Chariots!

By Lorenzo

The Egyptian war chariot was a brilliantly constructed archer’s platform–light, manouevrable, sturdy. Egyptian official art regularly celebrated the prowess of Pharoah on his war chariot.

chariot3

Pharaoh triumphing over the vile Kush. (The Kush were apparently, by definition, vile.) Crushing his enemies under his wheels, setting his dogs on to them, having them flee his power; it was good to be Pharaoh. (This seems to be a what is best in life? moment.)

Even today, Egyptian chariots can be a fun reconstruction exercise.

IMG_0738

As this student demonstrates. Just the thing to get you about town.

Of course, this reconstructing-the-past thing, it does not have to be completely serious.

chariot-biking-392

But, by the looks of it, lots of fun. Chariot racing was a very popular sport, back in the day.

Once folk could breed horses wide enough across the shoulders to ride, cavalry replaced chariots on the battlefield. The complexity of chariots was reduced to ceremony and racing. But they retain a certain appeal.

This is also the Saturday chit-chat post.

 

 

18 Comments

  1. kvd
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Great pictures, Lorenzo. I’m really intrigued by that last comment of yours about breeding horses ‘wide enough across the shoulders to ride’ though…

    Will file it for further research alongside the discovery that viagra cures jetlag in hamsters.

  2. Posted July 14, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Ta. The thing about horses, is why chariots first? They are much more complicated than just riding horses. But first you had to get horses big enough to pull chariots, then horses wide enough across the shoulders to support a grown man. Hence chariots first, cavalry second.

  3. kvd
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    That makes sense Lorenzo, thanks for follow up.

    On another, unrelated but interesting, thing Boing Boing is reporting this as the best opening para on Wikipedia – and I’d find it hard to top that.

    But inveterate link-follower/reader that I am, I’m intrigued to see further down his entry that his wife was ” Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen”, which perhaps explains why (as noted further down) neither she nor his two daughters received a mention in his memoirs.

    Anyway, I found the life story of this man to be really quite remarkable.

  4. kvd
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Charles Waterstreet had a wonderful opening sentence today: Normally I am a very private person, unless you happen to be within earshot or can read

    – which brings me to my possibly misplaced over-interest in the affairs of Ms Nigella Lawson and Mr Charles Saatchi. I mean, you could not possibly make this stuff up and still get a deeply satisfying cheekily tempting chocolate pudding for afters.

    The Telegraph’s earnest duo – Harry Wallop and Olivia Goldhill (wallop; goldhill; before you read, you get the sense) I now ‘know’ such details as:

    – Nigella’s company is called Pabulum – which is ‘Latin for something which gives nourishment’ – and also Parent for basically anything goopy-tasteless which diverts a demanding child.

    – Saatchi hates publicity, but served notice of divorce via ‘an open letter to a Sunday newspaper’. As you would.

    “None of the judges likes parties arguing their cases out in the press,” says Vanessa Platt, a leading divorce lawyer. “They are absolutely appalled by it.” And good luck to her with her next case.

    “Lawson has never shied away from a scrap when the chips are down” – a turn of phrase I would probably have avoided.

    – Baroness Shackleton (who I admit looks quite lovely with the wet look) “is also Nigella’s first cousin once removed. Both are part of the Salmon dynasty, founders of Lyons Corner Houses, which at their height were Britain’s most successful chain of cafés, as well as supplying Buckingham Palace tea parties and bringing the Wimpy chain to ration-book Fifties Britain.” – salmon, cafes, tea and Wimpy burgers. There’s probably something about food connected to this story…

    “Mark Hutchinson, her publicist, who specialises in dealing with driven but intensely private authors” – a publicist ensuring one’s privacy?

    – further ” friends, including Jemima Khan and William Miller, the son of the theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller, and an old childhood friend of the Lawsons, gathered to offer support and work out the best strategy. For some years, Miller was Lawson’s “brand manager”, and helped develop her hugely successful merchandise range, which started off with tasteful retro kitchenware but now includes notebooks, keyrings and mouse mats.” – a Nigella Lawson mouse mat? I want one! (I’ve got the keyring)

    – and I didn’t mention ‘Team Cupcake’ or a fellow called Malarkey.

    – and then there’s a separate article musing upon the potential division of Mr Saatchi’s art collection, noting that – “he has held on to seminal pieces including Tracey Emin’s My Bed” which is apparently displayed in a special room in their former family home, according to Robert Mendick, Chief reporter.

    I need a second helping of pudding 🙂

  5. Posted July 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Extraordinary indeed.
    [email protected] What a lovely collection.

  6. Peter Hindrup
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Unlikely. Donkeys and mules were ridden, used to pull carts — does ‘donkey cart’ ‘ ring a bell? —as well as being used for general beasts of burden, from forever.
    The Mongols rode small, tough ponies.

  7. Posted July 15, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    [email protected]

    The Mongols rode small, tough ponies.

    Which is why I emphasized breadth across shoulder, not size of horse.

    Donkeys and mules were ridden, used to pull carts — does ‘donkey cart’ ‘ ring a bell? —as well as being used for general beasts of burden, from forever.

    Actually, expansion in the use of mules was part of the reason for the expansion of trade in Europe from c.1000AD.

    I don’t think you quite get the time-line here. The original wild horses were considerably smaller than current domesticated horses. Horses were domesticated 4000-3500BC. The first identified use of horses for transport is chariots, which start being used c.2000BC and spread relatively slowly, taking about 500 years to reach Egypt.

    Assyrians start using cavalry c.865BC and horses large enough for armoured cavalry start appearing c.500BC.

    There are arguments that horseback riding starts much earlier. But that makes the chariots first cavalry second sequence very odd and clumsiness of the first Assyrian cavalry even odder.

