05 January 2007

What a Roman horsebreeder wanted. . .

"Small head, black eyes, nostrils open, wars short and picked up; neck flexible and broad without being long; mane thick and falling on the right side, broad and muscular chest, big straight shoulders, muscles sticking out all over the body, sides sloping in, double black, small belly, stones small and alike, flanks broad and drawn in, tail long and not bristly, for this is ugly; legs straight; knee round and small, and not turned in, buttocks and thighs full and muscular; hoofs black high and hollow, topping off with moderate sized coronets. He should in general be so formed as to be large, high, well set up, of an active look, and round-barreled in the proportion proper to his length."

(Pelagonius, Ars Vet., quotes in Morgan 1962, page 115)

I also find, on an SCA website:

"Often, it is assumed that earlier period warhorses were smaller, around 11 or 12 hands and that later period horses were larger, around 18 hands. Fifth century Sarmatian burial sites yield horse skeletons of up to 15 hands in height (Equis, pg 22). Bones of horses found in a Roman fort in Scotland (Equis, pg 25) were from horses from 11 to nearly 15 hands. "

Where 'Equis' is a reference to: Hyland, Ann, Equis: the Horse in the Roman World, Yale University Press, 1990

I'm in Iraq with an unreliable internet connection. You'd think a friggin' PhD student who obviously had a lot of time and resources on his hands could have figured this out. I know the SCA is hardly a source you could cite in an academic paper, but Ms. Hyland's book most certaintly is.

Especially since Ms. Hyland's methods apparently include basic common sense principles like, "Hey, let's take this Roman horseshoe, copy it, and stick it on some modern horses to see what size of horse it fits!"

Then again, I find that occasionally 'Serious Historians' have great beef with this sort of thing, preferring to publish papers on possible alternative translations for an obscure word in a badly copied manuscript in a dead tongue which might bear on the topic.


Anonymous sappersdad said...

I remember talking with a Phd in college may moons ago. His point seemed to be that his Phd enabled to look down on all the lesser mortals who didn't have one.

6:35 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

One of my books here at the house suggested that wooden dummies were used to help troops learn to mount (since they didn't have stirrups) and that horses were generally under 150 cm. That's almost 60 inches, so it's a good height, especially considering that folx were a bit shorter then.

I'm guessing, given some of the art that comes from the Roman Empire, that they were avid horse breeders.

Nothing to say that a retired breeder didn't head up to the Isles and take stock with him.

9:12 PM  

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