Cheiron: Vol. 1/Issue 1 (2021)


ISSN 2786-3182 

Editors-in-Chief: Anastasija Ropa, Miriam A. Bibby 

Guest Editor: Katherine S. Kanne 

Vol.  1 (Issue 1/2021, November)

Pages 1-239

DOI: 10.22618/TP.Cheiron.20211.1

About this issue

Trivent Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of the first issue of Cheiron: the International Journal of Equine and Equestrian History.  The history of horses and horsemanship has fascinated scholars for decades, but this is the first academic journal dedicated to the history of this magnificent animal - the only non-human animal athlete granted participation in the Olympic Games - and its interactions with humankind. In this first issue, we look at the historiography of equine and equestrian studies, with contributions that reflect the vibrant research environment that encompasses equine history, archaeology and social sciences today.

 You can read this issue in open access





What Makes a Horse a Horse? Configurational Aspects of Ancient Egyptian Equines

Lonneke Delpeut

Abstract: We expect depictions of things we know to contain certain elements. These elements depend on our experience, our visual requirements, culture, upbringing, and so on. For example, in order to recognise a certain subject, a degree of realism is expected. If these requirements are not met, either we are unable to correctly identify the subject as the intended subject, or we project our expectations and attribute the lack thereof as mistakes, inabilities, or lack of knowledge of the author. This bias is predominantly present in the analysis of ancient Egyptian images (and texts, for that matter) and is inappropriate. In order to correctly understand the intentions of the creator and the image, we need to understand their cultural properties, their pictorial system, and, most importantly, the function of the image. This article will look at depictions of horses from ancient Egypt, taking their function as a starting point, and discuss their configurational aspects in terms of the function of the image. 

Horse Burial in Lombard Italy: Crossing Cultural and Afterlife Boundaries in Social Representation

Irina Mattioli

Abstract: The custom of horse burial, of foreign extraction, was carried across the Italian borders by the Lombards during their migration in 568 AD. The buried horses are linked to a variety of human remains: not only warriors, but also young women, adult males without weapons, and men who did not possess the osteological markers of warriors. The focus is on one of the most interesting examples in Lombard Italy, the necropolis of Spilamberto, due to the unique association of horses with young ladies. This paper argues that the horses buried in the Italian Lombard necropolises (late sixth / seventh century), were cultural symbols borrowed from the warfare sphere, but primarily used, in death, as emblems of unique status, whether or not there was a factual involvement in warfare-matters during life.

The Horse Behind the Text: Animal Agency in Early Medieval Historiography

Marieke Röben

Abstract: Early medieval authors frequently used horses as narrative devices. Therefore, when working with historiographical sources, one is confronted with a vital question: how can we reconstruct the horses’ agency without knowing whether their depiction is a mere narrative device? Combining praxeological approaches with the analysis of narrative structures, this paper offers a glance “beyond the text.” It shows how analysing the underlying knowledge of the medieval reader contributes to reconstructing a contemporary image of early medieval horses and their (perceived) agency in human society and thereby develops a new perspective for the future of historical human-animal studies.

The Use of Horses in The History by Georgios Akropolites: A Comparison with Historia Romana by Nikephoros Gregoras

Alexia-Foteini Stamouli

Abstract: The short historiographical text by Georgios Akropolites (1217-1282 CE) covers the period of the Latin conquest of the Byzantine Empire. Due to the important position the author held, and his participation in some of the events narrated, his History is a valuable source. This paper concerns the information Akropolites provides about horses, and compares his work with the part of the historiographical text Historia Romana by Nikephoros Gregoras (c. 1292/1295–1358/1361 CE) that describes the same period. Most of the equestrian references consist of details of the kinds of horses used by various people during wars. Akropolites provides more information about the empire of Nicaea, and delivers further interesting details and descriptions concerning horses.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Medieval Warhorse

Carly Ameen, Gary Paul Baker, Helene Benkert, Camille Vo Van Qui, Robert Webley, Robert Liddiard, Alan K. Outram, Oliver H. Creighton

Abstract: The warhorse is arguably the most characteristic animal of the English Middle Ages. But while the development and military uses of warhorses have been intensively studied by historians, the archaeological evidence is too often dispersed, overlooked or undervalued. Instead, we argue that to fully understand the cultural significance and functional role of the medieval warhorse, a systematic study of the full range of archaeological evidence for warhorses (and horses more generally) from medieval England is necessary. This requires engagement with material evidence at a wide variety of scales — from individual artefacts through to excavated assemblages and landscape-wide distributions — dating between the late Saxon and Tudor period (c. AD 800–1600). We present here a case study of our interdisciplinary engaged research design focusing upon an important English royal stud site at Odiham in Hampshire. This brings together several fields of study, including (zoo)archaeology, history, landscape survey, and material culture studies to produce new understandings about a beast that was an unmistakable symbol of social status and a decisive weapon on the battlefield.

