Skip to content

Ancient warrior reenactment in the context of experimental archeology


My latest Academic publication


Researcher status in Academia.Edu


Officers of the Horsearchers in Ancient Athens

Herodotus uses the term hippotoxotes (horsearchers) in the ninth book while writing about the battle of Plataea to describe the Persian cavalry. He does never use this term for describing Greek troops. The word hippotoxotes occurs again in the writings of Thucydides (“Histories” 5. 17.1) but he rather describes the Scythian or Thracian mercenaries of the Athenians. According to Lysias they were paid eight obols (coins) per day instead of two that they received originally (Lysias Fragment 6 «Against Theozotides») but they were not considered an elite unit. Lysias informs us in another of his writings that when Alcibiades the younger (son of the notorious Alcmaeonid) was expelled from his cavalry squadron he served with the horsearchers, something like relegation to a “penal unit” as we would have said today. (Lysias, 15, “Against Alcibiades” 2)

Nevertheless many aristocratic Athenians believed in the usefulness of such a unit. In the «Laws» of Plato, the Cretan Kleinias discusses with someone anonymous Athenian for good institutions he intends to establish in a Cretan Colony. Kleinias says that Crete is mountainous and therefore Cretans do not think much of horses and equestrian units because their country is not flat like Thessaly. (“Laws”, 1. 625) During the development of the dialogue, the Athenian, who already has experience of foreign mercenaries in Athenian service, urges him to legislate for the equestrian sports, (“Laws” 8. 833b) so in the colony will be created a body mounted archers. (“Laws” 8. 834b)

Mr. John Conyard from re-enacting Association "Comitatus" proves that mounted archery in ancient Greek armor and without use of stirrups and saddle is possible.

Mr. John Conyard from re-enacting Association «Comitatus» proves that mounted archery in ancient Greek armor and without use of stirrups and saddle is possible.

Clearly, the Athenian acknowledges that Cretans have very little or no relationship with horses. Considering, however, that the use of horses in a Cretan colony would be a very good idea, he urges Kleinias to create proper infrastructure in order for the colony to acquire, not only greater relationship with horses as a means of war, but also to create units of cavalry and mounted archers. From this text and what mentioned earlier, it is taken for granted the absence of such a unit in Crete, so its creation, according to the Athenian, would be particularly useful. It can also be derived that most likely, no city state had created infrastructure to produce a unit of mounted archer but rather relied on non citizen mercenaries. It is also noteworthy that Xenophon in his work «On Horsemanship» doesn’t mention anything about the training and usage of mounted archers, so it can be assumed that the horsearchers of the Athenians may not have been indigenous. So who were the mounted archers of the Athenian Army if not native Athenians? Scythians or Thracians probably but a red figure vessel dated around 470 BC and exhibited in the Asmolean Museum complicates things further. It is painted by Pistoxenos and depicts horsearchers in Greek armor

Artistic depiction of an armored archer on horseback from an attic dated to 470 BC and painted by Pistoxenos. The original is in the Asmolean Museum, Oxford

Artistic depiction of an armored archer on horseback from an attic dated to 470 BC and painted by Pistoxenos. The original is in the Asmolean Museum, Oxford

Historian Christopher Webber in his works about the ancient Thracians mentions that Getai fielded horse-archers. Herodotus says that Getae are of Thracic origin but Strabo gives us insight of the Getic customs of a clearly “barbaric nation”. Getae that performed human sacrifices to god Zalmoxes (Geography 7.3.12) while Justin says that the Dakae who he considers of Getic origin are clearly a barbaric tribe. (TROGUS Synopsis 32.3.16). There is no reports concerning mounded archers in Thrace. The barbaric tribe of the Getae who are reputed to be horse archers lived in dug pits and preformed human sacrifices according Herodotus and Strabo are clearly not considered Greeks. And Euripides in his tragedy “IFIGENEIA” mentions that:” law forbids these vile things to the Greeks”

Artistic rendering of another armored archer on horseback from the vase painted by Pistoxenos. The shooting method with a light shield attached on the hand holding the bow used by Scythians and Thracians requires time and effort to learn.

Artistic rendering of another armored archer on horseback from the vase painted by Pistoxenos. The shooting method with a light shield attached on the hand holding the bow used by Scythians and Thracians requires time and effort to learn.

It is also now known that the Scythians and Thracians took pleasure in sporting tattoos. The absence of tattoo marks in Pistoxenos art makes us to consider the probability that the depicted horsemen are Athenians. But on the other side we do not know if all the Thracian tribes practiced tattooing. So only the Scythian origin of the depicted horsemen can be most likely excluded. The depiction of unit’s Athenian officers from Pistoxenos might have another explanation. It cannot be ruled out that the aristocrats in charge of this unit could have learned to shoot on horseback in order to impose themselves on the men under their command. Indeed today there are people involved in the sport of horseback archery without riding from infancy like the Mongols. This does not mean, however, that they can fight effectively in the ancient way of the nomads of the Eurasian steppe..

