Establishment of a Permanent Exhibition of Sassanian Inscriptions at the Suleimaniyah Museum

The information provided in this article with respect to the establishment of the permanent exhibition of Sassanian inscriptions in Iraq’s Suleimaniyah Museum was first and originally reported in Persian by Shapour Suren-Pahlav in Facebook on June 11, 2019 in the following post: برپایی نمایشگاه دائمی سنگنبشته های پایکولی در موزه سلیمانیه. also thanks Mojtaba Doroodi (in consultation with Soheil Delshad) for his time and efforts and the support of Dr. Mohammad Ala for providing their expertise in the provision of translations and context of the Pahlavi text of the Sassanian inscriptions at Pāikūlī.


Archaeology Dr. Carlo Giovanni Cereti of Sapienza University in Rome, as part of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Iraqi Kurdistan (MAIKI), has set up a permanent exhibition of Sassanian inscriptions from the site of Pāikūlī in Iraq’s Suleimaniyah’s Museum. Dr. Cereti has been the curator and primary organizer of this initiative.

Pāikūlī is actually a stone monument structure much like the monument known today as the Ka’ba-ye Zartosht (Kaaba of Zarathustra) in the site of Nagshe Rustam in southwest Iran’s Fars province. Pāikūlī however lacks the stepped foundations and stairway seen at the Ka’ba-ye Zartosht. The site of Pāikūlī is located in modern-day Iraqi Kurdistan’s Suleimaniyah region, which has been a part of the Iranian realms since antiquity, notably during the Sassanian era. This region was formally separated from Iran in favor of the Ottoman Empire as a result of the Second Treaty of Erzerum signed on May 31, 1847. The region was to be inherited by the newly created nation-state of Iraq after the First World War (1914-1918) in the aftermath of the partition of the Ottoman Empire (c. 1299-1922).

Relief bust of Sassanian King Narseh (r. 293-302 CE)  from the original structure at Pāikūlī (Image Source: Shapour Suren-Pahlav) – see sketches of the original Pāikūlī structure below. 

Sketches of the original Pāikūlī structure (Source: Shapour Suren-Pahlav). Note the image of king Narseh in the walls of the structure.

Inscription in Pahlavi from Pāikūlī (Image Source: Shapour Suren-Pahlav). The above Pāikūlī block appears as D3 in the academic publication by Dr. Helmut Humbach and Dr. Prods O. Skjaervo (The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli: Restored text and Translation. Reichert Verlag, 1983 – discussed further below). Note that five of the above lines are intact with the sixth line damaged.

The inscription above has been coded and translated in context by Mojtaba Doroodi in consultation with Soheil Delshad – five of the lines have been thus examined (the sixth line is too damaged for proper analysis):

The full translation in context of the five lines is provided in New Persian below followed by the English version:

As noted by Dr. Gholamreza Karamian, the inscription examined here was first translated by the late German Iranologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879-1948) (see in Encyclopedia Iranica). Readers are referred to the most recent and most comprehensive translations in English of the Pāikūlī inscriptions made by Dr. Helmut Humbach and Dr. Prods O. Skjaervo:

Humbach, H. & Skjaervo, P.O. (1983). The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli: Restored text and Translation. Reichert Verlag.

The environs of the Pāikūlī site in 2019 (Image Source: Shapour Suren-Pahlav).

Fall 2019 Iranian Studies Initiative Lectures at the University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia’s Persian and Iranian Studies Initiative of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia will be providing a series of lectures by prominent Iranian Studies scholars in the Fall of 2019. All of these lectures will be Free and open to the general public. As seen further below, the lecturers shall be Mahsa Rad, Dominic P. Brookshaw, Shahzad Bashir, Farzan Kermani, Morteza Asadi and Kaveh Farrokh.

