Author Topic: Carrhae 53BC  (Read 12215 times)

Jim Webster

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Carrhae 53BC
« on: June 09, 2012, 12:53:02 PM »
Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Crassus: an alternative translation to the following can be found at http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Crassus*.html

20
1 So he marched his army along the river with seven legions, little less than four thousand horse, and as many light-armed soldiers, and the scouts returning declared that not one man appeared, but that they saw the footing of a great many horses which seemed to be retiring in flight, whereupon Crassus conceived great hopes, and the Romans began to despise the Parthians, as men that would not come to combat, hand to hand.  [-----]

21
1 While Crassus was still considering, and as yet undetermined, there came to the camp an Arab chief named Ariamnes, a cunning and wily fellow, who, of all the evil chances which combined to lead them on to destruction, was the chief and the most fatal. 
2 Some of Pompey's old soldiers knew him, and remembered him to have received some kindnesses of Pompey, and to have been looked upon as a friend to the Romans, but he was now suborned by the king's generals, and sent to Crassus to entice him if possible from the river and hills into the wide open plain, where he might be surrounded.  For the Parthians desired anything, rather than to be obliged to meet the Romans face to face.
3 He, therefore, coming to Crassus, (and he had a persuasive tongue,) highly commended Pompey as his benefactor, and admired the forces that Crassus had with him, but seemed to wonder why he delayed and made preparations, as if he should not use his feet more than any arms, against men that, taking with them their best goods and chattels, had designed long ago to fly for refuge to the Scythians or Hyrcanians.
4 "If you meant to fight, you should have made all possible haste, before the king should recover courage, and collect his forces together; at present you see Surena and Sillaces opposed to you, to draw you off in pursuit of them, while the king himself keeps out of the way." 
5 But this was all a lie, for Hyrodes had divided his army in two parts, with one he in person wasted Armenia, revenging himself upon Artavasdes, and sent Surena against the Romans, not out of contempt, as some pretend, for there is no likelihood that he should despise Crassus, one of the chiefest men of Rome, to go and fight with Artavasdes, and invade Armenia; but much more probably he really apprehended the danger, and therefore waited to see the event, intending that Surena should first run the hazard of a battle, and draw the enemy on. 
6 Nor was this Surena an ordinary person, but in wealth, family, and reputation, the second man in the kingdom, and in courage and prowess the first, and for bodily stature and beauty no man like him.  Whenever he travelled privately, he had one thousand camels to carry his baggage, two hundred chariots for his concubines, one thousand completely armed men for his life-guards, and a great many more light-armed; and he had at least ten thousand horsemen altogether, of his servants and retinue. 
7 The honour had long belonged to his family, that at the king's coronation he put the crown upon his head, and when this very king Hyrodes had been exiled, he brought him in; it was he, also, that took the great city of Seleucia, was the first man that scaled the walls, and with his own hand beat off the defenders.  And though at this time he was not above thirty years old, he had a great name for wisdom and sagacity, and, indeed, by these qualities chiefly, he overthrew Crassus, who first through his overweening confidence, and afterwards because he was cowed by his calamities, fell a ready victim to his subtlety. 

22
1 When Ariamnes had thus worked upon him, he drew him from the river into vast plains, by a way that at first was pleasant and easy, but afterwards very troublesome by reason of the depth of the sand; no tree, nor any water, and no end of this to be seen; so that they were not only spent with thirst, and the difficulty of the passage,
2 but were dismayed with the uncomfortable prospect of not a bough, not a stream, not a hillock, not a green herb, but in fact a sea of sand, which encompassed the army with its waves.  They began to suspect some treachery, and at the same time came messengers from Artavasdes, that he was fiercely attacked by Hyrodes, who had invaded his country, so that now it was impossible for him to send any succors,
3 and that he therefore advised Crassus to turn back, and with joint forces to give Hyrodes battle, or at least that he should march and encamp where horses could not easily come, and keep to the mountains.  Crassus, out of anger and perverseness, wrote him no answer, but told them, at present he was not at leisure to mind the Armenians, but he would call upon them another time, and revenge himself upon Artavasdes for his treachery.
4 Cassius and his friends began again to complain, but when they perceived that it merely displeased Crassus, they gave over, but privately railed at the barbarian, "What evil genius, O thou worst of men, brought thee to our camp, and with what charms and potions hast thou bewitched Crassus, that he should march his army through a vast and deep desert, through ways which are rather fit for a captain of Arabian robbers, than for the general of a Roman army?"
5 But the barbarian being a wily fellow, very submissively exhorted them, and encouraged them to sustain it a little further, and ran about the camp, and, professing to cheer up the soldiers, asked them, jokingly, "What, do you think you march through Campania, expecting everywhere to find springs, and shady trees, and baths, and inns of entertainment?  Consider you now travel through the confines of Arabia and Assyria." 
6 Thus he managed them like children, and before the cheat was discovered, he rode away; not but that Crassus was aware of his going, but he had persuaded him that he would go and contrive how to disorder the affairs of the enemy. 

