386 UNIVERSAL HISTORY.-- THE ANCIENT WORLD.
also carried their religious system, such as it was, to the banks of the Euphrates and far
Already before this time Judaism had been propagated by several means in the Aryan
countries. At a still later period, when Rome was converted to Christianity, the new faith
was carried under the protection of the eagles to the uttermost limits of the Empire. It.
is impossible to say to what extent these foreign religious influences permeated Parthia
and brought her people under their sway. Already at the time of the primitive apostles,
Parthian Christianity had become a fact; and St. Luke enumerates the Parthians along with
the Medes and Elamites among the strangers gathered in Jerusalem. All this would indicate
on the part of the Parthian monarchs the same tolerant spirit which the Greeks and Romans
were wont to show to alien systems of religion.
One of the chief forms of activity among the Parthians was war. It is from their military
character that the race is best known to the world. Long before the close of the Ancient
Era the name of this people was heard as far west as Rome-and generally with terror. They
it was, doubt- less, whom Horace had in view under the name of Medii in the Secular Hymn:
Now by the sea and on the land, the Mede Fears the strong squadrons and the axe of Rome;
Now the late haughty Scythian doth plead For mild response-and men of India come.
The reader may, therefore, well be surprised to note the fact that this most warlike
nation, whose fierce, wild cavalry swept like flying clouds across the deserts of the
Great Plateau, had no fixed military establishment-no standing army. It appears, on the
contrary, that the Parthians, by their disposition and habit of life, constituted what may
be called a natural soldiery. There were two branches to the Parthian service, the cavalry
and the foot. But the first was the important part. Indeed, it is doubtful whether the
Parthian infantry was of much value in the field. It was upon the cavalry that the kings
relied for victory; and the reliance was not misplaced.
In time of war the Parthian monarch called upon his vassals to bring forth each his quota
of warriors for the field. It
appears that the constitution of Parthian society was essentially feudal. The vassal was
bound to his suzerain in the matter of military service. He must call out his retainers
and slaves, see to their equipment and -mounting, bring them to the place of rendezvous,
and command them in battle. It was thus that the army was made up of bands of warriors
drawn from the various districts after the manner of the Crusaders. But a common
enthusiasm pervaded the whole, and th6re was no lack of unity in the general command. This
was reserved for the king in person, and for his generalissimo, called the Surena.
The latter may be regarded as the head baron of the country; the office which he held,
hereditary in his family. It is doubtful whether even the king could displace him from the
position in which he was fixed by heredity and custom. The same was in great measure true
of the other vassals. Each commanded in his own right, and held his place at home and in
the field in virtue of what may be called' the Parthian constitution,
Looking at the organization of the army, we find a heavy-horse and a light-horse
contingent. The first was the main branch of the service. This wing was undoubtedly the
finest cavalry of the ancient world. The warriors were armed in mail as to their bodies,
the scale-armor of iron and steel descending as low as the knees, well made and strong,
polished to brightness, capable of resisting any of the ordinary missiles of the battle-
field. On the head was a helmet, also burnished, heavy, and well made. The arms and the
legs were free, as they must needs be in fighting from the horse.
The weapons of these Parthian dragoons were bows and arrows and a spear. All these were
long and strong. The arrow was shot with such violence that its flight was said' to be
invisible from its rapidity, and scarcely any armor of the enemy could protect the wearer
from its fall. The spear was equally fatal, being thrust with a violence that frequently
impaled two warriors with a single blow. The horseman also carried a short sword, which in
close quarters he drew and used with fearful effect. The horses, of the dragoons, like
their riders, wore a scale armor in