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Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare Paperback – December 10, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Wonderful book, you have a very clear and quick-paced writing style. It should become a classic.'

He is US defense intelligence analyst as well as author and editor of many books, including Alexander: The Invincible King of Macedonia.

(Peter G. Tsouras)

"Sidnell has produced a highly readable study of the combat role of cavalry in the ancient world. Sidnell nevertheless persuasively argues his points in an imaginative, thorough fashion. Illustrated with 14 excellent photographs and drawings (seven in color) and a helpful glossary, though lacking battle diagrams and a bibliography, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers." Summing Up: Highly recommended." -CHOICE, July 2007 (CHOICE)

"Throughout the book the sources are discussed and the reliability we can place on them is evaluated with reference to current academic thinking and archaeological research...an interesting and informative read... would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period"
(Battlegames, Mark Lewis)

Title mentioned in Church Times, 2008.


"The ancient world opened with Homer's heroes riding into battle on chariots and ended when the Arabs' fleet mounts overran the Persian and much of the Byzantine empire. Sidnell charts a clear course across these centuries, and beyond."
Reviewed in BBC History Magazine, 2008


'Sidnell offers an excellent account of cavalry's effectiveneess ... and convincingly proves that shock cavalry was decisive in the outcome of many ancient battles. Although his main audience will be academic. his writing style flows well enough to appeal to a more casual audience.'
The Historian, Fall 2008
(Captain Matthew R Basler)

"Warhorse will be a profitable read for anyone interested in ancient warfare, or in horses." —Albert A. Nofi, New York Military Affairs Symposium Review, 2009

'Wonderful book, you have a very clear and quick-paced writing style. It should become a classic.'

He is US defense intelligence analyst as well as author and editor of many books, including Alexander: The Invincible King of Macedonia.

(Sanford Lakoff)

"Sidnell has produced a highly readable study of the combat role of cavalry in the ancient world. Sidnell nevertheless persuasively argues his points in an imaginative, thorough fashion. Illustrated with 14 excellent photographs and drawings (seven in color) and a helpful glossary, though lacking battle diagrams and a bibliography, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers." Summing Up: Highly recommended." -CHOICE, July 2007 (Sanford Lakoff)

"Throughout the book the sources are discussed and the reliability we can place on them is evaluated with reference to current academic thinking and archaeological research...an interesting and informative read... would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period"
(Sanford Lakoff)

'Sidnell offers an excellent account of cavalry's effectiveneess ... and convincingly proves that shock cavalry was decisive in the outcome of many ancient battles. Although his main audience will be academic. his writing style flows well enough to appeal to a more casual audience.'
The Historian, Fall 2008
(Sanford Lakoff)

“Warhorse will be a profitable read for anyone interested in ancient warfare, or in horses.” –Albert A. Nofi, New York Military Affairs Symposium Review, 2009

About the Author

Philip Sidnell studied War Studies and History at King's College London where he gained a First Class degree and twice won the Simon Russell O'Dwyer prize for academic achievement. Previously editor of the Military and Aviation Book Society and the Ancient and Medieval History Book Club, he is now a commissioning editor specialising in ancient warfare. Besides a lifelong interest in horses and military history, he is a keen wargamer. He lives in Kent with his wife and two children.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (December 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847250238
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847250230
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,416,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey F. Bell on March 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is quite surprising how long an obviously incorrect theory can linger on in academia. The notion that cavalry was mostly ineffective until the invention of the stirrup, or the saddle, or maybe the couched lance, doesn't stand up to the slightest examination of the ancient source literature. Wargamers, military historians, and reenactors haven't believed any of these theories for years. But serious academic historians can still write drivel like "the Huns must have had stirrups even though there is no evidence for them, because they couldn't have won without them."

