Monday, September 27, 2010

Xenophon Peri Hippikes - arms and armor for the rider, rider's posture

finishing this Xenophon's horsemanship work with a fragment of a mural (Alexandrovo) painting of Thracian horseman hunting wild boar and a vase painting of Odysseus stealing horses  at the bottom

Continuing from Chapter XI:


Of a horseman's armour and arms.

l. We wish also to show how he should be armed who prepares to encounter danger on horseback.

In the first place, then, we say that his coat of mail should be made to suit his body ; because the whole of the body supports one that fits well, but the shoulders only support one that is too loose; and one that is too tight is a prison, and not a coat of defence.
2. Since the neck, too, is one of the vital parts, we think that a covering should be made for it of the same shape with the neck, rising from the coat of mail; for it will not only be an ornament, but, if it be made as it ought to be, will cover the face of the rider, if he wishes, up to the nose.

3. As for the helmet, we consider that which is of Boeotian manufacture to be the best; for it protects most effectually all the parts above the corslet, and yet does not prevent the wearer from seeing.

The coat of mail, again, should be made in such a way that it may not prevent the horseman from sitting or stooping.

4. About the abdomen, too, and the parts below and around, there should be skirts of such a description and size as to protect the limbs.

5. Since, also, if the left hand should be hurt, it disables the rider, we recommend the armour which has been invented for it, and which is called the hand; for it protects the shoulder, the upper part of the arm, the elbow, and the portion of the arm next to the bridle, and can be either expanded or contracted ; and it also covers the part under the arm which is left unguarded by the coat of mail.

6. The right hand a rider must raise, when he wishes either to hurl a weapon or to strike a blow. Whatever portion of the coat of mail, therefore, would obstruct it, must be removed ; and if in its place a sort of flaps with joints be put, they will, when the arm is raised, unfold at the same time, and, when it is let down, will close.

7. As to the right arm, that sort of defence which is put on it like greaves on the leg appears to us to be better adapted for protecting it than that which is attached to the coat of mail; and the part of the arm which is exposed when the right hand is lifted up must be defended near the coat of mail, with a covering made of calf's skin or of brass; otherwise it will be left unguarded in a most dangerous place.

8. Since, too, if the horse is disabled, the rider will be in extreme peril, it is necessary to arm the horse also with defences for his head, his breast, and his shoulders ; for these assist likewise in guarding the rider's thighs. But of all parts of the horse we take most care to protect his belly, for it is at once a most vital and a most defenceless part; but it is possible to protect it by something connected with the housings.'

9. It is necessary, too, that that which covers the horse's back should be put together in such a way that the rider may have a firmer seat,'' and that the back of the horse may not be galled. As to other parts, also, both horse and horseman should be armed with the same precaution.3

10. The legs and feet will naturally hang down below the covering of the thighs; but these parts may be sufficiently protected, if a sort of boots be constructed for them of the leather of which sandals are made ; for such boots may be at once armour for the legs and shoes for the feet.

11. Such is the armour that may prove, if the gods be propitious, a defence against harm. But to inflict injury on an enemy, we recommend the short curved sword rather than the long straight one; for from a horseman, seated aloft, a blow from a curved sword will be more effective than one from a straight sword.

12. Instead of a reed-like spear, as it is weak and inconvenient to carry, we rather approve of two javelins of cornel wood; for a skillful thrower may hurl one of these, and use the other against assailants either in front, or flank, or rear. They are at once stronger than a spear, and more easily carried.

13. We approve of the hurling of a javelin from a great distance; for by that means more time is allowed for throwing it and for taking another weapon. We shall intimate in a few words how the javelin may be hurled with the greatest effect. If the rider advance his left side, at the same time drawing back his right, and rising on his thighs, and launch his weapon with its point directed a little upwards, he will thus send it with the greatest force and to the greatest distance ; and he will send it with the truest aim, if the point, as it is discharged, is directed steadily to the mark.

14. Let these admonitions, and instructions, and exercises be considered sufficient to be prescribed for a private individual. What it is proper for a commander of cavalry to know and to do, is set forth in another treatise.