The planned lectures and specific dates for these are as follows:

Mahsa Rad, Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran; Visiting International Research Student at UBC: Loneliness and  Struggle: Self-Narratives of Iranian Trans People’s Livesروایت  زندگی ترنس های ایرانی (in Persian)[13 Sept. 2019, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., lecture hall to be announced]

Dominic P. Brookshaw, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Persian Literature at The Oriental Institute, Oxford Semi-Annual Lecture in Persian/Iranian Studies: One Poet Among Many: Hafez and the Transregional Literary Networks of 14th-Century Iran (in English) – [Sept. 27, 2019, lecture hall to be announced]

Shahzad Bashir, Ph.D., Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University: Imagining Time in India: Persian Chroniclers and their Interpreters (in English) – [11 Oct. 2019, 6-7:30 p.m., lecture hall to be announced]

Farzan Kermani, Ph.D. in Design, IIT Bombay: Iranian Art After Islam: With a Look at Some Renowned Iranian Calligraphersهنر ایران پس از اسلام: با نگاهی به سرگذشت چند خوشنویس بلندآوازه – (in Persian) – [25 Oct. 2019, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., lecture hall to be announced]

Morteza Asadi, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar at the School of International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC; former Assistant Professor of Economy at Kharazmi University, Tehran: Political Economy of Oil Curse: The Case of Post-Revolutionary Iran (in English) – [8 Nov. 2019, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., lecture hall to be announced]

Kaveh Farrokh, Ph.D., Professor of History & Academic Advisor for Analytica Iranica, Methodolgica Governance University, Paris, France: Civilizational Contacts between Ancient Iran and Europa during the Classical Era (in English) – [29 Nov. 2019, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., lecture hall to be announced]

Readers further interested in Kaveh Farrokh’s upcoming lecture are encouraged to download two of his peer-reviewed articles as well as the Dissertation of Sheda Vasseqhi below:

Farrokh, K. (2016). An Overview of the Artistic, Architectural, Engineering and Culinary exchanges between Ancient Iran and the Greco-Roman World. AGON: Rivista Internazionale di Studi Culturali, Linguistici e Letterari, No.7, pp.64-124.

Farrokh, K. (2009). The Winged Lion of Meskheti: a pre- or post-Islamic Iranian Legacy in Georgia? Scientific Paradigms. Studies in Honour of Professor Natela Vachnadze. St. Andrew the First-Called Georgian University of the Patriarchy of Georgia. Tbilisi, pp. 455-492.

PhD Dissertation by Sheda Vasseqhi (University of New England; academic supervision team Academic advising Team: Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi, Kaveh Farrokh): Positioning Of Iran And Iranians In  the Origins Of Western Civilization.

See also:

A detail of the painting “School of Athens” by Raphael 1509 CE (Source: Zoroastrian Astrology Blogspot). Raphael has provided his artistic impression of Zoroaster (with beard-holding a celestial sphere) conversing with Ptolemy (c. 90-168 CE) (with his back to viewer) and holding a sphere of the earth. Note that contrary to Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm, the “East” represented by Zoroaster, is in dialogue with the “West”, represented by Ptolemy.  Prior to the rise of Eurocentricism in the 19th century (especially after the 1850s), ancient Persia was viewed positively by the Europeans.

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 (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


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
  • 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  and (Right) The Siege of Amida (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia, 2018) – click here to download in pdf from…

Cataphract Camels

The article “Cataphract camels” was originally published by the Weapons and Warfare: History and Hardware of Warfare outlet. The version printed below has been edited. Kindly note that two of the images and all accompanying captions do not appear in the original version of the article by Weapons and Warfare.

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The Parthians and early Sassanian Persians also made use of camel units; even experimented with cataphract camels. The early Sassanids have these armoured camels. That may mean they fought, it may only be an experiment to put off Roman javelin Light Cavalry who were deadly to cataphracts whose rear fighting factor was very poor. Contra Armati where cataphracts fight well to the rear, in reality surround them and they are dead meat because the armour blinds them. The Parthian and early Sassanid army was at times additionally supported by camel-borne troops. The animal could bear the weight of the warrior and his armour better and endure harshness longer than the horse; also, the archer could discharge his arrows from an elevated position. These would have made the division very desirable had it not been greatly hampered by Roman caltrop (tribulus) which, scattered on the battlefield, injured the spongy feet of the animal.

