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Introduction | Texts | Light Cavalry | Heavy Cavalry | Thracian Horses

Light Cavalry

The majority of Thracian cavalry was unarmoured javelin-armed light cavalry from the Odrysian and Getic tribes. 

Early Thracian Light Cavalry

Early Thracian light cavalry is distinguished by the  traditional Thracian garb of alokepsis hat, colourful zeira cloak, and boots (embades).  The rider carries one or two javelins, does not have a shield, and is completely unarmoured.  Getic cavalry would have bows instead of javelins.

Figure 12: Silver- gilt plaque showing Thracian horseman, late 4th century, probably belonging to a prince of the Triballi (Thracian Treasures no. 327)

Two shielded light cavalry, carrying peltas, from a vaseThracian light cavalry





Peltasts (A,D), archer (B) and cavalryman (C)

Figure 1: Peltasts (A.D), archer (B) and cavalryman (C) from an Attic amphora, c.540 BC (Best)





Early Thracian light cavalryman An early Thracian light cavalryman, without shield and carrying two javelins.  From Fol, p127.









Figure 11:  from a red-figure cup by Onesimos, c.475 BC

Left: a Thracian light cavalryman with "alopekis" from a vase dated c.476 BC. Drawing by Charles Grant






http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0010&type=vase Thracian horsemanThracian horseman from Attic Red Figure kylix 520 BC

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.01.0613&type=vase horseman in Thracian cloak

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1991.08.1004&type=vase The horseman at left wears a Thracian cloak

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1991.08.1005&type=vase the same but more detail

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.33.0518.sm&type=vase - a Thracian horseman

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.33.0520.sm&type=vase restored view of same - what I call an Athenian horseman. Tondo: rider. The tondo is painted with coral red. The horseman rides to right, wearing a petasos, a chiton, skin boots and a heavy chlamys or cloak, whose corners are weighted with lead weights. The cloak is decorated with meanders, triangles and other woven patterns. The petasos and cape are typical of Thracian horsemen. He reins in the horse with his right hand, and rests his left on the horse’s neck. The horse rears up slightly, his eyes wide and mouth gaping. The horse’s mane is clipped short, and he raises right fore and rear legs slightly. In the field, LEAGRO[S] KA[L]OS, "Leagros is beautiful."

You can see a picture of: an early Thessalian or Thracian horseman and javelinman, by Clive Spong in Warry, p46 and the book Cavalry.    Yes, just how many pictures can be drawn based on one red-figure cup by Onesimos, c.475 BC?Thracian light cavalry.jpg (26993 bytes)

Right: a Thracian light cavalryman, from DBA Online

Later Thracian Light Cavalry

Later Thracian light cavalry wore helmets and possibly carried shields (which might be a thureos).  They also used a long sword instead of the machaira.  They still carried a pair of javelins, although there is a slight possibility that some carried a sarrisa (lance).  Their appearance was probably much like any Greek light cavalry.  

Look out for the following pictures:

Fig 5. Thracian or Thessalian light cavalryman, from Phil Barker, Armies and Enemies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars, 1st edition, 1971

Fig 68 Thracian light cavalryman, from Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars 2nd Edition, p126

Fig 69 Shielded Thracian light cavalryman, from Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars p127

Note: the Ladshane sarcophagus is actually dated to the early Roman period, but there is no doubt that later Thracian cavalrymen used shields.

70. GETIC HORSE ARCHER, Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars p127

A mounted Thracian goddess with a bowThracian cavalry chasing wild boarLeft: Gilt silver jug from Rozogen, (from the area inhabited by the Getae or Triballi) first half of fourth century BC. A Goddess (probably the great Mother Goddess) with a bow and arrow, riding a lioness

Right: Another gilt silver jug from Rozogen, also first half of fourth century BC. Two horsemen hunt a huge wild boar with spears. The wild boar hunt was an ordeal which the king had to survive in order to confirm his right to the throne. A detail is shown below:A Thracian warrior attacks a boar with a javelin





A drawing of the Rozogen cavalrymanThe Rozogen cavalryman - Click for a closer viewClick to see an enormous 1 Mb version!

4th c. Triballi Horseman
Left: a 4th century BC Triballi horseman, a drawing of a figure carved on a sliver-gilt jug from the Rozogen treasure (No 159). Rozogen is in the Vratsa district of north-western Bulgaria. The more accurate drawing at left is Linda Dicmanis 2001. The drawing above it is from Thracian Ethnology.  Above left: Plate 33, p 78 from Ancient Thrace (Helsinki Exhibition catalogue 1999); also shown in  Plate 189, p159 from Der Thrakische Sliberschatz aus Rogosen Bulgarien.   Above right: Plate 83, p 152 from Ancient Gold, The Wealth of the Thracians - the other side of the same jug.

The first edition of Armies  of the Macedonian and Punic Wars, included Fig. 6. Thracian Light Cavalryman With Sarissa.  This has now been discredited, or is at least controversial. You can read about the case for and against the cavalry sarissa on the Spear and Javelins page.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0010 - vase picture of a Thracian horseman



A Thracian mercenary cavalryman from Abdera Tombstone of a Thracian cavalryman from Abdera, dating to the second or first century BC, National Archaeological Museum,  Sophia Inv. 8409. Plate 334, Thrakische Kunst






A Possible appearance of a later Thracian light cavalryman can be seen in the book Cavalry.  





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Above: silver-gilt fourth century Thracian (probably Triballi) horse ornaments from Lukovit



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This page last updated on Monday, 07 January 2002 by Christopher Webber thracian@pnc.com.au

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