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A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the
saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to Mammal#Anatomy, an animal's back by a girth (tack), girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a Back (horse), horse. However, specialized sad ...

saddle
by a
strap A strap, sometimes also called strop, is an elongated flap Flap may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * ''Flap'' (film), a 1970 American film * Flap, a boss character in the arcade game ''Gaiapolis'' * Flap, a minor character in the fi ...

strap
, often called a ''stirrup leather''. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a
riding animal A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to se ...
(usually a
horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to ...

horse
or other
equine Equinae is a subfamily In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms based on shared character ...
, such as a
mule A mule is the of a male (jack) and a female (). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of s. Of the two between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a , which is the offspring of a female donkey () a ...

mule
). They greatly increase the rider's ability to stay in the saddle and control the mount, increasing the animal's usefulness to humans in areas such as communication, transportation, and warfare. In antiquity, the earliest foot supports (appearing in India by the 2nd century BC) consisted of riders placing their feet under a
girth Girth may refer to: ;Mathematics * Girth (functional analysis), the length of the shortest centrally symmetric simple closed curve on the unit sphere of a Banach space * Girth (geometry), the perimeter of a parallel projection of a shape * Girth (g ...
or using a simple toe loop. Later, a single stirrup was used as a mounting aid, and paired stirrups appeared after the invention of the
saddle tree The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to Mammal#Anatomy, an animal's back by a girth (tack), girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a Back (horse), horse. However, specialized sad ...
. In China, the stirrup appeared within the first few centuries AD and may have spread westward through the nomadic peoples of
Central Eurasia Inner Asia refers to landlocked regions within East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, No ...
.Dien, Albert. "THE STIRRUP AND ITS EFFECT ON CHINESE MILITARY HISTORY, accessed January 23, 2017
/ref> Some scholars believe that the
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ; la, Sarmatae , ) were a large Iranian peoples, Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD. Originating in the centr ...
were the first to devise true stirrups during the first century BC. The use of paired stirrups is credited to the Chinese Jin Dynasty and came to Europe during the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
. Some argue that the stirrup was one of the basic
tool A tool is an object that can extend an individual's ability to modify features of the surrounding environment. Although many animals use tool use by animals, simple tools, only human beings, whose use of stone tools dates back Paleolithic, hun ...

tool
s used to create and spread modern
civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a complex society A complex society is a concept that is shared by a range of disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, history and sociology to describe a stage of social formation. The concep ...

civilization
, possibly as important as the
wheel File:Roue primitive.png, An early wheel made of a solid piece of wood A wheel is a circular component that is intended to rotate on an axle An axle or axletree is a central shaft for a rotating wheel or gear. On wheeled vehicles, the ...

wheel
or
printing press A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an ink Ink is a gel, sol, or solution Image:SaltInWaterSolutionLiquid.jpg, Making a saline water solution by dissolving Salt, table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in wate ...
.


Etymology

The English word "stirrup" stems from Old English ''stirap, stigrap'', Middle English ''stirop, styrope'', i.e. a mounting or climbing-rope. Compare Old English ''stīgan'' "to ascend" and ''rap'' "rope, cord".


History

The stirrup, which gives greater stability to a rider, has been described as one of the most significant inventions in the history of
war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (new ...

war
fare, prior to
gunpowder Gunpowder, also commonly known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur, carbon (in the form of charcoal) and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). The ...
. As a tool allowing expanded use of
horses in warfare The first evidence of horses in warfare dates from Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criter ...
, the stirrup is often called the third revolutionary step in equipment, after the
chariot A chariot is a type of carriage A carriage is a private four-wheeled vehicle for people and is most commonly horse-drawn A horse-drawn vehicle is a mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses. These vehicles ...

chariot
and the
saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to Mammal#Anatomy, an animal's back by a girth (tack), girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a Back (horse), horse. However, specialized sad ...

saddle
. The basic tactics of mounted warfare were significantly altered by the stirrup. A rider supported by stirrups was less likely to fall off while fighting, and could deliver a blow with a weapon that more fully employed the weight and momentum of horse and rider. Among other advantages, stirrups provided greater balance and support to the rider, which allowed the
knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In so ...