23
1 It is related that Crassus came abroad that day not in his scarlet robe, which Roman generals usually wear, but in a black one, which, as soon as he perceived, he changed.  And the standard-bearers had much ado to take up their eagles, which seemed to be fixed to the place. 
2 Crassus laughed at it, and hastened their march, and compelled his infantry to keep pace with his cavalry, till some few of the scouts returned and told them that their fellows were slain and they hardly escaped, that the enemy was at hand in full force, and resolved to give them battle.
3 On this all was in an uproar; Crassus was struck with amazement, and for haste could scarcely put his army in good order.  First, as Cassius advised, he opened their ranks and files that they might take up as much space as could be, to prevent their being surrounded, and distributed the horse upon the wings, but afterwards changing his mind, he drew up his army in a square, and made a front every way, each of which consisted of twelve cohorts,
4 to every one of which he allotted a troop of horse, that no part might be destitute of the assistance that the horse might give, and that they might be ready to assist everywhere, as need should require.  Cassius commanded one of the wings, young Crassus the other, and he himself was in the middle.  Thus they marched on till they came to a little river named Balissus, a very inconsiderable one in itself, but very grateful to the soldiers, who had suffered so much by drought and heat all along their march. 
5 Most of the commanders were of the opinion that they ought to remain there that night, and to inform themselves as much as possible of the number of the enemies, and their order, and so march against them at break of day; but Crassus was so carried away by the eagerness of his son, and the horsemen that were with him, who desired and urged him to lead them on and engage, that he commanded those that had a mind to it to eat and drink as they stood in their ranks,
6 and before they had all well done, he led them on, not leisurely and with halts to take breath, as if he was going to battle, but kept on his pace as if he had been in haste, till they saw the enemy, contrary to their expectation, neither so many nor so magnificently armed as the Romans expected. 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. 
7 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. 

24
1 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. 
2 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. 
3 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.  4 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. 
5 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, 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.

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1 However, the Romans had some comfort to think that when they had spent all their arrows, they would either give over or come to blows; but when they presently understood that there were numerous camels loaded with arrows, and that when the first ranks had discharged those they had, they wheeled off and took more, Crassus seeing no end of it, was out of all heart, and sent to his son that he should endeavour to fall in upon them before he was quite surrounded; for the enemy advanced most upon that quarter, and seemed to be trying to ride round and come upon the rear.
2 Therefore the young man, taking with him thirteen hundred horse, one thousand of which he had from Caesar, five hundred archers, and eight cohorts of the full-armed soldiers that stood next him, led them up with design to charge the Parthians.  Whether it was that they found themselves in a piece of marshy ground, as some think, or else designing to entice young Crassus as far as they could from his father, they turned and began to fly;
3 whereupon he crying out that they durst not stand, pursued them, and with him Censorinus and Megabacchus, both famous, the latter for his courage and prowess, the other for being of a senator's family, and an excellent orator, both intimates of Crassus, and of about the same age.  The horse thus pushing on, the infantry stayed little behind, being exalted with hopes and joy, for they supposed they had already conquered, and now were only pursuing; till when they were gone too far, they perceived the deceit, for they that seemed to fly, now turned again, and a great many fresh ones came on. 
4 Upon this they made an halt, for they doubted not but now the enemy would attack them, because they were so few.  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,
5 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. 
6 Many of them died thus, and those that survived were disabled for any service, and when Publius 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. 
7 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. 
8 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. 
9 The Gauls were chiefly tormented by the heat and drought being not accustomed to either, and most of their horses were slain by being spurred on against the spears, so that they were forced to retire among the foot, bearing off Publius grievously wounded.  Observing a sandy hillock not far off, they made to it, and tying their horses to one another, and placing them in the midst, and joining all their shields together before them, they thought they might make some defence against the barbarians. 
10 But it fell out quite contrary, for when they were drawn up in a plain, the front in some measure secured those that were behind; but when they were upon the hill, one being of necessity higher up than another, none were in shelter, but all alike stood equally exposed, bewailing their inglorious and useless fate. 
11 There were with Publius two Greeks that lived near there at Carrhae, Hieronymus and Nicomachus; these men urged him to retire with them and fly to Ichnae, a town not far from thence, and friendly to the Romans.  "No," said he, "there is no death so terrible, for the fear of which Publius would leave his friends that die upon his account;" and bidding them to take care of themselves, he embraced them and sent them away, and, because he could not use his arm, for he was run through with a dart, he opened his side to his armor-bearer, and commanded him to run him through. 
12 It is said that Censorinus fell in the same manner.  Megabacchus slew himself, as did also the rest of best note.  The Parthians coming upon the rest with their lances, killed them fighting, nor were there above five hundred taken prisoners.  Cutting off the head of Publius, they rode off directly towards Crassus. 

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1 His condition was thus.  When he had commanded his son to fall upon the enemy, and word was brought him that they fled and that there was a distant pursuit, and perceiving also that the enemy did not press upon him so hard as formerly, for they were mostly gone to fall upon Publius, he began to take heart a little; and drawing his army towards some sloping ground, expected when his son would return from the pursuit. 
2 Of the messengers whom Publius sent to him, (as soon as he saw his danger,) the first were intercepted by the enemy, and slain; the last hardly escaping, came and declared that Publius was lost, unless he had speedy succours. 
3 Crassus was terribly distracted, not knowing what counsel to take, and indeed no longer capable of taking any; overpowered now by fear for the whole army, now by desire to help his son.  At last he resolved to move with his forces.  Just upon this, up came the enemy with their shouts and noises more terrible than before, their drums sounding again in the ears of the Romans, who now feared a fresh engagement. 
4 And they who brought Publius's head upon the point of a spear, riding up near enough that it could be known, scoffingly inquired where were his parents and what family he was of, for it was impossible that so brave and gallant a warrior should be the son of so pitiful a coward as Crassus.  This sight above all the rest dismayed the Romans, for it did not incite them to anger as it might have done, but to horror and trembling,
5 though they say Crassus outdid himself in this calamity, for he passed through the ranks and cried out to them, "This, O my countrymen, is my own peculiar loss, but the fortune and the glory of Rome is safe and untainted so long as you are safe.  But if any one be concerned for my loss of the best of sons, let him show it in revenging him upon the enemy.  Take away their joy, revenge their cruelty, nor be dismayed at what is past; for whoever tries for great objects must suffer something.
6 Neither did Lucullus overthrow Tigranes without bloodshed, nor Scipio Antiochus; our ancestors lost one thousand ships about Sicily, and how many generals and captains in Italy? no one of which losses hindered them from overthrowing their conquerors; for the State of Rome did not arrive to this height by fortune, but by perseverance and virtue in confronting danger." 
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 05:30:59 PM by Mark »
  • Jim Webster

