Xenophon and the ancient Greek cavalry horse: an equestrian perspective
Greer, Adelia Anne
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The origins of this thesis lie in my appreciation, because of my own equestrian background, of Xenophon’s Art of Horsemanship and the Cavalry Commander. As the research progressed, I was surprised that classical scholars skirted around questions concerning the ancient Greek cavalry: their horses, their equipment, and their horsemanship. The standard views on the ineffectiveness of the Greek cavalry, I felt, needed to be reconsidered from an equestrian standpoint, which, in turn, would give a greater understanding of the role and effectiveness of this branch of the ancient Greek military forces. Four primary research topics are at the core of this thesis. The first deals with the physical characteristics of the ancient Greek horse. Using archaeological and artistic evidence, I challenge assumptions made by many scholars about the size of the ancient Greek cavalry horse. The second topic explores the equestrian equipment utilised by the ancient Greek cavalry. The standard view that the lack of saddles, stirrups and horseshoes made the cavalry an ineffective fighting force is challenged. Using both Xenophon’s Art of Horsemanship and the Cavalry Commander, the third topic compares ancient Greek horsemanship with modern theories on horsemanship. This exploration reveals not only the depth of Xenophon’s equestrian knowledge and its relevance today, but also his profound understanding of the physical and psychological workings of the horse. The fourth topic combines the findings of the first three in order to offer a new perspective on the effectiveness and value of the ancient Greek cavalry. It is hoped that my conclusions will be used as a springboard for further study and will lead to a greater appreciation of the cavalry as an important and necessary arm of the ancient Greek military.