A report on Battle of Carrhae

Marcus Licinius Crassus
Extent of the Parthian Empire
Formations at the start of the battle
Relief of a Parthian cataphract attacking a lion using kontos
Roman coin of Augustus (19 BC) showing a Parthian soldier returning the standards captured at Carrhae. Augustus hailed the return of the standards as a political victory over Parthia.
Parthian horseman
Detail from the breastplate of Augustus Prima Porta, showing a Parthian man returning the aquila lost by Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae

Fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the ancient town of Carrhae .

- Battle of Carrhae
Marcus Licinius Crassus

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The Parthian Empire in 94 BC at its greatest extent, during the reign of Mithridates II ((r. 124 – 91))

Parthian Empire

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Major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, Arsaces I, who led the Parni tribe in conquering the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire.

Major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, Arsaces I, who led the Parni tribe in conquering the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire.

The Parthian Empire in 94 BC at its greatest extent, during the reign of Mithridates II ((r. 124 – 91))
The silver drachma of Arsaces I (r. c. 247–211 BC) with the Greek language inscription ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ "of Arsaces"
Parthia, shaded yellow, alongside the Seleucid Empire (blue) and the Roman Republic (purple) around 200 BC
Drachma of Mithridates I, showing him wearing a beard and a royal diadem on his head. Reverse side: Heracles/Verethragna, holding a club in his left hand and a cup in his right hand; Greek inscription reading ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΥ ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ "of the Great King Arsaces the Philhellene"
Drachma of Mithridates II (r. c. 124–91 BC). Reverse side: seated archer carrying a bow; inscription reading "of the King of Kings Arsaces the Renowned/Manifest Philhellene."
Han dynasty Chinese silk from Mawangdui, 2nd century BC, silk from China was perhaps the most lucrative luxury item the Parthians traded at the western end of the Silk Road.
Bronze statue of a Parthian nobleman from the sanctuary at Shami in Elymais (modern-day Khūzestān Province, Iran, along the Persian Gulf), now located at the National Museum of Iran. Dated 50 BC-150 AD, Parthian School.
A Roman marble head of the triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus, who was defeated at Carrhae by Surena
Roman aurei bearing the portraits of Mark Antony (left) and Octavian (right), issued in 41 BC to celebrate the establishment of the Second Triumvirate by Octavian, Antony and Marcus Lepidus in 43 BC
Drachma of Phraates IV (r. c. 38–2 BC). Inscription reading ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ "of the King of Kings Arsaces the Renowned/Manifest Benefactor Philhellene"
A close-up view of the breastplate on the statue of Augustus of Prima Porta, showing a Parthian man returning to Augustus the legionary standards lost by Marcus Licinius Crassus at Carrhae
A denarius struck in 19 BC during the reign of Augustus, with the goddess Feronia depicted on the obverse, and on the reverse a Parthian man kneeling in submission while offering the Roman military standards taken at the Battle of Carrhae
Map of the troop movements during the first two years of the Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 AD over the Kingdom of Armenia, detailing the Roman offensive into Armenia and capture of the country by Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Parthian king making an offering to god Herakles-Verethragna. Masdjid-e Suleiman, Iran. 2nd–3rd century AD. Louvre Museum Sb 7302.
Rock relief of Parthian king at Behistun, most likely Vologases III (r. c. 110–147 AD)
A Parthian (right) wearing a Phrygian cap, depicted as a prisoner of war in chains held by a Roman (left); Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome, 203 AD
A Sarmatian-Parthian gold necklace and amulet, 2nd century AD. Located in Tamoikin Art Fund
Parthian golden necklace, 2nd century AD, Iran, Reza Abbasi Museum
A Parthian ceramic oil lamp, Khūzestān Province, Iran, National Museum of Iran
Coin of Kamnaskires III, king of Elymais (modern Khūzestān Province), and his wife Queen Anzaze, 1st century BC
A statue of a young Palmyran in fine Parthian trousers, from a funerary stele at Palmyra, early 3rd century AD
Coin of Mithridates II of Parthia. The clothing is Parthian, while the style is Hellenistic (sitting on an omphalos). The Greek inscription reads "King Arsaces, the philhellene"
A ceramic Parthian water spout in the shape of a man's head, dated 1st or 2nd century AD
Parthian votive relief from Khūzestān Province, Iran, 2nd century AD
A barrel vaulted iwan at the entrance at the ancient site of Hatra, modern-day Iraq, built c. 50 AD
The Parthian Temple of Charyios in Uruk.
A wall mural depicting a scene from the Book of Esther at the Dura-Europos synagogue, dated 245 AD, which Curtis and Schlumberger describe as a fine example of 'Parthian frontality'
A sculpted head (broken off from a larger statue) of a Parthian soldier wearing a Hellenistic-style helmet, from the Parthian royal residence and necropolis of Nisa, Turkmenistan, 2nd century BC
Parthian long-necked lute, c. 3 BC – 3 AD
Royal Parthian objects at the Persia exhibition, Getty Museum

