The reception of the book Art équestre, by Xenophon

How did Xenophon’s book “Art équestre” come down to us? What was its influence on the writers who have dealt with this subject, and particularly on the Renaissance squires, most of them being Italian?

This is probably the most interesting part for us, bibliophiles, historians, collectors and others curious about the equestrian theme, of the whole of the colloquium that Alexandre Blaineau hosted at Hermès on December 04 in Paris, accompanied by Jeremy Clément (Hellenist), François Vallat (Veterinarian), Jean-Pierre Tuloup (Horseman) and Jean-Louis Gouraud (Editor).

As we shall see, Alexandre Blaineau is not completely closed, even if…. We will risk settling for “no smoke without fire”, as the popular saying goes, not to say vulgar proverb of which the first traces can be found in the 14th century. X. L.

Contrary to other works by Xenophon, the Art équestre was very rarely quoted during Antiquity, except on a few occasions by Diogenes Laertius or by doctors who dealt with horses in Late Antiquity[1].

Does this mean that there was a certain lack of interest in these works, which are after all rather austere and rather intended for specialists? One has to be careful with such a blunt opinion about how little influence these texts had: the true recognition of these writings cannot be measured by the yardstick of a literature that only partially reached us. However, to claim that there was a continuum of Xenophon’s thought on equestrian matters throughout antiquity would, on the contrary, be completely false. Indeed, whether written down or not [2], there have been innumerable equestrian experiences in all places and periods. Without exaggerating, we can think that Art équestre was preserved largely because its author was famous and highly valued for his style: had Xenophon been a bad writer, the text would have quickly disappeared.

First of all, what happened to Art équestre in European culture between the 16th and 18th centuries?


1. Art équestre in European equestrian culture (16th – 18th centuries)

1.1. Editions and translations of Art équestre

Art équestre was more widely published than Hipparque: some twenty codices of the first treatise exist, compared with four of the treatise on the Officer of Chivalry [3]. However, the interest in the latter may have been earlier. In fact, the chamberlain of Pope Eugene IV, Lapus Castelliunculus, published in 1437 the first Latin translation of the work, which he entitled Praefectus equitum. Lapus mentions in his preface elements that refer directly to the content of the equestrian treatise (care, horsemanship and military exercises), so he must have had knowledge of the Art équestre.

The first edition of Xenophon’s complete works, which includes the text of the Art équestre, appeared in 1516 in Florence, and was published at the request of Filippo Giunta, founder of a great dynasty of Italian printers [4]. Some time later, the great German scholar Camerarius (1500-1574), author of a Hippocomicus [5] and also a lover of horses [6], made a Latin translation of the Art équestre [7]. Other notable editions of Xenophon’s works were published in Europe during the 16th century [8]. Evangelista Ortense [9] was the first to translate it into Italian, and Marc’Antonio Gandini did the same with the two equestrian treatises, in a volume dated 1588, in which he mentioned that the writings of this “eccellentissimo” philosopher and historian were particularly useful for men of war [10]. However, translations of the treatise into languages other than Italian are rare. In Spain only Diego Gracián de Alderete (c. 1500 – c. 1584)[11] translated Xenophon’s works from Greek into Spanish, including De equitandi Ratione (On the Military Art of Chivalry)[12].

Few editions and translations of the treatise are to be found in 17th century Europe. The first attempt at a French translation, in 1613, was made by Pyramus de Candolle, an important typographer of the time, who published his Œuvres de Xénophon [13] that was not without errors[14]. In Italy, Francesco Liberati, author of a great equestrian treatise, added to it a translation of the text in his own language[15]. Also worth mentioning in England is the work of Henrici Aldrich (1647-1710), theologian and musician, dean of the University of Oxford, who brought together in 1693, in a single volume, in a bilingual version (Greek and Latin)[16], the three technical treatises (Art équestre, Hipparque, and Art de la Chasse). In 1703, the geographer Edward Wells (1667-1727) proposed a Latin translation of Xenophon’s works[17].

In the 18th century, a double movement on the translation of the treatise can be observed. After Francesco Liberati, equestrian experts integrated into their own equestrian treatises the text of Xenophon translated into their own languages.


This is the case in England of R. Berenger, author of History and Art of Horsemanship (London, 1771). Xenophon’s book is respectable for him, not only because of its antiquity and because it is the only one to have survived the ravages of time, but also because its recommendations are still valid [18]. Berenger includes some comments in the notes, sometimes relying on ancient references, such as those of Pollux or Hesychios, of the Greek horse doctors (especially Apsyrtos), of Virgil, and also of the French veterinarian Bourgelat[19].



Dupaty de Clam acts as translator in France [20]. However, he is not faithful to the Greek text, and the writer does not include grounds or annotations in the translation. For him, it is only a flower that adorns the beginning of his work, as he explains in his preface: “I precede my mechanical demonstrations [21] with a translation of Xenophon’s book on Chivalry; a work that has not yet been translated into French [which is false][22], which will please horsemen and distract them from the attention required by the rest of the work” (p. VI). This version of Art équestre contains a large number of translation errors.

A second movement is more in line with the philological tradition. Zeunius published a book on Xenophon’s political and technical treatises, supplemented by Arrien’s Art de la chasse [23]. In 1794, Jean-Baptiste Gail had also published a volume with translations of the Traité d’Equitation et le Maître de la Cavalerie [24]. As a scrupulous Hellenist and professor at the Collège de France, he made an honest and serious presentation of the texts, inserting the French text opposite the Greek text. Gail relied on several manuscripts available in French libraries and at the end of his book he provides critical foundations [25].  He has also read the work of Dupaty de Clam, and does not fail to quote a few sentences from this “excellent squire, but who knew little Greek” [26]. However, his work also contains errors and allows himself “beautiful infidences” which he more or less justifies in his notes. Finally, at the beginning of the 19th century, Benjamin Weiske carried out a philological research on the Art équestre and the Hipparque, accompanying the Greek text with extensive commentaries in Latin [27]. This was one of the first consistent works, showing a concern for the careful elaboration of the text.

Parallel to these translation works, the Peri Hippikês was a source in the construction of the knowledge of horse veterinary medicine in the 16th-18th centuries.

