The Medieval Warhorse/ Hyland

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selewis
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Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:42 pm

Another one I've been slowly working my through, with the help from on-line atlases and some history related googelings:

"The Medieval Warhorse- From Byzantium to the Crusades" by Ann Hyland, Grange Books, London 1994, ISBN-1-85627-990-1

It has more than a few surprises in it, at least for me; the trade and wide variety of breeds and sizes of horses throughout the ancient world being among them. It has been a real myth buster for me. It has a good bibliography, a glossary of terms, two indexes (one strictly horse related) and lots of art- no footnotes unfortunately which makes for interrupted reading going back and forth to the notes, which are plentiful. This may have been the publishers idea because it has the appearance of a coffee table book but the content is scholarly and well researched. Among the texts cited is one Pat has been mentioning recently 'They Rode into Europe". Hyland is a horsewoman, well known in endurance circles, and so gleans insights from ancient texts which would pass unnoticed to most scholars.

"Malagina was also the main depot for the imperial post, which although not directly under the army, was linked to it as a means of rapidly disseminating news. Procopious outlines the postal system and criticizes Justinian for running the system down, substituting donkeys for horses on eastern routes, and making couriers use slow maritime travel between Chalcedon and Dacivicza. Only the road to Persia continued to have the normal horse post. The journey of Haroun ibn Jahja shows the systems speed. Haroun, an Arab, was taken prisoner at Ascalon around 880 and traveled three days by ship to Attalia, capital of the coastal Cibyrrhaeot theme. From there by horse or mule it took eight days to arrive at Constantinople, over 300 miles (480km) away. In the service's heyday when the main stations, or 'mansiones',held 40 head of picked horses, and staff capable of giving veterinary treatment, a courier on urgent business could cover 240 miles (385km) in a single day, ten times faster than the normal daily stint of 24 miles (38.5km). Such a service clearly had military as well as civic value.

"Until the eruption of the Seljuks into Asia Minor, and the disasterous battle of Manzikert in 1071, the service remained operative, particularly along the military route into Armenia and Mesopotamia, but subsequently it ceased functioning, urgent dispatches being carried by state officers. In the time of Alexius Comnenus (1080-1118) a corps of couriers raised from among the Pechenegs carried urgent dispatches. Anna Comnena refers to a Scyth, the 'proverbial winged messenger' when she writes of the Norman invaders landing under Bohemund and their subsequent encampment on the Illyrian plain in 1107."
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John M
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Fri Jan 04, 2008 4:47 pm

Just to say this a fascinating book tucked away on my shelf. Brought to my attention again by selewes'post. I have only thumbed through..not had the time to read properly yet...but should do.
I remembered the book especially by its photos of the Indian horses with their distinctive and inward turning ears.

My copy was Published by Alan Sutton Publishing in 1998.

John D Morgan
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