John Martin Intro to Military History – Gil-li Vardi Essay 1 – The Decisive Battle Oct. 19, 2012 The Decisive Battle of Nahavand Anthropologically speaking, fighting between groups of humans has most likely been present since before recorded history when foragers began grouping themselves into distinct “bands” for survival advantages. Suggestions for these pre-historic battles to have occurred also ensue from late Epipaleolithic or early Neolithic times (10,000 – 6,000 BC) in Germany and Sudan where “mass burials with skeletons with weapon trauma have been found. With an untold number of conflicts and battles having occurred throughout the world’s history, there has certainly been a large variance in significance. Some conflicts have been lost with time and their memories will never surface again, while others will be studied and discussed for millennia. What makes this difference though? How do historians deem one conflict as dust in the wind and another as a moment that changed the world; a decisive battle for all history? The main criterion for determining which battles can be portrayed as decisive comes with time.
For a particular conflict to be decisive it needs to be a decision that transforms society. It has to alter, on a large scale, the course of the future for the world. While there have been a number of cultures throughout history that have caused widespread strife, one of great importance and conflict began its rising with a single campaign. Within this campaign, one battle stands out as the turning point, the decisive moment when the path split and led to large success for the aggressors and the downfall of the defenders.
Skipping ahead and looking back, the religion of Islam has interacted, stressed, threatened, and fought numerous other religious groups and nations for approximately the last 1500 years. While the topic of world-scale religions as a whole has been and will continue to be discussed as long as all parties continue to exist; what would the world look like if Islam never ascended to the level it is at today? What if it was brought to a halt before getting a chance to sink its tendrils into the entirety of the Middle East?
This might have happened if the Battle of Nahavand went a little differently. In the early 7th century, during the time of the Sassanid Empire (224 – 650 AD), Persia went through a period of discord before Emperor Yezdigird III ascended to power in 634 AD. Concurrently, the Arab Moslem’s were gaining power to the south and their inclinations for spreading Islam increasing. 3 The Arabs were being led militarily by Khalid ibn al-Walid who was set on a campaign, which began in 633 AD, to convert the Persians to Islam.
Over the following decade, as the Persians resisted conversion, a war between the two kingdoms waged, with the Arabs maintaining the advantage. Resistance and vigor steadily declined but General Firuzan of Persia of continued to group thousands of troops together for every battle. In 642 AD Firuzan had gathered 150,000 troops in a stronghold at Nahavand when the Moslems, after the capture of Shuster, were informed of their army’s location. Despite the discrepancy in numbers the Moslem army, now led by Noman, marched to Nahavand and attacked the fortified city. After the first assault on Nahavand failed due to lack of sufficient supplies, Noman feigned a retreat hoping to bring the battle into his domain. While the Persians had been acting on the defensive, a rumor of the Arab Caliph’s death, spread by Noman, ensued confidence in Firuzan and they fell into his ruse.
The Arabs caught the offensive army in the narrows outside of Nahavand and slaughtered over 100,000 of the horde. It was this defeat that broke the spirit of the Persians and the final years of the empire held only weak resistances. The great Yezdigird III went into hiding, which incidentally left each province to coordinate individually, and the un-unified resistances were no match for the Moslems. With the overturn of the Persian Empire by the Arab Moslems, the entirety of the Middle East was subject to their religion.
They were the last stand inhibiting Islam from spreading to become a religion dominating a major, and influential, portion of the world. At the time, and continuing onwards, the Middle East was a place of great learning and advancement. It housed many of the proceedings in science, technology, and societal developments, and with a major influence in human advancement, came a thriving Islam. If the Battle of Nahavand had swayed the in other direction, the future of the Arab Moslems, and with it Islam, would not have had the same ability to command uture revolution. It would be hard to theorize the re-writing of history and where world religion would stand today if the battle outcome were different. Although other arguments may be made for the reasons behind the Persian defeat, the Battle of Nahavand was their last stand for triumph. It was a battle that governed an eminent decision for the world. A decisive battle in history. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Sykes, Sir Percy. (1915), A History of Persia. Pg. 687