Jim Webster

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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2012, 12:53:40 PM »
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1 While Crassus thus spoke exhorting them, he saw but few that gave much heed to him, and when he ordered them to shout for the battle, he could no longer mistake the despondency of his army, which made but a faint and unsteady noise, while the shout of the enemy was clear and bold.  And when they came to the business, the Parthian servants and dependents riding about shot their arrows, and the horsemen in the foremost ranks with their spears drove the Romans close together, except those who rushed upon them for fear of being killed by their arrows. 
2 Neither did these do much execution, being quickly dispatched; for the strong thick spear made large and mortal wounds, and often run through two men at once.  As they were thus fighting, the night coming on parted them, the Parthians boasting that they would indulge Crassus with one night to mourn his son, unless upon better consideration he would rather go to Arsaces, than be carried to him. 
3 These, therefore, took up their quarters near them, being flushed with their victory. But the Romans had a sad night of it; for neither taking care for the burial of their dead, nor the cure of the wounded, nor the groans of the expiring, everyone bewailed his own fate.  For there was no means of escaping, whether they should stay for the light, or venture to retreat into the vast desert in the dark.  And now the wounded men gave them new trouble, since to take them with them would retard their flight, and if they should leave them, they might serve as guides to the enemy by their cries. 
4 However, they were all desirous to see and hear Crassus, though they were sensible that he was the cause of all their mischief.  But he wrapped his cloak around him, and hid himself, where he lay as an example, to ordinary minds, of the caprice of fortune, but to the wise, of inconsiderateness and ambition; who, not content to be superior to so many millions of men, being inferior to two, esteemed himself as the lowest of all. 
5 Then came Octavius, his lieutenant, and Cassius, to comfort him, but he being altogether past helping, they themselves called together the centurions and tribunes, and agreeing that the best way was to fly, they ordered the army out, without sound of trumpet, and at first with silence.  But before long, when the disabled men found they were left behind, strange confusion and disorder, with an outcry and lamentation, seized the camp, and a trembling and dread presently fell upon them, as if the enemy were at their heels. 
6 By which means, now and then fuming out of their way, now and then standing to their ranks, sometimes taking up the wounded that followed, sometimes laying them down, they wasted the time, except three hundred horse, whom Egnatius brought safe to Carrhae about midnight;
7 where calling, in the Roman tongue, to the watch, as soon as they heard him, he bade them tell Coponius, the governor, that Crassus had fought a very great battle with the Parthians; and having said but this, and not so much as telling his name, he rode away at full speed to Zeugma.  And by this means he saved himself and his men, but lost his reputation by deserting his general. 
8 However, his message to Coponius was for the advantage of Crassus; for he, suspecting by this hasty and confused delivery of the message that all was not well, immediately ordered the garrison to be in arms, and as soon as he understood that Crassus was upon the way towards him, he went out to meet him, and received him with his army into the town. 

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1 The Parthians, although they perceived their dislodgement in the night, yet did not pursue them, but as soon as it was day, they came upon those that were left in the camp, and put no less than four thousand to the sword, and with their light; horse picked up a great many stragglers. 
2 Varguntinus, the lieutenant, while it was yet dark, had broken off from the main body with four cohorts which had strayed out of the way; and the Parthians, encompassing these on a small hill, slew every man of them excepting twenty, who with their drawn swords forced their way through the thickest, and they admiring their courage, opened their ranks to the right and left, and let them pass without molestation to Carrhae.  Soon after a false report was brought to Surena, that Crassus, with his principal officers, had escaped, and that those who were got into Carrhae were but a confused rout of insignificant people, not worth further pursuit. 
3 Supposing, therefore, that he had lost the very crown and glory of his victory, and yet being uncertain whether it were so or not, and anxious to ascertain the fact, that so he should either stay and besiege Carrhae or follow Crassus, he sent one of his interpreters to the walls, commanding him in Latin to call for Crassus or Cassius, for that the general, Surena, desired a conference. 
4 As soon as Crassus heard this, he embraced the proposal, and soon after there came up a band of Arabians, who very well knew the faces of Crassus and Cassius, as having been frequently in the Roman camp before the battle.  They having espied Cassius from the wall, told him that Surena desired a peace, and would give them safe convoy, if they would make a treaty with the king his master, and withdraw all their troops out of Mesopotamia; and this he thought most advisable for them both, before things came to the last extremity;
5 Cassius, embracing the proposal, desired that a time and place might be appointed where Crassus and Surena might have an interview.  The Arabians, having charged themselves with the message, went back to Surena,

