Byzantine Iron-Anti Cavalry Caltrop 9th-14th Century AD

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Iron caltrop, hand-forged with square-section in the form of four welded arrowheads; 55mm , 14 grams.
Acquired on the German art market around 2000.
From the collection of Surrey, UK, gentleman.
Cf. Tsurtsumia, M., ‘Tribolos, a Byzantine Landmine’ in Byzantion, 2012, pp.413-422, fig.1, for identical specimen.

Caltrops were a kind of ‘landmine’ of the ancient world an mentioned in the Classical period. Nevertheless, they turned into real military weapons only in Dark Ages. Their systematic and wide use by the Eastern Romans, who called it tribolos, is noticeable. In 1082, Emperor Alexios Komnenos used caltrops against the Norman cavalry in the Balkans. Anna Komnena tells us in detail of her father’s intentions: ‘He marched against Bohemond with a new idea for victory. He had iron caltrops made and since he expected the battle to take place on the next day, the evening before scattered them over the plain between the two armies at the point where he guessed that the Kelts (the Normans) would make a heavy cavalry attack. The plan was to frustrate the first and irresistible charge when the caltrops pierced the horses’ hooves.’ Unfortunately for the Romans the Normans avoided battle on the ‘minefield’, outflanked the enemy and gained victory.

Additional information

Weight 14 g

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Auction started 03/12/2023 5:00 pm

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