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Thread: "What's a Greek boy gonna do anyway?" - Achaemenid Persians by Sigur

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    Chapter Master sigur's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Vienna, Austria

    "What's a Greek boy gonna do anyway?" - Achaemenid Persians by Sigur

    Hello and welcome to another little historical wargaming plog. I haven't started one of these in several months so I thought it was time again. This time I'm returning to 15mm Ancients (remember my Thebans plog?) with yet another DBA army - II/7. Later Achaemid Persian. 420BC-329BC.

    DBA you probably are familiar with. It's that game which requires only relatively small tables and low numbers of figures. It's very abstract but fast and fun. Armies always consist of 12 elements (bases) and army lists sometimes give players a choice to choose between two different elements for one of the 12 "slots".

    The initial plan was for my gaming nemesis and me to collect an army each and replay Alexander the Great's campaigns against Persia. I got to choose which side I would go for and decided to go with the Persian Empire.

    Why would I do this? If confronted with the choice of two armies I will usually go for the more colourful and diverse army. I also tend to favour states/realms/formations who undeservedly get a lot of bad press. Alexander the Great pretty much is THE prototypical golden boy of western military history. For the past 2300 years, every ambitious military leader looked up to the ideal of Alexander and his amazing conquest of pretty much the known world. Or something like that. And of course there hardly is anything more annoying than the posterboy wunderkind who is beloved by everyone. No, actually it was a tough choice. The Greek/Macedon army would have been a great project as well and a really good follow-up for my Thebans (whom Philipp II. got all these ideas about deep formations and long pikes from after all). And of course because Hoplites are cool. But then again, there of course were HUGE numbers of mercenary hoplites in Persian services as well at the time and of course many persian units in Alexander's army. It's all way less clean cut than the first impression might make us think it is.

    This. Is. PERSIA!

    So, let's have a look at the Persian Empire or the Achaemenid Empire to be more precise. About the Greek city states and ancient Macedonia we're all kind of informed about anyway. The ancient Persian empire was the largest empire the world had seen (and would see for centuries to come. I guess the Mongol empire was bigger because the Mongols were bigger than Jesus back when they were big). At its height the empire spanned three continents and approximately covered modern Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya, Turkey, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, much of Central Asia, Afghanistan, China northern Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and parts of Oman and the UAE. According to the Guiness Book of Records the empire was home to over 40% of the world's population then, a number never achieved by any other empire in human history. So that's pretty big, especially if you compare it to the size of ..well, pretty much everything else around it.

    Cyrus II., the Great. Most historians agree that this recreation of an original relief took some liberties. He probably didn't have wings.

    As a general and very much simplified history the Persians - as one of many nomadic tribes - emerged in what is today south western Iran. Loose confederations of tribes and local powers were established, first of all the Medians. However, the Persians got somewhat established as a local power and along came Cyrus II, the Great. He was a cunning one indeed, overthrew the Median empire, grabbed the rest of asia minor and Babylonia. The new thing about Cyrus' reign though was that as long as everybody paid their taxes in time local traditions, structures (as far as they were tolerable) and religion remained untouched. The cults themselves that is. Public funding for the high temples were cut and they had to pay taxes and local commissars kept an eye on the activities of the high priests. Oh, and they all had to agree that the top god of all is Ahuramazda. Otherwise there pretty much was freedom of religion.

    The symbol of Zoroastrianism, founded by Zarathustra. Not a depiction of the god-creator Ahuramazda himself but rather the dualism/struggle between him and who...?

    Of course!

    These principles were the main pillars of the Achaemenid Empire for centuries to come - a strong, centralized leadership taking care that everybody got to trade unharassed with everybody else, local rulers keeping things running on their level and keeping everybody more or less happy. At least happier than they would be as an enemy to the empire. A testament to Cyrus' smarts in dealing with the various stakeholders is that nobody really had anything bad to say about him. The Greeks, the old testament, least of all the Persians themseves. He was often cited as a peace-loving, sober-minded chap who after his death got stylized to be the perfect regent. Kinda like Arthur. Never played with unpainted miniatures either.

    After Cyrus' son reigned a little (and not horribly at that but he got killed, same as his brother. It happens, I sppose. Actually, it's a pretty interesting story about people getting supposedly killed and replaced by look-alikes and such stuff), his former adjutant/pal/"lance holder" and advisor Dareios I. took over and made quite a name for himself by not only keeping the empire together but also getting wide reaching reforms done, having a canal dug to connect the Nile with the red sea, thus creating a neat shipping route between Egypt and Persia, had the Royal Roads built. All of that after clobbering down some insurgencies of course but that's to be expected right after a change of kings. All of this, especially the structural reforms which would remain until the end of the Achaemenid Empire, got Dareios I., king of kings, the title "the great" as well. The Achaemenid Persian Empire had the great historical luck of having two Greats reign in somewhat quick succession.

    Dareios I., the Great

    Dareios also started that thing with Greece but that's for another time. Yes, I'll get to miniatures then as well. ;-)

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