A curious creature in appearance, the Cataphract Camel is nevertheless an extremely formidable opponent. They are extremely heavy, and well-armed; in addition, the smell of camel tends to frighten horses. Carrying spears and maces like ordinary horse cataphracts, these units are equally unstoppable against both infantry and cavalry. Their enemies would be wise to treat them with respect.

A Chinese Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 CE) terracotta sculpture housed at the Musée Cernuschi in Paris, France (Photo: Guillaume Jacquet in Public Domain). This sculpture is depicting a “Western foreigner” camel driver, possibly a Soghdian.

Nations in the Middle East occasionally fielded cataphracts mounted on camels rather than on horses, with obvious benefits for use in arid regions, as well as the fact that the smell of the camels, if up wind, was a guaranteed way of panicking enemy cavalry units that they came into contact with. Balanced against this is the relatively greater vulnerability of camel mounted units to caltrops, due to their having soft padded soles to their feet rather than hooves.

Cataphract camels are well armoured – camel and rider both – shock cavalry. Their primary purpose is to charge into the enemy, using weight and speed to cause additional disruption. The riders carry lances for the initial charge and long maces to continue fighting once in hand-to-hand combat. Recruited from among desert dwelling peoples these soldiers rely on their heavy armour for protection, and their camels are equally well protected. This heavy armour also means that, while they are slow to get moving, they are almost unstoppable in a full charge. They can be used against infantry like any other cataphracts, but their chief virtue is that the smell of the camels upsets horses, giving them an edge when fighting against cavalry.

A diagram by Dr. Ilkka Syvanne of a Parthian camel cataphract (Source: Syvanne, I. (2017). Parthian Cataphract vs. the Roman Army 53 BC-AD 224. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, no. 6, pp.33-54).

Our source is a little early history written by the Roman senator Herodian. He wrote a history that starts with the death of Marcus Aurelius, covers the reign of the demented, tyrannical Commodus, his assassination, the subsequent civil wars, the rise and rule of Septimius Severus and the brief and blood-thirsty reigns of his various relatives, culminating in the rise and brutal fall of the demented teenage trans-sexual god-emperor Elagabalus. Something for everyone here, and a brief stage appearance by Parthian cataphract camels can only have added to this unedifying if colorful pageant. Anyway, Herodian IV.14.3 – the battle of Nisibis, AD 217:

“Meanwhile Artabanus was upon them with his vast and powerful army composed of many cavalry and an enormous number of archers and cataphracts who fought on camels, jabbing with long spears.” (Loeb translation)

To reinforce the point, the Loeb translation of Herodian, IV.14.3 has:

Meanwhile Artabanus was upon them with his vast and powerful army composed of many cavalry and an enormous number of archers and armoured riders (kataphraktous), who fought from the backs of camels with long spears, avoiding close combat.

There is no direct evidence for the Parthians using armoured camels. However, Herodian’s use of the word kataphraktous creates a problem. I have argued elsewhere that the word cataphracti and its Greek equivalent denotes heavily armoured men on armoured horses, the type that later became known in the Roman army as clibanarii. If this is correct, Herodian’s use of kataphraktous implies, by analogy, that the camels might be similarly armoured. In a later passage, he speaks of horses and camels in the same terms (Herod. IV.15.2 – again in the Loeb translation):

The barbarians caused heavy casualties with their rain of arrows and with the long spears of the heavily-armed knights (kataphractōn) on horses and camels, as they wounded the Romans with downward thrusts.

Further, it is well known that cataphracti were particularly vulnerable when unhorsed and I have suggested that, consequently, their horses would also have been heavily armoured. Herodian comments that the Parthian horse and camel riders were disadvantaged when on foot (Herod. IV.15.3). It is true that the reasons that he gives are different from that usually advanced, that unhorsed cataphracti were encumbered by the weight and unwieldiness of their armour. Nevertheless, the point remains the same: the Parthian armoured riders should, so far as possible, be protected from becoming dismounted in battle.

A Parthian camel cataphract closing in on the Roman lines with his long lance (Source: Weapons and Warfare).

All this suggests that the contention that the Parthians fielded armoured camels at the battle of Nisibis may not be as far-fetched as might appear at first sight. That said, the experiment (if such it was) seems to have been short-lived. There is nothing after Herodian to indicate the later use of such forces by either the Parthians or the Sassanids.

