Tag Archives: warfare

The Mfecane 1816-28

The Mfecane 1816-28


The rise of the Zulu empire under its warlike king Shaka (r.1816 -28) sent shock waves throughout southern Africa, triggering mass migrations of refugee peoples. Known as the Mfecane (`to be weak from hunger’), these upheavals completely rearranged the pattern of settlement in southern Africa and left vast areas depopulated. The Zulu belong to the Nguni, the most southerly branch of the Bantu-speaking peoples. As a result of the Mfecane the Nguni are now widespread throughout southern Africa, inhabiting  Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.

Medieval horse armour

Medieval horse armour

Such investments needed to be protected, and it is unsurprising that there should be a development in horse armour that parallels that of armour for the knight. It was by no means a total innovation; the late Roman army had used horses wholly covered in mail or lamellar armour for the catapbracti (literally ‘completely enclosed’) or klibanophoroi (meaning ‘camp oven’; a humorous reference to how quickly these fully armoured men and horses would heat up!), both of which were adopted from their Sassanid Persian neighbours who spanned the Middle East between second and seventh centuries. Whilst such armour continued to be used in small numbers in the Byzantine Empire, this practice had died out in Western Europe long before.