Cavalry Uniforms on the Parthenon Frieze? Author(s): Tom Stevenson Source: American Journal of Archaeology,

Cavalry Uniforms on the Parthenon Frieze? Author(s): Tom Stevenson Source: American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 107, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 629-654 Published by: Archaeological Institute of America Stable URL: Accessed: 23-09-2018 22:09 UTC

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Cavalry Uniforms on the Parthenon Frieze? TOM STEVENSON


In examining the horsemen on the Parthenon frieze, particularly those on the south side, several commentators have flirted more or less openly with the concept of a cavalry “uniform,” either for different tribes or for differ- ent festivals. Through an examination of relevant litera- ture, small-scale art, and the Parthenon frieze itself, I ar- gue that the idea is without strong foundation. Literature, vases, and small-scale reliefs indicate that cavalry dress was not prescribed at either state or tribal level but was the responsibility of each cavalryman. Variety rather than uni- formity was the natural result. Even when we sense that artists are depicting cavalrymen as types, there is consider- able variation in the detail of their dress, and there are significant differences between the small-scale depictions and the Parthenon frieze. The south frieze of the

Parthenon does indeed distinguish ranks of riders by em- ploying distinctive dress, but the north frieze employs a different method, concentrating upon foregrounding and pose. One cannot theorize from the south frieze alone. The degree to which the frieze may be used as a documen- tary source is called into question.*

The Parthenon frieze remains one of the most

enigmatic and intensely studied monuments of Greek art. Many scholars have debated its subject, date, and style. They have paid a great deal of atten- tion to each of the various groups of figures on the frieze, including the horsemen. A fact not always emphasized, however, is that the horsemen on the Parthenon frieze, who appear on the west, north, and south sides, are represented differently on each side.1 The west seems to show preliminaries to the main procession, with horsemen dressing, prepar- ing, and beginning to fall into formation. On the north side, which carries on from the west, the horse-

men are not grouped evenly, and they do not dress alike within their groups. On the south side, they are divided neatly into 10 groups of six each and the horsemen within each group are dressed alike.

The south side in particular has been seen as a re- flection of the 10 tribes of democratic Athens, and several commentators have tried to bolster the link

by giving loose thought to the idea of tribal “uni- forms” (i.e., distinctive, recognizable dress). I argue that the horsemen on the south frieze of the Par-

thenon are not shown in cavalry uniform. They are represented according to an artistic choice, proba- bly in deliberate contrast to the north. The idea of uniforms for Athenian cavalry of the Periklean age should remain highly conjectural. It is more likely that there were general trends among the dress of cavalrymen of this age but no mandated list of items, either for particular tribal contingents or for the cavalry as a whole, when participating in different festivals or displays. Modern viewers find it difficult to know the extent to which the Parthenon frieze

can be employed as a documentary source. The fol- lowing discussion minimizes the extent to which the frieze can be thought to provide literal depic- tions of cavalry dress or possible uniforms.

Although I am against the notion of tribal uni- forms for the cavalry, I concur with the traditional explanation of the subject of the Parthenon frieze as an idealized, contemporary Panathenaic festival.2 “Idealized” in the sense of a depersonalized, enno- bling, often calm and youthful depiction, and “fes- tival” rather than “procession” because various ele- ments, such as racing chariots, allude to the festival more broadly, that is, to events of the Great Panath- enaia that occurred on days other than the day of the procession.3 At any rate, it is not necessary to contemplate that the different methods of depict- ing the cavalry might imply a combination of histor- ical and mythical settings within the frieze.4 Con- temporary and near-contemporary depictions of Athenian horsemen provide numerous parallels,

* I would like to thank Susanna Braund and Anne MacKay for their help and encouragement. I am also heavily indebted to the AJA’s anonymous referees. All remaining errors are of course my own.

1 Fundamental studies of the Parthenon frieze include Rob-

ertson and Frantz 1975; Brommer 1977; Jenkins 1994; Berger and Gisler-Huwiler 1996; Neils 2001. For a plan of the frieze, see Ashmole 1972, 120; Boardman 1985, fig. 95; Boardman and Finn 1985, 238; Castriota 1992, 190 fig. 25; Jenkins 1994, 23 fig. 12b; Neils 2001, 34. The numbering system ofjenkins 1994

is employed in this essay. 2 1 argue this position at length in Stevenson (forthcoming) . 3 Note the six running chariots on the south side, slabs

XXVII-XXXII, figures 68-82 (= S XXVII-XXXII 68-82) , and depictions of the hoplite apobates (dismounter) leaping on or off a moving chariot as occurred during competition (e.g., N XII 47, N XXVII 71).

4 1 see a single subject and occasion but some variation in time and place. For a good discussion, see Neils 2001, 49-53.

629 American Journal of Archaeology 107(2003) 629-54

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and scholars generally agree that the Parthenon horsemen relate closely to the 10 tribal cavalry units of Periklean Athens.5

While the idea that the frieze depicts cavalry uni- forms is not widely supported, it is equally true that no strong stance has been taken against it. This makes for a degree of uncertainty and imprecision at times. Evelyn Harrison points out that, unlike the cavalcade of the north frieze, which displays a great variety of dress even within a single rank of riders, the horsemen of the south frieze are “uniformly dressed within their ranks.”6 In her view, “Ten groups of riders, each with its own uniform, inevitably sug- gest the ten Tribes into which the Athenian people was divided by Kleisthenes. . . . We should expect that the Athenian citizen looking at the south frieze of the Parthenon could tell which Tribe was which.”7

According to Jenifer Neils, “The knights . . . are unexpressive, idealized types. . . . Yet in their vari- ety of poses, dress, and headgear they also appear as contemporary Athenians arrayed according to their individual tribes.”8

More recently, Jerome J. Pollitt has conjectured not so much about tribal uniforms as about uni-

forms appropriate for particular occasions through- out the year. He sees “throughout the frieze, the ten tribal squadrons of the Periklean cavalry arrayed in the varieties of armour and apparel (or the lack of it) that were appropriate for the different sorts of cavalry displays, reviews, and parades that Xeno- phon (Hipparchikos 3) describes.”9

