Monday, September 26, 2011

Parthian concept sketch MyPaint

Parthians and Saka under ''Erān-Spāhbed'' (suprme commander) Surrena, their Saka commander, defeated the Romans at Carrhae by using their cavalry -   horsearchers - hippotaxotoi- and armoured lancers - κατάφρακτος - cataphracts
Plutarch, Greek historian, on Rustam Surena and his warriors -
''Surena was the tallest and finest looking man himself, but the delicacy of his looks and effeminacy of his dress did not promise so much manhood as he really was master of; for his face was painted, and his hair parted after the fashion of the Medes, whereas the other Parthians made a more terrible appearance, with their shaggy hair gathered in a mass upon their foreheads after the Scythian mode'' 
Again Plutarch on Surena (or as the Iranists want ) Rustam Suren -
''Now by hereditary right he had the privilege of first placing the diadem on the head of him who became king of the Parthians ; and this very Hyrodes[Orodes II], who had been driven out, he restored to the Parthian empire, and took for him Seleukeia the Great, being the first to mount the wall and to put to flight with his own hand those that opposed him.''
  The Parthian/Saka in battle according to Plutarch:
''For Surena had hid his main force behind the first ranks, and ordered them to hide the glittering of their armour with coats and skins. But when they approached and the general gave the signal, immediately all the field rung with a hideous noise and terrible clamour. For the Parthians do not encourage themselves to war with cornets and trumpets, but with a kind of kettle-drum, which they strike all at once in various quarters. With these they make a dead, hollow noise, like the bellowing of beasts, mixed with sounds resembling thunder, having, it would seem, very correctly observed that of all our senses hearing most confounds and disorders us, and that the feelings excited through it most quickly disturb and most entirely overpower the understanding.

When they had sufficiently terrified the Romans with their noise, they threw off the covering of their armour, and shone like lightning in their breastplates and helmets of polished Margianian steel, and with their horses covered with brass and steel trappings. [...]. Their first design was with their lances to beat down and force back the first ranks of the Romans, but when they perceived the depth of their battle, and that the soldiers firmly kept their ground, they made a retreat, and pretending to break their order and disperse, they encompassed the Roman square before they were aware of it. Crassus commanded his light-armed soldiers to charge, but they had not gone far before they were received with such a shower of arrows that they were glad to retire amongst the heavy-armed, with whom this was the first occasion of disorder and terror, when they perceived the strength and force of their darts, which pierced their arms, and passed through every kind of covering, hard and soft alike. The Parthians now placing themselves at distances began to shoot from all sides, not aiming at any particular mark (for, indeed, the order of the Romans was so close, that they could not miss if they would), but simply sent their arrows with great force out of strong bent bows, the strokes from which came with extreme violence. The position of the Romans was a very bad one from the first; for if they kept their ranks, they were wounded, and if they tried to charge, they hurt the enemy none the more, and themselves suffered none the less. For the Parthians threw their darts as they fled [so called Parthian shot], an art in which none but the Scythians excel them, and it is, indeed, a cunning practice, for while they thus fight to make their escape, they avoid the dishonour of a flight. ''
Romans fighting cataphracts according to Plutarch: ''But they merely placed their cuirassiers to face the Romans, and with the rest of their horse rode about scouring the field, and thus stirring up the sand, they raised such a dust that the Romans could neither see nor speak to one another, and being driven in upon one another in one close body, they were thus hit and killed, dying, not by a quick and easy death, but with miserable pains and convulsions; for writhing upon the darts in their bodies, they broke them in their wounds, and when they would by force pluck out the barbed points, they caught the nerves and veins, so that they tore and tortured themselves. Many of them died thus, and those that survived were disabled for any service, and when Publius [son of Crassus]] exhorted them to charge the cuirassiers, they showed him their hands nailed to their shields, and their feet stuck to the ground, so that they could neither fly nor fight. He charged in himself boldly, however, with his horse, and came to close quarters with them, but was very unequal, whether as to the offensive or defensive part; for with his weak and little javelins, he struck against targets that were of tough raw hides and iron, whereas, the lightly-clad bodies of his Gaulish horsemen were exposed to the strong spears of the enemy. For upon these he mostly depended, and with them he wrought wonders; for they would catch hold of the great spears, and close upon the enemy, and so pull them off from their horses, where they could scarce stir by reason of the heaviness of their armour, and many of the Gauls quitting their own horses, would creep under those of the enemy, and stick them in the belly; which, growing unruly with the pain, trampled upon their riders and upon the enemies promiscuously.''
My sketch  purports to show a Parthian Cataphract with a lance, I have not decided yet on the horse armour (by the way I like better the British spelling of word armour/armor), nor I have decided on the horse's bridle and reins etc...
as I installed Linux Mint on my 27" Imac (2010) I wanted to fully explore GIMP and MyPaint and then found this page describing 'extendeing' the software a bit, so many thanks again to David Revoy; and to Ramon Miranda

ps I must share with you some great news: professor Marek Olbrycht was kind enough to offer me some of his works on the Parthians, Mithridates of Pontus and Bosporan kingdom, (here some discussion on the conquest of the kingdom by Mithirdates)including a fine article on the cataphracts based on the excavations and finds in Kazakhstan, so more interesting posts with illustrations should be born out of them, as I really like the period of III-I century B.C. in Anatolia, Black Sea and western Cetnral Asia.


Samuel said...

Very interesting topic and a pretty pic (to say the least)! Thanks for sharing with us the sources and your insight on the mighty Parthians :)


Dario T. W. said...

thanks Samuel,
I am going to publish several more variations of his appearance, based on my interpretations of mixed Saka/Iranian and Assyrian influences

Philip said...

Great work!! Can't wait to see other Parthians.
Earlier Parthians might have used an advanced form of parapleuradia for leg armour. This must have been a one-piece armour covering both legs and part of the belly. The armour hung from the warrior's belt and reached to the warrior's back. Unfolded the shape of the armour was an upside-down U, but with straight corners.
The hunting scene in the link may picture such an armour.

Hope this can be inspiration for other Parthian artwork.