RHOXOLANI CAVALRYMANAn extract from Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars
by Duncan Head, illustrated by Ian Heath
83. RHOXOLANI CAVALRYMAN
The Rhoxolani were a major western Sarmatian tribe who moved west across the Don in the 2nd century BC and towards the end of that century attacked the Bosporan kingdom. Strabo describes them at that period as lightly armed with helmets and cuirasses of raw oxhide, wicker shields, spears, bows and swords. This seems to be the equipment of the cavalry who made up the majority of at least the effective troops (Sarmatian infantry being sometimes numerous but never much use) and grave finds confirm that most Rhoxolani were lightly armed horse archers until the 1st century AD. Cuirasses were probably of rawhide scales, perhaps lacquered red; an alternative possibility is the laminated hide armour shown on the base of Trajanís Column and as figure 88a in The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome. The helmets were probably leather with a metal frame like those shown in later art. The shape of the wicker shield is not specified by Strabo; the Scythian styles of 77a and b are possible. The bow is kept in a birchbark quiver, and arrowheads were usually iron. The sword shown is a relatively short type with a ring pommel; a longer sword with spherical pommel was also in use. Strabo uses longche for the spear, implying a fairly light spear or a javelin.
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