Numidian cavalry was a type of light cavalry developed by the
Numidians. After they were used by
Hannibal during the Second Punic
War, they were described by the Roman historian
Livy as "by far the
best horsemen in Africa."
The Numidian cavalry's horses, ancestors of the Berber horse, were
small compared to other horses of the era, and were well adapted for
faster movement over long distances. Numidian horsemen rode without
saddles or bridles, controlling their mounts with a simple rope around
their horse's neck. They had no form of bodily protection except for a
round leather shield, and their main weapon were javelins in addition
to a short sword.
Due to their expert horsemanship and agility, as well as their lack of
armor or heavy weaponry, they were most suitable for harassing
tactics, charging in loose formation and lobbing their javelins before
wheeling off to escape the enemy's counterattack. This harassing
tactic, while rarely decisive, could be extremely frustrating to a
less mobile enemy, as experienced by Julius Caesar's soldiers during
the latter's invasion of Africa. At the same time they were generally
unable to stand their ground against heavier types of cavalry, in one
incident during the aforementioned African invasion thirty of Caesar's
Gallic horsemen drove off a much larger force of Moorish cavalry,
while in another a squadron of Caesar's Iberian horsemen routed a
large body of Labienus's Numidians, while his Gallic and Germanic
horsemen stood their ground. The
Numidians were extremely useful
during small wars, and their presence certainly contributed greatly to
the effectiveness of Hannibal's reconnaissance and intelligence.
Hannibal's invasion of Rome during the
Second Punic War
Second Punic War is best known
for his use of slow-moving war elephants, but he also employed
Numidian cavalry where faster movement was needed, such as luring the
Romans into a trap at the Battle of Trebia and for fighting on his
Numidian cavalry were widely known and not only fought in the
Carthaginian army, but in other armies of the time as well – the
Romans even employed
Numidian cavalry against Hannibal's own in the
battle of Zama, where the "Numidian Cavalry turned the scales".
For centuries thereafter, the
Roman army employed Numidian light
cavalry in separate units (equites Numidarum or Maurorum).
Military of Carthage
^ Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 29.35.8.
^ Epona Archived 2008-03-18 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Invasion of Italy
^ Sidnell, Philip. Warhorse: Cavalry in the Ancient World, p.194.
^ Fuller, J.F.C., Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant. p. 28