Xenophon of horseridding - paces

Continuing from Chapter X:


Of teaching a horse his paces. How to make him assume showy attitudes.

1. But if a person wishes to possess a horse that is fit for processions, and of lofty and magnificent bearing, such qualities are not to be found in every horse, for he must be one that is of a noble spirit and strong frame.

2. But what some suppose, that a horse which has suppleness of leg will also be able to rear his body high, is not the case; the truth rather is, that it must be a horse which has flexible, short, and strong loins (we do not mean the part by the tail, but that which is between the ribs and the haunches, at the belly), for such a horse will be able to extend his hinder legs far forward under him. 3. If a rider, then, when the horse has his hind legs thus under him, should pull him up with the bridle, he rests his hinder parts on his heels, and rears up the fore part of his body, so that his belly is seen by those in front of him. But when he does this, it is proper to give him the bridle, that he may assume of his own accord the attitudes most graceful in a horse, and appear to the spectators to do so.

4. There are people who teach horses thus to rise, some by striking them on the fetlocks with a stick, some by directing a man, who runs at the side for that purpose, to hit them on the upper part of the legs.

5.We however consider it the best mode of instruction, as we are perpetually saying, that when ever a horse acts agreeably to the wishes of his rider, it should follow that he receive some indulgence from him.

6. For what a horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, he does without understanding, and with no more grace than a dancer would display if a person should whip and spur him during his performance; since both horse and man, when suffering such treatment, would exhibit more ungraceful than graceful gestures. But the rider ought to teach a horse by signs to assume of his own accord all his most beautiful and showy attitudes.

7. If, then, when he is exercised, he be ridden till he is quite in a perspiration, and the rider, as soon as he raises himself gracefully, dismounts and unbridles him, he may feel assured that the horse will always be ready to rear himself of his own accord.

8. It is upon horses of this kind that gods and heroes are painted riding, and men who are able to manage them skilfully are regarded as deserving of admiration.

9.So extremely beautiful, and admirable, and noble a sight is a horse that bears himself superbly, that he fixes the gaze of all who see him, both young and old; no one, indeed, leaves him, or is tired of contemplating him, as long as he continues to display his magnificent attitudes.

10. If it should ever happen to the possessor of such a horse to be a phylarch or hipparch, he ought not to make it his study that he alone may enjoy distinction, but rather that all the cavalry under his command may be deserving of admiration,

11. Should such a horse precede the rest, [as people esteem such horses most,] one that, as he advances, rears himself very high and very frequently, it is plain that the other horses would follow him at a slow pace ; but what striking attraction could there be in such a spectacle ?

12. If, however, while you animate your steed, you lead neither with too great quickness nor with too great slowness, but just as horses appear most lively and formidable, and best adapted for exertion, if, I say, you precede the other horses in this manner, the march of the whole troop will be uniform, and even the very neighing and snorting of the horses will be n concert, so that not only the commander himself, but the whole troop, will present an admirable spectacle.

13. If a person be fortunate in purchasing horses, and bring them up to be able to endure fatigue, and train them properly, not only in exercises for war, but in manoeuvres for parade, and in service in the field, what can prevent him, unless some god be adverse to his endeavours, from rendering his horses of far greater value than they were when he took them under his care, or from having not only estimable horses, but being himself greatly admired for his skill in the art of horsemanship.

Xenophon of horse ridding - bit, briddle and hand

Continuing the Horsemanship Chapter IX :


Of the proper management of the bit and bridle.

l. But whoever would desire to have a horse serviceable for war, and at the same time of a stately and striking figure to ride, must abstain from pulling his mouth with the bit, and from spurring and whipping him ; practices which some people adopt in the notion that they are setting their horses off; but they produce a quite contrary effect from that which they intend.

2. For by drawing the mouths of their horses up, they blind them when they ought to see clearly before them, and they frighten them so much by spurring and striking them, that they are confused and run headlong into danger ; acts which distinguish such horses as are most averse to being ridden, and as conduct themselves improperly and unbecomingly.

3. But if a rider teach his horse to go with the bridle loose, to carry his neck high, and to arch it from the head onwards, he would thus lead him to do everything in which the animal himself takes pleasure and pride.