Towards an Economic History of the Horse in the Mediterranean Area during the Middle Ages: What Perspectives?

Clothilde Noé

Abstract: Studying the economic and non-economic exchanges of the horse in the Mediterranean area during the Middle Ages is a recent phenomenon in history. Indeed, while the trade and circulation of many products in the Mediterranean region, notably sugar, for example, have received substantial attention, equids have remained of surprisingly marginal interest. However, many indicators reveal their historical trading patterns as well as other reasons for the exchange of equids throughout the Mediterranean region. Economic, political, military, and diplomatic histories merge to provide precious information which helps to explain the commercialization of this emblematic animal of the Middle Ages. The aim of this paper is to establish an inventory of historical studies about the exchange of horses in the Mediterranean area, and to contextualise the horse as a real object of historical interest within the topics of exchange and movement of commodities.

Arabians in the Architecture: Historiographic Implications of Misidentification 

Miriam A Bibby

Abstract: The Arabian, or more correctly, Arab horse, is widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential horse breeds in the world. Enthusiasts of the breed admire its beauty and its quality of endurance. They also frequently claim it has a long and influential history, some suggesting this dates back to the days of the kings of Egypt, if not beyond.  It is the historiographical aspect with which this paper intends to engage, arguing that some key examples currently identified as Arab(ian) horses are not Arabs at all. This has created long-standing issues with the literature on the breed and its history, as well as affecting our understanding of the origins of other breeds.

Al-Khamsa: The Prophet’s Mares – Or Were They Stallions?

Hylke Hettema

Abstract: Arab(ian) horse enthusiasts perpetuate an origin legend for the breed that counts five foundational mares in relation to Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Challenging both the concept of a gender preference for mares among Bedouin and/or Arab people in the early Islamic empire as well as the popular historiography of the Arab horse as a Bedouin breed promoted by Islam and in particular its prophet, this paper contextualises Al-Khamsa (the five) as evidence of matrilineal horse breeding strategy by surveying premodern Arabic material on horses.  

Politics and Pedigrees: America’s Cold War–Era Arabian Horse Registration Debacle

Tobi Lopez Taylor

Abstract: Between 1963 and 1965, the first seven Soviet Russian–bred Arabians arrived in the US. Only one of these horses—the well-known Naborr—was accepted for registration at that time by the Arabian Horse Club Registry of America (AHCRA). The remainder were denied registration for various reasons, stated and unstated, including issues with their paperwork, questions about the “purity” of their bloodlines, and the trustworthiness of Russians. In 1978, the AHCRA finally lifted the ban. This paper examines how changing attitudes toward Russia influenced Americans’ views of Russian Arabians, culminating in a Russian-bred stallion being named 1980 US and Canadian National Champion Stallion. 

Riding for Health and Pleasure: A Brief Historical Overview with Reference to Latvia in the Baltic Region

Anastasija Ropa, Ludmila Malahova

Abstract: Throughout premodern history, horses were used primarily for labour and transportation, as well as in the military sphere. With the advent of motorized vehicles and other means of transport, the emphasis shifted to using horses in sport as well as for leisure. This article begins by examining briefly the few pre-modern European sources that mention riding as health-promoting and pleasurable activity, continues with a discussion of the more numerous and detailed references to the benefits of riding in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century sources and concludes with an overview of the rise of riding therapy and recreational riding in Germany and the Baltics in the twentieth century.


Goulder, Jill. Working Donkeys in 4th-3rd Millennium BC Mesopotamia: insights from modern development studies

Review by Katherine S. Kanne

Magnin, Frédéric, ed. Une école d’équitation à la fin de la Renaissance. Le traité inédit du sieur de Lugny (1597)

Review by Anastasija Ropa

Duncan, Sarah. Privileged Horses: The Italian Renaissance Court Stable

Review by Anastasija Ropa

Specific References

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