Cavalry has nearly always been the prestige arm in the military, so the Osprey Elite book on the Sassanian empire is indeed focused on the ‘elite’ branch of their military. It does also touch on the rest of it, but the noble-based savaran cavalry is the focus.

The book starts with a very good look at pre-Sassanian cavalry, and how that shaped their units. A recurring theme is how much Parthian influence there was early in Sassanian rule, and how that shifted over time to northern Iranian influences. Unfortunately, while there’s a good amount of talk about things like this, and how the cavalry was generally equipped, there is no timeline, and most of this feels kind of nebulous (the lack of a good map doesn’t help).

I imagine the problem is a lack of written records. We’re getting outside of the realm where Roman sources are plentiful, and a fair amount of the photographs in the book are of various stellae… that are highly weathered or damaged. There’s also a couple of excellent metal plates, and a couple statuettes. The late Angus McBride’s art is great as always, and my only problem is actually on the cover. Sources describe something meant to fire five arrows at a time, but there’s no surviving evidence of what it was like, I don’t buy the idea used in that plate.

Six major campaigns are covered in the last chapter, most of which are often covered in other books. Three of them are familiar from the Roman side of things, and the last section is the career of Khosrow II, well known from his defeat of Eastern Rome, being defeated in turn, and the Arab conquest. In between, there’s a short discussion of the Peroz’s defeat of the Hephthalite Huns (which gets talked about with the Huns), and finally the campaigns of Bahram Chobin and Smbat Bagratuni, which are the most interesting part of the chapter.

So, it feel less grounded than most Osprey books, but as ever, the visual reference is good. At the same time, this is a subject without a lot of attention in English, so it is a good primer.