4. That he does take pleasure in such actions, we see sufficient proof; for whenever he approaches other horses, and especially when he comes to mares, he rears his neck aloft, bends his head gallantly, throws out his legs with nimbleness, and carries his tail erect.

5. When a rider, therefore, can prompt him to assume that figure which he himself assumes when he wishes to set off his beauty, he will thus exhibit his steed as taking pride in being ridden, and having a magnificent, noble, and distinguished appearance.

By what means we consider that such results maybe attained, we will now endeavour to show.

6. First of all, then, it is necessary for a rider to have not less than two bits ; and of these let one be smooth, and have rings of a moderate size;' and let the other have rings that are heavy, and hang lower down, with sharp points;2 in order that, when the horse takes the latter into his mouth, he may be offended with its roughness, and consequently let it go, but when he finds it exchanged for the other, he may be pleased with its smoothness ; and that whatever he has been trained to do with the rough bit, he may do also with the smooth.

7. But if, from making light of it for its smoothness, he press upon it frequently with his teeth,1 we in that case add large rings to the smooth bit, that, being compelled by them to open his mouth, he may let go the bit. But it is possible to vary the rough bit in every way, by relaxing or tightening it.

8. But whatever sorts of bits are used, let them all be yielding ; for as to a stiff bit, wherever a horse seizes it, he has the whole of it fast between his teeth, as a person, when he takes up a spit, wherever he lays hold of it, raises up the whole.

9. But the other sort of bit is similar to a chain ; for of whatever part of it a person takes hold, that part alone remains unbent, but the rest hangs down. But as the horse is always catching at the part which escapes him in his mouth, he drops the bit out of his jaws ; and to remedy this inconvenience rings2 are suspended by the middle from the two parts of the bit,3 that while he catches at these with his tongue and his teeth, he may omit to seize the bit between his jaws.4

10. In case any one should be ignorant what flexibility, and rigidity, in a bit are, we will explain the terms ; for a bit is flexible when the two pnrts of it have broad and smooth joints, so as to be easily bent; and everything that is applied about these two parts, if it fit loosely, and not with a close grasp, conduces to flexibility; but if every part of the bit opens and closes with difficulty, it is to be called hard.

11. But whatever sort of bit is used, the rider must do everything with it in the manner which I have stated, if he wishes to make his horse such as has been described.

12. He must pull up the mouth of the horse neither too severely, so as to provoke him to shake himself free from it, nor too gently, so that he may be insensible to it. But when, on pulling him up, lie raises his neck, the rider must immediately give him the bridle. In other respects, too, as we do not cease to repeat, he must, whenever the horse has acquitted himself well, show him some indulgence.

13. When he perceives that the horse is pleased with carrying his head aloft, and with the looseness of the rein, he should then put him to nothing disagreeable, as if he would force him to exert himself, but should coax him, as if he wished him to be at ease; for thus he will feel greatly encouraged, and will advance of his own accord at a swift pace.

14. That a horse delights in going fast, there is sufficient proof; for no horse, on getting loose, goes off at a slow pace, but runs. With this speed he is naturally delighted, provided we do not compel him to run longer than is reasonable; for nothing whatever, immoderately protracted, is agreeable to either horse or man.

15. When the horse was brought to perform his exercise with grace, he was trained by us,1 we know, in the early part of his practice, to advance at full speed after sundry turns. But if any rider, when his horse has learned to do this, should rein him in, and give him at the same time a signal to hasten forward, the horse, being at once checked by the bridle, and incited to speed by the signal, will advance his chest, and lift his legs higher in anger, but not with ease; for horses, when they are annoyed, will assuredly not use their legs with greater agility and grace.

16. But if when he is thus animated, the rider gives him the bridle, he will then, from delight at supposing himself, on account of the looseness of the bit, freed from its restraint, bound forward with exultation, in a noble attitude, and with an easy motion of his limbs, and expressing in every gesture the grace with which he approaches other horses,

17. Persons who view such a horse pronounce him noble-spirited, prompt for action, fit for military exercise, high-mettled, superb, and at once pleasing and formidable to contemplate.

If any one desires such qualities in a horse, let what we have so far written serve as instructions for him.

