Thracian horseman

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"Thracian horseman" relief with Latin inscription at Philippi.

Thracian horseman is the conventional term for a recurring motif from the iconography of Paleo-Balkanic mythology during the Roman era.

The tradition is attested from Thrace to Moesia and Scythia Minor, also known as the "Thracian Heros", at Odessos (Varna) attested by a Thracian name as Heros Karabazmos, a god of the underworld usually depicted on funeral statues as a horseman slaying a beast with a spear.[1][2][3]

  • Sabazios, the Thracian reflex of Indo-European Dyeus, identified with Heros Karabazmos, the "Thracian horseman". He gained a widespread importance especially after the Roman conquest. After Christianity was adopted, the symbolism of Heros continued as representations of Saint George slaying the dragon (compare Uastyrdzhi/Tetri Giorgi in the Caucasus).[2]

It has been part of the syncretism of Romanized people; Cult of Apollo,[4] Christianized people; possible connections with warrior saints, e.g. Saint George[5] and Saint Demetrius[6]


  • Madara Rider, World Heritage Site in Bulgaria.
  • A figurine of Apollo (Romanized) excavated at Perperikon, Ancient site in Bulgaria.[4]
  • At the Maglić monastery of village Blato, Pirot, Serbia, a 2nd-century AD relief of the Thracian horseman was excavated in September 2008.[7]
  • A statue in Felix Romuliana (Gamzigrad). (World Heritage Site)
  • More "rider god" steles are at the Burdur Museum, in Turkey. Under the Roman Emperor Gordian III the god on horseback appears on coins minted at Tlos, in neighboring Lycia, and at Istrus, in the province of Lower Moesia, between Thrace and the Danube. It is generally thought that the young emperor's grandfather came from an Anatolian family, because of his unusual cognomen, Gordianus.[8] The iconic image of the god or hero on horseback battling the chthonic serpent, on which his horse tramples, appears on Celtic votive columns, and with the coming of Christianity it was easily transformed into the image of Saint George and the Dragon, whose earliest known depictions are from tenth- and eleventh-century Cappadocia and eleventh-century Georgia and Armenia.[9]
  • An important Serbian example of the influence of the Thracian Horseman in Christian iconography appears in the badly damaged wall painting of St George in the ruins of Đurđevi stupovi (the Towers of St George) (circa 1168)[10]


Heros Peninsula in Antarctica is named after the Thracian Horseman.


Further reading[edit]

  • Nora Dimitrova, "Inscriptions and Iconography in the Monuments of the Thracian Rider," Hesperia 71.2 (2002) 209–229.