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Anonymous

Salve<br>
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I hope this thread won't seem odd to you, considering the fact that these two cavalries never met - except for some possible short encounters in one of Marc Anthony's campaigns. But still I consider this a good point for debate. Were the numidians able to outmaneuvre a parthian mounted archer? ... not at an individual level of course.<br>
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And if engaged in melee, could the numidians really outfight the parthians? Because, from what I've read, they carried only javelins - well, there is one account of the battle of Cannae by Titus Livius, who tells about a group of numidian cavalry that, pretending to be desertors, fled before the battle in the roman camp; put to stay behind the line by the romans, they engaged with swords, that they kept hidden in their tunics, in the thick of the battle. Still, it seems to be a general opinion that they relied only on their short spears. I don't entirely agree, though.<br>
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It would be good to hear your thoughts on these matters.<br>
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Vale <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

During Trajan's Parthian campaign one of his most effective cavalry units was one of Moors. These are very likely to be identical to Numidian cavalry. Their speed and desert raised mounts enabled them to close with the Parthians and protect the infantry. <p></p><i></i>
You may be interested in Tacitus' account of Tacfarinas' Numidians attacking a regular Roman infantry unit in AD 20 (Annales 3.20). Their tactics sound very like Parthian tactics. <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I read the account from Annales; IIRC, Tacfarinas had alot of infantry also, a mix of desertors and bandits, organised as roman cohorts, and it is those who led the guerilla war.<br>
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The numidian cavalry he had was mostly rubish .. <p></p><i></i>
North Africa is a big place, and the Romans seem to have used various Berber tribes (including the Numidians), as allies or auxiliaries, from the Punic Wars until well into the Byzantine era. Caesar's references to his Numidian auxiliaries, who all seem to have been "light" (probably unarmored) infantry bowmen, suggests they were quite effective in Gaul. The Arch of Constantine also shows North African light infantry archers. But it's the Berber steppe horsemen who are generally considered to have been the most effective militarily. And they don't seem to have changed much over the centuries, either. There's a 3rd - 2nd century BC terracotta figurine of a dying Numidian falling off his horse that was found in Southern Italy, and he doesn't look appreciably different from the Berbers on Trajan's Column. However it may be inaccurate to consider all Berber tribes to have been militarily equivalent, especially through this long period (the depiction of Berbers on Trajan's Column may be no more accurate than the depiction of Sarmatian heavy armored horsemen). Early Numidian armies seem to have had a small but wealthy elite, probably drawn from the nobility, which could act as close-combat cavalry. Some tribes may have exclusively fielded infantry. And let's not forget the elephants...<br>
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Still, Berber light horse were obviously considered very effective by the Romans, and during the civil war Caesar's army came very close to defeat from the harassment tactics of Berber light horse. As allies or auxiliaries I suppose the Romans considered the Berbers an excellent addition to their armies, ideal for "light horse" duties like harassment and pursuit.<br>
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The tactics used by the Parthian horse archers at Carrhae seem quite similar to what Caesar says the Numidians were doing to him, and in both cases the tactical goals were probably essentially the same. Both used their speed and maneuverability to harass the Romans from a distance, never allowing the enemy to come to grips or drive them off. Both sought to surround the enemy if possible, which, besides being extremely dangerous for the Romans, was apparently very demoralizing as well. And eroding the enemy's moral seems to have been a primary goal of such tactics.<br>
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However, Parthian "light" horse and Berber "light" horse were different in a few important respects. The Parthian horse archers at Carrhae, who were probably steppe nomad dependents of the Suren clan, were equipped with much more sophisticated horse tack than the Berbers, who were downright primitive. The Parthian horse was equipped with a saddle, while the Berbers rode bareback, or with a simple blanket. The Berbers also don't seem to have used bridles or bits. There's no way to accurately compare the types of horses used, though both seem to have ridden comparatively small, maneuverable, tough breeds, true "ponies" in the case of the Parthians, possibly also with the Numidians. The Parthian steppe pony may have been a bit faster, as I recall an account of Numidian light horse being ridden down by Gaulic or Spanish "medium" cavalry. As far as military equipment goes, both Parthian and Berber horsmen were unarmored (though the Parthian horse archer certainly wore more clothes). But the Parthians were far better armed. The composite bow had a much greater range and rate of fire than the light javelins used by the Berbers (Berber javelins were light enough that they could be thrown effectively outside the range of the pilum). And each Parthian archer would almost certainly have carried more ammunition than a Berber horseman could carry. In fact, the Parthians (at Carrhae at least) had developed a way to re-supply the horse archers with arrows during the battle.<br>
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But most important of all, the horse archers at Carrhae worked in close cooperation with the Parthian cataphracts. Caesar was able to defeat the Numidians by extending his line at the expense of its depth, a rather desperate move that succeeded in breaking the Numidian encirclement. This would not have worked at Carrhae. The Romans at Carrhae were forced to maintain a defensive square, standing in close order with great depth for fear that a charge from the cataphracts would break through. This prevented them from forming a line of battle or adopting a loose order to avoid the arrows. Consequently they were easy for the horse archers to surround and almost impossible to miss. A mixed force of infantry and "medium" Gaulic horse attempted a coordinated charge to drive the Parthians off, but was lured away from the main body by a false retreat and isolated. The Gaulic horse was destroyed by the cataphracts, and the remaining infantry was picked off by the horse archers, and probably finished by the catahracts. There is nothing to suggest the Numidians were capable or equipped for such sophisticated cavalry tactics.<br>
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This, in my opinioin, is why Caesar won, but Crassus lost. While the Romans had never faced the Parthians in battle before Carrhae, they were probably aware, through various reports, that they would be facing cataphracts and mounted archers. The Romans were probably most concerned with the cataphracts, though Roman armies had faced and defeated catphracts on numerous occasions. But mounted archers, especially nomadic steppe horse archers, would have been completely outside Roman experience. They simply could not have known what they were about to face. They might have imagined nothing more sophisticated than mounted infantry archers. At best, they might have imagined a force roughly equivalent to Numidian light horsemen. The power of the Parthian composite bow, the volume of fire, and the speed and force of the arrows, all proved quite a shock. The Parthian ability to resupply the archers was also unexpected. The tactical sophistication of true steppe warfare, the coordination and cooperation of light horse archers and heavy armored horsemen, was something the Romans could never have predicted. It can be argued that Crassus marched over the Euphrates with an army that was large and sophisticated enough to have defeated anything the Romans had ever faced up to that point in their military history. But at Carrhae they were simply outclassed. <br>
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Gregg <p></p><i></i>