Zenobia: Dreamers of the Day
Persian Arms and Equipment
Historical sources for military equipment of the Sassanid Persian Empire are harder to come by than for the Romans. In general, everyday clothing looked very similar to earlier Persian periods.
Pajama-style pants and tunic make up the typical Persian wardrobe. Lower status individuals might have no more elaborate clothing than simple linens, while the very wealthy could have elaborate, multicolored patterns woven or embroidered onto silk clothing. Headgear consisted of simple peaked caps or cloth turbans. The poor might wear simple sandals of wood or leather, while the nobility could have finely crafted leather riding boots.
We do not know exactly what kind of armor – if at all – the common foot soldier wore in the Persian army. Only the nobility are ever depicted in murals and statuary. It is possible that the Sassanid infantryman, like his Parthian predecessor, wore only a simple cloth uniform with a cloth or leather helmet.
The armor of the nobility was much more elaborate. The mounted elite cavalry of Persia wore long mail coats, sometimes with a scale or lamellar layer over torso or shoulders. Vambraces of leather or metal, or overlapping plates similar to Roman manicae covered the arms. Helmets were mostly of a simple conical style, sometimes with a nose guard like later “Norman” style helmets. Some helms had finely crafted anthropomorphic face plates like masks, or chain mail curtains that could cover the exposed parts of a warrior’s face.
Swords tended to be long and thin, suited for cavalry combat, and often lavishly decorated. Bows were common. Less is known about Sassanian shield designs.
An adventurer from Persia could be a poor serf or escaped slave, and his chance of owning any fine weapons and armor would be very small indeed. A noble warrior, questing far from home, or serving as a mercenary in foreign armies might have a full suit of mail and scale armor, a finely engraved helmet, a bow, sword, lance, and even more than one horse for travel and combat.