Greek cavalry Ancient Riding Hellas

Xenophon o horse ridding -fierce and diffcult warhorse

Xenophon - Continuing from chapter VIII:


How fierce and high-mettled horses are to be managed.

l. The directions which I have given show how a person may best avoid being deceived in purchasing a colt or a fullgrown horse; how he is least likely to spoil him in putting him to use, more especially if he would produce a horse having all the qualities that a horseman requires for war. But perhaps it is now proper to state how a rider, if he ever happen to have a horse excessively fiery, or excessively sluggish, may treat either of them with the most success.

2. In the first place, then, he ought to know that spirit in a horse is what anger is in a man ; and as a person who should neither say nor do anything annoying to a man would be least likely to anger him, so the rider that does nothing to vex a high-spirited horse will be least likely to provoke him.

3. Accordingly he must be careful, even from the very time that he mounts such a horse, not to discompose him as he takes his seat; and when he is fairly seated, he should allow him to stand quiet for a longer time than a horse of ordinary spirit,1 and then direct him to go forward with the gentlest possible intimations. Beginning to proceed, too, at the slowest pace, he should bring him into a quicker one, in such a manner, that the horse may be as little sensible as possible that he is accelerating his course.

4. But whatever a rider requires a spirited horse to do suddenly, the unexpected sights, or sounds, or sensations, consequent upon it, annoy him, as they would annoy a passionate man ; and it is necessary to bear in mind that everything sudden produces perplexity in a horse.

5. If therefore you wish to rein in a spirited horse when he is going faster than is necessary, you must not check him suddenly, but pull him in with the bridle gently, coaxing, and not forcing him, to slacken his pace.

6. Long rides in a direct course, too, soothe horses more than frequent short turnings ; and long gentle rides also soften and tame, and do not exasperate, the high-mettled horse.

7. But if any one imagines that if he rides at a hard pace for a long distance, he will render his horse gentle by fatiguing him, he supposes what is quite contrary to experience ; for a highspirited horse, in such circumstances, uses his utmost endeavours to get the better by force and with anger, like an angry man, and often does irreparable mischief both to himself and to his rider.

s. It is proper also to check a high-mettled horse from galloping at full speed, and to abstain altogether from matching him with other horses ; for horses that grow fond of contending against others become also the most refractory.

9. Smooth bits are more eligible for such a horse than rough. If a rough bit be used, we ought to assimilate it tc a smooth one by keeping it slack.1 It is well, too, for the rider to accustom himself to sit quiet on a fiery-spirited horse, and to touch him as little as possible with anything else2 besides those parts of the body with which we necessarily touch him in order to sit secure.

10. A rider should know, also, that it is a rule to moderate a horse's pace with a sort of whistle, and to urge him forward with a clucking sound; yet that if a person should from the first move him to gentle exertions with a clucking sound, and to more difficult efforts with a whistle, he would learn to quicken his pace at the whistle, and to moderate it at the cluck.

U. Likewise, when a shout is raised, or a trumpet sounded, a person should not appear to a horse to be at all disturbed, or approach him with anything that may alarm him, but should, under such circumstances, use his utmost efforts to pacify him, and, if convenient, should bring him his morning or evening feed.

12. It is a very judicious piece of advice, too, not to purchase a very high-mettled horse for service in war. As to a sluggish horse, it appears to me sufficient to observe, that a rider must treat him in a manner quite contrary to that in which we recommend him to treat a horse of high spirit.

* This observation is most just. It is from the manner of managing them alone that bits are easy or severe to the mouth of the horse; other wise, as the Duke of Newcastle says, the bit-makers would be the best horsemen. Berenger.

' We should not touch him, for instance, with the spear or javelin.

Xenopon on horse ridding - making a warhorse

Xenophon Peri Hippikes - continuing from chapter VI:


How a horse is to be taught to leap. How he is to be prepared for military service.