29
1 who were not a little rejoiced that Crassus was there to be besieged.  Next day, therefore, he came up with his army, insulting over the Romans, and haughtily demanding of them Crassus and Cassius bound, if they expected any mercy. 
2 The Romans, seeing themselves deluded and mocked, were much troubled at it, but advising Crassus to lay aside his distant and empty hopes of aid from the Armenians, resolved to fly for it; and this design ought to have been kept private, till they were upon their way, and not have been told to any of the people of Carrhae.  But Crassus let this also be known to Andromachus, the most faithless of men, nay he was so infatuated as to choose him for his guide. 
3 The Parthians then, to be sure, had punctual intelligence of all that passed; but it being contrary to their usage, and also difficult for them to fight by night, and Crassus having chosen that time to set out, Andromachus, lest he should get the start too far of his pursuers, led him hither and thither, and at last conveyed him into the midst of morasses and places full of ditches, so that the Romans had a troublesome and perplexing journey of it,
4 and some there were who, supposing by these windings and turnings of Andromachus that no good was intended, resolved to follow him no further.  And at last Cassius himself returned to Carrhae, and his guides, the Arabians, advising him to tarry there till the moon was got out of Scorpio, he told them that he was most afraid of Sagittarius, and so with five hundred horse went off to Syria. 
5 Others there were, who having got honest guides, took their way by the mountains called Sinnaca, and got into places of security by daybreak; these were five thousand under the command of Octavius, a very gallant man.  But Crassus fared worse; day overtook him still deceived by Andromachus, and entangled in the fens and the difficult country.
6 There were with him four cohorts of legionary soldiers, a very few horsemen, and five lictors, with whom having with great difficulty got into the way, and not being a mile and a half from Octavius, instead of going to join him, although the enemy were already upon him, he retreated to another hill, neither so defensible nor impassable for the horse, but lying under the hills of Sinnaca, and continued so as to join them in a long ridge through the plain. 
7 Octavius could see in what danger the general was, and himself, at first but slenderly followed, hurried to the rescue. Soon after, the rest, upbraiding one another with baseness in forsaking their officers, marched down, and falling upon the Parthians, drove them from the hill, and compassing Crassus about, and fencing him with their shields, declared proudly, that no arrow in Parthia should ever touch their general, so long as there was a man of them left alive to protect him. 

30
1 Surena, therefore, perceiving his soldiers less inclined to expose themselves, and knowing that if the Romans should prolong the battle till night, they might then gain the mountains and be out of his reach, betook himself to his usual craft.  Some of the prisoners were set free, who had, as it was contrived, been in hearing, while some of the barbarians spoke of a set purpose in the camp to the effect that the king did not design the war to be pursued to extremity against the Romans, but rather desired, by his gentle treatment of Crassus, to make a step towards reconciliation. 
2 And the barbarians desisted from fighting, and Surena himself, with his chief officers, riding gently to the hill, unbent his bow and held out his hand, inviting Crassus to an agreement, and saying that it was beside the king's intentions, that they had thus had experience of the courage and the strength of his soldiers; that now he desired no other contention but that of kindness and friendship, by making a truce, and permitting them to go away in safety. 
3 These words of Surena the rest received joyfully, and were eager to accept the offer; but Crassus, who had had sufficient experience of their perfidiousness, and was unable to see any reason for the sudden change, would give no ear to them, and only took time to consider. 
4 But the soldiers cried out and advised him to treat, and then went on to upbraid and affront him, saying that it was very unreasonable that he should bring them to fight with such men armed, whom himself, without their arms, durst not look in the face.  He tried first to prevail with them by entreaties, and told them that if they would have patience till evening, they might get into the mountains and passes, inaccessible for horse, and be out of danger, and withal he pointed out the way with his hand, entreating them not to abandon their preservation, now close before them. 
5 But when they mutinied and clashed their targets in a threatening manner, he was overpowered and forced to go, and only turning about at parting, said, "You, Octavius and Petronius, and the rest of the officers who are present, see the necessity of going which I lie under, and cannot but be sensible of the indignities and violence offered to me.  Tell all men when you have escaped, that Crassus perished rather by the subtlety of his enemies, than by the disobedience of his countrymen." 

31
1 Octavius, however, would not stay there, but with Petronius went down from the hill; as for the lictors, Crassus bade them be gone. The first that met him were two half-blood Greeks, who, leaping from their horses, made a profound reverence to Crassus, and desired him, in Greek, to send some before him, who might see that Surena himself was coming towards them, his retinue disarmed, and not having so much as their wearing swords along with them. 
2 But Crassus answered, that if he had the least concern for his life, he would never have entrusted himself in their hands, but sent two brothers of the name of Roscius, to inquire on what terms, and in what numbers they should meet.  These Surena ordered immediately to be seized, and himself with his principal officers came up on horseback, and greetings him, said, "How is this, then?  A Roman commander is on foot, whilst I and my train are mounted." 
3 But Crassus replied, that there was no error committed on either side, for they both met according to the custom of their own country. Surena told him that from that time there was a league between the king his master and the Romans, but that Crassus must go with him to the river to sign it, "for you Romans," said he, "have not good memories for conditions," and so saying, reached out his hand to him.  Crassus, therefore, gave order that one of his horses should be brought; but Surena told him there was no need, "the king, my master, presents you with this;"
4 and immediately a horse with a golden bit was brought up to him, and himself was forcibly put into the saddle by the grooms, who ran by the side and struck the horse to make the more haste.  But Octavius running up, got hold of the bridle, and soon after one of the officers, Petronius, and the rest of the company came up, striving to stop the horse, and pulling back those who on both sides of him forced Crassus forward. 
5 Thus from pulling and thrusting one another, they came to a tumult, and soon after to blows.  Octavius, drawing his sword, killed a groom of one of the barbarians, and one of them, getting behind Octavius, killed him.  Petronius was not armed, but being struck on the breastplate, fell down from his horse, though without hurt.  Crassus was killed by a Parthian, called Pomaxathres;
6 others say, by a different man, and that Pomaxathres only cut off his head and right hand after he had fallen.  But this is conjecture rather than certain knowledge, for those that were by had not leisure to observe particulars, and were either killed fighting about Crassus, or ran off at once to get to their comrades on the hill.  7 But the Parthians coming up to them, and saying that Crassus had the punishment he justly deserved, and that Surena bade the rest come down from the hill without fear, some of them came down and surrendered themselves, others were scattered up and down in the night, a very few of whom got safe home, and others the Arabians, beating through the country, hunted down and put to death.  It is generally said, that in all twenty thousand men were slain, and ten thousand taken prisoners.   
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 05:42:26 PM by Mark »
  • Jim Webster

Jim Webster

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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2012, 01:03:32 PM »
Well it fitted into two chunks  ;)

One thing that struck me which I felt I ought to comment on was this bit. Someone really ought to check the Greek

"Nor was this Surena an ordinary person, but in wealth, family, and reputation, the second man in the kingdom, and in courage and prowess the first, and for bodily stature and beauty no man like him.  Whenever he travelled privately, he had one thousand camels to carry his baggage, two hundred chariots for his concubines, one thousand completely armed men for his life-guards, and a great many more light-armed; and he had at least ten thousand horsemen altogether, of his servants and retinue."

