The equites sabelli were the most common type of cavalry employed by the Sabellian tribes of Italy.
The term "Sabellian" encompasses most of the Oscan-speaking tribes of Italy, and includes the groupings known as the Samnites, Lucani, Bruttii, Campani, and Apuli. The Sabellians are a notably warlike people who frequently served as mercenaries with Greek armies in Italy and Sicily, and who fought a series of wars against the Romans over a period of fifty years as Rome expanded into southern Italy. Even after Rome had conquered them, some Sabellians were always willing to rebel, joining the armies of Pyrrhus and Hannibal, and finally launching the Social War almost 200 years after Rome had conquered the Italian peninsula. When not in revolt, the Sabellians supplied roughly half of the manpower of Rome's Italian allies.
The equites sabelli were the most common type of cavalry employed by the Sabellians and enjoyed a high reputation. They probably made up at least one third of the cavalry strength of a typical consular army. These cavalrymen are armed with a spear, sword, and two javelins. A number of south Italian tomb paintings show Sabellian horsemen carrying round or oblong spined shields and wearing crested (and sometimes winged) Attic helmets with paired feather holders. Other striking helmets are also portrayed. None wear heavy body armour; the triple-disk cuirass and large muscled pectoral can be identified, but most wear no chest protection. All are girt with a broad bronze belt, and greaves are sometimes worn, even by cavalrymen who are otherwise unarmoured. Almost all are barefoot, and on these we observe ankle bands which may mount spurs. Finally, all wear very short tunics which frequently fail to make the rider's hindquarters any less evident than those of his horse.
The equites sabelli are recruited from all of the sabellian tribes of the Italian peninsula, from Picenum north of Rome, to Bruttium at the toe of the Italian boot.