Architecture

14)  Siege Operations

15)  Sassanian Military Culture

16)  Military Weaknesses of the Spah

17)  The Fall of the Spah and the Empire

18)  Post-Sassanian Resistance and Rebellion against the Caliphate

19)  Legacy

As a military historian (I am Dr. Ilkka Syvanne) whose areas of specialization include Greek, Roman, late-Roman, East Roman (Byzantine) and Iranian military history, I do obviously have disagreements with some of the interpretations and conclusions adopted by Kaveh Farrokh (obviously we do still agree on most issues).  For example I date the four-fold strategic division of the Iranian Empire to an earlier period on the basis of Ammianus (e.g.  Syvanne, Military History of Late Rome vol.1, p.113), interpret the developments in tactics, equipment and archery differently (e.g.  MHLR Vol.1 p.113ff.; The Age of Hippotoxotai esp. chapter 10.1, Bahram V Gur in Historia i Swiat, two forthcoming books dealing with Iran) and many of the battles and sieges too (e.g. Farrokh p.155ff. vs. Syvanne, MHLR vol. 1 p.211ff., Desperta Ferro/Julian, forthcoming Gallienus, together with the forthcoming vols. of MHLR), but this should only to be expected.  There are no two historians who would agree on everything especially when the evidence is such as we have for this period.  There are many different ways to interpret the evidence and this should always be kept in mind.  It is also for this reason that Kaveh Farrokh’s book is so valuable.  He provides a different perspective and interpretation of many events that give the readers the possibility and also the reason to ponder which of the different interpretations might be the correct one or if there even exist such a possibility.  Despite our best efforts to be impartial and to seek honestly the truth, we historians are still humans with our subjective views and therefore we are all liable to make mistakes and/or interpret the evidence differently.

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).

In sum, Dr. Kaveh Farrokh is an acknowledged expert of Iranian history and for a good reason.  This book proves this once again.  He has been among those historians who have done the most to increase our understanding of Iranian history and culture.  Indeed, the previous two to three decades has witnessed ever increasing interest in all things related to Middle East and this fortunately includes also the ancient pre-Islamic Iran, the study of which is absolutely necessary if we want to understand today’s phenomena in the Middle East, but a lot of work still needs to be done and I am not saying this because I am among those who have contributed to this discussion and have also written a number of books for the Pen &Sword Publishing.  I am saying this because there really is still a lot to be researched and analysed in ancient Iranian history that is absolutely necessary for the understanding of how this great Empire has affected our history and our very existence today.  Kaveh Farrokh’s book is not only a very good addition to this literature and discussion, but it is also a book which demonstrates also to the doubting Thomas’s that it is worthwhile to study Iranian history.  His conclusions demonstrate the importance of understanding the Iranian history.   I wholeheartedly recommend the buying of this book.

Two more textbooks on Sassanian military history published in 2018: The Library of Social Sciences Book Exhibit displayed the following textbooks during the Eleventh Annual ASMEA Conference in November 2018: (Left) A Synopsis of Sassanian Military Organization and Combat Units (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Gholamreza Karamian, 2018) – click here to download in pdf from Academia.edu...  and (Right) The Siege of Amida (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia, 2018) – click here to download in pdf from Academia.edu…

Professor Dariush Borbor’s Works in 1954-2018

Dariush Borbor Compendium of Articles, Presentations and Interviews 1954-2018, Sahab Geographic and Drafting Institute, Tehran, 2018, 728 pp. has just been published in hard cover. The articles are written in several languages, and the subject matter, deals with architecture, Urban Planning and Iranian Studies, including a complete bibliographical reference. Foreword by Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Distinguished Professor of Persian Language, Literature and Culture, University of Maryland MD.

Cover of Textbook Outlining Professor Borbor’s Exhaustive Academic Works since 1954.

distribution by: www.ketabsara.ir

داریوش بوربور مجموعه مقالات، سخنرانی ها و مصاحبه ها 1333-1397، موسسه جغرافیایی و کارتوگرافی سحاب، تهران، 1397، 728 صفحه به چاپ رسیده است. مقالات ارائه شده به چند زبان میباشند و مطالب آنها مربوط به معماری، شهرسازی و ایرانشناسی است. پیشگفتار از احمد کریمی حکاک، استاد ممتاز زبان، ادبیات و فرهنگ فارسی دانشگاه مریلند.

