Thracian horseman

Last updated
"Thracian horseman" votive tablet with the standard iconographic elements: the rider is holding a lance in his right hand aiming at a boar attacked by a hunting dog. Marble votive tablet of a Thracian horseman.jpg
"Thracian horseman" votive tablet with the standard iconographic elements: the rider is holding a lance in his right hand aiming at a boar attacked by a hunting dog.
Fragment from a Thracian horseman marble relief: the hunting dog attacking the boar CavalerulTracBulgariaMadara.jpg
Fragment from a Thracian horseman marble relief: the hunting dog attacking the boar

The Thracian horseman (also "Thracian Rider" or "Thracian Heros") is the name given to a recurring motif of a horseman depicted in reliefs of the Hellenistic and Roman periods in the Balkans (Thrace, Macedonia, [1] [2] Moesia, roughly from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD). Inscriptions found in Romania identify the horseman as Heros (also Eros, Eron, Herros, Herron), apparently the word heros used as a proper name. [3]

Contents

The Thracian horseman is depicted as a hunter on horseback, riding from left to right. Between the horse's hooves is depicted either a hunting dog or a boar. In some instances, the dog is replaced by a lion. Its depiction is in the tradition of the funerary steles of Roman cavalrymen, with the addition of syncretistic elements from Hellenistic and Paleo-Balkanic religious or mythological tradition.

Late Roman syncretism

The Cult of the Thracian horseman was especially important in Philippi, where the Heros had the epithets of soter (saviour) and epekoos "answerer of prayers". Funerary stelae depicting the horseman belong to the middle or lower classes (while the upper classes preferred the depiction of banquet scenes). [4]

The motif most likely represents a composite figure, a Thracian heroes possibly based on Rhesus, the Thracian king mentioned in the Iliad, [5] to which Scythian, Hellenistic and possibly other elements had been added. [6]

Under the Roman Emperor Gordian III the god on horseback appears on coins minted at Tlos, in neighboring Lycia, and at Istrus, in the province of Lower Moesia, between Thrace and the Danube. [7]

In the Roman era, the "Thracian horseman" iconography is further syncretised. The rider is now sometimes shown as approaching a tree entwined by a serpent, or as approaching a goddess. These motifs are partly of Greco-Roman and partly of possible Scythian origin. The motif of a horseman with his right arm raised advancing towards a seated female figure is related to Scythian iconographic tradition. It is frequently found in Bulgaria, associated with Asclepius and Hygeia. [8]

Twin horsemen

Related to the Dioscuri motif is the so-called "Danubian Horsemen" motif of two horsemen flanking standing goddess. The motif of a standing goddess flanked by two horsemen, identified as Artemis flanked by the Dioscuri, and a tree entwined by a serpent flanked by the Dioscuri on horseback was transformed into a motif of a single horseman approaching the goddess or the tree. [9]

Other, similar figures

The motif of the Thracian horseman is not to be confused with the depiction of a rider slaying a barbarian enemy on funerary stelae, as on the Stele of Dexileos, interpreted as depictions of a heroic episode from the life of the deceased. [10]

The motif of the Thracian horseman was continued in Christianised form in the equestrian iconography of both Saint George and Saint Demetrius. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

Hunter motif
Serpent-and-tree
Rider and goddess
Greco-Roman comparanda
Medieval comparanda

Related Research Articles

Thrace region in Southeast Europe

Thrace is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. It comprises southeastern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece, and the European part of Turkey. The region's boundaries are based on that of the Roman Province of Thrace; the lands inhabited by the ancient Thracians extended in the north to modern-day Romania and to the west into the region of Macedonia.

Dacians Indo-European people

The Dacians were a Thracian people who were the ancient inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the area near the Carpathian Mountains and west of the Black Sea. This area includes mainly the present-day countries of Romania and Moldova, as well as parts of Ukraine, Eastern Serbia, Northern Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Southern Poland. The Dacians spoke the Dacian language, a sub-group of Thracian, but were somewhat culturally influenced by the neighbouring Scythians and by the Celtic invaders of the 4th century BC.

Thracians ancient Indo-European people that lived in eastern parts of Europe

The Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting a large area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family. The study of Thracians and Thracian culture is known as Thracology.

Saint George and the Dragon Medieval legend

The legend of Saint George and the Dragon tells of Saint George taming and slaying a dragon that demanded human sacrifices; the saint thereby rescues the princess chosen as the next offering. The narrative was first set in Cappadocia in the earliest sources of the 11th and 12th centuries, but transferred to Libya in the 13th-century Golden Legend.

Sabazios deity

Sabazios is the horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus ('god') and Greek Zeus. Though the Greeks interpreted Phrygian Sabazios as both Zeus and Dionysus, representations of him, even into Roman times, show him always on horseback, as a nomadic horseman god, wielding his characteristic staff of power.

Triballi

The Triballi were an ancient tribe whose dominion was around the plains of modern southern Serbia, northern part of North Macedonia and western Bulgaria, at the Angrus and Brongus and the Iskar River, roughly centered where Serbia and Bulgaria are joined.

