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p256 Cataphracti

Unsigned article on p256 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CATAPHRA′CTI (κατάφρακτοι). 1. Heavy-armed cavalry, the horses of which were also covered with defensive armour (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. XI.771), whence they are called by Pollux (I.141) περιπεφραγμένοι. The armour of the horses consisted either of scale armour, or of plates of metal, which had different names according to the parts of the body which they protected. Pollux (I.140) speaks of the προμετωπίδιον, παρώπιον, παρήϊον, προστερνίδιον, παραπλευρίδιον, παραμηρίδιον, παρακνημίδιον. Among many of the Eastern nations, who placed their chief dependence on their cavalry, we find horses protected in this manner; but among the Romans we do not read of any troops of this description till the later times of the empire, when the discipline of the legions was destroyed, and the chief dependence began to be placed on the cavalry.

This species of troops was common among the Persians from the earliest times, from whom it was adopted by their Macedonian conquerors (Liv. XXXV.48; XXXVII.40). In the army of the elder Cyrus, Xenophon (Cyr. VI.4 § 1) says that the horses were protected by coverings for the forehead and chest (προμετωπιδίοις καὶ προστερνίδιοις); and the same was the case with the army of Artaxerxes, when he fought with his younger brother (Xen. Anab. I.8 § 7). Troops of this description were called clibanarii by the Persians (cataphracti equites, quos clibanarios dictitant Persae, Amm. Marc. XVI.10; compare Lamprid Alex. Sev. 56). We first read of cataphracti in the Roman army in the time of Constantine (Amm. Marc. l.c.).

2. The word was also applied to ships which had decks, in opposition to Aphracti. [Navis.]


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