Saturday, May 13, 2006

The arrival of the mighty Sarmations

With the completion of my light cavalry I thought I'd better get started on the heavies. These figures are from Foundry and sculpted by the Perry brothers. I was supprised with the amount of work they needed to get to this stage, being cast in two pieces, they left huge gaps when placed together and they took alot of filling with 'green-stuff'. As I had to make up a large batch of 'green-stuff' I thought I'd make some cloaks while I was there........I've gone completely cloak mad!


Kirk said...

An obsession with cloaks... come on, we all knew the signs were there. Anyhow, the more cloaks the better, thats my golden rule.

Oh, a big shout out to Adeptus Mechanicus by the way. Good to know you're out there in the ether waves Stu.


Oh yes I'm out here somewhere and don't worry I'm watching. And it's not ether any more...I've kicked the habit. Well back to the countable and uncountable nouns....boring.As soon as I get one of these blogs I'll let you all know.


Any more of that hammer and anvil stuff and I'll be forced to tell the guild on you, Simon.

simon said...

Greeting Stu pot....glad to see you are still out there.....watching.

Scutatus said...

Sarmatians! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay! My favourites. :D These guys completely revolutionised warfare in the west.

Until the arrival of the Sarmatians, the Legionary, with his fluid adabtability and his pila and sword thrust tactics had dominated the battlefields for centuries.

Meanwhile, Roman auxiliary cavalry had basically been lightly armoured missile troops, armed with javelins and throwing spears. They skirmished, they harrassed, they protected flanks and they pursued broken units. But they were were not a decisive element in any Roman or Germanic army. German and Roman forces alike were predominantly infantry, with cavalry, however "good", few in number and relegated to supporting roles or at best, the largely ineffectual reckless headlong death or glory charge.

The Sarmatians, with their bows, horse nomad tactics and with their elite donned in heavy armour using the long Kontos, changed all of that.

Kin to the Pathians, they used similair horse nomad hit and fade tactics that had proved so deadly against Crassus and his predominantly pedestrian legions.

Taking their time the Sarmatians would shower the enemy with arrows, always keeping out of reach of any substantial counter attack. Only when the enemy was deemed suitably weakened and disordered would the Kontos armed elite be sent in to "finish it".

Now this is is where the advantage of the Kontos would come into play. A horse won't charge a coherent close formation of infantry. It sees them as an unpassable obstacle and no horse is stupid enough to throw itself into a solid wall. So long as an infantry unit in close formation holds it's lines no cavalry charge will ever strike home; the horses will pull up and the charge prove impotent.

However, using a Kontos meant that the horse did not have to physically plow into lines of infantry to be effective. Now they could gallop in and thrust and stab at the lines from eight feet away.

The Kontos, being a ten to twelve foot thrusting spear held in both hands, was the best cavalry weapon yet conceived and was the inspiration for the later lance. The Romans had met it before in the Parthia, but the Parthians trotted in in true Clibinarii-Cataphract "mounted phalanx" style and were easily countered. The Sarmatians employed it entirely differently.

Can you imagine it? The horses run rings around you for hours, gradually wittling you down with bow shot, beyond the range of your own spear and javelin based missiles. They can outrun your own cavalry, out distances your missiles and no matter how much you charge and run after them you can never catch them.

Then they send in heavy cavalry who do not trot slowly, formed up tightly in the Parthian manner, but instead advance upon you in a rapid and fluid manner, darting and weaving, thrusting their Kontos at you from eight feet away, well beyond your sword reach, and then darting out again as suddenly as they came. Before you can regroup another barrage of arrows hits you. They remount and come back in with the Kontos again. And again. Feint after Feint after feint. And in between each feint another barrage of arrow shot. And once you've been devastated by arrow shot and Kontos point, run ragged trying to catch them to hurt them back, once you are exhausted, demoralised and without hope, then they finally charge in for real.

Now I can't say how effective a good pila volley would be to dispel such attacks. The Kontos wielders appear to have been heavily armoured - or at least more heavily armoured than was normal - and at least some of the horses were Barded. When one considers that the legionaries involved would be (or should be) tired, demoralised and perhaps losing cohesion by that time, and that they'd only have a few moments, even less than normal, to get that critical volley in, I wouldn't want to lay any bets on the outcome. Presumably they did not attempt a full on Pila volley for without their pila they would have been so much more vulnerable to the Kontos.

We think we know how they DID try to counter the new tactics. Arrian has supplied us with a record of the tactics used against the Alans, (hehe) who were one of the groups of Sarmatians that the Romans met.

Ironically, it was essentially a return to the phalanx of old; resolutely NOT chasing after horses like morons but forming up tight, shield to shield, with the front ranks using the pila as thrusting spears while rear ranks threw missle weapons over their heads. In fact, the very infantry tactics that the Late Roman Empire would come to swear by. But this was a very defensive minded tactic and the renowned fluidity and adabtability of the Legionary was lost.

To counter this, greater proportions of light/unarmoured legionaries began to be used. But it seems this wasn't enough. Cavalry began to gain in importance, being relied on more and more for mobility and decisiveness in action.

Quite naturally, Goths, Vandals and Romans alike were quick to adopt the revolutionary new Sarmatian tactics. The Romans began to employ Sarmatians themselves from the second century AD. From the late Second century Heavy cavalry began to wear heavier armour and increasingly used the Kontos rather than throwing spears.

However, it seems few learnt the full lesson, for most Kontos wielding cavalry were NOT also backed up by mounted archers and even worse, many simply charged in headlong in the old style, completely wasting the advantage of their weapon (hence their emberrassing performance at times). And so the Sarmatians remained the masters of cavalry warfare and were much in demand.

From the turn of the 3rd century the inevitable happened. Legions and infantry in general began to lose the prestigous position of priority they had held for so long, as the emphasis gradually shifted to Heavy shock cavalry. Consequently, as the discipline of infantry naturally fell away, and their ability to hold diminished, so the cavalry proved increasingly effective, and so the shift to cavalry dominance accelerated. A dominance that would remain for over a millenia. And it was (mostly) thanks to the Sarmatians. :D

I'll be keeping an eye out for progress reports on these Si. :D

simon said...

wow! Alan you really do love those Sarmations......I will have to get them finished next.