Sarmatian Lancer in a Wall Painting, Kerch, Bosporan, 2nd Century AD


The enormous length of the Sarmatian lance is perhaps exaggerated in this 19th-century copy of a 2nd-century AD tomb painting from Kerch. However, in his experiments reconstructing Roman horsemanship, Marcus Junkelmann (Die Reiter Roms, III, p.145+) demonstrated that lances of up to 4.5m length were still manageable on horse-back. The lancer's armour appears to be of mail but could be scale, and is worn over tightly fitting trousers and shirt. No helmets have so far been found that match this severe conical shape. The horse's mane is 'crenellated' in steppe nomad fashion. In such wall-paintings the contus is never seen in combination with a shield, though sometimes with bow. One Bosporan wall painting shows a brown loop hanging from a contus. This might be a leather wrist strap, which also served as a means of slinging the clumsy lance over one shoulder in later Cossack fashion. However, the poet Valerius Flaccus (6.164-5) mentions 'the Sarmatian who puts a rein upon his huge lance [ingentis frenator Sarmata conti]'. This probably refers to the characteristic manner in which the rider held both reins and lance in his left hand. (After Rostovtsev)
Source: p.23, The Sarmatians 600 BC-AD 450 by Richard Brzezinski (Author), Gerry Embleton (Illustrator)



See also Sarmatians in a painted tomb of the Crimean Bosporus, Crypt 1872, 2nd Century AD
Other Illustrations of Scythian, Cimmerian, Sarmatian & Bosphoran Costume and Soldiers from the Black Sea Region
Ancient Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers









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