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.

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 ADLG

  • Elite Cataphracts are much better than Ordinary ones - they are the strike troops of the army so need to be as effective as possible
  • There arent really enough points to go round to have any foot other than maybe some LI to bulk out the break point and screen your mounted troops

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Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army

As used by Gordon Jamieson at the BHGS teams @ LGT 2021 (v4)
2 Cataphract camels Cataphract camelry ------
2 Hill tribesmen Javelinmen ------
2 Javelin skirmishers Light infantry javelin ------
4 Greek militia Heavy spearmen Mediocre
2 Captured seleucid pikemen (=129 BCE) Pikemen Mediocre
2 Bow skirmishers Light infantry bow ------
Ordinary Included
3 Cataphracts * (inc gen) Cataphract Elite
4 Horse archers (medium) Medium cavalry bow ------
1 Horse archers (light) Light cavalry bow ------
2 Horse archers (light,elite) = maximum Light cavalry bow Elite

Dave Allens 3Ts list from 2021 v4
Ord gen
Cat Elite incl gen
1 LF bow
13 points

Comp gen
2 Camelphracts
2 Med Sword
2 Bow
2 LH
2 LF
75 points

Brill Gen
3 Cataphracts elite
2 cataphracts
4 MCav Bow
2 LH bow
1 LF bow
106 points

200 points - straightforward starter army
1 Cataphract Cataphract Elite
2 Cataphract Cataphract ------
3 Horse archers medium Medium cavalry bow ------
2 Horse archers light Light cavalry bow ------
3 Cataphract Cataphract Elite
2 Cataphract Cataphract ------
1 Horse archers medium Medium cavalry bow ------
4 Horse archers light Light cavalry bow
2 Horse archers medium Medium cavalry bow

200 Points from Derby 2017
4 Horse Archers Medium cavalry bow
2 Horse Archers Light cavalry bow
2 Hill Tribes Javelinmen
1 Light infantry sling Light infantry sling
Ordinary Included
4 Cataphact * Cataphract Elite
2 Horse Archers Light cavalry bow ------
4 Light infantry bow Light infantry bow ------
Brilliant Sarmatian Ally
3 Sarmatian Horseman Heavy cavalry impetuous Elite
1 Scouts Light cavalry bow
1 Light infantry sling Light infantry sling ------
2 Light infantry bow Light infantry bow ----

200 Points
Brill General 6
8 x LC Bow 48

Comp General 3
2 x Cat. Camels 24
4 x LC Bow 24
4 x LI Bow 16

Ord General 0
4 x Cat. Elite 52
2 x Cat. Ord 22
2 LI Sling 8
TOTAL 203 (used in doubles)

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