Hippeis (Ancient Greek: ἱππεῖς, singular ἱππεύς, hippeus) is a Greek term for cavalry. In ancient Athenian society, after the political reforms of Solon, the hippeus was the second highest of the four social classes. It was composed of men who had at least 300 medimnoi or their equivalent as yearly income. According to the Timocratic Constitution the average citizen had a yearly income of less than 200 medimnoi. This gave the men who made 300 medimnoi the ability to purchase and maintain a war horse during their service to the state.

Its counterparts were the Roman equites (equestrians) and medieval knights.

Rider BM B1
A Laconian black-figured cup by Rider Painter featuring a member of the hippeus.

Early formations

In Sparta, the hippeus was the royal guard of honour. It consisted of 300 Spartan youths under the age of thirty. These soldiers were initially mounted, but later they would serve as heavily armed foot soldiers. The Athenian cavalry was formed after the Greco-Persian War in the 5th century BC; it originally consisted of 300 men and then increased to 1,200 men following Athens' Golden Age. This included 200 mounted bowmen (hippotoxōtæ) and 1,000 Athenian citizens. The hippeus continued drilling in times of peace. They also took part in processions at public festivals. They were commanded by two hipparchi, who superintended the levy. Subordinated to each hipparch were five phylarchi, who each commanded a phyla. Both sets of officers were drawn from the two highest classes. It was the duty of the boule (council) to see that the cavalry was in good condition and to examine new members with respect to their equipment and eligibility.

Amphora warrior departure Louvre F12
Fully armed Hippeus. Attic black-figure amphora, 550–540 BC (Louvre)

The number of horsemen dispatched was determined by the decree of the popular assembly. Every horseman received equipment money on joining and a subsidy for keeping a groom and two horses; this grew to be an annual grant from the state, amounting to forty talents, but regular pay was only given in the field.

Sparta's cavalry

In 424 BC, a regular body of horses was formed, remedying long-standing neglect when compared with the infantry. The rich had only to provide horses, equipment, and armour; in time of war, those deemed unfit for service as hoplites were drafted to the cavalry and dispatched without any preliminary drill. In later times, every hoplite mora seems to have been allotted 60 cavalry.[1] By enlisting mercenaries and introducing allies into their forces, the Spartans eventually obtained better cavalry.

Citizen cavalry

Orient méditerranéen de l'Empire romain - Mosaïque byzantine -5
Roman mosaic depicting hippeus in combat with Amazon, 4th century AD (Louvre)

The utility of the Greek citizen-cavalry was low on account of their heavy armour, their metal helmet, and their coat of mail, their metal-fringed kilts, their cuisses reaching to the knee and their leather leggings. They did not take shields into battle. As offensive weapons, they had a straight two-edged sword and a spear, used either as a lance or thrown as a javelin. Horseshoes and stirrups were unknown to the Greeks. The closest approximation to a saddle was either a saddle-cloth or a piece of felt that was firmly fastened under the horse's belly. The Thessalians were considered the best riders. Trained in horsemanship as well as infantry warfare, the Sacred Band of Thebes[2] may have accompanied the great Theban cavalry commander Pelopidas to Pelopidas's fatal confrontation with Alexander of Pherae in 364. (Pelopidas taught Philip II of Macedon many cavalry skills.) Cavalry first became important in the Macedonian army under Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. Although in earlier times the number of horsemen in the Greek forces was low, in Alexander's later army they formed nearly a sixth. The Macedonian cavalry was divided into heavy and light, both consisting of squadrons (ilai) of an average strength of 200 men. Of the heavy cavalry, the choicest troops were Macedonians and Thessalians, armed in the Greek fashion, who were as formidable in onslaught as in single combat. In order and discipline, they far surpassed the dense squadrons of Asiatic cavalry, and even in attacking enemy infantry, they generally had a decisive effect, especially in the Battle of Gaugamela. The light cavalry, which was formed under the name of prodromoi (skirmishers), consisted of Macedonian sarissophoroi, so called from the sarissa, a lance from 14 to 16 feet (4.9 m) long (Polybius, XVIII, 12), and of Thracian horsemen. The heavy-cavalry men each had a mounted servant and probably a led horse to transport baggage and forage. After Alexander, Tarentini equites, or light-armed spearmen, with two horses each, emerged(192 BC, Livy, XXXV 28, 29).


Three main evolutionary stages transpired in ancient Greece, starting in the Mycenaean period approximately 1400 BC. The first stage consisted of turning a regular horse into a war horse and using it to pull a chariot, which was used to carry infantrymen to battle and to transport the injured. In the second stage the chariot was replaced as the fighting platform by the horse itself. Mounted soldiers were used to screen the army, harass the enemy and pursue fleeing enemies. In the third stage, in the 4th century, the cavalry charge emerged.

See also


  1. ^ Connolly, Peter (2006). Greece and Rome at War. Greenhill Books, p. 40. ISBN 978-1-85367-303-0
  2. ^ The Theban Sacred Band, James DeVoto in The Ancient World, Vol.XXIII, No.2, 1992

External links

Alexis (poet)

Alexis (Greek: Ἄλεξις; c. 375 – c. 275 BC) was a Greek comic poet of the Middle Comedy period. He was born at Thurii (in present-day Calabria, Italy) in Magna Graecia and taken early to Athens, where he became a citizen, being enrolled in the deme Oion (Οἶον) and the tribe Leontides. It is thought he lived to the age of 106 and died on the stage while being crowned. According to the Suda, a 10th-century encyclopedia, Alexis was the paternal uncle of the dramatist Menander and wrote 245 comedies, of which only fragments now survive, including some 130 preserved titles.


Arimnestos (Greek: Ἀρίμνηστος; fl. early 5th century BCE) was the commander of the Plataean contingent at the battles of Marathon and Plataea during the Greco-Persian Wars.


Originally, the Aristoi were tightly-knit families who had noble lineage, such as the Bacchiadae in ancient Corinth.

In the early 6th century BC, Solon promulgated constitutional reforms in Athens. Among the changes, the status and power of the old aristocracy was altered by making wealth rather than birth a criterion for holding political position. This system was called a Timocracy(Greek: τιμοκρατία).

This division called for a new division. Thus, citizens were organized based on their land production:

Pentacosiomedimni (or Pentakosiomedimnoi), who had at least 500 medimnoi of wet or dry goods (or their equivalent) as yearly income

Hippeis, who had at least 300 medimnoi (or their equivalent) as yearly income

Zeugitae, who were possessors of a yoke of oxen, with at least 150 medimnoi (or their equivalent) as yearly income

Thetes, who were workers for wages, or had less than 150 medimnoi (or their equivalent) as yearly incomeThis new system established the pentakosiomedimnoi as the aristoi. As such, they were often split into powerful family factions or clans, who controlled all of the important political positions in the polis. Their wealth usually came from both having property the most fertile or protected lands. However, as the status was predicated on his wealth, and losing it would cause the loss of nobility, the advent of sea trade routes placed the aristoi at risk of losing everything through failed overseas investments.Pittacus of Mytilene instituted a law stating that crimes committed in drunkenness should be punished twofold; this law was directed predominately against the aristocrats, as they were more often guilty of drunk and violent behaviour. As such, it was greatly appreciated by the common people.

Boule (ancient Greece)

In cities of ancient Greece, the boule (Greek: βουλή, boulē; plural βουλαί, boulai) was a council of over 500 citizens (βουλευταί, bouleutai) appointed to run daily affairs of the city. Originally a council of nobles advising a king, boulai evolved according to the constitution of the city: In oligarchies boule positions might have been hereditary, while in democracies members were typically chosen by lot (→ Sortition), and served for one year. Little is known about the workings of many boulai, except in the case of Athens, for which extensive material has survived.

Christian Cameron

Christian Gordon Cameron (born August 16, 1962), who writes under the pen names Gorden Kent and Miles Cameron, is a Canadian novelist, who was educated and trained as both an historian and a former career officer in the US Navy.

His best-known work is the ongoing historical fiction series Tyrant, which by 2009 had sold over 100,000 copies.

Conspiracy of Cinadon

The conspiracy of Cinadon was an attempted coup d'état which took place in Sparta in the 4th century BC during the first years of the reign of Eurypontid King Agesilaus II (398 BC-358 BC). The leader was Cinadon, who was a distinguished military officer, but came from a poor family. The conspiracy aimed to break the power of the oligarchic Spartan state and its elite and give rights to poorer Spartans and even to helots. Although elaborately organized, the plot was in the end betrayed to the ephors; they cracked down on the conspirators, and Cinadon himself was tortured and executed.

Cycladic culture

Cycladic culture (also known as Cycladic civilisation or, chronologically, as Cycladic chronology) was a Bronze Age culture (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC) found throughout the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artefacts which broadly complements Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.