Harrison’s and Neils’s comments seem to relate to

the south side more than the north; while Pollitt ‘s

relate perhaps more to the north than the south. These kinds of opinions beg the question of what we know about tribal uniforms for the Athenian cavalry. Did the tribal units normally dress differently, one from another? Did they have a distinct emblem or

color? Did the cavalry as a whole dress differently at different festivals? Were measures ever taken to en-

sure uniformity of dress and equipment? In general, I am skeptical of the concept of a uniform that citi- zens could immediately recognize – tribal, festival, or otherwise – for the Athenian cavalry in the Periklean age. Though the tribes competed vigorously at festi- val time, in a way that implies considerable tribal pride, Carol Mattusch has argued that the Epony- mous Heroes of the 10 tribes were not distinguished from one another by attributes; emphasis was delib- erately placed upon the polls rather than the phyle (tribe).10 Tribal uniforms would perhaps have violat- ed this principle, and they might have increased the financial burden and inhibited the freedom of ex-

pression of the aristocratic individuals who comprised the cavalry. There is little reason to doubt that the 10 clear groups of horsemen on the south side of the Parthenon frieze allude to the cavalry units of the 10 tribes, an allusion assisted by the different dress of each group,11 but this does not indicate that such dress was exclusive to these tribes. I examine litera-

ture, art, and the Parthenon frieze itself, to dispel the notion that Athenian citizens would have been able

to recognize the 10 tribal units of the Athenian caval- ry through their wearing of distinctive uniforms.


The idea of a “uniform” is a modern one. In rela-

tion to the military, it is usually taken to mean special dress or equipment that marks a particular branch of the armed forces. The fundamental point is that all the members dress alike and in some particular or general way distinctively from other units. A uni- form can also indicate activity or time of the year, such as with parade uniforms, summer uniforms, or combat uniforms. Onlookers are able to recognize the distinctiveness of the kit, and in modern profes-

5 The pictures and descriptions of cavalrymen on Attic vases and reliefs of the Classical period assembled by Iain Spence make it clear that all the items of dress worn by the horsemen of the Parthenon frieze were in use in the Periklean age (Spen- ce 1993, 231-60 [red-figure and white ground vases], 261-6 [reliefs] , pls. 1-15 [between pages 154-5] ; cf. Boardman 1985, 107).

6 Harrison 1984, 230. 7 Harrison 1984, 232. Harrison proceeds (232-3) to assign

particular cavalry dress on the south side to particular tribes via iconographical “clues” derived from the male figures conven- tionally identified as the Eponymous Heroes on the east frieze. There are two major problems with this attempt. The first is that the “heroes” lack attributes. The second is that their com-

positional integrity as a group is far from assured. For instance, some scholars feel that the “10 heroes” are in fact one marshal

plus nine officials, or even spectators or eminent Athenians; others ask why the “heroes” should be distributed into two groups of six and four respectively on either side of the central

figures of the east frieze. There is also the (understandable but not inevitable) assumption that the tribal “uniform” would bear some relation to the iconography of the tribe’s hero. In general, the identification of these figures is too uncertain to link them with specific tribes, especially when they lack at- tributes. For bibliography, see Jenkins 1985; Nagy 1992, 67-9.

8Neils 1992, 27. In fairness, it should be stated that there is

nothing in Neils’s later book on the frieze (2001) that indi- cates that she is confident about the idea of tribal cavalry uni- forms. Most notably, on page 54 she says: “the sixty horsemen [of the south side] are divided into ten ranks of six each, with individual ranks distinguished by costume.”

9 Pollitt 1997, 55.

10 Mattusch 1994. For a good discussion of popular attitudes to tribal contests and to horsemen in relation to other branch-

es of the military in this period, see Pritchard 2000, 95-6, 110- 5, 199-200.

11 Cf. Spence 1993, 271: “This seems to be an attempt to portray the ten tribal phylai or squadrons.”

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sional armies uniformity tends to be ensured by state provision of a prescribed set of (often sophisticat- ed) items of dress and equipment. Literary evidence indicates that conditions and expectations in fifth- century Athens were markedly different. The major sources are Xenophon’s Hipparchikos (How to be a Cav- alry Commander) and Peri Hippikes ( On Horsemanship) ,

a few sections of the Athenaion Politeia ( Constitution of the Athenians) assigned to Aristotle, and a small col- lection of information and attitudes preserved in works like Aristophanes’ Hippeis (Knights). The Athe- nian cavalry emerges not as a standing unit of profes- sional soldiers but as a force of upper-class volun- teers who were mobilized in times of emergency.12 It seems likely that there were higher percentages of petasoi (sun hats) and embades (boots), perhaps even chlamydes (cloaks) and chitons among the cavalry than among the hoplites and other ancillary forces of the Athenian military, but these items fitted the horsemen’s conditions of service better (figs. 1-2); they were not part of a state-provided (let alone tribe- provided) uniform with a set number of items that could have been recognized by the citizens of Ath- ens. The state did provide an “establishment loan” (katastasis) and a “grain allowance” (sitos) in the Periklean period,13 but all indications are that it was up to each cavalryman to secure a fit horse and suit- able equipment.14 The state funding implies that a certain number of the riders would have had trou-

ble maintaining their mounts in its absence. Some riders, evidently, could not afford to equip them- selves as comfortably as others. Differences in dress, therefore, would have been produced by factors such as fashion, comfort, protective quality, individual pref- erence, and wealth. The set of dress items available

in the Periklean period was reasonably broad enough to construct distinctive kits, if that had been a prior- ity, but it seems not to have been; and when the set expanded in later periods, especially in the fourth century B.C., it was because of developments in cav-

alry warfare rather than for the purpose of distin- guishing units.15 Xenophon recommends items of equipment and dress, mainly defensive armor, such as neck coverings, gauntlets, forearm covers for the right arm, and pieces of horse armor, but he is clear- ly concerned with the threat posed by Theban caval- ry in battle. His tone seems to indicate that these items were not standard, that many horsemen were not using them, and that uniformity of kit had not been a priority before he wrote.16 Furthermore, at no point does Xenophon describe distinctive dress for any of the 10 tribes, or recommend this as a practice. The state, in the form of the Council of Five Hun-

dred, insisted on an annual dokimasia (inspection), but this was apparently directed more at the physical fitness of the horse and rider than at other elements

like equipment and dress.17 Xenophon is keen to have riders who are able to mount from the spring (e.g., Hipp. 1.5, 1.17) (fig. 3). In general, it seems that cavalrymen themselves were responsible for what they wore, and so a variety of attire and equipment was the natural result.18 This applies particularly to the fifth century B.C., while in the fourth century B.C. Spence has shown that more cavalrymen were opting for boots and breastplates in response to changing conditions.19