1. Since there will be occasions when the horse will have to run up and down sloping and hilly grounds, and along the sides of hills, when he will have to leap over obstacles., and to spring up and down, the rider must train and exercise both himself and his horse completely in all these maneuvers; for thus they will be likely to contribute more to the safety and advantage of each other. 2. If any one thinks that we are merely repeating ourselves, because we now make mention of the same things that we mentioned before,1 let him understand that this is not a repetition ; for we then exhorted H. horseman, when he purchased a horse, to try whether the animal could perform such exercises ; but now we say that he must teach his own horse, and are going to prescribe how he must teach him.

3. He that has got a horse utterly inexperienced in leaping over ditches must, after slackening the leading-rein, go over the ditch first, and must then pull him on with the rein, that he may take the leap. 4. If he will not leap, another person must take a whip or a switch, and apply it on him smartly, when he will not only leap over the required space, but much further than is necessary; and afterwards there will be no need to strike him, for if he only sees some one coming behind him, he will leap.

5. When he has thus been trained to leap, let the rider mount him, and take him first to small, and then to larger ditches. Just as he is going to leap, let the rider touch him with the spur. Let him spur him, too, when he is teaching him to leap up and down from any height; for if the horse does all these things with an impulse2 of his whole body, he will do them with more safety to himself and his rider than if his hinder parts lag either in leaping over an object or in springing up or down.

6. To make him go down steep places, we must begin to train him on soft ground; and at length, when he is accustomed to this, he will run much more readily down a slope than up it. As to what some people fear, that horses will dislocate their shoulders in being ridden down steep places, let them be under no apprehension, when they are told that the Persians and the Odrysae (Thracians) all ride as fast as they can down steep hills, and yet have horses not less sound than those of the Greeks.

7. Nor will we omit to mention how the rider must accommodate himself to each of these particular circumstances ; for he ought, when his horse suddenly raises himself for a leap, to lean forward (since by that means the horse will feel less pressure on his hinder parts,1 and will be less likely to shake the rider), and, as he pulls in the reins when the horse alights, he must throw himself back, for he will thus be less jolted.

8. As the horse is leaping over a ditch, or stretching up an ascent, it is well for the rider to take hold of the mane that the horse may not be oppressed by the difficulty of the ground and by the bit at the same time ; but in going down a declivity, he should hold himself back, and support the horse with the bridle, that himself and his horse may not be carried headlong down the slope.

9. It is right, also, to exercise the horse sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, sometimes for a longer and sometimes for a shorter period; for this will be less disagreeable to the horse than to be always exercised in the same place and for the same length of time.

10. Since it is necessary, too, for him who rides his horse at full speed over all sorts of ground to be able to sit firmly on him, and to know how to use his arms on horseback dexterously, the practice of horsemanship in hunting is to be commended, where the country is favourable, and wild beasts to be found; but where these conveniences do not offer themselves, it is a good sort of exercise for two horsemen to make such an arrangement as this: that the one is to retreat over ground of a varied character, and, as he flees, is to turn about from time to time and present his spear, while the other is to pursue, carrying javelins blunted with balls, and a spear prepared in the same manner ; and whenever the pursuer comes within a javelin's throw of the pursued, he is to discharge his blunted javelins at him, and, whenever he gets within the stroke of a spear, to strike him as he is overtaken.

11. It is well for a horseman, also, if he close with an enemy, to pull his enemy towards him, and then suddenly push him away ; for this treatment is likely to unhorse him. On the other hand, it is well for him who is thus dragged to urge his horse forward; for by this means he is more likely to throw off his antagonist than to fall off himself.

12. If, on any occasion, when two camps are pitched opposite, the cavalry ride out against one another, and one party pursue their adversaries close up to their main body, and then retreat to their own, it is good for a rider to know that in such circumstances, as long as he is near his friends, it is right and safe to wheel about among the foremost, and charge the enemy at full speed; but he must take care, as he comes close upon them, to have his horse under control; -for, by acting with such caution, he will be in the best condition, as is probable, to injure the enemy and to escape injury from them.

13. The gods have enabled men to teach other men by speech what they ought to do. As for a horse, it is certain that you can teach him nothing by speech; but if, when he does what you wish, you gratify him in some way in return, and, when he is disobedient, make him feel punishment, he will thus effectually learn to obey you in what is required of him. u. This we may express, indeed, in a few words, but it should influence us throughout all our treatment of horses; for a horse will more readily take the bit, if, when he has taken it, something pleasant results to himself ; and he will leap across ditches, and jump over obstacles, and comply with our wishes in all other respects, if he looks forward, when he has done what is required of him, to some indulgence.

