History : May-Jun 2019
54 MAY/JUNE 2019 DEATH AT CARRHAE the army commanded by Crassus totaled 43,000 men, who arrived at Carrhae exhausted from crossing the des- ert. Surenas, the Parthian commander, awaited them on the outskirts of this city, but he only ordered a fraction of his 11,000 men to leave the cover of the dunes and pro- voke the Romans into attack. After the initial skirmishes, Crassus ordered his legions to adopt a square forma- tion, with the cavalry, led by his son Publius, covering the sides. Surenas then ordered his thousands of archers on horseback to attack, but avoiding direct contact af- ter every barrage. Meanwhile, the heavy cavalry of the cataphracts (horses and horsemen protected by armor) surrounded the legions. publius tried to counterattack, but the cataphracts drew back and managed to isolate the Roman cavalry, picking them off one by one. Crassus was transfixed with horror upon seeing his son’s head stuck on a pike. He waited for the enemy to exhaust their arrows before launching a counterattack, but Surenas’s troops had a camel caravan with seemingly endless reserves. Arrows only stopped raining down on the Romans at night, so they tried to retreat then. In the morning, 70 percent of his army had been slaughtered, and Crassus was killed during the peace negotiations he was trying to conduct. THISPAGEANDRIGHT:AKG/ALBUM ROMAN SOLDIERS ARE OVERWHELMED BY PARTHIAN FORCES IN THIS ILLUSTRATION BY GIUSEPPE RAVA. SCALES FORM THE ARMOR OF RIDERS AND HORSES IN THIS PLASTER CAST OF TRAJAN’S COLUMN IN ROME. THIS STYLE OF ARMORED CAVALRY, KNOWN AS A CATAPHRACT, DELIVERED THE KNOCKOUT BLOW TO CRASSUS AT CARRHAE IN 53 B.C.