Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Camel Cataphracts - more news

Further to my recent post on armoured camels, there followed an email exchange with John Bassett.  John writes: 
<< Enjoyed your recent blog on the cataphract camels. They certainly seem to have existed in real life, and were in used in battle against the Romans in the early C3 AD - towards the end of the Parthian empire and a generation before Harry Sidebottom's "Ballista" books.

Our source is a contemporary history written by the Roman senator Herodian. He wrote a history that starts with the death of Marcus "Richard Harris" Aurelius, covers the reign of the demented, tyrannical Commodus (Joaquim Phoenix...), his assassination, the subsequent civil wars, the rise and rule of Septimius Severus and the brief and blood-thirsty reigns of his various relatives, culminating in the rise and brutal fall of the demented teenage trans-sexual god-emperor Elagabalus. Something for everyone here, and a brief stage appearance by Parthian cataphract camels can only have added to this unedifying if colourful pageant. Anyway, Herodian IV.14.3 - the battle of Nisibis, AD 217:

"Meanwhile Artabanus was upon them with his vast and powerful army
composed of many cavalry and an enormous number of archers and
cataphracts who fought on camels, jabbing with long spears."

No real reason you couldn't use them in a Sassanid army, as they took over various parts of the Parthian army, including the horsed cataphracts. I doubt there were any at Carrhae - the camels there are mentioned as supply animals, but who knows...

I don't recognise the model camels. I have some Minifigs armoured camels from about 1975, and they are only armoured on the chest and shoulders (if that's what camels have...). I wonder if the full armour may be conversion work by JR from Garrison originals?

The riders do look like Minifigs PB cataphracts. The only designated camel riders that Minifigs made in the early 70s were lightly armed Arabs and Palmyran caravan guards, before issuing a Parthian armoured camel lancer figure at the end of the 1970s.
I still have a great fondness for this period (both the Greek and Roman world and the 1970s!) as the first "proper" wargames figures I got in 1974 were Minifigs 25mm Greeks. I still play with them. >>
Thanks again to John for his useful information.  I can say that the armour is definitely not conversion work.  Since the earlier post, two further batches of camels have emerged from the dust - photos coming soon!


Paul said...

Good to see these humped animals have been keeping you on your toes Tim.

Regards Paul

Tim Gow said...

Thanks Paul. I may even get them based up in the next few weeks.