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Dailami Foot

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 1 month ago





Dailami were mountain people from south of the Caspian Sea in Iran. They were prominent in mercenary service from the 6th century, and were the premier Islamic infantry of the 9th to 12th centuries. They were armed with zupin-spears, axes and missile weapons. They formed part of the body-guard of several Islamic states.


DBM classes Dailami as Ax(S) with a proportion as Ps(O). The missile troops can provide rear-support to the Ax(S). It has been argued that Bd(F) is a better classification of these troops, at least for Dailami guards units.


Early sources


Procopius describes Dailami ("Dolomitai") mercenaries in Persian service in AD 551 as "all foot-soldiers, each man carrying a sword and a shield and three javelins in his hand" and as exceptionally nimble in mountain country (8.14.6-9). This particular Persian army is described (8.13.4) as "apart from a few men, all cavalry"; this suggests that the Dailami were the only infantry present on this occasion.


About 555AD, Agathias (3.7-9) describes Dailami with long and short spears, and describes their tactics, in the context of a night attack and ambush on the encampment of the Romans' Sabir Hun infantry by a 3,000-strong detachment from the Dailami main body:


"The Dilimnites are among the largest of the nations on the far side of the Tigris whose territory borders on Persia. They are warlike in the extreme and, unlike most of the Persians, do not fight principally with the bow and the sling. The carry spears and pikes (sarissai and xysta!) and wear a sword slung across one shoulder. To the left arm they tie a very small dirk and they hold out shields and bucklers to protect themselves with. One could hardly describe them simply as light armed troops, nor for that matter as the type of heavy infantry that fight exclusively at close quarters. For they both discharge missiles at a distance when the occasion arises and engage in hand to hand fighting, and are expert at charging an enemy phalanx and breaking its close-knit ranks with the weight of their charge. They can reform their own ranks with ease and adapt themselves to any contingency. Even steep hills they run up without difficulty thus seizing in advance all points of vantage, and when they are put to flight they escape with lightning rapidity whereas when they are the attackers they press the pursuit with perfect timing and co-ordination. Well-versed as they are in practically every type of warfare they inflict considerable harm to their enemies. They are accustomed for the most part to fight alongside the Persians, though not as the conscript contingents of a subject people since they are in fact free and independent and it is not in their nature to submit to any form of compulsion."


Agathias also variously has them 'ranged in battle-formation', 'bringing round their wings and encircling them {Romans, Lazi and Huns}', and, 'When the Dailami saw them charging with the fury of despair they immediately opened up their ranks and made way for them ...'


The 9th-century Persian historian Baladhuri says they formed a royal detachment in the 7th-century Sasanian army:


"In the battle of al-Kadisiyah, Rustam led 4,000 men called Jund Shahanshah ... Their chief (nakib) was one of them called Dailam ... According to al-Mada'ini, Abarwiz (Khusrau II "Parviz") brought from al-Dailam 4,000 men who acted as his servants and escort, which position they held until the Arab invasion. They then took part in the battle of al-Kadisiyah under Rustam."

- Baladhuri, Kitab Futuh al-Buldan; trans. P K Hitti as The Origins of the Islamic State (1916; reprint Gorgias Press 2002), pp.440-441.


Note that the published DBM Sassanid Persian list allows these troops only in Khusrau II's reign, while Baladhuri records Arab traditions that they were still in service at al-Qadisiyyah in 636. The figure of 4,000 strong may mean nomore than 'an army', 'a very large number'.


Dailami in Islamic armies


Arabic writers describe how they constantly train for battle as relaxation.


They are equipped with zupin double-pointed spears or axes for a shock role.


Guard troops are normally depicted in jawshan or dir cuirasses.


They formed up in a shield-wall - a poem written in 1048 calls the Dailamite shields "similar to a wall and painted in 100 colours" (V Minorsky, "La Domination des Dailamites", a paper given in 1931, English versions at http://www.zazaki.de/englisch/articels/minorsky-dailamites.htm and http://members.tripod.com/~zaza_kirmanc/research/dailamites.htm ).


The performance of the Fatimid Dailami guard against the Byzantines, when in one engagement the attack of 500 Dailami guardsmen broke the Byzantine centre, particularly suggests Bd (F) would be more appropriate than Ax (S).


The Ghurids also used Dailami as assault troops on several occasions against fortifications, defended passes etc.

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