The domestication of the horse in the fourth millennium BC altered the course of mankind's future. Formerly a source only of meat, horses now became the prime mode of fast transport as well as a versatile weapon of war. Carolyn Willekes traces the early history of the horse through a combination of equine iconography, literary representations, fieldwork and archaeological theory. She explores the ways in which horses were used in the ancient world, whether in regular cavalry formations, harnessed to chariots, as a means of reconnaissance, in swift and deadly skirmishing (such as by Scythian archers) or as the key mode of mobility. Establishing a regional typology of ancient horses – Mediterranean, Central Asian and Near Eastern – the author discerns within these categories several distinct sub-types. Explaining how the physical characteristics of each type influenced its use on the battlefield – through grand strategy, singular tactics and general deployment – she focuses on Egypt, Persia and the Hittites, as well as Greece and Rome. This is the most comprehensive treatment yet written of the horse in antiquity.
"The Horse in the Ancient World is aimed at a broad audience. Its unusual strength lies in Carolyn Willekes' attractive combination of academic expertise with considerable practical experience. This has produced a work of sound scholarship which is also accessible to the general reader. It should be an invaluable companion to classical specialists and equine enthusiasts alike; it is of good quality, and fills a gap in the current literature."
– Iain G Spence, former Associate Professor of Ancient History, Australian National University, author of The Cavalry of Classical Greece: A Social and Military History
"Carolyn Willekes' book is a most welcome addition to a growing list of publications devoted to ancient equestrian and cavalry studies. It is a richly informative work, giving ample evidence of the author's long personal experience with horses and equestrian activity. That she journeyed to Mongolia in search of the famous Steppe Pony gives her study a real life grounding and certainly attests her personal pluck. Throughout her book, Willekes stresses the close relationship between humans and horses since the domestication of the latter in the fourth millennium BC. Her chapters on the evolution of the horse and horse riding, and her clear categorization of horse types, are clear, concise and persuasive. Willekes' book should appeal to an audience far broader than just horse enthusiasts: she covers the use of the horse in war; in art (for example, offering a provocative interpretation of the Parthenon frieze); and in sports. She also includes lengthy translated excerpts of ancient Greek and Roman writers on what we would call "equine conformation". All in all, this is an enjoyable, well researched and nicely balanced introduction to the subject."
– Glenn R Bugh, Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Byzantine History, Virginia Tech, author of The Horsemen of Athens and editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Hellenistic World
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Carolyn Willekes holds degrees in classical studies from the University of Calgary and the University of Guelph. Her most recent publication is Horse Racing and Chariot Racing, co-authored with Sinclair Bell, in The Oxford Handbook of Animals in Classical Thought and Life (2013).