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Les hippodromes et les concours hippiques dans la grèce antique

 | 
Jean-Charles Moretti
, 
Panos Valavanis

Les épreuves hippiques et les chevaux

Logistics and requirements for overseas participants in the Olympic Games: The example of Sicily

Sandra Zipprich

Résumé

Taking as an example the participants from Sicily, this article examines the logistical requirements for transporting race horses via across the sea to the Olympic Games. Aspects to take into account are the provision of food and water as well as the boxes in which the animals were shipped. Examples for the transportation of large animals can be found throughout history, and modern examples show that horses meant for serious sport can cover extensive distances via sea transport if certain essential requirements are met.
To reach the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, the horses would have been shipped via sea route to one of the harbours close by and then would have continued either up the river Alpheios or by road. All in all the distance could be covered in less than a week. With the right preparation, and sufficient time for the animals to adapt to their new surroundings, participants from Sicily would not expect any particular disadvantages connected to their means of transport.

Texte intégral

1During recent years a lot of research has been done on where equestrian competitions were held in antiquity and who participated in these games. But the focus is rarely put on those who were actually the most important participants of these competitions, namely the valuable race horses. They had to be transported over large distances via sea routes or overland to reach the competition venues. Since they were supposed to perform at their best, it is logical that every precaution must have been taken to diminish the risk of injury or any other discomfort while travelling.

Logistical requirements

2Modern handbooks on the transport of vertebrates contain regulations on air ventilation and temperature control as well as on the litter and medical care which has to be provided. There has to be sufficient lighting and space for performing any act needed for the safety of the animals. Basic questions like the provision of food and water are addressed as well as the maximum period of time which the animals can spend in the vehicle.

  • 1 Marschner 2011, pp. 5-13.
  • 2 Claudi, Steinmetz, Hackeschmidt 2014, pp. 6-8.
  • 3 Schrader et al. 2009, p. 6.
  • 4 Kamphues et al. 2004, p. 239.
  • 5 So far, no single complete Greek chariot has been excavated and thus no exact dimensions can be sta (...)

3Generally, if the transport lasts more than 8 hours or covers more than 65 km, it qualifies as a “long journey” and can only be executed by accredited enterprises.1 Water provision is vital for equids, and a shortage would definitely affect the performance of the animal. However, it is difficult to give a general statement of the definite amount of liquid required. Depending on temperature and exercise horses need between 30 and 60 litres per day.2 In a natural environment, horses distribute their food intake over the whole day. More than aiming for a sensation of satiety, they try to satisfy their need for chewing and a neglect of this need might result in behavioural disorders. Depending on the amount of food available, horses can be very picky about what they consume.3 To avoid intricacies connected to this behaviour, it seems very likely that the owner would provide the horse with the kind of nutrition it is accustomed to. The amount is dependent on the type of food and varies for each individual animal. With hay, we can estimate that at least 7 kg is necessary to feed a horse weighing around 600 kg.4 Taking into account the aforementioned numbers, at least 40 kg of food and water per day woud have to be moved together with each horse.5

  • 6 Küper 2003, p. 115.
  • 7 Küper 2003, p. 55.

4The boxes which are used during the transport should feature stable walls which can resist potential kicks by their inhabitants. These walls should be upholstered and free of jutting objects to avoid injuries. The floor has to provide grip for the hooves and keep excrement in. A means of fastening the horse if necessary is also a useful addition. Since excessive space which allows free movement can cause injuries, the size of the box has to be adjusted accordingly. In addition to the width of the horse, usually a space of approximately 15 cm is allotted.6 This makes the space needed for horse transport much more manageable than one might think at first. The same can be stated for the additional equipment. At least a head collar and a rope should be provided to fasten its bearer inside the box and thus prevent injuries. Blankets and bandages can be used to offer support and comfort.7

  • 8 Podhajsky 2001, pp. 205-206.
  • 9 Podhajsky 2001, pp. 220-221.
  • 10 Küper 2003, p. 22.