There is, however, a further complication. A document on papyrus dated January 300, refers to two cataphractarii serving in ala II Herculia Dromedariorum (P. Beatty Panop. 2, 28. See Skeat 1964). It also mentions, however, at least two common soldiers (mouniphikas) in the same ala. Where then do the cataphractarii fit in? It has been suggested that cataphractarius is a rank, replacing the earlier duplicarius and sesquiplicarius (Zuckermann 1994), but it is possible that cataphractarii constituted an elite body within the ala, providing a shock force and adding to its versatility. Another document could support both views (CPR V 13 + P. Rainer Cent. 165. See Rea 1984). It comprises three letters recording stages in the career of one Sarapion. The first, dated 17th April 395, authorises his admission to the schola catafractariorum in an unnamed unit based at Psoftis in Egypt; the second, dated 396, records his promotion to decurio; the third, dated 401, records his discharge on medical grounds. The second of these also mentions the advancement of one Apion from eques to cataphractarius. The same word is used for both Sarapion’s promotion and Apion’s advancement, prov(ectus). In the third letter, Sarapion and others discharged at the same time are placed in three categories: dec(uriones), catafrac(tarii), eq(uites). Nevertheless, the presence in the Notitia Dignitatum of entire units of cataphractarii leads me to favour the second view.

If I am right, what was the model for the cataphractarii in ala II Herculia Dromedariorum? I have argued that normal cataphractarii were well-armoured, though less heavily than clibanarii, and rode unarmoured horses. These men could, therefore, have been equipped in a similar manner but riding unarmoured camels. Alternatively, despite the apparent lack of continuity, they could have been based upon the Parthian camel riders encountered at Nisibis, which would imply that the Parthian camels were also unarmoured. This raises the question of nomenclature – Herodian refers to cataphracti, not cataphractarii – but this is explicable. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the evidence suggests that cataphractarius is a technical term applicable only to troops in the Roman army. If so, it would have been inappropriate for Herodian to have applied it to non-Roman troops. It is also quite possible that the term had not even been coined at the time that he was writing. Either way, he was obliged to use an available expression nearest to what he was seeking to describe, well-armoured cavalrymen, albeit riding camels, and that expression was the Greek equivalent of cataphracti. Of these alternatives, I favour the first.

Where then does that leave the question of whether the camels fielded by the Parthians at Nisibis were armoured or not? The evidence, in my opinion, is equivocal. As is so often the case, certainty is elusive and there is, therefore, room for alternative interpretations.


Rea 1984 – J.R. Rea, ‘A Cavalryman’s Career, A.D.384(?)-401’, ZPE 56 (1984), 79-88

Skeat 1964 – T.C. Skeat (ed.), Papyri from Panopolis in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Dublin 1964

Zuckerman 1994 – C. Zuckerman, ‘Le Camp Sosteos et les Catafractarii’, ZPE 100 (1994), 199-202

Critical Examination of Filiz Çakır Phillip’s Assertions of Iranian Weapons (15th-19th Centuries)

The below article by Dr. Manoucher M. Khorasani was published in the Journal of Islamic Archaeology, Volume 4 (No.2), pp.261-266, 2017. The article provides a critical examination of Filiz Çakır Phillip’s assertions with respect to Iranian striking and thrusting weapons of the 15th to 19th centuries.


Iranische Hieb-, Stich- und Schutzwaffen des 15.–19. Jahrhunderts (Iranian striking and thrusting weapons and armor from the 15th–19th centuries) by Filiz Çakır Phillip. De Gruyter, 2016. 382pp. Hb. $140.00, ISBN-13: 978-3110318135.

