These heavily armoured elites are some of the finest warriors mustered by the Saka, drafted into bodyguard service, fighting as cataphracts.
These men represent the champions of Indo-Saka society that have distinguished themselves as a feared force of crack cavalry. As a part of the Indo-Scythian sovereign’s equestrian bodyguard, they are expected to be of exceptional quality, both in martial ardour and horsemanship, a virtue valued especially by the Saka who never truly abandoned their nomadic roots even though they historically extended their rule to such degree as rivalling their Parthian nemesis to the west, and probably branding themselves as the most influential of dynasties in India. These men were armed and fought like cataphracts, and likely provided the basis and the rolemodel of the feared Kushan cataphracts.
Armed with the kontos, the Saka king had a retinue of horsemen able to mount a devastating charge. After the charge the cataphract could sustain himself in melee, fighting either with a Scythian-style longsword or a mace, able to inflict damage on unarmoured as well as armoured foes. Armoured with a lamellar cuirass and helmet along with laminated trousers and laminated arm defences, and with his charger armoured in a complete lamellar barding, this cataphract boasts defences as formidable as the Parthian rival to the west. Later, the Indo-Saka would come to adopt more of the previous Hellenic, but also Indian features in smithcrafting. Adding a decorative facing was not uncommon if it could be afforded; the cataphract here is largely armoured in iron, but the arms are faced with copper.
Historically, the Saka equestrian traditions revolved around horse archery, feigned retreat and combat on horseback. When the Saka became the Indo-Saka, they had not only learned a few tricks from their Parthian neighbour concerning the role of heavy cavalry, they had essentially settled in north-western India, adopting a melange of Iranian, Greek and Indian traditions of warfare. The strong roots in Saka equestrian traditions would culminate into the rolemodel of the later Kushan cataphracts of the 2nd century CE.