Continued from Part 2
Mongol cataphract, 13th century.
By Periklis Deligiannis
Περικλής Δεληγιάννης – Ιστορικές Αναδιφήσεις®
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).
By Periklis Deligiannis
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.
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 griva–pana–bara, 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.
By Periklis Deligiannis
King and Queen of a Scythian tribe in a representation based on the archaeological finds from Central Asia. Since around 300 BC, the Scythians systematically attacked the Bosporan kingdom but a part of them settled in its territory becoming subject to the Bosporan king. In the last centuries of the Bosporan history, the Iranians (Scythians and Sarmatians) became the main population of the kingdom.
CONTINUED FROM PART I
In this way, the city-state of Panticapaeum turned into an extensive hegemony, which later evolved into a Hellenistic kingdom. Generally speaking, Panticapaeum had the same evolution as Syracuse, the birthplace and capital of the Hellenistic kingdom which was founded in Sicily. The Greeks and the Hellenized Thracians were originally the ruling class of the Cimmerian Bosporus, but the status of the indigenous population and the Scythian/Iranian minority, was also important. The two peoples (Greeks and non-Greeks) supported each other: the natives were Hellenized and the Greeks gradually adopted the spirit and the habits of the natives. This duality is obvious in every aspect of the social life of Cimmerian Bosporus. Thus a special Bosporan Greek identity was formed in the Northern Black Sea coast, based on the Ionians.
King Paerisades I died in 310 BC. His eldest son, Satyros, was proclaimed king but soon faced the rebellion of his younger brother Eumelos who claimed the throne. Eumelos had secured the support of Aripharnes, king of the Thataeans as mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, the people who lived on the region of the river Thatis. This river was probably one of the tributaries of Hypanis (Kuban River). It is almost certain that the “Thataeans” (a name which is not national but geographical) are identified with the Siracae, a major Sarmatian tribe who had settled in the Kuban region during the reign of Paerisades I who made them his tributaries. The Sarmatians were a group of nomadic peoples of Central Asia, belonging to the Northern Iranian (Saka, Sakic) stock together with the Scythians. Since the 4th century BC, most of them began migrating towards the steppes north of the Black Sea, while some of their tribes began to move towards China. The various Sarmatian tribes (Sauromatae, Siracae, Aorsi/Alans, Aspourgi, Roxolani, ‘Royal’ Sarmatians, and later the Iazyges, the Alans, the modern Ossetians etc.) were independent and often fought each other. The Sarmatians fought primarily as horsemen and cavalrymen with a long cavalry spear called ‘kontos’. Other arms used by them were their typical medium and long swords, the daggers and a kind of compound bow, less powerful than the Scythian.
Eumelos and Aripharnes of the Siracae confronted Satyros and his Scythian allies in the great battle of the river Thatis , one of the greatest cavalry battles in Antiquity, in which 10,000 Scythian and 20,000 Sarmatian horsemen and cavalrymen participated. It is certain that the Siracae were supported by many other Sarmatian horsemen, because the Sarmatians in general were trying to oust the Scythians from the Black Sea steppe.
By Periklis Deligiannis
Map of the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the other Greek states in the region, the Scythian territory and the last refuge of the Scythians after their defeat by the Sarmatians (Historical Atlas of Ukraine: Greek colonies and the hinterland)
Since the Mycenaean Age, the Greek navigators and colonizers expressed their interest in the Black Sea and the rich countries that surround it. The Mycenaeans had explored the region, as shown by the tradition of the Argonauts and other evidence, philological and archaeological. Before the Mycenaeans, Minoan Crete was never really interested in the Black Sea region. Generally speaking, the Black Sea was inhospitable for the Mediterranean seafarer because sailing in its waters was difficult and the countries surrounding it were inhabited by savage peoples, who used to kill those who landed on their shores. For these reasons, the original Greek name of the Black Sea was the ‘Inhospitable Sea’ (Axeinos Pontos). The chaos of the 12th century BC in which the Greek world sank, with the devastating raids of the Sea Peoples in the entire area of the Eastern Mediterranean, the destruction of the ‘Mycenaean Commonwealth’ and the collapse of the palatial sociopolitical system and their aftermath, removed the Greek navigators of the Black Sea.
