The region of Parthia within the empire of Medes, c. 600 BC; from a historical atlas illustrated by William Robert Shepherd

Elite late Parthian and Sasanian division who fought as heavy cataphract cavalry.

- Grivpanvar

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Form of armored heavy cavalryman that originated in Persia and was fielded in ancient warfare throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa.

Historical reenactment of a Sassanid-era cataphract, complete with a full set of scale armor for the horse. The rider is covered by extensive mail armor.
Sculpture of a Sasanian cataphract in Taq-e Bostan, Iran. It is One of the oldest depictions of a cataphract.
The extent circa 170 BC of the Iranian Scythians and Parthians, to whom the first recorded use of true cataphract-like cavalry can be attributed in antiquity.
Chanfron, Northern Yan
A stone-etched relief depicting a Parthian cataphract fighting against a lion. Housed in the British Museum.
Three examples of the various styles of interweaving and wire threading that were commonly employed in the creation of cataphract scale armor to form a stiffened, "armored shell" with which to protect the horse.
Breakdown of a fully armoured Chinese cataphract
Equestrian relief at Firuzabad, Iran showing Cataphracts dueling with lances
The cataphract-style parade armor of a Saka (Scythian) royal from the Issyk kurgan, dubbed "Golden Man". The overlapping golden scales are typical of cataphract armor.
Two heavily armored noblemen dueling on horseback with kontos; Sasanian era silver plate with gold coating, Azerbaijan Museum, Tabriz, Iran
A depiction of Sarmatian cataphracts fleeing from Roman cavalry during the Dacian wars circa 101 AD, at Trajan's Column in Rome

A twofold origin of the Greek term has been proposed: either that it was a humorous reference to the heavily armored cataphracts as men encased in armor who would heat up very quickly much like in an oven; or that it was further derived from the Old Persian word *griwbanar (or *grivpanvar), itself composed of the Iranian roots griva-pana-bara, which translates into "neck-guard wearer".

Kontos (weapon)

Sassanian silver plate showing lance combat

The kontos (κοντός) was the Greek name for a type of long wooden cavalry lance used by the Iranians, especially Achaemenid successors' cavalry, most notably cataphracts (Grivpanvar).

Battle of Nisibis (217)

Fought in the summer of 217 between the armies of the Roman Empire under the newly ascended emperor Macrinus and the Parthian army of King Artabanus IV.

The two enemies exemplified two different approaches to warfare: the Roman army was traditionally infantry-based, relying on its excellent legions, while the Parthians were excellent horsemen, employing the heavy shock "cataphract" cavalry (grivpanvar), mounted on horses or camels, in combination with large numbers of horse-archers.

Military of the Sasanian Empire

The primary military body of the Sasanian armed forces, serving alongside the Sasanian navy.

Sasanian silver plate depicting an equestrian single combat scene
A Sassanid gold sword handle with a two-point suspension.
Reconstruction of a Sasanian-era cataphract.
A medieval Armenian miniature representing the Sasanian War elephants in the Battle of Vartanantz.
King Khosrow I on top of an elephant fighting the Mazdakite Revolt. Persian miniature
A Sasanian army helmet
Coin of emperor Khosrow II, founder of the notorious Gond-i Shahanshah.
Depiction (bottom) of a Sasanian Clibanarii cavalry equipment in the monumental reliefs at Taq-e Bostan.
Shahnameh illustration of the Sasanian general Sukhra fighting the Hephthalites (484).

The Romans called these newly formed units clibanarii; It is said that the word clibanarii is derived from Persian word grivpanvar or griva-pana-vara meaning neck-guard wearer.


The oldest known relief of a heavily armoured cavalryman, from the Sassanid empire, at Taq-i Bostan, near Kermanshah, Iran (6th century).

The Clibanarii or Klibanophoroi (κλιβανοφόροι, meaning "camp oven-bearers" from the Greek word κλίβανος meaning "camp oven" or "metallic furnace"), in Persian Grivpanvar, were a Sasanian Persian, late Roman and Byzantine military unit of armored heavy cavalry.

Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas

Arab Muslim military general in the service of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the Rashidun caliphs Abu Bakr ((r.

Bow of Saad bin Abi-Waqqas at Hejaz Railway Museum in Medina.
Location of the Battle of Qadisiyyah
Location of Bahurasīr (Veh-Ardashir/Seleucia) on the west bank of Tigris
Taq Kasra or Ctesiphon palace ruin, with the arch in the centre, 1864
Sassanid Khuzestan, which invaded during Sa'd tenure in Iraq
Euphrates river near Kufa
Great mosque of Kufa in 1915
Huaisheng Mosque in Guangzhou, China. Claimed by locals to have been built by Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas.
Camel herds in Iraq. Camel hordes were used in al-Qadisiyyah to stamp out Sassanid elephant corps.
Depiction of Arab Faris archer, by January Suchodolski (1836)

Sa'd leadership style allowed creative field commanders like al-Qa'qa to freely use their creativity utilitizing the strategy of camel horde lines, which unexpectedly managed to counter the fearsome elephants and Sassanids iron-clad horses, as the combination of the stench and body masses of those camels within close vicinity has aroused significant stresses towards those two animals and stopped their charge on track.