Plutarch doesn't say this was the Parthian army, he merely says that  "Whenever he [Surena] travelled privately" he was accompanied by this force.
So far as I can make out from the reading, the Parthian army might be far larger than a mere 10,000 men, we just don't know.

Later on Plutarch states
"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."

At the very least this is evidence for the Parthians wearing coverings over their armour. This is entirely sensible given the problems of wearing too much metal in the hot sun.

Over to everyone to debate
Jim



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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2012, 01:52:25 PM »
Jim, I take the point about there being more than the Surena's 'household' and there may well have been more Parthians.
There is a line of argument for the position that it is a 10,000 man force:
1) The Parthians do not act as if they have equal umbers. They dog the Romans and cannot prevent them reaching the hills. It is Crassus' stupidity that betrays the Republic, perhaps the death of Publius destroyed his morale?
2) The arrival of camel borne arrow supplies breaks the Romans hearts. If there had been 25,000 horse archers surely merely rotating units shooting would have been enough.  Perhaps Crassus generals thought that the 9,000 bowmen would run out of ammunition and let the Romans get off to the hills. Once in hilly country the Romans are much safer as is demonstrated by Anthony's later campaign.
3) There is not much water on the route. Mayhap Surena was not willing to have more men because then he would be in the same bind as the Romans
4) The king is in the North with the main army facing Armenia.

Crassus' big mistake is losing his cavalry in the attempt to drive off the horse bows. He should have used limited charges to relieve pressure on units in trouble.

Do the cataphracts actually make contact with their charges or are they merely threat that drives the Romans closer together to make a better target?  I think Dio Cassius has a rather different account of this episode. That may be correct (both Dio and Plutarch are writing many years later), or it may just be Dio sexing up a story as he tends to do.
Perhaps Surena has more troop types available, but only horse bows and cataphracts are mentioned because they are the only meaningful actors on the Parthian side?/

Roy
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 03:17:21 PM by aligern »
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2012, 01:57:37 PM »
Cassius Dio, Roman History, Bk 40: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/40*.html

20
1 Nevertheless, the greatest injury was done them by Abgarus of Osroëne. For he had pledged himself to peace with the Romans in the time of Pompey, but now chose the side of the barbarians. The same was done by Alchaudonius, the Arabian, who always attached himself to the stronger party.
2 The latter, however, revolted openly, and hence was not hard to guard against; but Abgarus, while favouring the Parthian cause, pretended to be well disposed toward Crassus. He spent money for him unsparingly, learned all his plans and reported them to the foe, and further, if any of them was advantageous for the Romans, he tried to divert him from it, but if disadvantageous, urged him forward.
3 At last he was responsible for the following occurrence. Crassus was intending to advance to Seleucia so as to reach there safely with his army and provisions by proceeding along the banks of the Euphrates and on its stream; accompanied then by the people of that city, whom he hoped to win over easily, because they were Greeks, he would cross without difficulty to Ctesiphon.
4 Abgarus caused him to give up this course, on the ground that it would take a long time, and persuaded him to assail Surenas, because the latter was near by and had only a few men.

21
1 Then, when he had arranged matters so that the invader should perish and the other should conquer (for he was continually in the company of Surenas, on the pretext of spying), he led out the Romans in their heedlessness to what he represented as a victory in their very hands, and in the midst of the action joined in the attack against them.
2 It came about in this way. The Parthians confronted the Romans with most of their army hidden; for the ground was uneven in spots and wooded. Upon seeing them Crassus — not the commander, but the younger Crassus, who had come to his father from Gaul —
3 felt scornful of them, since he supposed them to be alone, and so led out his cavalry against them, and when they turned purposely to flight, pursued them, thinking the victory was his; thus he was drawn far away from the main army, and was then surrounded and cut down.

22
1 When this had taken place, the Roman infantry did not turn back, but valiantly joined battle with the Parthians to avenge his death. Yet they accomplished nothing worthy of themselves because of the enemy's numbers and tactics, and particularly because Abgarus was plotting against them.
2 For if they decided to lock shields for the purpose of avoiding the arrows by the closeness of their array, the pikemen were upon them with a rush, striking down some, and at least scattering the others; and if they extended their ranks to avoid this, they would be struck with the arrows.
3 Hereupon many died from fright at the very charge of the pikemen, and many perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.
4 The missiles falling thick upon them from all sides at once struck down many by a mortal blow, rendered many useless for battle, and caused distress to all. They flew into their eyes and pierced their hands and all the other parts of their body and, penetrating their armour, deprived them of their protection and compelled them to expose themselves to each new missile.
5 Thus, while a man was guarding against arrows or pulling out one that had stuck fast he received more wounds, one after another. Consequently it was impracticable for them to move, and impracticable to remain at rest. Neither course afforded them safety but each was fraught with destruction, the one because it was out of their power, and the other because they were then more easily wounded.