1.2. Xenophon and the tradition of equine veterinary medicine


The chain of knowledge of equine veterinary medicine, which includes Xenophon’s description of the anatomy of the good horse and his observations on equine husbandry, began in antiquity through compilers such as Magon, Diophanes or Cassius Dionysius of Utica, as well as Latin agronomists (Varron and Columella), and later the authors of the collection of equine veterinary medicine. (CHG)

In the 15th century, Leon Battista Alberti cites Xenophon among numerous Greek and Latin authors, ancient and medieval, most of them horse veterinarians or agronomists, in his De equo animante, which deals with the anatomy, breeding, training and diseases of horses [28]. The question is to what extent did Xenophon’s text influence Alberti.

Alberti had Xenophon’s writing before his eyes: for example, concerning the pasterns, Xenophon recommends that they should not be too straight like those of a goat (hosper aigos) (I, 4), which Alberti takes up on his own (“Internodia quae ad pedes insident, non directa ad perpendiculum (uti sunt caprarum)”) [29]. Alberti’s description of the ideal horse (in particular: the small and slender head, the bulging eyes, the dilated nostrils, the straight and slender neck, the swollen belly, the muscles of the legs adapted to the efforts, the hard hooves) really brings to mind that of Cimon and Xenophon, but it seems to me that these are aesthetic and functional canons that we find in the other authors he cites. We also find similar anatomical descriptions in Varron, Columella, Anatolius, Palladius, Virgil, Calpurnius, Nemesius and Oppianus [30].


In 1551, the Zurich scholar Conrad Gesner published the first part of a very detailed compendium on nature, Historiae animalium, which presents the different species, including horses (De equo)[31]. Gesner relies on Xenophon’s text, and when he refers to the various anatomical notions he sometimes quotes the Greek text.

The physician of King Francis the First, Jean Ruel (1474-1537), dedicated to his majesty a collection on horse medicine translated into Latin, composed mainly of Greek authors including Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Cimon of Athens and Xenophon[32]. This ancient knowledge of horse medicine fed the science of horses, which developed from treatises on farriery: for example, the veterinary surgeon Gervase Markham (c. 1568-1637), who wrote several books on animal care, mentions in his Markham’s Masterpiece [33] Xenophon at the top of a list of writers who dealt with the breeding of horses and cattle (including Camerarius). Likewise, Jacques de Solleysel (1617-1680), who published in 1664 Le Parfait Maréchal, in which he refers mainly to equine medicine, had noted Xenophon’s interest in horses: in addition to the Hippiatriques, he had read the two equestrian treatises [34].

From the 16th to the beginning of the 18th century, the ancient discourse continues to influence the veterinary knowledge under construction. Daniel Roche writes that, in addition, “a more rational empiricism of observation developed immediately, that of the professionals, squires, specialists in horse medicine and farriers of the great European cavalries [who] built up a new body of knowledge based on practices [35]“. In this context, Claude Bourgelat, founder of the veterinary schools in France, strongly criticised the Athenian author, who, in his opinion, had not understood anything about the anatomy of the horse. Thus, he writes in an inquisitive tone: “Would we think that a man like Xenophon wanted to define the horse’s gait by the height of its heels, its goodwill by the circles of the nail, the goodness of its legs by the sound they emit when they hit the ground, the strength of its limbs by the few veins that will enter its composition, its complexion and temperament by the length of its ears? “Xenophon is not the only one to suffer the wrath of Bourgelat, for no ancient author who dared to take an interest in equids (from Aristotle to Vegetius) found favour in his eyes, because they lived in “dark centuries”[36]. According to him, it is better to turn to the Italian science that has developed since the Renaissance.

Since the 18th century, the development of equine veterinary science gradually separated from an ancestral tradition constituted mainly by the teachings of Xenophon. In contrast, specialists in the equestrian art quickly recognised Xenophon as a master, which can be seen from the Renaissance onwards.

1.3. Equestrian science and equestrian art


In Alberti’s De Equo animante, one can glimpse between its lines the Xenophontic teaching of leading the horse without anger, but with calm and gentleness. However, once again, it is difficult to be certain that this is a reference to the Athenian author: according to Serena Salomone, an Italian Hellenist, Alberti’s philosophical-religious principles, based on his readings of Seneca, Cicero and the Church Fathers, could well explain this form of respect for the animal [37]. Moreover, scholars are divided over the fact that the first authors of equestrian treatises in modern times, such as Federico Grisone[38] or Cesare Fiaschi [39], do not quote Xenophon. Some, for example, agree that Grisone’s work (Gli ordini di cavalcare (1550)), is inspired by Xenophon’s ideas, others doubt it [40]. The advice that the Neapolitan gives on the position of the horseman is reminiscent of that given by Xenophon in chapter VII of his book. However, in very precise cases in which the horse disobeys, Grisone sometimes recommends an abrupt mounting, totally contrary to the advice of the Athenian master [41]. So, although Grisone may have read Xenophon, he also established equestrian rules of his time [42] which came from his own experience and the influence of Spanish horsemanship.

Claudio Corte, author of Il Cavallarizzo (1562)[43] and Pasquale Carraciolo, author of La gloria del cavallo (1566)[44] are much more explicit. Indeed, they cite Xenophon among numerous ancient authors. Corte refers to Xenophon in his prologue as the author who in his two treatises writes the best that exists on horses[45]. Even more, he presents Cimon as the first person to write about the equestrian art, probably based on the first words of the Xenophontic treatise. Carraciolo does the same when he refers to the anecdote of the bronze horse dedicated to Eleusinion in honour of Cimon[46]. When Corte mentions that the stable must be in sight of the master (Book I, chapter XXVI)[47], he is quoting Xenophon. Speaking of the turnings (Book II, chapter II), he mentions that Xenophon evokes them in his treatises many times. In the same book II, chapter XX, he refers to poppusmos, the same term used by the Athenian author to designate the whistle with which the rider communicates with his horse (Art équestre, IX, 10))[48]. Caracciolo uses the expression jenophontic (kunèpodes) to refer to horses that stand upright on their pasterns (p. 155). An entire chapter of La Gloria del cavallo is devoted to the bridles according to Xenophon (Briglie secondo Senofonte, p. 349-350), another to the discipline imposed on the horse, also according to Xenophonte (Disciplinare un cavallo secondo Senofonte, p. 360-367). The quotations from the Athenian author are very numerous and do not only refer to the equestrian treatise. Both Caracciolo and Corte use a framework of ancient references[49] to illustrate the aristocratic ethics, based on the discipline of the horse and its rider: Xenophon’s teaching reinforces the concept that equestrian practices are one of the symbols of social recognition [50]. These Italian works (Grisone, Corte, Caracciolo) were successfully disseminated in Europe, as were the editions of Grisone in France (we find about ten before 1610): indeed, at that time, the Italian language was the ideal means of communication for cultural transmission [51].

