The Aswārān (singular aswār), also spelled Asbārān, was a military force that formed the backbone of the army of the Sasanian Empire. They were provided by the aristocracy, wore armor, and ranged from archers to cataphracts.
Historical re-enactment of an asbaran cataphract
The word comes from the Old Persian word asabāra (from asa- and bar, a frequently used Achaemenid military technical term). The various other renderings of the word are following; Parthian asbār, Middle Persian aspabārak, Classical Persian suwār (سوار), uswār/iswār (اسوار), Modern Persian savār (سوار). The Arabic word asāwira (أساورة), used to refer to a certain faction of the Sasanian cavalry after the Muslim conquest, is a broken plural form of the Middle Persian aswār. However, the word aswār only means "horseman" in Middle Persian literature, and it is only the late Arabic term which has a more specialized meaning. In the Sassanian inscriptions, the formula asp ud mard (Middle Persian: SWSYA W GBRA; Parthian: SWSYN W GBRYN; literally "horse and man") was commonly used to collectively refer to the cavalry and the infantry of the military.
The asbaran have often been demonstrated as an example of existence of feudalism in Iran by modern scholars, who simply refer them as either chevalier, knight, or ritter. According to historians such as Christensen and Widengren, the asbar had the same status as the knight. However, although the asbaran and knight resemble each other in many parts, the economic role and historical role of the knight is very different compared to the role of the asbaran in the Sasanian Empire, which thus makes it incorrect to refer the asbaran as knights.
The aswaran wore mail armor, and ranged from archers to cataphracts. They assumed a description with the bravery, tactics, and ethics of the Sasanians. They mastered in single combat in battles (mard o-mard), rode on elephants and horses, and their valor was recognized with ornamental emblems. Titles such as hazārmard ("whose strength is equal to one thousand men"), zih asbār ("superior rider"), and pahlawān-i gēhān ("hero/champion of the world"), were their epithets. They wrote the name of the Sasanian emperor and their valuable family members on their arrows as a good omen. They outperformed others in archery to the extent that later writers thought that they had introduced the profession. They were superior and unmatched in the profession, which was even acknowledged by their enemies.
The asbaran during this early period had much in common with their Parthian (Arsacid) predecessors, most of whom would have worn a scale armor cuirass with long sleeves and chaps covered in scale armor or, less often, plated mail. Their helmets, of the Spangenhelm type, would have been adapted throughout the Sasanian period. Also horses would probably have had armored chests and heads, consisting of an apron and headpiece, or total body protection consisting of five separate pieces, made from either boiled leather or scale armor. Some asbaran units such as mercenaries may have worn little to no armor at all, allowing them to be rather more swift, silent, and mobile.
The Spangenhelm helmets worn by members of the asbaran units in battle would have evolved through the centuries. During the 3rd-to-6th-century era of the Sassanian empire, the Spangenhelm would have probably been made of felt and hardened leather. However, by the late 6th/early 7th century they would have been decorated with flowers and purple ball with mail and small areas through which to breathe and see.
The asbaran cavalry were armed with a variety of weapons. The traditional heavy cavalry weapons, such as maces, lances, and swords would have been used, as well as a variety of other weapons, such as axes. Asbaran cavalry were not, however restricted to short-range weapons, as they often carried weapons such as darts and bows.
Each asbaran unit would have a Drafsh, or heraldric standard. These would have often included mythological creatures and animals. These animals would have included elephants, horses, bears, lions, deer (ahu); these would also include Zoroastrian mythological creatures such as Bashkuch and the army of asbaran would have the Derafsh Kaviani as their banner.
The aswaran sardar were high-ranking officers who were in charge of the aswaran, their position was so high up in Sasanian society that they were only answerable to the Eran-Spahbad (Commander in Chief) and the Shahanshah himself. They would be guarded heavily by cataphract style cavalry. The post of aswaran sardar was held by a member of the Mihran-Pahlav family. Parts of the aswaran division were high-ranking including the Pushtigban Body Guards, a super heavy shock cavalry, who were the royal guards of the Shah himself. The influential aswaran cavalry were mostly made up of heavily armoured cavalry, generally composed of aristocracy or even from the imperial family themselves. There were also commanders who were elite as well. These parts of the aswaran regiments were kept as reserves.
