Sassanids 293 A.D. to 388 A.D.

This represents the Sassanid army encompassing the time of Varaham II through Shapur III. It would appear from inferences drawn from art and written accounts that the Sassanids of this period were marginally less reliant on hand to hand melee than contemporary Romans while enjoying very effective archery. Contemporary sources still imply that the Sassanid close order infantry was somewhat less effective than Roman close order infantry while describing efficient hordes of light archers and slingers.

The notional dates of the army are almost exactly on the change from Age of Empires to Triumph of Cavalry and are fluid. Arguably, the date could be extended to 421 A.D. and the reign of Vahram V. Accordingly, this army can also fight in the Triumph of Cavalry era.

Era Age of Empires   Sassanids 293 A.D. to 388 A.D. CR: H:4 L:4   BP: 2 Init:6
Number Type   Description Key FV PROT Weapon Cost
1 Cat(d!) Asvaran Cataphracts Key 5(2)0 +3 Lances 14
1 HC(d!) Varhranighan-khvadhay clibanarii Key 5(1)0 +2 Lance/bow 15
1 HC(d!) Asvaran clibanarii Key 4(1)0 +2 Lance/bow 13
1 LC Subjects or mercenaries Key 2(0)0 +1 Javelins/bows 8
1 LC Lakhmid Arab Key 2(0)0 +1 Javelins 7
1 Cat(d!) Asvaran cataphracts or Zhayedan* Key 6(2)0 +3 Lances 16
1 HC(d!) Varhranighan-khvadhay clibanarii Key 5(1)0 +2 Lance/bow 15
2 HC(d!) Asvaran clibanarii Key 4(1)0 +2 Lance/bow 13
4 HC(d) Diqhan clibanarii Key 4(1)0 +1 Lance/bow 12
2 LC Subjects or mercenaries Key 2(0)0 +1 Various/bows 8
1 HC Lakhmid Arabs Key 4(0)0 +1 Various 10
2 LC Lakhmid Arabs Key 2(0)0 +1 Javelins 7
1 HC Sogdians Key 4(1)0 +1 Various/bows 12
4 LC Albani, Chionites, Hepthalites, Saka, Sogdians, etc. Key 1(0)0 +1 Bows 6
1 LC Seistani Key 3(1)0 +1 Bows 10
2 EL Elephants Key 5(3)2 +1 Various 12
3 SI Subjects   2(1)1 +2 Bows 2
3 SI Subjects and mountain tribes   3(1)2 +2 Slings 2
2 LI Kurds,Anatolians, etc.   4(1)2 +1 Javelins 7
3 Levy Levy   3(0)0 0 Various 4
3 FT Infantry* Key 5(1)1 +1 Spears 6


Core: 1 GR

Bonus: (Max: 2 ) 2 GR, 2 SH, 1 RG


Core: 97 Bonus: 262

*These could represent Armenians or Kushans as well as Sassanid troops.

The existence of fully armored riders on fully armored horses is mentioned in Ammianus Marcellinus on four separate occasions as well as in the Aethiopica of Heliodorus and Julian's Orations. Armored cavalry equipment is described in al-Tabari. No Sassanid HC or cataphracts are subject to obligatory charge. Ammianus Marcellinus particularly describes the discipline of the armored cavalry on one occasion and of the army as a whole on another.

The total of cataphracts and FV 5(1)0 clibanarii may not outnumber the combined number of lighter clibanarii and LC. The reported numbers early in the period appear to be 10 to 12 more lightly armored cavalry to every cataphract with half armored horse perhaps counted as cataphracts with a higher percentage of armored cavalry in this period as time progresses. I interpreted this as more light armored cavalry [FV 4(1)0 clibanarii] and horse archers combined than cataphracts and better clibanarii. The historical ratio is impossible to meet at our scale and still maintain a representative army even if one assumes that the heavy cavalry units simulate 500 men and the light cavalry units simulate 1500 men.

SI and LI in this Sassanid list may not provide support to mounted troops other than elephants. SI armed with slings and LI armed with javelins MAY provide support to elephants.

The only uses that I have found for the levy are as a second rank behind the foot and as a moving wall of expendible troops. When used as a second rank, they have marginal value by giving depth benefits against impetus to the foot. Truth to tell, I find them pretty useless despite painting three units.

Although later Roman tactical doctrine recommends charging the Sassanid cavalry as the Sassanids were reputed to favor archery over to hand strokes, Libanius states that the Romans were afraid to face the dihqans face to face implying that the Romans did not like to fight some Sassanid cavalry hand to hand. One may not purchase the Bonus Varhranighan-khvadhay clibanarii and the Bonus Pushtighbansalar. The existence of a limited number of mounted units with an FV of 5 or more recognizes that Romans did not look forward to fighting some Sassanid heavy cavalry in good, open terrain according to Libanius.

If the Bonus Arab HC is purchased, at least one Bonus Arab LC unit must be purchased. If no Arab LC are purchased, they do not count against the purchase requirements for the extra light division under Control Ratings on page 34 of the Rules.

If the Bonus Sogdian HC is purchased, at least two Bonus Sogdian FV 1(0)0 LC must be purchased.

Ordo Link: Like all of the Sassinid lists, this list has generated significant controversy. The most direct discussion can be found at the Middle Sassanid thread, but the Early Sassanid and the Early Sassanid Army Structure threads are also worth examining. And as always, use of the Ordo Search function could provide useful information.

Last Edited: 11 April 2006

List Author: Subodai