The Final Charge at Thermopylae...
Atlantic plastic 28mm Persian Multi-part set
above vignette shows off the Wargames Atlantic 28mm plastic multi-part
box set. The set allows one to build a 40 figure group, and
allows various arms and legs and head variants to construct different
style of units in the early Persian army of the wars with
Greece. This vignette is constructed out of one sample sprue
sent to me. I decided to make them into a vignette of a combined group
of different Persian units, on the last day of Thermopylae. This is
the final successful charge after three days of setbacks.
Thermopylae 480 BC
loftiest spot [in Greece]"
In the fall of 480 BC the Persian army of Xerxes poured into
Greece to punish the Greek city states who had defied the
Great King. The invading Persian army was a huge throng
(Myriads) of soldiers, camp
attendants, and logistical support,
gathered from all parts of the empire. A small force of
Spartans (300 Royal bodyguards plus 900 attendants) joined
about 4000-7000 other Greeks at the pass at Thermopylae to
block the Persian advance into the indefensible open plains
to the south.
Xerxes was completely vexed that such a small force would
dare block him, and after days of waiting for them to just
give up, he sent his army against the Spartans and
their allies. Each massive assault was driven back. Even his
most seasoned troops, the vaunted Immortals could not dent
the Greek defenses. Numbers could not beat a better armed
and armored foe, entrenched in a narrow space where their
flanks were secure. Persian archery was limited by the
channeled terrain and slippery ground.
But after two days of fruitless assaults, a goat path
the Spartan's position was
found, or betrayed by a Greek to the Persians. Xerxes
dispatched a column of Immortals over night to surround the
Greeks. Early in the morning the Spartan King Leonidas
learned that the Persian's were about to cut off the Greek's
retreat. He ordered most of the Greeks to flee, while he and
his Spartans plus some reluctant Thebans and more
enthusiastic Thespian volunteers rushed out to attack and
act as a rear guard for the rest of the Greek army to slip
The final charge at
they defended themselves to the last, those who still had
swords using them, and the others resisting with their
hands and teeth." ~ Diodorus XI, 28-34
This vignette represents a mixed group of Persians about to
close in on the surrounded Greeks making their last stand on
a knoll. These troops represent forces bloodied and muddied
by the hoplites in the previous two days of futile
attacks. At the start, the Medes and Cissians were cut down
in the first wave. A section of the Immortals was sent in
only to be routed in the close confines of the muddy pass,
crossed by streams emanating from the hot springs. The next
day was even worse as the Greeks had sufficient troops to
rotate the defense. Each time various Persian contingents
advanced they were thrown back by fresh armored defenders.
Some of the hapless attackers were pushed off cliff sides in
the stampedes to the rear in the confined space. It was a
bloody stalemate, with tremendous casualties on the Persian
side. The Greeks stood solid behind a stone wall, and
in their heavy bronze armor they were mostly impervious to
attacks by the lightly armed Persians.
The Final Charge photos represent the these Persian
survivors of the previous day's massacres now closing in to
overrun the surrounded Greeks. King Leonidas fell, and the
Greeks rear guard was destroyed or captured to the last man
in this final assault on their last stand.
Battle of Thermopylae Livius.org
archers and the gortyos
This group has two sparabara (pavisse holders), one is an
Immortal, one is a more generic Persian. A Median officer
leads them forward. Two archers, one Persian, and one
Cissian (or Kissian) shoot over the spara (also know as
gerrha) . The spara shield was a tall wicker barrier that
could be carried then set up with a stake and held in place
by a spear man. Behind the spara wall the often unarmored
archers were protected the fighters in the front ranks.
The typical arrangement of troops in Persian armies is based
on tens. There was one sparabara fighter and up to nine
archers in a rank, another officer or non-com ranker may
have been in the rear as a file closer. Units were grouped
into major formations of a thousand.
The Median officer carries a diplyon shield for his personal
defense. According to Herodotus, Persian fighters would rush
out in groups from the behind the spara walls. The heavily
armored Greeks were able to survive the missile fire and
break down the walls, and kill the sparabara. Once the spara
barrier was knocked down, the unarmored Persian archers were
mostly helpless victims.
