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Horse, Wheel, and Saddle

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Recent Works on Two Ancient Military Revolutions

Military revolutions are a normal consequence of the central role of military institutions in complex societies. They have everywhere occurred regularly, if infrequently; they are scarcely limited to Western Europe, or even to the modern world. This essay discusses recent writings on two military revolutions in the ancient world, both centered on the military horse: first, its domestication and its role in pulling war chariots; second, the transition from horse driving to horse riding in battle. The chariot revolution of the second millennium BC profoundly reshaped warfare and transformed polities all across Eurasia. The cavalry revolution of the first millennium BC proved equally transformative and far longer lasting. Despite the controversy that has come to surround the concept of military revolution, it may still be fruitfully applied to important aspects of the large-scale historical interactions between societies and their armed forces.

Affiliations: 1: Smithsonian Institution, United States; Senior Curator of Armed Forces History,


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