Thracian language language

The Thracian language is an extinct and poorly attested language, spoken in ancient times in Southeast Europe by the Thracians. The linguistic affinities of the Thracian language are poorly understood, but it is generally agreed that it was an Indo-European language with satem features.

Madara Rider sculpture

The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara. The monument is dated in the very late 7th, or more often very early 8th century, during the reign of Bulgar Khan Tervel. In 1979 became enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Dacian Draco standard ensign of troops of the ancient Dacian people

The Dacian Draco was the standard ensign of troops of the ancient Dacian people, which can be seen in the hands of the soldiers of Decebalus in several scenes depicted on Trajan's Column in Rome, Italy. It has the form of a dragon with open wolf-like jaws containing several metal tongues. The hollow dragon's head was mounted on a pole with a fabric tube affixed at the rear. In use, the draco was held up into the wind, or above the head of a horseman, where it filled with air and gave the impression it was alive while making a shrill sound as the wind passed through its strips of material.

Thracian religion

Thracian religion includes the religious practices of the Thracians. Little is known about their mythology and rituals, but some of their gods are depicted in statuary or described in Greek sources.

Rogozen Treasure Thracian hoard

The Rogozen Treasure, called the find of the century, is a Thracian treasure.

Ratiaria city in Bulgaria

Ratiaria was a city founded by the Moesians, a Daco-Thracian tribe, in the 4th century BC, along the river Danube. In Roman times it was named Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria.

The Archaeological Museum of Komotini is a museum on Symenonidi Street in Komotini in Greece. The museum was designed by Aris Konstantinidis, an architect, and was commissioned in 1976. The exhibits on display are from the Neolithic to the Byzantine period, from the excavations of the Thracian archaeological sites, and reveal much about the prehistory and history of the Aegean Thrace and Komotini. The museum also has exhibits of folklore art, agriculture operations and basket making.

Dacian bracelets Bracelets associated with Dacian peoples

The Dacian bracelets are bracelets associated with the ancient people known as the Dacians, a distinct branch of the Thracians. These bracelets were used as ornaments, currency, high rank insignia and votive offerings Their ornamentations consist of many elaborate regionally distinct styles. Bracelets of various types were worn by Dacians, but the most characteristic piece of their jewelry was the large multi-spiral bracelets; engraved with palmettes towards the ends and terminating in the shape of an animal head, usually that of a snake.

Thracian warfare

The history of Thracian warfare spans from the 10th century BC up to the 1st century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Thrace. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Thracian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Thracians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Thracian tribes.

Dacian warfare warfare involving the Dacian people

The history of Dacian warfare spans from c. 10th century BC up to the 2nd century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Dacia, populated by a collection of Thracian, Ionian, and Dorian tribes. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Dacian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Dacians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Dacians too.

Helmet of Iron Gates helmet

The Helmet of Iron Gates is a Geto-Dacian silver helmet dating from the 4th century BC, housed in the Detroit Institute of Arts, United States.

Gold wreaths from Thrace

The gold wreaths from Thrace are jewellery wreaths found in inner Thrace, which is within present day Bulgaria. The gold wreaths were found in the mounds and tombs of aristocrats at various locations in Thrace that have been dated to a period from the latter half of the fourth century and early part third century BC.

References

  1. Samsaris, Dimitrios C. (1984). Le culte du Cavalier thrace dans la vallée du Bas-Strymon à l' époque romaine: Recherches sur la localisation de ses sanctuaires. Dritter Internationaler Thrakologischer Kongress, Wien, 2-6 Juni 1980. Sofia. Bd. II, p. 284 sqq.
  2. Samsaris, Dimitrios C. (1982–1983). "Le culte du Cavalier thrace dans la colonie romaine de Philippes et dans son territoire". Ponto-Baltica. 2–3: 89–100.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  3. Hampartumian, Nubar. (1979). Moesia Inferior (Romanian Section) and Dacia, Volume 74, Part 4,
  4. Ascough, Richard S. (2003). Paul's Macedonian Associations: The Social Context of Philippians and 1 Thessalonians p. 159.
  5. West, Rebecca (21 December 2010). Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. Open Road Media. p. 455. ISBN   978-1-4532-0746-8.
  6. Hoddinott, R.F. (1963). Early Byzantine Churches in Macedonia & Southern Serbia, 5862
  7. Sabazios on coins, illustrated in the M. Halkam collection.
  8. Hoddinott (1963:58)
  9. Hoddinott (1963:59)
  10. Hoddinott (1963:60)
  11. Hoddinott (1963:61)
  12. de Laet, Sigfried J. (1994). History of Humanity: From the seventh to the sixteenth century. Routledge. pp. 233 ff. ISBN   978-92-3-102813-7.
  13. Walter, Christopher (2003). The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition. Ashgate. pp. 88ff. ISBN   978-1-84014-694-3.
  14. c.f. the badly damaged wall painting of St.George in the ruins of Đurđevi stupovi, Serbia (c. 1168)
  15. Hoddinott (1963:61).

Bibliography

Further reading

See also