Since Early Antiquity, since the time of the ancient Tripolye civilization of the 3rd millennium BC, the modern Russo-Ukrainian steppes were inhabited by sedentary agricultural and stockbreeding populations. These populations were subdued by the nomadic peoples who arrived successively from Central Asia, moving north of the Caspian Sea. The Indo-Aryan or Iranian Cimmerians were the first known (historical) nomadic people to arrive there, followed by the Iranian Scythians and Sarmatians, and then by the Turko-Mongol Huns, Avars, Cumans, Pechenegs and others. The nomadic invaders considered the Russo-Ukrainian steppe as a very suitable environment for the growth of their flocks. The resident population of modern southwestern Ukraine was rather Thracian in origin, while that of southeastern Ukraine and the steppe north of the Caucasus belonged to the people of the older Shrubnaya (Timber-grave) culture. The lands of the natives were relatively rich in agricultural production, so they could pay without much difficulty the taxes imposed on them by the nomad rulers. Various nomadic tribes retained as long as they could their power on those lands, substantially as long as their military superiority against external threats lasted.
Left: Sarmatian sword with the distinctive ring-type handle ending. A leather strap was probably tied in the ring and in the hand of the warrior as well, in order to prevent the loss of the sword during combat.
By Periklis Deligiannis
Continued from PART I
Arthur’s warriors are described as knights. Some scholars believe that this description is due only to the fact that in the time of Geoffrey of Monmouth, every hero had to be a knight. But this view is rather superficial and incorrect because there is clear evidence that in the 5th-6th centuries, the Romano-Britons had a strong heavy cavalry, which probably was their main military striking force. The cataphract (heavy armoured) Sarmatian cavalrymen were in fact the first knights of the European history, the founders of European Chivalry according to the most popular view.
The Sarmatian armies included among other types of combatants, many cataphract cavalrymen protected (like their horses) with nearly full-length metal armor (usually scale armor). They also included many horse-archers and horse-spearmen without any cuirass. The cataphracts fought mainly as lancers with a long heavy spear (like the subsequent European knights) as their main offensive weapon. They were also carrying a composite bow, a long sword and a dagger. The familiar to us, figure of the Late Medieval European knight was created when the East Germanics (Goths, Vandals, Burgundians), the Suebi Germanics (Marcomanni, Longobards/Lombards, Quadi) and the Romans adopted the full Sarmatian cavalry equipment. The decimation of the Roman army by the Gotho-Sarmatian cavalry at the battle of Adrianople in 378 AD, established the dominance of the knight (cataphract) during the Middle Ages. The Normans of Northern France were the ones who shaped the final form of chivalry.
At this point, Ι have to make a remark on the origins of the Normans. The Normans are usually described by the modern historians as the descendants of Danish Vikings , but in reality they had little to do with them. Danish ancestry was in fact very limited among the Normans. They were mainly the descendants of the Latinized Gauls (specifically Aulerci and Belgae/Belgians) of the mouth of the Seine who adopted a Scandinavian national name (Normans, meaning the People of the North) mainly for propaganda purposes and also a few Scandinavian elements of culture and warfare. The primary historical donation of the Danes to the Normans was the complete independence of Normandy from France and the subsequent “making” of the Norman national identity. Another racial component of the Norman people were the Sarmatian Alans, as we shall see below.
Returning to the Arthurian Era, in Britain, the “knights” of Arthur probably consisted of Latinized and Celtisized descendants of the Sarmatian mercenaries, and of Celtic cavalrymen who fought in the Sarmatian way. The Iazyges (Iazygae) of Bremetennacum are mentioned in the early 5th century as “the army of the Sarmatian veterans“. They probably survived until then as a national entity, even speaking Latin instead of their native Iranian language. Furthermore, almost all of the Sarmatians of the Roman Empire were already Latinized linguistically. It is also certain that many Alans (the most populus Sarmatian tribe) settled in Britain as mercenaries. Some modern scholars have theorized that the modern British personal name Alan and the French or generally Neo-Latin Alain/Alen come from the Alans. When members of this people settled en masse in western Europe and were assimilated by the natives, they turned their national name to a personal name: Alanus in Latin (modern Alan, Allen, Alain, Alen). Large groups of Alans settled as local aristocracies in Northeastern Spain, Northern Africa, Northern Gaul (giving their name also to the region of Alencon), etc.
Reenactment of a Saxon warlord by the Historical association Wulfheodenas. Until the 9th century AD, the marching Anglo-Saxons gradually conquered the greatest part of the former Roman territories in Britain.