Publised originally in Greek on «Maches & Stratiotes» magazine issue 30 Septeber-October 2015


Iain Spence Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Warfare Scarecrow Press, 2002

Christopher Webber The Thracians 700 BC–AD 46 Osprey Publishing 2001

Herodotus “Histories” Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914

Xenophon  “On Horsemanship” Classical Library edition, 1914

Xenophon  “The Cavalry Commander” Classical Library edition, 1914

Strabo “Geography” “Histories” Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914

Plato “Laws” Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914



Thanks to Mr. John Conyard for bringing the Asmolean Museum item image to my attention and to Professor George Nikiteas for advising me in the image analysis.

Video of the presentation in Athens War Museum on 27/28 November 2015

On Youtube with English  Subtitles  please press on link below

Presentation of Byzantine Army at the Athens War Museum Nov .2015





Lecture in Athens War Museum on 27/28 November 2015

The Athens War Museum organized a two-day event under the title: ‘Hellenic Art of War – 3000 Years of Greek Warriors’ which took place on 27th and 28th of November 2015. For this reason they invited re-enactors from various cultural associations who brought the glorious times of Hellenic History back to life. The event was under the auspices of the Museum’s Administrative Board, which is composed of eminent historians, and on the first day, entrance was restricted to members of the Hellenic Armed forces as well as Officials and Foreign Dignitaries while on the second day it was open to the general public. The Agema “Leonidas” presented Ancient Warriors, The Associations “Liaros” & “Patras Shooting Club” showed the fighters of the Greek War of Independence and the “Hellenic Army 1940” re-enacting team brought to life the heroes of WWII.


The Museum’s President Birgadier Kaperonis among the re-enactors

The Hellenic Federation of Historical European Martial Arts had the honor to participate in the event and presented the Byzantine Army from 313 to 1462 AD. In my capacity as historical consultant of the Federation, I presented with detail the Byzantine Army and Navy from 313 AD to 1462 AD by introducing parts of the Hellenic military history largely unknown to the general public.


I also underlined that due to the lack of original Byzantine weapon’s manual all reconstructions of Byzantine martial arts are purely subjective and speculative.


Presenting the Byzantine fighters with the aid of Mr Dallas (left)  and Mr. Tampakakis (right)

I would like to thank President Mr. Chrysovalantis Tampakakis and the member of the Board of SC Academy of Hoplomachia Mr. Odysseas Dallas who greatly aided me to enliven my presentation to the Officials and the public with their accurate reconstructions of the arms and armor of a 14th century Byzantine officer and a 10th century Cataphract trooper

The Federation’s General Secretary Mr. George Zacharopoulos spoke about the role of modern HEMA clubs and organizations and the Art’s steady development worldwide and especially in Greece. He also showed the audience the difference between actual combat techniques and cinematic exaggeration


with the Federation’s  Gen. Secretary Mr. G. Zacharopoulos in front of our exhibition of Byzantine weapons

Particularly impressive were the athletes of SC “Academy of Hoplomachia” Andreas Pavlidis and Constantinos Galanis who fought bouts with steel longsword and sword and buckler combination.


Mr. Pavlidis and Mr. Galanis during the weapons demonstration

I would like to thank the President of the War Museum Brigadier Panagiotis Kaperonis and the event organizer Colonel (Art.) Georgios Skaltsogiannis for offering to the Federation and me the opportunity to present to the people a live view of the history of Medieval Hellenism. The War Museum’s Medal that was presented to us after the end of our demonstration is an encouragement to further improve our activities and excel.


The War Museum’s Medal

The Hellenic Federation of HEMA wishes to congratulate the groups of historical studies and re-enactment that presented the armies of other periods of the Hellenic military history


The Hellenic Federation of HEMA at the end of its Presenatation

I also wish to thank Hellenic Federation of HEMA that honored me with its trust to my academic ability and congratulate the participating re-enactment societies for their effort to preserve the Historical Memory of the Nation


Διάλεξη στο Πολεμικό Μουσείο Αθηνών 27-28 Νοεμβρίου 2015

Το Πολεμικό Μουσείο Αθηνών διοργάνωσε στις 27-28 Νοεμβρίου διημερίδα με θέμα: «Ελλήνων Τέχνη Πολεμική – 3.000 Χρόνια Ελλήνων Πολεμιστών». Για το σκοπό αυτό προσκάλεσε διάφορους πολιτιστικούς συλλόγους, οι αναβιωτές των οποίων ξαναζωντάνεψαν τις. ένδοξες στιγμές της Ελληνικής ιστορίας. Η εκδήλωση ήταν υπό την αιγίδα του Διοικητικού Συμβουλίου του Μουσείου, το οποίο αποτελείται από διακεκριμένους ιστορικούς. Την πρώτη ημέρα η παρουσίαση έγινε για τα μέλη των Ελληνικών Ενόπλων Δυνάμεων καθώς και ξένους αξιωματούχους, ενώ τη δεύτερη η είσοδος ήταν ελεύθερη για το κοινό. Το Άγημα «Λεωνίδας» παρουσίασε Αρχαίους Έλληνες πολεμιστές. Οι σύλλογοι «Λιάρος» και «Σκοπευτικός Όμιλος Πατρών» ζωντάνεψαν του Αγωνιστές του 1821 ενώ η ομάδα αναπαραστάσεων «Ελληνικός Στρατός 1940» έδειξε την αμφίεση των ηρώων του Βορειοηπειρωτικού Μετώπου


