February 13, 2013
Trinity University, Great Hall (Chapman Center)
Dr. Carolyn Willekes, University of Calgary
AIA Kress Foundation Lecturer
The history of the horse is closely intertwined with that of humans. Equids have played an indispensable role in the evolution of human culture for thousands of years. By far the most significant role fulfilled by the horse has been on the battlefield. In the field of military history the study of cavalry is a popular subject. The majority of this work, however, focuses on cavalry tactics and logistics. Research on ancient cavalry has long followed the same trends as other work on warfare in antiquity. Painstaking attention is given to the minute details of a battle or campaign: supply lines, climate, topography, arms and armour, strategies and tactics. Nonetheless, military historians have habitually overlooked one very important component of warfare in antiquity: the horse.
Cavalry units are arbitrarily defined as ‘heavy’ or ‘light,’ but there is not a standard definition for what this terms designate. Their meaning changes between cultures and centuries. Furthermore, very little attention is devoted to the horse himself. All military equines are lumped together in one mould. Rarely do analyses of cavalry tactics mention, let alone discuss, how equine behaviour and conformation influenced weaponry, armour and fighting style. It is, however, only by establishing how horse type (form) influenced military use (function) that we can truly examine and understand the tactics and details of cavalry battles.
In this paper Dr. Willekes uses equine iconography, literary descriptions, material remains, native breeds and experimental archaeology to establish the regional typology of horses found in the ancient world. These types are categorized as Mediterranean, Northern European, Central Asian, Near Eastern and North African. Having introduced these types, she will explain how the physical form (conformation) of each type influenced its use on the battlefield. Further, this paper will explore the notion that culture-specific tactics and armament developed as a result of particular equine idiosyncrasies found within each type. Finally, the potential strengths and weaknesses of the types will be discussed in relation to their training, maintenance and military use.
Short bibliography on lecture topic
Anderson, J.K. Ancient Greek Horsemanship. University of California Press: 1961.
Hildinger, E. Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia. Da Capo Press: 2001.
Clutton-Brock, J. Horse Power: A History of the Horse and Donkey in Human Societies. Harvard
University Press: 1992
Gaebel, R.E. Cavalry Operations in the Ancient World. University of Oklahoma Press: 2002.
Greenhalgh, P.A.L. Early Greek Warfare: Horsemen and Chariots in the Homeric and Archaic Ages.
Cambridge University Press: 1973.
Hyland, A. (2003), The Horse in the Ancient World. Praeger Publishers: 2003
Hyland, A. Equus: The Horse in the Roman World. B.T. Batsford Ltd.: 1990.
Speidel, M. Riding for Caesar: The Roman Emperors’ Horse Guard. Harvard: 1994
Spence, I. The Cavalry of Classical Greece: A Social and Political History. Clarendon Press: 1995.
Worley, L. J. Hippeis: The Cavalry of Ancient Greece. Westview Press: 1994.
Dr. Willekes’ CV
Dr. Willekes received her PhD in Greek and Roman Studies from the University of Calgary, Department of Greek and Roman Studies in Summer 2012. Her dissertation Title was ‘From Steppe to Stable: A History of Horses and Horsemanship in the Ancient World.’ She has been an instructor at the University of Calgary since 2007, presenting courses in ‘Ancient Civilizations: Asia and the Steppes’; ‘Introduction to Greece and Rome’; and the ‘Mystery of Ancient Civilizations.’
Bell, S. and Willekes, C. ‘Horse Racing and Chariot Racing’ In G. Campbell (ed). The Oxford Handbook of Animals in Classical Thought and Life. Oxford University Press. (In progress)
Heckel, W., Willekes, C., and Wrightson, G. ‘Scythed Chariots at Gaugamela.’ In E. Carney and D. Ogden (eds). Philip II and Alexander the Great: Father and Son, Lives and Afterlives. Oxford University Press 2010.
Westra H.J. and Willekes, C. ‘Memory, Myth and History in the Athenian Funeral Oration: The Collusion between Orator and Public in the Discourse of Commemoration.’ In I. van der Heyden and A. Feldtkeller (eds).
‘Border Crossings: Explorations of an Interdisciplinary Historian.’ Festschrift for Irving Hexham. Franz Steiner Verlag 2008.
Gaitpost Magazine. ‘From Steppe to Stable, Part 2’. November, 2010. http://www.gaitpost.com/Equestrian-Article.aspx?ARTICLE_ID=916
Gaitpost Magazine. ‘From Steppe to Stable, Part 1’. August 2010.
Curator for the ‘National Tournament’ and ‘North American Tournament’ Feature Exhibit at Spruce Meadows. Exhibit:’ Warhorse to Sport Horse.’ June-July, 2011. ftp://ftp.sprucemeadows.com/Tournament%20Guide/NorthAmericanTD2011/P12NorthAm11.pdf
Curator and guide for the ‘Agrium Growing the Next Generation/ Spruce Meadows School Tours’ program at Spruce Meadows. Exhibit: ‘Warhorse to Sport Horse.’ http://www.sprucemeadows.com/education_programs.jsp
PhD fieldwork in Turkey. July-September 2010.
Curator and guide for the ‘Agrium Growing the Next Generation/ Spruce Meadows School Tours program at Spruce Meadows.’ The History of the Horse. June 7-13, 2010.