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Adoption of the cavalry shield in Hellenisitc heavy cavalry.
#1
Something that has bothered me has been the idea of the adoption of a shield for heavy cavalry (e.g. hetairoi) in the Hellenistic states -- particularly for the Seleukids. What information is available for shields and cavalry such as the hetairoi and agema? It's not in a very obvious place, is it? From a coin of Seleukos II showing him on horseback on the reverse, I would imagine that the hetairoi remained as lancers at least until the late 3rd century and perhaps through Antiochos III's reign. What about afterward and for the other Hellenistic states?
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#2
Quote:Something that has bothered me has been the idea of the adoption of a shield for heavy cavalry (e.g. hetairoi) in the Hellenistic states -- particularly for the Seleukids. What information is available for shields and cavalry such as the hetairoi and agema? It's not in a very obvious place, is it? From a coin of Seleukos II showing him on horseback on the reverse, I would imagine that the hetairoi remained as lancers at least until the late 3rd century and perhaps through Antiochos III's reign. What about afterward and for the other Hellenistic states?

We don't really have much of any information on the armament of any elite heavy cavalry during the Hellenistic period. The only evidence I know of comes from Livy 32.24, where it is stated that Philip V "wounded many at close quarters, others by the missiles he flung," implying that he was carrying longchai and not a xyston, and heavy cavalrymen who carried longchai in this period seem to have normally carried shields. For the Seleucid empire we really don't have all that much evidence at all, but you are right that Seleucus II's coin does imply that the king and the Basilike Ile at that time were probably shieldless lancers. However, one thing to consider is that we hear in accounts of the battle of Magnesia that the Seleucid elite cavalrymen were drawn from Syria and Phrygia, and funerary stelae from western Asia Minor of around the same time period almost invariably show heavy cavalrymen carrying shields, so I think that by Antiochus III's reign most heavy cavalrymen, include elite units, carried shields.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#3
The Aemilius Paullus monument to the battle of Pydna shows the heavy cavalry of Philip's son Perseus as shielded with large circular shields , and probably armed with longche and/or javelins. Another clue that Macedonian cavalry were shielded/missile armed - Livy describes their surprise at being charged by Roman cavalry, since they evidently expected to fight at a distance.

A Seleucid terracotta in the British Museum (BM 91908) shows a fully armoured cavalryman hunting a lion. He is unshielded and uses the two-handed 'kontos', and the relief is dated to 200 BC, and perhaps later.

I agree with Rueben that Seleucid cavalry with shields appear on funerary stelae and terracotta statuettes, but these seem to be 'militia/politikoi' type cavalry who were shielded/missile armed ( as described in the Daphnae parade).A shielded cavalryman appears alongside a Hellenistic infantryman in long sleeves and trousers ( therefore eastern/seleucid ) on a terracotta plaque found in Campania.

Unarmoured Seleucid light cavalry certainly carried smaller shields and were missile armed.

Following Antiochus III's campaigns against the Parthians, Seleucid regular/full-time cavalry seem to have become 'cataphracts' ( lit:covered in) fully armoured cavalry ('men and horses completely armoured' according to Polybius) using the two handed 'kontos' , therefore shieldless.

The Seleucid Guards units seem to have been slightly lighter equipped - Livy describes the Companions at Magnesia as "with lighter protection for riders and mounts, but otherwise equipment not unlike the cataphracts.." thus they too will have been 'lancer/kontos' armed and since this required two hands to wield, almost certainly shieldless ( especially when one considers the BM terracotta referred to above.)
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#4
That's quite problematic. We're working on a beefed-up version of the hetairoi for EB2 as a sort of reform version -- something likely to be seen Antiochos III post-anabasis or Antiochos IV. Myself and the other Hellenistic historian have conflicting views on the matter. I imagine the hetairoi/agema heading down a more cataphract-like development with a kontos instead of the xyston, which means no shield; he prefers the shielded type. The evidence is of course murky.

