Document Type : Research Paper


1 M.A Student of Archaeology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Associate Professor of Archaeology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor of Archaeology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.


It is difficult to debate about the planning, correct implementation, and effectiveness of a government's strategies, such as defining the concept of the strategy. Having a strong military force and utilizing a variety of efficient and modern armament has always been one of the ideals of governments throughout history. The Iranian states have not been exempted from this rule and have used their financial and human resources to achieve these goals. Although the Sasanians were more advanced in many aspects of administration and military than the previous Iranian governments, they could not have been so successful in military affairs without careful strategic planning. The question is, what military strategy did the Sasanians adopt for the maintenance and the continuity of their empire? The answer to this question can be summarized in a variety of grand, long-term and short-term strategies. The very hostile strategy of the Sasanian government is not very much in line with modern theories, but it was fruitful and effective in the tumultuous late antiquity. Without their grand strategy, the Sasanian kings would not have been able to achieve numerous lasting and dramatic victories. Through the application of this strategy, they maintained and strengthened the position of the royal family among the traditional aristocracy (feudal clans), clergy, warlords, high nobility, and so on. In this paper, in order to find answers for our question, we attempt to explain the various types of strategies and tactics of the Sasanians through a descriptive-comparative-analytical approach and examine their role in the power, weakness, durability, or decline of their empire. The result generally shows the efficacy of the various Sasanian strategies and tactics in the early and middle periods, but the strategic errors of certain kings in the late period and several centuries of persistence and repetition of some aspects of their grand strategy resulted in undermining of their government


Abulafia, David. 2011. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean, New York: Oxford University Press.
Ahmad, Shah Nadim. 2015. “A new Sasanian helmet in the Musee d’Art Classique de Mougins”, Historia i Świat: Czasopismo Naukowe Instytutu Historii i Stosunków Międzynarodowych UPH, edited by Katarzyna Maksymiuk et al., no. 4, 135-156.
Al-Balādhurī, Aḥmad ibn Yaḥyā ibn Jabir. 1958. Futuh al-Buldan, translated by Ahmad Tawakkul, Tehran: Noghreh Publishers. [In Persian]
Al-Tabarî, Abû Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarîr. 1992. The History of Al-Tabari. Vol. XII: The Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine A.D. 635-637/A.H. 14-15, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, translated by Yohanan Friedmann, Albany: State University of New York Press.
Al-Tiqtaqa, Muhammad bin Ali. 2011. Al-Fakhri Fi Al-Adab Al-Sultaniyyah Wa Al-Duwal Al-Islamiyyah, translated by Mohammad Vahid Golpayegani, Tehran: Elmi & Farhangi. [In Persian]
Ammianus Marcellinus. 2016. Complete Works of Ammianus Marcellinus, translated by C. D. Yonge, Hastings: Delphi Classics.
Barnes, Timothy D. 1981. Constantine and Eusebius, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Bivar, Adrian D. H. 1972. “Cavalry Equipment and Tactics on the Euphrates Frontier”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 26. 271–291.
Bosworth, Clifford E. 1 Jan. 2000. “LAKHMIDS”,, Encyclopædia Iranica, Accessed (Feb. 10, 2019),
Christensen, Arthur. 1987. L'Iran sous les Sassanides, translated by Rashid Yasami, Tehran: Donya-e Ketab. [In Persian]
Daryaee, Touraj. 2015. “On military organization in ancient Iran”, The Comprehensive History of Iran, translated by Marjan Fanaee, 499-535. [In Persian]
Dawson, Timothy. 2009. Byzantine Infantryman: Eastern Roman Empire c. 900–1204, Oxford: Osprey Publishing.
Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). 2002. Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, New York: Fredonia Books.
Dien, Albert E. 2000. “A brief survey of defensive armor across Asia”, Journal of East Asian Archeaology, 1-22.
Dodge, Theodore Ayrault. 2012. Hannibal: A History of the Art of War Among the Carthaginians and Romans Down to the Battle of Pydna, 168 BC, 3rd edition, Urbana: Tales End Press.
Erdkamp, Paul. 2007. A Companion to the Roman Army, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
Emerson, Ralph W. 1909. The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson in 12 vols, edited by James E. Cabot, vol. 4, Fireside Edition, Boston and New York.
Farrokh, Kaveh. 2009. Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, Oxford: Osprey.
Farrokh, Kaveh. 2012. Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224-642, Oxford: Osprey Publishing.
Farrokh, Kaveh et al. 2017. “An Examination of Parthian and Sasanian Military Helmets (2nd century BC-7th century CE)”, Crowns, Hats, Turbans and Helmets: The Headgear in Iranian History, vol. I, Pre-Islamic Period, Siedlce: Publishing House of Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities, 121-163.
Farrokh, Kaveh et al. 2018. A Synopsis of Sasanian Military Organization and Combat Units, Siedlce: Publishing House of Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities.
