“Immortals” took part in the most important battles of the Persian Empire, in particular, in the war with the New Babylonian kingdom in 547 BC, in the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses (525 BC), in the campaigns of Darius I to India and Scythia, and especially in the Greco-Persian wars, when the “immortal” were commanded by Gidarn the Younger. The Immortals are a secret organization. He claimed that the unit's name stemmed from the custom that every killed, seriously wounded or sick member was immediately replaced with a new one, maintaining the numbers and cohesion of the unit. The remaining 9,000 had silver pomegranates. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Immortals are the Persian unique Heavy Infantry of the Ancient Age that replaces the standard Hoplites. Ok, lets compare 1,000 Spartans vs 1,000 immortals in close combat in an open field. These troops also served as the imperial guard. According to Herodotus, "Every man glittered with the gold that he carried in unlimite… but among the barbarians he preferred a brilliant courtroom suitable for a general, astonishing the barbarians even by the courtroom's appearance. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. He used them as heavy infantry in his campaigns to conquer the Medes, the Lydians, and even the Babylonians. They had quivers hanging under their shields, short spears, large bows, arrows made of cane, and also daggers hanging from their belts down beside their right thighs. Herodotus provides a description of the Persian forces of the Achaemenid army in Book VII.61. The Immortals fought under Cyrus the Great, Cambyses, and Darius the Great; when not in combat they acted as the Persian Palace Guard. Bodyguards stood on each side when the king heard cases. The "Immortals", "Ten Thousand Immortals", or "Persian Immortals" were said to be an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. The more durable and resistant Greek shields and body armor, as well as their more effective weapons, outstripped those of the Persians and placed the Persian army at a distinct disadvantage, especially significant at the Battle of Platea in 479 BCE which was most likely fought by regular Persian forces, not the Immortals, who seem to have withdrawn with Xerxes I after the Persian defeat at Salamis in 480 BCE. The mule train also brought along their concubines and servants to tend to them. Afterwards, he directed his Immortals against them, as Herodotus describes: After a while, the Median troops were withdrawn, badly mauled, and their place was taken by the Immortals, as Xerxes called them – the Persian battalion commanded by Hydarnes. The Immortals were the best the Persian army had to offer and only ever accompanied the great king when he lead his army on campaign. These depictions serve no purpose other than to denigrate the image of some of the greatest warriors of the ancient world. Such was Alexander's courtroom among the barbarians. They formed the king’s personal bodyguard and were also considered the shock troops of the infantry in Persian warfare. ), Deipnosophistai 12.514c (who is quoting Heracleides of Cumae); Hesychius, Lexicon s.v. Dr. Kallie Szczepanski is a history teacher specializing in Asian history and culture. athánatoi), name of a corps of 10,000 Persian élite infantry soldiers in Herodotus (7.83.1, 211.1; 8.113.2).The later attestations in Athenaios (q.v. Their legs were covered in trousers and instead of normal shields they carried pieces of wickerwork. Seleucus I continued Alexander’s policies and kept the basic form of the Achaemenid Empire but whether he also retained the corps of the Immortals is unknown. Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization. The ancient historians make no attempt to be unbiased in their descriptions. (VII.211). The term immortal is not used but from context it's clear that Xenophon is referring to the same unit in his understanding. The first invasion was defeated by Athens at Marathon in 490 bc. We have beautiful depictions of them from the walls of the Achaemenid capital city of Susa, Iran, but unfortunately, our historical documentation about them comes from the Persians' enemies -- not really an unbiased source. ‘The Immortals’ at the 2,500th anniversary of Persia in ceremonial dress ( Wikipedia ) From Hdt. The Sassanian army was so effective that it was able to repeatedly defeat the legions of the Roman Empire, defend Sassanian territory from other incursions, and maintain stability for almost 400 years. Civilopedia Entry [edit | edit source]. With his last victory over the new Babylonian Empire, at the Battle of Opis in 539 BCE, Cyrus was able to name himself "king of the four corners of the world" thanks in part to the efforts of his Immortals. Next to these were 500 Elamites dressed in purple, and after them, in a circle around them, 10,000 Persians, the handsomest and tallest of them, adorned with Persian decorations, and all carrying short