Do either of you have images of the grave stelai or statuettes available? I haven't found much except for the hunting-scene cavalryman, which was also published in Sekunda's work.
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#5
Quote:A Seleucid terracotta in the British Museum (BM 91908) shows a fully armoured cavalryman hunting a lion. He is unshielded and uses the two-handed 'kontos', and the relief is dated to 200 BC, and perhaps later.

This terracotta is very likely Parthian for three reasons. The first is that this was found in Iraq, and if this were to be Seleucid, it would have to have been made before 144 BC, when Babylonia was captured by the Parthians; however, it is well known that cataphracts were almost certainly introduced to the Seleucid army during Antiochus III's anabasis, around 210 BC, and probably weren't fully "implemented" until a little later. This gives us a 65 year window in which this could have been Seleucid, and certainly doesn't rule it out, but makes it unlikely. The second is that the cataphract shown here wears armour very closely resembling that of both a 2nd-1st c. BC figurine from Seleucia on the Tigris and a painted cataphract from an Old Nisa fresco fragment, which shows that he was probably Parthian. Finally, this composition, with a noble cavalryman lancing a lion, is a Parthian, but not a Seleucid, motif, and is closely paralleled by seals from Nisa of the first two centuries AD.

Quote:The Seleucid Guards units seem to have been slightly lighter equipped - Livy describes the Companions at Magnesia as "with lighter protection for riders and mounts, but otherwise equipment not unlike the cataphracts.." thus they too will have been 'lancer/kontos' armed and since this required two hands to wield, almost certainly shieldless ( especially when one considers the BM terracotta referred to above.)

Paul, do you know of any solidly-dated evidence for cataphracts employing the kontos during the Hellenistic period? I know it's always stated that they were kontophoroi because later cataphracts were, but I think at this time it could be more ambiguous. The reason I would doubt that they were lancers is because the one depiction of a Saka cataphract in combat from around the Hellenistic period shows the man wielding a raised spear in combat using only one hand, and not carrying a lance two-handedly.

Quote:I imagine the hetairoi/agema heading down a more cataphract-like development with a kontos instead of the xyston, which means no shield; he prefers the shielded type. The evidence is of course murky.

Do either of you have images of the grave stelai or statuettes available? I haven't found much except for the hunting-scene cavalryman, which was also published in Sekunda's work.

There is so little evidence that it is literally a matter of preference; I prefer to see them as shielded heavy cavalrymen, as Sekunda reconstructed a Companion cavalryman in his Montvert title. As for images of stelai or statuettes, what are you looking for in particular? Just representations of shielded cavalrymen? Because those number dozens, if not hundreds, from western Asia Minor.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#6
Ruben wrote:
Quote:This terracotta is very likely Parthian for three reasons. The first is that this was found in Iraq, and if this were to be Seleucid, it would have to have been made before 144 BC, when Babylonia was captured by the Parthians; however, it is well known that cataphracts were almost certainly introduced to the Seleucid army during Antiochus III's anabasis, around 210 BC, and probably weren't fully "implemented" until a little later. This gives us a 65 year window in which this could have been Seleucid, and certainly doesn't rule it out, but makes it unlikely. The second is that the cataphract shown here wears armour very closely resembling that of both a 2nd-1st c. BC figurine from Seleucia on the Tigris and a painted cataphract from an Old Nisa fresco fragment, which shows that he was probably Parthian. Finally, this composition, with a noble cavalryman lancing a lion, is a Parthian, but not a Seleucid, motif, and is closely paralleled by seals from Nisa of the first two centuries AD.

Hhh..mm...mmm, quite persuasive! However I don't believe the last point about motif is convincing - the same 'lion hunt motif' is seen on distinctly Grecian style pieces from Bactria, for example. Judging by the debate about date, I gather this piece is not particularly well provenanced/dated. It seems one can at best say it is either Seleucid or Parthian depending on date......but since it is believed Seleucid cataphract equipment was based on eastern types, and indeed the original cataphract units of the Seleucid army may well have been eastern themselves ( a logical deduction), perhaps it is not overly important.

