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Old May 31st, 2012, 05:22 PM   #1

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The origins of cataphracts


When and where did cataphract heavy cavalry first develop? It seems to have been introduced to the Greco-Roman world via the Parthians, but had also developed in contemporary China. Were cataphracts used by the Akhaemenid Persians?
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Old May 31st, 2012, 06:08 PM   #2
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Not used by Akhaemends.

Hsing-Nu (spel?) maybe for first use,
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Old May 31st, 2012, 09:47 PM   #3

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The Seleucids developed the first true cataphracts. The Achaemenids did have heavily armored cavalry, but they were really just heavily armored light cavalry, fighting with bows and javelins, easily scattered by the more lightly armored yet lance-armed Hetaroi and Thessalians.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 01:23 AM   #4

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Neo-Assyrians in the 7th Century BCE used armourd cavalry lancers riding on armoured horses, although the reliefs depicting these troops suggest textile armour rather than metal or horn.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 02:21 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
Neo-Assyrians in the 7th Century BCE used armourd cavalry lancers riding on armoured horses, although the reliefs depicting these troops suggest textile armour rather than metal or horn.
That's interesting, you don't happen to have an image, do you?

The reliefs at the British Museum seem to show lamellar armour with metal scales on it.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 03:50 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
Neo-Assyrians in the 7th Century BCE used armourd cavalry lancers riding on armoured horses, although the reliefs depicting these troops suggest textile armour rather than metal or horn.
Armor has absolutely no relevance when discussing the type of cavalry. The Achaemenid cavalry were often much more heavily armored than the Greek heavy cavalry. Also, they didn't use those lances for charging. They used them overhand, for stabbing or throwing - actions which can only be performed against scattered enemies or without entering the enemy formation. That, and the main weapon of the Assyrian cavalry was the bow. Overall, you cannot say they were anything more than medium cavalry (light cavalry which can have some effect in a melee).

As for the horse armor, it is commonly thought to be fabric. Or so Osprey says, for all it's worth.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 04:40 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by Salah View Post
When and where did cataphract heavy cavalry first develop? It seems to have been introduced to the Greco-Roman world via the Parthians, but had also developed in contemporary China. Were cataphracts used by the Akhaemenid Persians?
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Originally Posted by Darth Roach View Post
Armor has absolutely no relevance when discussing the type of cavalry. The Achaemenid cavalry were often much more heavily armored than the Greek heavy cavalry. Also, they didn't use those lances for charging. They used them overhand, for stabbing or throwing - actions which can only be performed against scattered enemies or without entering the enemy formation. That, and the main weapon of the Assyrian cavalry was the bow. Overall, you cannot say they were anything more than medium cavalry (light cavalry which can have some effect in a melee).

As for the horse armor, it is commonly thought to be fabric. Or so Osprey says, for all it's worth.
Firstly, the OP asked when and where did Cataphract cavalry develop. Given that the term Cataphract refers to a lance amed armoured warrior riding an armoured horse, the 7th century BCE Neo-Assyrian depictions fit the bill; at the very least they demonstrate that the concept existed as far back in time as then. Secondly, lance use in antiquity was invariably two handed and over-arm until the widespread use of a secure saddle seat and stirrups, when it could finally be couched; from the Byzantine era onwards.
Thirdly, the type of horse armour does not disqualify a cavalryman from being a Cataphract, both Byzantine and Sassanian Cataphracts are sometimes depicted riding horses wearing non metallic armour.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 04:44 AM   #8

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That's interesting, you don't happen to have an image, do you?

The reliefs at the British Museum seem to show lamellar armour with metal scales on it.
Not that I can reproduce, sorry. If you can get hold of a copy of "Armies of the Ancient Near East 3000BC to 539BC" by Stillman & Tallis, this type of warrior is described and illustrated on pages 168 and 169
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Old June 1st, 2012, 04:49 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Roach View Post
The Seleucids developed the first true cataphracts. The Achaemenids did have heavily armored cavalry, but they were really just heavily armored light cavalry, fighting with bows and javelins, easily scattered by the more lightly armored yet lance-armed Hetaroi and Thessalians.
In Gaugamela, Bassus commanded heavily armored cavalry from Bactria, and he made them retreat without fighting, much less be scattered.
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Old June 1st, 2012, 04:54 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
Firstly, the OP asked when and where did Cataphract cavalry develop. Given that the term Cataphract refers to a lance amed armoured warrior riding an armoured horse,
A cataphract denotes heavily armored HEAVY CAVALRY; as in, cavalry that attacks in close formation by charging, and is capable of fighting close up.
Quote:
the 7th century BCE Neo-Assyrian depictions fit the bill; at the very least they demonstrate that the concept existed as far back in time as then.
They don't. The warriors on top of the horses are relatively lightly armored, with just a lamellar cuirass and a helmet. Neither are they heavy cavalry. The concept of a closely deployed cavalry group attacking in formation, with lances was invented by the Macedonians. Before that all cavalry acted more or less as skirmishers - even in close combat, they usually limited themselves to attacking infantry by wheeling up next to them and stabbing downward, rather than charging.
Quote:
Secondly, lance use in antiquity was invariably two handed and over-arm until the widespread use of a secure saddle seat and stirrups, when it could finally be couched; from the Byzantine era onwards.
Stirrups had little impact on charging techniques; on the contrary, they increased the accuracy of horse-archery, and allowed the rider to lean further in melee combat. On the charge it was the horned saddle which prevented the rider from getting knocked back.
Quote:
Thirdly, the type of horse armour does not disqualify a cavalryman from being a Cataphract, both Byzantine and Sassanian Cataphracts are sometimes depicted riding horses wearing non metallic armour.
But they were cataphracts because:
1) The riders themselves worse complete body armor. Sassanids had cavalry with no horse armor whatsoever, yet they still get referred to as cataphracts.
2) They could act as heavy cavalry - cavalry whose ask is to charge and then fight in close quarters.



@Mandate of Heaven Heavily armored cavalry, armed with bows and javelins. So heavily armored light cavalry.
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