Fezana Journal article on Ancient Iranian Women

The Fezana Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the ancient women of Iran:

Farrokh, K. (2014). Gender Equality in Ancient Iran (Persia). Fezana Journal (Publication of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America), Vol. 28, No.1, March/Spring, pp. 105-107.

female-scythian-warriorA reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. What is also notable is the costume of the Iranian female warrior – this type of dress continues to appear in parts of Luristan in Western Iran. 

As noted in the beginning of the article: “One topic that has received little attention in academia is ancient Iranian warrior women. There are in fact numerous references to ancient Iranian female warriors, from classical sources to post-Islamic Iranian literature.”

Amazon-3-AchaemenidsA reconstruction of a female Achaemenid cavalry unit by Shapur Suren-Pahlav.

It is further averred in the article that: “The rights of women in Achaemenid Persia were remarkably “modern” by today’s standards: women worked in many “male” professions (e.g. carpentry, masonry, treasury clerks, artisans, winery working), enjoyed payment equity with men, attained high-level management positions supervising male and female teams, owned and controlled property, were eligible for “maternity leave,” and received equitable treatment relative to men in inheritance“.

Gun-totting Iranian women-MalayerIranian women from Malayer (near Hamedan in the northwest) engaged in target practice in the Malayer city limits in the late 1950s.  The association between weapons and women is nothing new in Iran; Roman references for example note of Iranian women armed as regular troops in the armies of the Sassanians (224-651 AD).

The legacy of the status of the women of Iran is emphasized in the article as thus: “To this day, women in Iran’s tribal regions continue to be seen wielding their weapons“.

Amazon-7-FereydanshahrIranian tribal woman in shooting competition on horseback at the 2011 Fereydanshahr Olympiad in Iran.

The Viking Ulfberht Sword and Persian Steel

Western scholarship has been uncovering a number of links between the Vikings and Persia, as noted in a previous posting on Viking traders and Persian silk.

Readers are also invited to partake in the following upcoming event at the British Museum regarding the Vikings and their legacy:

The Vikings are coming… British Museum launches The BP Exhibition Vikings: life and legend (6 March – 22 June 2014
 Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery)


Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist of the University of Stockholm has provided a very intriguing interview with the 2012 documentary television Nova program entitled “Secrets of the Viking Sword.

Ulfbehrt-Rebuilt-Original

The Viking Ulfbehrt Sword: (Top) Contemporary reconstruction of the Ulfbehrt (Picture Source: Reliks.com) (Bottom) an original sample of the weapon from the 9th century – note the “Ulfbehrt” inlay within the blade (Picture Source: Public Domain). A new generation of Western scholars have traced the metallurgical engineering of this venerable Scandinavian weapon to the east, outside of Europe.

fredrik charpentier-SUThe section of interest in the Nova program is where Professor Ljungqvist (photo at left – Source: Stockholm University) states of the Volga trade route between Lake Malaren to Northern Iran where:

“…it is very likely that the steel that you find in the Ulfberht swords originated from Iran…I would guess that they bought it [Persian steel] from friendly trading connections in Iran paid with furs and other Nordic commodities and took it back on the small ships that they used on the rivers

 

 

Video clip of the PBS Nova program section outlining the Viking-Iranian connection.

In summary, as noted by Professor Ljungqvist, the Vikings sailed from Lake Malaren in Sweden to the Volga River and from there into the Caspian Sea southwards towards the ports of northern Persia.

Volga Trade Route-1Map of the Viking Volga Trade Route (Picture Source: PBS-Nova Program). The Ulfberht sword is dated to the time when the Volga Trade Route was operational, between the early 800s to mid-1000s. In practice, the Vikings had several trade routes in addition to the Volga.

Despite the fall of the Sassanian Empire (224-651 CE) to the Arabo-Muslim invasion in 637-651 CE, many facets of the ancient Sassanian Spah (military) continued to endure in northern Persia. The Caliphate had great difficulties subduing Iran’s mountainous and forested north, where local military commanders were often designated with Sassanian military titles. Northern Iran’s metallurgical and weapons building technology continued unabated after the fall of the Sassanians, a factor which benefited Viking traders sailing along the Volga trade route.

osebergThe Oseberg longship at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo (Picture source: Heritage Trust). Viking ships like these sailed to northern Persia in search of trade.

