A passage from the Greek poet Tryphiodorus has often been quoted to support the argument in favour of Homer's brazen-footed horses being provided with shoes; and it has been asserted from this passage that shoes of a description similar to those now in use were known at the siege of Troy, because this poet, when speaking of the fabrication of the Trojan horse, mentions that the artist did not forget to put the metal or iron on the hoofs of that wooden machine, in order to make the resemblance more complete. It must be remembered, however, that Tryphiodorus flourished at some period between the third and sixth centuries of our era, when, as will be shown hereafter, this art was not unknown; and as the poem is of comparatively modern date, he may have introduced imaginary shoes to make his picture more complete, just as some of the modern translators of the Iliad have done, but without the slightest authority, to prove that these were in use at the time of the war between the Greeks and Trojans.
In his verses, however, I can find no proof of any such intention, nor any mention of an iron rim for the wooden horse's hoofs.
A literal translation of the original Greek is as follows: ‘Then at length he finished the work, the hoofs appearing not without brass, and shone forth, being covered with tortoise-shell.’ Dr Merrick, who furnishes a Latin and English version, renders the passage thus:
‘To deck each hoof and grace the artist's skill,
The clouded tortoise yields her polished shell.
There has been nothing more advanced, so far as I
- Tryphiodorus, by Merrick. Oxford, 1742.