The Armenian Archers and Cavalry in Ancient History

Armenia, a landlocked country in the Armenian Highland, has a long and rich history of warfare and military prowess. From the ancient times, the Armenians developed a formidable army that could challenge the mighty empires of the Near East, such as the Persians, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Among the most renowned and feared units of the Armenian army were the archers and the cavalry.

The Armenian archers were famous for their skill, accuracy, and range. They used composite bows made of wood, horn, and sinew, which could shoot arrows farther and faster than the simple wooden bows of their enemies. According to the Roman historian Plutarch, who lived in the first century AD, the Armenian archers could kill from 200 meters with their deadly arrows1 This gave them a great advantage in battle, as they could inflict heavy casualties on the enemy before they could close the distance.

The Armenian cavalry was equally impressive, as it consisted of both heavy and light horsemen. The heavy cavalry, known as the Azatavrear, was composed of the elite of the Armenian nobility, who wore armor and helmets, and carried lances, swords, and shields. They were the main shock troops of the Armenian army, who could break through the enemy lines with their powerful charge. The light cavalry, known as the Ayrudzi, was composed of horse archers, who used their mobility and agility to harass and flank the enemy. They were also skilled in guerrilla warfare, ambushes, and raids2

The Romans, who fought several wars with the Armenians, admired and respected their bravery and discipline. The Roman historian Sallustius Crispus, who lived in the first century BC, wrote that the Armenian cavalry had the best-trained horses, and that they could perform amazing feats of horsemanship, such as jumping over ditches, climbing steep hills, and crossing rivers. The Romans also learned from the Armenians, and adopted some of their tactics and equipment, such as the composite bow and the cataphract armor.

The Armenian archers and cavalry were not only effective in war, but also in peace. They served as the guardians of the Armenian king and his family, as well as the protectors of the Armenian borders and culture. They also contributed to the development of the Armenian art, literature, and religion, as many of them were patrons and scholars. The Armenian archers and cavalry were the pride and glory of the Armenian nation, and their legacy lives on in the history and identity of the Armenian people.


Plutarch, Life of Lucullus, 25.4
Armenian heavy Cavalry (Azatavrear) – 

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