Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

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michaelguth
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Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by michaelguth » Thu Sep 05, 2019 5:18 pm

Current list allows for 1 Cataphract.

John Haldon's book 'The Byzantine Wars, Tempus Publishing 2000, describes the battle(s) of/at Dorostolon in 971. He states that Cataphract cavalry were deployed as the reserve on both wings. These reserves were committed after a long day of battle and broke the Rus line on both sides.

I will write to Mr. Haldon for primary citation. His description is not specifically footnoted; but he does cite Leo's Historia and Ionannes Skyliteses, Synopsis Historiarum.

Simulation of Dorostolon is eminently feasible at the scale of Triumph. I believe the text justifies addition of a second cataphract unit.

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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by michaelguth » Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:06 pm

Belezos, in his text Byzantines Armies: 325-1435 AD notes that the 'Tagmta,' created during the reign of Constantine V 741-775 AD mainly consisted of four units of cavalry, The Scholae, Arithmoi, Excuibitors and Hikanatoi, meaning 'Worthies. (p 92.). He suggests that all of these regiments had barded horses and more heavily armored cavalry than the thematic or local/provincial regiments (p 101). A quick web search of the term Excubitors produces this result from the academic dictionary: https://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/7133842

This is a rather extensive entry which further suggests an academic disagreement between Haldon and earlier writers on the Byzantine military. Haldon is noted to support the 1000 man tagmata unit size, e.g. ONE cataphract element per imperial regiment, while previous authors have suggested strengths, per imperial tagmata, of 6,000 each. But, even if Haldon is correct about the size of the tagmata; Belezos still supports the notion of up to 4 cataphract units if all of the Imperial forces were dispatched for a single campaign.

D'Amato's Osprey Elite book number 187 provides further research on the history of the Imperial regiments. His text lacks a unified section on tactics of Imperial Taghmata (new spelling). He states that full Kataphraktoi armor may have been restricted to troops fighting in triangular formation. (p 60). He notes also that lighter cavalry and horse archers might fight on the inside of Kataphraktoi formations, but that these were also armed with mace or maces like the Kataphraktoi; intended for breaking into enemy formations (p48).

Of interest is figure 3 on page 13 of a kavalllarios Kataphraktos of III Skhola. This figure is drawn on a 'half-armored' horse. But, on p 14; the description of the figure taken from Leo's Tactika VI, p 31, states,t 'They armored their horses flanks, heads and necks with plates of iron mail, or other material. Hence, the figure as drawn lacks the described flank armor, unless it is depicted as purple rolled up cloth at the rear of the rider. but again, it attests to complete or Kataphract armor for Imperial regiments.

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David Kuijt
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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by David Kuijt » Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:37 pm

Thanks for your input and research, Mike. That's exactly the sort of material we want people to submit! We'll take a look at it.

As a side note, though, recall that armored horses are often called cataphract by authors, but that armored horses are not the sole province of the Cataphract stand type in Triumph. Elite Cavalry often (but not always) have armored horses. Bad Horse (in some Asian armies) have armored horses! So whether an author says "cataphract" (with a small c) when talking about troops doesn't always mean that they should be rated as Cataphracts (large C) in Triumph. The maces you mention are better support for the big-C cataphract classification, although it would depend if the mace was a sidearm or the primary weapon. If bows are used that would often indicate Elite Cavalry instead (although a few exceptions exist).
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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by michaelguth » Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:09 pm

Writing from work. Haldon is actually at Princeton now, but has not responded to my initial query.

Of interest is that for the Imperial Tagmata, the term Kataphractoi is used capatilized in Leo. But the significance of the capitalization could be debated. One of D'Amoto's book, or the Belezos, notes that there are few, (e.g. none?) illustrations of the Kataphractoi. This leaves open the possibility that the Parthian like Kataprhactoi reconstructions in these books are just a literal reading of Leo. One of the primary sources describes them as using lance, mace and sword; not bow, and large teardrop shields-which is what comes on the Khurasan models. But the illustrations in the books show smaller circular shields.

In early WRG editions the army lists for Byzantines were notorious for allowing large numbers of Byzantine Cataphracts, which became an 'auto-win' type troop type and army.

