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Republication from Archaeology.org

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Horses Bayeux Tapestry

(Bridgeman-Giraudon/Art Resource, New York)

Bayeux Tapestry, France, 11th c. A.D.

By the mid-second millennium B.C., the use of horses in warfare had become common throughout the Near East and Egypt. This development was made possible by advances both in the design of chariots, in particular the invention of the spoked wheel, which replaced the solid wooden wheel and reduced a chariot’s weight, and the introduction of all-metal bits, which gave chariot drivers more control over their horses. Though chariot warfare was expensive, and its effectiveness was determined by the durability of the chariots and suitability of the terrain, the vehicles became essential battlefield equipment.

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Cataphractarii! (3) – The cataphract cavalry in a period of 2,500 years

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Continued from Part 2

Mongol 3

Mongol cataphract, 13th century.

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By Periklis  Deligiannis

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Cataphractarii! (2) – The cataphract cavalry in a period of 2,500 years

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Continued from Part I

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sassanid cataphract

A superb restoration of a Sassanid  cataphract (credit: Total War: Rome II, Sega).

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By Periklis  Deligiannis

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Cataphractarii! (I) – The cataphract cavalry in a period of 2,500 years

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cataphract

The onslaught of a unit of Sassanid or Central Asia Iranian  cataphracts in a marvelous artwork by Mariusz Kozik (credit: Creative Assembly Sega/Mariusz Kozik).

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By Periklis  Deligiannis

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The following text is a small part of the Introduction of my study: Kataphraktarii and Clibanarii: Late Roman full-armoured cavalry. Along with it I give a gallery of cataphracts from most of the ethnic and cultural regions in which their use was spread over a period of two and a half millennia.
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The first cataphracts or clibanarii were rather an invention of the Iranian Saka tribes of the Central Asian steppes – being the ancestors of the Sarmatians, the Scythians, the Dahae and the Massagetae among many others – or the non-Iranian but Indo-European as well Tocharians of the same steppes that is the ancestors of the Wu Sun and the Yuezhi of the Chinese chronicles. The term  cataphract is a Greek word (κατάφρακτος) meaning the ‘fully armoured’ warrior and was adopted by the Romans (catafractarius) while the other almost synonymous Latin term clibanarius is actually the Latinized and originally Iranian term grivpanvar which is possibly analyzed as grivapanabara, meaning the bearer of neck-guard plates being a feature of the early cataphracts. I prefer to use the more correct verbal type kataphraktos which is closer to the original Greek word κατάφρακτος but in this abstract I will use the Latin-originated term cataphract in order not to confuse the reader.

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Roman military footwear: Bronze caliga from an over life-size statue of a Roman cavalryman

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Republication from Following hadrian (by Carole Raddato)

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© Carole Raddato

Bronze caliga from a over life-size statue of a Roman cavalryman
© Carole Raddato

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Caligae were heavy hob-nailed military boots worn by the Roman legionary soldiers, auxiliaries and cavalrymen throughout the Roman Republic and Empire.

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Samurai Horse armour and equipment (part II)

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Horse chanfron in the form of a dragon

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Samurai Horse armour and equipment (part I)

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aSaddle and horse armour of a mounted Samurai.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The armour and equipment of the Samurai’s horses are equally impressive with the respective items of the warriors themselves. The specific military equipment of rider and horse originates from continental Asia, specifically from the nomads of the Eurasian steppe who passed it to the Chinese and the Koreans when the latter founded armored cavalry units of the nomadic type, and later passed it in their turn to Japan. The well known Chinese Empires and also the Korean states (especially the kingdoms of Baekje, Silla and the Gaya confederacy) played an important role in this conveyance. But already from the beginning the Japanese developed differently the original Continental prototypes, following a specific style of their own; I guess because of their insular isolation and their permanent tendency to be self-sufficient. Thereby they totally developed their own types of lamellar and scale armour, stirrups, bridle, chanfrons and other equipment for the riding and the protection of their horses in battle. However Chinese influence is evident, particularly in the chanfrons in which the Japanese were usually giving the form of a dragon, specifically in the Chinese style.
This is a photographic collection of horse armour, stirrups, bridle, chanfrons and other horse equipment of the Samurais mainly of the Muromachi (Ashikaga) and Edo periods of the Japanese history.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE (EAST ROMAN) GENERIC TACTICS AND STRATEGY (Part II)