swords. Last, they were trained to speak the truth, an item that was approvingly noted by numerous Greek historians. According to Iranian historical tradition, the Immortals were first organized by the commander Pantea Arteshbod with her husband General Aryasb, possibly after their participation in the Battle of Opis in 539 BCE. This left the door to Egypt wide open, in a manner of speaking, and Cambyses took full advantage of it. A freelance writer and former part-time Professor of Philosophy at Marist College, New York, Joshua J. Alexander Sarcophogusby James Carnehan (CC BY). The reported Greek name and the size of the force is identical to the "Immortals" infantry unit of the Achaemenid Empire described by Herodotus. There is evidence of the existence of a permanent corps from Persian sources, which provi… The Immortals were first formed under the reign of Cyrus II (The Great, r. c. 550-530 BCE), founder of the Achaemenid Empire. https://www.ancient.eu/Persian_Immortals/. The founder of that empire, Ardashir I (r. 224-240 CE), organized his military to mirror that of the Achaemenid Empire (drawing equally from models such as Parthian warfare and the Roman army) and included the 10,000 Immortals. Written by Joshua J. The training of Persian Immortals was difficult and started early. (23). He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. The Immortals were far from subhuman, snarling animals; they were some of the most refined, cultured, and courageous warriors to take the field in ancient combat and deserve more respect than being remembered primarily as the savage adversaries of the Greeks at Thermopylae. We do not have any independent confirmation that Herodotus's information on this is accurate; nevertheless, the elite corps is often referred to as the "Ten Thousand Immortals" to this day. Military service began at the age of 20, and professional soldiers were allowed to retire at 50; afterwards they were rewarded with land grants and a pension in thanks for their service. The unit was exclusive and soldiers had to apply to join it. Last modified November 26, 2019. Many scholars believe that the actual Persian name for this imperial guard was anusiya, meaning "companions," rather than anausa, or "non-dying.". She has taught at the high school and university levels in the U.S. and South Korea. The Persian Immortal. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian … In a circle around the tent stood the corps of elephants Alexander had equipped, and 1,000 Macedonians wearing Macedonian apparel. Ranks of the Louvre Museum melophores (immortal Persian guard... Winning battles and forging empires was not just about numbers... Alexander's Tent from Polyaenus Strategems translated by Peter Krentz and Everett Wheeler, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, Warfare in the Ancient World: From the Bronze Age to the Fall of Rome, The Armies of Ancient Persia: The Sassanians, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. They practiced standing guard, they trained for arduous marches, and finally every Persian boy in training needed to know how to tame a wild horse. Xenophon, who fought as a mercenary in Persia for Cyrus the Younger (d. 401 BCE) would have no doubt heard stories of the Immortals. They were only accepted if they were of Persian, Elamite or Median ethnicity. If that is the case, however, it is difficult to see how the Persians defeated the Greeks in numerous battles and held on to so much land adjacent to Greek territory. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt. Cyrus created a standing army (the spada) but kept the old levy system known as the kara. In front of these stood Macedonian Silver Shields, 500 of the tallest men. The Immortals came from elite, aristocratic families. After the Apple Bearers stood an equal number of archers in different clothing, for some wore flame-colored, some dark blue, and some scarlet. (25.1, 12-13). Pound for pound. They also carried two composite bows, two bowstrings, a quiver with 30 arrows and, sometimes a sling with stones or pellets. The remaining 9,000 had silver pomegranates. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ten Thousand Immortals, in Persian history, core troops in the Achaemenian army, so named because their number of 10,000 was immediately reestablished after every loss. However, not all Persians participated. They also brought covered wagons for their concubines, sizeable and well-equipped retinues of slaves, and their own personal provisions, separate from those of the other soldiers, transported by camels and yoke-animals. The Immortals played an important role in Persian history, acting as both the Imperial Guard and the standing army during the expansion of the Persian Empire and the Greco-Persian Wars. 17 Dec 2020. They are also thought to have gone with Cyrus’ son Cambyses II (r. 530-522 BCE) on his Egyptian campaign in 525 BCE. 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