At WRG 6, the Nikephorians became the only Byzantine list to have cataphracts, and only 1 wedge. I forget the name of the battle under Heraclius which describes a single wedge of Byzantine cat/Kat breaking into an enemy line . This may be the source for a single unit restriction/ and later DBA single element of Cat/Kat in Barker's lists. I will have to reread the sources very closely now, but my initial reading is that the several Imperial Taghmata are identical, 4 or more units of 1000 or more, as Kataprhactoi.

The Elite cavalry classification is a possibility, but this troop type I associate with using mobility with missile fire and then shock. The reconstructions of the Signal and Elite publications show a Parthian type cataphract, which I would assume has less endurance and depends less on mobility than half or unarmored horses of an 'Elite' classification.

I am trying to see if Dorostolon can be simulated by Triumph without needing scenario specific rules-such as reducing some of the Rus to heavy foot or horde from spear. Using the army lists as written, the Rus would be a solid wall of spear, against a Byzantine army of cavalry and Pavisiers, and maybe a single cataphract element. The 'battle', was actually 3 separate engagements over several weeks, fought over nearly the same ground, using the same weapons systems, with the Byzantines winning each engagement. In the 3rd 'game' of the series, the Rus amalgamated their archers into distinct units to oppose Byzantine cavalry on the flank, which was the decisive element in the first engagement.
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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by David Kuijt » Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:56 pm

michaelguth wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:09 pm
The Elite cavalry classification is a possibility, but this troop type I associate with using mobility with missile fire and then shock.
We might be using different meanings for the same terms, or perhaps you think Elite Cavalry is something different than I do. Either way, that's a barrier to discussion. Shock does not appear in the definition of Elite Cavalry at all. "mobility" can mean a thousand things -- Elite Cavalry don't act like Horsebow, as one example, and I would use "mobility" to refer to how Horsebow fight before I used it to describe Elite Cavalry.

Most of the armies in Triumph that have barding (horse armor) are rated as Elite Cavalry, not Cataphracts. The barded cavalry of the Mamluks, Timurids, Qapukulu cavalry of the Ottomans, and other similar cavalry all have full horse armor but are rated Elite Cavalry, not Cataphracts. Horse armor alone does not suffice to determine classification. Irregardless of the spelling of Tagmata or the capitalization of Kataphracts in Leo, I would be very resistant to considering all the Tagmata as Cataphracts without strong evidence of their battlefield behavior being more like Cataphracts (in the game) than like Elite Cavalry.

Fighting a long battle with Elite Cavalry against Spear would be very frustrating and difficult for the Spear, as they cannot kill anything by doubling it and if a hole appears in their line, it could be disastrous. That seems reasonable for Dorostolon.
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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by Andreas Johansson » Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:41 pm

michaelguth wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:06 pm
Of interest is figure 3 on page 13 of a kavalllarios Kataphraktos of III Skhola. This figure is drawn on a 'half-armored' horse. But, on p 14; the description of the figure taken from Leo's Tactika VI, p 31, states,t 'They armored their horses flanks, heads and necks with plates of iron mail, or other material.
Hm. The 6th Constitution of the Tactica of Leo the Wise does not describe a separate category of cataphracts, but a "universal cavalryman" equipped with, in the best WRG Khitan style, bow, two lances, at least two javelins or other throwing weapons, sword, axe, dagger or knife, and, if unable to shoot, shield. Both man and horse are to be armoured. Apparently the second lance is so that the first one can be thrown - after the javelins and the kitchen sink, one assumes.

These are surely Elite Cav, at least in aspiration. Leo complains that archery practice has gone to the dogs, and Haldon (in Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 565-1204) concludes most Byzantine cavalry of the era fought with only sword and lance, so much of the cavalry may in Triumph terms may be Jav Cav or even Bad Horse, particularly as horse armour doesn't seem to have been anything like universal either.

