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I have read that when Julian the Apostate attacked the Sasanid Persians in 363, he brought a very large army of some 90,000 men. But I'm having a hard time finding information on the composition of this army. I just finished reading Ammianus' account, and he isn't very specific about the types of men and equipment.

1 - Were cataphracts a common feature of Roman armies at this point, or was this later? I seem to remember reading that Gallienus instituted heavier cavalry during his reign in order to counter the heavy Persian cavalry his father's armies faced, but I don't know how regularly these units were featured. I know that cataphracts were the heart and soul of the Byzantine armies after the Western empire fell in 476, but does anyone know when they started gaining prominence?

2 - Were Julian's troops mostly citizens of the empire, or did he have large allied contingents? I know he asked the Armenian king to provide troops when he was preparing for the campaign, but again, Ammianus isn't very specific.
Quote:I have read that when Julian the Apostate attacked the Sasanid Persians in 363, he brought a very large army of some 90,000 men. But I'm having a hard time finding information on the composition of this army. I just finished reading Ammianus' account, and he isn't very specific about the types of men and equipment.

I'm afraid that is about it - although Zosimus and Libanius may have a few bits, but Ammianus is really the source.


Quote:1 - Were cataphracts a common feature of Roman armies at this point, or was this later? I seem to remember reading that Gallienus instituted heavier cavalry during his reign in order to counter the heavy Persian cavalry his father's armies faced, but I don't know how regularly these units were featured. I know that cataphracts were the heart and soul of the Byzantine armies after the Western empire fell in 476, but does anyone know when they started gaining prominence?

Catafracts (or clibanarii) - as in fully armoured men on armoured horses - first appear, IIRC, around the time of Alexander Severus possibly being Parthian refugees after the Sasanid take over. Julian, in a panegyric, credits Constantius II with the expansion of this arm of the cavalry and so it is most likely that Roman armies in the east at least (where they will have been most use) will have featured them as standard.

I would note that such cavalry were not "the heart and soul" of the later eastern Roman armies as Prokopios' description of Roman cavalry at the time of Belisarios shows. The cavalry at that time whilst armoured were not as heavily equipped as catafracts - although many modern books seem to use the term for such cavalry for some reason. "True" catafracts returned in the C10th as a specialised force - the best description being in the Praecpta of Nikeforos Fokas.


Quote:2 - Were Julian's troops mostly citizens of the empire, or did he have large allied contingents? I know he asked the Armenian king to provide troops when he was preparing for the campaign, but again, Ammianus isn't very specific.

I believe most of his force was the regular Roman army - although IIRC Ammianus mentions Goths being present (referred to as Skythians perhaps?) who may have been allied (under the treaty with Constantine).
Quote:I'm afraid that is about it - although Zosimus and Libanius may have a few bits, but Ammianus is really the source.

Thanks a lot for the response.
Funny how there are so many ancient historians who repeat so much of the same information about Caesar and the earlier Republican period, but once we get into the 4th century CE, it's hard to find any good historian who wrote about anything, aside from Ammianus.

Quote:Catafracts (or clibanarii) - as in fully armoured men on armoured horses - first appear, IIRC, around the time of Alexander Severus possibly being Parthian refugees after the Sasanid take over. Julian, in a panegyric, credits Constantius II with the expansion of this arm of the cavalry and so it is most likely that Roman armies in the east at least (where they will have been most use) will have featured them as standard.

I would note that such cavalry were not "the heart and soul" of the later eastern Roman armies as Prokopios' description of Roman cavalry at the time of Belisarios shows. The cavalry at that time whilst armoured were not as heavily equipped as catafracts - although many modern books seem to use the term for such cavalry for some reason. "True" catafracts returned in the C10th as a specialised force - the best description being in the Praecpta of Nikeforos Fokas.

I'll be honest, my knowledge of eastern Roman armies after the fall of the West is somewhat limited.
I just know that tactically speaking, Belisarius liked to use his heavy cavalrymen to deliver the decisive strike in most of his battles, whereas the earlier Roman tactics emphasized the use of infantry, and from what I understand the eastern Roman cavalry after 476 was better trained and better equipped than earlier Roman cavalry.

Quote:I believe most of his force was the regular Roman army - although IIRC Ammianus mentions Goths being present (referred to as Skythians perhaps?) who may have been allied (under the treaty with Constantine).

Do you know if the Armenians provided troops? I know Julian had some contact with the Armenian king at the time, Arsaces II, but I can't find anything definitive on whether the Armenians did or did not provide troops.

Seems to me that Julian would have found that good Armenian cavalry quite useful if he was campaigning in Mesopotamia.
Quote:Funny how there are so many ancient historians who repeat so much of the same information about Caesar and the earlier Republican period, but once we get into the 4th century CE, it's hard to find any good historian who wrote about anything, aside from Ammianus.
It's funnier still given that Julian is the hero of Ammianus' work and that Ammianus himself was a military man. Yet, he neglected to mention such details about the army taken into Persia. He must have been writing for an urbane, effete audience who wouldn't know or care about such things.

Quote:I just know that tactically speaking, Belisarius liked to use his heavy cavalrymen to deliver the decisive strike in most of his battles, whereas the earlier Roman tactics emphasized the use of infantry, and from what I understand the eastern Roman cavalry after 476 was better trained and better equipped than earlier Roman cavalry.

