Historians usually argue that the Greek hoplite phalanx rendered cavalry ineffective until Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great began to employ cavalry as a shock weapon in the fourth century BCE. This assumption, however, assumes that cavalry are only truly powerful when they are used as a battering ram against enemy infantry. The evidence instead indicates that Greek cavalry could play a lethal role on the battlefield without charging into the waiting spears of enemy infantry.
To illustrate the important role Greek horsemen played on the battlefield between the Peloponnesian War and the Second Battle of Mantinea, this paper examines the literary evidence provided by Thucydides, Diodorus, and Xenophon’s accounts. There are two primary movements in this study of Greek cavalry, beginning first with an examination of Athens’ campaigns in Thessaly, Thracian Chalcidice, and Sicily during the Peloponnesian Wars and then moving on to examine the battles at Sardis, Leuctra, and Mantinea. This paper aims to encourage other scholars to reconsider how historians should understand Greek warfare by showing how Athenian and later Spartan imperial ambitions fell apart because of cavalry.
Vexilium: The Undergraduate Journal of Medieval and Classical Studies, Vol.3 (2013)