5One well-documented example for the transport of equids via sea routes is the journey made by the Lippizaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. In 1950 they were transported by ship to the United States for their first tour.8 In stormy weather, the horses were knocked over, but the narrow boxes prevented them from being pushed to and fro. Within a short time the animals adjusted to the situation and leaned in on the walls for more stability. After two weeks, the stallions safely reached their destination.9 The most exhausting feature of sea transport is the need for the horses to balance themselves permanently, which can be tiring especially when the sea is rough. In comparison to transport via aircraft, travel aboard a ship is considerably more time- consuming and horses might lose shape during this long period. As a result, air transport is usually chosen in modern equestrian sport.10

6The example of the Austrian stallions shows that horses meant for serious sport can travel extensive distances via sea transport. Essential requirements are the adequate preparation of the horses and their professional accommodation and supervision during the journey. The ship must provide enough space for the animals, their nutrition and equipment. After they reach their final destination, time to adjust to the new circumstances and to regain shape should be allowed.

  • 11 Göttlicher 2006, p. 43.

7In Greek antiquity, all of the conditions mentioned above could be met. The ships sailing the comparably short distances on the Mediterranean Sea provided –perhaps after minor alterations– enough storage room for their precious freight, their provisions and equipment.11 Horse breeding and training were well-developed businesses and thus there must have been specialized staff who accompanied and supervised the animals. For them, transporting horses via boat was most likely nothing unusual since the concept of this kind of transport had been around for quite some time.

Transport of large animals

  • 12 Hornig 1999, p. 20.

8Equids were formerly used as a source of food and as working animals. They were extremely important for warfare, as they were vital for the transport of persons and goods. To put them to use in certain campaigns, quite often they had to be transported on ships. Direct archaeological proof for these transports is understandably hard to find. Bones or other findings from contexts under water or on land can provide hints. Skeletal remains may have derived from living animals as well as from dead ones meant for nutrition. Horse gear parts and, later on, horse shoes could point to the transport of living animals.12 Sporadically, a wreck is suspected of having been a horse transporter. Nevertheless, truly convincing evidence is still missing. So apart from direct archaeological proof, depictions and written sources should be taken into account.

  • 13 Hornig 1999, p. 18.
  • 14 Hofmann 1989, p. 183 fig. 16.
  • 15 Landström 1974, p. 106 fig. 329.

9In Egypt, portrayals of horses loaded on ships are known from the time of the New Kingdom, where the animals were the precious possession of the upper class. They brought horses and chariots with them when travelling on the Nile since they wanted to be able to present themselves in a manner befitting their rank after reaching their destination.13 One example for these depictions can be found in the tomb of Paheri in El-Kab. Two sailing ships are shown carrying a uniaxial chariot on the cabin’s roof whereas the associated horses are situated in the prow.14 Another scene from the tomb of the viceroy of Thebes shows the horses in special boxes with a roof and thus protected from outside elements.15

  • 16 Graeve 1981, p. 39 nos. 36-38.
  • 17 Graeve 1981, p. 49 no. 53.

10With the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, representations similar to those from Egypt are known from Mesopotamia. Here the transport of equids is mostly shown in military contexts. Reliefs from the palace of Assurnasirpal II in Nimrud show the Assyrian army crossing a river.16 For this, the chariots have been loaded onto oared vehicles. The horses cross swimming alone or are being led by soldiers. Another transport is depicted on a relief from Ninive, where military horses have been loaded onto vehicles and are guarded by their custodians.17

  • 18 CMS II, 8, 133.
  • 19 Antikenmuseum Berlin No. 31013. Cf. Göttlicher 2006, p. 43, 142 fig. 17.

11The imprint of a late Minoan seal from Knossos can be interpreted as showing the transport of a horse aboard a ship.18 Even though it is not preserved completely, the sailing ship can be easily identified. Three ropes are leading up to the mast from the bow, another three from the stern. Three figures are facing left while holding one oar each. The bridled horse, its mane done up in an elaborate fashion, is disproportionately tall compared to the oarsmen and also turning left. A 7th century fibula from Boeotia shows a ship heading to the right with a horse standing in the middle.19 Again, it is disproportionately tall and appears to be in some way attached to the mast.