پخش کتاب: www.ketabsara.ir

About the Book

“Everybody knows that culture is a complex, multifarious concept, but few people contemplate all the diverse dimensions of a culture and still fewer produce works – informed opinions, in fact – in almost all the dimensions of a given culture. Dariush Borbor’s Compendium of Articles, Presentations and Interviews makes us aware of the many sides, not only of modern and contemporary Iranian culture, but of the world as he has experienced it.  That multidimensionality is precisely what makes Dariush Borbor’s observations on making cultures, on cultures of making, and on culture in-the-making – all written with a sojourner’s mental agility and clarity, so compelling for us as to think of culture as a whole. Dariush Borbor’s Compendium of Writings encapsulates a life well and fruitfully lived. In that sense, it stands as a monument to one self-made man’s professional accomplishments as well as to the human capacity for inner and outer growth” (Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Los Angeles, October, 2017).

About the Author

Dariush Borbor is a multi-faceted Iranian architect, urban planner, designer, sculptor, painter, researcher, author and Iranologist. At the age of thirteen he went to the United Kingdom for his secondary schooling, after which he obtained his General Certificate of Education from University of Cambridge (1952), a Bachelor of Architecture (1958) and a Master of Civic Design (1959) both from the University of Liverpool. He then went to specialize on architecture of hot dry regions at the University of Geneva (1959).

Professor Dariush Borbor in 2017.

He has an outstanding record as an entrepreneur: in 1963, he created his own office under the name of Borbor Consulting Architects, Engineers, City Planners; in 1976, he set up Sphere Consultants and proposed a comprehensive National Environmental Master plan for Iran; a few months prior to the 1978 Iranian Revolution, he moved to Paris where he founded the Borbor International Management Consultants (BIMC) that offered consultancy services in design, management and documentation to architects and urban planners; six years later, in 1984, he moved to Los Angeles where he was involved in architectural consultancy and research on Iranian and Persianate subjects; in 1992, he created the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS) as a private, independent and non-profit institution dedicated to the promotion of research in the field of Iranian and Persianate studies with special emphasis on novel and creative subjects; in 2009, he initiated the Dariush Borbor Series of Seminars on Iranian Studies, for which distinguished scholars and specialists from outside of Iran have been invited.

Cover of Textbook in Persian, Outlining Professor Borbor’s Exhaustive Academic Works since 1954.

He has won many competitions and received a number of international prizes and awards, including the Gold Mercury International Award from Italy (1976), the Pahlavi Royal Award (1978), and the 50 Outstanding Architects of the World from the Second Belgrade Triennial of World Architecture (1988).

He has been described by famous international critics as one of the most avnt-garde architects of the 20th century and the “father of modern urban planning” in Iran. He has made an enormous contribution to Iranian studies, particularly in history, ethnography and linguistics.

New Book on Persian Firearms by Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani

The book Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran” by Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani has been published. Dr. Khorasani endeavors to share with the world the beauty and the sophistication of historical Persian firearms, and the respect accorded for the skill of the craftsmen who constructed these and decorated them. There is particular focus on the ingenuity of the engineers who designed them, and the bravery of the people who used them in battle.

Book cover of “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“;

Orders for this textbook can be taken at: info@mmkhorasani.com

Like his previous book, Arms and Armour from Iran, the aim of Persian Fire and Steel is to provide the reader with a view of these artifacts not only as instruments of war, but also as objects of art and great beauty.

Sample page from the textPersian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

This book is the result of several years of research and translation by Dr. Khorasani in several collections and archives in different countries. It is his hope that lovers of art, history, and weaponry all find in it something that speaks to them.

With over four hundred pages and hundreds of high quality photographs and illustrations describing over , Persian Fire and Steel represents one of the most comprehensive insights into the world of historical Persian firearms ever written.

Ranging from small arms to artillery, it covers everything on the subject from their manufacture to their deployment in battle as described in contemporary treatises. Many of these texts are included in this book, where they have been translated to English for the first time.

Short video by Dr. Khorasani’s regarding his text “Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran“.

