The invention and influences of stirrup
The stirrup, despite its small size, is very important, as it makes the rider
and horse into one. It greatly increases the rider's ability to control the
horse, a feature that in the past made this animal a useful tool in
communication, transportation, and warfare.
Although horses was greatly
used in Neolithic and Feudalistic China and even though in the Warring
States Period (475-221BC), in theory, many states attached great importance
to the use of cavalries (soldiers on horseback), riding a horse was rather
difficult since there were still no stirrup. The life-size Terra-cotta warriors
and horses of the Qin
Dynasty (221-206BC) unearthed in Lintong District of Xi'an
in Northwest China's Shaanxi
Province revealed that there were still stirrups at that time though other
harnesses were complete.
The stirrup is considered one of the basic tools used to create and spread
modern civilization. Although many experts believe that the stirrup was invented
in North China, it is unclear when exactly it was invented.
It was invented at first as a single mounting stirrup only used in getting
into the saddle; the first dependable representation of a rider with paired
stirrups is in a Jin
Dynasty (265-420) tomb of about 322.
The stirrup spread throughout Eurasia by the great horsemen of the central
Although stirrups reached Scandinavia early, they were
first only indirectly documented in Central Europe during the reign of Charles
Martel (Charlemagne's grandfather) in the 8th century. A pair of stirrups has
been found in an 8th century burial in Holiare, Slovakia.
In the use of the horse in warfare, the stirrup was the third revolutionary
step, after the chariot and the mounted horseman. Stirrups changed the basic
tactics of mounted warfare and made cavalry more important, especially in
Europe. Braced against the stirrups, a knight could deliver a blow with a lance
that employed the full weight and momentum of horse and rider together.
Lynn White Jr., in Medieval Technology and Social Change
(1966) suggested that the rising feudal class structure of the European Middle
Ages derived ultimately from the use of stirrups, saying: "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."