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Just read this book;

Mielczarek, Mariusz (1993): Cataphracti and Clibanarii, Studies on the Heavy Armoured Cavalry of the Ancient World,

In this it is suggested that Catephracti were used against infantry and Clibanari against other horsemen, though they may be armed in exactly the same manner. Simply it was the use that dictated thr name used.

It also suggests that a rider would engage cavalry with the spear (kontos) held in both hands (read as right hand rear and left hand forward) and pointed over the left shoulder of the horse .... however when engaging infantry it is held in one hand (read right hand down by thigh) with the spear/kontos parallel along the flank of the horse on the right side of its head. In the latter it is postulated that this gives a slight advantage over say a Macedonin phalanx using the sarisa as unless charging they would have them canted upward with the base imbedded in the ground.

I find this implausable on two counts the first being that I cannot see a one handed undearm hold on a Kontos being efficient as it would be physically very straigning and lastly that and "length" advantage would be minimal as even a small angle of cant below say 45 degrees would get to the horse before the rider could touch the footslogger. The rider would lose some length behind him for balance & control even if weighted.

Has anyone come across this theory before?
I think I read this a long time ago and filed it with a bunch of other ideas as 'nice theory'. At least I dimly recall something like it. It's not like the idea of using a long lance to fight infantry from horseback is implausible per se. The idea of having cavalry units dedicated to fighting cavalry and those dedicated to fighting infantry is something that would not survive the realities of war, though.

Edit - and any cavalry commander who orders his troops to engage any phalanx from the front can likely look forward to a long and fulfilling career in hands-on latrine cleanliness management, anyway.
Just one observation.

The contos is a great weapon for allowing the rider to stand off from infantry formations and use it's reach to find the weak spots. So you use the full length.
Quote:Just one observation.

The contos is a great weapon for allowing the rider to stand off from infantry formations and use it's reach to find the weak spots. So you use the full length.

How long was a Kontos?

This depends on what is is meant by full length, as there needs to be some of it behind the rider as a balancing point plus he is sat in the middle of the horse so may lose at least a 5th of the length (probably more) before it protrudes from the front of the animal? Probe and it will be grabbed, as staed in teh book Gallic cavalry used this tactic gains Clibanari.

I can only see it being useful with reasonable momentum.
Quote:The idea of having cavalry units dedicated to fighting cavalry and those dedicated to fighting infantry is something that would not survive the realities of war, though.

What is actually said is that the same troops performed the differnt functions and were described as either Cata' or Clib' dependant on what they were doing at the time.
My contos is 4m long. I don't have a balance problem. I'm sure somebody might try to grasp the end. A two handed strike is more powerful than a one handed strike.
Quote:
Carlton Bach:px6qocm9 Wrote:The idea of having cavalry units dedicated to fighting cavalry and those dedicated to fighting infantry is something that would not survive the realities of war, though.

What is actually said is that the same troops performed the differnt functions and were described as either Cata' or Clib' dependant on what they were doing at the time.
However they are official names, I mean units are labelled as Clibanarii or Cataphracti in the Notitia, it is not a question of using names in different contexts.
IMO it is more reasonable to think of a different origen, it could be like XVIII century arquebussiers or Grenadiers, all carrying just muskets, the names long surviving their original meanings.
Quote:My contos is 4m long. I don't have a balance problem. I'm sure somebody might try to grasp the end. A two handed strike is more powerful than a one handed strike.

I would be ducking not grabbing :wink:

The theory put forward in the book is that Cat' were developed as a counter to the Macedonian type phalanx, who would have been using the Sarissa, which varied from 4 to 7 meters in length. I cannot see any advantage the cavalry might have here. I am sure that they would be better engaged against cavalry but the ancient writings place them against infantry so I assume they were somewhat pila proof!

Where is the balance point you use on yours?

Do you have a counter weight or can it be wielded from the very end wothout one?

How wide a grip do you have between the hands?

So many questions ..sorry :oops:
Quote:This depends on what is is meant by full length, as there needs to be some of it behind the rider as a balancing point plus he is sat in the middle of the horse so may lose at least a 5th of the length (probably more) before it protrudes from the front of the animal? Probe and it will be grabbed, as staed in teh book Gallic cavalry used this tactic gains Clibanari.
Who says you can only use it from a frontal position? If your shaft is long enough, you can stab and still be out or reach of the opposing spears. From a fairly stationary position, even. An enemy breaking ranks to go for you would mean certain death. Your armour (and that of the horse) are there to protect you from missile weapons aimed at you in the meantime.

Quote:My contos is 4m long. I don't have a balance problem. I'm sure somebody might try to grasp the end. A two handed strike is more powerful than a one handed strike.
And some were 8 m or longer. If someone would try to grab the end I'm sure there would be another cavalryman eager to stop him doing that. :wink:
Quote:Has anyone come across this theory before?
I have the book.