The Parthians destroyed the army of Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, and in 40–39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the Levant except Tyre from the Romans.

Bust of Crassus, in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

Marcus Licinius Crassus

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Roman general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Roman general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Bust of Crassus, in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Bust of Crassus, in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
A Roman marble head of the triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus, mid-1st century BC, Grand Palais, Paris
A Roman bust of Pompey the Great made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), a copy of an original bust from 70 to 60 BC, Venice National Archaeological Museum, Italy
From left to right: Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Pompey the Great
Denarius minted by Publius Licinius Crassus, son of the triumvir Marcus, as monetalis in 55 BC; on the obverse is a laureate bust of Venus, perhaps in honor of his commanding officer Julius Caesar; on the reverse is an unidentified female figure, perhaps representing Gaul
"The torture of Crassus," 1530s, Louvre

Crassus' campaign was a disastrous failure, ending in his defeat and death at the Battle of Carrhae.

The Tusculum portrait, possibly the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime. Archaeological Museum, Turin, Italy.

Julius Caesar

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Roman general and statesman.

Roman general and statesman.

The Tusculum portrait, possibly the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime. Archaeological Museum, Turin, Italy.
Gaius Marius, Caesar's uncle
Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla stripped Caesar of the priesthood.
A denarius depicting Julius Caesar, dated to February–March 44 BC—the goddess Venus is shown on the reverse, holding Victoria and a scepter. Caption: CAESAR IMP. M. / L. AEMILIVS BVCA
The extent of the Roman Republic in 40 BC after Caesar's conquests
Vercingetorix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Caesar, painting by Lionel Royer. Musée Crozatier, Le Puy-en-Velay, France.
A Roman bust of Pompey the Great made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), a copy of an original bust from 70 to 60 BC, Venice National Archaeological Museum, Italy.
Cleopatra and Caesar, 1866 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme
This mid-1st-century-BC Roman wall painting in Pompeii is probably a depiction of Cleopatra VII as Venus Genetrix, with her son Caesarion as Cupid. Its owner Marcus Fabius Rufus most likely ordered its concealment behind a wall in reaction to the execution of Caesarion on orders of Octavian in 30 BC.
Green Caesar, posthumous portrait of the 1st century AD, Altes Museum, Berlin
Statue of Julius Caesar, Via dei Fori Imperiali, Rome
La clémence de César, Abel de Pujol, 1808
Denarius (42 BC) issued by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Lentulus Spinther, depicting the crowned head of Liberty and on the reverse a sacrificial jug and lituus, from the military mint in Smyrna. Caption: C. CASSI. IMP. LEIBERTAS / LENTVLVS SPINT.
The senators encircle Caesar, a 19th-century interpretation of the event by Carl Theodor von Piloty
The Death of Caesar, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1867
Bust of Mark Antony made during the Flavian dynasty (69–96 AD)
Marc Antony's Oration at Caesar's Funeral by George Edward Robertson
Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, Caesar's adopted heir
The Chiaramonti Caesar bust, a posthumous portrait in marble, 44–30 BC, Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museums
Reliefs of Cleopatra and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, at the Temple of Dendera
Roman painting from the House of Giuseppe II, Pompeii, early 1st century AD, most likely depicting Cleopatra VII, wearing her royal diadem, consuming poison in an act of suicide, while her son Caesarion, also wearing a royal diadem, stands behind her
Julii Caesaris quae exstant (1678)
A 1783 edition of The Gallic Wars
Bust in Naples National Archaeological Museum, photograph published in 1902
Bust in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples
Bust of Julius Caesar from the British Museum
Modern bronze statue of Julius Caesar, Rimini, Italy
Statue of Julius Caesar, Via dei Fori Imperiali, Rome
Flowers placed on the remains of the altar of Caesar in the Roman Forum of Rome, Italy
Portrait at the Archaeological Museum of Sparta
Bronze statue at the Porta Palatina in Turin
Bust in the Archaeological Museum of Corinth

These achievements and the support of his veteran army threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome.

