Albatros Fighters in action by John F. Connors

By John F. Connors


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Jealousy could be said to be the driving impulse. The same mentality that gave us the Olympic games drove citizens to seek to outdo each other in time of warfare also. But to be valid, such competition had to be seen as fair. With the majority of citizens fighting as hoplites, it is easy to see how those who turned up on horseback might be seen as somehow cheating. 6 During much of the Archaic period most city states probably still fielded cavalry. There are plenty of vase paintings of mounted warriors, 28 WARHORSE including several that are well armoured with breastplates, helmets and greaves, from Athens and Corinth.

Heavily armoured lancers formed the core of the Parthian armies that for three centuries thwarted the might of Rome. From the first domestication of the horse onwards, the influence of steppe peoples upon the development of cavalry was enormous. With regard specifically to heavy cavalry we can see the influence of the steppe was greater than has often been appreciated, but it remains true that light cavalry remained more characteristic of those cultures, while heavy cavalry was more often associated with urbanized ones.

For Syrian and country-bred stallions'. 22 It is undeniable, however, that a smaller mount imparts less of a height advantage in close combat and less of a psychological effect on the target of its charge. Saddles as we know them did not exist in the Classical period and all the artistic evidence suggests that the rider sat on a simple blanket secured by a surcingle and breast strap. This being the case, it will be readily understood why Xenophon warns that a horse must be 'double spined': that the spine is naturally padded by well-developed ridges of muscle and flesh either side.

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