In England, John Astley wrote an Art of Riding (1584)[52]. Related to Queen Elizabeth on his mother’s side, appointed under her reign as “Master and Treasurer of her Majesty’s Jewels and Plate”, he was a Member of Parliament. A specialist in horses, he was appointed Commissioner of War Horses in the county of Middlesex. His treatise is based on the advice of Xenophon and Grisone, especially on the conformation of the horse (chapter 2). Chapters 8 and 9, again drawing on the two authors he appreciates[53], speak of the horse trained for war. Indeed, we can see his inspiration in the Athenian author when he advises rewarding the horse when it does well what is asked of it, and punishing it in the opposite case[54].

One might think that Montaigne, the devourer of ancient texts and famous for conducting “his longest conversations” while riding a horse, would have been one of the first French authors to refer to and comment on Art équestre. But this is not the case. He considers Xenophon as a writer “of great importance” but evokes him mainly because of his adventures recounted in the Anabase, or because he is interested in the Cyropédie. In fact, in his chapter in Essais entitled “Des Destriers” (I, 48), he does not comment on the treatise on horsemanship. However, he had in his possession all the works of the Greek author in a compilation of Latin translations made by Catellion and published in Basel in 1551[55]. On the other hand, he had used Caracciolo’s treatise [56].

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Xenophon appears in equestrian circles as an author whom we rediscover and quote, and from whom we follow some advice. The circulation of his books encouraged the interest he received in England, France and other countries. He is considered as one of the undisputed masters of the equestrian art to be quoted, between humanism and aristocratic values, Xenophon reinforces the characteristic values of horse men [57].

Francesco Liberati, author of La Perfettione del cavallo (1639), refers in the third volume to breeding practices (reproduction, care, feeding, branding). We have already mentioned that in his book he includes a translation of the Xenophontic treatise made by himself [58]. He also had a list of authors on whom he had based his work, including Camerarius, whose work was probably useful to him for the translation of the Art équestre. Pinter von des Au, for his part, wrote in 1664 a work on the training and care of horses [59]. He also referred to a long list of writers including experts in the treatment of horse diseases, both Greek and Latin, such as Cesare Fiaschi, Pasquale Caracciolo and, of course, Xenophon. Some specialists in the study of the horse at the time scoffed at the creation of these lists of authors, which they considered superfluous and useless [60]. In any case, the scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by writing or translating texts on the study of the horse or equestrian studies, contributed to forging the identity of horsemen, since they drew on a catalogue of practices and values from a more or less distant tradition [61].

Few authors of great equestrian treatises of the 18th century mention Xenophon as one of the first masters of reference. As we have seen, while it is R. Berenger who translated the Art équestre, François Robichon de La Guérinière, for example, does not mention him at all in his École de cavalerie (1733). However, unlike the knowledge of equine veterinary medicine, which seems to have abandoned the ancient tradition, equitation jennophontique continued to arouse the interest of horse scholars in the following centuries.

2. The Squire Xenophon or the future of Art équestre in the 19th and 20th centuries

The rigorous analysis of the Xenophontic text that began at the end of the 18th century continued in the following century. However, the technical nature of the treatise gave birth to two approaches, that of the Hellenists, different from that of the horse scholars: in France, this antagonism is particularly noticeable in the translations of Courier and Curnieu.

2.1 The French example: Hellenists versus horse scholars

The Frenchman Paul-Louis Courier (1772-1825), a writer, polemicist and horse artilleryman, carried out, at the beginning of the 20th century, a great work of translation of the two equestrian treatises [62]. He used his knowledge of horsemanship [63],, but above all, as he was a Hellenist, he was able to understand the texts very precisely [64]. His important work was immediately recognised, as a chronicler of the time remarked: “Until today, this text had never appeared in all its purity; even in the most recognised editions, it had suffered alterations. Wanting to repair the damage caused by his predecessors, the new editor has embarked on a great work, and by collating most of the manuscripts of Italy and France, he has found many lessons that the first editors did not know” [65].

However, Courier’s work was soon questioned: “Courrier’s [sic] translation, although far superior to that of the other two [Dupaty de Clam and Gail’s], suffers from many errors; he substitutes several times his own ideas for those of Xenophon, which are not always correct. His notes prove that Courrier [sic] was no great connoisseur of horses; he knew no more about this subject than the artillery generals who excelled in his time, who, judging by those who survived, must not have been experts in the study of horses. Therefore, it is safe to say that a true translation of the book Peri Ippikês has yet to be made”. This is what we read in an article by Baron de Curnieu [66] on the new translation of Xenophon’s treatise. Curnieu himself is even harsher in his book: “Paul-Louis Courier’s notes suggest that he had little knowledge of horses; moreover, his originality and taste for antiquity alone made him lose his way. He tries to interpret the text more from his ideas, generally very peculiar, than from the natural sense of the text itself” (p. XVIII-XX) [67].

Baron de Curnieu (1811-1871)[68], famous for being a good Hellenist, justified his new translation by the fact that he had found different interpretations, with which he sometimes disagreed, in the readings of the translations of Gail, Dupaty de Clam or Courier. On the other hand, Xenophon’s treatise could replace all the publications on the equestrian art and horse breeding of his time, and still be read and meditated upon (p. XIX-XVI) because he considers it “clear, precise, pleasant in form and detail”. His ambition is not the same as Courier’s: Curnieu presents himself as a “man of the horse” and as such claims the “indulgence” of scholars (p. 155). Mennessier de la Lance, the equestrian bibliographer, considers that “the best translation to consult” is his [69]

The 19th century translations in France, for their part, followed the teachings of Gail, Courier and Curnieu and brought nothing new to the table [70]. In 1950, Edouard Delebecque, a Hellenist and former pupil of the Saumur riding school [71], offered a translation of great quality[72]. Paul Morand, writer and lover of horsemanship, for example, in the bibliography of his Anthologie de la littérature équestre, associates the work of Curnieu and Delebecque (without mentioning that of Courier)[73]. During these two centuries, while French horse specialists continued to be interested in Xenophon’s Art Equestre, Hellenists, for their part, remained relatively discreet about it.