From left to right: Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey

First Triumvirate

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Informal alliance among three prominent politicians in the late Roman Republic: Gaius Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Informal alliance among three prominent politicians in the late Roman Republic: Gaius Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus.

From left to right: Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey
A Roman bust of Marcus Tullius Cicero, depicted here at about age sixty, in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain
A Roman bust of Pompey the Great made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), a copy of an original bust from 70 to 60 BC, Venice National Archaeological Museum, Italy
A Roman bust of Lucius Cornelius Sulla in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
The Tusculum portrait, a bust of Julius Caesar in the Archaeological Museum of Turin, Italy
A Roman bust of Crassus in the Louvre, Paris, France
Family tree showing the relationship between the three members of the First Triumvirate, as well as their relationships with other prominent members of the Republic.

Crassus embarked on an expedition against the Parthians to match Caesar's victories in Gaul but died in the disastrous defeat of Carrhae in 53 BC.

Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC

Roman Republic

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State of the classical Roman civilization, run through public representation of the Roman people.

State of the classical Roman civilization, run through public representation of the Roman people.

Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC
Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC
The "Capitoline Brutus", a bust possibly depicting Lucius Junius Brutus, who led the revolt against Rome's last king and was a founder of the Republic.
Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC
Map showing Roman expansion in Italy.
The Temple of Hercules Victor, Rome, built in the mid 2nd century BC, most likely by Lucius Mummius Achaicus, who won the Achaean War.
Pyrrhus' route in Italy and Sicily.
Bust of Pyrrhus, found in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, now in the Naples Archaeological Museum. Pyrrhus was a brave and chivalrous general who fascinated the Romans, explaining his presence in a Roman house.
Coin of Hiero II of Syracuse.
The Roman Republic before the First Punic War.
Diagram of a corvus.
Denarius of C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, 125 BC. The reverse depicts the triumph of his great-grandfather Lucius, with the elephants he had captured at Panormos. The elephant had thence become the emblem of the powerful Caecilii Metelli.
Principal offensives of the war: Rome (red), Hannibal (green), Hasdrubal (purple).
A Carthaginian quarter shekel, perhaps minted in Spain. The obverse may depict Hannibal under the traits of young Melqart. The reverse features one of his famous war elephants.
Roman marble bust of Scipio Africanus, found in the Tomb of the Scipios.
Scene of the Battle of Corinth (146 BC): last day before the Roman legions looted and burned the Greek city of Corinth. The last day on Corinth, Tony Robert-Fleury, 1870.
Bust, traditionally identified as Gaius Marius, instigator of the Marian reforms.
Denarius of Faustus Cornelius Sulla, 56 BC. It shows Diana on the obverse, while the reverse depicts Sulla being offered an olive branch by his ally Bocchus I. Jugurtha is shown captive on the right.
A Roman marble head of Pompey (now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek)
Map of the Gallic Wars
The Tusculum portrait, a Roman sculpture of Julius Caesar, Archaeological Museum of Turin, Italy
The Curia Julia, the senate house started by Julius Caesar in 44 BC and completed by Octavian in 29 BC, replacing the Curia Cornelia as the meeting place of the Senate.
The Roman Forum, the commercial, cultural, religious, and political center of the city and the Republic which housed the various offices and meeting places of the government
Detail from the Ahenobarbus relief showing (centre-right) two Roman foot-soldiers c. 122 BC. Note the Montefortino-style helmets with horsehair plume, chain mail cuirasses with shoulder reinforcement, oval shields with calfskin covers, gladius and pilum.
Roman warrior, fresco in Pompeii, ca. 80—20 BC
A Roman naval bireme depicted in a relief from the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste, c. 120 BC; now in the Museo Pio-Clementino in the Vatican Museums
Temple of Janus as seen in the present church of San Nicola in Carcere, in the Forum Holitorium of Rome, Italy, dedicated by Gaius Duilius after his naval victory at the Battle of Mylae in 260 BC
An inscribed funerary relief of Aurelius Hermia and his wife Aurelia Philematum, former slaves who married after their manumission, 80 BC, from a tomb along the Via Nomentana in Rome
The "Togatus Barberini", depicting a Roman senator holding the imagines (effigies) of deceased ancestors in his hands; marble, late 1st century BC; head (not belonging): mid 1st century BC
Ruins of the Aqua Anio Vetus, a Roman aqueduct built in 272 BC
The Temple of Portunus, god of grain storage, keys, livestock and ports. Rome, built between 120 and 80 BC
The tomb of the Flavii, a necropolis outside the Nucerian gate (Porta Nocera) of Pompeii, Italy, constructed 50–30 BC
Denarius of Lucius Caesius, 112–111 BC. On the obverse is Apollo, as written on the monogram behind his head, who also wears the attributes of Vejovis, an obscure deity. The obverse depicts a group of statues representing the Lares Praestites, which was described by Ovid.
Inside the "Temple of Mercury" at Baiae, a swimming pool for a Roman bath, built during the late Roman Republic, and containing one of the largest domes in the world before the building of the Pantheon
Denarius of Caesar, minted just before his murder, in 44 BC. It was the first Roman coin bearing the portrait of a living person. The lituus and culullus depicted behind his head refer to his augurate and pontificate. The reverse with Venus alludes to his claimed descent from the goddess.
The ruins of the Servian Wall, built during the 4th century BC, one of the earliest ancient Roman defensive walls
The Orator, c. 100 BC, an Etrusco-Roman statue of a Republican senator, wearing toga praetexta and senatorial shoes; compared to the voluminous, costly, impractical togas of the Imperial era, the Republican-era type is frugal and "skimpy" (exigua).
Banquet scene, fresco, Herculaneum, Italy, c. 50 BC
The Amphitheatre of Pompeii, built around 70 BC and buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius 79 AD, once hosted spectacles with gladiators.