Limited uniformity might be present within the tribal contingents at festival time, but this interpre- tation requires conjecture. Xenophon describes how a phy larch (commander of a tribal contingent) , mind- ful of his own reputation as well as that of his tribe, could be pressured by a hipparch (one of the two overall cavalry commanders) to ensure an awe-inspir- ing display from his men (Hipp. 1.21-2). Such a phy- larch might have commanded his men to dress im- pressively, and possibly distinctively, even if this en- tailed wearing just one particular item that was com- mon and distinctive. In the second century B.C., at the Theseia festival, inscriptions indicate that there was a prize for the tribe with “the most dashing equip-

12 Spence 1993, xxix. 13 For the “establishment loan” and “grain allowance,” see

Xen. Hipp. 1.2-3, 19, 22-3; Bugh 1988, 56-7, 60; Spence 1993, 16;Worleyl994,7l.

14 Xen. Hipp. 1.22-3; Bugh 1988, 193. 15 The plates and lists of vases and reliefs in Spence (1993,

231-66) show the variety of dress available in the Periklean period. Headwear alone offered a fair range of choice, e.g., petasos (sun hat) , petasos-style helmet, alopekis (Thracian fox- skin cap) , alopekis-style cap, crested Corinthian helmet, crest- ed Chalkidian helmet, crested Ionian helmet, wreath. In the

fourth century B.C., turban-style caps and Boiotian helmets became available too.

16Xen. PeriHipp. 12.1-14; Hipp. 1.6-7. Spence (1993, 63) feels that “even though the panoply [Xenophon] recom- mends would have afforded considerable protection, it is doubtful whether this quantity of armour was ever worn by

many hippeis”; cf. 64: “The conclusions based on the written and sculptural evidence, therefore stand: not all cavalrymen wore protective dress, but it is likely that many regularly rode to battle in breastplate, helmet, and high boots. It is extremely doubtful that the more esoteric items of equipment recom- mended by Xenophon were ever widely accepted (or possi- bly ever worn at all) , and the same is perhaps true of the horse armour he discusses.”

17 Ath. Pol. 49; Bugh 1988, 58-9; Spence 1993, 11, 14, 220; Worleyl994, 71.

18 Spence (1993, 54) has shown that while some cavalrymen were equipped with thejavelins of cornel wood recommended by Xenophon (Peri Hipp. 12.12), others used a cane-shafted spear, and still others a combination of both. It appears that uniformity of offensive weapons was not imposed by the com- manders or the Council any more than uniformity of dress.

19 On cavalry dress, see Spence 1993, xxix-xxxiii, 60-5, 118.

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Fig. 1 . A red-figure cup by the Dokimasia Painter, ca. 480-470, showing festival preliminaries or a cavalry inspection (dokimasia) . Berlin F 2296. (Copyright Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Antikensammlung)

ment” (ton hippeon euhopliai).20 The inscription might imply a review of distinctly dressed units, as on the south frieze. In some modern cadet parades, howev- er, the way the uniform is turned out, rather than distinctive items, wins the good notice: the cut of a man’s collar, the shine of his boots or belt buckle, or

the closeness of his shave. The inscriptional evi- dence, therefore, which dates well after the Classi-

cal period, is ambiguous. At other times during a festival, in a similar manner to the north frieze, the

horsemen might have been mingled, as when com- peting or performing complicated maneuvers of the kind that Xenophon imperfectly describes (Hipp. 3.9). The horsemen then might have appeared in- termingled and in distinctly dressed units even with- in the context of a single festival. Both the north and south friezes could depict this situation.

Yet this line of argument is tentative, and nothing indicates that tribal units always dressed as they had done at previous festivals. In fact, the pressure to impress might have induced some phylarchs to in- novate. Perhaps the appeal for citizens was to see

how their particular tribal unit looked at each event – in other words, the men rather than the uni-

form marked the tribe. Flexibility might have been advantageous. That argument aside, if tribal units were known to favor distinctive dress, why does Xe-

nophon fail to mention this and instead write in gen- eral terms about the cavalry as a whole? On what basis did the phylarchs choose the appropriate dress for their men? Were subsequent phylarchs bound by the decisions of their predecessors? How did the horsemen react to orders for impressive dress, espe- cially during hard economic times? Did phylarchs find it necessary to provide impressive dress for their men?21 And the choice of garments worn in the Pana- thenaia would have to take into account the heat of

summer, although the need for comfort commonly takes second place to the need to impress – witness businessmen wearing coats and ties, or guards of honor wearing dress uniform, in warm climates. The literary evidence is inconclusive on this matter; most likely, the conditions of mounted service produced certain common preferences but variations were also

20/G22.956.58-60; 957.36-41; 958.56-9; 960.22-4 (re- stored); 961.22-4; Bugh 1988, 92 n. 38.

21 Theophrastos, one of the hipparchs of 220/19 B.C., was crowned by the council, the demos, and the cavalrymen (hippeis) . Among other benefactions, he had presented a gift

to the lochagoi (phylarchoi?) of 10 minas (1,000 drachmas) so that the horsemen would be equipped with arms in the finest way (tois hoplois hos arista kateskeuasmenoi): 7G22. 1303. 15-1 6; Bugh 1988, 192-3 ns. 19-21 with refs. This cannot have been customary practice since it won such extraordinary notice.

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found within the set of items and colors available.

Philostratos ( VS550) says that the ephebes wore black cloaks to commemorate their murder of Kopreus in defense of the Herakleidai.22 This shows the possi- bility of differentiation by color, but we should re- member Spence’s strong warnings against equating Athenian cavalrymen with the ephebes; they were two separate groups.23 The written sources do not directly support the idea that cavalry wore a recog- nizable tribal uniform that citizen viewers would have

been able to recognize from the depictions of horse- men on the south frieze of the Parthenon. Nor do

the sources indicate that the entire cavalry wore uni- forms that varied according to the occasion, whether for general use or for a festival like the Great Panath- enaia. In short, nothing in the literary evidence sus- tains connotations of regulation and sanction for military clothing or equipment.