    Men on foot with dogs (originally domesticated about 36-33,000 years ago) could have controlled wild horses; though it may have taken a mutation in a particular stallion to make it work.

  8. Peter Hindrup
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I believe that it is generally accepted that across the population people are bigger than previously.
    For example while donkeys and Shetland ponies have been ridden for eons, put a modern footballer on one, it simply is not big enough.
    That cattle and horse were not used as beasts of burden from when they were first domesticated is difficult accept. Horses won out because cattle are too slow. They will carry or pull a big load, but as in the case of bullock trains it was the same slow, even pace on the return journey .
    If you use a horse as a beast of burden, why wouldn’t you ride it?
    ‘There are arguments that horseback riding starts much earlier. But that makes the chariots first cavalry second sequence very odd and clumsiness of the first Assyrian cavalry even odder.’
    When were stirrups invented? Until we began using stirrups cavalry use of horses would have been all but impossible. Try swinging a heavy weapon, bareback, and you will get the idea.
    Riding without a saddle and stirrups in not difficult. You can ride with a sheep slung across the withers of a horse, in front of you, until the terrain becomes hilly or you come to a steep incline. However a person walking each side could old the sheep in place, even up a steep incline.
    Saddles and stirrups changed all that.
    It seems to me that yo are looking at military use of horses. I suggest that to domesticate a horse it had to have a value, and while it was undoubtable eaten, it breeds far too slowly, provides far too little meat to be kept for that purpose alone.
    If you look to those early nomadic people who used their horses as beasts of burden, for milk, for meat, it makes some sense.
    Bigger and faster than a donkey, better tempered, perhaps stronger, even in the beginning, for why else did horses flourish while donkeys merely survive?
    Those who study the anatomy of cattle, donkeys and horses could probably throw light upon this issue.
    Donkeys I am not up on, cattle tend to be ‘round’ of body, while horses at the withers, — where the back meets the neck — protrudes above the level of the back, and in most cases is a narrow ridge.
    A rider sits just behind the withers, where the horses chest is relatively narrow, then it expands as it runs to the flanks.
    Note how straight down a riders legs are when astride, and compare this to a person astride a bull/ock.
    As an aside, look at the very simple North American Indian travois, small version of this were pulled by dogs.
    From nothing to a chariot is, for me, far to greater leap to be considered rational or logical.

  9. kvd
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I must politely support Lorenzo in this. Chariots were in fact finally abandoned due to the difficulty in rebuilding Beecher’s Brook between circuits – so it stands to reason that the cart came before the horse, as it were.

  10. Posted July 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]

    I believe that it is generally accepted that across the population people are bigger than previously.

    Depends. Average sizes have gone up and down throughout history. For example, biggest average skeleton height in Europe prior to the C20th was about 600AD.

    Until we began using stirrups cavalry use of horses would have been all but impossible

    Completely false. Alexander’s companions, Parthian, Palmyran and Sassanid cataphracts were all charging cavalry without stirrups. The forerunners of stirrups date back to well after the invention of cavalry.

    Such cavalry did use saddles, but why saddles after chariots if chariots came second to horse riding. And why chariots for over a millennia before cavalry?

    Note I am not claiming that horses were the first beasts to draw wheeled vehicles. That is clearly not true. And it would make sense to have horses pull things once they were big enough to do so.

    The sequence of chariots then cavalry makes no sense if horses had always been ridden.

  11. Posted July 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Particularly as horse archers are only heard of at the same time as Assyrian cavalry. Noting that archery itself is older than farming.

  12. Peter Hindrup
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Depends. Average sizes have gone up and down throughout history. For example, biggest average skeleton height in Europe prior to the C20th was about 600AD.

    Thanks: I was unaware of this.
    Completely false. Alexander’s companions, Parthian, Palmyran and Sassanid cataphracts were all charging cavalry without stirrups.

    Using what weapon?
    It would take little impact to knock a rider off a horse.
    A saddle sans stirrups would make heavy going for the horse. A good rider changes their position to assist the horse as much as possible.
    Note that the US ‘cowboy’ saddle is really poorly designed in this regard.

  13. Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]

    Using what weapon?
    It would take little impact to knock a rider off a horse.
    A saddle sans stirrups would make heavy going for the horse. A good rider changes their position to assist the horse as much as possible.

    Sassanid armoured cavalry were armed with lances, swords and maces. As were Parthian cataphracts. Alexander’s Companion cavalry used the xyston lance. The trick seems to have been the right sort of saddles and lots of practice.

  14. Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    The sequence of chariots then cavalry makes no sense if horses had always been ridden.

    Perhaps it’s just much easier to control a horse in combat if it’s attached to a wheeled vehicle than if it just has a rider on its back. It would also be a lower disadvantage to be on a chariot being dragged away from combat (particularly if one is engaging using a bow, rather than a close combat weapon), than being bucked off and left stranded in front of the enemy with a weapon designed to be used from horseback. It might have only become possible to reliably control a horse in combat only after generations of selective breeding or the evolution of training techniques for riding generally.

  15. Posted July 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Taking c.1200 years to breed horses wide enough across the shoulder to ride makes some sense to me. Taking that long to develop saddles or horses tame enough to ride in combat when they are already tame enough to control in chariots in combat, rather less so.

  16. conrad
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    “The trick seems to have been the right sort of saddles and lots of practice”

    I just looked that up, and given they were 4 meters long, I imagine having arms with huge muscles may have been worthwhile too!

  17. Mel
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    A little racist perhaps, but also very funny if you are infantile like me.

    Hopefully Asiana Airlines wont be using the law firm Wong, Wang and Weng.

  18. Posted July 19, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    So a Labor MP, a Liberal MP and a Green MP walk into an abandoned house

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