Byzantine,Tagmatic (Nikephorian) Kataphractoi

Byzantine,Tagmatic (Nikephorian) Kataphractoi

Almost certainly the most attractive of all the units in an early 10th CE Thematic Byzantine army are, of course, the Kataphractoi. Fully enclosed in many layers of armour, invincible like a middle ages version of the battle tank. Well, not quite but that is certainly the impression they were meant to have on the enemy. One Arab soldier poet described the Byzantine horses as having no legs! 

The soldier would first place a peristhethidion (padded armour) over his torso and down to his waist and elbows with metal splints added to his legs. Next would come the kremasmata (padded skits faced with mail or lamellar/scale armour). A klivanion (lamellar/scale armour „vest“) over the peristhethidion (padded armour) followed by manikella (upper arms splints of mail). Splints would be added to the lower arms and finally a padded helmet with a 360 degree aventail was placed over the head. The soldiers horse would be similarly armoured; the two making a truly fearsome unit.

The main armament of the Kataphractoi was the matzouka (heavy mace). This weapon was significantly heavier than most hand weapons and clearly designed for smashing armour, crushing bones and devastating the soft tissues of the human body. Each soldier would also carry a parmerion (curved sword) and a heavy spathion (sword) as well as number of back up matzouka (heavy maces) attached around his waist. Contrary to popular belief the Kontarion (a lighter version of the earlier Kontos) was not used by most in the wedge and only by those on the flanks. It makes sense, the whole idea of the Kataphractoi and the Blunt Noses Wedge formation was impact. Also, the aim was to spread as much terror and confusion into any enemy formation unlucky enough to get in the way.

I have modelled the miniatures in the unit as two ranks and in the Blunt nosed Wedge formation. Much ink has been spilled out into the pages of the Byzantine military manuals (which I have read) on the subject of the the Blunt Nosed Wedge formation and I will not attempt to go into any detail here except to say two things; i/ that the formation was designed to deliver maximum impact at a certain point on the enemy line which could then be exploited by the Kataphractoi or the accompanying cavalry units and ii/ archers were placed in the center of the formation and arrows would be loosed as they cantered into combat. The archers were less well protected than their fully armoured compatriots (a necessity if one wants to be able to loose a bow unencumbered).

These formations were extremely expensive to maintain and were actually only used in relatively small numbers.

Regarding the painting. I have attempted to make all of the units in this army quite uniform. This certainly would not have been the case with units from the Themes but, given that the Tagmata units were armed and equipped centrally by the State a degree of uniformity is least possible, but certainly forgivable. I have attempted to give the bards in each unit different patterns. This, I think has come out well enough though I have to admit to sweating it out when painting the very first unit! 

Hopefully I have captured some of what it would have been, en masse, the equivalent of a medieval tank!

All the images are „clickable“ should you wish to enlarge. The images of the unit as a whole are quite large files.

The Single Mini’s and Bases:


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