The Achaemenid Navy
of misconceptions on Achaemenid militaria is Lendering’s views with
respect to the Achaemenid Navy. Lendering states:
we learn that Scylax played a role in the creation of Darius' Suez Canal. This may be true, but I am
unaware of any evidence to support this claim. On the next page, we
are to believe that it was Darius who created an imperial navy. It was
may be unfamiliar with the works of Iranian military historians such
as Maatofi, who is considered to be the Richard Keegan of ancient Iranian
warfare. Matofi states clearly that:
the onset of Darius’ rule, the Achamenid military did not have a significant
navy. However it was during his [Darius] time when for the first time
Iran acquired a powerful and rationally organized navy. This became
fully operational by the time Darius launched his attacks against Greece
and Europe, where the first [Achaemenid] amphibious operations were
1999, pp. 7, (full reference cited in Item
Lendering may also be unfamiliar
with the studies of Iranian marine archaeologists of the Aero-Marine
research Center of Malek Ashtar University in Iran. The Archaeological
wing of this university (under the direction of Dr. Kambiz Alampour)
has studied the Achaemenid Navy extensively. Consulting 47 different
sources (Iranian and non-Iranian) The Alampour team reconstructions
in Shiraz pertain to Iranian vessels of the of the Darius-Xerxes era.
Note the example below of a reconstructed Achaemenid ship (see prototype
in the scale of 120 by 40 by 60 cm):
Lendering’s misconception may derive from Cambysis’ use
of Phoenician ships during his invasion of Egypt ((These details are
fully discussed along with references in Farrokh’s book). However, the
deployment of Phoenician ships in a single campaign does not mean that
Iran had an imperial navy at Cambysis’ time; one in which ships were
being built in exact accordance with Achaemenid specifications. In that
case, we can incorrectly argue that the Achaemenid imperial navy existed
as early as the time of Cyrus when Babylon fell; the latter had controlled
the Phoenician coast and these then gave their allegiance to Cyrus after
his conquests. Even at Darius-Xerxes’ time, the mariners of the Achaemenid
navy against Greece were primarily Phoenician (as well as Egyptians,
etc.) (mentioned in Farrokh’s book). Lendering has simply avoided mentioning
the aforementioned Iranian studies and researchers to arrive towards
a personal conclusion.
(whom Lendering favors) apparently supports Lendering's hypothesis by
linking the origins of the fleet to Cambysis' deployment of Phoenician
ships during the conquest of Egypt, Briant however does not mention
an imperial navy; he states on p.886:
"Cambysis creator of the Royal Persian Navy"
Briant, P. (2002). From Cyrus to Alexander. Published by Eisenbrauns.
Note the usage of the term "Royal Navy" by Briant (Lendering's
preferred source). There is a s ubtle but clear functional distinction
here between Matofi's "imperial navy" versus Briant's "Royal
Navy". . Simply put, the institution of an Imperial navy had to
be founded upon the principle of a Royal Navy. This is a key distinction
in Iranian military historiography, especially in written Persian sources
such as Matofi and Alampour. As noted by Mayerson, 1987, in p.50:
"Yet, it is a tribute to Darius that dur ing the interval a good
deal of money and
effort must have been expended in building up the Persian navy
Mayerson, P. (1987). Saracens and Romans: micro macro relationships.
Bulletin of the American Schools for Oriental Research, Number 265,
Gabriel (2002), p.166 further elaborates that:
"Darius I seems to have been the first to commission the construction
of ships for specific military tasks ships of the line , transports,
horse carriers, supply ships and shortly thereafter the Persians had
fully integrated the use of naval warfare and tactics in their grand
strategy, designed to counter Greek powers in the Aegean and Mediterranean"
Gabriel, R.A., The Great Armies of Antiquity, Published by Greenwood
Publishing Group, 2002.
It was Darius who built the fleet in the Caspian to help in his imperial
conquest of the Saka Tigrakhauda (Pointed-Hat Scythians/Saka) in Central
Asia (Burn, 1985, p.222). just as a powerful fleet was built up to project
imperial Achaemenid expansionistic aims into the Mediterranean and Europe.
