The Armies Of Parthus

The Parthans of Antiquity
Little is known about the ancient ages of Parthus, or how the Parthans of that time fought their wars.

Legends say, however, that various heroes and champions of that time led such hosts as they could maintain by dint of their charisma and coin. These were typically small bands of warriors armed and armored in a variety of ways, with the most powerful riding to war on horseback. There was little thought given to grand strategy, and the tales surviving from that time reveal tactics that are little more than tricks of cunning compared to the genius of the modern generals. Generally, the warriors of the time hurled javelins, shot arrows, and slung stones at each other en masse, until charging into a chaotic melee. Inevitably, the heroes of champions of either side would call each other out, and fight a duel that would typically determine the outcome of the battle.

An exceptionally powerful hero might command not just his own retinue and warriors, but several other warlords like himself, and their own retinues. Such coalitions rarely lasted, though, and were more often based on mutual goals, previously sworn oaths, or the promise of booty.

Kal-Kamora Invades
As such, it might be of little surprise that the hosts of the ancient Kal-Kamoran empire found this chaotic, divided realm an easy and inviting prize. The hosts of Kamora were able to overrun Parthus within but a few years. With their chariot-riding nobles, their ranks of archers, and massed columns of infantry, they had easily swept the battlefield of their foes.

The arrival of the Order brought freedom from Kamora, though. Shortly after, a social and military revolution took place.

The Rise of the Order
In the centuries that followed, Parthan armies became heavily regimented, with almost a total emphasis on solid formations of heavily armed and armored infantrymen. These were the first phalanxes, thousands - sometimes tens of thousands - of men arrayed in tremendous columns of infantry thought to be unbreakable.

Religious ideology and a colossal sense of superiority played a large part in how these forces were arrayed. Parthans of this time gave little notice to cavalry (who could not assail their shield-walls) or skirmishers and archers (who could not attain glory without entering melee). Pyrrhan, Kamoran, Keiran, and Moarvik forces were brutally crushed as Parthus sought to expand its territorial limits and impose its ambitions throughout southern Verosia. Parthan warriors became both famous and feared for their skill-at-arms and brutal discipline. Their fearsome war-masks, which depicted the visages of monsters such as gorgons, became a notorious symbol of their power.

War with Rona
The success of the Parthans ended with the first Great War. Rona was a nation unlike any Parthus had encountered before. Unlike the other Verosians, the Ronans incorporated their allies' tactics and formations into their own war-making. Against their Parthan foes, they launched the most multi-faceted army hitherto seen: Moarvik rycerz (knights), Ganniard ballesters (crossbowmen), J'miran cutters (fast, manuerverable sea vessels), Ronan longbowmen (archers), heavy cavalry, light infantry and skirmishers from throughout all of northern Verosia.

By contrast, the Parthans' focus was too narrow. Their grand phalanxes, though unassailable from the front, were cut down from a distance by melee fire, outmaneuvered by more mobile infantry, and cut down by charging cavalry. Alone, the rest of the Verosians had suffered defeat at the hands of the Parthans. United by the Ronans, however, they crushed their ancient foe.

Fighting for Rona
Following this conflict, the Parthans were made part of the Ronan Empire for nigh on three centuries. During this time, Parthan men were heavily conscripted and recruited to fight in the Ronan Legions. In time, they came to make up the preponderance of the empire's armies - especially during the wars against the Ryoshans, when they fielded more warriors than the Ronans and almost all their vassals combined.

More to Rona's future woes, however, the leading Parthan men of this era studied well what the Ronans had to offer. They embraced the tenets of modern combat, and abandoned the old prejudices of their forefathers. They were entrusted with rank, lands, and command of forces, and learned how to fight total war in the most ruthless conflict of their age - against the invading Ryoshans. Tragically, the Ronan emperor did not recognize the danger his Parthan warrior-vassals posed until it was too late. The decision to disband the Legions of the South was too little, too late, and only served to infuriate the tens of thousands of hardened veterans who were suddenly left without a livelihood - or a master.

The Second Great War
The man who declared independence from Rona, Arch-Primus Kalos, was a brilliant military thinker and an innovative strategist. Anticipating the day when the Parthan armies would be left without the devices of the other Ronan nations, he instituted reforms and invented formations and tactics that would enable his people to avoid the mistakes of centuries prior and emerge victorious. The worth of his ideas was demonstrated in the second Great War against Rona, when the Parthans dared to challenge all of Verosia in a bid for outright conquest.