The artistic evidence for cavalry uniforms is gen- erally small-scale and difficult to interpret, although a reasonable number of depictions of Athenian horsemen survives, especially on red-figure vases. A range of activities and settings is represented on the vases. These include battle scenes, which are by no means dominant, scenes of farewell, scenes at a tomb,

scenes of review, exercising, training, hunting, and competing.24 Certainly, a far broader impression of the horsemen emerges in comparison to Xeno- phon’s evidence, which concentrates upon pre- paredness for battle and performance at festivals. The compositions, however, tend to focus upon in- dividuals or small groups; in other words, there are very few depictions of massed cavalry as on the Par- thenon frieze. Moreover, there is a noticeable youth- fulness about the figures, some are naked, and some are accompanied by kalos inscriptions. These fea- tures seem to relate to pederastic customs and ho- moerotic attraction.25 Other features, notably items of Thracian dress, have induced scholars in the wake

of Francois Lissarrague to assess images of horse- men in relation to liminal groups and the concept of the oppositional “other.” Representations of Scyth- ians seem to peak in the late sixth century B.C. and Thracians in the early fifth century B.C. These races

were admired for exotic dress, deadly weaponry, and musical talent but also despised for savage, “barbari- an” traits and behavior. Representations of Athenian cavalrymen in the Classical period are akin to the liminal images in that they stand in binary opposi- tion to hoplites, the regular and fundamental image of the Athenian warrior, but they are positive rather than negative in their associations.26 Robin Osborne sees a process of “rounding up” at work, so that hop- lites are being encouraged to emulate elite behav- ior and are at the same time resisting elite monopoly of an image.27 It is obvious that artistic conventions and social ideology need to be borne in mind. Scenes, therefore, are constructed rather than “captured from life.” It is not necessarily the case, then, that art would reflect tribal or festival uniforms if they actual- ly existed. Yet it must be significant that art seems never to indicate anything of the kind.

Close parallels have been noticed between the Parthenon west frieze and the horsemen shown on a

well known series of red-figure cups, whose scenes regularly combine two or three youthful horsemen and their spirited mounts with boyish grooms and bearded, older figures who seem to be assessing them or recording details about them. Herbert Cahn iden- tified the cup scenes as representations of the doki- masia, the annual examination of men and inspec- tion of horses by the Council of Five Hundred (cf. Ath. Pol 49). Glenn Bugh and Jenifer Neils favor the view that the cups show the preliminaries to festival processions (figs. 1-2). 28 Vase painters certainly would have been familiar with the latter, which took

place in the vicinity of the Dipylon Gate, but it seems reasonable to think that the two sets of occasions

demanded broadly similar behavior: preparing, in- specting, mounting, and riding. Perhaps the doki- masia should not be excluded altogether from the relevant associations. The young men depicted would surely have been deemed fit for either reli- gious or military activity. The cups also show the vari- ety of costumes that appears on the north and south sides of the frieze, including the petasos (sun hat) , and Thracian hats with flaps, whose introduction Cahn dates to the middle of the sixth century B.C.

On these cups nakedness is common without being predominant. The majority of cavalrymen are

22 Cf. Wilkins (1990), who cites /G22.2029 = Dittenberger, Sylloge3 870.

^The tendency to call the cavalrymen mounted ephebes is relatively widespread, e.g., Simon 1983, 59-60; Jenkins 1994, 33; Hurwit 1999, 233. The ephebes received no equestrian training in the Classical period, however, and their very exist- ence at this time is uncertain (Spence 1993, 269-70).

24 For the vases discussed in this section, see the plates and lists in Spence 1993, 231-66; cf. Bugh 1988, 14-20. The most

suggestive study is by Lissarrague 1990, 191-231. 25 See Spence 1993, e.g., 234 no. 8 and 240 no. 43 for kalos

examples; cf. Lissarrague 1990, 217-8. On nakedness and ho- moeroticism, see Osborne 1997; Stewart 1997, esp. 1-10.

26 Lissarrague 1990, esp. 210-6 (Thracians), 217-30 (kalos- inscriptions, inspections, departures) .

27 Osborne 2000, esp. 41-2 for “rounding up.” 28 Cahn 1973, 1986; Bugh 1988, 14-8, pls. 1-2; Neils 2001,

127-32; Lissarrague 1990, 220-9.

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Fig. 2. Opposite side of the red-figure cup in fig. 1, by the Dokimasia Painter, ca. 480-470, showing festival preliminaries or a cavalry inspection (dokimasia). Berlin F 2296. (Copyright Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Antikensammlung)

depicted as beardless youths, while their command- ers or members of the Council are usually shown with beards. Side A of a cup by Onesimos, for in- stance, dated to the first quarter of the fifth century,

portrays naked youths involved in equestrian train- ing (one youth is trying to mount with the aid of a spear) (fig. 3), and side B shows two youths, one of whom is naked, training or exercising a horse. The interior has a naked youth, his long hair tied in a bun, wearing a sun hat, carrying a spear in his right hand, with an animal (leopard?) skin draped over his left arm. He probably represents a dismounted cavalryman and the animal skin a saddlecloth.29 Na- ked cavalrymen are frequently depicted in scenes of competition racing.30 Many more clothed than unclothed horsemen appear in Attic art, however. Boots, cloaks, and sun hats, the latter not so common on the Parthenon

frieze, are the items of clothing most in evidence, and they recur often, so that pictures of horsemen on

Attic vases in the fifth century B.C. acquire a conven- tional air in many instances. The horsemen cannot all have been from the same tribe, and the impres- sion we frequently derive is that the artists are depict-

ing a type – a sign for “horseman” rather than a par- ticular horseman who would have had particular trib- al affiliations. Convention is also plainly obvious in depictions of cavalrymen on grave stelai, such as those commonly shown riding down a fallen hoplite.31

Reliefs depicting horsemen in tribal groups are exceedingly rare but obviously vital for any study of the horsemen’s clothing. Two stand out in particu- lar. The first, dating to the mid fourth century B.C., is

usually called the Bryaxis base (fig. 4) ,32 The reliefs on three sides and inscription on the fourth side of this base commemorate victories by three phylarchs from the same family, whose names are Demainetos, Demeas, and Demosthenes. On the left face is a bearded horseman, riding a stallion from left to right toward a tripod. He is bareheaded, barefooted, and

29 Munich 2639 (J 515). Cup. Staatliche Antikensammlun- gen und Glyptothek, Munich. ARV2 324.61, 1645; Spence 1993, 201, 237 no. 28, pl. 1.

