(ἱππεῖς). The Greek term for horsemen and knights. (1) Among the Athenians, the citizens whose property qualified them for the second class.
(2) Among the Spartans, the royal guard of honour, consisting of 300 picked young men under the age of thirty, who, although originally mounted, afterwards served as heavy-armed footsoldiers.
The cavalry of Athens, which was first formed after the Persian War, and then consisted of 300 men, from the time of Pericles onwards consisted of 1200 menviz. 200 mounted bowmen (ἱπποτόξοται), who were slaves belonging to the State, and the 1000 citizens of the two highest classes. They were kept together in time of peace, and carefully drilled; at the great public festivals they took part in the processions. They were commanded by two ἵππαρχοι, each of whom had five φυλαί under him and superintended the levy. Subordinate to these were the ten φύλαρχοι in command of the ten phylae. Both sets of officers were drawn from the two highest classes. It was the duty of the council to see that the cavalry was in good condition, and also to examine new members in respect of their equipment and their eligibility.
The number of horsemen to be despatched to the field was determined by the decree of the popular assembly. Every citizen-soldier received equipment-money on joining, and during his time of service a subsidy towards keeping a groom and two horses; this grew to be an annual grant from the State, amounting to forty talents ($10,400 in intrinsic value), but regular pay was only given in the field.
At Sparta it was not until B.C. 404 that a regular body of horse was formed, the cavalry being much neglected as compared with the infantry. The rich had only to provide horses, equipment, and armour; for the actual cavalry service in time of war, only those unfitted for the heavy-armed infantry were drafted off and sent to the field without any preliminary drill. In later times every μόρα of heavy-armed infantry seems to have had allotted to it a μόρα of cavalry, of uncertain number. By enlisting mercenaries and introducing allies into their forces, the Spartans at length obtained better cavalry.
The utility of the Greek citizen-cavalry was small on account of their heavy armour, their metal helmet, and their coat of mail, their kilt fringed with metal flaps, their cuisses reaching to the knee, and their leather leggings. They did not take shields into action. As weapons of offence they had the straight two-edged sword and a spear, used either as a lance or a javelin. Shoeing of horses was unknown to the Greeks, as was also the use of stirrups. If anything at all was used as a saddle, it was either a saddle-cloth or a piece of felt, which was firmly fastened with girths under the horse's belly.
The Thessalians were considered the best riders. Cavalry became really important for the first time in the Macedonian army under Philip and his son [p. 822] Alexander the Great. Although in earlier times the number of horsemen in the Greek forces was only very small, in the army which Alexander marched into Asia they formed nearly a sixth part of the infantry. The Macedonian cavalry was divided into heavy and light, both consisting of squadrons (ἶλαι) of an average strength of 200 men. Of the heavy cavalry the choicest troops were the Macedonian and Thessalian horsemen, 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 the Asiatic cavalry, and even in attacking the infantry of the enemy they had generally a decisive effect. The light cavalry, which was constituted under the name of πρόδρομοι (skirmishers), consisted of Macedonian σαρισσοφόροι, so called from the sarissa, a lance from fourteen to sixteen feet long (Polyb. xviii. 12), and of Thracian horsemen. The heavy cavalrymen had each a mounted servant and probably a led horse for the transport of baggage and forage. In the time after Alexander there came into existence what were called the Tarentini equites, or light-armed spearmen, with two horses each (B.C. 192, Livy, xxxv. 28Livy, 29). See Exercitus.