2.2. The acceptance of Art équestre in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries: miracle or illusion of a continuum?

Relatively few new editions and translations of the treatise appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries[74]. In the equestrian world, however, Xenophon is regarded as one of the first links in a chain of great masters of horsemanship. Count Savary de Lancosme-Brèves (1809-1873) refers to this ancient text as a founding document of Western equestrian science, following Curnieu’s translation: “From this practice Xenophon draws the first equestrian truths which served as the basis of the theoretical school for a long time, and some of which are still in use today” [75].

Thus, according to Albert Monteilhet, this treatise would have inspired the horsemanship of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Italian school of the Renaissance, and then the masters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries [76]. The Peri Hippikês, according to him, could even have been written by the great French horseman François Baucher[77].

In the same way, under the tutelary shadow of the Athenian author, the equestrian history of the West would have been constructed, surely penetrating the minds of those who agree with this theory, with this Greek miracle. The looseness of the hand, as well as the ethological knowledge and the different tones expounded by the Athenian author, would then constitute, as Michel Henriquet summarised, “the essential movements and postures that guided the first masters along the path of the high school of horsemanship”[78]. Similarly, the director of the Spanish School in Vienna, Colonel Podhasky, noted that the main figures of the equestrian art (piaffe, passage, levade) were evoked in the Xenophontic treatise, and taken up by the Viennese school [79].

Denis Bogros, squire of the Cadre Noir de Saumur, on the other hand, rejects any influence of Xenophon on the equestrian art of the Romans, from the Renaissance to the 19th century: “In the world of European chivalry, many things have been said and written about this master (430-355 BC) since the 19th century. Our historians have made him the inventor of horsemanship, and until recently he was the starting point of its history. That seems very exaggerated. Phidias had already decorated the Parthenon with his famous horsemen, while Xenophon had not yet climbed on a saddle.”[80] He made this obvious observation, moreover, that he had not yet been on a horse. 80] Moreover, he made this obvious observation, noting that the ancient author did not appear in most of the illustrious references in the treatises on equestrian art of the Renaissance and the modern period: “Even if we find it hard to believe, all this is very strange and makes us doubt the influence of Xenophon on classical equestrian art. For his influence on the French masters of the 19th century to be felt only belatedly, we have to wait for Dupaty de Clam, an illustrious Hellenist who translated the Greek master on his own account from the Greek manuscript, Paul-Louis Courrier [sic] and J.-B. Gail who published translations in our language. This matter worried too much the European historians of horsemanship, who, probably out of Eurocentrism, wanted a precursor from our continent” [81]. In general, M. A. Littauer, too, doubts a direct influence of Xenophon’s treatise on the theorists of the Renaissance and the modern period[82].

In fact, it is better to lean towards an intermediate option, between a reading that would validate a permanent influence of Xenophon on Western equestrian art, and a categorical rejection of any influence of the Athenian master until the 20th century.

Of course, it is not possible to accept the idea that Xenophon contributed all the principles governing classical horsemanship. The reins were different and Greek bridles were very demanding. It is in this context that his advice on the loose hand can be understood: the rider’s hand should not pull too hard on the reins, so as not to hurt the horse’s mouth [83]. Xenophon’s remarks on the importance of working the horse in the “bringing” and “gathering”, which equestrian theorists from Grisone to Berenger recommend [84], are common sense. Similarly, the advice of Cimon, on the need for gentleness in equestrian practice, taken up by Xenophon, does not validate the idea that these authors were developing ethological horsemanship in the modern sense of the term[85]. If ethological principles can be seen in Xenophon’s treatise, their reading is much more nuanced, as Xenophon writes that every refusal of the horse, considered as disobedience, results in punishment or additional constraint (VIII, 4; 13)[86].

However, as the books of Corte and Caracciolo attest, Xenophon’s teachings – on breeding, anatomy, as well as reins or equestrian figures – were spread from the Renaissance onwards, and indeed the posterity of these two books in Europe has not been denied. Xenophon’s influence can also be seen in the definition of the ideal horse. Indeed, it is possible that among others, Shakespeare may have read the first chapter of Xenophon to have written in his description of the horse of Adonis[87]

« Round-hoof’d, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,

Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide,

High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong,

Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide.”[88]

Therefore, the influence of Art équestre in Western Europe would merit a detailed study based on philological comparisons and an in-depth analysis of the contexts in which equestrian treatises or their different translations were written[89].


[1] Diogenes Laertius (II, 57) mentions the two equestrian treatises in Xenophon’s biography, but without commenting on them. Pollux takes some terms or expressions used by Cimon and Xenophon. Arrian (Cynegeticus, I, 5) had noted the importance of the Peri Hippikês which, according to him, corrected the deficiencies of Cimon’s book. The specialists in equine veterinary medicine in the Corpus Hippiatricorum Graecorum also noted Xenophon’s good knowledge of the anatomy of the horse. Thus it was that Apsyrtos reaffirmed that the work of the two Athenians were the best treatises written on the conformation of horses, and that for the training of foals, there was no one else but Xenophon. In describing the ideal horse, Theomnestos, for his part, used the teachings of Cimon and Xenophon.


[2] We know from Stephane of Byzance, s. v. Ἄχναι that an equestrian treatise had been written by a Thessalian named Cleodamas, without having said anything more (Κλεοδάμας ὁ περὶ ἱππικῆς καὶ πωλοδαμαστικῆς γράψας).


[3] Salomone (1986), p. 243, n. 8.