knight
to use a
sword A sword is an edged, bladed weapon intended for manual cutting or thrusting. Its blade, longer than a knife A knife (plural knives; from Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Ge ...

sword
more efficiently without falling, especially against
infantry Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored warfare, armored forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantrymen or infanteer, i ...

infantry
adversaries. Contrary to common modern belief, however, it has been asserted that stirrups actually did not enable the horseman to use a
lance A lance is a pole weapon A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking pow ...

lance
more effectively (
cataphracts A cataphract was a form of Body armor, armored heavy cavalryman fielded in ancient warfare throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa. The English word derives from the Greek language, Greek ' (plural: '), literally meaning "armored" or "completel ...
had used lances since antiquity), though the cantled
saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to Mammal#Anatomy, an animal's back by a girth (tack), girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a Back (horse), horse. However, specialized sad ...

saddle
did.


Precursors

The invention of the stirrup occurred relatively late in history, considering that horses were
domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that sec ...
in approximately 4500 BC, and the earliest known saddle-like equipment were fringed cloths or pads with breast pads and cruppers used by
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
n cavalry around 700 BC. The earliest manifestation of the stirrup was a toe loop that held the big toe and was used in
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

India
late in the second century BC, though may have appeared as early as 500 BC.Chamberlin (2007), page 80 This ancient foot support consisted of a looped rope for the big toe which was at the bottom of a saddle made of fibre or leather. Such a configuration was suitable for the warm climate of
south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...

south
and central India where people used to ride horses barefoot.Woods & Woods (2000), pp. 52–53 A pair of megalithic double bent iron bars with curvature at each end, excavated in in the central Indian state of
Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh (, ; meaning ''Central Province'') is a state in central India. Its capital city, capital is Bhopal, and the largest city is Indore, with Jabalpur, Ujjain, Gwalior, Satna being the other major cities. Madhya Pradesh is the List o ...

Madhya Pradesh
have been regarded as stirrups although they could as well be something else."16.17.4: Stirrups". ''Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology'' (Vol. 1). Edited by Amalananda Ghosh (1990) p336
Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, an ...

Buddhist
carvings in the temples of
Sanchi Sanchi is a Buddhist complex, famous for its Great Stupa, on a hilltop at Sanchi Town in Raisen District of the States and territories of India, State of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located in north-east of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh. ...

Sanchi
,
Mathura Mathura () is a city and the administrative headquarters of Mathura district Mathura district situated along the banks of the river Yamuna The Yamuna (Hindustani Hindustani may refer to: * something of, from, or related to Hindus ...
and the
Bhaja caves Bhaja Caves is a group of 22 rock-cut caves dating back to the 2nd century BC located in the city of Pune, India. The caves are 400 feet above the village of Bhaja, on an important ancient trade route running from the Arabian Sea eastward into th ...

Bhaja caves
dating back between the 1st and 2nd century BC figure horsemen riding with elaborate saddles with feet slipped under girths.Azzaroli (1985), page 156Barua (2005), pp. 16–17 In this regard archaeologist
John Marshall John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth chief justice of the United States The chief justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...
described the Sanchi relief as "the earliest example by some five centuries of the use of stirrups in any part of the world". Some credit the
nomadic A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomadic
Central Asian group known as the
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ; la, Sarmatae , ) were a large Iranian peoples, Iranian confederation that existed in classical antiquity, flourishing from about the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD. Originating in the centr ...
as developing the first stirrups. The invention of the solid
saddle tree The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to Mammal#Anatomy, an animal's back by a girth (tack), girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a Back (horse), horse. However, specialized sad ...
allowed development of the true stirrup as it is known today. Without a solid tree, the rider's weight in the stirrups creates abnormal pressure points that make the horse's back sore.Treeless vs. Conventional Saddles: Back Pressure Evaluated
/ref> Modern
thermography Infrared thermography (IRT), thermal video and/or thermal imaging, is a process where a Thermographic camera, thermal camera captures and creates an image of an object by using infrared radiation emitted from the object in a process, which are e ...
studies on "treeless" and flexible-tree saddle designs have found that there is considerable friction across the center line of a horse's back. A coin of
Quintus Labienus Quintus Labienus Parthicus (died 39 BC) was a Roman general in the Late Republic A republic ( la, res publica, links=yes, meaning "public affair") is a List of forms of government, form of government in which "power is held by the people and t ...

