Equine ambassadors: Thessalian horses abroad

This project will collect and analyse the evidence for the use of Thessalian horses in the Classical Greek world.

Department: Classics

Supervised by: Dr Emma Aston

The Placement Project

It is an established cliché of ancient history that the Thessalians, a northern Greek people, bred the best horses and trained the best cavalry. But what was the historical basis for this idea? This question has never been systematically addressed. The proposed project will do so in two main stages. First, it will examine literary references to Thessalian horses outside Thessaly to determine their perceived social and economic significance as luxury possessions. Second, it will investigate what may be known about the realities of Thessalian horse-usage abroad; for example, Attic inscriptions contain detail lists of cavalry mounts with their geographical provenances. Discourse and reality will be tested against each other, their interrelation assessed. In addition to interrogating a persistent scholarly assumption, this inquiry also challenges the mistaken idea that Thessaly was an isolated region, by investigating an apparently significant economic connection with the rest of Greece. This is a stand-alone project, leading to the production of a co-authored article. However, it will open the way for further opportunities for the student. A colleague and I are currently planning a conference on ethnic stereotypes in antiquity, and we would invite the student to give a paper or poster-presentation at that based on the UROP research (probably in his/her Part 3); it might also provide material for a presentation at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research. In addition, it will tie in with my monograph project on Thessalian identity and therefore contribute to the progress of my longer-term research plans.


In the first week, the student will conduct background reading on ancient cavalry and horse usage. In week 2 (s)he will assemble ancient literary references to Thessalian horses. In week 3, (s)he will search the epigraphic corpus for inscriptional material and will also identify any visual evidence which may be of relevance; it is expected that (s)he and the PI will work together on this stage because of the novelty of accessing epigraphic resources. In weeks 4-5 a draft of the article will be prepared, which the PI will then read; a meeting will be held to discuss any revisions, and these will be carried out in the sixth and final week.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

It would be desirable, though it is not essential, that the student should have taken my Part 2 module CL2EM: Early Macedon, which provides valuable background knowledge of Thessaly and the Greek north.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

This project will equip the student with experience of conducting original research and preparing it for publication, and will therefore be of the greatest benefit to someone intending to work towards an academic career; however, the experience of professional collaboration and bringing a project to completion within a set time-frame will also enhance general employability, as will the IT skills gained through researching and writing up the article. The publication itself will of course confer immense distinction on the student’s CV and assist in applications to postgraduate programmes and jobs in the future; as a potentially ground-breaking contribution to a rather neglected aspect of ancient history it will help to establish the student as a significant player within the discipline. Identifying relevant ancient evidence will provide experience of handling various research tools vital to the completion of the third-year dissertation as well as to further research: for example, the Thesaurum Linguae Graecae as a way of finding ancient literary references on a particular theme. More specifically, this project will involve working with inscriptions in translation, searching for them using various online tools and library resources, and gaining experience of their particular conventions and formulaic language. It is of the greatest value that all the published Attic inscriptions, which are most essential to this project, have recently become available in translation online via an open-access site created by professional historians (

Place of Work

Because of its collaborative nature this project will require the student to work at least some of the time in the Classics department, where office space and the use of a PC will be provided if required.

Hours of Work

On average, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 08 July 2013 - Friday 16 August 2013

How to Apply

Suitable candidates should send their CV and a covering letter to

Return to Placements List

Page navigation