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The military concerns of the "Avestan people"-the East Iranians among whom prophet Zoroaster appeared and the Avestan literature developed, can be gathered from scattered references found in the older parts of the Avestan texts supplemented by philological comparisons with Vedic terms and indications in later traditions [1]. The Vendidad gives [2] a list of twelve items for the fully equipped warrior, but this appears to reflect much later, maybe, even Sasanian practice, and so can not be used here. The Avestan society was broadly divided into three groups: priests, herdsmen, and warriors; for the latter the Gaθas used nar "man" hence "warrior," while the Younger Avesta gave raθaeštar > raθaešta "in chariot standing" hence "charioteer/mounted warrior" and by generalization "warrior" [3]. Each clan provided a number of warriors, indicating its social standing; hence, "troops of warriors" were among the most cherished boons Iranians asked from their gods.[4] Blood-related warriors stood together under the banner (drafša) of the chief of the clan, so that the armed tribe was at the same time the tribal army [5] Regional lords led the army (spāδa[6]), arrayed its ranks [7], prayed to Mithra for victory [8], and went to battle (hamarana) fully prepared[9].


The military nobility fighting from their chariots formed the backbone of the spāδa; common people gave battle on foot; horsemen (sing. šar [10]) also served in the army, at first occasionally, but then increasingly as the time went by [11]. The martial equipments of the "Avestan people" were the following: a spear (aršti) with edged, sharpened brass head, for throwing; a mace (vazra) often with metal head, used for striking, or sharpened angularly and used for throwing, fastened to the girdle; a short double-edged sword, made of brass and with ornamented hilt and blade, also fastened to the girdle; a bow with 30 brass-headed arrows; a čakuša, evidently a pole axe of metal used from either end; and a dagger [12]. The defensive weapons included a coat of mail (zrāδa) of uncertain pattern, probably consisting of metalic scales; a helmet, presumably leathern or metalic; and-on rare occasions-a shield [13]. Campaigns and battles were probably on a small scale, and the actual fighting very similar to the scenes described in the Iliad: the chariot-warrior was driven into the battlefield by a boon-companion, where he engaged the enemy while the charioteer managed the steeds and the cart; then they stood aside and let the bulk of the armies clash and decide the day[14]


Contin.. The First half of the first Millennium BCE




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Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica


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