  • 20 Hornig 1999, p. 19.
  • 21 Herodotus, 6.48; 7.97.
  • 22 Herodotus, 7.95.
  • 23 Thucydides, 2.56.
  • 24 Thucydides, 4.42.

12Similarly to the Egyptian language, apparently Sumerian and Akkadian did not contain a specific word for horse transporters. Nevertheless, there seems to have been a certain notion of the concept in the Persian kingdom.20 The Greek coastal cities paying tributes to the Persians were ordered by Dareios I to build ἱππαγωγὰ πλοῖα21 or ἱππαγωγοὶ νέες.22 When Thucydides describes the departure of Pericles during the Peloponnesian War, part of the fleet consisted of 300 horsemen in horse transporters –ἐν ναυσὶν ἱππαγωγοῖς– which had been constructed from old vehicles (ἐκ τῶν παλαιῶν νεῶν).23 And when Athens attacked Corinth five years later, again transporters with 200 horsemen were deployed.24

13The list of these examples mentioned above covers a wide range of time periods as well as regions. Even though it is by no means complete, it illustrates the fact that strategies on how to transport equids from one place to another are closely connected to their utilization. Depending on its motivation this transport may take place in various ways, from using simple swimming devices to highly specialized vehicles. The equids might be merchandise, they could be meant for use in agricultural or military use or of course because they were supposed to compete in a specific race. The latter example will be illustrated below by looking in detail at the transport of a race horse from Sicily to the Olympic Games.

From Sicily to Olympia

  • 25 For more in-depth studies on these relations see Giangiulio 1993; Philipp 1994; Naso 2006; Antonacc (...)
  • 26 Bilić 2009, pp. 120-122.

14Greeks from Italy and Sicily allotted high prestige to the sanctuary of Olympia. As well as the comparatively high number of treasuries, numerous offerings and inscriptions prove their presence in the sanctuary.25 The connection between Sicily and Olympia has been reflected in myth at least from the 6th century onwards. The river Alpheus has a special relationship with the island of Ortygia right in front of the Sicilian coast. This is the location of a spring which was supposedly sacred to the nymph Arethusa, whose flight from the river god Alpheus was conveyed in several variations.26 The Olympic victory lists show plenty of victors from the island, many of whom were members of the Sicilian upper class and whose success was quite often immortalized by Pindar in his Olympian Odes. The ideal of the noble horse breeder was held in high regard in Sicily, while the cost of training and keeping horses that could be victorious naturally limited the participants to the Sicilian upper class.

  • 27 Strabo, 6.2.1.
  • 28 Prontera 1996, p. 205.
  • 29 Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 7.10-11.
  • 30 Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 8.15.

15Various sources tell us about the sea routes participants would have used. Strabo states that the distance from Pachynus to the mouth of the Alpheus is about 4,000 stadia.27 In general those two points are given as a reference when referring to the distance between the Peloponnese and Sicily.28 Philostratus describes a sea passage to Rome which most likely took place during summer. The ship left Corinth in the evening for the open sea voyage towards Sicily and Italy. Favourable winds and currents allow for a swift passage and Puteoli is reached on the fifth day.29 The return trip starts again in Puteoli, at the beginning of autumn. They cross the Strait of Messina and continue to Taormina on the east coast of Sicily. Via Syracuse, the company traverses the gulf and arrives six days later at the place where the river Alpheus flows into the Adriatic and Sicilian Sea.30

  • 31 Bilić 2009, p. 116.
  • 32 Casson 1959, p. 115.
  • 33 Casson 1959, p. 286.
  • 34 Bilić 2009, pp. 116-117.