So this book was badly needed. Sidnell collects together and critically reviews everything known about ancient cavalry in the Near East and Europe, from Asurnasipal II to William the Conqueror. No detail is too small. Do you want to know how the xyston differed from the kontos and how they were wielded in battle? It's clearly explained here. Out of touch with the cataphractus vs. clibinarius debate? The latest views are neatly summarized.

The evidence shows that the cavalry charge was a common battle tactic in most ancient cultures, and was often decisive even when the horsemen were riding on nothing more substantial than a blanket. As in many other areas, the ancients could do things we moderns think are impossible because we don't need to attempt them.

The only thing missing here is a short section on the care, feeding, and training of warhorses. The author and his horsey friends probably know this, but most 21st-century readers will have had less contact with horses than with exotic zoo animals.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it is partly the fault of Hollywood movies: we can easily envision the compact masses of Greek spearmen and the long lines of Roman swordsmen, but where are the cavalry? Sidnell's "Warhorse" is a history of cavalry in the ancient Western world, demonstrating that cavalry was an integral and vital part of those ancient armies.

After an introductory section surveying the development of cavalry in the ancient Middle East (including a fascinating comparison of cavalry and chariot forces on the battlefield), the focus shifts westward to Classical Greece, Alexander the Great (and the Successor states), and Rome from the early Republic through the Empire. The role and importance of cavalry to those ancient armies and the changing character of the mounted forces are explored in careful detail, with numerous illuminating examples drawn from several centuries of combat usually seen as infantry-dominated battles.

A final section looks at Medieval European cavalry, culminating in the 1066 battle of Hastings. Of particular interest here is Sidnell's lengthy discussion of the introduction of the stirrup into the West. He effectively demolishes the conventional wisdom that cavalry "shock" tactics were a development of, and dependend on, the introduction of the stirrup, Instead, the author quite convincingly presents a case that the stirrup was viewed as a tool to make mounting a horse easier -- a matter of some importance, but far from crucial in using either lances or heavy swords from horseback.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G. R. Grove on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Warhorse" could have been a good book, properly designed and produced. The writing is clear and fluent; the author evidently knows his subject well and has done extensive research, some of it hands-on. But in a narrative ranging from China and the steppes of Central Asia to the Mediterranean world and western Europe, there are no maps. Not one. In a book which discusses a large number of ancient battles, there is *one* diagram (produced with keyboard symbols). The first chapter discusses chariot warfare and notes that "many artefacts and pictorial representations show us in some detail how chariots were constructed and their crews equipped", but there are no pictures of chariots. The only illustrations in the whole book are eight pages containing nine photographs and three sketches (the later unattributed) which seem to have been added as an afterthought. The chapters are large and general (e.g., "Early Rome") with no subheadings. There are no tables, and no bibliography. The back flap notes that the author, "a keen rider, ... has re-enacted many of the manoeuvres of ancient horsemen, using replicas of their weapons and equipment", but there are no photographs of these either.

This book seems from its style to be directed at a general audience, and yet a general audience which knows where Veii is and what a modern bit (never mind an ancient one) looks like. With proper attention to detail, this could have been a good book, but as it stands it is a very disappointing one. If you are already an expert in this subject and merely want to follow the author's arguments on the effectiveness of cavalry before the invention of the stirrup, I expect it would be a good read. Otherwise I think that you will come away disappointed, as I did. This will teach me not to buy a reference book sight unseen from a non-academic publisher, merely on the basis of two good reviews.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By samfromscottsdale on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Warhorse is an excellent reference book that disposes of many of the myths that we have foisted off onto our readers. Trained riders and valuable horses wouldn't have been wasted in any military force, without the benefit that resulted from such an investment.

As an author who has written about light horse cavalry tactics in the Bronze Age, I refused to believe the stories about horses being too small, riders too precarious to control their mounts in battle, etc.

Now thanks to Mr. Sidnell and his experiments and research, my hero can continue to sit comfortably on his horse, and fight against the enemies of civilization!

Sam Barone
Scottsdale, AZ
Author of: Dawn of Empire
& Empire Rising
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