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curving blades, which projected from the hubs of the chariot wheels, were sufficiently

dangerous when they could be got against the enemy, but there was the rub; for what with

frightened or wounded horses, and what with a chasm in the ground or a slain charioteer,

not much was to be apprehended from those military mowing-machines of the ancients. If the

battles of antiquity had always been appointed to take place in the Babylonian brick-

yards, and if the soldiers had been rooted like wheat stalks to the earth, then perhaps

the execution of the scythe-bearing chariots would have been equal to the expectancy.

It appears, however, that the chariot was put to a very rational and important use in the

movements of the Persian army. In such vehicles the king (if he commanded, as was

generally the case) and the princes of the Empire had their station in battle. The

generals and leaders of the army were thus made conspicuous. A sudden impulse was no doubt

given to the onset by the apparition of royalty rumbling by and shouting his commands from

the chariot of Ormazd.

i The general idea of a Persian battle was to keep the best in front. In the later times

of the Empire, when war-chariots were introduced, it was customary to place them in

advance of the rest of the forces. First of all, it was the plan to send this alarming

enginery against the foe. In the rear of the chariots, and occupying the center of the

field, was the main army of infantry. This was arranged in squares, so placed as to

support each other. The front lines were held by the picked troops of Persia, they being

considered most valiant. The supports were the less reliable soldiery of the provinces,

foreigners, auxiliaries. The cavalry was arranged on the two wings, and was generally

intended to operate on the flanks of the enemy. In the beginning of an engagement, the

squares advanced to within striking distance of the adverse lines. Here there was a halt,

the Persians planted their shields on the ground and began a discharge of arrows upon the

foe. In the rear the other troops shot clouds of darts and other missiles over the

heads of the front ranks. If the enemy's lines were broken, the cavalry bore down on the

wings and completed the discomfiture. If, however, he stood courageously and came to a

conflict hand to hand, then the Persians drew their swords, and in a short time either

scattered their antagonists or were themselves put to flight. When the lines broke there

was generally a rout. There was little thought of regaining by valor or strategy a lost

battle. There seems to have been but a sorry notion of that kind of courage which recovers

itself and snatches victory from defeat.

The Persian kings depended mainly for success upon superior numbers. They augmented their

forces to the greatest possible extent. In the battle-field the squares were arranged one

behind the other to a great depth, so that the lines in front might feel the double

impulse of support and of actual pressure forward. Besides this strength of the mass the

great numbers of the Persians enabled them to spread beyond the wings of any ordinary army

that might oppose them, and to surround and close In upon the flanks of the enemy. When

victory inclined towards the standard of the king then the cavalry became especially

formidable. The dextrous Persian horsemen, skilled in every species of maneuver, hovered

in clouds around the retreating army, swooping down in perpetual onsets, until the enemy

was completely worn out and scattered.

In the matter of stratagem the Persian commanders exhibited some skill. As early as the

founding of the Empire, we find Cyrus the Great, in his war with the Lydians, employing an

array of camels merely to terrify. In the front of the plain of Arbela, Darius Codomanus

had the ground sown with the tribulus, or three-spiked iron ball, as a means of preventing

or defeating the charge of the Greek cavalry. Nor were the usual ruses and military

devices for deceiving an enemy unknown or unpracticed by the great kings and their

subjects. In this respect, perfidy excepted, the Persians were like the other nations of

the East.

It does not appear that generalship was a thing highly esteemed, or could be, under