Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ancient bit from Dodona Sanctuary

Salvete Omnes,
a little time jump today, we will time travel to the ancient Epirus where at Dodona since the time immemorial had been a sanctuary and oracle.
Pegasus or  winged horse from Louvre

Excavations brought forward various and amazing objects of art from across the ancient Greek antiquity.
 Among them, on display at the Athens Museum,  there are the fine examples of the ancient metal forging arts from the IV century BC/Ante Christum , a two different bit parts (one from Dodona, and one from an unknown location), shown at the museum as one large bit: with large S psalia and elaborate discs on the 'bit-bar,' shortened ringchain and studded bars between the psalia and discs. The s-shaped psalia or cheekpieces look a bit like the wild boar's tusks and could make the horse head appear quite unusually grotesque. Similar bit is displayed on the Alexander Mosaic.

the way this composite bit is constructed or displayed on a see-through horse's head -
- with its discs sharp, pointy and this large inside the horse's mouth and the metal chain rings joining the two pieces very short and with rings loose inside the mouth (perhaps dangling on the tongue) to create one horse bit,
- then perhaps this display  in this entirety presents a hypothetical piece of horse equipment, and not a real one (my old rendering of the Persian bits now make me think twice about them too). Because how would they  operate this bit without completely ruining a horse's mouth  (as it is 'reconstructed' in the museum).

a horse from Dodona, rider missing - note this  horse with rider from Boston Museum, dated to late VI century BC.
horse from Louvre

Alexander Mosaic from Pompei -  the Persian Achaemenid horses with S-shaped bit



Dario T. W. said...

Dario T. W. said...

Dario T. W. said...

oh, the link above leads to a very cool book about ink i.e. Forty Centuries of Ink by David
N. Carvalho

Vavča said...

Dear Dario, thank You for the post. I have ultimate problem with bits and horse furniture from ancient times. Many authors talking about cruelty of bits from Greece, Rome. There is one German book only about bits (Johannes A. H. Potratz, Die Pfredetrensen des Alten Orient (1966) I have to buy it or find it in library, it's only book about this theme! Some author regards S bits as fine, effective (especially with chinstrap), someone for cruel. For an example Ann Hyland takes Assyrian bits from 9th-7th CE BC as mild, fine against those of Scythia from 4th CE BC. That Greek bit is allegedly also found in Boetia 4th CE BC, Hyland (The Horse In Ancient World) take him as very severe and in combination with muzzle, horse mouth would be terribly mutilated. Same goes for Dodona bit.

But in different books I have opinions, that severe bits ends with Archaic Greece, and in Europe, Central Asia it is exception not rule. Back to point of artefact, I recently read dissertation Chevaux, cavaliers et cavaleries dans l’oeuvre de Xénophon (it's free on net don't ask for link:). You can found them there tables with heights of horses according to the found bones, not all were small. There is spur from Dodona, with conical point. It strikes me with combination with bits. What if we are missing something important? First of all are these things votive offerings, imitation, or real deal?! Second, cruel bits are still reality in India ( this organization donates normal bits to India). If you read L. E. Nolan-Cavalry, History, Tactis, Indian, Turks covers cruel bits in cloth! They are used only as training method!!! To the spurs in L.E. Nolan - Training of Cavalry Remount Horses, sharp spurs are useless, disturbs horse, use blunt ones. Of course there were idiots, sadists in every epoch, but horse was precious, brutally expensive. Who would ruin his mount?

My idea is (I don't have space for all ideas, evidences, like saddles with stirrups, bronze horseshoes, or iron-bronze horseshoes, leg protectors look for Letnica Thracian treasure does it ring a bell?), ancients weren't blockheads, but were more advanced, than we think.
We need to think about reconstruction, function of artifacts, investigate them. My personal opinion after two years of writting two part book about Xenophon (in second part I have chapter for history from Chalcolithic till 4th CE BC). Greeks, Thracians, Persians weren't stupid, but careful with horses. I believe, that these culture were ok.

But Romans were blockheads, cruel and terrible injuries from their furniture are well described in their primary sources. I also thinks that story of bloody foam of Bucephalus mout painted by Apelles with spoonge is Roman reflection of theirs thinking, practices not Greek reality of 4th CE BC of handling the horses. Sorry for long post, I have communication deprvitation in Academic themes last few years. Czech Republic is desert for Ancient military history, antiquity themes in general.

Vavča said...

Vavča: Jeesh, I was leaving lengthy comment there at Friday 23.11., should I write again or wait? Question about bits, effectivity, cruelty to animals is crucial topic for me, I have a lot contradiction in source, but I have my own theory based on some evidences. If You are interested I can write it again. I'm curious for Your opinion.

Dario T. W. said...

hello Pavel
for some reason I have not been getting any 'info' from blogger that there are comments to moderate, so please bear with me if I am late in confirming your comments etc
Thank you very much and to be continued, I hope.
we shall speak more on this - I have to study your very informed and rich in information commentaries