Ο Προέδροε του Πολεμικού Μουσείου εν μέσω των αναβιωτών

Η Ελληνική Ομοσπονδία Ιστορικών Ευρωπαϊκών Πολεμικών Τεχνών είχε την τιμή να συμμετάσχει στην εκδήλωση παρουσιάζοντας το Βυζαντινό Στρατό της περιόδου από το 313 έως το 1462 μ.Χ. Με την ιδιότητά μου ως ιστορικός σύμβουλος της Ομοσπονδίας παρουσίασα με λεπτομέρειες την οργάνωση και τον εξοπλισμό μία εν πολλοίς άγνωστη πτυχή της ιστορίας των Βυζαντινών στρατευμάτων στην ξηρά αλλά και τη θάλασσα.


Επίσης επισήμανα την έλλειψη Βυζαντινών τεχνικών εγχειριδίων ένοπλης μάχης που οδηγεί πολλούς σε αυθαίρετες ερμηνείες για τον Βυζαντινό τρόπο του μάχεσαι

Θα ήθελα να ευχαριστήσω τον Πρόεδρο της Ομοσπονδίας κ. Χρυσοβαλάντη Ταμπακάκη και το μέλος του ΔΣ της Ακαδημίας Οπλομαχίας κ. Οδυσσέα Δάλλα που με τις ακριβείς αναπαραστάσεις του εξοπλισμού και των θωρακίσεων τους συνέβαλλαν στα μέγιστα ώστε να ζωντανέψω την παρουσίασή μου δείχνοντας στους επισήμους και το κοινό ένα Βυζαντινό αξιωματούχο του 14ου αιώνα και ένα κατάφρακτο του 10ου αιώνα μ.Χ..


Παρουσιάζοντας με τη βοήθεια του κου Δάλα (αριστερά) και του κου Ταμπακάκη (δεξιά)

Ο Γενικός Γραμματέας της Ελληνικής Ομοσπονδίας Ι.Ε.Π.Τ.   κ. Γεώργιος Ζαχαρόπουλος μίλησε για τον ρόλο των σύγχρονων συλλόγων και οργανισμών ιστορικών Ευρωπαϊκών πολεμικών τεχνών καθώς και για τη σταθερή ανάπτυξη και διάδοση της Τέχνης στον κόσμο και ιδιαίτερα στην Ελλάδα Επίσης έδειξε στους επισήμους και το κοινό την διαφορά μεταξύ των πραγματικών πολεμικών τεχνικών σε αντίθεση με τις μυθοπλασίες του κινηματογράφου.


Με το Γ.Γ. της Ελληνικής Ομοσπονδίας Ι.Ε.Π.Τ. κ. Γεώργιο Ζαχαρόπουλο (αριστερά) στο περίπτερο της Ομοσπονδιας

Ιδιαίτερα εντυπωσιακοί ήταν οι αθλητές του ΑΣ Ακαδημία Οπλομαχίας Ανδρέας Παυλίδης και Κωνσταντίνος Γαλάνης που έκαναν επίδειξη αγώνων με μεταλλική μακριά σπάθα (longsword) και αγώνων με σπαθί και ασπίδιο (sword and buckler).


Οι κκ Γαλάνης και Παυλίδης κατά την διάρκεια των επιδείξεων οπλομαχητικήε

Θα ήθελα να ευχαριστήσω τον Πρόεδρο του Πολεμικού Μουσείου Ταξίαρχο Παναγιώτη Καπερώνη και τον διοργανωτή της εκδήλωσης Συνταγματάρχη (Π/Β) Γεώργιο Σκαλτσογιάννη που παραχώρησαν στην Ομοσπονδία και σε μένα το βήμα ώστε να παρουσιάσουμε στον κόσμο μια ζωντανή εικόνα της ιστορίας του μεσαιωνικού Ελληνισμού. Η βράβευσή μας με το μετάλλιο του Μουσείου είναι μια ενθάρρυνση για τη συνεχή βελτίωση των δραστηριοτήτων μας


Το Μετάλλιο του Πολεμικού Μουσείου

Ευχαριστώ επίσης την Ελληνική Ομοσπονδία Ιστορικών Ευρωπαϊκών Πολεμικών Τεχνών που με τίμησε με την εμπιστοσύνη της στις ακαδημαϊκές μου γνώσεις και συγχαίρω τους συλλόγους ιστορικών μελετών και αναπαραστάσεων για το έργο τους στη διατήρηση της ιστορικής μνήμης του Έθνους.


Η ομάδα της της Ελληνικής Ομοσπονδίας Ι.Ε.Π.Τ. μετά τη λήξη της παρουσίασης της

Αρέσει σε %d bloggers: