Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece

Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece

Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece

Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece

Synopsis

"The achievements of Greek cavalry - hippeis - on the field of battle should be legendary. However, in most military histories of ancient Greece, the hoplite has received by far the most attention and praise. The modern preoccupation with the heavy infantry of Greece has led to a disregard of the important role played by cavalry. This book is the first to trace the history of Greek cavalry and offers a startling reassessment of the place of mounted troops in ancient Greek warfare. The first tentative steps toward creating cavalry began as early as the Mycenaean period. Around 1400 B. C., the Greeks began to mount warriors on horseback. The original intent was to gain mobility rather than power on the battlefield. But even at this early stage, some hippeis were equipped to fight mounted and were employed for their "shock" effect in battle. The early Archaic period saw the hippeis emerge preeminent on the battlefields of the Greek world. Cavalry played an important role in the first Messenian War and was decisive in the Lelantine War. Success led to specialization - heavy cavalry, light cavalry, and dragoons. Although the dominance of the hippeis was gradually eroded by the advent of the hoplite and the phalanx, the employment of cavalry actually increased in the Classical period. Boeotia, Athens, and Syracuse all fielded formidable mounted forces that played a vital role in the Peloponnesian War. Xenophon's mounted units enabled the "Ten Thousand" to escape the Persians and permitted Agesilaus to conduct a successful campaign in Asis Minor. Epaminondas used the charge of the Theban horse to open the fighting and gain victories at the battles of Leuctra and Mantinea. Philip and Alexander used their cavalry as the "hammer" of the Macedonian army in campaigns that won them dominance of Greece and crushed the Persian Empire. Leslie Worley's Hippeis restores the skilled horsemen of Greece to their rightful position in the history of the ancient world." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In modern works on the military history of ancient Greece, the hoplite has received far more attention and praise than any other warrior. To a degree, this focus is justly deserved because the heavily armed infantryman dominated the battlefields of the Greek world from the Archaic period until the rise of Philip II of Macedon and the Macedonian phalangite. At Marathon, Thermopylae, Plataea, and Cunaxa, the hoplite defeated both Persian infantry and cavalry; at Delium, Coronea, Leuctra, and Mantinea, hoplites were the principal soldiers in the opposing armies. When commanded by such leaders as Leonidas, Pausanias, Agesilaus, Epaminondas, and Pelopidas, the hoplite clearly demonstrated his prowess. And yet, other types of soldiers took part and contributed to victories as well: Lightarmed skirmishers known as peltasts played the dominant role at Sphacteria and Corinth, and cavalry was important at Delium, Leuctra, and Mantinea. The modern preoccupation with the hoplite has led to a disregard for or misunderstanding of the roles played by other types of soldiers on the battlefields of the Greek world. Greek cavalry has been especially subject to this neglect.

Although there is evidence that the Greeks used cavalry throughout the Archaic and Classical periods, many scholars and writers have ignored or discounted the Greek hippeis in their works. Capt. L. E. Nolan, writing in the nineteenth century, stated that "[while] the Athenians, and most of the Greeks imbibed a passion for beautiful horses and horse-racing ... it does not appear that the Greeks at this . . .

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