Reviewed by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, M.Khorasani Consulting,

This book attempts to describe Iranian arms and armor from the 15–19th centuries by concentrating on a few collections of historical weapons from museums and private collections outside Iran. This is an odd approach since it neglects the royal collection of Iranian arms and armor, formerly the collection of Nassereldin Shah Qajar, now on display on three Iranian museums in Tehran, Shiraz and Bandar Anzali. Instead Çakır Phillip looks at a limited selection of arms and armor in the inventories of the following collections: a) Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin mostly based on private collec-tion of Friedrich Sarre (ca. 40 items); b) Deutsches Historisches Museum (Zeughaus), Berlin, and c) the Ottoman arsenal and the collections of Topkapi Sarayi Müzesi and Askeri Müze in Istanbul. Çakır Phillip opines that the collections of the two Turkish museums are among the world’s oldest and richest collections of Islamic weapons. She states that the Ottoman main arsenal stems from the 15th century and can be documented by historical documents. Another part of the collection comprises historical weapons which were obtained as war booty, among them there are Arabic, Mamluk, Iranian and Turkmen pieces. The book attempts to describe how Iranian weapons were constructed and worked. However, due to a lack of knowledge about the means of their production, some explanations are not accurate. Referring to Sasanid helmets, Çakır Phillip states that spangenhelm left the face of the wearer bare. Although some Sassanid helmets did leave the face exposed, there are also Sassanid helmets of spangenhelm construction with a face mask made of mail as also there are examples with an iron face mask.

Viking Helmet (Right; Picture Source: English Monarchs) and reconstruction of earlier Sassanian helmet at Taghe Bostan, Kermanshah, Iran (Left; Picture Source: Close up of Angus Mcbride painting of Sassanian knight at Taghe Bostan, Wilcox, P. (1999). Rome’s Enemies: Parthians and Sasanid Persians. Osprey Publishing, p.47, Plate H1).

The author states that she did not take shields into consideration since they were only used defensively. However, Persian shields were used both defensively and offensively as in most systems of sword and shield combinations, where the shield is used both as an offensive and defensive weapon. In explaining the so-called Turban helmet or Turkmen helmet, Çakır Phillip claims that after the Mongol invasion and rule, weapons and armor were developed to have a higher functionality. This is a bold statement as weapons in the region before the Mongol invasion were already highly developed and there is no evidence that such an invasion led to a higher functionality, nor does Çakır Phillip provide any for her statement.

Although the term kolāhxud (Phillip’s spelling kulah khud) is a general term in Persian, Çakır Phillip uses the term to refer to a specific type of Persian helmet made with a round dome, a nasal and aventail of mail. She contrasts this to the shape of a turban helmet. An analysis of Persian manuscripts would have shown the author that the term kolāhkhud was not only used in the Qajar-period manuscripts such as Rostam al Tavārix justifying the use of the term for late Safavid period as a successor of the turban helmet, but it had been already in use in much earlier periods. Regarding the mail aventail of the kolāhxud, Çakır Phillip assumes that the mail rings are riveted and small “aus kleinen genieteten Stahlringen” and adds that the more complex one, the rings have “einen zusätzlichen Mittelsteg in jedem einzelnen Ring”, possibly she means that the rings are “theta-shaped (θ)” which is the technical term for this type of rings. Surprisingly, she claims that the poor aventails are of machine made wire and are products of the 20th century, possibly referring to butted mail. However, it should be noted that butted mail rings do not necessarily imply that a) they are from the 20th century as there are many dated and documented mail armors with butted rings dating from much earlier periods and b) butted mail rings do not mean necessarily that the armor was a show item. Japanese armor has arm protectors which were made of butted rings, which had been hardened to increase their strength.

Regarding feather holders, jā pari, Çakır Phillip states that the number feather holders on Iranian kolāhxud vary between two and three, of which she claims the variation with three feather holders is a fashion of the 18th century without providing any references. She also claims that the use of peacock feathers on the helmet is an Indian influence, since the Rajputs adored peacocks, ignoring that peacocks had always played an important role in Persian culture as well.

