On the Roman-Byzantine adoption of the stirrup once more: A new find from seventh-century Aphrodisias in Caria

Tim Penn, Ben Russell, Andrew Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Archaeological evidence and the text of the Strategikon show that it was only in the late sixth century AD that the Roman-Byzantine military adopted the stirrup. It is now widely argued that the Avars, who settled in the Carpathian basin in the sixth century, played a key role in introducing iron stirrups to the Roman-Byzantine world. However, the evidence to support this assertion is limited. Although hundreds of stirrups have been found in Avar graves in the Carpathian basin, very few stirrups of sixth- or seventh-century date are known from the Roman-Byzantine empire – no more than seven – and only two of these are of definitively Avar type. The text of the Strategikon, sometimes argued to support this Avar source, can be interpreted differently, as indeed can the archaeological evidence. While the debate about the Roman-Byzantine adoption of the stirrups has focused mostly on finds from the Balkans, two early stirrups are known from Asia Minor, from Pergamon and Sardis. This paper presents a third, previously unpublished stirrup, from a seventh-century deposit at Aphrodisias in Caria; this is the first stirrup found in Asia Minor from a datable context. Here we present this find and its context, and use it to reconsider the model of solely Avar stirrup transmission that has dominated scholarship to date. So varied are the early stirrups that multiple sources of influence, Avar and other, and even a degree of experimentation, seem more likely to underpin the Roman-Byzantine adoption of this technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalAnatolian Studies: Journal of the British Institute at Ankara
Early online date8 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2021


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