[Parthian] Cataphracts or clibanarii were heavy enough to break any other type of cavalry which opposed them; they were reasonably immune from hand-propelled missiles and arrows, less so from sling pellets or machine weapons. Their attack would be carried out at an ambling trot in close order, and was often only a feint to cause infantry to regroup into close formation to enable the mounted bowmen to create havoc, thus producing a close order/open order dilemma in the ranks. If the charge was pressed home against infantry who had ben subjected to prolonged missile attack, who were suffering from lack of food, water, or rest, or who were already disorganized, the chance of success was high. Good, fresh, well-prepared infantry in dense formation were difficult if not impossible to break and could prove disastrously lethal.
Horse-archers were almost impossible to destroy; however, they could be dispersed by good light cavalry, who might in turn be open to eventual counterattack. Enemy cavalry could be attacked while the bowmen’s own cataphracts threatened any enemy counterattacking. The effect on heavy infantry was more demoralizing than destructive.
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