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The cavalry of classical Athens remains an enigmatic part of the polis’ military forces. Although often described by historians as an insignificant arm of the classical Athenian army, in the fifth century BCE it was financially supported in two ways: a supposed insurance scheme for each cavalryman's mount, and what is often called an ‘establishment loan’, the κατάστασις (katastasis), to assist with the initial costs of joining the cavalry corps.1 These two unique economic supports are often tied together in modern discussions as parts of the same measure. The present article will instead argue that these two aspects not only could, but should, be separated. Further, it will be suggested that these two forms of support highlight the practical importance of the cavalry, in contrast to the communis opinio. In a military environment where resources were in high demand, the Athenian state made a conscious decision to offer considerable support – around 40 talents a year – to ensure they had a citizen cavalry ready for action.
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