This Simple Invention Built an Empire


Alex Wright, Journalist

   As the medieval era rolled around, cavalry was very important. It had been important since ancient times, but now as warfare became more complicated they needed a way to stay in their saddles, and thus came Stirrups. They were very simple, just a small footrest and loop to go around your feet to stay in the saddle. Yet, it revolutionized cavalry forever. And who better to make the best use of them than the ultimate wielders of cavalry themselves, the Mongols!

   First off, the Mongols had stirrups made of metal, not leather, so that already makes them an improvement to the majority of the world. What’s interesting though, is how they used stirrups. Picture a person riding on a horse. Sitting down on the saddle, to not fall off, because what kind of an insane person would stand up while riding a horse? Oh yeah, the Mongols did!

   Using their metal stirrups, the Mongols stood up on their horses, not like standing on the saddle but with their feet in the stirrups. This would take lots of training, but the ultimate horse people they are, they did it. They were able to shoot in all directions. But the real kicker was the added mobility. They were able to ride towards the enemy, scatter, regroup, and repeat. At a time when conventional warfare was going straight towards the enemy, this was difficult to deal with.  

  They mastered not only physical warfare, but psychological warfare as well. By “psychological warfare,” I mean tactics to mess with the opponent’s brain to think they are doing something they are not. A good example of this is a “Play-Action” in the American sport of football, where you make the opponent believe you are running the ball when you are passing it. The Mongols mastered this in a “Fake Retreat.” They would run away from the conflict, shooting arrows behind them because of the stirrup, making the enemy believe they were running away, and then the enemy chased them. They then turn around and catch the enemy unaware, and decimate them. The only way this is possible is the added mobility with the stirrups.


  “Few inventions have been so simple as the stirrup, but few have had so catalytic an influence on history.” This quote by historian Lynn White Junior perfectly sums up the stirrup. It’s such a simple invention, just a little footrest that connects to a horse, but its influence can be seen in how radically different cavalry became, and it’s easy to see it even in the modern-day, when just simply riding a horse.


Bibliography: – for the quote