Kiwaia is a genus of moth in the family Gelechiidae. Two subgenera are currently recognised, (i) the nominotypical subgenus with 25 species from New Zealand, and (ii) subgenus Empista with 4 species from the Palaearctic Region.

Kiwaia hippeis

Kiwaia hippeis is a moth in the family Gelechiidae. It was described by Meyrick in 1901. It is found in New Zealand.The wingspan is 15–16 mm. The forewings are rather dark purplish-bronzy-fuscous with the stigmata darker, obscurely defined, the first discal obliquely beyond the plical and near the second. The hindwings are whitish-grey.


A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity.

Historically, in Europe, knighthood was conferred upon mounted warriors. During the High Middle Ages, knighthood was considered a class of lower nobility. By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior. Often, a knight was a vassal who served as an elite fighter, a bodyguard or a mercenary for a lord, with payment in the form of land holdings. The lords trusted the knights, who were skilled in battle on horseback. Knighthood in the Middle Ages was closely linked with horsemanship (and especially the joust) from its origins in the 12th century until its final flowering as a fashion among the high nobility in the Duchy of Burgundy in the 15th century. This linkage is reflected in the etymology of chivalry, cavalier and related terms. The special prestige accorded to mounted warriors in Christendom finds a parallel in the furusiyya in the Muslim world, and the Greek hippeis (ἱππεῖς) and Roman eques of classical antiquity.In the late medieval period, new methods of warfare began to render classical knights in armour obsolete, but the titles remained in many nations. The ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, particularly the literary cycles known as the Matter of France, relating to the legendary companions of Charlemagne and his men-at-arms, the paladins, and the Matter of Britain, relating to the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

Today, a number of orders of knighthood continue to exist in Christian Churches, as well as in several historically Christian countries and their former territories, such as the Roman Catholic Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Order of Malta, the Protestant Order of Saint John, as well as the English Order of the Garter, the Swedish Royal Order of the Seraphim, and the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. Each of these orders has its own criteria for eligibility, but knighthood is generally granted by a head of state, monarch, or prelate to selected persons to recognise some meritorious achievement, as in the British honours system, often for service to the Church or country. The modern female equivalent in the United Kingdom is Dame.

Law court (ancient Athens)

The law courts in ancient Athens (4th and 5th centuries BC) were a fundamental organ of democratic governance. According to Aristotle, whoever controls the courts controls the state.

These courts were jury courts and very large ones: the smallest possible had 200 members (+1 to avoid ties) and sometimes 501, 1000 or 1500. The annual pool of jurors, whose official name was Heliaia, comprised 6000 members. At least on one known occasion the whole six thousand sat together to judge a single case (a plenary session of the Heliaia). This was very different from Rome's laws, as in Rome, jury representatives were elected. The Athenian jurors were chosen randomly by lot, which meant that juries would consist, in theory, of a wide range of members from different social classes. Jurors were chosen on an annual basis, as were all other offices within the state (with the exception of the generals, known as strategoi).

After the reforms of Solon in 594/3 BC, anyone from each of the four classes (the pentacosiomedimni, hippeis, zeugites and thetes) could become a juror. This was meant to make the system much fairer to the poorer members of society, who had previously been excluded in favour of the elitist aristocrats.

The archons who convened the courts had a purely administrative function and gave no legal direction or advice to the jurors: there was no judge but the jurors themselves.

From the time of Pericles onwards, jury pay was introduced. This was two obols a day, which, despite not being a substantial amount of money, was enough to encourage even the poorest to become a juror. This was later increased to three obols a day by Cleon.The law courts in Athens were different and diverse: as time changed they changed too. They originated from the Council of the elite and wealthy who were in charge and ended up being open to any free male who was in the army. Athens valued justice and they had many different reforms as different challenges arose. The Athenian law court was large and decisions were made by majority. The courts could also exile those from society who were gaining too much power and could become tyrants. The laws of Athens also changed as the courts changed to work better with society. “The early Greeks were a litigious lot.”


In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (; Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy are examples), as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.


In ancient Greece, the prodromoi (singular: prodromos) were skirmisher light cavalry. Their name (ancient Greek: πρόδρομοι, prοdromoi, lit. "pre-cursors," "runners-before," or "runners-ahead") implies that these cavalry 'moved before the rest of the army' and were therefore intended for scouting and screening missions. They were usually equipped with javelins, and a sword. Sometimes they wore either linen or leather armour, as well as bronze helmets.