The Parthans initially enjoyed great successes facing Ronan hosts throughout Kamora, Keir, and Gan, though their true test came when facing the flower of Moarvik cavalry in the north. Despite the many challenges arrayed before them, though, Kalos' reforms proved brilliant. He had achieved a revolution in warfare that the Ronan armies were unable to counter. Parthan armies were soon marching through the Ronan homeland and besieging Camus itself.

The Arch-Primus had reached too far, though. In order to be truly victorious, he had to capture the lands and cities he had invaded. This led to many protracted sieges, and Kalos' reforms did not extend to this type of warfare. As the Parthan armies advanced, more and more of their manpower had to be left behind to siege one city after another. Each such siege led to far worse losses than were suffered during actual battles. By the time Camus was under siege, Kalos had to requisition the marines manning his fleet's ships to adequately encircle the Ronan capital. This led to disaster. When Sora entered the war on the side of their Ronan cousins, their fleet destroyed the Parthan flotillas of war-galleys and their skeleton crews. With the their land army also divided throughout Verosia, the Parthans were divided piecemeal by those they had been besieging and their fresh newcomer allies. Several of their hosts successfully retreated back to Parthus, but they did so with great casualties. As they did so, most of the commanders and their warriors dispersed back to their respective Citadels, leaving Kalos to make his last stand in Sartha. The Arch-Primus died in single combat against the Soran champion of Thamor, and the Great War was declared over.

The Soran armies had suffered, though, and their Moarvik and Ronan allies had been bled dry through the war. Faced with the prospect of an interminable war that could only end when each of the five redoubtable Great Citadels had been sacked, the Ronans and their comrades declared victory and an end to the war, marching home to heal their own lands and people.

The losses the Parthans suffered during the Great War had been so great, it took a century for their society to recover - though they still do not possess the same manpower as before. Testimony to the damage inflicted on them is the fact that Parthus was forced to stand by and watch as the Barukar conquered neighboring Keir and waged campaigns against the Dumdravaar to their north.

The army of each Citadel is called a Phalanx - a term the Ronans adopted to describe their own infantry formations, centuries ago. A Phalanx is comprised of a number of battalions, each of which is known as a Thema and is led by an Archon. Though the full force of a Citadel might number several Themata (and thus thousands of warriors), a Thema dispatched to wage a campaign on its own can also be called a "Phalanx", since it is an independent "army".

A Thema can vary in size, but can consist of no fewer than five hundred Parthan warriors. The Thema is a composite force, relying on a mix of heavy infantry supported by missile troops and medium cavalry. Depending on the scale of the conflict a Citadel finds itself in, the Phalanx may be supported by the Primus' Agema Scholai, Pyrrhae horsemen, or even foreign mercenaries.

One's social status within a Citadel translates on the battlefield. The boon-companions of Archons are gifted with horses by their patron, and take to battle as cavalry. The more celebrated a Thema's Archon, the closer it will be placed to the Primus' own place in battle. Within the Thema's infantry, the chosen veterans fight as swordsmen. The youngest men form the front ranks of the blocks of pike and polearms to prove their mettle, while older men form the middle and rear ranks - to ensure the formation doesn't break.

Thanks to their laws and society, the Parthans are still able to maintain the largest and best trained standing armies in Verosia. On the other hand, though, the losses they suffered in the last Great War almost broke their nation. They recognize this, as well as the fact that another such defeat would be tantamount to genocide: it would wipe out the ranks of men in their prime. The Primi of Parthus are thus considerably more cautious and considerate when it comes to marching to war than their predecessors of the last century.

Parthans rely on an elaborate system of standard-bearers and musicians (typically flutists or pipers) to coordinate their maneuvers. Their ability to react rapidly to the changes of battle is uncanny, and has a terrifying effect on enemy troops.

Society in Parthus revolves around the militaristic ethos and pursuits espoused by the Order. The caste of male citizens has historically always translated into the corps of heavy infantry every Citadel has fielded since earning freedom from Kal-Kamora. Countless centuries later, these infantry formations remain the finest of their kind in Verosia.

Unlike the solid, unbroken phalanxes of their ancestors, the modern Themata that Kalos brought about are innovative and flexible. They were created to operate independently or in conjunction with one another, to maneuver rapidly and agilely, and to counter the advantages of the heavy cavalry that has always been so alien to Parthus.

