The Role of Horses in Ancient Greece
by: Sarah Kline
Horses have been an important, if not vital, part of most great societies. This fact was no less true in Ancient Greek society where horses were held on a level just below the gods. According to I. Menegatos, a lecturer from the Agricultural University of Athens, there were eight different breeds of Greek horses. All eight breeds were valued equally as "majestic or awe-inspiring beasts." This was especially true in scenes of battle. In Greek society, horses were highly valued for several reasons. The main reason rested with the fact that horses represented wealth. With good pasture so expensive, horses remained a symbol of wealth throughout all of Greek history. They were used mainly for the "essentially upper-class pastimes of hunting and racing in peacetime and for cavalry service during wartime." Although horses were generally purchased for use in the Greek cavalry, very little money came from the government for their upkeep. What did come was in the form of a loan, to be paid back upon the horse's death or loss of usefulness. Tremendous amounts of money went into the purchase and upkeep of these treasured animals. Money was spent to purchase the horse, to buy its armor, to buy a groom, and to maintain a stable or pay to board the horse at someone else's stable. All this, plus the everyday cost of food. In addition, money would need to be spent by the owner if ever the horse were to get sick or injured. Researchers have tried to estimate the costs incurred by these horse owners, but have managed only to come up with approximate prices for the grain ration fed daily. The figures they arrived at constituted a goodly sum back then. This was money that only a select few in the fourth century B.C. possessed. Breeding of these horses was an even more expensive venture than simply owning them, and was undertaken only by the extremely affluent. Eight breeds were cultivated in Ancient Greece: Thessaly,...
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