To be very technical, one can cite Cyrus as the true "father"
of the Achaemenid Navy, as it was he who conquered Babylon, and by implication,
gained the submission of the Phoenician princes who had been under Babylonian
subservience. The issue here is the graduation of that fleet into Darius'
imperial navy: of course it is true that the navy was in existence during
Cambysis time, but it was during Darius' reign when the navy became
a force to be reckoned with simultaneously in the Caspian Sea, the Persian
Gulf, the Mesopotamian Rivers and the Mediterranean. The navy was the
formidable instrument that it was to become under the reign of Darius
Lendering's approach is interesting is that it resembles the debate
of whether it was the Greeks or the Phoenicians who originated naval
warfare in the Mediterranean. A Lendering-style approach would be to
insist "the Phoenicians were the first", however it was the
Greeks who developed the technology to dominate the maritime trade of
the Mediterranean, especially with the invention of their Trireme which
defeated the navy of Xerxes; see article below:
Coates, J. (1989). The Trireme Sails Again. Scientific American, 260,
The relevant domain is the evolution of naval warfare and technology
in the Achaemenid Navy during the time of Darius, as cited earlier by
Gabriel. (not chronology as Lendering appears to aver). As seen numerous
times in this letter, Lendering is again engaging in the process of
narrowly focusing on only those citations that appear to confirm his
hypotheses, while ignoring or dismissing western and Iranian sources
that contradict them.
As per Lendering's statement "we learn that Scylax played a role
in the creation of Darius' Suez Canal. This may be true, but I am unaware
of any evidence to support this claim". What is specifically meant
by "evidence"? Farrokh is simply relying on the established
historiography in the field such as:
Wilcken, U. and Borza, E.N., Alexander the Great, Published by W. W.
Norton & Company, 1997, note on p.195 that:
"By order of Darius I Scylax set out from Kabul down the Indus,
sailed along the
coast of the cost of the Indian Ocean to Ormuz and from there, instead
of entering the Persian Gulf, circumnavigated Arabia and landed in the
gulf of Suez
some people have doubted the historicity of this voyage
but they are wrong, for there are monuments on the Suez Canal to confirm
The monuments (these are granite markers) are actually very specific.
One inscription reports of 24 vessels that sailed through the Canal
to Achaemenid Persia. Aughton, P. Voyages t hat Changed the World, Published
by Quercus, 2007, notes on p.15 that:
"Darius sent a party under the leadership of a man named Scylax
and the expedition followed the course of the Indus east until20it reached
.Turning westward, his ships followed the coast and after
a voyage of some thirty months reached a point in the Red Sea near Suez".
Fuller, J.F.C., The Generalship of Alexander the Great, Published by
De Capo Press, note on p.78 that:
"Still further to improve his communications, Darius sent Scylax,
a Carian Greek to discover a sea route between India and Persia. According
to Herodotus, Scylax set out from Caspatyrus (Peshawar) to the Pactyikan
country (Ghandahar), and sailed down the Indus to the Sea, from where
he skirted the coasts of Persia and Arabia, sailed up the Red Sea and
landed i n the neighborhood of Suez ".
These are some of the citations seen in the established scholarship:
the Farrokh text is simply being consistent with the research.
This raises an interesting question: Is Lendering suggesting that all
of these must be revised and that the discovered monuments are not "evidence"
enough? If so, on what basis? What "evidence" can be produced
to verify Lendering's demand? Or is Lendering perhaps suggesting that
there is no "evidence" that Scylax himself actually explored
the route? If so, then why does the overwhelming thrust of mainstream
historiography cite Scylax? < /FONT>
Lendering's approach here is parallel to his issue regarding the date
of King Croesus' capture by Cyrus the Great (see item 11). Lendering
has simply opined against the established historiography of the topic.
Opinions by themselves however are insufficient at dismissing references
to established historiography.