After initial successes, he marched his army deep into the desert; but here his army was cut off deep in enemy territory, surrounded and slaughtered at the Battle of Carrhae in which Crassus himself perished.

Historical reenactment of a Sassanid-era cataphract, complete with a full set of scale armor for the horse. The rider is covered by extensive mail armor.

Cataphract

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Form of armored heavy cavalryman that originated in Persia and was fielded in ancient warfare throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa.

Form of armored heavy cavalryman that originated in Persia and was fielded in ancient warfare throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa.

Historical reenactment of a Sassanid-era cataphract, complete with a full set of scale armor for the horse. The rider is covered by extensive mail armor.
Sculpture of a Sasanian cataphract in Taq-e Bostan, Iran. It is One of the oldest depictions of a cataphract.
The extent circa 170 BC of the Iranian Scythians and Parthians, to whom the first recorded use of true cataphract-like cavalry can be attributed in antiquity.
Chanfron, Northern Yan
A stone-etched relief depicting a Parthian cataphract fighting against a lion. Housed in the British Museum.
Three examples of the various styles of interweaving and wire threading that were commonly employed in the creation of cataphract scale armor to form a stiffened, "armored shell" with which to protect the horse.
Breakdown of a fully armoured Chinese cataphract
Equestrian relief at Firuzabad, Iran showing Cataphracts dueling with lances
The cataphract-style parade armor of a Saka (Scythian) royal from the Issyk kurgan, dubbed "Golden Man". The overlapping golden scales are typical of cataphract armor.
Two heavily armored noblemen dueling on horseback with kontos; Sasanian era silver plate with gold coating, Azerbaijan Museum, Tabriz, Iran
A depiction of Sarmatian cataphracts fleeing from Roman cavalry during the Dacian wars circa 101 AD, at Trajan's Column in Rome

In Europe, the fashion for heavily armored Roman cavalry seems to have been a response to the Eastern campaigns of the Parthians and Sassanids in the region referred to as Asia Minor, as well as numerous defeats at the hands of Iranian cataphracts across the steppes of Eurasia, most notably in the Battle of Carrhae in upper Mesopotamia (53 BC).

Orodes II's portrait on the obverse of a tetradrachm, showing him wearing a beard and a diadem on his head, Mithradatkert mint

Orodes II

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King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 57 BC to 37 BC. He was a son of Phraates III, whom he murdered in 57 BC, assisted by his elder brother Mithridates IV.

King of Kings of the Parthian Empire from 57 BC to 37 BC. He was a son of Phraates III, whom he murdered in 57 BC, assisted by his elder brother Mithridates IV.

