Horse Racing in Atlantis is an unexpected reference by Plato (Critias, 117c). It should be pointed out that his reference is, it would appear to be to horse racing as opposed to chariot racing, both of which were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 638 BC, and was avidly followed in the Roman Empire. It is worth mentioning here that Paul Cartledge, professor of Greek History at Cambridge University informs us that at Olympia and other Greek locations, both the running and horse racing tracks were straight where laps were up and back. This would seem to suggest a foreign source for the Atlantis story rather than it being a concoction of Plato’s.
Originally horses were hunted for food and their hides. Our knowledge at present is that the horse was first domesticated in central Asia around 4500 BC. A major study published in May 2018(e) has reinforced this ‘steppe theory’ and importantly has shown how the spread of horse domestication went hand-in-hand with the proliferation of Indo-European languages.
Marsha A. Levine, a leading expert in this field, has pointed out that the earliest existing evidence for the use of the horse, as a means of transport is around 2000 BC, with the Sintashta chariot burials. Sintashta was in the steppes east of the Urals. However, there is evidence that horses were used for riding as early as 4000 BC. This is based on the type of bit wear found on the molars of excavated remains. On the other hand these early horses were much smaller than their modern successors and in the view of some were too small for riding and so must have been driven. Our knowledge of the prehistoric horse is still developing and subject to considerable debate. A number of researchers have argued for a very early date for the domestication of the horse including the archaeologist, Evan Hadingham, who points to evidence which indicates the existence of this domestication as early as the Upper Paelolithic.
The latest evidence for domestication of the horse as early as 3500 BC has come from studies carried out in Kazakhstan(a)(c). However, this is put in the shade by the discovery of the 9,000 year-old al-Maqar civilisation in Arabia where evidence for domestication is pushed back to late Neolithic period(b).
*A recent paper now offers evidence that equine dentistry was practiced as early as 1150 BC in northern Mongolia(f).*
There is a record that in 1,340 BC a remarkable Mitanni called Kikkuli was enticed by the Hittite king Suppililuma to become his horse manager. After training the Hittite horses to a high degree, they were instrumental in wiping out the Mitanni.
In the case of Plato’s Atlantis tale we have not only the horse racing to consider but also the considerable number of chariots referred to. It should be borne in mind that war chariots were only of use in open and reasonably flat terrain. Effective chariots were dependent on spoked wheels, which were not invented until around 2000 BC. This could be a clue to the origin of the Atlantis story.
There is also reference to a statue in the Temple of Poseidon, the god of horses, of a chariot drawn by six winged horses. (Why would such chariots require wheels?)
Even more bizarre, is Plato’s description of horse baths (Critias 117b), a facility that was highly unlikely around 9600 BC. Furthermore, if we take Plato’s text at face value, all these references to horses clearly rules out America as the location of Atlantis, as horses were not found there until imported by the Spaniards.
An interesting website dealing with the relationship of humans with the horse is available(d).