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Byzantine St-LucasByzantine fresco depicting Joshua (from the Hosios Loukas monastery, 12th century AD) bearing a lamellar ‘clibanion’  (‘klibanion’) cuirass, and armed with a “kontarion” (spear) and a “spathion” (sword). The figure is sometimes considered as a model of the appearance and equipment of the Byzantine “skoutatoi” heavy infantrymen.
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CONTINUED from PART I
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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In the order of battle in front of the front line, units of archers and some javeliners and slingers (and a few light horse-archers) were lined up. Those units were usually starting the imperial attack with their missiles against the enemy army in order to cause confusion on its ranks, in order for the attack of the armored cavalry of the first line to follow. The lightly armed Byzantines were usually engaged in skirmishes with their enemy counterparts before the main combat, but when threatened by heavy enemy units conducting a frontal assault on them, they were fleeing behind the line of their fellow horsemen.
Over the centuries, the native Byzantine archers and horse-archers were gradually replaced by Altaic and Alanic mercenary horse-archers (the so-called “Prokoursatores“, see below) who additionally used their favorite nomad tactics of “feigned retreat” at the start of the battle. According to those tactics, they were pretending to have been defeated in the initial skirmishes with the enemy forces so that they could lure them in their pursuit. The ultimate goal of this nomadic vanguard was to disband the ranks of the advancing enemies because of the speed of the ‘chase’, so that they would be unorganized enough when they would face the attack of the Byzantine frontline armored cavalry. In this case, the imperial horse-archers were galloping through the interstices of the front line to the safety of the rear, while the marching enemy who had considerably lost his compact order, confronted the “catapultic” attack of the Bucellarii, Kavallarii or Cataphract cavalry.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE (EAST ROMAN) GENERIC TACTICS AND STRATEGY (Part I)

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Skylitzes
A battle between Byzantine and Arab cavalry, from the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript (late 13th century, but representative enough of the late phase of the Middle Period). A bloody fighting is taking place with decapitations and troopers trampled by the horses. Byzantines and Muslims alike wear mostly scale armor
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The Middle Byzantine Age (7th-12th c. AD) was decisive for the history of the Byzantine Empire. The loss of the Middle Eastern provinces and Egypt by the invading Arabs marks its beginnings, but the “hard core” of the Empire managed to halt the forces of the invaders at the eastern border of Asia Minor, and additionally the forces of the numerous Avaro-Slavic and Proto-Bulgarian (and other Later Hunnic nomad) raiders at the Balkan borders. The experienced Byzantine Army being after all the descedant of the Roman Imperial Army, went on dealing effectively with the pressure by the same enemies and also by the Lombards (Longobards) and the Franks in Italy and some new nomadic peoples on the borders of the Balkan peninsula (Byzantine Sicily and Northwest Africa (modern Maghreb) were finally conquered by the Arabs). Its strengthening during the reign of the emperor Nikephoros Phokas (963-969) led to a strong imperial counterattack on all fronts ending in major territorial recoveries of the “Byzantine Epic Era” (this term has been used by the modern historical research, to denote the period around 963-1025 AD).

However, the fatigue of the army because of the war effort, and especially its neglect due to a series of weak emperors and the civil strife during the fifty years which followed the brilliant reign of Basil II (976-1025) to the Battle of Manzikert (AD 1071) and after that, led to its rapid weakening. Finally, new dangerous enemies, the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in Italy and the Balkan Peninsula, gave decisive blows to the Empire. The renowned Byzantine army never managed to recover from the disaster of Manzikert, despite the best efforts of some emperors and some temporary military successes. The parallel decline of the Thematic administrative and military organization of the state which declined after the battle of Manzikert and was eventually abolished, had an additional negative role in the weakening of the army. The imperial defense was further weakened, leading to the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204.