23
1 This was what they suffered while they were fighting only against the enemies in sight; for Abgarus did not immediately make his attempt upon them. But when he, too, attacked, thereupon the Osroëni themselves assailed the Romans on their exposed rear, since they were facing the other way, and also rendered them easier for the others to slaughter. For the Romans, in altering their formation, so as to be facing them, put the Parthians behind them.
2 Again they wheeled round to face the Parthians, then back again to face the Osroëni, then to face the Parthians once more. Thrown into still greater confusion by this course, because they were continually turning this way and that and were forced to face the enemy that was wounding them at the time, they fell upon their own swords and many were even killed by their comrades.
3 Finally, as the enemy continually assaulted them from all sides at once, and they were compelled to protect their exposed parts by the shields of those who stood beside them, they were shut up in so narrow a place that they could no longer move. Indeed, they could not even get a sure footing by reason of the number of corpses, but kept falling over them.
4 The heat and thirst (it was midsummer and this action took place at noon) and the dust, of which the barbarians raised as much as possible by all riding around them, told fearfully upon the survivors, and many succumbed from these causes, even though unwounded.

24
1 And the Romans would have perished utterly, but for the fact that some of the pikes of the barbarians were bent and others were broken, while the bowstrings snapped under the constant shooting, the missiles were exhausted, the swords all blunted, and, most of all, that the men themselves grew weary of the slaughter.
2 Under these conditions, then, the assailants retired, for night was coming and they were obliged to ride off to a distance. For they never encamp near even the weakest forces, because they use no intrenchments, and because, if any one attacks them in the darkness, they are unable to employ their cavalry or their archery to advantage.
3 However, they captured no Roman alive at that time; for seeing them standing upright in their armour and perceiving that no one either threw away his weapons or fled, they supposed they still had some strength, and feared to lay hold of them.

25
1 So Crassus and all the rest who could set out for Carrhae, which had been kept loyal to them by the Romans who remained behind within the walls. But many of the wounded remained on the field, being unable to walk and lacking vehicles or even guides, since the others had been glad enough merely to drag themselves away.
2 Some of them died of their wounds or by making away with themselves, and others were captured the next day. And of those who had escaped many perished on the road, as their strength gave out, and many later because they were unable to obtain proper care immediately.
3 For Crassus, in his discouragement, believed he could not hold out safely even in the city any longer, but planned flight at once. And since it was impossible for him to go out by day without being detected, he undertook to escape by night, but failed to secure secrecy, being betrayed by the moon, which was at its full.
4 The Romans accordingly waited for moonless nights, and setting out thus, in darkness and in a land at once strange and hostile, and in overpowering fear, they became scattered. And some were caught when it became day and lost their lives, others got safely away to Syria in the company of Cassius Longinus, the quaestor,
5 and still others, with Crassus himself, gained the mountains and prepared to escape through them into Armenia.

26
1 Surenas, learning this, was afraid that if they should escape anywhere they might make war on them again, but still he was unwilling to assail them on the higher ground, which was inaccessible to horses; for as they were heavy-armed men, fighting from higher ground, and felt also a touch of frenzy because of despair, contending with them was not easy. So he sent to them, inviting them to agree to a truce on condition of their abandoning all territory east of the Euphrates;
2 and Crassus, without hesitation, trusted him. For he was in the very extremity of fear, and was distraught by the terror of the calamity that had befallen both himself and the state; and seeing, moreover, that the soldiers shrank from the journey, which they thought long and arduous, and that they feared Orodes, he was unable to foresee anything that he ought.
3 Now when he declared himself ready for the truce, Surenas refused to negotiate it through others, but in order to get him off with only a few followers and seize him, he said that he wished to hold a conference with the commander personally.
4 Thereupon they decided to meet each other in the space between the two armies with an equal number of men from each side. So Crassus descended to the level ground and Surenas sent him a present of a horse, to make sure of his coming to him more quietly;

27
1 and while Crassus even then delayed and considered what he should do, the barbarians took him forcibly and threw him on the horse. Meanwhile the Romans also laid hold of him, came to blows with the others, and for a time held their own; then aid came to the barbarians, and they prevailed;
2 for their forces, which were in the plain and had been made ready beforehand brought help to their men before the Romans on the high ground could to theirs. And not only the others fell, but Crassus also was slain, either by one of his own men to prevent his capture alive, or by the enemy because he was badly wounded. This was his end.
3 And the Parthians, as some say, poured molten gold into his mouth in mockery; for though a man of vast wealth, he had set so great store by money as to pity those who could not support an enrolled legion from their own means, regarding them as poor men.
4 Of the soldiers the majority escaped through the mountains to friendly territory, but a part fell into the hands of the enemy.
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2012, 02:19:15 PM »
"Nor was this Surena an ordinary person, but in wealth, family, and reputation, the second man in the kingdom, and in courage and prowess the first, and for bodily stature and beauty no man like him.  Whenever he travelled privately, he had one thousand camels to carry his baggage, two hundred chariots for his concubines, one thousand completely armed men for his life-guards, and a great many more light-armed; and he had at least ten thousand horsemen altogether, of his servants and retinue."

Plutarch doesn't say this was the Parthian army, he merely says that  "Whenever he [Surena] travelled privately" he was accompanied by this force.
So far as I can make out from the reading, the Parthian army might be far larger than a mere 10,000 men, we just don't know.

Gareth Sampson, in The Defeat of Rome (which I think is pretty good btw) implies similarly - that we are being told about Surenas' household army, not necessarily his army at Carrhae, but concludes (admittedly with little evidence, really by process of elimination as there were no other household armies at Carrhae and Parthia only had household armies) that this is effectively the Parthian army there. He quotes Lucian on the Parthians being organised into dragons - regiments of 1,000 men fighting under a dragon standard. He notes Plutarch's comment that there were 1,000 baggage camels laden with spare arrows, and concludes that - given this was a non-standard Parthian army feature, Surenas had specifically prepared a strategy to deal with the Romans' strength in close order infantry combat.

My only concern about the above is, on one hand, Sampson is concluding that Surenas was fighting with a highly customised army (no infantry, fast resupply of arrows placed at the front line - he very much customised his army list for this particular battle) and on the other using Plutarch's description of his "normal" army.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 02:53:34 PM by Mark »
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2012, 03:25:25 PM »
Good work, Mark: incidentally, how do you manage to get Lacus Curtius when I have been unable to reach it for days (including via your link)?

