10 Principles of Sassanian Warfare

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The Spah (‘military’) of the Sassanian Empire were Rome’s unbeaten rivals in the East. Here we look at 10 principles of Sassanian warfare.


Reconstruction of a dismounted Savaran warrior firing his bow.

1. The elite Savaran lancers are the primary offensive arm of the Spah.

2. Massed infantry archery wears down the enemy prior to primary strikes by Savaran lancers.

3. The centre and right wing of the field army are committed to the attack.

4. The left wing of the field army remains strictly defensive and enters battle only in emergencies.

5. Commanders are selected for their calm, rational leadership, designed to achieve victory with minimum casualties.

6. Reconnaissance of terrain and of the disposition, strengths, and weaknesses of enemy forces prior to battle is considered essential: likewise, reconnaissance of enemy fortifications prior to a siege.

7. Military supplies and foodstuffs for men and horses are to be well organised and pre-stocked during peacetime to assist rapid mobilisation for offensive or defensive operations when war is imminent.

8. Savaran participate alongside heavy infantry in combat when storming enemy fortifications and cities.

9. Sassanian tactics and warfare follow an established military tradition recorded in manuals.

10. Only when all diplomatic options for peaceful settlement with the enemy are exhausted will the commander opt for battle.


This is an extract from the full article on the soldiers of the Sassanian Empire, which features in issue 50 of Military History Monthly.

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