Gall, Hubertus von. 1990. Das Reiterkampfbild in der iranischen und iranisch beeinflussten Kunst parthischer und sasanidischer Zeit, translated by Faramarz Najd Samii, Tehran: Nasim-E Danesh Publishers. [In Persian]
Ghirshman, Roman. 1955. “Notes Iraniennes VI. Une Coupe Sassanide a Scene De Chasse”, Artibus Asiae, vol. 18, no. 1, 4–19.
Grant, Michael. 1990. The Fall of the Roman Empire, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Greatrex, Geoffrey, and Samuel N. C. Lieu. 2002. The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (Part II, 363–630 AD), New York: Routledge.
Gyselen, Rika. 2005. The four generals of the Sasanian Empire: Some sigillographic evidence, translated by Sirus Nasrullah Zadeh. Tehran: Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts.
Halewood, Phil, and Carl Luxford. 1998. “The Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah, 637 AD”, The Society of Ancients, Accessed (Apr. 16, 2020),
Haskins, John F. 1952a. “Northern Origins of ‘Sasanian’ Metalwork I”, Artibus Asiae, vol. 15, no. 3, 241–267.
Haskins, John F. 1952b. “Northern Origins of ‘Sasanian’ Metalwork II”, Artibus Asiae, vol. 15, no. 4, 324–347.
Heliodorus. 1923. An Æthiopian Romance, translated by Thomas Underdowne (ANNO 1587), revised and partly rewritten by F. A. Wright. London: G. Routledge & Sons.
Herodian. 2020. Complete Works of Herodian, translated by Edward C. Echols. Hastings: Delphi Classics.
Howard-Johnston, James D. 2016. “The Grand Strategy of the Sasanian Empire”, Diwan. Studies in the History and Culture of the Ancient Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean, Duisburg: Wellem Verlag, 591-613.
Inostrancev, K. A. 1969. Sasanidskie et’udy [Studies regarding the Sassanians], translated by Kazem Kazemzadeh. Tehran: Bongahe Tarjome va Nashre Ketab. [In Persian]
James, Simon. 1986. “Evidence from Dura Europos for the Origins of Late Roman Helmets”, Syria, vol. 63, no. 1, 107–134.
Jones, Archer. 2001. The art of war in the western world, London: University of Illinois Press.
Jones, Gareth. 2012. Military History: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Objects of Warfare, New York: DK Publishing.
Kaegi, Walter E. 2003. Heraclius: Emperor of Byzantium, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kubik, Adam L. 2014. “About One Group of Iranian Maces in the Context of the New Find from Sivas, Turkey an Analysis from the Sasanian to the Safavid Period”, Metamorphoses of History, translated by Patryk N. Skupniewicz and S. N. Ahmad, no. 5, 154–180.
Kubik, Adam L. 2017. “Sasanian lamellar helmets”, Crowns, Hats, Turbans and Helmets: The Headgear in Iranian History, vol. I, Pre-Islamic Period, Siedlce: Publishing House of Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities, 195-210.
Kubik, Adam L. and S. N. Ahmad. 2015. “Bronze mace with three rams' heads from Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford”, Historia i Świat, edited by Katarzyna Maksymiuk et al., no. 4, 157-174.
Lee, A. D. 2007. War in Late Antiquity: A Social History, Malden: Blackwell.
Lejeune, Anthony, editor. 2016. The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations, New York: Routledge.
Liddell Hart, Basil H. 1991. Strategy, 2nd ed., New York: Meridian.
Lieu, Samuel N. C., and Dominic Montserrat. 2003. From Constantine to Julian: Pagan and Byzantine Views: A Source History, New York: Routledge (Taylor & Francis e-Library).
Livy. 1969. History of Rome, Volume V: Books 21-22, translated by B. O. Foster, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Mackensen, Michael. 2007. “Spätantike zweiteilige Gipsmatrize aus Nordafrika für Tonstatuetten eines behelmten östlichen Reiters”, Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz vol. 54, no. 2, 613-628.
Mode, Markus. 2006. “Art and Ideology at Taq-i Bustan: The Armoured Equestrian”, Arms and Armour as Indicators of Cultural Transfer: The Steppes and the Ancient World from Hellenistic Times to the Early Middle Ages, edited by Markus Mode and Jürgen Tubach, Wiesbaden, 393–413.
Masia, Kate. 2000. “The Evolution of Swords and Daggers in the Sasanian Empire”, Iranica Antiqua, vol. 35, 185–289.
Maurice’s Strategikon; Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy. 1984. Translated by George T. Dennis, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Mcdonough, Scott. 2013. “Part III Military and Society in Sasanian Iran”, The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World, edited by J. B. Campbell and Lawrence A. Tritle, New York: Oxford University Press, 680–702.
