Armed with an excellent set of panoply for both man and horse and a kontos and sagaris battle-axe for melee combat, these Saka Armoured Bodyguards/Elite Nobles are a powerful shock arm, perhaps the most powerful one, that can prove decisive when traditionally used in cooperation with their lighter companions of horse archers. They are formidable warriors indeed, for few can withstand their thunderous charges.
These fearsome warriors wear an armoured jacket fitted at the waist and made of large metal plates. Their necks are protected by high armoured neck-guards, their arms by brassarts made of steel or hard leather bands and their legs by greaves. The casque they wear, originally made of cast bronze, was riveted or welded by several iron pieces. Their horses are protected by an armoured cloth. They carry a long kontos lance for the shock action during the first charge and a deadly sagaris battle-axe that can cut through the heaviest of armour in melee combat. These heavily armoured warriors are the most powerful shock arm available to the Saka and represent the epitome of Saka military achievements in the history of heavy cavalry. Their weapon set was the prototype from which the famous Pahlava kataphraktoi used in later history and they are Kataphraktoi in their own right. In cooperation with light horse archers and other less heavily armoured units using primarily the larger recurved composite bow for offense as was the case in Central Asian nomadic warfare, they are best used after their lighter companions have weakened and "softened" up the enemy. Yet, they are still a valuable asset even when used alone, for no enemy except the most disciplined and armoured of infantry units can withstand their fearsome charges and nasty blows they deliver to their foes during melee combat.
Historically, these warriors were composed of accomplished nobles or other elites of Saka society, for the costly defensive weapon set that they wore was not attainable by regular tribesmen. While the style of shock cavalry warfare and some of the Kataphraktoi's equipment was already centuries old and possibly has its roots to those of the Massagetai, Iranian kinsmen and neighbours of the Saka, this weapon set of the kataphraktoi that was first developed among the Saka can only be traced to the time right before Alexander's invasion of the Achaemenid empire. Combining local autochthonous developments along with the military developments of both the Achaemenids and the Warring States of China, the former due to their fight against Achaemenid rule in the west, and the latter due to their active participation in the turmoil on the northwestern frontier of the Warring States, the Saka developed a set of arms in the late 4th - 3rd centuries BC that became prevalent amongst the heavy cavalry such that this army component turned into a decisive factor on the battlefield.
According to one authority, influence from the Warring States can especially be seen, as he notes that the Saka method of securing their sword belt and accoutrements were borrowed from the Chinese Warring States; he further notes that even the pommels, the guards, the loops or scabbard slides, the scabbard tips which were often made of jade, were all directly imported from China. He also indicates that these weapons had been used by both the Skythians and Persians, and by Chinese chariot fighters and infantryman, the latter two probably referring to the Qin chariot fighter from Qin Shihuang Di's famous mausoleum (3rd century BC) near Xian and also to the suits of armour made of large lacquered leather plates with the high neck-guard found from a tomb at Suixian, Hubei, just north of the ancient kingdom of Chu, dated to the 5th century BC. There also exists in what may be the earliest archaeological depiction of a fully armoured kataphraktoi on a fragmentary terracotta flask piece from Khumbuz-tepe in southern Chorasmia/Khorezmia, dated to the 4th-early 3rd centuries BC, which, although attributed to the Massagetai or the Dahai due to geographical rendition, can also represent kataphraktoi development among the Saka.
There are also historical references to heavily armoured Saka warriors in the written sources as well. For example, from Arrianos's Anabasis, Book 3, Chapter 8, we learn that a Saka cavalry contingent under a certain Saka chief Mavakes aided the Achaemenids at Gaugamela in 331 BC; he also further informs us that these "Skythians", aided by Baktrian cavalry routed the Greek cavalry mercenaries that Alexander initially sent against them. Immediately, they fought a fierce battle against the combined Makedonian, Greek, and Paeonian cavalry of Alexander and inflicted huge casualties on Alexander's right wing, almost putting them to rout, for Arrianos further says that the Saka cavalrymen also had much more armour protecting their horses than did Alexander's cavalry. Additionally, we are told by Arrianos in Book 4, Chapter 4, that a Saka warrior was struck through his wicker shield and corselet by missiles hurled from Alexander's military engines that he had loaded when attempting to cross the Tanais (Jaxartes - modern Syr-Darya river).