[4] Xenophon atheniensis. Cyri pedias libri VII ; Anabassos lib. VII ; Apomnemoneumaton lib. IV ; Venatoria ; de re equestri ; de equis alendis ; Lacedaemonum resp. ; Atheniensum resp. ; Oeconomica ; Hieron ; Symposium ; de Greacum gestis lib. VII, Florentae, in aedib. Phil. Juntae, 1516. On the 15th century editions, see Ph. Deblaise, “Les traducteurs de Xénophon“, in M. GENNERO (ed.), Omaggio a Senofonte, Collegno, Roberto Chiaramonte, 2008, p. 111-118. This editio princeps is incomplete and Filippo’s heirs published a second, more complete edition in 1525.


[5] This Hippocomicus, which seems to have had a large number of followers (cf. Biografia universale antica e moderna, Venice, vol. IX, 1823, p. 180), contained a great deal of advice on hygiene, care, training and muzzles. In it, Camerarius recommended the use of gentleness and proscribed violent solutions. For the reference, see n. 16.


[6] On this point, see recently Sannicandro (forthcoming).


[7] In hoc Libello haec insunt De tractandis Equis sive ἱπποκομικός, conversio Libelli Xenophontis de Re equestri in Latinum. Historiola rei nummariae sive de nomismatis Graecorum et Latinum. Autore Ioachimo Camerario Pabergensi, Tübingen, 1539. A second edition, to which Camerario had added other texts by Xenophon, including the Hipparchus, appeared in 1543 in Leipzig. See G.-R. Mennessier de la Lance, Essai de bibliographie hippique, donnant la description détaillée des ouvrages publiés ou traduits en latin et en français sur le cheval et la cavalerie, avec de nombreuses biographies d’auteurs hippiques, T. 2, Paris, 1917, p. 655-656.


[8] In Switzerland, the Basel printer Nicolas Brylinger undertook the task of publishing the complete works (1545), with the help of eleven different translators, including Camerarius, who was responsible for the translation of the Art équestre. In France, Sébastien Gryphe published Xenophon’s works in Lyon in 1551, and in 1561, Henri Estienne published a Greek and Latin edition of the Athenian author (the translation of Camerarius’ equestrian treatise also appears there). See Irigoin (1979), p. IV. For his part, after having spent two years at the court of Savoy in Turin (1579-1581), Johannes Levvenklaviua (1533-1593), translated mainly into Latin the Art équestre (which was published in Frankfurt in 1594 with multiple reprints (1594-1596 ; 1595 ; 1625 ; 1691-1703 ; 1700-1704). The Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan also preserves a manuscript with the Latin translation (P 243 sup) (Xenophontis Atheniensis De re equestri libellus e Graeco et Latinum conversus, 15th – 16th centuries) : see D. Marsh, “Xenophon“, in V. Brown, P. O. Kristeller and F. E. Cranz (ed.), Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum, Vol. VII, Washington, 1992, p. 75-196, p. 138.


[9] Il modo del cavalcare scritto da Xenophonte. Di nuovo tradotto, nella vostra volgar lingua. Ove si trattano molti particolari si intorno al conoscere un buon Cavallo, come nel saperlo conservare e ammaestrarlo, Venice, 1580.


[10] Marc’Antonio GANDINI, Le opere di Senofonte Ateniese. Filosofo ed istorico eccellentissimo, molto utili a’ capitani di Guerra ed al vivere morale e civile, tradotte dal Greco, volume 3, Verona, 1588.


[11] Trained in Spain and Flanders, this humanist and polyglot was in charge of the Secretaria de Interpretación de Lenguas under Charles V and Philip II: see L. Schwartz, “Cervantes, lector de Jenofonte, y las ‘obras de Xenophonte’ traducidas por Diego Gracián”, RILCE, 26, 1, 2010, p. 202-213, p. 205.


[12]LAS OBRAS DE XENOPHON TRANSLATAS DE GRIEGO EN Castellano por el Secretario Diego Gracián, divididas en tres partes, Dirigidas al Sereníssimo Príncipe don Philippe nuestro Seňor, Salamanca, 1552. In addition to the equestrian treatise (f. 187v – 195r), the book included the Cyropédie, the Anabase, the Hipparque, Agésilas and the Cynégétique. This translation was taken up again in the work of Alonso Suarez (published in Toledo in 1564), which also contained the texts of Piero Crescentino and the horse medicine specialists Apsirto and Hierocles. See Marsh (1992), p. 84. The work of Diego Gracián was particularly used by Cervantes (mainly the Cyropédie and the Cynégétique): Schwartz (2010). As far as we know, in the Spanish and Portuguese equestrian circles of the modern period, Xenophon was very little read. In any case, see n. 56.


[13]Les Œuvres de Xénophon, docte philosophe et valeureux capitaine Athénien : nouvellement traduites en Français, recueillies toutes en un volume et dédiées au Roy par Pyramus de Candolle, Cologne, 1613, the Équrie is on p. 720-735. The work is republished in Yverdon 1619 (p. 1132-1156).


[14] Mennessier de la Lance (1917), p. 663-664.


[15] F. Liberati, La Perfettione del cavallo (…), Rome, 1639.


[16] H. ALDRICH, Xenophontis De re equestri, De magistro equitum et De venatione, Oxford, 1693.


[17] Xenophontis opera quae extant omnia ; una cum chronologia Xenophontea Cl. Dodwelli et quatuor Tabulis Geographicis, Oxford, 1703 (there was a second edition in 1763-1764). The equestrian treatise is in volume 2 of the fifth volume. The frontispiece of this work depicts a rider and his horse at a gallop, accompanied by greyhounds. See Mennessier de la Lance (1917), p. 663-664. In his preface Wells mentions that for the Greek text he relied on the edition by Henri Étienne, and for the Latin text on the translation by Levvenklavius.


[18] R. BERENGER, The History and Art of Horsemanship, London, 1771, vol. 1, p. 215: “A work not only respectable for its antiquity, and for being the only one which has survived the ravages of time, but still more valuable, as coming from one who was a General, Historian, and Philosopher, shone with distinguished lustre, in a very polished and discerning age”.


[19] On Bourgelat, see infra.


[20] Ch. DUPATY de CLAM, Traités sur l’équitation, avec une traduction du “Traité de la cavalerie” de Xénophon, Paris, 1771.


[21] Dupaty de Clam is a supporter of the mechanistic theory, indirectly inspired by Descartes and Malebranche: see J.-P. Digard, Une histoire d’équitation, Paris, 1771. Digard, Une histoire du cheval. Art, techniques, société, Arles, 2004, p. 123-126.