Quintus Labienus
, who was in service of Parthia, minted circa 39 BC depicts on its reverse a saddled horse with hanging objects. Smith suggests they are pendant cloths, while Thayer suggests that, considering the fact that the Parthians were famous for their mounted archery, the objects are stirrups, but adds that it is difficult to imagine why the Romans would never have adopted the technology.Ephippium
/ref> In Asia, early solid-treed saddles were made of felt that covered a wooden frame. These designs date to approximately 200 BC
Web site accessed February 2, 2008
One of the earliest solid-treed saddles in the west was first used by the
Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, ...
as early as the 1st century BC,Gawronski R. S. "Some Remarks on the Origins and Construction of the Roman Military Saddle." ''Archeologia (Archaeology)'' 2004, vol. 55, pp. 31–40 but this design did not have stirrups either.


China and Korea

It is speculated that stirrups may have been used in China as early as the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
(206 BC– 220 AD). Stirrups were used in China at the very latest by the early 4th century AD. A funerary figurine depicting a stirrup dated 302 AD was unearthed from a Western Jin dynasty tomb near Changsha. The stirrup depicted is a mounting stirrup, only placed on one side of the horse, and too short for riding. The earliest reliable representation of a full-length, double-sided riding stirrup was also unearthed from a Jin tomb, this time near
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the List ...

Nanjing
, dating to the Eastern Jin period, 322 AD. The earliest extant double stirrups were discovered in the tomb of a
Northern Yan The Northern Yan (; 407 or 409–436), also known in some historical texts as the Eastern Yan (), was a dynastic state during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chines ...
noble, Feng Sufu, who died in 415 AD. Stirrups have also been found in
Goguryeo Goguryeo (; , 37 BC–668 AD), also called Goryeo (; ), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula Korea is a region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally ...
tombs dating to the 4th and 5th centuries AD, but these do not contain any specific date. The stirrup appeared to be in widespread use across China by 477 AD.Hobson, John M. ''The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation.'' Cambridge University Press,2004, p. 103 , The appearance of the stirrup in China coincided with the rise of heavily armoured cavalry in the region. Dated to 357 AD, the tomb of Dong Shou shows fully armoured riders as well as horses. References to "iron cavalry" and "iron horse" began to appear at the same time and instances of captured horse armour in numbers as high as 5,000 and 10,000 are recorded. In addition to the stirrups, Feng Sufu's tomb also contained iron plates for lamellar armour. Armoured
heavy cavalry Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldier A soldier is a person who is a member of a professional army An army ...
would dominate Chinese warfare from the 4th century AD to the early
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
when the military transitioned to light cavalry. A. von Le Coo's theory on the invention of the stirrup is that it was a contraption created by either mounted people who wanted to make riding less tiring, or those unused to riding to gain the necessary skills to match their adversaries.Dien, Albert. "THE STIRRUP AND ITS EFFECT ON CHINESE MILITARY HISTORY"
/ref> File:Han Dynasty Stirrup.JPG ,
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
mounting stirrup. File:Han iron stirrup.jpg, Han mounting stirrup File:Western Jin cavalry with stirrup 302 AD.jpg, A funerary figurine with a mounting stirrup, dated AD 302, unearthed near
Changsha Changsha (; ; ; Changshanese pronunciation: (), Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a Mandarin Chinese#Subgrouping, dialect of Mandar ...