During defensive actions, when outnumbered, and especially when separated and facing cavalry attacks, a Thema is able to form an infantry square. Their effectiveness was demonstrated during the Great War, when attacking columns of Parthans were able to shift into defensive squares in less than a minute, discouraging cavalry charges in the process with their unbroken ranks of pikes. Its infantry form 2-4 ranks, with the swordsmen interspersed throughout their lines. The crossbowmen form up behind the infantry. In such a way, the infantry deter and repel enemy cavalry, as the crossbowmen fire on them. The Archon remains within the square's hollow, along with his standard-bearers and musicians. Impressively, a Thema can advance or withdraw in such a formation, though never faster than at a slow trot. For it to be effective, though, it must be stationary.

On the offense, the Parthan Thema is highly aggressive. It stands apart from other Verosian infantry in that it actively seeks out the enemy - even cavalry - rather than taking up a defensive stance. Their speed and pursuit of the initiative on the battlefield can be frightening to behold. During the Great War, they advanced in a variety of formations - deep columns, wedges, staggered lines, and more. Typically, crossbowmen would advance first, followed by the swordsmen. Crossbowmen would engage the enemy with their devastating bolts, eventually withdrawing through the ranks of their infantry as they advanced. The swordsmen would advance behind the crossbowmen, and would engage the enemy with their javelins before merging with the ranks of the advancing infantry. Finally, the infantry themselves - reinforced with the swordsmen - would join the melee, pushing back and cutting down inferior infantry and even cavalry with their pikes and polearms.

The household guard of the Primus, these are the fiercest, most experienced warriors of the Citadel. Many were once the orphaned sons of warriors, and raised as the wards of the Primus. They enter battle with weapons and armor of the finest quality, often enhanced. They fight as infantry, cavalry, scouts, and sometimes even as assassins - depending on the need. Smaller Citadels rarely have more than a dozen or so heroes. The Great Citadels, though, often have a hundred or more.

Parthan infantry invariably take to war in heavier armor. They wear breastplate armor, combined with an under-layer of padding, a skirt and sleeves of mail, plate greaves for their shins and calves, and plate vambraces for their arms. Their helmets are heavy, all-enclosing, and serve as a gorget as well. All are decorated with high plumes, but Archons, Agema Scholai, and veterans in particular decorate them with elaborate designs and monstrous face-masks to terrify their foes. They had been outlawed during the Ronan occupation, and their resurgence was as symbolic of the return to the old ways as any other statement. They are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Parthus, and are infamous throughout Verosia.

These warriors are armed according to their role:

Parthan cavalry is not the shock force that has been made famous by the Ronan, Soran, and Moarik knighthoods. Absent Pyrrhan auxilliaries, they serve first and foremost as a scouting force. In mass combat, they act primarily as a screen. They do not initiate charges, but rather counter-attack enemy elements that are already engaged in combat. Parthans breed and are able to field coursers - light warhorses - primarily; the hulking destriers of the northern lands are foreign to them.

Cavalry wear armor similar to the infantry, though Archons and their immediate bodyguards often fight in field and half- plate. Only a very few (and very rich) warriors have bothered to convert full plate to Parthan aesthetics.

As a primarily skirmishing force, Parthan hurl javelins at their foes as opposed to tilting lances. They wield swords, and lighter axes or horsemen's hammers in close combat, in conjunction with heavy steel shields.

Parthans who fight as missile troops almost always take to the field as crossbowmen. They wear the same armor as infantrymen, but eschew shields. During defensive battles or sieges, however, they rely on tower shields for protection.

Primi often rely on a variety of mercenaries to complement their Citadel's forces. These include:

  • Pyrrhae - these infamous, nomadic horsemen serve the Primi as raiders, scouts, and missile cavalry - in exchange for coin and grazing rights for their horses and herds.
  • Keirans - often fugitives from their conquered kingdom, they hire unto Parthan armies as archers, skirmishers and light infantry; they are typically used as little more than fodder, though.
  • Ganniards - the men of Gand are renowned for their skill with crossbows, and entire companies are employed at times by a Primus.
  • Kamorans - most often found in the employ of Aerlus, they serve as archers or marines aboard war galleys.

It should be noted that, after almost three centuries of Ronan rule, the two peoples practice essentially the same crafts of metallurgy, armor-making, and weapon-smithing. Designs and styles differ, but the actual types of armor do not.

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