By Periklis Deligiannis
In AD 175 , the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius settled thousands of Western Roman Empire withdrew her troops from the island. It seems that the independent
”British kingdom” preserved its unity and coherence but soon after it was struck by the ruthless Anglo-Saxon invasion. The Sarmatians were now merged with the Celtic and Romano-Briton population, taking the lead in checking the barbarians. This Sarmatian presence in Britain consists probably the historical background of the legend of king Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
The Romans conquered modern England and Wales during the 1st century A.D. The tribes of Caledonia (Caledonii, Cornavii/Cornovii, Venicones etc.) which corresponds to the modern Scottish Highlands, remained independent. By the 4th century, her peoples had been incorporated into the tribal union of the Picts (Picti, Pictae). Their name meant the “painted ones” in Latin because of the ancient Celtic custom of tattooing which they maintained. In fact, they called themselves Cruthni. The Romans held Britannia for more than three centuries, but the Christianization and Latinization of its population were confined only to the cities and in a few Southeastern rural regions. The great majority of the population remained Celtic in language and in cults. Especially the rural populations were greatly influenced by the Christian heresy of Pelagianism. In the late 4th century AD, the original Roman province of Britannia was split into four provinces: Caesaresia Magna, Caesaresia Flavia, Britannia I and Britannia II. The tribes of Caledonia and Ireland were raiding the Romano-British territory for centuries.
The Irish were crossing the Irish Sea with their light vessels, the Celtic curraghs. The Caledonians-Picts were attacking the Romano-British population by land and sea, using the same type of ships. Caledonia and Britannia were separated by a “neutral zone” (buffer zone in fact) between Antoninus’ and Hadrian’s Walls, which is almost equivalent to the modern Scottish Lowlands. The limits of Caledonia (latter Pictland) followed roughly the modern ‘unofficial’ boundaries between the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. The tribes of this buffer zone between Britannia and Caledonia (the Damnonii, the Selgovae et. al.) had lived for two decades of the 2nd century AD under direct Roman control that had reached Antoninus’ Wall (Vallum Antonini). When they revolted, the Romans evacuated this region and restored the line of their defense in Hadrian’s Wall (Vallum Adriani). Eventually the Romans made allied vassals (foederati) the tribes of Lowland Scotland, using them as a buffer zone against the Caledonians/Picts. However, their fidelity was always questionable and the gradual weakening of the Empire led them to raiding the Romano-British territory.
A masterpiece from the land of the Scythians. A golden comb depicting a battle on its back: Scythian horseman and infantry fighting (from the royal tomb of Solokha).
By Periklis Deligiannis
Eumelos suggested a compromise to his brother, Prytanis, based on the division of the kingdom into two territories, which they would share. But his brother rejected his proposal. Prytanis went to Panticapaeum to ensure his control on the kingdom. The aristocrats and the citizens of the Greek cities could exploit the power vacuum which was created by the dynastic war, overthrowing the tyranny of the Spartocids. Prytanis’ absence gave the opportunity to Eumelos and his allies to capture the small city Gargaza and other towns, which were probably in the modern Taman peninsula (May 309 BC). When Prytanis secured his authority on Panticapaeum, he returned to the Kuban region joining again his army. But his military forces were already highly stressed by Eumelos’ army, and were finally defeated in a new conflict. Eumelos clustered the enemy army in the region of Lake Maeotis (modern Sea of Azov) and thereby he forced Prytanis to resign the throne. Eumelos was proclaimed king but his brother made a last attempt to regain the throne when he returned to Panticapaeum. Prytanis failed, bringing about the wrath of his brother because of his attempt. Eumelos executed him along with his family and Satyrus’ family (June 309 BC).
The new king was murderous, ordering the killing of many friends of his dead brothers. Thus he ultimately caused the counteraction of his subjects, who were sick and tired of his atrocities. Eumelos realized that he would face a revolution and so he called the people of the capital in a popular assembly, in which he announced economic measures favorable to the merchant class, whose support he was intended for. Thereby he consolidated his authority. The kings Paerisades and Satyrus were active and capable rulers. Eumelos proved worthy of them in his five years of rule. The indigenous peoples of the northern and eastern shores of the Black Sea region, especially the Tauri (Taurians), the Heniochi (‘charioteers’) and the Achaeans (not to be confused with the Greek Achaeans) were conducting piracy against the Greek merchants of the Bosporus, damaging seriously its economy. Eumelos used the Bosporan fleet against them, which he reinforced, and managed to crush them. Thereby he strengthened the Bosporan trade and gained over consistently the strong middle class of traders. He also strengthened the military forces by recruiting more Greeks from the urban centers, who provided by then only a limited number of men in the royal army.
Uncategorized Ancient warfare, Black Sea, Bosporus, Caucasus, Cavalry, Greeks, medieval warfare, Military history, Military topics, Panticapaeum, Sarmatians, Scythians, Shrubnaya culture, Thracians 3 Comments
Map of the three main phases of the battle of river Thatis (copyright: Osprey publishing).
Corrections in the map according to my point of wiew: Thataeans= Siraces. Eumeles= Eumelos. The name of Meniskos, commander of the Greeks and Thracians, should be added. Following Alan Webster, most of Eumelos’ troops were cavalrymen. And In my point of view, Satyrus’ left wing was comprised overwhelmingly of light infantry.
