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Parthian

Parthian

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Historical Overview Section


In the aftermath of the collapse of the short-lived Alexandrian Macedonian empire the Successor states fought a series of internecine wars in which the Later Seleucid Dynasty eventually ended up in control of Persia. Parthia, originally a regional presence within the hellenicized Persian Later Seleucid state took advantage of the weakness of the Later Seleucids following their protracted turf wars with other Successor powers and the emerging Late Republican Roman Empire when the Arsacid dynasty came to power. Ultimately as Later Seleucid power waned further the Arsacids came to rule over the entire Iranian plateau beginning in the late 3rd century BC, and intermittently controlled Mesopotamia between about 150 BC and 224 AD. Despite having strong Skythian or Saka roots they assumed the mantle of a successor power to the Late Achaemenid Persians and gave themselves legitimacy as the third native dynasty of ancient Iran (after the Median and the Achaemenid dynasties). Their regional geo-political powerplays saw them ally with and take control over the Early Armenian)s regularly in the time of the Pontic empire of Mithadates.

Parthia was the arch-enemy of the Late Republican Roman Empire in the east and in 53 BC Marcus Licinius Crassus invaded Parthia. The Parthian armies included heavily-armed and armoured cataphracts and lightly armed but highly-mobile mounted archers. For the Romans, who relied on heavy infantry, the Parthians were difficult to defeat. Crassus having never encountered such an army or strategic warfare before was defeated decisively at the Battle of Carrhae by the Parthians. This was the beginning of a series of wars that were to last for almost three centuries.

Carrhae
A Parthian force of 1,000 cataphracts and 9,000 horse archers under general Surena met the Late Republican Romans at Carrhae. This was not Parthia's main army, which was campaigning in Armenia under Orodes II, but an advance force sent to scout out and delay the Romans, and only defeat them if they were weak enough. Crassus' cavalry was screening ahead of the main force when they were engaged by the cataphracts, and the weapons his cavalry employed were not capable of piercing the cataphracts' armor. His cavalry was soon surrounded and routed, and his son Publius killed. Meanwhile the horse archers surrounded the Roman infantry, taunting them. Crassus immediately formed his legionaries into a large, hollow square to prevent from being outflanked by the more mobile Parthian forces. Surena covered his "cataphracts"' armour with cloth, marched his army to in front of the Romans. At a prearranged signal, the cataphracts revealed their shining armor. Surena was impressed by what little effect this had on the Roman army, and judged that the cataphract charge would not be enough to break them at this point. Thus, he sent his horse archers to bombard the Roman legionaries with arrows. However, Crassus ordered the legionaries into the testudo formation to prevent being hurt by arrowfire. Most of the shots were non-fatal shots on the arm and leg. However, considering the sheer number of arrows fired, the rapid rate of fire of the horse archers, and finally the fact that the arrows were fired from a composite bow, at the legionaries' armor, the lorica hamata, the barrage eventually wore down the Romans.

Crassus's plan was to have his legionaries endure the archer fire until the horse archers ran out of arrows. However, Surena managed to keep up a steady barrage for several hours, by using camels as mobile reloads for the horse archers. After several hours, the legionaries began to collapse from heat exhaustion and thirst as well as from the constant stream of missiles. The Romans were completely surrounded. The testudo formations were holding up well, but the testudo was very poor in hand-to-hand combat. This inspired Surena to charge. The cataphracts' charge split the Roman army, and the Roman soldiers began to rout. Crassus was able to withdraw, but he had to leave behind thousands of wounded, who were executed by the Parthians. Surena then offered to have peace negotiations with Crassus. Crassus's men heard of this and threatened to mutiny if Crassus did not accept. Crassus was forced to attend. The meeting turned violent, and Crassus was killed. Molten gold was poured down his throat as a symbolic gesture to Crassus's renowned greed. It was one of the greatest defeats Rome would ever suffer, with about 20,000 soldiers dead, and half again as many captured. The Parthians suffered very light casualties.

After Carrhae
This didn't cause the Romans to give up, and they launched many invasions of Parthia under different emperors, usually triggered by power politics between Parthia and Rome over the choice of who's candidate would take the Early Armenian throne. In battles where the Romans prepared for their campaign by training their legions to a high standard and where they were able to tempt the Parthians into charging uphill they generally won. Where they were caught in the open by large horse archer and cataphract forces able to harass them for days on end, they generally lost. Ultimately however the repeated Roman successes - usually where they captured the Parthian capital and major cities before leaving - undermined central Parthian authority over their regional feudal domains, opening the way for the Sassanid Persians to take over in Iran, and the Kushan or Indo-Skythians to nibble away at the Indian end of the empire.

