Washington, Feb 20 : New discoveries unearthed at an ancient frontier wall in Iran provide compelling evidence that the Persians matched the Romans for military might and engineering prowess.
Being explored by an international team of archaeologists from Iran and the Universities of Edinburgh and Durham, the findings include the 'Great Wall of Gorgan' in north-eastern Iran, which is also known as the 'Red Snake'.
This vast wall, which is more than 1000 years older than the Great Wall of China, including over 30 military forts, an aqueduct, and water channels along its route.
The wall is even longer than Hadrian's Wall in England and the Antonine Wall in Scotland put together.
Until recently, nobody knew who had built the wall. Theories ranged from Alexander the Great, in the 4th century BC, to the Persian king Khusrau I in the 6th century AD.
Scientific dating has now shown that the wall was built in the 5th, or possibly, 6th century AD, by the Sasanian Persians.
Modern survey techniques and satellite images have revealed that the forts were densely occupied with military style barrack blocks. Numerous finds discovered during the latest excavations indicate that the frontier bustled with life. Researchers estimate that some 30,000 soldiers could have been stationed at this Wall alone.
According to archaeologists, the 'Red Snake' was a defence system against the White Huns, who lived in Central Asia.
"At the time, when the Western Roman Empire was collapsing and even the Eastern Roman Empire was under great external pressure, the Sasanian Persian Empire mustered the manpower to build and garrison a monument of greater scale than anything comparable in the west," said Eberhard Sauer from the University of Edinburgh's School of History, Classics and Archaeology.
"The Persians seem to match, or more than match, their late Roman rivals in army strength, organisational skills, engineering and water management," he added.