30 E.g., Neils 2001, 22-3, figs. 20-1: a Panathenaic prize- amphora attributed to the Eucharides Painter, ca. 490 B.C. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1956.171.3. Kyle

(1992, 91) refers to the nudity of the boy jockeys. 31 E.g., Spence 1993, 263 no. 12, pl. 11 (Dexileos monu-

ment), 265 no. 26, and others. 32 Athens, NM 1773; Travlos 1971, 18-9; Bugh 1988, 60 fig.

6; Spence 1993, 200, 264 no. 21.

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Fig. 3. A red-figure cup by Onesimos, dated to the first quarter of the fifth century, portraying naked youths involved in equestrian training. Munich 2639 (J 515) . (Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Miinchen)

dressed in a chiton with a girdle. He appears to be holding the reins in his left hand and the horse’s mane in his right. The rear face depicts a similar figure except that the rider’s right hand is flat on the horse’s neck. The right face mirrors the rear face, probably including the position of the hands, though damage renders this uncertain. Here we have three men from the same tribe who are dressed identically (bareheaded, barefooted, chiton, girdle). Are the representations merely types? Or does their identi- cal dress link them as members of the same family or denote a recognizable tribal or festival or display uniform? There is little to recommend the uniform

concept: none of the horsemen in the 10 groups on the south frieze of the Parthenon is dressed precise- ly like the men honored on the Bryaxis monument.

The second relief, dating to the early fourth cen- tury B.C. and known as the Leontis relief, commem- orates a victory by cavalry of the Leontis tribe (fig. 5).33 A rank of five horsemen is shown riding to the right, each cavalryman overlapping the man to his left. The right-hand figure is a bearded man, surely the phylarch, dressed perhaps in a Thracian cap (rather than a helmet), chiton, and high boots; the

two to his left are bareheaded youths in chitons. The two figures on the left-hand end of the rank are frag- mentary (both heads are missing), but the one on the extreme left is also in a chiton. Several complica- tions for the concept of a uniform arise here. One is that the commander is dressed differently from his men (cap and boots are additional), though the idea of distinctive dress for someone in command is not

improbable in itself. Secondly, as with the Bryaxis base, no group on the south frieze of the Parthenon is dressed precisely like the commander (cap, chi- ton, boots) or the other riders (chitons only) here. Thirdly, although both these reliefs commemorate victories in the event known as the anthippasia, the two groups of riders are not dressed identically. It might be objected that neither relief mentions a spe- cific festival and the anthippasia featured in a num- ber of festivals, the Panathenaia among them. A chi- ton-only uniform, as on the Leontis relief, would be appropriate for the heat of high summer; other uni- forms might have been worn for festivals and dis- plays at different times of the year. Yet the nature of the anthippasia, a massed charge done three times by opposing lines of five tribal units each (cf. Xen.

33 Athens, Stoa of Attalos I 7167; Bugh 1988, 63-5, fig. 7; Spence 1993, 200, 266 no. 36. For a reconstruction, see Camp

1986, 121 fig. 96.

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Fig. 4. The Bryaxis base, mid fourth century, showing one of three phylarchs victorious in the anthippasia. (Athens, National Archaeological Museum 1773)

Hipp. 3.1 1) , is such that it might have been most spec- tacular when done in armor. Could this explain the horsemen in armor on the Parthenon frieze? It seems

not. Bugh, for instance, feels that the anthippasia is a development subsequent to the Periklean age, so if armor was worn for the anthippasia this would not explain its presence on the frieze.34 Much conjec- ture is involved, however, and we have not found a

precise match for anything on the south frieze in this (admittedly meager) evidence.

On the reverse of the Leontis relief is the partially preserved figure of a lion, obviously an allusion to the name of the tribe. There are no such symbols on the Parthenon frieze, especially in conjunction with the groups of riders on the south side, where we might expect to find a tribal “emblem” if the aim was

to identify each particular tribe. While informal uses of a particular color or item for a special purpose cannot be ruled out entirely, the point is about for- mality, consistency, and the ability to be recognized immediately, then over time. It is not at all clear that special devices, colors, or items of dress are employed prominently in any of this evidence. Instead, the weight of probability is that Athenian artists were ac- customed to evoking their horsemen rather than re- cording them with absolute precision. Of particular interest was the aura of the cavalry.35 Note, for instance, the conventional elements on the Leontis relief, es-

pecially the prancing horses,36 the short hair of the younger riders, and the beard of their commander, which signals that he is the figure of age and respon- sibility. This was a common way of depicting Athe-

34 Bugh 1988, 59-60, noting that epigraphic evidence for the anthippasia dates from the fourth and third centuries B.C. For Kyle 1992, 94, the anthippasia “may have been included in the Panathenaia earlier” than the inscriptions indicate. Neils (1994, 152) thinks that the anthippasia may have been added to the Panathenaia “at the end of the fifth century when the Athenian cavalry was developed.”

35 In Aristophanes’ Frogs (653), “Dionysos” denies a cry of pain by pretending that it was a cry of joy and excitement at seeing the cavalry. “The Rider’s Base,” a funerary relief of the mid sixth century B.C., shows four riders in low relief moving to the left: Kerameikos Museum P 1001; Neils 2001, 45, fig. 34. The riders differ in age (two are clean-shaven, two are bearded), hairstyle, dress, and position on their mounts, so that considerable variety relieves the similarities inevitable in having four horsemen moving in a line in the same direction.

Neils (2001, 45) states: “This funerary relief, and others like it with single riders, are clearly meant to honor the deceased in commemorating him permanently as an Athenian knight.”