Jim, the Greek for Plutarch's Crassus chapter 21, which describes Surena's retinue, gives him 1,000 'hippeis de kataphraktoi' (no prizes for guessing what these are), and a total of 10,000 others encompassing an additional escort of 'pleiones ... kouphon' (a greater number ... of light cavalry) and a retinue of 'pelatas' (vassals, armament and capacity unspecified) and 'doulous' (slaves, one suspects unarmed).

Whether these make up his entire force is questionable.  In 21.5 Plutarch writes:

For Hyrodes had promptly divided his forces into two parts and was himself devastating Armenia to punish Artavasdes, while he despatched Surena to meet the Romans.

One suspects he would give Surena part of his own forces rather than sending him off to play Belisarius by himself.  If so, then Surena could have deployed more than just 1,000 cataphracts without necessarily having 10,000 archers (Dio Cassius, like Plutarch, divides Parthian troop roles into archery (toxeumata) and lance-work (kontophoroi) although he is less explicit about two different troop types performing the two different roles and suggests nothing about the respective ratios).  The defection of the Osrohenian contingent, mentioned by Dio but not by Plutarch, would also alter the force relationship between the two sides, and Surena may have been counting on this when deciding how, where and whether to give battle.

In short, I suspect we cannot take Plutarch's description of Surena's household as a reflection of the OB with which he turned up at Carrhae.  My instinct would be that he probably received between one third and one half of the forces generated by mobilising the Parthian kingdom, probably closer to the former, when Hyrodes divided his army.

Plutarch's description of Surena's household suggests that the ratio of 'kouphon' (light cavalry) to 'kataphraktoi' was rather less than 10:1.  The 'vassals' may or may not have been armed and mounted; the 'slaves' almost certainly were neither.  All Plutarch tells us about the 'kouphoi' (lighter cavalry) of Surena's escort is that their number was greater than that of the 1,000 cataphracts.  A reasonable range of guesswork might put them between 2,000 and 5,000, possibly closer to the former, bearing in mind the need to accommodate numerous 'vassals' and slaves in the figure of 10,000.

So how large would Hyrodes' army have been?

Patrick


« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 03:35:57 PM by Patrick Waterson »
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2012, 03:58:00 PM »
Firstly the camels
When you read it carefully, Plutarch doesn' t say there were 1,000 baggage camels laden with spare arrows, he says "Whenever he travelled privately, he had one thousand camels to carry his baggage" and later he says "but when they presently understood that there were numerous camels loaded with arrows"

It strikes me that too many historians have been sloppy with their reading and have read what they wanted Plutarch to say, not what he actually did.

As for "how large would Hyrodes' army have been?" I'm not sure we have much in the way of figures for Parthian armies this early.
I'd have said that on economic grounds the Empire might have been able to produce something similar to the number of cavalry in the Persian Army at Gaugamela, where there might have been 40,000 cavalry.

Looking at the 'light armed' and the vassals and the slaves, we have to be careful because in Greek eyes men the Parthians regarded as fighting men might have been slaves in Greek eyes.

It is easy, on damn all evidence, to assume that Vassals were perhaps more heavily armoured being independent petty nobility following Surenas.

Jim



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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2012, 04:18:26 PM »
Good work, Mark: incidentally, how do you manage to get Lacus Curtius when I have been unable to reach it for days (including via your link)?

Er, magic. If the address has changed due to recent DNS shenanigans it may be you have a local cache (or your ISP does) of the wrong address. If it were a mac I could tell you how to clear the cache but I know you use Windows. At any rate, it's here: http://128.135.44.111/Thayer/E/home.html
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2012, 04:41:46 PM »
Firstly the camels. When you read it carefully, Plutarch doesn' t say there were 1,000 baggage camels laden with spare arrows, he says "Whenever he travelled privately, he had one thousand camels to carry his baggage" and later he says "but when they presently understood that there were numerous camels loaded with arrows"

I agree with you to a point. Plutarch also has him with 200 harem wagons and on the same surmise one could have a significant number of mobile female infantry (which would liven up a battle, were figures available) in a 40k-style "Rhino-rush". To be fair to Sampson he footnotes the reference to the latter statement (the "large number of camels loaded with arrows" in the Penguin trans), not the former. Mea culpa for implying otherwise.

As for "how large would Hyrodes' army have been?" I'm not sure we have much in the way of figures for Parthian armies this early. I'd have said that on economic grounds the Empire might have been able to produce something similar to the number of cavalry in the Persian Army at Gaugamela, where there might have been 40,000 cavalry.

Again, up to a point yes. Sampson aggressively asserts that Surenas spent the winter planning for the battle min-maxing a horse archer army, but doesn't bother to call allies to the field. I actually like the former idea, but it raises questions which aren't addressed by the scant sources, or by the subsequent analysis. We have Plutarch's description of Surenas' household army, but not an OOB. There's an assertion the plan is meticulously put together. Crassus' allies seem to have been inserted as double agents (though this might be a post rationalisation of what became an obvious decision on their part on the day). Politically it would have made sense, if 10,000 was Surenas' army, to augment it. Also I'm not sure that a "standard" army would contain no infantry or allies.

And Plutarch also says "at least 10,000", not "10,000".

However, there's a letter from Cicero to Atticus (quoted in Sampson) discussing intelligence feedback from Armenia that the Parthian king was possibly going to cross the Euphrates "with his whole power" come the summer, which implies that the main Parthian army - whatever it was - was not engaged.

Separate point, Jim - would you be OK if I broke up your Plutarch text for better readability, above?
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2012, 04:59:37 PM »
Break up the plutarch text as you want, I set to work on it, but then something cropped up and I had to post it.

