Azula vs. Galen Marek

After two days of prep time who will prevail in a fight to the death between the Dark Knight and the God of War?

Batman vs. Kratos

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Byzantine Kataphraktoi vs. Polish Winged Hussar: Warrior Introduction and grading system

      My next match up will feature two  of the most famous heavily armored calvary units to have ever existed. Both of these warriors have storied histories, and both were considered the elites of their respective countries.
First up are the Byzantine Kataphraktoi, Byzantium's heaviest hitter.

Byzantine Kataphraktoi

The Byzantine Cataphract (English spelling)  were the shock troopers of the Byzantine army.  The word Kataphraktos(plural Kataphraktoi) is Greek for "fully enclosed" and refers to the heavy calvary regimen  that were already making themselves known to the world even in Hellenistic times, giving them a storied history of nearly 2000 years.

    The origins for the Kataphraktoi can be traced back to Median and Persian times, where the native inhabitants of Central Asia were famous for their superior horsemanship. The Greeks may have fought against Cataphract-like calvary when Darius and Xerxes invaded  Greece in 490 and 480 b.c. respectively.  After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 b.c. his successors engaged in a series of wars over the young king's conquests. One of the these, a latecomer nation called Parthia (originally a Scythian tribe known as Parni), are credited with the first true Cataphract units. They certainly made a impression on the other Hellenistic Kingdoms, as the  Seleucids and Armenians soon adopted(i.e. copied) their style and created their own Cataphract units.

  The history of the Cataphract and Rome is one where the weakness of the Cataphract shines.  At Magnesia(180 b.c.) the Seleucid Cataphracts gave a mixed performance, being driven off by lighter Roman calvary  on the left flank while managing to hold their own on the right.  Once routed they died in droves as, according to Livy, they were too wighted down by their own armor to get away from their foes. The battle of Carrhae has often been trumpeted as the battle which shows proves the superiority of  horse archers against heavy infantry yet not many people are aware of the contribution by the heavy Cataphract. Once the Roman legions fell into the Tseudo formation there was not much the horse archers could do so the Cataphracts were sent in to break this up. In the end it was the combination of Heavy and light cavalry, not just light, that destroyed the Roman legion in that battle (being led by an idiot facing an army didn't help the Roman's chances either). However heavy Calvary are not the bane of heavy infantry as Prince Pacorus's ill fated expedition into Roman lands proved in 39 b.c. Quoting from an article found in the Kataphraktoi section :"In the final battle of the campaign, the Parthian cataphracts attack uphill but were driven back by the Roman infantry. At the foot of the hill, a melee ensued in which Pacorus was killed, leading to the rout of the Parthians. The accounts suggest that while Cataphracts were most effective when charging on flat ground while supported by archery. Without a forceful charge or archery to weaken the opponent, Cataphracts were much less effective and could be defeated by infantry in melee."

  Romans were impressed by the Cataphract enough to adopt them, with the first Cataphract unit appearing in Hadrian's reign, although it wasn't until the 300 a.d that this unit became common. The Sassanids also had rival competing Cataphract units, and many a battlefield shook under the thunderous hooves of these two combatants.  With the demise of the Sassanids in the mid 600s, Byzantium(formerly known as Eastern Roman Empire) was the last remaining bastion  of these elite shock troopers where they were alternately referred to both as Cibanari/Cataphracts(my research indicated that they were both almost the same) . Byzantium took the concept and upgraded them to make them proficient in every arena; Toxton bows and slings   to compete with horse archers, lances to fulfill their role as shock calvary, swords and daggers to allow them to be capable at melee combat along with other more specialized weapons. Often these forces were led directly by the Emperor, and their devastating charges were skill feared in both Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East.  Unfortunately as the Byzantine Empire declined so did the fortunes of the Cataphract, as these heavily armored units became too costly to afford.

Polish "Winged" Hussars: 

   The first references of Hussars in Poland Appeared around the year 1500, in a area settled by Serbian immigrants.  While they were present in some early Polish battles, it wasn't until the reign of Stephen Bathory(1576) that the Hussars became truly formidable.  King Bathory standardized the equipment of the hussars to be more in line with that of his personal bodyguard.  From then on, the Hussars became the elite unit of the Polish army.

