Book Review: Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare


by Philip Sidnell

London/New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2006 . Pp. xi, 363. Illus., gloss., notes, index. $26.95 paper. ISBN:1852853743

A history of the horse in western warfare from the earliest times through early Medieval times.

Warhorse opens with an introductory chapter summarizing the evidence for the domestication of the horse and its early use in warfare, both as a mount and for pulling chariots. There follow three chapters on the use of warhorses in classical Greek and Hellensitic times, three more on their use in Roman times, and one of the rise of mounted warriors to primacy in early Medieval times. Along the way the book addresses a number of hoary questions that never seem to be finally settled, such as the possibility of shock action without stirrups, offers something of a vindication of Roman Republican cavalry, long considered rather inept, and so forth. 

The author considers some experimental evidence, citing Medieval re-enactors, for example, to useful effect. Sidnell does, however, fail to spot Caesar?s outright lie in his The Civil War, where the great commander says that at Pharsalus Pompey?s cavalry numbered 7,000 troopers, and then proceeds to give figures for the various contingents that only add up to about half that; but then, Caesar has been fooling folks with this one for over two millennia now. 

Warhorse will be a profitable read for anyone interested in ancient warfare, or in horses.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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