This book consists of short essays about various aspects of equestrianism, from fodder to sacrifice. Our graduate fellows researched and wrote many of them, and each includes some suggestions for further reading.
We hope that many of you had the opportunity to view HIPPOS in person, but if not, you can learn much about horses and horsemanship in this volume, which was a special gift from Helen and Alexander Philon, in memory of Costa Carras.
For the first time, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens has organized an ambitious exhibition which seeks to present to the public its work in archaeology, art history, science, and classics. The impetus for the project was the discovery of the remarkable horse burials at the Phaleron cemetery, excavated by Dr. Stella Chryssoulaki, the Ephor of Piraeus and the Islands, and studied by zooarchaeologist Dr. Flint Dibble at the School’s Wiener Laboratory for Archaeological Science. A reconstructed horse burial forms the centerpiece of the exhibit, accompanied by finds from Phaleron which turned up in the children’s pot burials—miniature vases with equestrian scenes and small horse-and-rider terracotta figurines.
The audience for this exhibition includes both adults and children. In addition to important artifacts illustrating the roles horses played in the Athenian cavalry, in sporting events, and religion, there are objects specifically chosen to interest young visitors. These had special labels written by School member Rebecca Levitan, which are incorporated into educational tours for school groups and families given by Eleni Gizas, our former Steinmetz Family Foundation Museum Fellow. A unique visitor to the School gardens had been Stella, the last carriage horse in Athens, who arrives on weekends along with her owner Georgios Stavrides.
We were especially fortunate to have had two important foreign loans for HIPPPOS. One was a magnificent Attic black-figure amphora of the mid-5th century BC lent by the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe. It shows a noble Greek warrior departing on a chariot, but what makes this scene unique is the presence of many family members, including four little boys, all waving farewell. We are grateful to the museum’s director, Eckart Köhne, and curator, Katarina Horst, for enabling this precious object to come to Greece for the first time. Also on display in Athens for the first time was the over life-size bronze horse head from the National Archaeological Museum in Florence. Known as the Medici-Riccardi Bronze because it was once owned by Lorenzo the Magnificent, this priceless Hellenistic sculpture made a spectacular impression as displayed in the Stathatos Room, a small wood-paneled period room in the style of northern Greece. The exceptional generosity of Dr. Mario Iozzo, Director of the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, made this amazing loan possible.
There have been two recent art exhibitions devoted to the horse in antiquity: one held at the Boboli Gardens in Florence in 2018 entitled “A Cavallo del Tempo”, and another in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2017 called “The Horse in Ancient Greek Art”. Our exhibit in the Makriyannis Wing of the American School was different as it focused on the roles of equids in the lives of ancient Athenians who could be accused of hippomania. From the first horse ever drawn on a humble earthenware vase to expensive marble cavalry monuments, the objects on display inform the viewer about the importance of horses for Athenian society. Quotes from Athenians about horses and horsemanship line the walls of the gallery, among which the advice of the Attic historian and cavalry commander Xenophon is prominent. The actual archives of the Athenian cavalry, excavated in wells in the Agora and published by American archaeologists, are shown in the section on the cavalry. In another section on competition there are scenes of racing chariots, horse races, and other hippic events staged at the Panathenaia, the quadrennial festival of Athena. A cast of a block from the west frieze of the Parthenon stands in for the 257 horses carved in marble which decorated the pediments, metopes, and frieze of the temple of Athena on the Acropolis.
All objects on display have a known archaeological context, and many bear the names of real ancient Athenians—Philon on his funerary monument, Stesagoras on a small pyxis, Krates on a base for his victory stele, and Hippokrates and Xanthippos on ostraca from the Agora. The earliest silver drachmae of Athens carried images of horses, and we are grateful to Alpha Bank for their willingness to lend these rare coins. As noted, many of the objects were excavated by the American School in the ancient Agora, and in 1998 its director Prof. John Camp wrote an informative picture book entitled “Horses and Horsemanship in the Athenian Agora” about this material. Several important objects shown for the first time are the result of rescue excavations which have taken place in recent years throughout Athens and Attica. We thank the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and all the local museums for loaning us their works of art and archaeological artifacts which have contributed so much to the educational objectives of this exhibit.
Throughout this book you will find photos taken in the Makriyannis Wing by our media manager Konstantinos Tzortzinis. He has captured the stunning installation which was the creation of our inspired and inspiring design team: Andreas Georgiadis and Vivi Gerolymatou. The exhibit is also hosting a microsite at hippos.gr where you can find further information about the show. This book consists of short essays about various aspects of equestrianism, from fodder to sacrifice. Our graduate fellows researched and wrote many of them, and each includes some suggestions for further reading. We hope that many of you had the opportunity to view HIPPOS in person, but if not, you can learn much about horses and horsemanship in this volume, which was underwritten by our good friend and loyal supporter Phokion Potamianos.