Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>585BC Greek hippeus
Subject: ἱππεύς cavalry warrior
Culture: Archaic-Classical Greek
Setting: Greece 7-5thcBC

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Bennett 1998 p151
"hippeis (Greek 'horsemen') aristocracy of Greek city-states, so called because they were able to afford horses and chariots and later provided the cavalry. Homer uses the term to mean 'charioteers'."

* Rogers 2012 p206
"Aristotle thought that cavalry had once formed the Greeks' main fighting force, but he was probably mistaken.  The hippeis (knights) retained their upper-class status in Athens, but lack of decent pasture always prevented cavalry from dominating warfare in Greece proper.  Horses remained a luxurious status symbol.  The Spartans, egalitarian in their militaristic way, used horses only to carry hoplites into battle.  Cavalry was at times employed for scouting and to harry or pursue defeated infantry, but its total numbers remained small."

* Esposito 2020 p142
"Those citizens who were too rich to serve as hoplites and had sufficient economic resources to maintain a horse served as cavalrymen in the army of their city.  Since these individuals were generally very few in each city, numbering between 100 and 200, the cavalry contingents of the Greek poleis were usually quite small.  It could happen, however, that these rich citizens might decide to serve the same as hoplites like the rest of their comrades, in which case they would use their horses only to travel long distances and not employ them during battles.  As a result, those richer hoplites acted as a sort of mounted infantry and had greater mobility than the normal hoplites: they could move much more rapidly and could be easily deployed where needed during a battle.  This made them elite soldiers, moving as cavalry but fighting as infantry.  The 300 royal guardsmen of Leonidas who fought the Persians at the pass of Thermopylae probably belonged to this little-known category of mounted hoplites.  They ahd the same personal equipment of the standard hoplites but did not have proper cavalry training.  In contemporary ancient Rome, around 500BC, the whole cavalry was composed of mounted hoplites, who dismounted to fight; in Greece the situation was different, because ... some 'proper' cavalry,' fighting on horseback, always existed."

* Greenhalgh 1973 p147
"Corinthian and Attic vases depict mounted hoplites throughout the seventh and sixth centuries (or at least until the middle of the sixth century in the case of Corinth, whose ceramic evidence then disappears). The evidence for the warfare of other states is much poorer, but what there is attests mounted hoplites elsewhere both in Old Greece and in the colonies of the East and West. For Sparta there is at least one representation which suggests that the name of the royal bodyguard of classical times derived from /Hippeis who were mounted hoplites in the seventh century. In seventh-century Euboea, our reconstruction of the warfare of the Eretrian Hippeis and the Chalcidian Hippobotae indicates that they rode to battle and fought on foot, probably in hoplite panoply and close formation but relying on the sword rather than the thrusting-spear at close quarters. For a state which was most probably a Greek colony only in the West, the 'Chalcidian' pottery attests mounted hoplites in the second half of the sixth century, and it may also reflect a style of warfare which colonists had taken to the West from Euboea. For East Greece the evidence is not so explicit, but it is clear that the wealthy occupants of the painted sarcophagi fought as hoplites, and there are indications that they rode to war. The personal advantages of riding to war accompanied by a mounted squire are not limited to those who intend to fight from horseback. And there are obvious strategical advantages for states with a class of horse-owning gentry sufficiently large to mount a whole phalanx."

* Kadoglou 2018 March-April p23
"Like the hoplites, the hippeis provided their own horses and their own weapons. They were responsible for the proper training of their horses, and apparently were free to select their own armour and weapons. Xenophon has nothing to suggest about how the men must be equipped in his Cavalry Commander. In contrast, he goes into great detail in his On Horsemanship, which advises the cavalrymen themselves. It seems the cavalry force of Athens was neither a shock nor a missile force, and we cannot categorise it as either heavy or light cavalry. It was all of the above at once, depending of the equipment and armor of the men."


* Cassin-Scott 1977 p39 (describing a Greek cavalryman during the Persian wars)
"With all the trappings of the hoplite, the heavy cavalryman was able to fulfil the roles of infantryman and horseman.  Often these elite cavalrymen cum hoplites would ride to the site of the battle then dismount and fight on foot.  The equipment and arms were the same as those of a hoplite with the exception of the shield; a cavalryman never carried one [CONTRA Ashdown 1909 p28].  The type of helmet worn by this cavalryman was known as 'Attic', after the Goddess Athene.  As all the equipment was purchased by the soldiers themselves, there was very little uniformity."

​* Kadoglou 2018 March-April p23-24
"The horsemen themselves, as immortalised on funerary stelae, on pottery, and (most prominently) the Parthenon frieze, might shed some light on the equipment of choice.  Their attire is typically the Thessalian style of a broad brimmed petasos hat and a short cloak, the chlamys.  Often the horseman wears nothing else, except perhaps a chiton under his cloak.  Occasionally he might be shown wearing a spolas or a bronze muscled cuirass, and perhaps one of the open type of helmets, chacidian or attic, with hinged cheek guards that leave the face uncovered, and cut-out ear holes.  Often instead of a petasos or helmet, the horseman adopts Thracian style and wears a fox skin.  Indeed, Thracian attire was very popular among horsemen from the middle of the fifth century onwards, consisting of the alopeke (the fox fur hat), the Thracian cloak with characteristic geometric designs, and tall riding boots with fur flaps hanging from the upper lip.  Greaves are very rarely depicted in Greek art, although reenacting experience shows that they are not prohibitively restrictive when riding."


* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/LaRocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p21-22 (Peter Connolly, "Greece and Rome" p20-29)
"[F]rom about 500 BC a new type of sword quite unlike the hoplite weapon began to appear.  This was the kopis, a single-edged weapon with a slightly S-shaped cutting edge.  Few examples have been found in Greece but a large number have come to light in Italy and Corsica.  Most of the vases that show this type of sword also come from Italy, which suggests an Italian origin, or perhaps an Asiatic one via Etruscan contacts in the East.  Examples from the Etruscan colony of Aleria in Corsica have blades about 24ins/60 cm long, broadest about three-quarters of the way down.
    ​"The kopis was a heavy hacking or chopping weapon and must have been devastating in hand-to-hand combat.  By the same token, it was entirely unsuitable for phalangite tactics.  In Italy it appears to have had a comparatively short life, probably disappearing before the middle of the fourth century BC, but in Greece it appears to have been used for much longer, probably mainly by cavalry, eventually evolving into a slimmer sabre-like weapon with a pommel in the shape of a bird's head.  The Spaniards also adopted the kopis, eventually converting it into the short cut-and-thrust sword known as the falcata."

* Kadoglou 2018 March-April p24
"The sword is usually the kopis or machaira, but the popular xiphos still makes an appearance too."  

* Withers 2010 p17
"Mounted Greek cavalry used a curved sword, or makhaira (meaning 'to fight').  It had a large, slightly curved falchion-type blade and was designed to deliver a heavy slashing blow at speed."


* Kadoglou 2018 March-April p24
"Literary sources for this period never describe cavalry in action as using shields, and indeed, after the Archaic era, horsemen are almost never depicted with shields either.  Even in earlier depictions their practical use is questionable, since what is shown is effectively hoplites on horses, and in most cases not in action."

* Ashdown 1909 p28
"A much smaller and lighter one [than the hoplite shield] was used by the cavalry [CONTRA Cassin-Scott 1977 p39] and the light infantry, being made of hide with the hair on.  A cross-piece was affixed at the back of the handle, and a cord was looped round the inside of the shield, which afforded a grasp for the hand."