Most of the asbaran was disbanded after suffering defeat and conquest during the Muslim conquest of Persia. However, several factions of the asbaran, each faction led by a different leader, defected to the Arabs in order to preserve their status and wealth. These asbaran factions settled in various places in the newly established Muslim territories, where they each become known by several names, the most known and prominent faction being the asawira, who under their leader Siyah settled in the newly established settlement of Basra.
ASVARAN (Persian: اسواران; officially blend word for "Asb Savaran", Persian: اسبسواران, Hoursemounters; the word Asvaran itself also means Cavalries) is the mounted police unit of Law Enforcement Force of Islamic Republic of Iran and a subdivision of its Special Units Command. The unit specializes in crowd control and riot control.Argbed
Argbed (etymology uncertain) were a class of military commanders in charge of castles and fortresses of the Parthian and Sasanian Empires of Persia (Iran) between the 2nd and 7th centuries CE. The office became more important under the Sasanian Empire.Argbeds were granted their command by the Sassanian emperor (Shahanshah) and were responsible for maintaining the security of their area of operation (usually a trading post, military fortress, or city), fighting the encroaching nomadic tribes such as Bedouin Arabs, White Huns and Oghuz Turks, and resisting the advances of settled enemies such as Romans and Kushans.
The Sasanian king usually selected Argbeds from wuzurgan, Iranian noble families who held the most powerful positions in the imperial administration. This rank, like most imperial administration, was mostly patrimonial, and was passed down through a single family for generations. In many ways, the Argbeds had the same function and status as medieval castellans.Asawira
The Asawira (Arabic: أساورة) or Asawirat (أساويرات) were a military unit of the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphate. The military unit consisted of Iranian noblemen, who were originally part of the aswaran unit of the Sasanian army. It was disbanded in 703 by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf.Aspbed
Aspbed or Aspbad (“commander of the cavalry”, from Old Iranian *aspa-pati-), was a title of Iranian origin used by the Parthian and Sasanian empires.Battle of Callinicum
The Battle of Callinicum took place on Easter Saturday, 19 April 531 AD, between the armies of the Byzantine Empire under Belisarius and a Sasanian cavalry force under Azarethes. After a defeat at the Battle of Dara, the Sasanians moved to invade Syria in an attempt to turn the tide of the war. Belisarius' rapid response foiled the plan, and his troops pushed the Persians to the edge of Syria through maneuvering before forcing a battle in which the Sasanians proved to be the pyrrhic victors.Clibanarii
The Clibanarii or Klibanophoroi (Greek: κλιβανοφόροι, meaning "camp oven-bearers" from the Greek word κλίβανος meaning "camp oven" or "metallic furnace") were a Sassanid Persian, late Roman and Byzantine military unit of heavy armored horsemen.Darigbed
Darigbed was a Sasanian title equivalent to the Byzantine title kouropalates ("palace
superintendent"). The title is first mentioned in the inscription of Shapur II (r. 240-270) at Naqsh-e Rostam.Gond-i Shahanshah
Gond-i Shahanshah ("the army of the Shahanshah"), also known by its Arabicized form of Jund-i Shahanshah, was the name of the 4,000 Daylamite elite unit of the Sasanian king. They originally lived in Daylam, but were resettled in Ctesiphon by Khosrow II (r. 590-628), probably some time after 600. After the Sasanian Empire suffered a major defeat in 636 to the Arabs at the battle of al-Qadisiyyah, the Gond-i Shahanshah defected to the Arabs, converted to Islam, and settled in Kufa, where they had their own quarter.Hazarbed
Hazārbed (meaning "the commander of thousand"), also known as hazaruft or hazaraft, was a Sasanian office which functioned as the commander of the royal guard.Immortals (Achaemenid Empire)
The Immortals (Persian: جاویدان jâvīdân, Ancient Greek: Ἀθάνατοι Athánatoi) also known as the Persian Immortals or Persian Warriors was the name given by Herodotus to an elite heavily-armed infantry queued unit of 10,000 soldiers in the great army of the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army. The force consisted mainly of Persians, but also included Medes and Elamites. Essential questions regarding the unit remain unanswered, because authentic sources are missing.Kanarang
