A kataphrakton was a coat of mail. The kataphraktoi were cavalry whose horses and riders were heavily protected and capable of doing immense damage in a frontal assault on enemy lines. Riders were completely covered by chain mail, an iron helmet, and leg guards. They fought chiefly with an iron mace or saber. The horses were covered with thick felt or hides, so much so that only their eyes, nostrils, and lower legs were visible. They attacked in a triangular formation, at a steady pace, flanked by two lines of ordinary cavalry. Such armored cavalry was used by the Sassanians (q.v.), and by Byzantine armies as early as the reigns of Constantine I and Constantius II (qq.v.). They are mentioned in the Strategikon of Maurice (q.v.), and in the Praecepta militaria (q.v.) by Nikephoros II (q.v.), who devotes the third and fourth chapters of his work to the use of these mounted knights in battle.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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