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Battlefield and racetrack: the changing role of horses in Thessalian society

Aston, E. ORCID: and Kerr, J. (2018) Battlefield and racetrack: the changing role of horses in Thessalian society. Historia, 67 (1). pp. 2-35. ISSN 0118-2311

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To link to this item DOI: 10.25162/HISTORIA-2018-0001


The Thessalians were famous in antiquity for their wealth and their horsemanship, and this might lead us to assume that Thessalians would feature strongly among recorded victors in pan-Hellenic equestrian competitions. However, such is not in fact the case: Thessalian participation is significantly outstripped by that of Athenians, Spartans and competitors from Magna Graecia, and there is an especially slight Thessalian presence among chariot victors. The present article seeks to explain this unexpected finding, with particular focus on the late Archaic and the Classical period. It does so with reference to the balance between utility and display. The communities most zealous in horse- and chariot-racing were those in which horses were first and foremost instruments of aristocratic self-representation. Thessaly was different: there the horse had an unusual degree of social ubiquity and was, above all, a useful animal, fundamental to military life and to the organisation of communities. The Thessalian case forces us to reconsider long-held scholarly truisms about the role of the horse as an emblem of status in the Greek world.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Classics
ID Code:57617
Publisher:Franz Steiner Verlag

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