Sacred Band of Thebes

The Sacred Band of Thebes (Ancient Greek: Ἱερὸς Λόχος, Hieròs Lókhos) was a troop of select soldiers, consisting of 150 pairs of male lovers which formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC. Its predominance began with its crucial role in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. It was annihilated by Philip II of Macedon in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.

Solonian Constitution

The Solonian Constitution was created by Solon in the early 6th century BC. At the time of Solon the Athenian State was almost falling to pieces in consequence of dissensions between the parties into which the population was divided. Solon wanted to revise or abolish the older laws of Draco. Solon promulgated a code of laws embracing the whole of public and private life, the salutary effects of which lasted long after the end of his constitution.

Under Solon's reforms, all debts were abolished and all debt-slaves were freed. The status of the hectemoroi (the "one-sixth workers"), who farmed in an early form of serfdom, was also abolished. These reforms were known as the Seisachtheia. Solon's constitution reduced the power of the old aristocracy by making wealth rather than birth a criterion for holding political positions, a system called timokratia (timocracy). Citizens were also divided based on their land production: Pentacosiomedimnoi, Hippeis, Zeugitae, and Thetes. The lower assembly was given the right to hear appeals, and Solon also created the higher assembly. Both of these were meant to decrease the power of the Areopagus, the aristocratic council. The only parts of Draco's code that Solon kept were the laws regarding homicide. The constitution was written as poetry, and as soon as it was introduced, Solon went into self-imposed exile for 10 years so he would not be tempted to take power as a tyrant.

Spartan army

The Spartan army stood at the center of the Spartan state, citizens trained in the disciplines and honor of a warrior society. Subject to military drill from early manhood, the Spartans became one of the most feared military forces in the Greek world. At the height of Sparta's power – between the 6th and 4th centuries BC – it was commonly accepted by other Greeks that "one Spartan was worth several men of any other state". According to Thucydides, the famous moment of Spartan surrender on the island of Sphacteria, off Pylos, in 425 BC, was highly unexpected. He wrote that "it was the common perception at the time that Spartans would never lay down their weapons for any reason, be it hunger, or danger."

Tradition states that the semi-mythical Spartan legislator Lycurgus first founded the iconic army. Referring to Sparta as having a "wall of men, instead of bricks", he proposed to reform Spartan society to develop a military-focused lifestyle in accordance with "proper virtues" such as equality for the male citizens, austerity, strength, and fitness. A Spartan male's involvement with the army began in infancy when he was inspected by the Gerousia. Any baby judged weak or deformed was left at Mount Taygetus to die, since the world of the Spartans was no place for those who could not fend for themselves. (The practice of discarding children at birth took place in Athens as well.) Those deemed strong entered the agoge regime at the age of seven. Under the agoge the young boys or Spartiates underwent intense and rigorous military training. Their education focused primarily on cunning, sports and war tactics, but also included poetry, music, academics, and sometimes politics. Those who passed the agoge by the age of 30 achieved full Spartan citizenship.

The term "spartan" became synonymous with fearlessness, harsh and cruel life, endurance or simplicity by design.

The Knights

The Knights (Ancient Greek: Ἱππεῖς Hippeîs; Attic: Ἱππῆς) was the fourth play written by Aristophanes, who is considered the master of an ancient form of drama known as Old Comedy. The play is a satire on the social and political life of classical Athens during the Peloponnesian War and in this respect it is typical of all the dramatist's early plays. It is unique however in the relatively small number of its characters and this was due to its scurrilous preoccupation with one man, the pro-war populist Cleon. Cleon had prosecuted Aristophanes for slandering the polis with an earlier play, The Babylonians (426 BC), for which the young dramatist had promised revenge in The Acharnians (425 BC), and it was in The Knights (424 BC) that his revenge was exacted. The Knights won first prize at the Lenaia festival when it was produced in 424 BC.


A timocracy (from Greek τιμή timē, "price, worth" and -κρατία -kratia, "rule") in Aristotle's Politics is a state where only property owners may participate in government. The more extreme forms of timocracy, where power derives entirely from wealth with no regard for social or civic responsibility, may shift in their form and become a plutocracy where the wealthy rule.


Xanthippe (; Greek: Ξανθίππη, Greek pronunciation: [kʰsantʰíp̚pɛː]; 5th – 4th century BCE) was an ancient Athenian, the wife of Socrates and mother of their three sons: Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus. She was likely much younger than Socrates, perhaps by as much as 40 years.

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