Author: Smbat Minasyan - E-mail
From the ancient times in Armenia exited "Azatavrear"
cavalry which consisted from elite of Armenian tribes, later from
elite of Armenian people. "Azatavrear" cavalry was the main part of
Armenian kings court. Later, in medieval "Azatavrear" cavalry or
Armenian heavy cavalry was collected from nobles (youngest sons of
Armenian lords) and was known as AYRUDZI (man and horse, horseman).
During peace time Armenian cavalry was divided into number of small
groups which took the role of guarding King and his family as well as
Armenian lords. Some part of Armenian cavalry was patrolling Armenian
borders under the command of Armenian general (sparapet). The Group of
Armenian cavalry whose main mission was the protection of Armenian
king and his family in ancient period consisted from 6000 heavy
armored horsemen, and in medieval period - from 3000 horsemen. In war
time the number of Armenian cavalry reached from 10,000 up to 20,000
horsemen or even higher. Beside Armenian Heavy cavalry there was
Armenian light cavalry, which mainly consisted from horsemen archers.
V. Chapot wrote: “What they say about Armenia
bewilders us. How could this mountain people develop such a cavalry
that was able to measure itself against the horsemen of the Medes? One
thing which is certain is the fact that Armenia ...was a source of
excellent well bred horses. The people in this country had discovered
that horses were not just an economic asset, but could also be used
for military purposes.”1
When in 428 Armenia lost its independence Armenian
heavy cavalry wasn't disbanded. It was used by Armenia’s neighbor
kingdoms and empires, like Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Persia.
In Sassanid Persia, the Armenian cavalry was
accorded a status similar to the elite "Savaran" of the Persian army.
The equipment of the Armenian cavalry was in fact similar to that of
the Savaran. Pro-Sassanian Armenian cavalry units fought under
Sassanid banners and were allowed to enter the royal capital,
Ctesiphon. The Armenians were in fact honored for their services. For
example, general Smbat Bagratuni was accorded particular honor and
attention by Khosrov II. In 619, due to his victory over the Turks who
then resided in Central Asia, he was given gifts, such as lavishly
decorated robes, and the command of a number of the king's royal
guards. Khosrov II also raised him to third in rank among the nobles
of the court. Moreover, pro-Sassanian Armenians supplied excellent
light cavalry and infantry, who were notable for using slings to repel
enemy cavalry, and spears for close combat.2