Azat – An Elite Division of the Medieval Army of Armenia

Azat – An Elite Division

According to Zoranamak, a special military charter that determined the number of soldiers in the Armenian army, the Nakharars (ancient and medieval Armenian hereditary title) were ranked in accordance with the number of soldiers they had.

The main branch of the army was the Azat cavalry, while the infantry, in which served the shinakans (peasants), was of secondary importance. This was also characteristic of the armies of Parthian Arshakids and Sassanids.

Armenian cavalry was famous throughout Western Asia. During the siege of the Artogerassa fortress by Sassanid King Shapur II in 368-369 AD, the Azats constituted the personal guard of Armenian Queen Parandzem, the wife of King Arshak. The ensuing repressions against the Azats are described by Pavstos Byuzand in his “History of Armenia”.

The Azats constituted the lowest layer of nobility and, like the landowners of other nations, served in the cavalry. These heavily armed warriors were famous for their bravery, and even after Armenia lost its independence, they served as mercenaries for foreign states.

The Azats are considered the forerunners of the knights of the Middle Ages – they highly appreciated honor and loyalty, sometimes resolving disputes in duels.

Many researchers believe that both horses and riders in the Azat unit were well protected (thighs and legs were the only parts of the body not covered by armor). The riders were also armed with spears, but the absence of stirrups at least severely limited the use of slashing weapons. Although cavalry had such weapons, they mostly fought with long swords, clubs, or axes. Along with the heavy, there was also light cavalry.




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