The kanārang (Persian: کنارنگ) was a unique title in the Sasanian military, given to the commander of the Sasanian Empire's northeasternmost frontier province, Abarshahr (encompassing the cities of Tus, Nishapur and Abiward). In Byzantine sources, it is rendered as chanaranges (Greek: χαναράγγης) and often used, for instance by Procopius, in lieu of the holder's actual name.The title was used instead of the more conventional marzbān, which was held by the rest of the Persian frontier wardens. Like the other marzbān, the position was hereditary. The family holding it (the Kanārangīyān) is first attested in the reign of Yazdegerd I (r. 399–421), but was descended from some pre-Sasanian, most likely Parthian, dynasty. They enjoyed a high prestige and great authority in the Sasanian Empire's northeastern borderlands, as reflected in their glorified description in the Shahnameh of the great Persian poet Ferdowsi.The family was active until the very end of the Sasanian realm. A man called Kanāra in Arab sources commanded the Persian light cavalry at the decisive Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, and his son, Shahrīyār bin Kanāra, is reported to have fought valiantly before being killed. The family is later recorded as assisting the Muslim conquest of Khorasan by Abd-Allah ibn Amir, and being rewarded with the right to keep the province of Tus and half of the province of Nishapur under their control.Military of the Sasanian Empire
The Sasanian army was the primary military body of the Sasanian armed forces, serving alongside the Sasanian navy. The birth of the army dates back to the rise of Ardashir I (r. 224–241), the founder of the Sasanian Empire, to the throne. Ardashir aimed at the revival of the Persian Empire, and to further this aim, he reformed the military by forming a standing army which was under his personal command and whose officers were separate from satraps, local princes and nobility. He restored the Achaemenid military organizations, retained the Parthian cavalry model, and employed new types of armour and siege warfare techniques. This was the beginning for a military system which served him and his successors for over 400 years, during which the Sasanian Empire was, along with the Roman Empire and later the East Roman Empire, one of the two superpowers of Late Antiquity in Western Eurasia. The Sasanian army protected Eranshahr ("the realm of Iran") from the East against the incursions of central Asiatic nomads like the Hephthalites and Turks, while in the west it was engaged in a recurrent struggle against the Roman Empire.Pasanik
Pasānīk or Pasānīg (meaning guard, servant) was the title of the companion of the Sasanian emperor. The pasanik was chosen by the emperor himself—Khosrow II, during his reign (590-628), chose the pasanik from the aswaran rank.Paygan
The Paygan (also known as Paighan) were the conscript light infantry unit within the Sasanian army and formed the bulk of its infantry force. The Paygan were sometimes referred to as being used as "cannon fodder".Paygan-salar
The Pāygān-sālār were commanders of the infantry units (paygan) within the Sassanid armies. The Paygan-salar were very respected and trustworthy men, they would be guarded by the elite Dailamites.Sasanian Yemen
Yemen was a province of the Sasanian Empire in Late Antiquity in southwestern Arabia. Its boundaries almost corresponded to present-day Yemen.Second Perso-Turkic War
The Second Perso-Turkic War began in 606/607 with an invasion of Sassanid Persia by the Göktürks and Hephthalites. The war ended in 608 with the defeat of the Turks and Hephthalites by the Sasanians under the Armenian general Smbat IV Bagratuni.Stor Bezashk
Stōr-bizeshk were veterinarians within the Sassanid Persian army whose purpose was to ensure the safety and health of the steeds before battles. These men would care for the horses, feeding them and grooming them. According to some of the sources if the steeds would die in their care the Stor bezashk would be fined. They also had thorough knowledge of herbs.Zhayedan
Zhāyēdān (literally "The Immortals") were warriors of an elite unit within the Sassanian army, numbering 10,000 men. They are possibly modeled on the former Immortals, who served the rulers of the Achaemenid Empire, and possibly wore the same clothing as their predecessors. These warriors bore the very finest quality weaponry and armor of the entire Sassanian military. The Zhayedan were led by a commander bearing the title of "Varhranighan-khvadhay".