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Thracian horseman

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Subject: Paleo-Balkan mythology, Pirot, October Horse
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Thracian horseman

"Thracian horseman" relief with Latin inscription at Philippi.

The Thracian horseman (Bulgarian: Тракийски конник, Serbian: Трачки коњаник) is the name given to a recurring motif of a deity in the form of a horseman, in Paleo-Balkanic mythology. The motif typically features a caped horseman astride a steed, with a spear poised in his right hand. He is often depicted as slaying a beast with a spear, though this features is sometimes absent.[1][2][3] The tradition is best illustrated in surviving artifacts from Thrace, Macedonia, Moesia, and Scythia Minor dating to the Roman era, and is often found depicted on funerary statues.

There are different theories on the identification of the deity.

  • Rhesus,[4] a Thracian king who fought on the side of the Trojans in the Iliad, Book X.
  • A god of the underworld, which would explain why he commonly appears on funerary statues.
  • Sabazios, the Thracian version of the Indo-European Dyeus. Sabazios gained widespread importance after the Roman conquest.
  • The rider is a syncretism of a Romanized people; the rider is a representation of the Cult of Apollo.

After Christianity was adopted, the motif of the Thracian horseman is believed to have continued in representations of dragon.[2][5][6]

In the 4th century, the reliefs were considered to be representations of St. George.[7]


  • A figurine of Apollo (Romanized) excavated at Perperikon, Ancient site in Bulgaria.[8]
  • At the Maglić monastery of village Blato, Pirot, Serbia, a 2nd-century AD relief of the Thracian horseman was excavated in September 2008.[9]
  • More "rider god" steles are at the Burdur Museum, in Saint George and the Dragon, whose earliest known depictions are from tenth- and eleventh-century Cappadocia and eleventh-century Georgia and Armenia.
  • 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 [11]


Heros Peninsula in Antarctica is named after the Thracian Horseman.


  • Also known as the "Thracian rider" or "Thracian hero".


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  10. ^ Sabazios on coins, illustrated in the M. Halkam collection.
  11. ^

Further reading

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