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The kontos was the Greek name for a type of long wooden cavalry lance used by Iranian, especially Achaemenid succesors' cavalry, most notably cataphracts. It was also used by the Germanic warriors of the south as a pike. A shift in the terminology used to describe Sarmatian weapons indicates the kontos was developed in the early-mid 1st century AD from shorter spear-type weapons (which were described using the generic terms for "spear" - longche or hasta - by Greek and Roman sources, respectively), though such a description may have existed before the Battle of Carrhae, in which Parthian cataphracts, in tandem with light horse archers, annihilated a Roman army of over three times their numbers.

As shown by contemporary artwork, the kontos was about 4 metres long though longer examples may have existed; later Parthian and Sassanian clibinarii (Middle Persian: Grivpanvar) reportedly used kontoi of longer lengths; only highly trained cavalrymen such as those fielded by the Arsaco-Sassanian dynasties could have used such weapons. Its length was probably the origin of its name, as the word kontos could also mean "oar" or "barge-pole" in Greek. Thus, it had to be wielded with two hands while directing the horse using the knees; this made it a specialist weapon that required a lot of training and good horsemanship to use. In addition, most Parthian cavalry (even cataphracts) carried bows, so this meant daily practice with the weapons.

The Romans adopted a variation of the kontos called a contus. The Roman contus was also wielded two-handed. The later Byzantine kontarion was used by the Byzantine cataphracts single-handed couched under the armpit, not unlike the knightly lance.

The name is the stem of many words for cavalry lances in languages of the region, like gönder (Hungarian), gönder or rumh ("Roman lance", Turkish) and quntariya (Arabic).

See also



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