Quote:Paul, do you know of any solidly-dated evidence for cataphracts employing the kontos during the Hellenistic period? I know it's always stated that they were kontophoroi because later cataphracts were, but I think at this time it could be more ambiguous. The reason I would doubt that they were lancers is because the one depiction of a Saka cataphract in combat from around the Hellenistic period shows the man wielding a raised spear in combat using only one hand, and not carrying a lance two-handedly.

Obviously, not for seleucid cataphracts in particular, but since you mention 'saka' , I take it you mean generally?
There are, of course, a number of large lance-heads found in steppe graves which can realistically only be from 'kontoi', e.g. a fourth C BC grave of a Sarmatian woman(!) from Kholodni Yar on the Tjasmin, Ukraine grave no.20 contained two such lance heads with a length of over 60-70 cm; and others such as Siracian grave finds at Ust-Labinskaya, NW Caucasus 4-3 C BC.
I was under the impression that because of the rather 'loose' dating of tomb-finds, the real question was whether the 'kontos' was employed on the steppes before or after Alexander introduced them to the 'xyston'......
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#7
Quote:Hhh..mm...mmm, quite persuasive! However I don't believe the last point about motif is convincing - the same 'lion hunt motif' is seen on distinctly Grecian style pieces from Bactria, for example.

The same motif of a horseman lancing a lion is found in Graeco-Bactrian art? Can you post or cite an example?

Quote:Obviously, not for seleucid cataphracts in particular, but since you mention 'saka' , I take it you mean generally?
There are, of course, a number of large lance-heads found in steppe graves which can realistically only be from 'kontoi', e.g. a fourth C BC grave of a Sarmatian woman(!) from Kholodni Yar on the Tjasmin, Ukraine grave no.20 contained two such lance heads with a length of over 60-70 cm; and others such as Siracian grave finds at Ust-Labinskaya, NW Caucasus 4-3 C BC.
I was under the impression that because of the rather 'loose' dating of tomb-finds, the real question was whether the 'kontos' was employed on the steppes before or after Alexander introduced them to the 'xyston'......

Why must large lance heads only be from kontoi? Regular cavalry spears, and spears in general, could have large spearheads without necessarily being long-shafted - this is the same fallacy that led to many scholars assuming that the sarissa must have had a large spearhead. Looking at Sarmatian (or, more accurately, Sauromatian) evidence, what do you make of the Filippovka kurgan 4 burial, dating to the end of the 5th c. BC or beginning of the 4th, which included a shafted weapon with a large spearhead and spearbutt 3.2 m in length? Should this be taken as a kontos? Furthermore, the depiction of the Saka cataphract wielding a spear one-handed overhand I mentioned before shows the spear as having a massive head.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#8
Ruben wrote:
Quote:The same motif of a horseman lancing a lion is found in Graeco-Bactrian art? Can you post or cite an example?

I can't recall the particular example I had in mind, - a silver dish - but while looking for it came across another example in Montvert's "Bactrian Armies vol 2", another silver bowl showing a lion hunted by an unarmoured rider with two-handed 'kontos' ( dated 4-5 C AD- which doesn't affect the point that the motif was not unique to Parthia/Persia). In addition, that book also shows other examples of 'kontos' use e.g. fig 3(d) - another light armed 'kontos' wielder from a terracotta flask fragment, from Khorezm, 4-3 C BC; or 26(a), a 1 C BC example


Quote:Why must large lance heads only be from kontoi? Regular cavalry spears, and spears in general, could have large spearheads without necessarily being long-shafted - this is the same fallacy that led to many scholars assuming that the sarissa must have had a large spearhead. Looking at Sarmatian (or, more accurately, Sauromatian) evidence, what do you make of the Filippovka kurgan 4 burial, dating to the end of the 5th c. BC or beginning of the 4th, which included a shafted weapon with a large spearhead and spearbutt 3.2 m in length? Should this be taken as a kontos? Furthermore, the depiction of the Saka cataphract wielding a spear one-handed overhand I mentioned before shows the spear as having a massive head.

I don't think your point is particularly valid here. In general a spearhead must be 'balanced', head to shaft, and thus the larger the head, the longer the shaft. One cannot judge from art, because depictions are not to scale, and of course shafts are seldom found intact in graves - being left out altogether, or snapped to fit it into the grave ( and for religious reasons weapons were 'slighted' - the real reason to make them unattractive to tomb-robbers no doubt).

I'm not familiar with the burial you cite, but a weapon with large head and butt/counter-balance, over 10 feet long sounds like a 'xyston' ( 'kontoi' don't generally have, or need, butts, being held in two hands.)

As to the Saka you refer to, an artistic depiction is for reasons aforesaid untrustworthy as to size of head, and in reality a short-shafted, large headed spear cannot be wielded effectively.

While on that subject, it is not to be supposed that 'palta/longche' dual purpose weapons went out of use with the introduction of the 'xyston' to Persian cavalry by first Darius and then Alexander ( for an illustration of a clearly 'xyston' armed Persian cavalryman c. 330-320 BC, see the akinakes sheath from the Chertomlyk tomb) or the introduction of the 'kontos' from the steppe nomads ( whenever that took place).
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#9
Quote:I can't recall the particular example I had in mind, - a silver dish - but while looking for it came across another example in Montvert's "Bactrian Armies vol 2", another silver bowl showing a lion hunted by an unarmoured rider with two-handed 'kontos' ( dated 4-5 C AD- which doesn't affect the point that the motif was not unique to Parthia/Persia).

I've never seen any sort of Graeco-Bactrian example of a horseman spearing a lion, which is a thoroughly oriental theme. The bowl you cite, aside from being entirely irrelevant to any discussion of the motif's nature in the centuries BC, was probably made under Persian influence, which was still strong in Bactria under the Sassanids. The fact remains that early examples of this motif are entirely Parthian.

Quote:In addition, that book also shows other examples of 'kontos' use e.g. fig 3(d) - another light armed 'kontos' wielder from a terracotta flask fragment, from Khorezm, 4-3 C BC; or 26(a), a 1 C BC example

The former is sometimes cited as an early example of a kontophoros, but if you look at the drawing, and other clearer examples from Tolstov's original publications, you will see that the left arm is gripping the reins, and does not run past the horse's neck (what looks like a continuation of it is actually the reins themselves). This is thus a lancer, but not a kontophoros.

Quote:I don't think your point is particularly valid here. In general a spearhead must be 'balanced', head to shaft, and thus the larger the head, the longer the shaft. One cannot judge from art, because depictions are not to scale, and of course shafts are seldom found intact in graves - being left out altogether, or snapped to fit it into the grave ( and for religious reasons weapons were 'slighted' - the real reason to make them unattractive to tomb-robbers no doubt).

As to the Saka you refer to, an artistic depiction is for reasons aforesaid untrustworthy as to size of head, and in reality a short-shafted, large headed spear cannot be wielded effectively.

We find massive spearheads in La Tene Celtic panoplies with only small or no spear butts, and also Lucanian spears or javelins with enormous heads and regular-length or short shafts are depicted on red-figure vases, including ones used by cavalrymen.

Quote:I'm not familiar with the burial you cite, but a weapon with large head and butt/counter-balance, over 10 feet long sounds like a 'xyston' ( 'kontoi' don't generally have, or need, butts, being held in two hands.)

Where is it said that kontoi don't have butts? What if the rider wanted it as a secondary weapon?

Quote:While on that subject, it is not to be supposed that 'palta/longche' dual purpose weapons went out of use with the introduction of the 'xyston' to Persian cavalry by first Darius and then Alexander ( for an illustration of a clearly 'xyston' armed Persian cavalryman c. 330-320 BC, see the akinakes sheath from the Chertomlyk tomb) or the introduction of the 'kontos' from the steppe nomads ( whenever that took place).