Academic Publishing House (Qoqnoos) Translates Iran at War into Persian

Kaveh Farrokh’s third textbook, Iran at War: 1500-1988 (Osprey Publishing, 2011) has been translated into Persian by one of the most prestigious academic Persian-language publishing houses, known as Qoqnoos Publishers (انتشارات ققنوس). The translation (ایران در جنگ) has been conducted by Maryam Saremi. Qoqnoos has translated into Persian academic textbooks by scholars such as David Nicolle, Josef Wiesehofer, Duncan head, Touraj Atabaki, Nino Piglokevskaya, Sandra Mackey, Touraj Daryaee, Mohammed Dandamaev, Agrar Aliev, Christopher Foster, and Mary Boyce.

Cover pages of Iran at War (1500-1988) (Left) and the 2018 translation “ایران در جنگ” by Maryam Saremi of Qoqnoos publishers (Right). Iran at War is Farrokh’s third textbook on the military history of Iran. The total number of translations of Farrokh’s first three books are now seven (discussed further below). To date (Fall of 2018), Farrokh has published and co-authored eight textbooks on the Military History of Iran (three have been published in 2018).

The publishing of the Persian translation of “ایران در جنگ” (Iran at War) has been announced by major Persian-language news outlets such as:

Cover jacket of Iran at War: 1500-1988. [CLICK TO ENLARGE] A photo taken in 1926 of a military assembly in Tehran. The troops are about to pose for a military review. Note  diverse nature of Iranian troops (Kurds, Azeris, Lurs, Baluchis, Qashqais, Persians), reminiscent of the armies of Iran since antiquity.  Colonel Haji Khan Pirbastami at far left (with hand resting on sword – more on him further below) and unknown officer to the right are members of the Gendarmerie para-military forces.

Farrokh’s original 2011 English language text was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal in 2011 (link now broken but excerpts available here, and announced by the University of British Columbia on Twitter):

Kaveh Farrokh is an expert on Persian languages and Iranian history whose new book, Iran at War: 1500-1988, provides a full examination of modern Iranian military history… His previous title Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War (Osprey, 2007) was named “Best History Book” by the World Academy of Arts Literature and Media in 2008. Dr. Patrick Hunt at Stanford University, said this about it,  ”… a book for all who have ever been curious about the ‘other’ view on Persia, not from the Western standpoint rooted in Greece, but from the traditions of the Persians themselves… Meticulously researched and documented….

Shah Ismail as depicted by a European painter – the painting is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Italy. Note the Latin terms “Rex Persareum” [Monarch of Persia] which makes clear that Shah Ismail was the king of Safavid Persia or Iran. Despite being hopelessly outmatched by the Ottoman armies in manpower and firearms, Ismail stood his ground in Chaldiran on August 23, 1514. Despite their victory, the Ottoman Turks, who had also suffered heavy losses,  failed to conquer Iran.

The Iran-based Library, Museum and Center of Manuscripts (May 20, 2012) (ارایه کتاب «ایران در جنگ: ۱۹۸۸-۱۵۰۰» در کتابخانه مجلس-(۳۱ اردیبهشت ۱۳۹۱ provided a review of the original 2011 English language text (see excerpts below):

فرخ با تحلیل جنگ های مذهبی و غیرمذهبی رخ داده در این مدت به ما نشان می دهد که چگونه ایران از همه طرف (شرق، غرب، جنوب) و در دوره های مختلفی مورد هجوم همسایه هایش قرار گرفته است… تحلیل های فرخ از انقلاب اسلامی و جنگ ایران و عراق، اطلاعاتی در مورد پیشینه نظامی ایران در اختیار ما می گذارد که تا به حال مطرح نشده است.-

“Farrokh has analyzed the religious and non-religious wars and has demonstrated how Iran has been attacked by its neighbors from all sides (east, west and south) over several periods…Farrokh’s analyses of the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war provides us information that has hitherto remained unmentioned…”

A painting of the Battle of Karnal (February 22, 1739) made by Mosavar ol-Mamalek.The battle ended in an overwhelming victory for Nader Shah (see his statue in the inset photo). The Iranians then occupied Delhi and captured India’s royal jewels. Some Indian historians (i.e. Sarkar) have argued that India was severely weakened by Nader Shah; this allowed the British Empire to easily spread its dominance over the entire Indian subcontinent just decades after the battle of Karnal (picture source: R. Tarverdi (Editor) & A. Massoudi (Art editor), The land of Kings, Tehran: Rahnama Publications, 1971, p.228).