36 Cf. Xen. Peri Hipp. 11.1 (on a high and showy action), cf. 11.8 (on prancing): “This is the attitude in which artists represent the horses on which gods and heroes ride, and men who manage such horses gracefully have a magnificent ap- pearance. Indeed, a prancing horse is a thing so graceful, ter- rible and astonishing that it rivets the gaze of all beholders, young and old alike. At all events no one leaves him or is tired of gazing at him so long as he shows off his brilliance.” Bugh (1988, 78) thinks that Xenophon may have been thinking of the Parthenon frieze here. Similarly, Demetrios (On Style 2.76) writes that prancing and rearing steeds in battle (which the anthippasia was designed to stimulate) produced the best subject for a painter.

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Fig. 5. Commemorative marble relief of the tribe Leontis for victory in the anthippasia, ca. 400. (Athens. Stoa of Attalos I 7167. American School of Classical Studies at Athens: Agora Excavations)

nian riders and their commanders,37 and it demon-

strates that we are dealing not with photographic realism but with ideological representation that is subject to various artistic, aesthetic, and ideological rules and concerns. The individual riders, as well as

their clothing, are types, not individual likenesses. In fact, the aid to identification that comes in the

form of the lion might be taken to imply that there was nothing immediately distinctive about the tribe’s cavalry dress, as depicted in the Leontis relief.

Iain Spence concluded from his own examina- tion of the artistic evidence that there is little to

distinguish Athenian cavalrymen on campaign from the same aristocrats when out hunting, al- though the use of breastplate, helmet, and boots became more standard in the fourth century B.C. – the first great age of heavy cavalry – for protective reasons and in line with cavalry reforms undertak- en on the advice of figures such as Xenophon.38 The idea of a uniform inhibits individual expres- sion and emphasizes the group; it promotes equal- ity among the group members. On the one hand, Athenian aristocrats were socialized to resist such

pressures. On the other hand, boots and armor

made good sense for protection and permitted of- fensive impact in battle – as the Macedonians showed above all. If greater uniformity did develop for defensive reasons, it is likely that the Periklean age by comparison was far less regulated and even marked by a relative lack of uniformity. Xenophon called for maximum effectiveness in battle in prep- aration for a Theban invasion. Variation is possible, however, beyond the items of defensive armor that he recommends, and it was probably unnecessary for him to specify further details about battle dress.


The discussion thus far indicates that the caval-

rymen on the south side of the Parthenon frieze are not wearing uniforms. Their representation, then, is a matter of choice and contrast, and we

should approach them as art rather than document. It was not usually a concern of the artist to depict massed ranks of Athenian cavalrymen on small-scale works such as the vases and reliefs discussed above.

The Parthenon frieze, however, presented an op- portunity and a challenge to do just this (figs. 6-8). The challenge of depicting tribal units appears to

37 Spence 1993, 199-201, cf. 268: “The depiction of cavalry- men as young men and their officers as older, bearded men was very common in Athenian art and literature.” For an argu-

ment that cavalrymen were predominantly in their 20s or 30s, see Bugh 1988, 63-70.

38 Spence 1993, 118, cf. xxix-xxxiii, 60-5.

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Fig. 6. The Parthenon frieze, west side. (Drawing by R. Rosenzweig. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press)

Fig. 7. The Parthenon frieze, north side. (Drawing by R. Rosenzweig. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press)

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Fig. 8. The Parthenon frieze, south side. (Drawing by R. Rosenzweig. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press)

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have been answered in two different ways: through distinctive dress on the south side and through units differentiated by foregrounded commanders in certain poses on the north. The existence of two methods is a further indication that distinctive dress

was not an inevitable way of identifying the tribal units. Only the south side seems to suggest the possible use of tribal uniforms. The distinctive dress surely marks the units without specifically identify- ing the tribes on the south. On the north the tribal divisions are more difficult to describe with preci- sion, though it seems best to support Jenkins’s view that there are 10 units composed of varying num- bers of horsemen there. Here I conclude with some

theories about why the different methods of repre- sentation have been employed.

The frieze procession begins at the southwest corner of the Parthenon (i.e., not the center west) and runs in two streams down the long sides (i.e.,

the north and the south sides) . The west has a dis- tinct air of excitement and preparation about it. A higher proportion of nakedness is seen here than elsewhere on the frieze (e.g., W III 6). On the north, a number of the youths also exhibit naked- ness, though the majority are clothed in a variety of garments, topped at times by sun hats, helmets, or wreaths. The impression made by the riders on the north is quite different from that made on the south. It is partly a matter of dress: long-sleeved chitons appear at times on the north, as do combinations that include crested helmets with body armor (e.g., N XLIII 118) (fig. 9). These do not appear on the south. More noticeable, however, is the irregularity and variety of the north versus the regularity and uniformity of the south. The 60 horsemen appear to be divided into 10 groups on the north, though dress varies within each group and numbers vary within each group.39 The ranks are depicted in the

39 See esp. Jenkins 1994, 30, 99; cf. Boardman 1985, 107; Pollitt 1997, 55; Boardman 1999, 328.

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Fig. 9. Horsemen of the north frieze. N XLIII 115-121 (Jenkins) = 113-119 (British Museum). (Copyright British Museum)

Fig. 10. Ian Jenkins’s plan of the horsemen of the north frieze (N 75-N 135) with rank leaders indicated. (Jenkins 1994, 99; reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press)

manner of an unfolded hand of cards. As a conse-

quence, Jenkins uses the foregrounded figures in order to identify the rank commanders on the north. This method produces the following commanders: N 80, N 82, N 89, N 98, N 102, N 108, N 113, N120,

N 127, N 135 (fig. 10). Several uncertainties sur- round his second group (N 81-82), which com- prises only two riders; his fifth and sixth groups (N 99-102, N 103-108), which slightly overlap; and perhaps his final group (N 128-135), where the “rank commander” (N 135) is dismounted and plainly challenged for prominence by the nudity and gesture to advance of N 133 (fig. 11). More-

over, N 131 shows a commander’s concern for his

men as he turns to look back at those falling be- hind. The last group, which is the closest to the west end and therefore the first coming from that direction, is the only group not entirely mounted and prepared. It acts as a link with the activity of the west frieze. Jenkins does seem correct in defining the group as he has, but the prominence of N 133 is remarkable. Perhaps the uniqueness of this group in being somewhat unassembled affords us a choice that is not generally available elsewhere on this side.