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Fighting Tactics and Strategy of the Middle Byzantine Armies against Slavs & Eurasian Steppe Peoples – PART II

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aaaaaaByzantine  iron  mail  cuirass  (Byzantine  Museum,  Athens,  Photo copyright: Giovanni  Dall’ Orto).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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Continued from PART  I

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The  best  time  of   the  year  to  unleash  a  campaign  against  the  steppe  peoples  was  February  or  March,  when  the    nomad  horses  were  not  in  a  good  physical  condition,  due  to  their  stress  from  the  winter  weather.
When  a  Byzantine  army  defended  the  imperial  territory  against  the  nomad  onslaught,  it  was  better  for  its  commander  to  cover  its  rear  which  could  be  rapidly  overtaken  by  galloping  enemy  horse-archers,  having  in  the  back  of  the  imperial  army  an  impassable  for  horses  geophysical  obstacle  (rugged  terrain,  river,  marshes  etc.).  During  the  battle,  the  Byzantine  frontline  should  be  consisted  of  infantry  spearmen (a  sort  of  pikemen),  who  pointed  their  spearheads  against  the  enemy  horses.  Usually  the  Byzantine  infantrymen  could  confront  the  steppe  warriors  more  effectively  than  the  imperial  cavalrymen,  so  the  Byzantine  infantry  and  cavalry  should  not  in  any  way,  be  severed  during  the  battle  against  them.  The  steppe  horse-archers  usually  feared  of  the  Middle  Byzantine  infantry  archers,  because  their  bows  had  usually  a  greater  range  of  bowshot  than  their  own  nomadic.  Both  of  them  (Byzantines  and  nomads)  used  types  of  composite  bows (mostly  of  Hunnic  design)  but  the  Middle  Byzantine  bows  were  more  effective.  The  tactics  of  the  combined  military  action  of  the  imperial  frontline  (infantry  spearmen)  with  the  archers of  the  middle  lines  of  the  Byzantine  order  of  battle  (who  hurled  bowshots  over  the  heads  of  their  fellow  spearmen),  were  almost  impossible  to  be  encountered  by  the  nomad  horse-archers.  Generally,  the  nomads  could  hardly  break  a  defensive  formation  of  this  type,  even  if  they  unleashed  against  it their  cataphracts/heavy  cavalry  (which  would  be  confronted  immediately  by  the  enemy  heavy  cavalry – Byzantine  or  any  other  imperial).
From  the  6th  century and on, the  Byzantine  Empire  had  to  deal  with  the  Slavic  invasion  of  its  territories.  The  Slavs  were  led  initially  by  Altaic (mostly  Turkic),  Sarmatian  and  other  steppe  tribes  which  had  been  imposed  to  them  as  suzerains  (sometimes  without  any  Slavic  reaction  as  it  seems,  due  to  the  military  benefits  for  the  Slavs  from  their  cooperation  in  raids  with  the  powerful  nomad  cavalry).  This  is the  reason  why  the  Byzantine  tactics  against  them,  are  dealt  in  this  essay  along  with  the  imperial  tactics  against  the  Eurasian  nomads.

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THE JUAN JUAN KHANATE (NOMAD PEOPLES OF THE EURASIAN STEPPES)

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archer2

(photo found at Pinterest, Copyright: The Bulgarian School of horseback archery)

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The vast Asiatic steppes from Manchuria to the Ural River had always been the cradle of nomadic peoples of intense mobility and warlike character. Dashing from this cradle, they used to debouche in order to gradually form nomadic “empires” (sometimes as far as the Hungarian plains) and invade the territories of sedentary peoples such as China, India, Iran, the Greco-Roman regions of the Mediterranean and later the Christian countries of Europe. The European World was equally exposed to the lethal hordes of these horseback warriors of the steppes, as well as the Chinese, the Indian and the Iranian World, paying a heavy toll in human lives and material damage, from the Early Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages. The Iranian Saka (Eastern Scythians) were perhaps the first nomadic people who formed a powerful tribal union (rather a confederation) in Central Asia, the “Great Horde of the Saka” (Ma-Saka-ta), whose name the ancient Greeks linguistically Hellenized and quoted in their writings as Massagetae. This tribal union was followed by other nomadic confederations of Tocharian, Turkic, Mongol, Tungusic, Yeniseic and other origins, such as the Wu Sun (Wusun), the Hsiung Nu (Xiongnu, the Huns?), the Yue Chih (Yuezhi), the Hsien-pi (Xianbei), until the emergence of the Juan Juan (Rouran, Avars).

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