  Originally a light calvary unit, over the next century they began to wear heavier and heavier armor. They also proved to be Poland's savior on more then one occasion. In the battles of Battle of Lubiszew in 1577, Byczyna (1588), Kokenhausen (1601), Kircholm (1605), Kluszyn (1610), Trzciana (1629), Chocim (1673) and Lwow (1675), the Polish-Lithuanian hussars proved to be the decisive factor, often against overwhelming odds. But their most famous contribution was undoubtedly in  of the siege of Vienna (1683), where a charge led by King John III Sobieski broke through Ottoman lines, routing them  and saved the capital of the Hapsburg empire from falling. This marked the turning point in a war that would ultimately cost the Ottoman Empire Hungary and Transylvania

  Although the Polish Winged Hussar had won a great victory that day, it was one of their last. Gradually as firearms became more effective  calvary became  increasingly obsolete, this once great symbol of Polish pride became increasingly delegated to a more ceremonial role. By the 1770s they had been completely phased out of the Polish military.

Grading Scale:

-All warriors start off mounted, 10 on 10 battle. 

-Point system upgraded due to presence of more advanced weapons


Long range: /40

Mid range: /25

Close Range: / 20

Extremely Close range: /5

Specialize/ Rare : /25

*Bonus* : Horse breed : /15


Head: /20

Body: /30

Arms: /10


Blocking: /15

Horse Armor and saddle: /20


Tactics: /30

Morale/Motivation: /10

Rules of Combat: /10

Training/Discipline/Quality of enemies: /20

Martial Arts/fighting style: /10

Links to 
Byzantine Bio: 
Hussar Bio
Closing Statement:

 There you have it folks. Two of the most elite Calvary regiments to walk the Earth, both instrumental to their respective empires security. One has a history spanning almost two thousand years, another changed the fate of a continent in two hundred. Between these two elite of the elite I really don't know who will win, but I can say that of all the match ups I've done thus far I've never felt as excited as I am about this one.


  1. Well I'm already feeling very excited about this upcoming match :D Very fascinating stuff, so far my bet is on the Hussars because they are more modern but that may change as I learn more about the two sides.

  2. You mentioned heavy calavry being used by the Sassanian Persain Empire. I have actually heard of these guys before and I was going to use them in a match before Spike screwed up their own website. THis Persain faction, know as the Persian Zhayedan (Immortals), were atucally pretty bad ass in combat and were a predecessor (in some ways) to the Mamluk. Check them out sometime.

  3. The mamluk were fiersome warriors, baybers is a good example. anyhow, my feeling is that indeed the polish winged hussar wil win. Not only are they more advanched themselfs, they also fought against an more advanced opponent.
    to a sidenote, i can remember hearing a group of hussar fighting during world war one against cannons, did you have heard anyting about that?

  4. Where'd you get that painting of the winged hussars? I am putting together a history book that covers the siege of vienna and would like to use it as an illustration. Please contact me at


    Ric Dolphin

  5. Ares: about hussars during WW2 - not true. Hussars were last used in 18th century.

    Later Poland used light cavalry (ułan - plural ułani), that also had lances, but no armor, and lances were shorter, lighter and only used occasionaly.

    It is true Poles used these ułani during WW2, mostly as horse riding infantry - they were to ride near the enemy and unmount, a few horses in unit carried artilery or machine gun, all ułani carried carbines, so they were not without chances against even light armored vehicles of the enemies.

    They only charged from the horses using lances, if they could surprise infantry from the side or back - there were a few such occasions during WW2, and it worked, there also were a few occasions where it didn't worked, and that's where this myth comes from - ułani attacked ifnantry from the side, but light armored vehicles of Germans came to help German infantry, so ułani were decimed.

    Then some foreign corespondend have seen their bodies and wrote heart breaking story about Poles charging tanks with lances. German propaganda used this story to portrait Poles as backward, and that was it.

    More info:

  6. Sick, im gussing the byzantine cataphract is gonna win