Changsha
. File:Western Jin Pottery Horse (10111571724).jpg, Horse figurine with stirrup,
Western Jin Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
File:鎏金木芯马镫06337.jpg, The earliest extant double stirrup, from the tomb of Feng Sufu, a
Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the directions north North is one of the four ...
nobleman from the
Northern Yan The Northern Yan (; 407 or 409–436), also known in some historical texts as the Eastern Yan (), was a dynastic state during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chines ...
dynasty, 415 AD. Discovered in
Beipiao Beipiao () is a city in Chaoyang, Liaoning, Chaoyang prefecture, Liaoning province, in Northeast China. It has a population of 202,807. The main industry in the area is coal mining. With vertical shafts of almost 1000m, these are some of the deepest ...
,
Liaoning Liaoning (), is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivisi ...
. File:Gaya Confederacy Iron Stirrups (17378457343).jpg, Iron stirrups,
Gaya confederacy Gaya (, ) was a Korean confederacy of territorial polities in the Nakdong River The Nakdong River or Nakdonggang () is the longest river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake ...


Japan

Stirrups (''
abumi , Japanese stirrups, were used in Japan as early as the 5th century, and were a necessary component along with the Kura (Japanese saddle), Japanese saddle (kura) for the use of horses in warfare. Abumi became the type of stirrup used by the samura ...
'') were used in Japan as early as the 5th century. They were flat bottomed rings of metal-covered wood, similar to European stirrups. The earliest known examples were excavated from tombs. Cup-shaped stirrups (''tsubo abumi'') that enclosed the front half of the rider's foot eventually replaced the earlier design. During the
Nara period The of the history of Japan The first human inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago The Japanese archipelago (Japanese: 日本列島, ''Nihon rettō'') is a group of 6,852 islands that form the country of Japan , image_flag ...
, the base of the stirrup which supported the rider's sole was elongated past the toe cup. This half-tongued style of stirrup (''hanshita abumi'') remained in use until the late
Heian period The is the last division of classical History of Japan, Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. It followed the Nara period, beginning when the 50th emperor, Emperor Kanmu, moved from the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto). It i ...
when a new stirrup was developed. The ''fukuro abumi'' or ''musashi abumi'' had a base that extended the full length of the rider's foot and the right and left sides of the toe cup were removed. The open sides were designed to prevent the rider from catching a foot in the stirrup and being dragged. The military version of this open-sided stirrup (''shitanaga abumi'') was in use by the middle
Heian period The is the last division of classical History of Japan, Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. It followed the Nara period, beginning when the 50th emperor, Emperor Kanmu, moved from the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto). It i ...
. It was thinner, had a deeper toe pocket and an even longer and flatter foot shelf. This stirrup stayed in use until European style-stirrup rings were reintroduced in the late 19th century. It is not known why the Japanese developed this unique style of stirrup. These had a distinctive swanlike shape, curved up and backward at the front so as to bring the loop for the leather strap over the instep and achieve a correct balance. Most of the surviving specimens from this period are made entirely of iron, inlaid with designs of silver or other materials, and covered with
lacquer Lacquer is a type of hard and potentially shiny coating A coating is a covering that is applied to the surface of an object, usually referred to as the substrate Substrate may refer to: Physical layers *Substrate (biology), the natural e ...

lacquer
. In some examples there is an iron rod from the loop to the footplate near the heel to prevent the foot from slipping out. The footplates are occasionally to let out water when crossing rivers, and these types are called ''suiba abumi''. There are stirrups with holes in the front forming sockets for a
lance A lance is a pole weapon A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking pow ...

lance
or
banner A banner can be a flag A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of ...

banner
.Blair, Claude and Tarassuk, Leonid, eds. (1982). ''The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons''. p.17.
Simon & Schuster Simon & Schuster () is an American publishing company and a subsidiary of ViacomCBS. It was founded in New York City on January 2, 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. As of 2016, Simon & Schuster was the third largest publisher in ...

Simon & Schuster
. .


Europe

By the late 6th or early 7th century AD, primarily due to invaders from
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north, including the former Soviet Union, Soviet republics of the Sov ...

