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Chariot

A chariot is on old-style wheeled vehicle pulled by horses. It was used for travel, battle, public processions[?] and in games.

The Greek chariot

The Greek chariot had two wheels, and was made to be drawn by two horses attached to a central pole. If two additional horses were added, they were attached on each side of the main pair by a single bar or trace fastened to the front of the chariot, as may be seen on two prize vases[?] in the British Museum from the Panathenaic[?] games at Athens, Greece. Greek chariots appear to have lacked any other attachment for the horses, which would have made turning difficult.

The body or basket of the chariot rested directly on the axle connecting the two wheels. There was no suspension, making this an uncomfortable form of transport. At the front and sides of the basket was a semicircular guard about three foot high, to give some protection from enemy attack. At the back the basket was open, making it easy to mount and dismount. There was no seat, and generally only enough room for the driver and one passenger.

The central pole was probably attached to the middle of the axle, though it appears to spring from the front of the basket. At the end of the pole was the yoke[?], which consisted of two small saddles[?] fitting the necks of the horses, and fastened by broad bands round the chest. Besides this the harness of each horse consisted of a bridle[?] and a pair of reins[?]. The reins were mostly the same as those in use in the 19th century, and were made of leather and ornamented with studs of ivory or metal. The reins were passed through rings attached to the collar bands or yoke, and were long enough to be tied round the waist of the charioteer in case of his having to defend himself.

The wheels and basket of the chariot were usually of wood, strengthened in places with bronze or iron. They had from four to eight spokes and tires of bronze or iron. Most other nations of this time had chariots of similar design to the Greeks: the chief differences were the mountings.

Egyptian and Assyrian Chariots

From an old 1911 encyclopedia

The chariots of the Egyptians and Assyrians, with whom the bow was the principal arm of attack, were richly mounted with quivers full of arrows, while those of the Greeks, whose characteristic weapon was the spear, were plain except as regards mere decoration. Among the Persians and more remarkably among the ancient Britons, there was a class of chariot having the wheels mounted with sharp, sickle-shaped blades, which cut to pieces whatever came in their way. This was probably an invention of the Persians; Cyrus the younger employed these chariots in large numbers. Among the Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, the chariot had passed out of use in war before historical times, and was retained only for races in the public games, or for processions, without undergoing any alteration apparently, its form continuing to correspond with the description of Homer, though it was lighter in build, having to carry only the charioteer. On two Panathenaic prize vases in the British Museum are figures of racing bigae, in which, contrary to the description given above, the driver is seated with his feet resting on a board hanging down in front close to the legs of his horses. The biga itself consists of a seat resting on the axle, with a rail at each side to protect the driver from the wheels. The chariot was unsuited to the uneven soil of Greece and Italy, and it is not improbable that these nations had brought it with them as part of their original habits from their former seats in the East. In the remains of Egyptian and Assyrian art there are numerous representations of chariots, from which it may be seen with what richness they were sometimes ornamented. The “iron” chariots in use among the Jews appear to have been chariots strengthened or plated with metal, and no doubt were of the form above described, which prevailed generally among the other ancient nations.

During this time, most horses could not support the weight of a man in battle. With better horse breeding and greater size, chariots gave way to cavalry.

See also: car, chariot race[?], stagecoach.



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