Orodes II's portrait on the obverse of a tetradrachm, showing him wearing a beard and a diadem on his head, Mithradatkert mint
Coin of Mithridates IV
Map of the Parthian–Roman borders, ca. 55 BC.
Parthian mounted archer, located in Palazzo Madama, Turin.
Coin of Quintus Labienus
Regular coin of Orodes II with a seated archer on the reverse
Coin of Orodes II with Tyche-Khvarenah on the reverse

This attempt proved disastrous, with Crassus meeting his end in 53 BC, in the Battle of Carrhae, by Orodes' general Surena.

Parthian mounted archer, located in Palazzo Madama, Turin.

Surena

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Parthian mounted archer, located in Palazzo Madama, Turin.

Surena or Suren, also known as Rustaham Suren (died 53 BC) was a Parthian spahbed ("general" or "commander") during the 1st century BC. He was the leader of the House of Suren and was best known for defeating the Romans in the Battle of Carrhae.

1st century AD bust of Pompey, after an original from 55–50 BC

Pompey

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Leading Roman general and statesman.

Leading Roman general and statesman.

1st century AD bust of Pompey, after an original from 55–50 BC
A view of Monte Conero in Marche, Italy (formerly Picenum), birthplace of Pompey
Roman statue putatively depicting Pompey, at the Villa Arconati a Castellazzo di Bollate (Milan, Italy), brought from Rome in 1627 by Galeazzo Arconati
Marble bust of Pompey at the Louvre, Paris
Modern bust of Pompey in the Residenz, Munich
A Roman portrait of Crassus, Pompey's political rival turned begrudging ally, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris
A denarius of Pompey minted in 49–48 BC
A tetradrachm of Tigranes II the Great of Armenia, minted at Antioch, 83–69 BC
Pompey in the Temple of Jerusalem, a miniature by Jean Fouquet, 15th century
The bust of Mithridates of Pontus in the Louvre, Paris
Judea (shown in blue) under Hyrcanus II in 63 BC, having been reduced to a small vassal as Pompey annexed the north for Rome (shown in red)
A modern bust of Pompey, restored in the 17th century with a black marble base, Vaux-le-Vicomte, France
18th-century depiction of the third triumph
From left to right: Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Pompey the Great
The Tusculum portrait, a bust of Julius Caesar in the Archaeological Museum of Turin, Italy
A Roman bust of Pompey the Great made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), a copy of an original bust from 70 to 60 BC, Venice National Archaeological Museum, Italy
The Flight of Pompey after Pharsalus, by Jean Fouquet
Roman bust of Cleopatra VII of Ptolemaic Egypt, mid-1st century BC, Altes Museum, Antikensammlung Berlin, showing Cleopatra with a "melon" hairstyle and Hellenistic royal diadem worn over the head
Theodotus shows Caesar the head of Pompey; etching, 1820
The head of Pompey on a denarius minted in 40 BC by his son Sextus Pompeius Magnus Pius

Shortly after the death of Julia, Crassus died at the Battle of Carrhae (May 53 BC), bringing the first triumvirate to an end.

Mounted archery in Tibet

Mounted archery

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Cavalryman armed with a bow and able to shoot while riding from horseback.

Cavalryman armed with a bow and able to shoot while riding from horseback.

Mounted archery in Tibet
Japanese mounted archers in the Gosannen War, 14th century painting by Hidanokami Korehisa
Young prince (later Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I) hunting for birds as a horsed archer. Woodcut by Albrecht Dürer.
A Timurid drawing of an Ilkhanid horse archer. Signed (lower right) Muhammad ibn Mahmudshah al-Khayyam Iran, early 15th century. Ink and gold on paper
Assyrian relief of a mounted archer
Parthian horse archer shooting at full gallop, undated relief at the Palazzo Madama, Turin.
16th-century Muscovite cavalry.
Qing Dynasty mounted archers face off against Dzungar mounted musketeers.
Bashkirs and Cossacks fighting French infantry with bows and lances at the Battle of Leipzig (1813).
Bashkir Horse Archers in Paris 1814.
Wall fragment from a Chinese tomb, with an incised relief decoration showing a hunting scene with mounted archery, Han dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) National Museum of Oriental Art, Rome
Yabusame archer on horseback

The Roman general Crassus led a large army, with inadequate cavalry and missile troops, to catastrophe against Parthian horse archers and cataphracts at the Battle of Carrhae.