The Business Daily Report of Egypt published a review in September 2011 by Robert Terpstra of the original 2011 English language text (see excerpts below):

Documenting nearly five centuries of history is no small feat, and Kaveh Farrokh does it well in Iran at War: 1500–1988. … detailed account of key figures and dates on history’s battlegrounds. What is refreshing, however, is that the book discusses the Islamic Republic of Iran without painstakingly rehashing the Islamic Revolution, which appears in just about every book on the country.
The strongest chapter … dealing with the Iran-Iraq war … not much is known about the Iran-Iraq war. Farrokh helped change that … What is telling, and what the author illustrates as an important part of his research, is the detailing of the territorial boundaries of the state — in 1772 stretching from Ghazni in modern day eastern Afghanistan west to Diyarbakir in modern day Kurdistan or Turkey proper. The empire reached as far north as the North Caucasus as well as encapsulating both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq.Several maps throughout the book illustrate the growth and significant receding landmass of Iran. Presently, more than 200 years after the 18th century Afghan invasions, Iran still presents itself as an imposing state and a necessary inclusion in all conversations in negotiating mention of the volatile Middle East. The book is a must for the progression of modern day and historical Iranian scholasticism. At 480 pages, absorbing the book over time is best — a book that’s content contains such detail demands and deserves it.

Some scenes from the Iran-Iraq war (1980-198): [1] Demoralized Iraqi army tank crew surrenders during the Iranian liberation of Khorranshahr in May 1982 (Picture Source: Military Photos) [2] Ex-Iraqi BMP armored personnel carriers being used by the Iranians against their former owners (Picture Source: Shahed) [3] A captured Iraqi French-made ROLAND low-altitude anti-aircraft missile system at Fao in February 1986 (Picture source: Military Photos) [4] Iranian troops transport captured Iraqi SAM missiles in the aftermath of the expulsion of occupying Iraqi forces from Khuzestan in May-June 1982 (Picture source: Military Photos).

The Small Wars Journal published a review in July 2012 by Youssef Aboul-Enein (Adjunct Islamic Studies Chair at Dwight D.Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy [formerly ICAF]) of the original 2011 English language text (see excerpts below):

As the United States and the international community faces Iran over a variety of contentious issues from the acquisition of militarized nuclear capabilities to support for the Syrian regime, as well as Hizbullah in Lebanon it becomes necessary for members of the United States Armed Forces and our partners to immerse themselves on book about Iran. Dr. Kaveh Farrokh … has published a timely volume immersing readers in five centuries of how Persians have waged and conducted war. The book delves deeply into the history and psychology of warfare and provides a grounding of how Iranians see threats and challenges today.

Modern-day Lur rifleman of the type that formed the backbone of the armies of Karim Khan Zand (1705-1779) (Picture source: courtesy of Mehdi Dehghan). At bottom is an Iranian gun with a British percussion cap mechanism fitted to the barrel from the Zand era (Picture source: Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani (2009), Persian Firearms part Three: The percussion Cap Lock. Classic Arms and Militaria, pp.22-27).

Note that Qoqnoos had already translated into Persian another of Kaveh Farrokh’s books, “Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War” (2007), in 2011 (translator: Maryam Saremi). There are two other translations of “Shadows in the Desert”:

In addition, Kaveh Farrokh’s first book, Elite Sassanian cavalry (2005, Osprey Publishing) has been translated thrice the following:

Undated photo of Colonel Haji Khan Pirbastami before his final mission to fight the Bolsheviks invading northern Iran in c.1926-1927. Haji Khan believed in the concept of fighting alongside the troops he commanded. Fate finally caught up with him as he was engaged in close quarters fighting against the Bolsheviks. As he was locked in hand to hand combat, one of the Bolsheviks shot him at close quarters. Although Haji Khan did survive the battlefield, he had to be bought back from the north to Tehran for medical treatment. Haji Khan reached the capital city but it was already too late: he finally succumbed to his wounds shortly thereafter.