Quote:However they are official names, I mean units are labelled as Clibanarii or Cataphracti in the Notitia, it is not a question of using names in different contexts.
IMO it is more reasonable to think of a different origen, it could be like XVIII century arquebussiers or Grenadiers, all carrying just muskets, the names long surviving their original meanings.
Well, I doubt the names are 'official', but the second explanation suits me more. I mean, you have also 'catafractari clibanarii', what were they supposed to be doin'- two lances at the same time?
I suspect that at one time, the descriptions held meaning (but what?)

We've discussed this before..

And before that...
I suspect my contos is too light. It can be welded without a counter weight but it does have a ferule. When cantering around I like to hold it one third up the shaft, it just makes it easier. Frankly an 8m contos would need two riders......
There is a passage in Ammianus that got me thinking.

(XVI., 10.8): "...sparsique cataphracti equites (qous clibinarios dictitant)..."

The Loeb English translation: "...scattered among them were the full-armored cavalry (whom they call clibanarii)..."

I think it is idiom, in the same way one refers to an armored fighting vehicle as a "tank".

The Loeb translator, J.C. Rolfe, also couldn't decide how to translate cataprhact, as he uses "cuirassier" and "cavalry in coat-of-mail", and "full-armored cavalry".

My latin dictionary says a clibanus is an oven, and from that, (and I know I've seen this somewhere before) it is not a great leap to surmise that "the ovens" or "The oven guys" might be slang for fully armored cavarly especially if serving someplace hot, like Mesopotamia.

Kontos likewise has something (IIRC) to do with pole-vaulting in greek, and again one can see a slang word getting coined out of that.

I can just hear some joker somewhere saying "Here come the oven guys with their pole vaults".

All of that said, I've read the book, and I can't see the name designating a differing role.
Just a couple of minor points:
'cataphract' just means literally 'covered in' ,and fully decked and enclosed galleys are also called cataphract ( as opposed to 'aphract' = open)
The 'Contus/Kontos' was another 'nickname' given to the thicker two-handed spears/lances of Hellenistic times.Originally it meant something like 'bargepole' and for example a trireme carried several 'kontoi' to push/pole off a beach and to fend off other vessels.
I am not aware of any depictions of Kontoi longer than about 3.6-4m(12 ft- 14 ft )....anyrthing larger was just too unwieldy for cavalry in ranks.
Although it was no longer than the earlier Macedonian single handed 'xyston', being thicker ,heavier and stiffer, it required two-handed use, normally over the horses left shoulder, left hand forward, right hand back ( judging by depictions)
'Clibanarii' was another nickname , believed to derive from the Persian 'grive-pan' for oven ( though other derivations have been suggested.......
Quote:I am not aware of any depictions of Kontoi longer than about 3.6-4m(12 ft- 14 ft )....anyrthing larger was just too unwieldy for cavalry in ranks.

I have no idea how you can judge the length of a kontos from most figural representations, but there are a few depictions from the tomb paintings of Pantikapaion that certainly show massive kontoi (well over three times the height of the rider). If you take the average height of a man of military age in the ancient world as 167 cm (based on the article "Anthropometry, Physical Anthropology, and Ancient Health" by Geoffrey Kron, which surveyed 57 necropoleis from the 5th c. BC to the 4th c. AD, most containing more than 20 male skeletons), that would place those kontoi at a minimum length of 5 m.
I would agree that it is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate lengths from even an intended 'life-size' artistic rendition,(but depictions are all we have to go on) hence my use of "about" and the rather approximate figures.....
If you take something even cruder, such as the cartoon-like figures in the Panticapaeum 'graffito' I think you are referring to, it becomes even more difficult, and your example illustrates why, quite well ( see below)....even assuming the artist was conscious of such things as the ratio of Lance length to height, and didn't just draw 'a long lance' !!

At first glance the Lance/kontos looks huge, but that is because the horse is depicted way too small, and the overall impression is deceptive.....

In fact, the Lance is less than 3 times the length of the rider, in a ratio of 6-2.5. Furthermore, that is the length of the seated rider who is anyway well out of proper proportion. If we adjust to arrive at the proper length of the standing rider, the 2.5 becomes roughly 3.3, and hence the Lance-to-full standing height ratio is 6 to 3.3.
Applying this hypothetical figure to your equally hypothetical 167 cm, we get 167 x1.8, a fraction over 3 m (9.75 ft). If we decrease the 'figure height' to take out the helmet height and hanging toes, the ratio becomes 6-2 (roughly) for the seated figure; adjusted for standing height, we get 6-2.6 ratio, x 167 cm =3.85 m( 12.5 ft) !! Smile
Nowhere near 5 metres.......

We can't use the second, broken Lance, since the rear is 'out of picture'... Sad

All very rough, given the nature of the depiction.... perhaps we should settle for "quite long",(roughly 3.5 m-4 m) but not "extremely long" (roughly over 5m) :wink: :wink: :lol: :lol:
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