Jenifer Neils has recently challenged Jenkins’s thesis.40 In short, she discerns eight groups of rid-

40 Neils 2001, 53-60.

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Fig. 11. Horsemen of the north frieze. N XLVII 131-136 (Jenkins) = 129-134 (British Museum). (Copyright British Museum)

Fig. 12. Jenifer Neils’s plan of the horsemen of the north frieze (N 75-N 135) with rank leaders indicated. (Drawing by R. Rosenzweig after Collignon; reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press)

ers on the north and two groups on the west (com- manded by the two hipparchs), totaling 10 groups of 77 riders overall. She takes more account of nu-

dity, pose, and gesture than of the foregrounding of figures. This method results in the following rank commanders: N 82, N 89, N 98, N 105, N 113,

N 120, N 127, N 133 (fig. 12). Six of these riders are commanders for Jenkins too, and N 133 mere- ly replaces N 135 in charge of the final group. In fact Neils proposes relatively minor modifications to the Jenkins arrangement (N 80 is relieved of command and N 102 and N 108 are replaced by N 105). Jenkins’s second group (N 81-82) is sub- sumed into his first group (N 75-80) and N 82 is given command over the fragmentary N 80, al- though the two figures seem to have been similar, and N 82 has none of the visual cues that Neils

sees as significant in identifying other “command- ers”: nudity, a backward looking pose, or a gesture

signaling advance (fig. 13). The greatest differ- ence of opinion concerns Jenkins’s fourth, fifth, and sixth groups (N 91-98, N 99-102, N 103- 108). Neils prefers to see two groups here that have collided and coalesced. Their commanders

would be N 98 and N 105 (figs. 14-15). Yet al- though the latter is an impressive nude study, his claims to command over those of the foreground- ed figures N 102 and N 108 are not inevitable. N 108 is not especially distinguished by nudity, pose, or gesture, though he closely resembles N 82 (fig. 15, cf. 13). N 102 is another fragmentary figure, but enough survives to show that he rides a notice- ably spirited, rearing horse, exhibits nudity, looks back, and has his hand raised to his head in what

can reasonably be taken to be a gesture of com- mand. His claims to command and attention prob- ably outweigh those of N 105, who does exhibit nudity and look behind but is also admitted by

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Fig. 13. Horsemen of the north frieze. N XXXI 81-83 (Jenkins) = 78-80 (British Museum). (Copyright British Museum)

Fig. 14. Horsemen of the north frieze. N XXXVI 96-99 (Jenkins). Athens, Acropolis Museum 862.

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Fig. 1 5. Horsemen of the north frieze. N XXXVIII 105-1 09 (Jenkins) – 103-107 (British Museum) . (Copyright British Museum)

Neils to be “embedded” within his rank of riders

(fig. 15).41 Though certainly important and indeed characteristic of a good number of Jenkins’s com- manders (e.g., N 89, N 98, N102, N 113, N 120, N 127), it appears that nudity and gesture and pose are not as decisive in distinguishing the groups of horsemen as Jenkins’s method of identifying the foregrounded figures. Furthermore, Neils distin- guishes two groups on the west side (W 2-11, W 13-21), largely because of the two hipparchs (W VIII 15 and W IV 8), identified by their beards, and the pose of the dismounted figure W VI 12, who provides something of a caesura between the north- ern and southern ends as he faces in the opposite direction to the procession and uses a rock to assist in pulling on his footwear (figs. 16-18). Yet at a later point Neils herself compares the cloak and nudity of W XII 22 to the rank leaders,42 and the method she employs on the north might also yield W II 2 as a “commander,” for he exhibits precisely the kind of nudity, pose, and gesture that she looks for there (figs. 19-20).

In contrast with the north, the south exhibits far

greater orderliness: 60 riders are divided into 10 groups of 6 each, with each group marked by its own distinctive dress, the individual horsemen over-

lapping one on another. The faces of all the figures on the frieze are serious, calm, and introverted, even

when they are moving or exerting themselves. In general one is struck by the uniformity of facial type in contrast to the great diversity of pose and garb, the combination of which conveys notions of both the individual and the group.

The horsemen of the south frieze are not pre- served as well as those on the north.43 Starting from the west, the dress of the 10 groups on the south can be listed thus:

Group 1. short cloak, chiton, knee-length boots, and Thracian cap (S 2-7);

Group 2. cloak only (S 8-13); S 8 wears a sun hat pushed back behind his head;

Group 3. short chiton, double-belted, and boots (S 14-19);

Group 4. cloak over a chiton (S 20-25);

41 Neils 2001 , 56: “The division between the fourth and fifth

groups falls at the embedded figure N 105.” 42 Neils 2001, 128.

43 For the horsemen on the south, see Harrison 1984, 230-

4; Jenkins 1994,54-63.

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Fig. 16. Horsemen of the west frieze (detail). WVIII 15: Hipparch. Cast from the Skulpturhalle, Basel. (Photo courtesy of D. Widmer SH 629)

Group 5. metal body armor, chiton, and boots (S 26-31) (fig. 21);

Group 6. leather armor with flaps, chiton, boots, and a cap with a long tail (S 32-37) (fig. 22);

Group 7. cloak, chiton, boots, and an open-faced Attic helmet with cheek-flaps raised (S 38-43);

Group 8. chiton and boots (S 44-49); the last rider of this much damaged group (S 44) wears the pelt of an animal over his tunic;

Group 9. cloak, chiton, boots, and sun hat (S 50- 55); only S 52 has his sun hat pushed back; and

Group 10. chiton and boots (S 56-61). Use of tribal uniforms requires that each tribe’s

dress is distinctly different, and indeed there are some variations: the first group is the only one that wears the Thracian cap; the second group, which is the only one not to wear a chiton, is consequently the only one to exhibit nakedness; group five is alone in wearing metal body armor; group six is the only one to wear leather body protection; the cap- with-tail is likewise peculiar to group six; group sev- en is alone in wearing the open-faced helmet; the animal pelt appears only with group eight; the sun hat, so common on vases, is here worn only by group

nine (plus one in group two). However, there are similarities, too: nine of the ten groups wear tunics, eight wear boots, and five wear cloaks. Groups three, eight, and ten, 30% of the total force, are basically attired the same, in chiton and boots, though per- haps the chitons were originally painted different colors.

