One of the most interesting texts from Achaemenid Babylonia which has been published is a contract between Gadal-iama, son of Rahîm-ilê, and Rîmût-Ninurta, son of Murašû. Amongst other things, it contains the first description of special garments meant to be worn with armour which I have ever heard of. Because there do not seem to be any good discussions online, and because the translations in books for non-specialists are often very loose, I decided to post an Akkadian text and a translation or summary online. Before I do so, I should probably explain what this contract is.
A much younger self was once sitting in a professor’s office when the conversation turned to the textbook which we were using in that professor’s course. He asked me what I thought of it. I commented that it was good enough … but that it was better at telling people what not to believe about its subject than what to believe.
Over the last six months I have read a representative sample of scholarly writing on the Persian army in the Achaemenid period. While there are a handful of trustworthy overviews and some specialized studies based on lengthy thought about a wide range of evidence, there is quite a lot of scholarship based on much more dubious things. I am building a list of commonplaces about the Achaemenid army, all of which I have found in books written by people with relevant PhDs and published by university presses, and all of which would be hard to support with the balance of the Greek evidence, let alone with the other sources which we can use to study the Persian army. I think that I can replace many of these commonplaces with ideas which are more consistent with more evidence, but first I will have to clear away a thicket of stereotypes. I am not sure if younger-me would have approved of such an approach.
The horrors of these domestic feuds [amongst the Eusofzyes, Kipling’s “Yusufzaies”] are sometimes aggravated by a war with another Oolooss [roughly a “tribe,” p. 211]. Many causes occasion these wars, but the commonest are the seduction of a woman of one Oolooss by a man of another, or a man’s eloping with a girl of his own Oolooss, and seeking protection from another. This protection is never refused, and it sometimes produces long and bloody wars. I shall show their nature, as usual, by the example of the Naikpeekhail.
Dr. Stefan Bittner has kindly informed me that the line drawings from his thesis on the Achaemenid army are available at his online photo gallery.
Copies of his thesis, and several other books, are still for sale at his press Bodem Verlag. His book is the single biggest source for Achaemenid kit and clothing, and includes some sketches of how equipment might have been put together. Anglophone reenactors could find those useful even if they can’t read his text.
I may address particular parts of his work in later posts, since I have not found much discussion of his book in English.