In the case of body armor, Çakır Phillip claims that the Central Asian warriors used two types of armor: “soft” armor and “hard” armor and adds that the soft armor was made of leather, raw silk and hemp whereas the hard armor was made of iron plates and mail armor. She also opines that using the combination of both, one could create scale and lamellar armor as well as brigandine. However, this explanation is very misleading. Calling leather armor soft is absolutely wrong. Lamellar or even laminar armor made of leather were multi-layered and hardened, fully capable of absorbing the shock of enemy’s weapons and even arrow shots. She also wrongly assumes that the term jošan (ğūšan) defines “plate and mail armor”. However, mail armor in Persian is called zereh. She simply quotes Zeller and Rohrer on this and says that mail armor is called ğūšan in Persian and zirh and sābiġa in Arabic. Cursory research in Persian manuscripts would have been enough to see this is a wrong assumption. The term zereh is already mentioned as early as the Šāhnāme and a number of other Persian manuscripts to refer to mail armor such as Tārix-e Beihaqi, ĀlamĀrāyeŠāh Tahmāsp, etc. Actually the origins of the term zereh go back to the Middle Persian term zrēh or zarēh see Kārnāme-ye Ardešir Bābakān.

Persian mail armor dated to 1816-1817, housed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number: 36.25.57; Source: “greyloch” in Public Domain).

Çakır Phillip states that there were also mail armors made of solid rings and riveted rings put together alternately. She suggests that the solid rings were there to strengthen the mail armor against the thrusts of the enemy’s weapon. However, the major reason for alternating rows of solid with riveted rings was to make the production of mail easier and faster. Further, she repeats a misconception that mail armor was only designed to protect against cuts and a thrusting weapon could have separated the riveted rings. However, recent trials on mail armor with riveted rings worn over multi-layered gambeson show that piercing even a stationery target wearing such a combination is not easy, even less so against a moving target. Breaking a riveted ring using a weapon is difficult. This misconception about mail armor was prevalent among some early researchers. She also states that there were different types of mail armor, but the majority of them were worn over the head. However, the majority of Iranian mail armor had an opening in front which was held closed with hooks or buckles.

Further in her classification of Persian armor, Çakır Phillip identifies lamellar armor “Lamellenpanzer” and claims that it was also known as ğūšan (jošan). This is an incorrect statement as I have shown above (see zereh). Regarding jošan, she states that the lamellar armor was made of different lamellar plates made of leather, horn or metal, directly connected to each other and she claims that making lamellar armor was cheaper than the mail armor. This statement is not backed up and we know today through experimentation that making good lamellar armor is just as time-consuming and expensive as making mail armor. Çakır Phillip states that during the Il-Khanid period, lamellar armor was the standard armor. However, during that period lami-nated banded armor was more widespread than lamellar armor. We should note that the term jošan can be found in many Persian manuscripts. However, different Persian manuscripts provide different explanations for this type of armor and it is not clear what kind of armor the term jošan actually describes. According to the Digital Lexicon of Dehkhoda, jŏšan is a type of mail-and-plate armor and is similar to tanure since both are made from mail and iron plates; however, the iron plates (qeibe) of a jŏšan are smaller than those used in the tanure.

Illustration by Trent Fehr of how lamellar armor is laced together (Source: Public Domain).

In her next classification of armor, Çakır Phillip puts three types of armor in one category “Schuppenpanzer, Lamellenpanzer und Brigantine” (scale armor, lamellar armor and brigandine).. She defines scale armor as made of different plates sewn to a leather or fabric shirt vertically. She describes this type of armor as bagtar. Pos-sibly she made a mistake in mentioning lamellar armor in this category again as she does not specify it here. Instead, she describes brigandine as kažāġand and says that it was mentioned by al-Tarsūsi. Surprisingly, although Çakır Phillip provides the explanation by Usamah Ibn-Munquidh on the nature of kažāġand (who describes it as a mail shirt with integral padding and an exterior cover). Nicolle rightly explains that jazerant or jazrain stems from the Persian word kazaqand and means a mail shirt (haubergeon) with integral padding plus a fabric-covered exterior. Although, the Dig-ital Lexicon of Dehkhoda explains qazāgand as a padding worn under the armor, this explanation cannot be right and as qazāgand is armor in its own right. It consists of mail armor sandwiched between two layers of light padding. Usamah Ibn-Munquidh describes a particularly heavy version made with two layers of mail. In Europe, this armor was called a jazerant and Blair suggested that the word is a derivative of qazāgand. In the Farhang-e Nafisi, Nafisi provides two meanings for qazāgand: a) a cloth that is filled with wool and silk and worn in the battle and b) a type of mail armor. In contrast to the explanation of Çakır Phillip, qazāgand cannot be compared to a European brigandine, which is a body armor made of a fabric garment, which is generally canvas or leather, lined with small oblong steel plates riveted to inside.

