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CATAPHRACTI (κατάφρακτοι), a kind of mail-clad cavalry found principally among the Eastern nations (Just. 41.2; Lampr. Alex. Sev. 56, 5) and the Sarmatians (Tac. Hist. 1.79). For the description of their armour, itself called cataphractes or cataphracta, the principal passage [p. 1.384]is Heliod. Aeth. 9.15, of the Persians at the siege of Syene. Moderately thin pieces of brass or iron a span square were so fastened together to some soft substance on the inside that the lower end of each was above the upper end of the plate below it; and sideways the arrangement was similar. This effected a kind of scale-armour (φαλιδωτός), and the authorities agree that it was singularly flexible (Ammian. 16.10, 8; Suidas, s. v. θώραξ). The armour also had sleeves (χειριδωτός); in fact, the whole body was covered except that part of the thighs which grips the horse. The helmet was close-fitting, all down the neck, the eyes alone being exposed. The soldier had to be lifted on his horse. He was armed with a long spear, which was supported by a chain attached to the horse's neck, and at the end by a fastening attached to the horse's thigh, so as to get the full force of the horse's weight into the spear-thrust. No doubt, however, there were diversities in the exact nature of the armour in different times and places. In the picture of the cataphractus on Trajan's Column, the plates are fastened diamond-wise, and the rider has his whole face and neck uncovered. The horse, too, was all covered with armour, except just that part which was gripped by the legs of the rider; even the eyes were covered by disc pierced with a few small holes. When charging, the cataphractus appeared, we are told (heliod. l.c.; Amm. l.c.), like a bronze statue in motion (σιδηροῦς τις ἀνὴρ φαινόμενος ἢ καὶ σφυρήλατος ἀνδριὰς κινούμενος).

Cataphractus. (From Column of Trajan.)

They were called clibanarii by the Persians (Lampr. l.c.; Amm. l.c.). John of Lydia (158, 25) has this note: Κλιβανάριοι ὁλοσίδηροι: κηλίβανα γὰρ οἱ Ρωμαῖοι τὰ σιδηρᾶ καλύμματα καλοῦσιν ἀντὶ τοῦ κηλάμινα (i.e. clibanarius is derived from celo through celamen, celibanum). He thus holds it to be a Roman word; but on the face of it absurdly. Salmasius considers it not to be a Persian word (in Lampr. l.c.), a view justly objected to by Favre in his new edition of Ducange. For it is probably either a Persian or Syrian word, just as cruppellarii (Tac. Ann. 3.43), who were a mail-clad infantry among the Gauls, is probably a Celtic word. (See Furneaux ad loc.)

We first hear of such mail-clad cavalry in the army of the elder Cyrus (xen. Cyr. 8.8, 22); later we know that they were in the army of Antiochus Epiphanes (Plb. 31.3, 9; Liv. 35.48, 3). In the Roman armies the first notice we have of them is on Trajan's Column. (See Fröhner, La Colonne Trajane, plates 55, 62, 91.) From the time of Antoninus Pius they became frequent. (Orell. 804, 3388; C. I. L. 3.99; Not. Dig. Seeck's Index, pp. 316, 317, s. vv. Catafractarii and Clibanarii.

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