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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Fri February 17th, 2012, 7:52 pm

[quote=""parthianbow""]Nice to see Carrhae mentioned!

Sorry to be pedantic, Justin, but it wasn't the Romans' greatest defeat - that surely had to be Cannae, when Hannibal's smaller army killed 50,000 legionaries in one day, and all but wiped out Rome's army. Carrhae did rank as one of the worst defeats they had, though, along with the Varus disaster, the Trebbia, Lake Trasimene etc.

Secondly, at Carrhae, Crassus' army was only about 35,000 men.

Lastly, and I hold up my hand with this one, because I wrote that that's what happened to Crassus (I did admit to it in my hist. note) - he did not die by having molten gold poured down his throat. That was the fate of an unpopular Roman governor in Asia Minor some years before. Crassus was killed in a scuffle at the end of the battle, beheaded, and his head was brought to the Parthian capital, to a play that the king was attending. The head was tossed up onto the stage, and caught by the leading actor, who performed an impromptu soliliquy to it and apparently brought the house down.[/quote]

Thanks for the pedantry. I committed the cardinal fault of writing history before checking the facts.

For a bit of pedantry on my part: Plutarch puts Crassus' army at 7 legions (about 35 000 men), plus 4000 light infantry and 4000 cavalry. The Armenian king Artavasdes offered a further 6000 cavalry in support, but I'm not sure if these were present at the actual battle (probably not).

Crassus was killed at Carrhae as you say, but Cassius Dio asserts that molten gold was poured down his neck afterwards, in mockery of his greed. I suppose it's a question of who one believes. I haven't studied the question myself.

You're right about Cannae being Rome biggest defeat: a double Consular army surrounded and annihilated by Hannibal was something never quite matched before or afterwards.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Sat February 18th, 2012, 4:08 am

[quote=""parthianbow""] The head was tossed up onto the stage, and caught by the leading actor, who performed an impromptu soliliquy to it and apparently brought the house down.[/quote]

Now there's a guy who can ad lib!

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parthianbow
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Post by parthianbow » Sat February 18th, 2012, 12:30 pm

@Justin: Artavasdes' 6000 cavalry rode away before the battle.

It's also arguable that the 7 legions led by Crassus would not have been at full strength (were they ever?) esp. as he'd been on campaign for over a year. It's accepted by most academics that the strength of a legion in the field was very far from its 'paper' strength. An estimate of 3500-4000 men per legion is possibly more accurate, although it is precisely that - an estimate!

However, in a continued vein of pedantry, that would mean approx. 28000 legionaries, and if one accepts the figure for the auxiliaries, 8000 others. 36000 total.

I've gone back to my texts for the molten gold theory. One thing jumps out at me: neither text which mentions it (Cassius Dio and Florus) suggests that Crassus was killed in this manner. Apparently, the gold was poured into the mouth of Crassus' amputated head. This I had forgotten, but it lends credence to the accounts (Plutarch and Polyaenus) that record Crassus' death and beheading in the aftermath of the battle.

@LoveHistory: agreed! Not much in acting training can prepare one for that ;)
Last edited by parthianbow on Sat February 18th, 2012, 12:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: error
Ben Kane
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Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Sun February 19th, 2012, 9:37 am

Makes sense. 36 000 men is manageable from a logistics point of view, 50 000 is pushing it, especially in the semi-desert of western Parthia.

Does your novel mention the survivors captured by Surena and sent to eastern Parthia, where the Chinese apparently encountered them later and recorded the fact? (no, I haven't got a source for this - just a vague memory of having read it somewhere)
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Post by parthianbow » Sun February 19th, 2012, 6:24 pm

Aye, it does. That's what the second half of the first book (The Forgotten Legion) is about, and virtually the whole second book - The Silver Eagle.

I also mention in a foreword the 'contact' with the Chinese, which is one of the most flimsy premises that I have ever read or heard about. Yet it's one of the most commonly bandied about theories - why does that happen? :confused:
(All the Chinese recorded was a battle in 36 BC, some 17 years after Carrhae, that some soldiers fighting for a Hun warlord fought in a 'fishscale' formation. That's it, and even the translation of the word 'fishscale' is disputed. It is fascinating, however, that those men might just have been some of Crassus' veterans, or more likely, men trained by them. One could even write a book about it! ;-) )
Last edited by parthianbow on Sun February 19th, 2012, 6:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Ben Kane
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Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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Shield-of-Dardania
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Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Mon February 20th, 2012, 11:06 am

[quote=""Justin Swanton""]
A non-mobile force would take up a defensive posture and wait for the enemy to run out of arrows. That worked if the enemy had a limited supply of arrows and these were not armour-piercing. The Romans suffered their greatest military defeat at Carrhae when the Parthian general Surena had the foresight to bring up camel trains laiden with bundles of extra arrows - which could penetrate the Roman shields and chainmail. After three days the 50 000man Roman army was all but annihilated.
[/quote]
That's it. Round them, tire them, starve them, slay them.