In combination, the north and south sides con-

vey an attractive, exciting, kaleidoscopic, impres- sive image of the Athenian cavalry. It is hardly ob- jective. Surely group two on the south, for instance, would at times have been permitted and found it necessary to wear clothes, thus changing their trib- al “uniform,” and groups two and four could have worn boots, just as group nine (and one rider in group two) probably did not have a monopoly on sun hats on a strong summer’s day. Furthermore, if we are looking for attire appropriate to the Great Panathenaia, then it must be said that the groups wearing cloaks and armor would have sweltered. Ridgway emphasizes that we can find semi-nude figures next to a youth entirely muffled in his man- tle (cf. W VII 14, W IX 17, and the figures around them). Hardly explicable as a function of climate,

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Fig. 17. Horsemen of the west frieze (detail). W IV 8: Hipparch. Cast from the Skulpturhalle, Basel. (Photo courtesy of D. Widmer SH 625)

Fig. 18. Horsemen of the west frieze (detail). W VI 12: Sandal-binder. Athens, Acropolis Museum. (Copyright Deutsches Archaologisches Institut – Athen 1976/700; photo courtesy of Hellner)

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Fig. 19. Horsemen of the west frieze. W XII 22-24. Cast from the Skulpturhalle, Basel. (Photo courtesy of D. WidmerSH633)

Fig. 20. Horsemen of the west frieze. W II 2-3. (Copyright British Museum)

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Fig. 21. Horsemen of the south frieze. S X 26-27 (Jenkins). (Copyright British Museum)

Fig. 22. Horsemen of the south frieze. S XIII 34-37 (Jenkins). (Copyright British Museum)

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this marks the composition as a product of “artistic selection for variety’s sake,”44 and acts as a salutary reminder that there are clear limits to any sea’rch for realism in the frieze. It is art and ideology rather than photographic realism. Is a simple desire for variety the reason for con-

trasting representations of the horsemen on the north and south? Were there perhaps two design- ers?45 In my view there are richer possibilities. For instance, if the fundamental aim was to evoke the

10 tribes and hence the democracy, the frieze does this well. Given that the south frieze was prob- ably the last carved,46 I have wondered whether dissatisfaction with the groupings on the (already completed) north was registered through the more regular arrangement of the south, where 10 groups are far more effectively distinguished. A better explanation considers the experience of the ancient viewer. Osborne argues that a view- er would appreciate the frieze by measuring its elements in terms of conformity and difference.47 Such a viewer, one imagines, would follow the processional route, which passed from the west to the east along the north side of the temple.48 This viewer would notice the variety of dress on the north side; his impression would be formed as he proceeded. If this viewer returned via the south side, the same arrangement (experienced already on the north) would not work as well in capturing his interest and support, especially in view of the similarity in facial features. So per- haps the frieze employs 10 groups of uniformly dressed riders as a (different) way of keeping the viewer’s attention and engagement on this side; it is representation according to a different con- ceptual order. Yet it seems that we have long been inclined to overestimate the visibility of the frieze, which perhaps (as some have thought) acted like a fabulous votive relief designed to ensure con- stant positive reciprocity between Athena and her city.49 If it was not as visible as has often been thought (to mortals at least), it might be that the aim was to ensure the consistent attention of Ath-

ena rather than mortals, hence the difference be- tween north and south.

The horsemen of the Parthenon frieze are un-

deniably products of a process of ennoblement. They are the best examples of young Athenian man- hood, dedicating themselves to Athena and her polis. Temple decorum, social and sexual attitudes, and artistic convention required that they should not be portraits of the living. Hence we find an un- relieved similarity, even monotony, of expression. Their mannerisms and dress are evoked, not pho- tographed. The prime concern was probably not to describe tribal or festival uniforms, for which there

is no strong evidence, but to attract attention, stim- ulate the viewer, offset monotony, distinguish be- tween groups, present a glorious aura, and create an eye-catching procession that was worth joining and supporting at an extraordinary level. There are clear limits on the degree to which works of Greek art should be treated as documentary sources. In this particular instance, the idea of cavalry uniforms on the Parthenon frieze is misleading and should perhaps be qualified heavily in future, or even dropped, as an anachronism.






44Ridgwayl981,82n. 16. 45 Neils (2001, 70-1) discusses the possibility of two designers. 46Ashmole 1972, 136; Jenkins 1994, 22, cf. 18. 47 Osborne 1987, 103. 48 See Jenkins 1994, 19 for a plan of the Acropolis ca. 400

B.C. showing the processional pathway along the north side of the Parthenon; cf. Pollitt 1997, figs. 29, 30. Blundell (1998,

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49 On the (in) visibility of the frieze, see Boardman 1999, 306-7. On the frieze as a votive relief, see Kroll 1979.

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  • Contents
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  • Issue Table of Contents
    • American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 107, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 525-696, i-xiv
      • Volume Information
      • Front Matter
      • Archaeological Manifestations of Empire: Assyria’s Imprint on Southeastern Anatolia [pp. 525-557]
      • The Archaeology of Community on Bronze Age Cyprus: Politiko “Phorades” in Context [pp. 559-580]
      • 周攠䍬慳獩捡氠䝲敥欠卨楰睲散欠慴⁔敫瑡ş⁂畲湵Ⱐ呵牫敹⁛灰⸠㔸ㄭ㘰そ
      • The Changing Role of Herding in the Early Iron Age of Crete: Some Implications of Settlement Shift for Economy [pp. 601-627]
      • Cavalry Uniforms on the Parthenon Frieze? [pp. 629-654]
      • Reviews
        • Review Article
          • Integrating Maritime Archaeology [pp. 655-658]
        • Book Reviews
          • Review: untitled [pp. 659-660]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 660-661]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 661-663]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 663-665]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 665-667]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 667-668]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 668-670]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 670-671]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 671-672]
          • Review: untitled [p. 673-673]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 673-675]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 675-676]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 676-677]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 677-679]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 679-680]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 680-681]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 681-682]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 682-684]
          • Review: untitled [p. 684-684]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 685-686]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 686-687]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 687-689]
          • Review: untitled [p. 689-689]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 689-691]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 691-693]
          • Review: untitled [pp. 693-694]
      • Books Received [pp. 694-696]
      • Back Matter

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