A great book that just came out on the subject is "Belisarius" written by Ian Hughs. Yes, the emphasis in Belisarius' time was put on heavy cavalry but more specifically on the horse-archer. The tactics employed resembled those of the Huns'. Hugh writes the reason the horse archer was so successful in the wars against the Vandals and Goths is because the barbarians simply had no answer to counter their hit and run tactics, even after several years of fighting them. The Roman horse archer seems to have become just as effective as his Persian counterpart during the 6th century AD. Anyway, I recommend anyone interested in the subject to read the book. Others on the forum have done the same.

Quote:Seems to me that Julian would have found that good Armenian cavalry quite useful if he was campaigning in Mesopotamia.
Given the emperor's apostasy it would be interesting to know how well any request for help would have been received by Christian Armenia. :| His religious policies could have had adverse, unforeseen international consequences for the empire.

~Theo
Quote:I'll be honest, my knowledge of eastern Roman armies after the fall of the West is somewhat limited.
I just know that tactically speaking, Belisarius liked to use his heavy cavalrymen to deliver the decisive strike in most of his battles, whereas the earlier Roman tactics emphasized the use of infantry, and from what I understand the eastern Roman cavalry after 476 was better trained and better equipped than earlier Roman cavalry.

Given what Arrian wrote on the training of Roman cavalry and the exercises peformed for Hadrian by African troops I don't think that is true. What did change was that the Roman cavalry became horse archers by the time of Belisarios - so they were differently trained Big Grin - and then moved onto the lancer supported by archery cavalry of the Strategikon.



Quote:Do you know if the Armenians provided troops? I know Julian had some contact with the Armenian king at the time, Arsaces II, but I can't find anything definitive on whether the Armenians did or did not provide troops.

Seems to me that Julian would have found that good Armenian cavalry quite useful if he was campaigning in Mesopotamia.


I don't believe the Armenians provided troops for Julian's army - although I seem to recall that they were supposed to act in conjunction with Procopius' diversionary force in the north. Or am I misremembering?
Quote:
Justin:2luhhsjm Wrote:Funny how there are so many ancient historians who repeat so much of the same information about Caesar and the earlier Republican period, but once we get into the 4th century CE, it's hard to find any good historian who wrote about anything, aside from Ammianus.
It's funnier still given that Julian is the hero of Ammianus' work and that Ammianus himself was a military man. Yet, he neglected to mention such details about the army taken into Persia. He must have been writing for an urbane, effete audience who wouldn't know or care about such things.


That is exactly the case. Ammianus was writing a literary work in the classical style - a continuation of Tacitus.
In order to make an educated guess (and only a guess) of the composition of Julians army the only available source, other than Ammianus, is the Notitia Dignitatum. The Eastern portion dates to around 395 (30 years later and after the disaster of Adrianople) but its the best thing available. Also, in a very old issue of the Journal of Roman Studies (1923) there is an article in which a scholar (whose name I forget) tried to use the Notitia to reconstruct the Roman field armies under Constantine (ca. 330) with limited success.

The Notitia lists 5 field armies in the East in 395: Thracias, Illyricum, Orientum and 2 in the Imperial Presence. The army of the Magister Militum per Oriens and the two Praesental armies might have been mustered for a Persian campaign, leaving the others (ca. 41000 men) to defend the Balkans. This would give about 62000 men (establishment strength) in 34 cavalry units (vexellatio palatina/comitatenses) and 69 infantry formations (legions/auxilia palatina and legiones comitatenses), plus 3500 in the 7 Eastern scholae for a total of around 66000.

The Journal of Roman Studies article allows 98000 for the entire eastern field army in 52 cavalry vexillationes, 49 legiones, 39 auxilia and 7 scholae. Under this estimate, if Julian left 30-40000 men to defend the Balkans he could field 60000 or so regular Roman soldiers. With either guestimate he'd need some allied troops to reach 90000.

I count at least 11 units of catafractarii or clibanarii in the Notitia Dignitatum that could have been in the Eastern field armies in 363 (that is, they don't have the names of future emperors like "Theodosiani or Honoriani" etc.). Two of the 14 vexellatio palatina (comites clibanarii, equites Persae clibanarii) and 9 of the 29 vexillatio comitatenses (eq catafractarii Biturgenses, eq primi clibanarii Parthi, eq secundi clibanarii Parthi, eq catafractarii, eq catafractarii Albigenses, eq promoti clibanarii, eq quarti clibanarii Parthi, comites catafractarii Bucellarii and cuneus equites secundorum clibanarii Palmyrorum). the Western field armies have only one (equites sagitarii clibanarii).
Ahhh, I hadn't thought of how close the Notitia was to Julian's time, thanks. I'm not writing a paper or anything, just trying to get a general idea of what he had and that gives me a good approximation.

Quote:A great book that just came out on the subject is "Belisarius" written by Ian Hughs.

That isn't the first time someone has recommended that to me, so I finally Amazoned it today. I'm looking forward to his treatment of Stilicho too.
Stilicho and Belisarius are two of my favorites... good scrappy, tenacious old-school generals.