Using the Army in FoG

  • The army is all about having large numbers of cheap battlegroups of skirmishers who can harass the enemy without being caught, and a strike force of cataphracts.
  • 4 BGs of Cataphracts is maybe too few unless you are going for the full harassing horde , 7 may be too many
  • Take an IC to get Steppe terrain every time
  • Stick the Cats all in one big lump and hit anything you like other than elephants or pikes
  • Cats in a single rank will be able to drive off enemy LH - any anyone armed wit Bw/Sw LH may cause you trouble.
  • Don't be afraid to evade off table - your unit count can take it.
  • The 2 elephants in the Indo Parthian variant are not quite enough to build a battle plan around, but make an interesting addition to your wall of steel as they can sit in the middle of a cataphract line and will (effectively) not disorder your own troops. But remember, that elephants don't bounce off steady foot, whilst cavalry do.
  • Elephants may also mean you end up taking 6 average Hillmen to provide rear support - making Elephants into an 80 point unit.
  • Taking the 6 x 6 Poor LF adds 6 units and a lot of shooting to your army's total, for just 84 points.




Allied Contingents

  • (for Indo-Parthians only) Saka - Later Skythian or Saka : Date restrictions 95 BC to 75 AD Book: Rise of Rome Page: 60 - Up to 4 cataphracts or lancer Cv, loads of Bw/Sw LH and some irrelevant foot
  • Saka : Date restrictions None Book: Immortal Fire Page: 32 - Bw/Sw cavalry to protect your cataphracts flanks might be a tidy choice
  • Armenian, Early : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 53 - 6 cataphracts and 12 Lh is a good addition, but is more of the same.
  • Adiabene - Adiabene, Edessan or Hatran : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 59 - 4 Cataphracts and 8 LH is nice, but more of the same
  • Edessan - Adiabene, Edessan or Hatran : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 59 - 4 Cataphracts and 8 LH is nice but more of the same
  • Elymaian : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 59 - 6 Cataphracts and a chunky 18 LH is nice added to most things - but more of the same here
  • Hatran - Adiabene, Edessan or Hatran : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 59 - 4 Cataphracts and 8 LH is nice but more of the same
  • Media Atropatene : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 59 - Up to 8 cataphracts and 24 LH is a good addition, but here, well, you get the picture
  • Arab, Early : Date restrictions None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 60 - Well, it has no minima, so you can choose between uninspiring LH and Cv, Poor Bw armed camelry, and some very average Lt Sp/Sw MF. Hoorah!

User-contributed links about this army:

15mm Manufacturers supplying figures for this army

Other manufacturers have related ranges - most people carry some Scythian horse archers and some cataphracts. These are only those with specific named Parthian ranges. Check out the full manufacturer listing at www.madaxeman.com/main/15mm_ancients_suppliers.php

Image Image Image Image Image Image

You can see some of the figures in the Ancients Photo Gallery also on this site

  • Essex Miniatures - 1 cataphtact, 4 horse archers in the Parthian range, but may other suitable figures in other ranges. The Essex Parthian cataphracts are somewhat smaller than their other cataphract figures but they are nicely detailed, and are modelled on the early Parthian cataphracts in the Ospery Parthian & Sassanid book.
  • Donnington - 3 cataphracts, 4 horse archers, some officers and also cataphract camels, plus troops in other ranges. They have recently replaced the cataphract horse model .
  • Old Glory 15's , Cataphracts, horse archers and command packs. They are quite bold in their detail, take a wash paint nicely and are pretty good value.
  • Lancashire Games - 2 horse archers, 2-3 Cataphracts, nice and bold one piece castings.
  • Peter Pig - Parthian range, nice but the horses are a little short compared to others
  • Irregular Miniatures Parthians as well as Sassanind/Palymran ranges
  • Minifigs Parthians as well as Sassanind/Palymran/Armenian ranges
  • Viking Forge  Horse archer and Cataphracts !
  • Outpost Wargame Services Horse archers, cavalry and command packs.
  • Minifigs Parthians, also have (like most suppliers) several diff non Parthian horse archers and cataphracts options to add to the variety

Tournament Results

2 / 12 Parthian Attack 2008 doubles (RoR, IF)
2 / 10 Parthian Luncarty Doubles 2008 (RoR)
3 / 10 Parthian BHGS Challenge 2008 25mm (open)
4 / 20 Parthian Warfare 2008 15mm (RoR, IF, LT)
6 / 41 Parthian BHGS Challenge 2008 (open)
12 / 16 Parthian Godendag 2008 Doubles (RoR)
13 / 18 Parthian Roll Call 2008 15mm (LT)
20 / 20 Parthian Warfare 2008 15mm (RoR, IF, LT)
3 / 14 Parthian Northern League 2008 R4 (open)

Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army
800 AP list

  • 4 TCs
  • 10 x 4 LH bow
  • 4 x 4 cataphracts
  • 2 x 6 poor bowmen LF
  • 1 x 6 poor slingers

A shockingly unbeatable 17 bgs in all.

