Parthian Shot
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Parthian Shot
Relief from the "Hephthalite bowl", depicting a Parthian shot

The Parthian shot is a light cavalry hit-and-run tactic made famous by the Parthians, an ancient Iranian people. While performing a real or feigned retreat at full gallop, the horse archers would turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy. The maneuver required superb equestrian skills, since the rider's hands were occupied by his composite bow and his body was twisted around. As the stirrup had not been invented at the time of the Parthians, the rider relied solely on squeezing pressure from his legs to stay mounted and guide his horse.

In modern English, this phrase has widely been corrupted to "parting shot", with the same meaning.


In addition to the Parthians and their successors, the Sasanians, this tactic was used by most nomads of the Eurasian Steppe, including the Scythians,[1] Huns, Turks, Magyars, Mongols, Amazoness, Koreans as well as the Urartians.[2]

The Parthians used the tactic to great effect in their victory over the Roman general Crassus in the Battle of Carrhae.

A tactic similar to the Parthian shot was attributed to the Phoenicians from Sidon by Silius Italicus.[3]

The tactic was also used by Muslim conqueror Muhammad of Ghor in the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192 against Indian elephants, heavy cavalry and heavy infantry, by Alp Arslan in the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 against the Byzantines, and by Subutai in the Battle of Legnica in 1241 against Polish knights.

As metaphor

The term "Parthian shot" is also used as a metaphor to describe a barbed insult, delivered as the speaker departs.

With which Parthian shot he walked away, leaving the two rivals open-mouthed behind him.

His Parthian shot reached them as they closed the doors. 'Never mind darlings', they heard him say, 'we can all sleep soundly now Turner's here.'

You wound, like Parthians, while you fly,
And kill with a retreating eye.

-- Samuel Butler, An Heroical Epistle of Hudibras to His Lady (1678)[4]

See also


  1. ^ Adrienne Mayor: "The Amazons" | Talks at Google
  2. ^ Belis, Alexis M.; Colburn, Henry P. (January 2020). "An Urartian Belt in the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Origins of the Parthian Shot". Getty Research Journal. 12: 195-204. doi:10.1086/708319.
  3. ^ Silius Italicus, Punica
  4. ^ An Heroical Epistle of Hudibras to His Lady, e-text, at

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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