This is tangential, but the Chertomlyk scabbard is a very poor iconographic source. It shows a highly classicized amazonomachy, and that figure on horseback is almost certainly an amazon. Whatever details were drawn from real life (and the xyston and saddle of the dragged amazon on the right certainly look true to life), this cannot be taken as a representation of a xystophoros Persian.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#10
Ruben wrote:

Quote:I've never seen any sort of Graeco-Bactrian example of a horseman spearing a lion, which is a thoroughly oriental theme. The bowl you cite, aside from being entirely irrelevant to any discussion of the motif's nature in the centuries BC, was probably made under Persian influence, which was still strong in Bactria under the Sassanids. The fact remains that early examples of this motif are entirely Parthian.
That is not correct, the lion-hunting motif goes back IIRC, to Assyria, and even if it is of Persian ( not Parthian) origin, it is still not unique. Consider for example the Alexander sarcophagus and the Philip tomb, both showing mounted lion hunts. It is clear Alexander and his successors used this motif, and hence it should be no surprise to find the mounted lion hunt in a possible Seleucid context c. 200 BC

Quote:The former is sometimes cited as an early example of a kontophoros, but if you look at the drawing, and other clearer examples from Tolstov's original publications, you will see that the left arm is gripping the reins, and does not run past the horse's neck (what looks like a continuation of it is actually the reins themselves). This is thus a lancer, but not a kontophoros.
That is a matter of interpretation, surely ? One thing that strongly favours a two-handed grip is the fact that the right hand is placed well back, and there is clearly no large counter-weight, so the spear must be supported by the front hand......a 'lancer'/single handed grip must have a counterweight, even to be held in the middle, let alone far back.....once again, as in many of these debates, you don't seem to give much consideration to the realities/practicalities of the matter. Just pick up a broom by the end single-handed and you will begin to appreciate the difficulties of 'unbalanced' shaft weapons - then consider the weight of a 'large' spearhead.....

Quote:We find massive spearheads in La Tene Celtic panoplies with only small or no spear butts, and also Lucanian spears or javelins with enormous heads and regular-length or short shafts are depicted on red-figure vases, including ones used by cavalrymen.

The Celtic examples are not considered actual 'battle' weapons, and are considered by a number of scholars to be symbolic, or of a religious nature, or even a form of standard ( the 'gae' or great spear could be a symbol of 'gaesati'/spearmen for example.) Whatever they are, it is certain they are not practical weapons.
Depictions in art are not to scale, and in art details are often exaggerated, as I have already said.

Quote:Where is it said that kontoi don't have butts? What if the rider wanted it as a secondary weapon?
As an example, 3(d) referred to above has no butt/counterweight. I suggest you look at images of undoubted 'kontoi' again.....I can't think of one with a large butt/counterweight shown. Not all spear-types have a 'sauroter' type spike for a secondary weapon - in fact most throughout history don't. ( e.g. 'longche/palta' type weapons). The Roman spear-butt, and the blunt-edged and blunt-pointed 'xyston' butt ( judging by the tomb example) would not be practical 'secondary' weapons, and in support of this Macedonian cavalry seem to have used their swords as secondary weapons ( e.g. Cleitus famously saving A.'s neck).....there is more, but I don't have time to go into this.

Quote:This is tangential, but the Chertomlyk scabbard is a very poor iconographic source. It shows a highly classicized amazonomachy, and that figure on horseback is almost certainly an amazon. Whatever details were drawn from real life (and the xyston and saddle of the dragged amazon on the right certainly look true to life), this cannot be taken as a representation of a xystophoros Persian.
The figure on horseback wears a tiara and has 'Persian' attributes (possibly including a beard!) and the figure with the axe could be an Amazon or a Persian youth - a matter of interpretation once more, but it doesn't matter!!
The point is that in the period 330-320 BC roughly, the artist is portraying a contemporary weapon being used by an Eastern cavalry-person - a clear example of a 'xyston', as you yourself say, and we are told by our sources that Darius and Alexander equipped Persians with 'lances'. There can be little room for doubt that Persiam cavalry used the 'xyston'.
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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