Çakır Phillip distinguishes another type of armor which she describes as “mail armor combined with plate armor” (Kettenpanzer mit Plattenpanzer kombiniert). She differentiates between two types: a) The first type comprises rectangular plates protecting the belly, sides and back leaving the shoulders to be protected by mail armor. She says that this type can be described as either jŏšan (ğūšan) or zirh-i čūgāl but rejects the use of both terms as she says that they are general terms. She stresses that in Turkish čūgāl is a general term signifying any type of armor be it mail armor or plate armor for humans or animals, but fails to realize that jŏšan actually is used to describe this type of armor in Persian manuscripts. Çakır Phillip describes the second type as a type of armor which has two round plates one in front and one in the back combined with mail and other plates. Possibly she is referring to the Ottoman krug armor.

The next armor type identified by Çakır Phillip is čāhrāyne (čahārāyina). She rightly identifies different parts of a čāhrāyne as the front plate “sineband “ (sīnaband), the back plate “poštband “ (puštband) and the side plates “baqalband “ (baġalband).

In the chapter on cut and thrust weapons (Hieb- und Stichwaffen), Çakır Phillip claims that swords and sabers remained the most important weapons until the introduction of firearms due to their cutting and thrusting capabilities. However, in Persian armies similar to other armies, bows, lances and spears played the primary role and swords played a secondary role. This was due to different factors: a) spears and lances and of course bows had a wider range, b) it was easier to teach inexperienced troops how to wield a spear rather than a sword and c) it was cheaper to produce a spears compared to forging a sword. Further, Çakır Phillip claims that akenakes was the sword of Persian, however, its shape is not clear. This is not correct as much research has been done on the Persian and Median akenakes. Surprisingly, Çakır Phillip claims that Latin translations from Medieval era associate the term with simiterra (scimitar) and adds that in the 3th century the straight sword of the Greeks found its way among the Sassanids! This is incorrect as the predecessors of Sassanids, the Parthians, already used double-edged long straight swords and Achaemenid short sword akenakes was also a short straight sword.

Late Sassanian sword (Farrokh 2004; reprinted Hughes 2010, p.51). Entire sword from front [1] and back [2]; sword handle at front [3] and back [4]; sword mount at front [5] and back [6].

Regarding different types of Oriental sabers, Çakır Phillip distinguishes between three types: the Ottoman kılıç , Persian šamšr and Indian talwar. Two questions arise here: a) First, why does Çakır Phillip mention kiliç and talwar in a book dedicated to the study of Iranian arms and armor? and b) she still wrongly believes that Persian šamšr denotes a classical type of Persian saber with a high curve and wedged-cross-sectioned blade known in the West under this term. This, however, was a Western misconception widespread among collectors of arms and armor for several years. Unfortunately, Çakır Phillip repeats the same misconception in 2016. Prior to the Arab Conquest of Iran and the introduction of Islam in 631 A.D., all swords used in Iran were straight-bladed. This indicates that the preceding Persian dynasties, the Achaemenians, Parthians, and Sassanians all used swords with straight blades. Although the term šamšir was used in English and other European languages to refer to the classical Persian šamšir with its high degree of curvature, it refers to any type of sword, regardless of its shape, in the Persian language. The origin of this term can be seen in the Middle Persian Pahlavi, in which it was called šamšēr, šafšēr and šufšēr.

Further, Çakır Phillip assumes that the highly curved šamšir was used as a symbol of ruler’s legitimacy. She claims that this type of saber replaced all other types of early sabers and swords and that there was a revival of using earlier forms only in the 19th century. However, straight swords had always been produced next to the highly curved swords so it was not a revival. She assumes the Indian talwar had a ricasso contrary to Iranian šamšir and that only Indian talwars were also decorated with chiseling and enameling next to gold-inlaying and -overlaying. However, there are Indian talwar blades without a ricasso and there are Iranian šamšir decorated with chiseling and even enamelling. Suprisingly, Çakır Phillip claims that the late renditions of zulfiqar were completely useless in fighting. This is an unsupportable generalization, when applied to all blades of this type. There are examples made of very sharp crucible steel blades, which cut very well.

