Horsemanship in the Greek Anthology

Translated and annotated by William Roger Paton


Plango dedicated on the portals of the equestrian god her purple whip and her polished reins, after winning as a jockey her race with Philaenis, her practised rival, when the horses of the evening had just begun to neigh. Dear Cypris, give her unquestioned glory for her victory, stablishing for her this favour not to be forgotten.

Asclepiades of Samos (3rd century BC) or Poseidippos of Pella (3rd century BC)
Book V, 202 (Vol. I, p. 229)

Lysidice dedicated to thee, Cypris, her spur, the golden goad of her shapely leg, with which she trained many a horse on its back, while her own thighs were never reddened, so lightly did she ride; for she ever finished the race without a touch of the spur, and therefore hung on the great gate of thy temple this her weapon of gold.

Asclepiades of Samos (3rd century BC)
Book V, 203 (Vol. I, p. 229)

This horse of Phidolas from spacious Corinth is dedicated to Zeus in memory of the might of its legs.

Attributed to Anacreon (6th – 5th century BC)
Book VI, 135 (Vol. I, p. 371)

The bit that rattles in the teeth, the constraining muzzle pierced on both sides, the well-sewn curb-strap that presses on the jaw, also this correcting whip which urges to violent speed, the crooked biting “epipselion,”1 the bloody pricks of the spur and the scraping saw-like curry-comb iron-bound – these, Isthmian Poseidon, who delightest in the roar of the waves on both shores, are the gifts thou hast from Stratius.

Quintus Maecius (probably 1st century BC)
Book VI, 233 (Vol. I, p. 423)

Charmus from his Isthmian victory dedicates in thy porch, Poseidon, his spurs that urge the horse on its way, the muzzle that fits on its nose, its necklace of teeth,2 and his willow wand, also the comb that drags the horse’s hair, the whip for its flanks, rough mother of smacking blows. Accept these gifts, god of the steel-blue locks, and crown the son of Lycinus in the great Olympian contest too.

Philodemus of Gadara (1st century BC) or Marcus Argentarius (probably 1st century BC)
Book VI, 246 (Vol. I, p. 431)

This tomb Damis built for his steadfast war-horse pierced through the breast by gory Ares. The black blood bubbled through his stubborn hide, and he drenched the earth in his sore death-pangs.

Anyte of Tegea (4th/3rd century BC)
Book VII, 208 (Vol. II, p. 119)

On a Mare
Stranger, say that this is the tomb of wind-footed Aethyia, a child of the dry land, lightest of limb; often toiling over the long course, she, like a bird,3 travelled as far as do the ships.

Mnasalcas of Sikyon (4th/3rd century BC)
Book VII, 212 (Vol. II, p. 121)

At Acmonia
I had an unhappy end, for I was a rearer of animals and Bacche slew me, not in a race on the course, but during the training for which I was renowned.4

Book VII, 332 (Vol. II, p. 179)

“Eagle,” who once outshone all fleet-footed horses; about whose legs chaplets once hung; he whom Pytho, the oracular seat of Phoebus, once crowned in the games, where he raced like a swiftly flying bird; he whom Nemea, too, the nurse of the grim lion, crowned, and Pisa and Isthmus with its two beaches, is now fettered by a collar as if by a bit, and grinds corn by turning a rough stone. He suffers the same fate as Heracles, who also, after accomplishing so much, put on the yoke of slavery.

Archias of Mytilene (probably 1st century BC)
Book IX, 19 (Vol. III, p. 13)

I, Sir, who once gained the crown on the banks of Alpheius, and was twice proclaimed victor by the water of Castalia; I, who was announced the winner at Nemea, and formerly, as a colt, at Isthmus; I, who ran swift as the winged winds—see me now, how in my old age I turn the rotating stone driven in mockery of the crowns I won.

Book IX, 20 (Vol. III, p. 13)

I, Pegasus, attach blame to thee, my country Thessaly, breeder of horses, for this unmerited end of my days. I, who was led in procession at Pytho and Isthmus; I, who went to the festival of Nemean Zeus and to Olympia to win the Arcadian olive-twigs, now drag the heavy weight of the round Nisyrian5 mill-stone, grinding fine from the ears the fruit of Demeter.

Book IX, 21 (Vol. III, p. 13)

The well-mounted troupe of bull-fighters from Thessaly, armed against the beasts with no weapons but their hands, spur their horses to run alongside the galloping bull, bent on throwing round its neck the noose of their arms. At the same time pulling it towards the ground by thus hanging themselves at the end of its neck and weighing down its head, they roll over even such a powerful brute.6

Philippus of Thessalonica (1st century AD)
Book IX, 543 (Vol. III, p. 301)

Of one stone are chariot, charioteer, horses, yoke, reins, whip.

Book IX, 759 (Vol. III, p. 411)

Of one stone are chariot, charioteer, horses, yoke, reins, and Victory.

Book IX, 760 (Vol. III, p. 411)

Look how proudly the art of the worker in bronze makes this horse stand. Fierce is his glance as he arches his neck and shakes out his wind-tossed mane for the course. I believe that if a charioteer were to fit the bit to his jaws and prick him with the spur, thy work, Lysippus, would surprise us by running away; for Art makes it breathe.

Philippus of Thessalonica (1st century AD)
Book IX, 777 (Vol. III, p. 419)

Kings of Sparta were my fathers and brothers, and I, Cynisca,7 winning the race with my chariot of swift-footed horses, erected this statue. I assert that I am the only woman in all Greece who won this crown.

Book XIII, 16 (Vol. V, p. 11)

Thou work of brass, be known as the prize of the swift filly, who when, torn by the spur, she had thrown her jockey, ran unmounted round the level course. And therefore did Parmenon gain golden victory. Phocritus, to thy son did the Lords of Amyclae8 grant to win in the race like his father.

Parmenion (probably 1st century BC)
Book XIII, 18 (Vol. V, pp. 11-13)


1 I prefer to leave this word untranslated. It cannot be “curb-chain,” as the curb-strap is evidently meant above.

2 To protect from the evil eye.

3 i.e. like the sea-bird (αιθυια) whose name she bore.

4 Bacche must have been a mare which somehow killed him while being trained.

5 Nisyros, a volcanic island near Cos, famous for its millstones.

6 It is implied, of course, that the man throws himself off his horse. In Heliodorus (x. 30) the man is described as throwing his arms round the bull’s neck and burying his face between its horns, and this seems to be what is meant here.

7 Sister of Agesilaus. See Xenophon, Ages, chap. 9, §6.

8 The Dioscuri.


7 July 2021 – 8 January 2023