BY ALP RODOPLU (HIST/MA)
Last week, Bilkent welcomed numerous expert scholars and researchers from around the globe for a three-day symposium, “Galloping History/Dörtnala Tarih,” focusing on the significance of the horse in human history. The proceedings, which took place April 16-18 in Mithat Çoruh Auditorium, were accompanied by an exhibition entitled “Gallant Horses – Nameless Heroes/Kahraman Atlar – Adsız Kahramanlar,” and a visit from three TJK (Türkiye Jokey Kulübü) and Atlıspor Kulübü horses.
The symposium officially began on Wednesday, April 16, with a keynote address by Prof. İlber Ortaylı. This was followed by the opening of the exhibition and the appearance of the three majestic horses. Their visit was particularly significant, as it helped to imbue the subject matter of the conference with an irrefutable sense of reality.
This was the first such symposium to be organized in Turkey, with few, if any, precedents elsewhere in the world. The following two days saw nearly 30 presenters discuss an immense range of historical topics related to the horse and equine culture in eight thematically arranged sessions. Almost all historical periods were covered during these sessions, and it seemed that very few regions of the globe in which a genuine equine history could be recognized went without mention.
The experts who spoke shared their discoveries concerning topics ranging from Ottoman imperial horses to the depiction of the horse in Enlightenment painting, from thorough-breeding in early twentieth-century America to consumption of horse meat in the same country in the preceding century, from Tsarist Russia’s cavalry magazines to horses in Carolingian Europe, from horses in the medieval Armenian highlands to the importance of the horse in native American culture.
The symposium came to a close with a roundtable discussion, which quickly transformed into an interactive platform of debate in which the audience, consisting of graduate students, Bilkent scholars and visiting speakers, partook in an intense as well as entertaining exchange of ideas and questions, along with suggestions as to how future Galloping History/Dörtnala Tarih symposia could further what the first one had achieved.