16It can be thus inferred that the return trip from Puteoli to the mouth of the Alpheus was undertaken during the time from late September till early November and took six days in total. The mentioning of traversing the gulf seems to hint at an open-sea voyage rather than coastal navigation. Given the distance and the time needed for the first part of the journey, a duration of six days for the route from Sicily back to the Peloponnese seems quite long.31 It has been remarked that a navigator “headed for Sicily had the wind behind him only as far as the southern tip of Greece and from that point on he had to tack; conditions were, of course, just the reverse on the homeward journey.”32 This means that the return journey back to Greece should definitely not have been longer, but faster, due to the favourable north-westerly winds prevailing in this area.33 The given duration of six days probably applies to the whole journey from Puteoli to the mouth of the Alpheus: two days for the approximately 250 nautical miles from Puteoli to Taormina and then on to Syracuse. After one day here the journey continued towards the mouth of the Alpheus, which is about 300 nautical miles away and could be reached within two or three days under good conditions.34

  • 35 Thucydides, 6.13.1.
  • 36 Bilić 2009, p. 119.
  • 37 Prontera 1996, p. 205.
  • 38 Euripides, Cyclops 18-20.
  • 39 Demosthenes, Oratio 32.4-8.

17Thucydides differentiates between two possible routes, the Ionian Sea for coastal navigation and the Sicilian for the open-sea crossing.35 The geographical term Ionian Sea is generally used by ancient authors when talking about the Adriatic, or even more specifically about the Strait of Otranto and its closer vicinity. The Sicilian Sea was traditionally located between Sicily and the Peloponnese, stretching as far as the island of Crete.36 The extension of the term as far as the shores of the Aegean could have its origin in the travellers crossing it who were actually going to Sicily. If the name really derived from these sea routes, the crossings must have been more frequent than can be deduced from the few references in literature.37 Among those, the earliest mentioning of a direct crossing of the Sicilian Sea can probably be found in the Cyclops of Euripides.38 Even though it is a mythological story, it nevertheless shows clearly that the direct crossing to Sicily was something that the spectators of this time could imagine as possible. Another example is related by Demosthenes who gives an account of how two merchants wanted to sink their ship after two or three days on the route from Syracuse to Greece. But the sabotage was discovered and the ship was saved and brought to Cephalonia, which implies that at that moment they could not have been too far away from the Greek coast.39

  • 40 Fresa 1969, p. 254.

18Taking these facts into consideration, one can safely assume that direct crossings of the Sicilian Sea were nothing unusual and could be done in two or three days. Only about 24 hours of this time span had to be navigated without landmarks, using stellar navigation.40 In Roman times this sea route had become everyday business since it was part of the sea route between Rome and Alexandria.

  • 41 Pausanias, 6.23.1.
  • 42 Siewert 2000, pp. 31-37.

19Reaching the Peloponnese, the travellers could then choose between several harbours. A sensible option was Kyllini in the vicinity of Elis. Since athletes and trainers had to spend at least one month training in Elis, this harbour probably was their preferred landing spot.41 An inscription from the 3rd century AD relates that the city of Elis decreed a regulation of traffic within its city area during the Olympian Games.42 A regulation like this must have become necessary to avoid complications due to an increase in visitors to the city.

  • 43 Xenophon, Hellenica 6.2.31; Strabo, 8.3.13.
  • 44 Taita 2012, pp. 347-348.

20Another possible landing point was Pheia, the oversea harbour that played an important role in the movement of materials and people to the sanctuary of Olympia. Details from Xenophon and Strabo43 have in connection with geological circumstances led to the conclusion that Pheia must have been located in the small bay of Agios Andreas close to Katakolon. During surveys conducted by N. Yalouris in the 1950s and 1960s, a large amount of archaeological material was registered both on land and underwater. Besides pottery and metal finds from Archaic to Late Roman times, architectural remains were also documented. Even though these have not yet been safely identified as belonging to harbor architecture, the findings of the surveys nevertheless support the well accepted identification of this place with Pheia.44

  • 45 Pausanias, 6.22.8.
  • 46 Strabo, 8.3.13.
  • 47 Taita 2012, p. 349.

