Jousting heritage of Iran

I came across A Knight’s Tale, a really good movie set on jousting tournaments medieval England. This prestigious sport was very popular at the time and so much emotion and excitement usually went on the matches by the opponents and spectators. Interestingly the world’s first historical novel author, Sir Walter Scott has written his famous novel Ivanhoe on this setting.

Medieval knights’ jousting

A jousting match in a tournament/ Source

I immensely enjoyed watching A Knight’s Tale. This action-drama movie enjoyed a spectacular play by the late Heath Ledger. It also contained so many subtle jokes and funny scenes and when it combines with romance and action/adventure theme it engages the audience the most.


A Knight’s Tale trailer

Many know about these brave and novel European medieval knights but how many of us know that the world’ first knights were Iranian Cataphracts also known as Asvaran?

How many know that the world’s first jousting battle happened in Iran (also known as Persia in West)?

If you are curius to know more on this, I suggest this article from Nabil Rastani and the book by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh: Elite Sassanian Cavalry

Battle of Hormuzgan, the worlds’ first jousting battle between two Iranian dynasties: Ardeshir I of Persia vs. Adravan V of Parthia

(Source: Iran Archeology Facebook Group)

Shapur the son of Ardeshir was present at the Hormozgan battle and struck Arodavan’s grand-vazir by lance in a jousting battle

The oldest Jousting scene in Sassanids rock relief depicting Ardeshir’s victory over Adavan V the last Parthian king (right).

Parthian  seven clans still remained powerful force in Sassanid dynasty.

I quote from Nabil Rastani:

The Parthians were overthrown by the Sassanians (224-651AD) in the 3rd century at the fierce jousting battle of Hormuzgan in 224AD it was here the first jousting battle in history occurred Ardashir I of Persia the founder of the Sassanians had a duel with Ardavan V of Parthia were he was slain, and the Sassanians were victorious .

The Sassanians inherited the cavalry warfare traditions already richly developed in the region by Parthia. Since the Sassanid Empire was by far superior organized and trained than the loosely-bound Parthian Empire, their army was by all means effective, and hence created a number of impressions on western sources.

Other Iranian jousting scenes:

Parthian jousting scene at Dura-Europos, Syria/ Source:   هزاره های گمشده: اشکانیان (پارتها) نگارش: پرویز رجبی

Parthian jousting scene at Tange Sarvak, Iran:   هزاره های گمشده: اشکانیان (پارتها) نگارش: پرویز رجبی

Naqsh-e Rostam/ Double Equestrian victory relief of Sassanid King Hormizd I, jousting against an enemy, most likely to represent King Papak of Armenia

Naqsh-e Rostam/Double Equestrian victory relief of  Bahram II, Sasanid King,  unseating an enemy in a jousting battle

Jousting was not fogotten after Islam and Iranian practiced it at least to Timurid time. The following bronze bowl depicts a duel scene between a swordsman and a jouster both mounted.

 The Golden Disk of Heaven: Metalwork of Timurid Iran (Persian Art Series)/ Linda Komaroff/ Mazda Pub (August 1992)

Epic duel fighting in front of a castle after 700 C.E. in current day Tajikestan, formerly Sogdiana state of Sasanids. Taken from “SOGDIANA vi. SOGDIAN ART” entry of Iranica.

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2 comments on “Jousting heritage of Iran

  1. Saeed says:

    To be honest, the way you depict the glorious Persian military history is lovely and fantabuolous. As I’ve asked before many more Iran-Lovers will enjoy and learn from your valuable writings in the case they have your articles translated in Persian too.
    p.s: Today I was reading a middle Persian poem called “boz o derakht e asurig” and as you might be aware, there are many conflicts in the translation of it since old days. The last and believed to be best is the translation of Dr. Mahyar Navabi yet there are still questions in some parts which I believe you might be able to help:

    1-Verse 57 in Dr.Navabi’s book : “Angoshtban” (ava nevisi) = seems to be something used by the King or archers as for protecting the finger(s) in the shooting time.

    2- verse 70 : “Skwc” (Harf nevisi ast) = seems to be دوال؟
    [ I believe this the pick at the beginning of the saddle.]

    3-Verse 75 : “Pilkahn” (ava nevisi) = seems to be دژکوب

    4-Verse 75 : “Kashkanchir” (ava nevisi) = seems to be something between a big bow and catapult.

    Your guidance in enlightening any of the above ambiguities is highly appreciated.

    Best Regards,

    • hessam says:

      Hi Saeed,

      Thank you. Angoshtban is to protect fingers while shooting arrows. Kashkanchir is catapult (Manjeniq). But would you please write the other two in original Middle Persian script?


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