387 PARTHIA-PEOPLEAND ARTS.
battle, having the same adjusted to their heads, necks, and breasts. The light- horse
carried bows and arrows, but were unarmored and bore no spears. The value of this wing
depended upon its dexterity. Horsemen of this class hovered within bow- shot, discharging
their arrows with great rapidity, wheeling to right and left, attacking the flank, and
maneuvering in such manner as to confuse the enemy.
The supply-train of the Parthian army was furnished by a caravan of camels laden with
provisions and military accouterments. It has been noted that the Parthians, advancing to
battle, always carried an abundance of. arrows, so that literal showers of these missiles
might be rained upon the enemy. The attack was made with the utmost spirit. So far as
strategy was concerned, the same consisted in deceiving the enemy; in bringing him into
unfavorable situations; in cutting off supplies; in taking advantage of any temporary
confusion that might occur, and finally in the furious charge directly on the line. This
mode of attack was like a thunder-gust which expended itself with the onset. When the
flying squadrons came within reach of the adverse lines, they began to rain upon them a
terrible discharge of arrows, which was kept up incessantly until the actual shock of
combat, when the spears, and finally the swords, were used. It was the expectation by this
means to break everything into confusion and sweep the enemy from the field. But if the
charge was firmly met, the battle generally continued for but a few minutes after the
shock, when the Parthians would -turn to flight.
This, however, was a deceptions movement, intended to draw the enemy into pursuit. The
dragoons, as well as the light-horse, merely scampered out of reach, and immediately
formed anew. If the foe, unacquainted with this maneuver, should chance to follow, and
offer by the break of the lines or other fortuitous circumstances any advantage, the onset
would be immediately renewed by the Parthians in a second charge like the first. This
manner of battle was on the whole especially effective. It is probably true that in the
whole vast circle of victory and Imperial conquest the Roman legions never met anywhere on
the frontiers of the world a more dangerous enemy than was this same Parthian army.
Hereafter we shall show in many details of campaign and battle the results of the doubtful
contests waged by Rome with the mailed dragoons of Parthia. The fact has been cited that
in the six great campaigns made by the Mistress of the World into the countries beyond the
Euphrates she was obliged in no fewer than five to yield the palm to her skillful and
Several additional facts connected with the Parthian method of warfare may be cited as of
interest to the general reader. The Parthians avoided all military movements, particularly
battle, in the night. Perhaps the management of cavalry in the darkness is attended with
greater peril and difficulty than are consequent upon the evolutions of infantry.
Moreover, the Parthians did not employ fortifications, either for their camp or in the
field. For the rest, superstition may have had something to do with that feature of the
tactics which required the withdrawal of the army at nightfall to a considerable distance,
and the total avoidance of battle or further movements until the morrow.
For reasons of a similar character the winter was avoided as unsuited to campaigning. We
may readily perceive that the summer season, as in all other countries and conditions,
would be regarded as a favorable time for those rapid and head- long movements upon which
the success of Parthian warfare especially depended. It was noted, moreover, by the Greeks
and Romans in their conflicts with the Parthians, that the latter could endure heat and
deprivation of water much better than themselves--a circumstance which gave a not
inconsiderable advantage to the warriors of the East.
On the other hand, the latter were weak in all operations pertaining to sieges and
investments. In the nature of the case, the Parthian cavalry were unable to carry a
fortified position. They appear to have been almost ignorant of the machinery and
appliances necessary to a siege. The Romans, therefore, were comparatively safe in the
fortified stations which they