Satyros’ Scythian army invaded the Thataean/Siracian territory supported by many wagons with food and supplies, in order not to face supply problems in the hostile country. When they reached river Thatis, they found the enemy army waiting for them on the opposite river bank. Satyros decided to cross the river despite the threat by the deployed Siraces. It seems, paradoxically, that the later did not prevent the enemy crossing. Aripharnes possibly wanted to fight the decisive battle at his own territory and did not attack the Scythian army during the crossing of Thatis, a move that would bring perhaps the retreat of Satyros’ army. Besides, Aripharnes did not wish the presence of a numerous enemy army for a long time at his territory (covering both of the riverbanks of Thatis), that would pillage and destroy the Siracian lands. Thus he was aiming at a decisive battle and that is why he did not block the crossing.
The Scythian army established a fortified camp with its wagons near the riverbank of Thatis, and quickly lined up for battle in front of the camp. Satyros placed the Greek hoplites under Meniskos (commander of the mercenaries) at the right wing of his army, supported at the top of the wing by the Thracian peltasts. According to the ancient sources, in the left wing he arrayed Scythian cavalry and infantry. According to the process of the battle, it is most probable that he placed there only some Scythian horsemen and cavalrymen (probably a few) and a great number of light infantry. In the center of his battle line, Satyros placed Scythian cavalry and infantry as well, but is seems that in this case the cavalrymen were more numerous than the infantrymen. He also took his place in the center, commanding the bulk of the Scythian armored cavalry.
The composition of the Siracian/Thataean order of battle is not known, but the ancient quotations on the process of the battle, provide enough data on this composition. Eumelos assumed command of the left wing, against the Greeks and Thracians, apparently because as a Bosporan, he knew very well their tactics. As it will be discussed below, he rather commanded numerous Sarmatian cavalrymen, many of whom would have been elite troops (armored etc.), in order to ensure the disruption of the hoplite phalanx and the peltasts that supported and protected it. Eumelos would also command his few Bosporan supporters (probably exclusively cavalry). Aripharnes took his place in the center of his army, commanding Siracian/Sarmatian cavalry and infantry. It is certain that Aripharnes’ cavalry in the center, included many elite cavalrymen (the king’s bodyguard). The Siracian right wing included the rest of the cavalry and light infantry, but it seems that the infantrymen there, were overwhelmingly more numerous than the cavalrymen.
Uncategorized Ancient warfare, Black Sea, Bosporus, Caucasus, Cavalry, Greeks, medieval warfare, Military history, Military topics, Panticapaeum, Sarmatian, Sarmatians, Scythians, Shrubnaya culture, Thracians 2 Comments
By Periklis Deligiannis
Map of the Kingdom of Cimmerian Bosporus with the stages of its expansion. The Scythians and the Siraces are noted in the map. River Thatis was a tributary of the river Hypanis (Kouban).
The Kingdom of Cimmerian Bosporus was founded in 438 BC when Spartocus, a Hellenized Thracian, had established himself as a tyrant in the Greek colony of Panticapaeum (modern Kerch in Crimea). Panticapaeum was a colony of Miletus in Ionia (Asia Minor), and the most powerful of the Ionic (Greek) colonies in the northern shore of the Black Sea. Most of these cities were colonies of Ionic Miletus, and they were founded mostly in the peninsulas of Crimea and Phanagoria (modern Taman). Spartocus’ Hellenized successors, Satyrus (his son, 431-389 BC) and Leucon (his grandson, 389-349), conquered many of the nearby cities, reducing sharply the Athenian military and political influence in the area. Most of the Greek cities of the Northern shore of the Black Sea were Athenian protectorates until then, with the exceptions of Chersonesus (a Doric colony of Heraclea) and Olbia. Satyrus annexed the cities Nymphaeon (an Athenian military colony) and Kimmerikon (Cimmerikon), but Leucon was the one who made the Hegemony of Panticapeum a real kingdom: the kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus.
“Cimmerian Bosporus” was the Greek name for the modern straits between the peninsulas of Crimea and Taman. Leucon annexed the Greek cities Theodosia (modern Feodosiya), Hermonassa, Phanagoria, Gorgippia, Parthenion, Athenaeon (an Athenian military colony), Myrmenkion etc. The same tyrant/king subjucated also the native Sindians and the native as well Maeotic tribes (Dandarii, Psessae, Toretae, Heniochi et al.). Paerisades I (348-310 BC), Leucon’s successor, extended furthermore the Bosporan rule. During his reign, the kingdom of Cimmerian Bosporus covered an area of about 30-35,000 sq. Km. Athens had no other option but to abandon her rights in the area. The Spartocid dynasty recognized only some commercial rights to the Athenians.