Full Version: The \'Riderless Horse\' in funeral processions
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So I've searched through the previous threads and can't find any previous versions of this question, so here we go:

Does anyone know of a contemporary reference to the use of a riderless or 'caparisoned' horse in a Roman military funeral procession? Most internet searches on the history of the riderless horse put its origins equally at the feet of Genghis Khan and 'The Ancient Romans' without, of course, any sources to back up the claim. I've scanned through the usual suspects but can't find a mention. I'm the 1st to admit that I could easily have missed something, so if anyone knows of a reference for this, I'd be grateful!


Good question, I have wondered about this myself. I cannot find any references that the Romans practiced this andI am doubtful that it originated with Genghis Khan. My guess would be it originated from the Scythians who had a history of burying horses with their kings. The Pazyryk tombs contain many well preserved horses who were dispatched and buried with the king or prince. I have no idea of the origin of the reversed boots although the website states that originally it signified that the owner of the horse fell in battle but obviously is not the case now, but the horse was an important part of Scythian life.
The website from the Australian War Memorial thinks that the tradition either started with the Scythians or the Saxons, see below.

Although only an artist's impression I have a drawing of a Scythian funeral scene on what probably happened in a Scythian funeral at Pazyryk. It shows a shaman in the lead of a procession carrying a ceremonial horse-head mace with which he will shortly despatch the animal following him. Artist's impression only but picture of horse skull with the hole in the middle probably confirms how they were sacrificed.



Can't help much more than that I am afraid, hope it helps.
Michael Kerr
Thanks for that Michael. If it did happen in a Roman context, I suspect it was an imported custom...