21Continuing the travel inland, one reached Letrinoi and from here one could follow the Holy Road which connected Elis and the sanctuary via the plain.45 Pausanias gives a distance of 120 stadia between Letrinoi and Olympia, and Strabo mentions the same distance for getting from Pheia to Olympia.46 Modern maps show an air-line distance of about 30 km between harbour and sanctuary, meaning that the number given by Pausanias is a little too high, the one of Strabo a little too low.47

  • 48 Taita 2012, p. 350.

22This journey was probably taken by walking or riding. With a speed of 4 to 5 km per hour, the travellers would reach their destination within 6 to 8 hours. Making the journey by cart was most likely limited to rich people, women, children and the elderly or sick. Assuming an average speed of 2 to 3 km per hour with this way of travelling, it was decisively more time-consuming. It must have played a certain role with the transport of goods, but even here it only becomes profitable for very heavy goods or mass transport.48

  • 49 Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 8.15; Pausanias, 8.14.11-12.
  • 50 Pliny, Naturalis Historia 4.6.14.
  • 51 Taita 2012, p. 367.
  • 52 Leake 1830, p. 49.

23Presumably people tried to use the course of the river Alpheus for the logistics of the sanctuary, which would require a landing point at the mouth of the river. Philostratus and Pausanias make reference to such a landing point,49 and Pliny mentions that the river was navigable for 6 Roman miles, which translates to about 9 km.50 The starting point for this distance was the mouth of the river, which according to geologists, has not changed much in location. Nautical handbooks from the 20th century mention the navigability of the river for about 3 to 4 nautical miles. At most 7.41 km, this translates to a distance a little less than that mentioned by Pliny.51 There is no mention of the shipment of animals up the river Alpheus in ancient sources, but its likelihood might be illustrated by an eye-witness from the 19th century. When narrating his travels in the Peloponnese, W. M. Leake also describes a transport upstream by a “ferry boat” which “carries three horses and as many men, besides the boatmen.”52

  • 53 Taita 2012, p. 372.
  • 54 Taita 2012, p. 374. As for now, there is no definite archaeological proof for this way of transport (...)

24For the last unnavigable part of the river special passengers and merchandise were most likely loaded onto carts or pack animals. This would require special constructions, at least some poles, stakes or side walls, maybe even storage facilities. Since the last part of the Holy Road follows the northern bank, such a landing place would most likely have been on the northern bank, too. This would also be in compliance with the modern road network which might at least partially follow the ancient one.53 Using all available methods of transport had clear advantages and one can thus assume that the river was used for the movement of animals, passengers and merchandise. Getting from Pheia to Olympia overland means covering a distance of about 30 km. After navigating up the river and relocating the load after about 9 km, only about 10 km were left to be covered overland before reaching the sanctuary.54

25After their arrival, the animals needed to get used to their new surroundings. This includes the weather and lodging conditions as well as new sounds or smells and changes in nutrition or water. Trainers, horses and equipment must have reached their destination with sufficient time before the beginning of the competitions to regain shape and perform at their best. This must have required at least some simple, maybe temporarily constructed infrastructure, for preparation and during the games themselves, including at least some kind of roofing and troughs for food and water.

  • 55 Siewert, Taeubner 2013, pp. 29-31. Inv.-No. B6362.
  • 56 Given the large amount of money the owners invested to get the race horses to Greece, it seems a va (...)

26Fragments of an inscription dating to the 5th century BC mention the protocol for visitors from regions below Epidamnos in modern Albania, from the Cyrenaika and from Crete. When taking position within the sanctuary, they had to make sure that their animals damages neither votive offerings nor the guest house. It seems quite certain that the administration of the sanctuary tried to regulate the entrance and stay of colonists, encouraging them to make the long journey.55 But it seems questionable if these statements can be applied to race horses as well as to sacrificial and other animals. Horses able to compete at Olympia represented a high value investment which alone would have prevented their being left unsupervised. The competitive environment of the games, which did not shy from manipulation, might have added some extra precautions. Besides, the wealthy owners of these prestigious animals most likely did not need the aforementioned stimulation from the administration of the sanctuary, but were independently able to organize the details of their stay according to their own individual agenda.56

Conclusion

27All in all horse transport covering long distances overland or via sea routes was apparently well-known and well-rehearsed. With two or three days from Sicily to the Peloponnese and an additional one or two days until the arrival at the sanctuary, this means of transport might have even been easier on the animals than the transport of those travelling exclusively overland. Participants from Sicily certainly did not have to expect any transport-related disadvantage during the competition, and if the professional preparation and of course the monetary funding of the logistics were ensured, nothing hindered their successful participation in the Olympic Games.

Notes

1 Marschner 2011, pp. 5-13.

2 Claudi, Steinmetz, Hackeschmidt 2014, pp. 6-8.

3 Schrader et al. 2009, p. 6.

4 Kamphues et al. 2004, p. 239.

5 So far, no single complete Greek chariot has been excavated and thus no exact dimensions can be stated. Some indications might be derived by looking at Egyptian chariots, whose replicas usually weigh around 30 kg (cf. Schrakamp 2015, p. 226). This equipment, along with spare parts and trained maintenance technicians, also had to be transported to Greece.

6 Küper 2003, p. 115.

7 Küper 2003, p. 55.

8 Podhajsky 2001, pp. 205-206.

9 Podhajsky 2001, pp. 220-221.

10 Küper 2003, p. 22.

11 Göttlicher 2006, p. 43.

12 Hornig 1999, p. 20.

13 Hornig 1999, p. 18.

14 Hofmann 1989, p. 183 fig. 16.

15 Landström 1974, p. 106 fig. 329.

16 Graeve 1981, p. 39 nos. 36-38.

17 Graeve 1981, p. 49 no. 53.

18 CMS II, 8, 133.

19 Antikenmuseum Berlin No. 31013. Cf. Göttlicher 2006, p. 43, 142 fig. 17.

20 Hornig 1999, p. 19.

21 Herodotus, 6.48; 7.97.

22 Herodotus, 7.95.

23 Thucydides, 2.56.

24 Thucydides, 4.42.

25 For more in-depth studies on these relations see Giangiulio 1993; Philipp 1994; Naso 2006; Antonaccio 2007; Nafissi 2012; Baitinger 2013.

26 Bilić 2009, pp. 120-122.

27 Strabo, 6.2.1.

28 Prontera 1996, p. 205.

29 Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 7.10-11.

30 Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 8.15.

31 Bilić 2009, p. 116.

32 Casson 1959, p. 115.

33 Casson 1959, p. 286.

34 Bilić 2009, pp. 116-117.

35 Thucydides, 6.13.1.

36 Bilić 2009, p. 119.

37 Prontera 1996, p. 205.

38 Euripides, Cyclops 18-20.

39 Demosthenes, Oratio 32.4-8.

40 Fresa 1969, p. 254.

41 Pausanias, 6.23.1.

42 Siewert 2000, pp. 31-37.

43 Xenophon, Hellenica 6.2.31; Strabo, 8.3.13.

44 Taita 2012, pp. 347-348.

45 Pausanias, 6.22.8.

46 Strabo, 8.3.13.

47 Taita 2012, p. 349.

48 Taita 2012, p. 350.

49 Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 8.15; Pausanias, 8.14.11-12.

50 Pliny, Naturalis Historia 4.6.14.

51 Taita 2012, p. 367.

52 Leake 1830, p. 49.

53 Taita 2012, p. 372.

54 Taita 2012, p. 374. As for now, there is no definite archaeological proof for this way of transport and no hint as to who was in control of its administration and organization.

55 Siewert, Taeubner 2013, pp. 29-31. Inv.-No. B6362.

56 Given the large amount of money the owners invested to get the race horses to Greece, it seems a valid speculation that they not only participated in the Olympic Games but went on to take part in other races as well. This point as well as other logistical aspects will be discussed more elaborately in the author’s dissertation project.

Auteur

University of Marburg, German Archaeological Institute at Athens

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