However, the Vikings were already aware of Sassanian military technology, long before the advent of the Ulfbehrt sword. As noted by Peter Wilcox:

The resemblance between this [Sassanian] helmet…from the fully armored king carved into the rock at Taq-i-Bostan [Taghe Bostan] near Kermanshah and those recovered from the Scandinavian graves at Vendel and Valsgarde in Sweden is remarkable ” [Wilcox, P. (1999). Rome’s Enemies: Parthians and Sasanid Persians. Osprey Publishing, p.47, Plate H1].

This raises questions as to whether this technology was transmitted by other Turkic or Iranian peoples in ancient Eastern Europe sharing the same military tradition as the Sassanians, or through trade. The transfer of Iranian and Hun-Turkic weapons technology to the European realms is a fascinating domain, one currently under investigation by numbers of Western scholars.

 2-Sassanian and viking Helmets

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 sword building technology was certainly not confined to northern Iran only: Central Asia, with its deep-rooted Turco-Iranian or Persianate civilization was also home to advanced metallurgy and sword building as seen in another portion of the   2012 documentary television Nova program entitled “Secrets of the Viking Sword.

Gilan_Talesh_Sheep_Iranian_Music_Flute [Click to Enlarge] Images of North Iran: [Left] an elderly Talysh man plays his flute in the forests of Gilan; [Right] Massouleh region in Gilan (Picture Source: Fouman.com). Evidently the Scandinavians and Northern Iranians have had cordial cultural relations since at least Sassanian times, but this topic has received scant academic attention. 

Studies have yet to be conducted on the relations between the northern Iranians and the Vikings, but it is clear that the interactions were constructive and cordial at the very least. In a sense, the geography of northern Iran would not have appeared all that different from Europe, as Iran is a highly diverse country with respect to geography, linguistic diversity, etc.

Historical Novels by Gordon Doherty

Gordon Doherty is a Scottish writer, who describes himself as being addicted to reading and writing historical fiction, a task for which he is certainly highly accomplished.

mugshotHistorical writer Gordon Doherty

Gordon Doherty’s most recent book “Legionary: land of the Sacred Fire” is of keen interest to readers of Sassanian Military history as it deals with the Romano-Byzantine’s Eastern frontier with the Sassanian Empire.

Legionary_Land of the Sacred Fire_pb [Click to Enlarge] Gordon Doherty (2013). Land of the Sacred Fire. Available through Amazon.

The book is set in 377 CE, just as Emperor Valens has stripped the Sassanian-Persian frontier of its legions, sending every available man to Thracia in an effort to contain the rampaging Gothic hordes. This allows the Sassanian leadership in Ctesiphon to cast their gaze upon Rome’s trade-rich but (now) weakly-defended  desert provinces. Shapur II (309-379 CE), Shahanshah (King of Kings) of the Sassanid Empire and his many client Shahan (kings) have long challenged Rome’s eastern holdings as theirs by ancestral right, and those lands have never been more vulnerable to a powerful Sassanian military strike. Thus, Valens must grasp at the slimmest of hopes that a Sassanian invasion can be staved off, not by the brute force of absent legions, but by the tenacity of a hardy few.

Julian's failed invasion of Persia in 363 AD[CLICK TO ENLARGE]- Emperor Julian is killed during his failed invasion of Sassanian Persia in June 26, 363 AD. Above is a recreation of  Sassanian Persia’s elite cavalry, the Savaran, as they would have appeared during Julian’s failed invasion.  Note the heavily armored Sassanian elite guardsman (Pushtighban) whose lance has pierced a Roman infantryman. Further right is a Savaran officer whose sword is drawn in what is now known as the “Italian grip” but Sassanian in origin. To the far right can be seen a Zoroastrian or Mithraist Magus brandishing a Sassanian era symbol. Also of interest are the armored elephants in the background. Armored elephants featured elevated cabs over the battlefield, allowing for more effective Sassanian archery (Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, -اسواران ساسانی- Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).