Central Asia
, such as the Avars, stirrups began spreading across Asia to Europe from China. In terms of archaeological finds, the iron pear-shaped form of stirrups, the ancestor of medieval European types, has been found in Europe in 7th century Avar graves in
Hungary Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a in . Spanning of the , it is bordered by to the north, to the northeast, to the east and southeast, to the south, and to the southwest and to the west. Hungary has a population of 10 million, mostl ...

Hungary
. A total of 111 specimens of early Avar-age, apple shaped, cast-iron stirrups with elongated suspension loop and flat, slightly inward bent tread had been excavated from 55 burial sites in Hungary and surrounding regions by 2005. The first European literary reference to the stirrup may be in the Strategikon, traditionally ascribed to the
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in the New Testament of the Christian Bible Roman ...
Emperor
MauriceMaurice may refer to: People *Saint Maurice (died 287), Roman legionary and Christian martyr *Maurice (emperor) or Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus (539–602), Byzantine emperor *Maurice (bishop of London) (died 1107), Lord Chancellor and Lor ...
, and therefore written sometime between 575 and 628, but this is widely disputed, and others place the work in the eighth or ninth century. Maurice's manual notes the appropriate equipping of Imperial cavalry: "the saddles should have large and thick clothes; the bridles should be of good quality; attached to the saddles should be two iron steps 'skala'' a lasso with a thong...." Dennis notes that the lack of specific Greek word for stirrup evidences their novelty to the Byzantines, who are supposed to have adopted these from their bitter enemy the Avars, and subsequently passed them on to their future enemies, the Arabs. An early 7th-century date is secured for most Hungarian finds of stirrups with elongated suspension loops, though some of these must even be dated to before 600. Literary and archaeological evidence taken together may indicate that the stirrup was in common military use in South-Central Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean by the latter half of the 6th century, with the Roman Empire having them in use by the year 600. By the 8th century stirrups began to be adopted more widely by Europeans. The earliest stirrups of western Europe, those of Budenheim and
Regensburg Regensburg or is a city in eastern Bavaria, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen River, Regen rivers. It is capital of the Upper Palatinate subregion of the state in the south of Germany. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, Regens ...

Regensburg
, were either brought from the
Avar Khaganate The Pannonian Avars (; also known as the Obri in chronicles of Rus, the Abaroi or Varchonitai
as booty or gifts, or were local imitations of stirrups in use at that time among Avar warriors.Curta p.315 However, the Avar-style stirrups were not as widely adopted in western Europe. Stirrups do not appear in the
Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the ...
and Italo-Lombard milieu in large numbers, nor as frequently as within the
Carpathian Basin alt=The Roman empire in red with a land in darker red; water is in pale blue, and non-Roman land in grey, The highlighted borders of the province of Pannonia within the Roman Empire The Pannonian Basin, or Carpathian Basin, is a large basin ...

Carpathian Basin
. Most other stirrups found in Germany that date to the 7th century do not resemble the iron Avar style commonly found in burial assemblages from Hungary and neighboring regions. Instead, hanging mounts occasionally found in burial assemblages in southern Germany suggest the use of wooden stirrups. The scarcity of early-medieval stirrup finds in western Europe was noted by
Bernard Bachrach Bernard Stanley Bachrach (born 1939) is an American historian. He taught history at the University of Minnesota from 1967 until his reitrement in 2020. He specializes in the Early Middle Ages, mainly on the topics of medieval warfare, History of Eu ...
: "Out of 704 eighth century male burials excavated in Germany until 1967, only 13 had stirrups." The earliest stirrups in the Baltic region are replicas of those in existence in Germany during the 7th century. In northern Europe and Britain the metamorphosis of earlier wood, rope and leather forms of stirrups to metal forms can be seen in the archeological record, “suggesting that one or more of the early forms have parallel development with those in Hungary, rather than being derived solely from the latter region.” "In Scandinavia two major types of stirrups are discerned, and from these, by the development and fusion of different elements, some almost certainly of central European origin, most other types were evolved."Seaby, p 91 The first main type, Scandinavian type I, appears to owe little to Hungarian forms. The earliest variety of this type can be dated to the 8th century in
Vendel Vendel is a village at Tierp Municipality in Uppland Uppland () is a historical province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...
grave III in Sweden. The second principal type in North Europe has, as its most characteristic feature, a pronounced rectangular suspension loop set in the same plane as the bow, as found amongst the Hungarian examples, and is predominantly centered in Denmark and England during the later 10th and 11th centuries.Seaby p.92 A variant of this type, called the North European stirrup, has been dated to the second half of the 10th century in Sweden, found at the boat-burial cemetery at Valsgärde. In Denmark from the 920s to the 980s, during the reign of the
Jelling Jelling is a railway town A railway town, or railroad town, is a settlement that originated or was greatly developed because of a railway station Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goo ...