[22] In other words, the author is not familiar with the translation by Pyrame de Candolle.


[23] J. C. ZEUNIUS, Opuscula politica, equestria et venatica, cum Arriani libello de Venatione, Lipsiae, 1778.


[24]Œuvres de Xénophon traduites en français, sur les textes imprimés et sur quatre manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale, par le Citoyen Gail, Professeur de littérature grecque au Collège de France, place Cambrai, De l’imprimerie Didot Jeune, A Paris, chez l’Auteur, au Collège de France, place Cambray, l’An troisième. Gail was inspired by the work of Zeunius, to whom he elegantly refers p. IX-X : ” In my work, I have taken as a reference the excellent edition of Zeunius, a critic renowned both for his erudition and his respect for ancient texts. I have often benefited from his notes: when I have disagreed with him, I have said so with the respect due to writers who only wish to enlighten each other”. We shall see that Courier was less wary of Gail’s work.


[25] Mainly a specialist in the work of the Athenian author, he also published la Vie de Xénophon suivie d’un extrait historique et raisonné de ses ouvrages (Paris, 1795).


[26] J.-B. GAIL, Œuvres de Xénophon, p. 344.


[27] B. WEISKE, Xenophontis Atheniensis Scripta in usum lectorum Graecis Litteris tinctorum commentarii ad rerum et verborum intelligentiam illustrata, volume 6, Lippsiae, 1804. He referred to earlier works, and mainly to those of Camerarius, Levvenklavius, Zeunius, and de Gail.


[28] It seems that this book was written around 1444-1445 on the occasion of a public tender for the construction of an equestrian monument dedicated to Nicholas III of Este, in Ferrara. On the context, see E. di Stefano, ” Il ‘De equo animante’ di L. B. Alberti : una teoria de la bellezza ? “, in F. Furlan and G. Venturi (ed.), Leon Battista Alberti. Gli Este et l’Alberti : tempo e misura, vol. 1, Pise-Rome, 2010, p. 15-26, p. 15-16. During the same period, Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II), wrote a De naturis equorum. “Hi fuere auctores, qui quidem ad manus nostras pervenere : Graeci Xenophon, Absyrtus, Chiron, Hippocrates et Pelagonius ; Latini Cato, Varro, Virgilius, Plinius, Columella, Vegetius, Palladius, Calaber, Crescentius, Albertus, Abbas”.


[29] Salomone (1986), p. 247.


[30] See on this point McCabe (2007), p. 5-6 and p. 194-195.


[31] Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) was a great scholar: physician and philosopher, he travelled to Paris, Montpellier, Basel and Strasbourg. Liber I (Historiae Animalium), dated 1551, is inspired by Pliny’s Natural History. The pictures are scarce in the first edition, but the following editions (particularly those of 1620) are enriched with magnificent illustrations, particularly those by Dürer. On this point see A. J. J. Van de Velde, “Conrad Gesner’s Liber I “Historiae Animalium” of 1551″, Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications, 5, 3, 1952, p. 265-269. Johann Fayser, Stallmeister to the Duke of Franconia, wrote several Hippiatria, which were inspired by classical and Byzantine authors, as well as by the Italian squire Grisone. Johann Fayser, Hippiatria: Grundlicher Bericht und aller ordentlichste Beschreibung der bewerten Roßarzney, Ausburg, 1576. Fayser introduces Camerarius as his preceptor (on folio 155v). See L. Sannicandro, “Joachim Camerarius e la traduzione latin el Peri ippikès (De re equestri) di Senofonte (1539)”, in T. Baier (éd.), in T. Baier (ed.), Camerarius Polyhistor. Studien zu den wissenschaftlichen Schriften des Älteren Camerarius, Tübingen, 2017 (forthcoming). On Gisone, see infra.


[32] Veterinariae medicinae libri duo Joanne Suessionensi interprete, Paris, 1530 ; tÇn ßppiatrikÇn BiblÛa dæv : Veterinariae medicinae libri duo Joanne Ruellio olim quidem latinitate donati, nunc vero iidem sua, hoc est Graeca lingua, primum in lucem editi, Bâle, 1537. See A.-M. Doyen-Higuet, “Les textes d’hippiatrie grecque. Bilan et perspectives”, AC, 50, 1-2, 1981, p. 258-273, p. 258 ; A. McCabe, A Byzantine Encyclopaedia of Horse Medecine. The Sources, Compilation, and Transmission of the Hippiatrica, Oxford, 2007, p. 49-51. There were two translations of Grynée’s edition, one in Italian and the other in French.


[33] G. Markham, Markham’s Maister-peece [Masterpiece], Containing all Knowledge Belonging to Smith, Farrier, or Horse=Leech, Touching on Curing All Diseases in Horses, London, 1610.


[34] J. de SOLLEYSEL, Le parfait mareschal, qui enseigne à connoistre la beauté, la bonté et les deffauts des Chevaux…, Paris, 1664, [to the reader, unnumbered] : “We have many traces of the Ancients which show us their great interest in breeding horses. The treatises on horse medicine such as those of Absyrtus, Hierocles, Anatolius, and others which we have collected in one volume and which Ruellius translated from Greek into Latin, bear witness ; we find nothing more ancient and more beautiful than the two books we have by Xenophon, great philosopher, great historian, and great man of war, in which he deals with the care of horses and the apprenticeship of the horseman”.


[35] Roche (2015), p. 168.


[36] Cl. BOURGELAT, Éléments d’hippiatrique ou nouveaux principes sur la connaissance et la médecine des chevaux, Second edition, first part, Lyon, 1751, p. IX-X.


[37] Salomone (1986), p. 246-247.


[38] At the Academy of Naples, Grisone taught how to train the horse for war by teaching him mainly figures such as pirouettes or caprioles.


[39] Cesare Fiaschi (1523-1568) founded the Academy of Ferrara (1534), where the teaching of the fetching and gathering is promoted. He is the author of the Trattato dell’ imbrigliare, maneggiare e ferrare cavalli (Bologna, 1563).


