With good pasture land at a premium, horses remained synonymous with wealth
throughout all of Greek history. They were used principally for the essentially
upperclass pastimes of hunting and racing in peacetime and for cavalry service
during wartime. During the Trojan War the Homeric heroes on both sides rode
into battle in two-horse chariots and exchanged horses as high-status gifts.
At the beginning of the 6th century BC the second class of citizens in Athens,
the Hippeis (meaning "Knights"), were required to own horses and
to serve in the cavalry. The cavalry´s role remained fundamental to
Greek military tactics until the end of antiquity.
The value placed on horses is reflected in their role in art and religion.
Small bronze and terracotta votive horse figurines were used as the handles
on the lids of 8th century BC vases. At the Sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia and
elsewhere in the Geometric period, they were dedicated to the gods as surrogate
high-status gifts. They continue to figure prominently in coins
and art throughout Greek history. Click here for horses and their chariots.
Attic Black Figure Amphora (Fragments)
ca. 540&endash;530 BC
MS 4873a and MS 4873b
On one side, an armed Greek warrior gazes at his horse.(99k) The other
side depictes a Scythian with his grazing horse.(83k) Drawn by one of
the truly great masters of Greek vase painting, these small, warm&endash;blooded
and finely boned animals are the descendents of an equine type first
brought into the Mediterranean region in the early 2nd millennium BC
The Scythian attendant is dressed in stereotypical nomadic costume.
UM negs. 41406&endash;41407
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