Sassanian silver plate showing lance combat
The region of Parthia within the empire of Medes, c. 600 BC; from a historical atlas illustrated by William Robert Shepherd

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).

- Kontos (weapon)

Clad in chain mail with a breastplate and strong scale armour, they were armed with the famed Kontos lance used by many Iranian peoples during antiquity.

- Grivpanvar
Sassanian silver plate showing lance combat

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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.

Cataphract

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

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

Historically, the cataphract was a very heavily armored horseman, with both the rider and mount almost completely covered in scale armor, and typically wielding a kontos or lance as his primary weapon.

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".