Saturday, November 14, 2009

To ride, to shoot and to tell the truth

The 3 essential qualities of a Persian nobleman.

Late 5thC cavalry. RAFM conversions done 20 odd years ago

Cavalry was an important arm of the Mede and Persian armies even if not the most numerous part. I've decided on 5 regiments, now to select which ones and how to arm and equip them. There are 3 main considerations, historical plausibility, how I intend to employ them on the table and what figures I have or want to have.

Evidence on arms and armour is ambiguous but based largely on Herodotus and some vase paintings, early Mede cavalry seems to have been lightly armoured and relied on harassing the enemy with arrows and javelins but also seem to have been prepared to fight hand to hand when called upon. Herodotus describes them at Platea as coming forward by squadron to shower the Greeks with missiles before wheeling away, not surprising since Cyaxeres became King by leading the Medes to freedom after 25 years of subjugation to the Skythians.

The cavalry of Rosius would also have contained Saka or Scythian horsemen, whether allies, mercenaries or subjects and it is possible, though unlikely, that some of these might already have been armoured nobles on horses protected by partial fabric or metal bards. I would also expect some Cappadocian cavalry, probably lightly equipped with javelin.

4thC Persian Cavalry, RAFM conversions. I have about 30 of these, some with armour showing, some without.
On the table, the cavalry can be used to envelop the enemy's flanks or to pin and harass his spearmen. The bow armed ones are best for direct attacks as they can do so from a safe range. Since I'm deploying my troops in 1,000 man regiments not 100 man squadrons, I'll have to imagine the squadrons taking turns to ride forward to shoot at point blank range before wheeling back to the main body. They will also have to contain the enemy cavalry. Against an army like the Lydians, with a reputation for hard charging shock cavalry, this may be a challange (queue the camel corps!). The large units also have to be taken into consideration, they require a lot of room to maneuvre ao are not easily interspersed with infantry or used as a mobile reserve. It appears to be best to use them as a seperate force, oddly enough this seems to be how the Persians operated.

A unit or two of lighter skirmish cavalry, Sythians or Cappadocians would be useful on the extreme flank since they should have the agility to get around behind the enemy. It is tempting to add a unit of Guard cavalry or Saka nobles for the potential shock value but this might be a false temptation away from the army's strengths.

Comparing the 90 or so Persian and Skythian cavalry in 10 units that I have now vs how I want the army to look and act, I will be able to field the following in short order:
  • The Medes. Unarmoured with bow, shield and javelin (Garrison and RAFM mixed). The 6 RAFM figures ought to be given bow & shield or be replaced. The Garrison spears look a little substantial for javelins but I am willing to live with that, especially as I am not fully convinced that spears are unreasonable.


  • An 18 man unit doesn't look so big on 20mmx40mm bases and formed deep!

  • The Capadocians. Lightly armoured with javelin. This unit will be formed from the rest of my 4thC Persians, concentrating on those with tunics over their armour.
  • The Armenians. A full regiment of 18 armoured cavalry with javelin converted from Minifig Seleucid Cataphracts. (all except the officer). All I need to do is rehorse a few who still ride 1/2 barded horses and put them all on some decent bases. This unit wasn't raised as Armenians and the story of how they camed to be named so, is shrouded in the mists of memory lost.


  • The "Armenians". Full points to anyone who can identify the origin of the officer in the middle.

  • The Scythians: Light cavalry with bow, javelin and shield. I have about 30 nomad horse archers mostly various Scythians but also including figures like Garrison Tauron archers. I'll sort out 18 of the most Scythian types including a few armoured leaders.

    RAFM Skythian nobles.

    That will leave me with 1 unit to compose. Ideally I would like a unit of unarmoured Persians in long robes and head band , armed with bow & spear like the picture in funcken. It will also leave me with about 24 stray cavalry, some of which may be able to be reconfigures as Lydians, some of which may be incorporated into an alternate army unit.

3 comments:

  1. If you mean the lancer, he reminds me of a group of Ral Partha Rohirrim I have in my fantasy collection, though the ones I have are shielded swordsmen. (From what I can see of him in the shot...)

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  2. Mmm, I was wondering about a minifig King Arthur?

    I am really enjoying this blog by the way. I am a lapsed ancients fanatic and it is wonderful to see all these old favourites again. Especially with such characterful figures.

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  3. You are each close, in a different way. He is a minifig adn though he is not a Rohirrim, he has known them and was born with a sword in his hand.

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