PARTHIAN CATAPHRACT

An extract from The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome
by Phil Barker & Ian Heath



83.      PARTHIAN CATAPHRACT

This man is taken from a Sassanid Persian propaganda sculpture depicting their victory over the Parthians. It is quite likely that there was considerable variation between individuals, and that men similar to 121 and 127 might equally be at home in a Parthian army. We know from contemporary authors that the cataphracts were exceptionally well protected by iron armour, needed no shield, were armed with a 12 feet long lance called a Kontos, and charged ponderously at the trot on horses equally heavily armoured in iron or bronze.

The man illustrated is armoured in a combination of lamellar, mail and laminated plate. He wears a short surcoat and a cloak, and carries a heavy mace as his secondary weapon. Only the king, great nobles and their dependants could afford such fabulously expensive equipment and a horse capable of carrying it easily, so it is likely that surcoat and possibly cloak would be richly coloured and ornately embroidered. However, there is a suggestion in one source that the cloak could be used for concealment, implying that it was at least less conspicuous than the armour underneath.

The usual Parthian standard was probably a Draco like that of 55 or 87.
[Based on the Parthian armoured cavalry in the Sassanid Rock Relief at Firuzabad, early 3rd Century AD



Next: 84, 85 & 86. DACIAN INFANTRY in Armies and Enemies of Ancient Rome by Phil Barker and Ian Heath




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