Cataphracts in The Armenian Heavy Cavalry

Cataphracts in The Armenian Heavy Cavalry

The Armenian Kingdom was located at the crossroads between Persia and Rome and therefore borrowed many military customs from both states. In the era of late antiquity, the Sassanids and the Roman Empire fought for the Armenian territory.

The Armenian cavalry is also worth mentioning – opponents have been often surprised by the ability of this mountain people to breed beautiful horses.

When the Armenian army acted jointly with other Sassanid armies, the cavalry of Armenia was considered an elite unit and, like the Savarani, occupied an honorable place in the capital Ctesiphon.

Heavy cavalry was the shock force of the army, attacking in a closed formation, often wedge-shaped. The swift attack of thousands of closed ranks had a crushing effect not only on enemy’s infantry but also cavalry. The armored mass simply crushed the enemy, trampling them and dispersing their order so that the rest of the army would only have to finish them off.

One of the drawings depicting an Armenian cataphract was created on the basis of a bas-relief near Lake Van depicting Goliath. Although this bas-relief dates to the 11th century, it may well reflect the appearance of an Armenian soldier of an earlier period.

Armenian noble warriors of cataphract units wore an Assyrian type of helmet typical of the early period of the Sassanian empire. The head was also protected by a metal mask or aventail covering the face.

Lamellar armor was made up of numerous plates attached to chain mail. Legs were protected by chain mail. The main weapons of cataphract units were a long spear, a heavy sword, a mace, a small round shield, and in some cases a bow.

Horse armor consisted of a chamfron, a neck armor segment, and a breastplate. Such “half” armor is characteristic of the Sassanid Clibanarii of a late period.

Ayrudzi
Coat of arms of Artashesid
Parthian (1) and Armenian (2) cataphracts, III century AD.
Armenian catasfractary of the Artashesid period




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