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Ancient Sasanid Cataphract Uther Oxford 2003 06 2(1).jpg
Sassanid Asvārān reconstruction.
Active 224–644
Allegiance Sassanid Empire
Type Heavy cavalry
Engagements Battle of Edessa, Battle of Barbalissos, Battle of Samarra, Battle of Dara, Battle of Callinicum, First Perso-Turkic War, Second Perso-Turkic War, and other wars

The Asvārān (Persian: اسواران‎‎), also known as Savārān,[1] were Persian military units and were a division of cavalry during the time of the Sassanid Persian dynasty; they ranged from light cavalry such as horse archers to heavy cavalry such as cataphracts. Each Asvārān unit would have had its own Drafsh (banner). Membership in such units and other important posts was generally reserved for individuals of noble Asavaran ancestry.[2] The Asvārān were led by Asvārān Sardār.

Elite Asvārān[edit]

Relief depicting Persia's ruler Khosrow Parviz. On his left is the god Ahura Mazda, on his right is the goddess Anahita. Below is Khosrau dressed as a mounted Persian knight riding his favorite horse, Shabdiz.

The Asvārān Sardār were high-ranking officers who were in charge of the Asvārān, their position was so high up in Sassanid society that they were only answerable to the Eran-Spahbad (Commander in Chief) and the Shahanshah himself. They would be guarded heavily by cataphract style cavalry. The post of Asvārān Sardar was held by a member of the Mihran-Pahlav family. Parts of the Asvārān division were high-ranking including the Pushtigban Body Guards, a super heavy shock cavalry, who were the royal guards of the Shah himself. The influential Asvārān cavalry were mostly made up of heavily armoured cavalry, generally composed of aristocracy or even from the imperial family themselves. There were also commanders who were elite as well. These parts of the Asvārān regiments were kept as reserves.


The Asvārān during this early period had much in common with their Parthian (Arsacid) predecessors, most of whom would have worn a scale armor cuirass with long sleeves and chaps covered in scale armor or, less often, plated mail. Their helmets, of the Spangenhelm type, would have been adapted throughout the Sassanid Persian period. Also horses would probably have had armored chests and heads, consisting of an apron and headpiece, or total body protection consisting of five separate pieces, made from either boiled leather or scale armor. Some Asvārān units such as mercenaries may have worn little to no armor at all, allowing them to be rather more swift, silent, and mobile.


The Spangenhelm helmets worn by members of the Asvārān units in battle would have evolved through the centuries. During the 3rd-to-6th-century era of the Sassanian empire, the Spangenhelm would have probably been made of felt and hardened leather. However, by the late 6th/early 7th century they would have been decorated with flowers and purple ball with mail and small areas through which to breathe and see.


The Asvārān cavalry were armed with a variety of weapons. The traditional heavy cavalry weapons, such as maces, lances, and swords would have been used, as well as a variety of other weapons, such as axes. Asvārān cavalry were not, however restricted to short-range weapons, as they often carried weapons such as darts and bows.


Each Asvārān unit would have a Drafsh. These would have often included mythological creatures and animals. These animals would have included: fil (elephants), asp (horse), khers (bears), shir (lions), ahu (deer); these would also include Zoroastrian mythological creatures such as Bashkuch and the army of Asvārān would have the Derafsh Kaviani as their banner.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sassanian Elite Cavalry, Farrokh, Kaveh. Osprey Publishing 2005
  2. ^ Shepard, Jonathan (2009). The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500–1492. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521832311. 
  • David Nicolle, Sassanian Armies: The Iranian Empire Early 3rd to mid-7th Centuries AD (Montvert Publishing 1996). ISBN 1-874101-08-6
  • Jane Penrose Rome and Her Enemies

External links[edit]