' As they wheel round, it will be proper for him to be among the foremost to charge the enemy. It will be proper for him to be in the rear when his party is retreating, and to be consequently foremost when they turn about to make a charge.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Persian horse bits in my sketches and rhytons from Armenia

I have been playing with some pen  drawings of the  horse bits of the Achaemenid and Sassanian Persia.

First sketch  is a rather frivolous interpretation, the historic bit is an actual find from Greece, evidenced in the Alexander mosaic (  mossaic  ). In this drawing of a  horse bit from the Achaemenid period (a sample of the actual Apadana Persepolis  horse bridle I gave on this blog here ), the two long cheek pieces  end  with a calf head, like in the Vouni treasure, Cyprus.  achemenet Vouni_Treasure

Second sketch (titled sketch I)  is of a Sassanian cub-bit ( shown in this example of Sassanian metal plate  ) and two horse heads with a device, that had been used along with a snaffle-bit, in a from of a metal cavesson-like device attached to the headstall, going over the nose and under the chin.

Finally the above amazing Achaemenid rhyton (  wikipedia Rhyton ) from the 'Fortress of Blood' aka Arin Berd (Erebuni   Erebuni_Fortress ) in Armenia (Urartu),  its picture  found at wikimedia Achaemenid_Goblet_Erebuni
shall become my next 'serious' reconstruction attempt, along with another Erebuni  rhyton with a horse  Achaemenid Goblet02  , and also some terracotta horse-shaped vessels from Achaemenid Village (Susa) dated to the V century BCE/BC.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Achaemenid asabāra - hippeis - horseman

 a light asabāra (horseman) of Ancient Persia - the Achaemenid Persian Empire, perhaps of  the IV century BCE. He wields two 'palta' ( javelins), as Xenophon said one for throwing and one for hand to hand combat, and those in the course of the Alexander of Macedon invasion of 330s BCE were replaced by much longer ones, in the fashion of Macedonian cavalry. He alsohas a longer sword , double tunic, pants and soft leather shoes (calf length).

two Achaemenid coins from the period
rider I
 rider II
 they clearly show crenelated mane, jagged edges shabraque, tied horse tail, javelin or spear,  tied forelock on a horse's forehead (eg from Apadana Relief Vth century BCE  .
more armored Achaemenid rider from Çana today's Turkey
Here from an early rider on a splendid horse Phrygia phrygia duver_rider
 Some interesting publications on the Achamenid Empire are at the Univ. of chicago persia site
And this scholarly website is just 'fabuloso' - by great French professor Pierre Briant -
Asb or equus caballus /horse in ancient Iran - asb-horse-equus-cabullus
An acrylic sketch with GIMP cartoon filter to be more worked on.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Remembering September 1939

September is always a month of sorrow for the Slavic and Jewish people of East-Central Europe, because during that sad month of 1939 Hitler and Stalin invaded Republic of Poland causing mayhem and destruction of unheard proportions, and starting World War II. For the Slavs and our 'Slavic' Jews this time was the time of genocide and Holocaust. Some 35 million Slavs and Slavic Jews were murdered, killed in action and died in course of this atrocious war. My own family suffered tremendous losses, menfolk being killed right and left while women and children were left to fend of for themselves, malnourished and abused by their Nazi German (and later Soviet)  occupiers.
Also let us remember of the millions of fine horses that perished during that war, serving their masters. World War II saw the last cavalry warfare  on large scale, modern mechanized war made horses obsolete in war.
In our Slavic pre-Christian tradition and religion our trees were sacred (as with the ancient Germanic peoples), especially oaks groves,  and I am attaching a drawing of a tree that might have been subject of my ancestors reverence and worship (although I also have Armenian ancestors as well). eg Slavic gods Weles Veles Perun in Russian Stvarog in Russian

Let us remember September 1939 and never forget our fallen people.

I would like to welcome all new followers - hope to keep you interested in the weeks to come :)