Persian Archery and Tactics.

Persian armies had many traits that made them some of the most feared and most successful armies of all time.  The Special Forces of the Persian armies were a huge reason why they were so successful; some of the most important special force soldiers were the archers. Archery was a huge part of the Persian Army, it often times was the deciding factor in wars that were fought. I am going to focus on the tactics that the archers used.  Persian archery was often about quantity over quality. In the Landmarks Herodotus it said, “They used volleys of arrows that darken the sun.” (7.218.3)   Persian archers would shoot thousands of arrows at the same time into the sky.  Archers’ job wasn’t to hit specific targets, but to weaken the line opposing them.  You didn’t necessarily have to have a good shot to be an archer for the Persian army.  In the Landmarks Herodotus it says, “ Persians launch arrows tipped with burning hemp at walls of Athenian Acropolis.”(9.49.1)  So fire arrows were developed to weaken and distract the opposing forces.  These were brilliant tactics to use in war, because oftentimes whoever’s front line broke first would lose the fight. I imagine it would be quite difficult to keep in perfect formation while flaming arrows are setting a blaze to your surrounding and hitting and burning you.

An Achaemenid Archer with a composite bow.

An Achaemenid Archer with a composite bow.

Archers couldn’t just be exposed to enemy fire, so a tactic that the Persians used was  setting up wicker shield walls which sheltered archers as they shot volleys of arrows at their enemies. A Persian archer would not have been very effective on their own. That is why there were lines of archers that all stood in formation and shot at the same time to take down enemies. The arrows they used were often times made out of light wood or reed, so archers actually didn’t have as much range as we think of archers having today.  Also since the arrows were so light, more than one was usually required to kill an opposing Greek.  Tactics were very important for Persian archers. They had to work with each other in order to be effective.

Works Cited

“An Introduction to the Achaemenid Military Equipments.” CAIS, The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, (Image) web

http://www.caissoas.com/CAIS/History/hakhamaneshian/AchaemenidMilitaryEquip.htm

“Herodotus.” The Landmark Herodotus: the histories. New York: Pantheon Books,   2007. Text   (Primary Source)

“Iranian Archer Solders Profile.” Military History Monthly .  Nov. 10 2010. Web

                     http://www.military-history.org/articles/profile-iranian-archer.htm

“Persian Warriors.” Legends and Chronicles. Edited 2007-2014 Web.

                    http://www.legendsandchronicles.com/ancient-warriors/persian-warriors/

 

 

           

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