A 19th century curved sword from Iran (Source: M. Khorasani Consulting). It was acquired in 1931 and was formerly held in the collection of Count Sergey Sheremekev’s collection.

The present work was published in 2016 but it does not take into consideration that by 2010, many Persian manuscripts on crucible steel production and sword classification were introduced and analyzed in the books Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran: A Study of Symbols and Terminology and the very fact that the book was a doctorate thesis submitted to the Department of Humantities and Culture (Fachbereich Geschichts und Kulturwissenschaften) of the Freien Universität Berlin in 2011, it is not clear why the author decided to rely this part of her thesis solely on older publications which are prevalent in many collectors’ books on historical arms and armor.

In the abovementioned book, the following Persian manuscripts on steel production and sword classification are mentioned: Nŏruznāme [The Book of Nŏruz] attributed to Omar ibn Ebrāhim Khayyām-e Neyšāburi, Javāhernāme-ye Nezāmi [Nezāmi’s Book of Precious Stones] by Mohammad ibn Abi al-Barakāt Jŏhari Nezāmi, Bayān al-Sanā’āt[Description of Crafts] by Hobeyš ibn Ebrāhim ibn Mohammad Taflisi, Ādāb al-Harb va al-Šojā-e [Customs of War and Bravery] by Mohammad ibn Mansur ibn Said Mobārak Šāh Fakhr-e Modabbar, Tansukhnāme [The Book of Minerals] by Khāje Nasireldin Tusi, Arāyes al-Javāher by Abolqāsem Kāši, Gŏharnāme [The Book of Jewels] written by Mohammad ibn Mansur, and Ta’id Besārat [Aid to Sight] by Mirzā Lotfallāh. Instead of mentioning the Persian manuscripts on steel production and sword classification, Çakır Phillip relies entirely on two early manuscripts on steel production and swords written in Arabic, one by the Arab scholar al-Kindi, On Swords and their Kinds, and the other written by the Iranian scholar Abu Reihān Beiruni titled Al-Jamāhir fi Marefat al-Jawāher [The Sum of Knowledge about Precious Stones].

Çakır Phillip spells pulād-e gohardār as pūlād-i ğūhārdār or fūlād-i ğūhārdār and pro-vides the translation “glänzender, wohltemperierter Stahl” (shining, well tempered steel). However, the real spelling in Persian is gohar and not ğūhār. The true transla-tion of is “bejeweled steel” as gohar means “jewel” in Persian and in figurative sense it can be translated as “watered steel”. She claims that for the production of crucible steel in Iran, wootz steel from Sri Lanka was imported. However, there are accounts that Iranian smiths bought crucible steel cakes and bars imported from India (see Biswas and Floor), local steel, Khorasan damask and Qazwin damask, was also made and brought to Isfahan. Recently, archaeological evidence on the existence of cru-cible steel production in Iran has also been found (see Emami and Karamad).

Relying solely on western publications, Çakır Phillip distinguishes between the following patterns of Persian crucible steel: striped damask (sham), water damask, wavy damask, network damask (divided in two types of karakhorasan and karatābān) and ladder damask. A cursory study of Persian texts of the Qajar period would have revealed to the author the real spelling of some of these terms: Çakır Phillip spells “black Khorasan” pattern as karakhorasani actually qaraxorāsāni; “black taban” as karatābān actually either taban or qarataban. Later she has the “ladder pattern” as kirkmerdiven instead of qerq nardebān. Further research in Iranian manuscripts on crucible steel production would have revealed that they describe a variety of cru-cible steel patterns (e.g. the Nŏruznāme [Book of Nowruz] which differentiates the following patterns: kalāqi, crow-like; gŏhar-e hamvār, even pattern; etc.).

The merit of the book is that it emphasizes the importance of Persian culture and its influence on other neighboring cultures. In this respect, Çakır Phillip explains that the Abbasid scholars derived new impulses from the Sassanid culture as the Iranian legacy was especially strong in Baghdad.