800 APs

  • 1 IC
  • 3 TCs
  • 2 x6 Javelins LF Poor
  • 2 x6 Sling LF Poor
  • 1 x6 bow LF Poor
  • 8 x4 LH bow Average
  • 4 x4 Cataphracts Superior

With the undrilled Cataphracts, the IC helps for CMTs as well as getting Steppe terrain.

300AP list to be added to the Starter Army to make up 900 AP for the 2009 Madaxeman Invitational

  • 6 bases Cataphracts, Heavy armour, Superior, undrilled, lancers, swordsmen @18 = 108
  • Hatran Allies
  • Allied FC = 40
  • 4 bases Camel Cataphracts, heavy armour, Superior, undrilled, lancers, swordsmen @20 = 80
  • 4 bases Horse Archers, LH, unprotected, average, undrilled, bow @8 = 32
  • 8 bases Foot Archers, LF, unprotected, average, undrilled, bow @ 5 = 40
  • Total = 300



800 ap list used by Dave Ruddock at Warfare 2008

  • 6 Poor JLS LF
  • 6 Poor JLS LF
  • 6 Poor Sling LF
  • 6 Poor Sling LF
  • 6 Poor Bw LF
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw
  • 4 LH Bw/JLS
  • 6 Superior Cataphracts
  • 6 Superior Cataphracts
  • IC + 3 TCs


The army - fairly obviously - was geared around securing Steppe terrain and then shooting the enemy to bits and overwhelming their light infantry and light horse whilst crushing part of their line with a cataphtact charge. Dave cleverly selected terrain choices in a way which denied his opponent the ability to take even 4 pieces of terrain by either selecting small pieces of rough going, and also combining one of them with the gentle hill allowed in the list, thus taking up 2 potentially important terrain selections in one (small) piece that he could control placement of. Having such an enormous army size allows the Parthians to evade some units off table when they are pressed back in part of the field, as each unit evading off able only counts as 1 attrition point loss.

800 point Parthian used by Dave Fairhurst at Roll Call 2008

  • 4 LH, Bw
  • 4 LH, Bw
  • 4 LH, Bw
  • 4 LH, Bw
  • 4 LH, Bw
  • 4 Superior Cataphracts
  • 4 Superior Cataphracts
  • 4 Superior Cataphracts
  • 6 Poor LI Javelin
  • 6 Poor LI Javelin
  • 6 Average LI Javelin
  • 4 Superior Cataphtacts
  • 4 LH, Bw
  • 6 LI Bw, Average


800 point Parthian (This guy finished 6th at Ascot 2008) (Phil Powell)

  • IC, 2 TCs Saka ally TC
  • 6 x UP UD LF bow poor
  • 4 x LH bow avg (5 units)
  • 4 LH bow swds average (3 units)
  • 6 Cataphracts L Swds U/D superior (3 units)


Sixes of cataphracts are hard to hurt. The Parthian LH by itself cannot stand up to most other LH in the game so needs some help from the Skythians. The LF are compulsory with a few points to spend and just march up and down the rear of the table to keep warm. You need to take an IC for the shooting battles, keep him with the LH or whoever is getting shot at most.

800 AP Parthian with Hatrene allies

  • . Commander FC - - - - - - - 1
  • . Commander TC - - - - - - - 2
  • . Allied FC - - - - - - Ally general
  • 1 Militia LF Unprotected Poor Undrilled Bow - - - 6
  • 2 Militia LF Unprotected Poor Undrilled Javelins Light spear - - 6
  • 3 Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - 4
  • 4 Greek Militia MF Protected Poor Drilled - Offensive Spearmen - - 8
  • 5 Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 6
  • 6 Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 4
  • 7 Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 4
  • 8 Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 4
  • 9 Horse Archers LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 4
  • 10 Cataphracts Ct Heavily armoured Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 6
  • 11 Cataphracts Ct Heavily armoured Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
  • 12 Cataphracts Ct Heavily armoured Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen - 4
  • 13 Foot Archers - allies LF Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 6
  • 14 Camelry - allies Ct Heavily armoured Superior Undrilled - Lancers Swordmen Camelry 4
  • 15 Horse Archers - allies LH Unprotected Average Undrilled Bow - - - 4


Name of Army / Date

  • Using asterisks inthe edit mode creates a bulleted list in the actual site
  • This is a lot easier to do than easier than setting up tables
  • For FoG I suggest listing your army in order or march
  • with troop desctiptions on each line, for example
  • 4 HF Armoured Average Drilled Impact Foot Swordsmen
  • 8 LG Undrilled Unarmoured Poor Bowen
  • Dont forget to include your Generals !!!

Include any notes you want here, including comments on how to use - or play against - the army.

Remember to leave a line before you copy the above section as a template for your own list

eBay Listings for Parthians


UK Bookstore



Created by admin. Last Modification: Monday 05 of July, 2010 23:00:35 BST by admin. (Version 50)
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