When Optio Numerius Vitellius Pavo and a select group of the XI Claudia are summoned to the Persian front, they leave Thracia behind, knowing little of what awaits them. They know only that they are to march into a land of strange gods. They whisper tales of the mighty Persian Savaran cavalry and pray to Mithras they will see their homes and families again. All too soon it becomes clear to them that this is no ordinary mission – indeed, the very fate of the empire might rest upon their efforts. But for Pavo the burden is weightier still, for he knows that the east also holds something even more precious to him . . . the truth about his father.

Gordon’s love of history was piqued during spells living and working close to both Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall, sites of rich history winding back through thousands of years. The later Roman Empire and Byzantium hold a particular fascination for Gordon.

Gordon’s Legionary series is set in the Eastern Roman Empire circa 376 AD and follows the adventures of the border legions as the empire begins to waver under the relentless crush of the empire’s enemies, namely the formidable armies of the Sassanians from the east and the menacing Germanic warriors to the north.

Gordon’s Strategos trilogy is set around the build up to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 AD and follows the dark and troubled life of a Byzantine general in a land riven with bloodshed and doubt.

Strategos-Rise of the Golden Heart-6by9n[Click to Enlarge] Gordon Doherty (2013). Strategos: Rise of the Golden Heart. FeedARead. Available through Amazon.

All of of Gordon’s novels are available from good online stores in paperback and eBook format. Just click on any one of them on the slideshow (left) to find out more.

In the coming years Gordon endeavors to provide his readers with more writings about these eras and to explore antiquity to the full. So, as long as the ideas keep coming to Gordon, there will be many more books to enjoy.

Kaveh Farrokh Presentation at University of Yerevan November 2013

Kaveh Farrokh provided a presentation at (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department at the “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics).

YSUFrontal view of the State University of Yerevan, host to theShirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference  on Nov. 1-2, 2013. The university is host to an excellent Iranian Studies program, staffed by exemplary researchers such as Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Dept., Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston) and Professor Victoria Arakelova (Associate Professor, Department of Iranian Studies, Yerevan State University; Associate Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden). The conference has been made possible through the works of Professors Asatrian and Arakelova.

YSU-Committee-2013-1Cover page, dedication and list of organizers of the conference. Kindly note that Kaveh Farrokh was one of the members of the organizing committee for the conference at Yerevan State University (Click to enlarge to see list of organizers). For more information on the conference kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics.

Kaveh Farrokh’s presentation and abstract for the conference was as follows:

Cultural Links between Iran and Arran (Modern Republic of Azerbaijan) from Antiquity to the 1900s” (November 2, 2013)

This paper will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Albania/Arran and Iran from antiquity to the early twentieth century. A comprehensive series of Classical and pre- Islamic Iranian sources as well as archaeological studies are referenced for the pre-Islamic (Medo-Achaemenid and Partho-Sassanian) era. Examples cited include discoveries of Achaemenid palaces in the region as well as the role of the Albanian knights in the Sassanian army (Spah). The post-Islamic era is discussed with respect to Islamic and European primary sources and cartography with references to languages, the Safavid and post-Safavid eras to the early 1900s.

Zoroastrians-BakuModern-day Zoroastrians from Iran at the Baku Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) being led in religious ceremonies by Mobed Kourosh Niknam (Source: Image by Farroukh Aliev with this first appearing in Fravahr.org).

تالار فردوسی - ایران شناسی- دانشگاه دولتی ایروانThe Hall of Firdowsi at (تالار فردوسی در بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان)  the Iranian Studies department of Yerevan State University.