In the actual Nikephorian period, however, Nikephoros himself, in the Praecepta Militaria, does describe a special class of cataphracts, armed with a mixture of maces, lances, and bows. Being intended for shock action, they're better candidates to be Cataphracts (or Knights) in T!, and, I'm told, the original model for the Super Heavy Cavalry of the old WRG sets (whose lineal descendants are the 4Kn of DBA). The rest of the cavalry, who don't share the shock role, would then be Elite Cav or Jav Cav depending on archery skills.
David Kuijt wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:37 pm
If bows are used that would often indicate Elite Cavalry instead (although a few exceptions exist).
I don't think that's true, actually. The common wargamer assumption that Parthian cataphracts didn't have bows appears to be wrong*, and most other Asiatic horsmen classed in T! as Cataphracts (Tibetans, Xianbei, etc.) also had them. Rather, Seleucids and Romans are among the exceptions who don't have them.

Actually, my tolerably considered opinion is that cataphracts sensu Johnny Wargamer never existed as a separate troop-type. Most troops conventionally so classified are just, in T! terms, particularly well-armoured examples of Elite Cav, and the rest mostly Knights.

* Don't have time to dig out references, but there's various references to "the Parthians" shooting without any suggestion only the lighter horsemen did so, at least one explicit mention of Parthian armoured cavalry shooting, and sculptural art of armoured horsemen on armoured horses with bow and lance.
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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by David Kuijt » Fri Sep 06, 2019 9:09 pm

David Kuijt wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:37 pm
If bows are used that would often indicate Elite Cavalry instead (although a few exceptions exist).
Andreas Johansson wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:41 pm
I don't think that's true, actually. The common wargamer assumption that Parthian cataphracts didn't have bows appears to be wrong*, and most other Asiatic horsmen classed in T! as Cataphracts (Tibetans, Xianbei, etc.) also had them. Rather, Seleucids and Romans are among the exceptions who don't have them.
Plus all the German barded knight stuff of the second half of the 15th century. Fair enough -- I retract my word "few" above. Cataphracts west of the Bosporus: no bows. Cataphracts east of the Oxus: bows. Cataphracts between the Oxus and the Bosporus: depends.
Andreas Johansson wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 5:41 pm
Actually, my tolerably considered opinion is that cataphracts sensu Johnny Wargamer never existed as a separate troop-type. Most troops conventionally so classified are just, in T! terms, particularly well-armoured examples of Elite Cav, and the rest mostly Knights.
To be fair, in Triumph a Cataphract is (essentially) a well-armored example of Elite Cav. Moving more thugly, fighting more thugly, but most combat results by-and-large the same.

About other rules I cannot speak, of course, as I look down my nose at them collectively in aloof (but largely ignorant) disdain.
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Re: Nikephorian Byzantine Cataphracts

Post by Andreas Johansson » Sun Sep 08, 2019 4:27 pm

michaelguth wrote:
Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:09 pm
I forget the name of the battle under Heraclius which describes a single wedge of Byzantine cat/Kat breaking into an enemy line .
I think you're confusing the emperor's name too, BTW - Heraclius (r. 610-641) is more than three centuries before the Nikephorian period, and the Roman/Byzantine army of his day is not generally thought to have included "cataphracts".

Regarding spelling, "Taghmata" might be a new spelling in English, but it must reflect the same Greek original as plain old "Tagmata" - there's nothing but plain old gamma the gh could sensibly represent. As for capitalization, the distinction wasn't made in Leo's day, and "Kataphraktoi" v. "kataphraktoi" simply reflects the choices of modern editors.

But backing away from Heraclius, Leo, and Byzantine Greek orthography, none of which is terribly relevant to the battle of Dorostolon, if the kataphraktoi* were split between the wings, and if the kataphraktoi are to be classed as Cataphracts in T!, then it seems reasonable to me to allow two stands. The counterargument is of course that it exaggerates their numbers - it would allow up to a sixth of the army to be kataphraktoi, whereas McGeer estimates they never exceeded 5%. A choice between historical tactics and historical proportions. That DBA only allows one element is presumably a scale thing - the DBM and DBMM lists allow two wedges.

(Third option: Run Dorostolon under Grand Triumph rules.)


* Meshwesh calls them klibanophoroi, but they must be the same as what Nikephoros calls kataphraktoi. Cf Ammianus who six centuries earlier appears to use cataphracti, cataphractarii and clibanarii interchangeably.
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