Horses

Georg von Simson g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO
Thu May 7 11:02:55 EDT 1998


Paul K. Manansala asks me:
>
>Could you explain this high position of the horse in other
>Indo-European cultures.  Preferably not Scythian ones as there has
>always been some argument over whether the Scythians were truly IE.
>What part did the horse play in Greek or Persian culture?

See the article "Horses" by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, in The Encyclopedia
of Religion (Ed. Mircea Eliade). Vol. 6 (New York, 1987), p. 463-468.
I cannot quote the whole article; let me just quote the following (p. 463):
"Ancient Indo-European Horse Sacrifices: With the Greeks and the Vedic
Indians, and later with the Romans, the horse truly came into its own as a
religious symbol, one that pervades both myth and ritual. Rituals involving
horses, more particularly rituals that involve the killing of a white
stallion, are attested throughout the Indo-European world."
In the following she mentions ancient Norse, Greek, Roman, Persian and
Celtic ritual and mythological traditions which confirm her statement. See
also the Bibliography added to her article for further references.
>
>>Therefore - even if some horse-bones
>> should be found in the Indus culture - the horse does not seem to have
>> played any prominent role in the minds of its people. This makes a very
>> strong contrast to Vedic culture as reflected in the Rgveda.
>
>But all we know about the Vedic culture comes from translations of
>the Rgveda.  We don't have similar translations of the Indus texts.
>There are very fewt examples of horse iconography in the period of a few
>centuries after the fall of the IVC. Horses turn up in the early
>Sunga works, but certainly nothing on the scale of Scythian culture.
>But most importantly there is nothing even slightly suggestive of  a
>nomadic horse culture at any archaeological sites.  No signs of
>Kurgan or related cultures.
>
>The only suggestions we have is that horses were introduced into
>India gradually. And that they played a minimal role in the material
>culture.
>
But there can be no doubt that they played a major role on the ideological
level with the early Indo-Aryans. You have still to convince me that they
played a similar role in the Indus culture. As long as we cannot read the
Indus texts, you may assume anything about their contents, of course. But
does not the absence of the horse among the animals of the figurative
tradition of that culture mean anything to you?

Best regards,
        Georg v. Simson



More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list