[40] The elements of the debate are explained in Anderson (1983); see Littauer (2002). Grisone, in chapter I, evokes Alexandre and Bucéphale, as well as Bellérophon, whom he presents as the inventor of horsemanship.


[41] On this point, see E. M. Tobey, “The legacy of Federico Grisone”, in P. Edwards, K. A. E. E. Enenkel and E. Graham (ed.), The Horse as Cultural Icon: The Real and the Symbolic Horse in the Early Modern World, Leiden and Boston, 2012, p. 143-171, p. 163.


[42] Digard (2004), p. 121-122.


[43] Book printed in Venice. Corte was born in 1525 and spent his childhood in Milan at the side of the Duchess Isabella d’Aragon-Sforza, and writes his work when he is in Pávia.


[44] A book dedicated to his children, which was also printed in Venice. Caracciolo, coming from the high aristocracy, very well read, was a Neapolitan squire (son of the Chancellor of the kingdom). It was a great success with six editions published in forty years. It was not translated, but his work spread throughout Europe: Philip Sidney, for example, recommended reading it together with Grisone and Corte, and it was also circulated at the court of Philip II through the Chief of Squires Don Diego de Cordova. See Balsamo (1999), p. 259-260.


[45]” Tra li quali giudico Xenofonte ne habbi trattato piu diffusamente, e miglio di tutti gl’altri nel suo Hippico, e Hipparco (…) “.


[46] P. 56 of the edition of 1608 (Venice).


[47] In support of paragraph IV, 1 of the Art équestre.
[48] Corte probably relied on the fragment translated by Camerarius, 38v : ” Neque hoc ignorandum, praecipi poppusmÒ (…) “.


[49] The practice, widely used in the literature specialised in horses, which pretends to quote or refer to ancient and modern authors, also applies to treatises devoted to the breeding and training of horses: we have seen that this is the case with J. Fayser, author of Hippiatria ; it is also the case of Markus Fugger, who does not omit to refer to Xenophon among numerous Greek, Latin or modern authors (Camerarius, Caracciolo, Corte, Fayser, Fiaschi, Grisone, Ruel) : Marcus Fugger, Von der Gestüterey. Das ist ein gründtliche Beschreibung wie und wa man ein Gestüt von guten edlen Kriegsrossen auffrichten und erhalten und wie man die Jungen von einem Jar zu dem Andren erziehen soll, Frankfurt 1584. On Fugger, see P. F. Cuneo, ” Marx Fugger’s Von der Gestiiterey. Horses, Humanism, and Posthumanism in Early Modern Augsburg “, in R. Spannring, R. Heuberger et al. (eds.), Tiere, Texte, Transformationen: Kritische Perspektiven der Human-Animal Studies, Bielefeld, p. 69-84.


[50] Roche (2015), p. 201-202.


[51] D. Roche, Histoire de la culture équestre, XVIe – XIXe siècle. Connaissance et passion, Paris, 2015, p. 32.


[52] John ASTLEY, The Art of Riding, set forth in a brief treatise, with a due interpretation of certain places alleged out of Xenophon, and Gryson, verie expert and excellent Horssemen, London, 1584.
[53] On Astley’s life and social environment, see H. S. Wilson, ” John Astley, ‘Our English Xenophon’ “, Huntington Library Quarterly, 22, 2, 1959, p. 107-118. Other writers published in England equestrian treatises inspired by Grisone or translated from Corte’s book: Thomas Blundeville, A New Booke Containing The Arte o Ryding (1560) ; Thomas Bedingfield, The Art of Riding by Claudio Corte (1584).


[54] Tobey (2012), p. 163 n. 80.


[55] 17 August 2017). See also J. O’Brien, ” ‘Autheur de merveilleux poids’: Montaigne et Xénophon “, Montaigne Studies, XVII, 2015, p. 17-34, p. 17 n. 2.


[56] In the chapter on “Des Des Destriers“, Montaigne seems to use the Gloria del Cavallo to evoke two anecdotes: see J. Balsamo, “Montaigne, le style (du) cavalier, et ses modèles italiennes”, Nouvelle Revue du XVIe siècle, 17, 2, 1999, p. 253-267, p. 258-260.


[57] In a broader framework, the works of Xenophon, and mainly the Cyropédie, are important references in the aristocratic ethical construction and education of princes: see Humble (2017), p. 427, on Baldassarre Castioglione’s Il Cortegiano (1528).


[58] La perfettione del cavallo. Libri tre, di Francesco Liberati romano. Dove si tratta del mantenimento del cavallo, e dell’osservationi circa la generatione, suoi mali, e cure di esse buon governo della stalla, qualità delle razze antiche, e moderne, che sono merchi, e della natura ancora de’ cavalli stranieri. Et insieme dell’arte di cavalcare di Senofonte, tradotto dal greco nel nostro idioma italiano, Roma, 1639.


[59] Vollkommener ergäntzter Pferdt-Schatz (…) In Gestalt einer außführlichen (…) Theoria Und auff dieselbe gegründete Praxis verfasset (…), Frankfurt, 1664. On this subject see P. F. Cuneo, ” Visual Aids : Equestrian Iconography and the Training of Horse, Rider and Reader “, in P. Edwards, K. A. E. E. Enenkel and E. Graham (ed.), The Horse as Cultural Icon. The Real and the Symbolic Horse in the Early Modern World, Leiden and Boston, 2012, p. 71-97.


[60] For example, Christopher Lieb, Gebissbuch (…), Dresden, 1616, p. 1 ; see P. F. Cuneo, “(Un)stable Identities: Representations of the Horse and the Professionalization of Art, Horsemanship, and Scholarship in Early Modern Europe “, K. Enenkel et P. Smith (éd.), Early Modern Zoology, Leiden, Brill, 2007, p. 339-359, p. 355 n. 40.


[61] Cuneo (2007).


[62]Du Commandant de la cavalerie et de l’Équitation : deux livres de Xénophon traduits par un officier d’artillerie à cheval, Paris, 1813. On Courier the Hellenist and translator, see. Blaineau (2011), p. 68-77.


[63] Going so far as to experiment with one of Xenophon’s advice to strengthen horses’ hooves: see Blaineau (2011), p. 155-157 and p. 188-190.