After the conference, Farrokh delivered an additional lecture on November 4, 2013 at the University of Yerevan entitled:

Cultural Links between Iran, Armenia and Georgia from Antiquity to the early 1800s 

This lecture will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Iran, Armenia and Georgia,notably with respect to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian eras. The role of Northern Iranian peoples in the Caucasus and their impact upon the Caucasus is also examined. Topics addressed the role of the Naxarar Armenian knights in the Sassanian Spah (Army) and the role of Armenia and Georgia in cultural contacts between the Iranian Plateau and Eastern Europe. The discussion will conclude with the promotion of Persian language and literature in the Caucasus during the post-Islamic era up to the early 1800s.

Surva-Zorvan-BulgariaThe Surva festival in Bulgaria. Local traditions ascribe this festival to the ancient Iranian cult of Zurvan (Master of Time); the Caucasus has long acted as a conduit between Eastern Europe and the Iranian plateau.

The “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference has been dedicated to the memory of the late Professor Enayatollah Reza.

Prof Enayatollah RezaThe late Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010).

Books on Armies of Ancient Iran Translated into Persian

Yusef Amiri (يوسف اميري) has translated four English-language texts on the military history of Iran into Persian. Readers are encouraged to consult the following site: Asvaran (پژوهش‌های یوسف امیری درباره‌ی ارتش‌های ایران باستان -Yusef Amiri’s Research on the Armies of Ancient Iran).

Yusef AmiriYusef Amiri (يوسف اميري). For an overview of Yusef Amiri’s translation works see -ارتشهاي ايرانيان باستان-Armies of Ancient Iran (pdf – in Persian).

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1-Achaemenids-AmiriThe first book translated into Persian by Yusef Amiri (يوسف اميري) is Nicholas Sekunda’s (نيكولاس سكوندا) book “Ancient Persian Army: 560-330 BC” (Osprey Publishing, 1992) which discusses the Armies of the Achaemenids (book jacket at left):

-ارتش هخامنشيان-(Nicholas Sekunda) نگارش: نيكولاس سكوندا-(Color plates: Simon Chew) تصويرگر: سيمون چو

برگردان: يوسف اميري

-چاپ يكم: 1391 خ / 2012 م-شابك: 964-5599-88-1-

For more  on the Military and Armies of the Achaemenids click image below:

Achaemenid cavalry

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2-Partho-Sassanian-AmiriThe second book translated into Persian by Yusef Amiri (يوسف اميري) is Peter Wilcox’s (پيتر ويلكاكس) book “Rome’s Enemies: Parthians and Sassanid Persians” (Elite 42, Osprey Publishing, 1986) which discusses the armies of the Parthians and Sassanians (book jacket at left):

-اشكانيان و ساسانيان-(Peter Wilcox) نگارش: پيتر ويلكاكس-(Color plates by Angus McBride)تصويرگر: آنگس مك برايد –

-برگردان: يوسف اميري-

-چاپ يكم: 1391 خ / 2012 م-

For more  on the Military and Armies of the Parthians click image below:

                       Parth-Savar1

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The third  book translated into Persian by Yusef Amiri (يوسف اميري) is Kaveh Farrokh’s first book “Elite Sassanian Cavalry” (Elite 110, Osprey Publishing, 2005) which discusses the elite Savaran cavalry of the Sassanian army (click image panel below for more information):

4-EliteSassanianCavalry-Versions-1

For more  on the Military and Armies of the Sassanians click image below:

 Turkish-Hun wars-2

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3-Scythians-Persian-AmiriThe fourth  book translated into Persian by Yusef Amiri (يوسف اميري) is E.V. Cernenko’s (چرننكو) book “The Scythians: 700-300 BC” (Men at Arms 137, Osprey Publishing, 1983) which discusses the armies of the Parthians and Sassanians (book jacket at left) – (see also Blog-news release: Translation of “The Scythians” into Persian by Yusef Amiri):

-سكاهاي باختري-(E. V. Chernenko) نگارش: چرننكو-(Color plates by Angus McBride)تصويرگر: آنگس مك برايد –

-برگردان: يوسف اميري-

-شابك: 964-5599-90-3/چاپ يكم: 1391 خ / 2012 م-

For more  on the Military and Armies of the Scythians click image below:

Scythian