8 amazing things you probably didn’t know about the Persians

5) A Persian boy was not allowed to see his father till the age of 5 –

Achaemenid_culture

As with most of feudal societies, the Persian society was strict in its cultural and domestic setup, especially when it came to nobility. To that end, according to Herodotus, a Persian boy was not admitted in front of his father till the age of 5. He also adds that from the age of five till twenty, the youngsters were initiated into their manhood phase, with lessons imparted on how “to ride horses, use the bow, and speak the truth.” Strabo further gives his account of how the military service and training continued till the 24th year, after which the men were demobilized. However, they remained liable for military service till the age of 50 – which perhaps explains the massive quotas of military manpower available to the 5th century BC Achaemenid emperors.

6) The military culture of heavy cavalry lancers was transmitted to Romans via Persia –

Savaran_Cavalry

Though there have been mentions of heavy cavalry forces in Assyrian armies, the true evolution of the cavalry as the shock force in the battlefield was started by Iranian tribes like Massagetae. Overtime, such tactics were adopted by the Achaemenids, and finally they reached pinnacle under the Parthians (and later the Sassanids), when they fielded dedicated elite cavalry corps (like cataphracts) in the battlefield as the mobile yet hard-hitting striking force. These heavily armored cavalrymen were known as Savaran, and as such they were an integral part the social hierarchy of the later Sassanid empire – with the members being only chosen from Azadan noble class (who were deemed to be the descendants of the original Aryans settled in Iran). This hierarchy does somewhat mirror the knightly class that emerged from Europe during the middle ages.

However, the immediate influence of the heavy Persian cavalry was mainly felt on the various proximate cultures, like the Seleucids, the Eastern Romans, and even the Arabs. These factions in turn developed their own variants of the cataphract model, with variable successes in the battlefield. And interestingly, the code of honor and chivalry (along with jousts) might have also come from Savaran culture of antiquity, which presumably made its way into the Islamic Faris ‘furusiyya‘ code, and ultimately into realms of the Western Europeans.

7) The Persian ‘Immortals’ also had their parallels in the Eastern Roman Empire –

Immortal_Achaemndi_Persia

The fantastical depiction of the Persian ‘Immortals’ in the movie ‘300‘ was unsettling to say the least, with their demonic visages and ominous attires. In truth, the Immortals were the Achaemenid King’s vibrantly dressed personal division armed with spears and bows, and they were actually chosen from the regular conscripts of the nation’s army (based on their physical prowess and stamina). The name ‘Immortal’ possibly stems from the Persian Amartaka, and according to Herodotus, their numbers were always kept at 10,000 with ready replacements always taking the vacated positions of those who were killed, injured or taken sick. The tradition of the Immortals were kept also alive during the latter Sassanian period. However, the spear-and-bow carrying infantrymen were then replaced by the crème de la crème of 10,000 Savaran knights. This prestigious unit was called the Zhayedan, and it might have provided the basis for the formation of the ‘Athanatoi‘, an ‘Immortal’ army unit of the Eastern Romans (Byzantines) raised during 10th century AD.

8) The Persians started the concept of uniforms for military forces, and also invented seamed coats –

Achaemenid_Uniform

The Iranian people have always maintained their unique pattern of clothing, which is mainly mirrored by their riding attires of leather boots, trousers, tunic and cap. In addition to that, the Achaemenids introduced the very concept of uniforms for armies (as mentioned by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh in his book ‘The Sassanian Heavy Cavalry‘), after which the classical Greeks adopted the nifty system. The Sassanians continued with the tradition of elegant attires and ensembles being flaunted in lavish court cultures, with multifarious regal colors ranging from gold, purple to red and crimson. But perhaps the most recognizable Persian contribution to the world of fashion is the seamed fitted coat, with their initial designs being made from animal skins. These clothing objects were mainly adopted to guard against the cold weathers that were prevalent in most of Iran’s and Khorasan’s mountainous areas.

Image Credits: CarolineMawer / Seltoon

1 Comment on "8 amazing things you probably didn’t know about the Persians"

  1. Dariusthehedgehog180california | February 19, 2017 at 5:51 am |

    50% Persian and 6’1.80 also the average height is 5’7 I’m taller than 99% of them 1 in 96

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