Jelling
kings, many leading Danes were buried with military honors and equipped with stirrups, bits and spurs, in what are called cavalry-graves, found mostly in north
Jutland Jutland (; da, Jylland ; german: Jütland ; ang, Ēota land ), known anciently as the Cimbric or Cimbrian Peninsula ( la, Cimbricus Chersonesus; da, Den Kimbriske Halvø, Den Jyske Halvø; german: Kimbrische Halbinsel), is a peninsula of Nort ...

Jutland
. Into England, it is argued, stirrups were not introduced by the Scandinavian settlers of the 9th century but are more likely related to later
Viking raids The Viking Age (793–1066 AD) was the period during the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-class ...
led by
Cnut the Great Cnut the Great (; ang, Cnut cyning; non, Knútr inn ríki ; or , no, Knut den mektige, sv, Knut den Store. died 12 November 1035), also known as Canute, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England Th ...
and others during the reign of king Aethelred (978-1013). In what today is France,
Charles Martel Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient ...

Charles Martel
distributed seized lands to his retainers on condition that they serve him by fighting in the new manner, which some attribute to his recognizing the military potentialities of the stirrup.World Decade for Cultural Development 1988-1997. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. World Decade Secretariat.
/ref> Later,
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
ordered his poorer vassals to pool their resources and provide a mounted and armed knight, though the system proved unworkable, and instead the system of distributing land to vassals based on a knight's service was developed.


West Africa

Accounts of the Empire of Mali mention the use of stirrups and saddles in the cavalry . Stirrups resulted in the creation and innovation of new tactics, such as mass charges with thrusting spear and swords.


Great Stirrup Controversy

The introduction of the stirrup not only made the mounted warrior supreme in
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...

medieval
warfare, but may have initiated complex and far-reaching social and cultural changes in Europe. Some scholars credit the birth of
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the disc ...
and its subsequent spread into
Northern Italy Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical cha ...
,
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
and into the Slavic territories to this use of the stirrup. It is argued that the rising feudal class structure of the European Middle Ages derived ultimately from the use of stirrups: "Few inventions have been so simple as the stirrup, but few have had so catalytic an influence on history. The requirements of the new mode of warfare which it made possible found expression in a new form of western European society dominated by an aristocracy of warriors endowed with land so that they might fight in a new and highly specialized way." Other scholars dispute this assertion, suggesting that stirrups may provide little advantage in shock warfare, but are useful primarily in allowing a rider to lean farther to the left and right on the saddle while fighting, and simply reduce the risk of falling off. Therefore, it is argued, they are not the reason for the switch from infantry to cavalry in medieval armies, nor the reason for the emergence of feudalism.


Weaknesses in design

For the comfort of the horse, all stirrups require that the
saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to Mammal#Anatomy, an animal's back by a girth (tack), girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a Back (horse), horse. However, specialized sad ...

saddle
itself be properly designed. The solid tree of the saddle distributes the weight of the rider over a greater surface area of the horse's back, reducing pressure on any one area. If a saddle is made without a solid tree, without careful engineering, the rider's weight in the stirrups and leathers can create pressure points on the horse's back and lead to soreness. This is especially noticeable with inexpensive bareback pads that add stirrups by means of a strap across the horse's back with a stirrup at each end.