[64] In addition to Gail’s translations, he had Zeunius’ volume, and also Lexicon Xenophonteum (created by F. W. Sturtz, Stuttgart, 1801-1804), as well as an edition of the Athenian author’s works dated 1588. Selecta quaedam e Xenophontis operibus quorum index in sequenti pagina cernitur, Rome, 1588. On this point, see Blaineau (2011), p. 73.


[65] J. B. B. ROQUEFORT, “Of the Commander of the Cavalry and of Horsemanship. Two books by Xenophon; translated by a horse artillery officer [review]”, Mercure de France, 55, April 1813, p. 104-109.


[66]” De l’équitation, par Xénophon ; translated into French by M. le Baron de Curnieu “, Journal des Haras, chasses et courses de chevaux, 3, 2, Brussels, 1841, p. 110-113 (the annotation is on p. 111). The author, who signs H., is unknown.


[67] Mentioned in an article referring to Curnieu’s translation, it appeared in the Revue de bibliographie analytique, 1, 1840, p. 420-422 (the author of the review is anonymous).


[68] He also published the prestigious Leçons de science hippique générale (Paris, 1855). As the owner of a horse breeding farm, he built up an important equestrian library during his lifetime.


[69] G. R. MENNESSIER de la LANCE, Essai de bibliographie hippique, Paris, Dorbon, 1921, t. 1, p. 336.


[70] Mainly the translations of Buchon (1836), Trianon (1842), Talbot (1859), or Pessonneaux (1873).


[71] According to A. Monteilhet, “Xénophon et l’art équestre“, BAGB, 4, 2, 1957, p. 27-40, p. 38.


[72] Xénophon. De l’Art équestre, Paris, 1950 (reprinted 1978). Also worth mentioning is the interesting translation by Pierre Chambry (Xénophon. Œuvres complètes, Paris, 1967, vol. 1, p. 353-388).


[73] P. Morand, Anthologie de la littérature équestre, Paris, 1966 (repr. Arles, 2010).


[74] Germany : Weiske (1804) ; J. C. Ginzrot, Die Wagen und Fahrwerke der Griechen und Römer und andererer alten Völker, t. 2, Munich, 1817, p. 355-381 ; L. Dindorf, Xenophontis Scripta Minora cum brevi annotatione critica, Lippsiae, 1824 ; Jacobs (1825) ; G. A. Sauppe, Opuscula politica, equestria et venatica, cum Arriani libello de venatione, Lippsiae, 1838 ; F. Ruehl, Xenophontis Scripta minora, Leipzig, 1912 ; Kl. Widdra, Xenophontis de Re equestri, Leipzig, 1964 ; Kl. Widdra, Xenophon, Reitkunst, Damstadt, 1965. Angleterre : (traducteur anonyme), Xenophon’s Rules for the Choice, Management, and Training of Horses, Intended Principally for Officers of the Cavalry, Westminster, 1802 ; H. G. Dakyns, The Works of Xenophon, vol. III, part. II. Three Essays : On the Duties of the Cavalry General, On Horsemanship, and on Hunting, London, 1897 ; E. C. Merchant, Xenophontis Opera Omnia, vol. 5, Oxford, 1920. Italie : Varj, Opuscoli di Senofonte, vol. 2, Milan, 1823 ; V. Tommasini, Xenophontis, De re equestri Libellus, Berolini, 1902 ; G. Pierleoni, Xenophontis Opuscula, Rome, 1906 ; S. Salomone, Senofonte. Trattato d’Ippica, Milan, 1980. Spain : O. Guntiñas Tuñón, Xenophon. Obras menores, Madrid, 1984. It is worth mentioning the translation which was a historic event in the Anglo-Saxon world, by the American scholar M. H. Morgan, Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship, Boston, 1893.


[75] Id., p. 284. For his part, the Count of Aure, Chief of Squires at Versailles under Charles X, wrote that the treatises of Cimon and Xenophon “contain all the fundamental principles of the equestrian art, and even today they can be consulted for their benefit” (A. H. P. L. D’Aure, Cours d’équitation, Paris, 1859 (5th edition), p. 254).


[76] A. MONTEILHET, “Xénophon et l’art équestre”, Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé, 4, 2, 1957, p. 27-40. See also J. A. Saacke, “An Admiring Look at the Horsemen of Ancient Greece”, The Classical Journal, 37, 6, 1942, p. 323-333.


[77] But what does the latter think of the Athenian master? His opinion is summed up in a single, very brief comment in his Méthode d’équitation (included in the Œuvres complètes, Paris, 1854): “Xenophon is one of the first famous horsemen who rode his horse bareback. If the father of horsemanship had had saddles in the Theurkauff style, he would certainly have given more lustre to his clothes and more finesse to his movements” (p. 255).


[78] M. HENRIQUET, La sagesse de l’écuyer, Paris, 2006, p. 10.


[79] A. Podhajsky, Die Spanische Hofreitschule, Vienna, 1948, p. 16.


[80] Denis BOGROS, Des hommes, des chevaux, des équitations. Petite histoire des équitations pour aider à comprendre l’Équitation, Paris, Caracole, 1989, chapter III.


[81] Id.


[82] Littauer (2002).


[83] On this point, Blaineau (2011), p. 197-200.


[84] Anderson (1983), p. 16. These postures allow the horse to perform different equestrian figures (levade, passage…).


[85] In the general movement of a reflection on animal welfare, this has recently developed: this is the case of, which aims to promote a classical horsemanship based on the “philosophy” of Xenophon, based on gentle handling.


[86] See the article by M. Boot and P. D. McGreevy, who warns against a totally biased reading “The X files : Xenophon re-examined through the lens of equitation science”, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 8, 2013, p. 367-375.


[87] Venus and Adonis, c. 295-298. See J. K. Anderson, Xenophon, London, 1974, p. 185. We know Shakespeare had read Xenophon, and particularly the Economique. See P. F. Heaney, “Petruchio’s Horse: Equine and Household Mismanagement in The Taming of the Shrew.” Early Modern Literary Studies 4.1, May, 1998, 1-12.


[88] But similar descriptions by many authors (mainly mentioned by Alberti, see n.?), of the ideal horse, call for caution.


[89] The history of translations allows us to understand the influences, the contributions, and also the ruptures, in the understanding of the Xenophontic text: see Blaineau (2014).

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