This angle shows the quiver known as a gortyos provided in
this Wargames Atlantic set. This is a Scythian style quiver.
Persians also used a round quiver strapped to their backs.
The Greek shield being trod over is a Warlord plastic
How do these plastic figures
compare to other ranges
Here we see the Persian group in my glass case. On the left
is a Vendel large scale 28-32mm metal officer, this is in
the high rage of jumbo 28mm figures. Next is a Wargames
Foundry classic range figure which is very compatible with
the new plastics. On the right is a Victrix plastic hoplite,
which is very compatible in scale. I would use these
new figures in their own units, but they fit in well with my
older collection of Persians gathered over the eons.
Because of the mix of arms and heads, one can make a
combined unit of archers and spear men out of these, since
there are five models per sprue one can build three archers
or other armed models.
"There is no nation which so readily adopts foreign
customs as the Persians. Thus, they have taken the dress
of the Medes, considering it superior to their own; and in
war they wear the Egyptian breastplate. As soon as they
hear of any luxury, they instantly make it their own: and
hence, among other novelties, they have learnt unnatural
lust from the Greeks."
~ Herodotus I.135.
Close ups - The Medes and Cissians (Kissians)
Mede officer with the bulbous leather cap has his sagaris
(war hammer) out and is ready to charge. He wears padded
armor, and the violin shaped dipylon shield. His Median
style outfit includes the tunic and trousers that are more
practical on campaign than the flowing robes shown on the
Persians famously copied styles of weapons and outfits. The
Medes were one of the first empires they absorbed, and they
copied them copiously. There are enough Median style heads
to create a whole unit of this style- although some will be
unarmored. Three shield types are included per sprue, two
spara, two dipylon, and two peltae (crescent style similar
to Thracian style shields).
The Cissians were from the ancient land of Elam and Susa at
the north end of the Persian Gulf. Elamites were highly
regarded archers. I've taken the liberty of giving them a
blue tunic, just because I like it. There are enough bare
heads to make a nice unit of these as well.
The dots are painted with tooth pick ends, which goes fairly
Close ups - The Persian Immortal, Sparabara and archers
Immortal is using his spear two handed underhanded to prod
while his spara shield is propped up by a stake. This is
taken directly from the Richard Scollins artwork (see
below). This torso has a heavier armor style that seems
appropriate for an Immortal. It is likely that Immortals
were equipped with spears and bows. I've tried to capture
the feeling of the Duncan Head Montvert art here, this
would make a great looking game unit if I am ever able to
collect enough of them.
The Sparabara Persian is a front ranker and stabbing
over head with his spear. He also wears the quilted style
armor seen on the Mede. Both this figure and the Immortal
had some putty added to lengthen the back portion of the
tiara caps. Again, all dots were added with toothpicks.
Persian are all about dot dot dot and the dash dash dash.
Some Persian zigzag stripes are too crazy in this scale.
Ancient History Encyclopedia Ancient Persian
Warfare Joshua J. Markby
by Duncan Head, art by Richard Scollins
since it came out in 1992, The Achaemenid Persian Army, by
Duncan Head, illustrated by Richard Scollins, Christopher
Rothero, and Niki Head, has been the premier go-to guide for
anything Persian. The color plates by the late, very
talented Scollins are reproduced on the web in abundance.
The detailed line art and meticulous text that Duncan
provides make this a one of a kind brilliant work for gamers
and miniaturists alike. You can see why I used this as
guidance for colors and style, since the Wargames Atlantic
sculptor referenced them as well.
Herodotus: On The Customs of the Persians
The Spara Wall
The Persian shield wall formation
has became known in gaming terms as a “spara wall,” but this
terminology is based on scanty references. The file-leader
called a sparabara, usually armed with a spear, defended the
Behind him there were probably nine ranks armed mostly as
archers. The archers
be unarmored but some could wear some light armor, quilted
corselets, or later Greek style “thorax lineos” armor. The
more elite the formation the better chance the soldiers would
have some armor. A file closer was
posted behind the archers to keep everybody
in line. Most soldiers of some service length were awarded a
side sword called an akinaka that was strapped to their leg.
