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An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


Christian Spanish cavalry were favoured by the Andalusians and in high demand as mercenaries. Likewise Spanish contingents were often supplemented by Andalusian auxiliaries.

This figure is from an ivory casket of 1005, 10th century sources showing identical dress. The bare head and 'page-boy' haircut appear to be fairly characteristic. He is armed with lance, sword and small light shield (probably a daraqa), the typical equipment of Andalusian and North African Moslem light cavalrymen. Ibn Hawqal tells us that until at least the 10th century Andalusians often rode with their feet dangling free of the stirrups, or even rode without stirrups altogether, and his statement is vindicated in this source. However, note that spurs are nevertheless worn, contrary to the custom of the Eastern Moslems who, as we have seen, did not use them. This is probably evidence of Spanish influence.

In addition to light cavalry there were armoured horsemen like 101. These wore long or short mail corselets, or scale corselets of unspecified length which could apparently be worn over the mail. Vambraces and greaves are also recorded. Helmets were usually called baida (meaning 'egg') because of their shape, and one type unique to Spanish Moslems at this date was the zahiqa, which had a mail hood like that of figure 93 leaving only the eyes uncovered.

Each cavalry unit had a different standard, chiefly bearing lion, leopard, eagle or dragon devices.

Some mss. show bows in use by horsemen, though it is not known how many were thus equipped. Descriptions of army reviews held in the reign of al-Hakam II (961-976) record mounted Negro archers wearing white capes. (Negro cavalry, in fact, were not uncommon in Spain and North Africa.)
[Based on the Leyre Casket of ‘Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar, Umayyad Spain, 1004-1005AD]

Next: 139 & 140. ANDALUSIAN INFANTRYMEN in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath