The Advantages Of The Stirrup Despite Its Geographical Usage

In the article, “The stirrup gave cavalry an unprecedented advantage, but its uses in Europe and Asia differed considerably” the author Colin Clarke, goes into detail on the many differences seen in the development cavalry combat a variety of locations. Clarke also explores what cavalry warfare was like before the invention of the stirrup and what its introduction did to the development of horseback warfare.

In Clarkes article, we learn that the impact of the invention of the stirrup varied among cultures. In ancient Greece, the stirrup lead to the use of horses for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering rather than cavalry combat. The Persians would on the other hand, utilized cavalry archers for battle, who were known for their infamous hit and run tactics by the Greeks. However, In the case of the Romans and Carthaginians, cavalry combat was utilized to a far greater extent. The Romans primarily used cavalry or reconnaissance, skirmishes, and raids, and used the cavalry to peruse and kill defeated enemies. This lead to the developed a new saddle which had four horned corners and was far more stable than that of previous designs. The Romans ended up having to fight the Germans, who only used horses for transportation into battle.

In Japan, the development of the warrior class occurred roughly the same time it occurred in Europe. In Japan though, before the sword was the principle weapon of the samurai, the skill of horse archery was a sought after fighting skill. Later developments of this horse archery also lead to the techniques of dismounting and killing an enemy horse archer. However, these skills quickly died out around the same time chivalry died out in Europe, when a Cavalry charge was replaced with muskets in Europe.

The earliest mention of the stirrup dates back to a Chinese source dating back to 477 AD. Despite this, the stirrup was developed by the nomads of Siberia though some historians argue it was developed by the Persians. The stirrup when utilized for mounted combat, dramatically improved stability in the saddle and added power to the momentum. The stirrup also allowed for a soldier to hold a lance, be carried long distances while wearing armor, and preform better in battle while riding a horse.

Although the stirrup is a breakthrough innovation, it wasn’t a quickly accepted technology. Heavily armored shock cavalry combat was not a dominate military element, as seen in Frankish armies. The Calvary was weak to spear formations, as seen in the battle Crecy where dismounted English soldiers killed 1,542 mounted French soldiers.

Overall, while the stirrup wasn’t fully utilized in countries around the world, it provided a great advantage to the cavalry of the country who took advantage of the technology. Clarke also makes his point that Calvary did evolve in areas where the stirrup wasn’t utilized and notes how their techniques and styles of fighting differed. In general, Clarke successfully makes the point that the stirrup had a great impact on cavalry combat.

Here is another article about the development of the stirrup and horse riding: http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/how-the-stirrup-changed-our-world/

One Reply to “The Advantages Of The Stirrup Despite Its Geographical Usage”

  1. Great job summarizing Clarke’s article. The summary was really informative, especially the part about how different cultures utilized the Stirrup and how its impact varied among them.

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