Murray, Williamson, et al. 1994. The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Negin, Andrey and Raffaele D’Aamto. 2018. Roman Heavy Cavalry (1), Cataphractii and Clibanarii, 1 century BC-5th century AD, Oxford: Osprey.
Nickel, Helmut. 1973. “About the Sword of the Huns and the ‘Urepos’ of the Steppes”, Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 7, 131–142.
Nicolle, David. 1996. Sassanian Armies (the Iranian Empire Early 3rd to mid-7th centuries AD), Stockport: Montvert Publications.
Nicolle, David. 2009. The Great Islamic Conquests AD 632-750, Oxford: Osprey.
Olbrycht, Marek Jan. 1998. “Parthian Military Strategy at Wars against Rome”, RAN, Military Archaeology: Weapons and Military Art from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages, edited by V. M. Masson, Materials of the International Conference, September 2-5 1998, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, 138–141.
Overlaet, Bruno J. 1982. “Contribution to Sasanian armament in connection with a decorated helmet”, Iranica Antiqua, 17, 189-206.
Overlaet, Bruno J. 1989. “Swords of the Sasanians: Notes on Scabbard Tips”, Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis: Miscellania in Honorem Louis Vanden Berghe, edited by L. De Meyer, and E. Haerinck, vol. II, 741-755.
Overlaet, Bruno J. 1998. “Regalia of the ruling classes in late Sassanian times: The Riggisberg strap mountings, swords and archer’s fingercaps”, Fruhmittelalterliche Kunst Zwischen Persien und China in der Abegg-Stiftung, edited by Karel Ovtavsky, Abegg-Stiftung, 267-297.
Plutarch. 1967. Plutarch's Lives I, Theseus and Romulus. Lycurgus and Numa. Solon and Publicola, translated Bernadotte F. Perrin, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Potter, David S. 2004. The Roman Empire at Bay: AD 180–395, New York: Routledge (Taylor & Francis e-Library).
Pourshariati, Parvaneh. 2008. Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran, London: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
Procopius. 1914.  History of the Wars, Volume I: Books 1-2. (Persian War), translated by H. B. Dewing, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Shapour Shahbazi, Alireza. 15 Dec. 1986. “ARMY i. Pre-Islamic Iran,”, Encyclopædia Iranica, Accessed (Dec. 28, 2019),
Shapour Shahbazi, Alireza. 30 Dec. 1988. “Bahrām VI Čōbīn,”, Encyclopædia Iranica, Accessed (Feb. 11, 2019),
Shapour Shahbazi, Alireza. 20, Jul. 2005. “SASANIAN DYNASTY,”, Encyclopædia Iranica, Accessed (Feb. 10, 2020),
Skupniewicz, Patryk N. 2006. “O tarczach sasanidzkiej jazdy”, Acta Militaria Mediaevalia II, 9-21.
Skupniewicz, Patryk N. 2009. “Shafted Weapons of Sasanian Hunting Iconography”, Fasciculi Archaeologiae Historicae, Vol. 22, 49-64.
Skupniewicz, Patryk N. 2014. “Sasanian Horse Armor”, Historia I Swiat, No. 3, 35-59.
Southern, Pat. 2001. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, New York: Routledge.
Spring, Peter. 2015. Great Walls and Linear Barriers, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military.
Sun Tzu. 1993. Sun-Tzu: The Art of Warfare: The First English Translation Incorporating the Recently Discovered Yin-chʻüeh-Shan Texts, translated by Roger T. Ames, New York: Ballantine Books.
Sykes, Sir Percy. 2001. History of Iran, translated by Seyed Mohammad Taghi Fakhr Daei Gilani, vol. I, Tehran: Afsoon. [In Persian]
Syvänne, Ilkka. 2017. “Parthian Cataphract vs. the Roman Army 53 BC-AD 224”, Historia i Świat, no. 6, 33–54.
Syvänne, Ilkka and Katarzyna Maksymiuk. 2018. The Military History of the Third Century Iran, Siedlce: Scientific Publishing House of Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities.
Theophanes. 1997. The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813, translated by Cyril Mango and Roger Scott, New York: Oxford University Press.
Thordeman, Bengt et al. 1939. Armour from the Battle of Wisby 1361. Vol. I (text), Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie Och Antikvitets Akademien.
Trousdale, William. 1975. The Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Wilhelm, Thomas. 1881. A Military Dictionary and Gazetteer, Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co.
White, Andrew. 2011. “The Role of Marius’s Military Reforms in the Decline of the Roman Republic”, Hst. 499: Senior Seminar, 13 June 2011, East Lansing, Michigan State University.
Wójcikowski, Robert S. 2013. “The Graffito from Dura Europos. Hybrid Armor in Parthian-Sasanian Iran”, Anabasis. Studia Classica Et Orientalia, vol. 4, 233–248.