Riders on high : an interdisciplinary study of the Macedonian cavalry of Alexander the Great

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Date

2004-05

Authors

Corrigan, Damaris Moore, 1961-

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Abstract

In the ancient world, the use of cavalry as a tactical arm of the military viii reached its zenith under Alexander the Great, who, like his father Philip II, used the cavalry in combination with his infantry phalanx. Despite its importance in the victories of Alexander, even in recent general studies of the Greek cavalry the Macedonian cavalry has received no detailed study. Since cavalry functions as a result of the partnership between trooper and horse, an interdisciplinary approach is warranted, combining a military historical with a hippological approach. Examined first is the type of horse suitable as a cavalry mount and the history of horses in Macedonia. The cavalry horse’s probable physiognomy determined, Alexander’s personal affinity for horses, his probable familiarity with Xenophon, the training he received from his father and therefore from the great Theban generals, and the hands-on experience he gained at the battle of Chaeronea are noted. Alexander’s major and minor battles in which cavalry played a significant role are examined in light of Alexander’s knowledge of horses. Finally, three problems unique to the Macedonian cavalry are explored: the lack of shields and implications of that deficiency, the size and maneuverability of the cavalry sarissa, and the distinct wedge formations and their advantages.

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