- 99,00 kr
The chariot changed the face of ancient warfare. First in West Asia and Egypt, then in India and China, charioteers came to dominate the battlefield. Its use as a war machine is graphically recounted in Indian epics and Chinese chronicles. Homer's Iliad tells of the attack on Troy by Greek heroes who rode in chariots. In 326 BC Alexander the Great faced charioteers in northern India, while in 55 BC, on a Kent beach, Julius Caesar was met by British chariots.
Because of the danger involved, chariot racing attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. So enthusiastic were they that the Roman emperor Nero could not resist driving his own ten-horse chariot at the Olympic Games: he fell out but still won the prize. Rivalry between groups of spectators at chariot races often ignited urban riots. In Constantinople, in 532 AD, a three-day disturbance left 30,000 dead.
This dense but readable scholarly study summarizes the chariot's history from its disputed origins in Europe and Asia more than 4000 years ago to its continued life on the wide screen. British scholar Cotterell (The Minoan World) reveals the workings of a vehicle that was, throughout its history, primarily a platform for archers (although halberds and spears were not unknown). In its mature form, it required three developments the spoked wheel (lighter than the solid one), the powerful compound bow and the domesticated horse (faster than oxen, more powerful than the ass). As it developed, it also represented some of the most sophisticated Bronze Age technology some Egyptian chariots are known to have weighed less than 60 pounds and the charioteer was one of the earliest examples of a warrior elite selected for skill rather than birth. The author is cheerfully discursive about chariots in the Homeric and Hindu epics, and has provided a lavish array of illustrations so that practically nothing mentioned is left undepicted; it's not light reading at any point but informative throughout. The eventual demise of the chariot (more or less paralleling the decline of Rome), he shows, arose from improved infantry weapons, tactics that could cripple, or at least deter, horses, and cavalry that could move on rougher ground.