Cataphracts - Knights of the Ancient Eastern Empires, Erich B. Anderson

Cataphracts - Knights of the Ancient Eastern Empires, Erich B. Anderson

The cataphract was a form of cavalry which combined a heavily armoured rider and heavily armoured horse to produce the heaviest cavalry of the ancient world, a force that was capable of being devastating if used correctly.

The book covers a very wide time span, from pre-classical antiquity to late Byzantium. The origins of the cataphract are a bit unclear - the Seleucids were the first to use the name for a unit with very heavily armoured horses and riders, but they probably copied the idea from the Parthians or the Bactrians, after the eastern campaigns of Antiochus the Great, and there clearly isn’t enough evidence to say for sure who first used the type. I must admit I didn't realise just how long the cataphract was in use - from at least 200 BC to 1,000 AD, when it faded away in Byzantine use (some later attempts to revive the type failed and owned more to western knights than their ancient predecessors). 

We start with a look at the earliest horse riding, the first use of cavalry and the increasing level of armour, before we move onto the development and the users of the cataphract (and related types). The type was mainly used in the Middle East, Byzantium and parts of central Asia, although it did enter Roman service before the fall of the Western Empire, and some were actually posted in Britain.

The cataphract emerges as quite a difficult type of troop to use correctly - there are just as many examples of the heavy armour working against them as there are of irritable charges.

This book is aimed at the general reader, rather than the more academic audience. As a result we avoid too many deeply technical discussions, and instead focus on the battlefield use of the cataphract and the development of the equipment used by them over the millennium that the type was in use.

1 - Origins of the Cataphracts
2 - The First Cataphracts
3 - The Parthian Cataphracts
4 - Cataphracts of the Minor Kingdoms
5 - The Sassanian Persian Cataphracts and Clibanarii
6 - Imperial Roman Cataphracti, Cataphractarii and Clibanarii
7 - The Byzantine Kataphraktoi and Clibanarii

Author: Erich B. Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 188
Publisher: Pen and Sword Military
Year: 2016

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