[quote=""Justin Swanton""]
The Roman general, Crassus, was captured and rewarded by the Parthians for his incompetence by having molten gold poured down his throat.
[/quote]
Maybe more for his greed and goldlust. Poetic justice. The very stuff of legend indeed.

Perhaps the author of this take on Crassus' death was also inspired by the tale of Tomyris, the queen of the the Massagetae, themselves (well, just their women) possible candidates for the Amazon myth.

After routing the forces of Cyrus the Great - who had captured and killed her son after inviting him to a party and getting him drunk - in what was to be Cyrus' last conquest attempt, Tomyris scoured the battlefield for Cyrus' corpse. She sliced his head off, turned it upside down, then screamed, "You've always been thirsty for the blood of others. Now have the fill of your own!"

Oh yes. Legends are lovely. And someone should make a movie about Tomyris.
Last edited by Shield-of-Dardania on Tue February 21st, 2012, 3:41 am, edited 12 times in total.

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Post by annis » Mon February 20th, 2012, 7:41 pm

The Roman general, Crassus, was captured and rewarded by the Parthians for his incompetence by having molten gold poured down his throat.
Clearly this story (whether based in truth or not) caught the imagination of George R.R. Martin- a variant appears in his Game of Thrones series and makes a spectacular moment in the HBO adaptation, when Khal Drogo (king of a Scythian-inspired nomadic tribe of horse-warriors) gives Viserys Targaryen the "Golden Crown" that he demands; a cap of molten gold poured over his head.

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Shield-of-Dardania
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Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Tue February 21st, 2012, 1:23 am

[quote=""parthianbow""]
The head was tossed up onto the stage, and caught by the leading actor, who performed an impromptu soliliquy to it and apparently brought the house down.
[/quote]
Would have won that guy the award for best actor at Cannes, no sweat.
Last edited by Shield-of-Dardania on Tue February 21st, 2012, 3:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Tue February 21st, 2012, 4:25 am

Sorry Justin, Ben. Now I claim my turn to slip in my bit of pedantry. :D

There could be a bigger defeat. The defeat of Emperor Valerian by Shahpur I at Edessa-Carrhae, nearby the same site where Crassus met his nemesis.

Valerian (253-260 AD) ascended to the throne in 253 AD and soon organised yet another Roman army to redeem for Rome’s past defeats against the Persians (including that of Crassus at Carrhae). Valerian wanted to destroy Shahpur, the Sassanian army and the new Iranian empire.

Valerian soon cleared Antioch of Sassanian troops by 256 AD, prompting Valerian to strike his own “victory” coins. This celebration proved premature, as Valerian had thus far only confronted second-rate garisson troops. He had yet to face Shahpur’s elite Savaran cavalry. Shahpur had in fact conserved his Savaran and main army.

Shahpur then deployed to Carrhae (Harran) and Edessa. Valerian rashly deployed his mainly-infantry army towards Edessa-Harran, a flat region ideal for cavalry operations. This was the same region where Crassus’ troops had been crushed by the Parthian cavalry over 200 years before. Maybe some guys like to flirt with fate?

Anyway, history was to indeed repeat itself: the Savaran decisively crushed the Romans (Festus, Brevarium, 23, p.64, 8-13) and captured 70,000 troops, including senators and the Roman Prefect in 260 AD. The Shahpur inscriptions also report a large range of European prisoners.

The blows that Shahpur inflicted upon the Roman army were indeed catastrophic; up to one third of Rome’s professional army (including officers) numbering around 150,000 troops, had been simply eliminated (See calculations in Farrokh, 2005, p.45).

The greatest psychological blow was the capture of Emperor Valerian and his ceremonial chariot as commemorated in the Shahpur inscriptions (SKZ -Shahpur Kaba Zartusht- Greek lines 19-37) as well as the sites of Naghsh-e-Rustam and Bishapur. Never in the history of Rome had a Roman emperor been captured alive.

Roman prisoners included a large number of engineers who were soon put to work building dams and bridges in modern Khuzistan, some of which, like the dam-bridge of Shushtar, have remains which have lasted to this day, a testament to the durability of Roman engineering skills.

In all frankness, the numbers do seem to float a bit on the high side. I don't know, this was over 2 centuries after Crassus, they could be possible.
Last edited by Shield-of-Dardania on Tue February 21st, 2012, 4:45 am, edited 6 times in total.

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