One question I'd have to ask, if this was Surenas' household army, why did he have to spend a winter training it or whatever?

Another suggestion I've seen for the campaign is that Crassus actually sold the Parthians the Dummy, sent their army north while he cut round them and was making the march on the capital when Surenas, who was either late for the main army, or had been detached to act as a flank guard for the main army, managed to get across his path.

As for the double agents, I'd note that Aelius Gallus who attacked  Arabia Felix (Yemen) in 26-25 BC was 'betrayed' by an 'ally' who led him astray and made sure the Romans didn't get into combat.
As for infantry, there may well have been infantry, they might have been frantically digging in or preparing city defences, or even guarding the camp, but I think if they had appeared on the battle field they would have got some sort of mention. On the other hand, if the idea that Crassus 'sold the dummy' is correct, the Parthian infantry could be with the army, and Surenas has had to move at speed to block the Roman advance so his infantry, if he had any, are slogging behind him, perhaps with the 200 chariots of concubines etc etc
Jim
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2012, 05:37:37 PM »
Good work, Mark: incidentally, how do you manage to get Lacus Curtius when I have been unable to reach it for days (including via your link)?

Er, magic. If the address has changed due to recent DNS shenanigans it may be you have a local cache (or your ISP does) of the wrong address. If it were a mac I could tell you how to clear the cache but I know you use Windows. At any rate, it's here: http://128.135.44.111/Thayer/E/home.html

Thanks for the hint, Mark.  For those of us stuck with Windows, here is how to clear the caches (if ever you need to):

http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/clear-windows-7-cache/

Jim, if he actually had infantry who were travelling with 200 vehicles full of concubines, no wonder they were late! ;)  Sadly there seems to be no indication that his personal staff accompanied him on campaign, though one would have expected him to retain as many as possible of the comforts of home.  Be that as it may, to all intents and purposes our sources have him fielding a pure cavalry army on the battlefield (and ditto when Antony defeats a Parthian army and then collects only 30 dead Parthians in the pursuit - either their infantry could run faster than Roman cavalry or they did not have any).  Any infantry that might have been around appear to have been left out of the battle, Byzantine-style.

Crassus may have attempted to deceive the Parthians about his intentions, but he still needed to travel down the Euphrates if he was to stay close to sufficient water for his army without having to force-march from place to place.  And with his principal 'allies' haemorrhaging information at every turn, any bluff he attempted would be hollow to say the least.

Guesstimating the size of Hyrodes' army at 40-50,000 would give Surena 15-20,000 troops.  This is still sufficiently less than Crassus' army to require a bit of forward planning and preparation to make success possible.  As for the composition of the Parthian army (cataphract-archer ratio), Jim can probably give a better estimate than I.

Patrick
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2012, 05:44:07 PM »
Break up the plutarch text as you want, I set to work on it, but then something cropped up and I had to post it.

Done. I used the Lacus Curtius structure to divide it into paras. I assume though it's a different translation (or, I know it is - your own?)
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2012, 05:54:57 PM »
On the concubines, there's a bit shortly afterwards in Plutarch which indicates they were indeed in the train (at least by the time he got to Seleucia):

Quote
3 But before the assembled senate of Seleucia, Surena brought licentious books of the "Milesiaca" of Aristides [basically, somewhat charged love poetry], and in this matter, at least, there was no falsehood on his part, for the books were found in the baggage of Roscius, and gave Surena occasion to heap much insulting ridicule upon the Romans, since they could not, even when going to war, let such subjects and writings alone.
4 The people of Seleucia, however, appreciated the wisdom of Aesop [ a reference to a pot calling the kettle black kind of fable ] when they saw Surena with a wallet of obscenities from the "Milesiaca" in front of him, but trailing behind him a Parthian Sybaris in so many waggon-loads of concubines. After a fashion his train was a counterpart to the fabled echidnae and scytalae among serpents, by showing its conspicuous and forward portions fearful and savage, with spears, archery, and horse,
5 but trailing off in the rear of the line into dances, cymbals, lutes, and nocturnal revels with women.

So, a camp but no infantry?
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Re: Carrhae 53BC
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2012, 06:04:22 PM »
 The Camels.  It doesn't matter about the exact number of camels , what matters is that they resupply the archers with arrows and that breaks Crassus' morale. However, let's assume that the Parthians have a decimal structure. each camel brings new supplies for 10 men. Let's say that they bring 24 arrows each, that's 240 arrows per came. That again looks reasonable. So, if its not 1000 camels then quibbling about the number is a not important as its got to be something like that number.

The Infantry.
Well yes they would make it a more interesting army, but 10,000 poor Parthian infantry would just eat up food and water and slow the force down. Surena is not going to invade Roman territory so no sieges or places to defend,.  The Parthians are in a place with little water and need to keep pace with Crassus and escort him off Parthian territory. So no infantry in this army.

Numbers. The bulk of the army is with the king against Armenia. Hyrodes probably credited Crassus with the sense to come the hilly route as the Armenians advised. The Armenians have lots of cataphracts so that is where the Parthian strength lies.  I'd also say that Surena has enough men for the job with 10,000 . I doubt that he is contemplating a major victory and he has enough to defeat the Roman cavalry and turn a fighting march into hell for the legions.

Cataphracts. I don't believe that there are more than 1000 cataphracts. That's because in later battles the Parthians get considerably more aggressive with the cataphracts because they have the main army and thus a lot of them.  In this battle the cataphracts are  used much more sparingly, driving the Roman infantry together, defeating the cavalry and overrunning a couple of cohorts at the end. Surena's very tentative tactics tell us that he doesn't have the weight of armoured mounted men to try and stop the Romans marching forward and the should argue for say 1000 of them.

Roy
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 06:12:59 PM by aligern »
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