Officers and file leaders could also carry pick-axes, war
hammers called a sagaris, and swords.The file closer's gear is
hypothetical. Artwork (Page 24, Figure:11) originally by
Christopher Rothero or Niki Head.
Wargames Atlantic website
place to go to get these new plastics Persians. Hopefully
just a start to some alternative options. Persians are kind
of lost as far as wargaming armies go. First off they were
defeated and eventually rubbed out by the Greeks and
Macedonians. They are also a large army to collect-
especially if the large masses of levies are present. Third,
they are a challenge to paint being both ornate AND great in
numbers. There is need of a certain amount of grit to accept
the fate of a Persian gamer, few game rules give your army
much of a chance. Warhammer Ancient Battles was however
great for both the Early and Later Achaemenid Persians, so
that explains my bias. Sadly I never was able to take a
Persian army on the road to Historicon- too many figures!
(Plastic is lighter on an airplane though).
It takes a lifetime to collect large armies of nicely done
Persians, I'm still at it. However, I reckon when I look at
my to-do pile, I will never actually be done, that is the
curse of the Persian army, there always more!
The agony and the ecstasy of plastics
after all this, I have a confession. I really don't like
plastic gaming figures. Too many bits to assemble. I realize
that is part of the joy is the multi part freedom. But I
don't like all the tiny bits, and the leftovers (including
the sprues*). Usually when I purchase plastic figures
they sit and languish. However, these Persians kind of roped
me in. I'm looking forward to assembling at least one unit
of these, maybe 24-32 figures, or more.
Here is an example of what you get. As you can see, you get
a lot of variety, bows, quivers, heads, including a helmeted
head. Variable archer poses.
* At least one can melt the sprues and string the bows with
stretched plastic filament. Something I did not do for this
picture set, because I was in a hurry.
"Persians were taught to ride, to tell the truth and to
use the bow"
How to start the project
reveals what the figures look like assembled and primed with
white spray primer.
You can see the abundance of detail that makes painting
these quite fun. Mold lines are slight and not in places
that mess up the details. They clean up nice and as I said
before the only modification was the tiara cap back flaps on
two of these, the archer has a back flap molded on. The
spears are finely detailed with their in scale pomegranate
end caps. However, like all plastic spears they are fragile.
For game purposes I will replace them with wire, but I will
lose some of their charm. OTOH a bunch of broken spears will
ruin everyone's game day.
Despite my lamentations about all the parts- the parts do go
together well. The plastic is high quality and the
engineering is well done. The heads look comfortable on the
necks. When I have more sprues I will build a standard
bearer and musician and maybe do some of the other archer
poses and post them here.
was a victory for the Persians despite all the comic books
and "moral victory" propaganda from our western biased
sources. The Persian army flooded south overrunning all
opposition. The Spartans fled to the Isthmus of Corinth to
build a wall. Athenians were driven from Athens and took
refuge on the island of Salamis.
Xerxes sent in his fleet to wipe the Greeks from Salamis,
but the Greek allied navies rushed out and destroyed the
majority of the Persian fleet. Xerxes declared victory and
left Greece. He left part of his army to occupy
conquered Thebes and the surrounding plains of Boeotia.
This was Persia's high water mark in the west.
The next year (479) the largest ever alliance of
Greek city states crushed the Persian spara walls at
Plataea after a long struggle. The tide of the Persian
Empire receded as the Greeks conquered the Aegean islands
and carried the land and sea war into Asia Minor. The
Persians survived to see the once unified Greeks turn on
each other. They played this to their advantage, using
their massive wealth and fleets - rather than armies - to
keep the Greeks divided and mostly deflected them from
meddling in Persian affairs.
After the failed Greek invasion, the Persians turned away
from the spara wall tactics and developed their heavy
cavalry and tended to hire mercenaries, including Greeks,
to do their infantry work. By the time of Alexander
the Great's invasion, the Immortals once kept to a
continuous strength of 10,000 were reduced to about 2000
men at the final battle at Gaugamela.
brilliant illustrator, offers
paper hoplites and Persian alternatives to metal and
This really shows off the "Spara wall":
Rava paints some great inspirational hoplite and Persian
Check out his Military art prints, I have this one on my
Find his work at:
Please send any
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