Modern stirrups


English-style stirrups

Stirrups used on
English saddle horse wearing a type of English saddle known as a dressage saddle. English saddles are used to ride horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated odd-toed ungulate mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one ...

English saddle
s are usually made of metal. Though called "irons," they are no longer made of iron, as a rule, but instead stainless steel is the metal of choice, due to its strength, though when weight is an issue, such as for a
jockey A jockey is someone who rides horses in horse racing or steeplechase (horse racing), steeplechase racing, primarily as a profession. The word also applies to camel riders in camel racing. The word "jockey" originated from England and was used ...

jockey
, they may also be made of aluminum. Inexpensive stirrups may be made of nickel, which can easily bend or break. Stirrups may also be made of synthetic materials and various metallic alloys. There are many variations on the standard stirrup design, most claiming either to be safer in the event of a fall or to make it easier for a rider to maintain a proper foot and leg position. Some variations include: * Standard iron: The most common stirrup iron, consisting of a tread, with two branches, and an eye at the top for the leather to run through. The main styles seen today include: ** Fillis: A design with a heavy tread, and branches that rise to the eye in a rounded triangular shape. **Prussian: A rounder and lighter design. * Safety stirrups. There are a number of designs intended to release the foot more easily in the event of a fall. One style has an outside branch that is curved, rather than straight. Other designs feature a breakaway outer branch which will detach with sufficient pressure, freeing the foot. * Side-saddle stirrups: usually have a slightly larger eye to accommodate the thicker stirrup leather on a
sidesaddle Sidesaddle riding is a form of equestrianism that uses a type of saddle which allows a rider (usually female) to sit aside rather than astride an equine. Sitting aside dates back to antiquity and developed in Europe Europe is a continent ...

sidesaddle
. * Other designs: have joints or hinges in the branches of the stirrups to allow for them to flex. However, one model was recalled in 2007 due to a tendency for the hinges to break."Stubben Stirrup Recall," ''Horse Journal'', October, 2007, p. 22 A variation on the hinged stirrup is the Icelandic Stirrup, which has the eye fixed at a 90 degree rotation to allow for less stress on the tendons, and easier retrieval should a stirrup be lost. There are a number of other patented designs with various features that are usually intended to either increase comfort or to assist proper foot position.


Footnotes


References

* * Barua, Pradeep (2005). ''The State at War in South Asia''.
Nebraska Nebraska () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

Nebraska
: University of Nebraska Press. . * Chamberlin, J. Edward (2007). ''Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations''.
Moscow Moscow ( , American English, US chiefly ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐˈskva, a=Москва.ogg) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Russia by population, largest city of Russia. The city stands on the ...

Moscow
: Olma Media Group. . * ''Encyclopedia of Indian Archaeology'' (Volume 1). Edited by Amalananda Ghosh (1990). Massachusetts: Brill Academic Publishers. . * * Lazaris, Stavros, "Considérations sur l’apparition de l’étrier : contribution à l’histoire du cheval dans l’Antiquité tardive", in: ''Les équidés dans le monde méditerranéen antique. Actes du colloque international organisé par l’École française d’Athènes, le Centre Camille Julian et l’UMR 5140 du CNRS (Athènes, 26-28 Novembre 2003)'', A. Gardeisen (ed.), Lattes, 2005, p. 275-28

* Woods, Michael & Woods, Mary B. (2000). ''Ancient Transportation: From Camels to Canals''. Minnesota: 21st century Books. .


Additional sources

*Bennett, Deb. ''Conquerors: The Roots of New World Horsemanship.'' Amigo Publications Inc; 1st edition 1998.
John Sloan, "The Stirrup Controversy"
*Gies, Frances and Joseph. ''Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel.'' New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.


External links




"Saddle, Lance and Stirrup"

"Treeless Saddles"


* ttp://www.limebrook.com/saddlehistory.html "History of the Saddle." {{Authority control Stirrups Ancient Roman technology Chinese inventions Indian inventions Jin dynasty (266–420) Saddles Warfare of the Middle Ages