|A chariot from a Chinese chess set|
(photo by Daniel Go)
Noun & verb. Late Middle English.
[Old & modern French, augmentative of char ultimately from Latin carrum, carrus: see CAR. Compare with CHAIR.]
A noun. A wheeled conveyance, usually horse-drawn, specifically:
(a) obsolete a cart, a wagon;
(b) poetical a stately or triumphal carriage;
(c) a two-wheeled vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing;
(d) (chiefly Historical) a light four-wheeled carriage with back seat seats only. LME
B1 verb intrans. Drive or ride in a chariot. M16
B2 verb trans. Carry or convey in or as a chariot. M16
Which came first, the chariot or horse riding? Bizarrely, it's the chariot, arriving into the historical record at around 2000 B.C.E, some 1500 years before horseback riding started to become widespread. Considering the added expense and hassle of building a chariot, you would assume we first learnt to ride on the backs of horses, and only later thought: "Hey! Let's try getting it to pull us along on these wheely yokes we just invented." But no - although there is evidence that humans had tried to ride horses, it seems it was chariots first, horse riding second.
What's more, the story behind the development of chariots and the reason it came before horse riding is steeped in mystery. One of the best theories suggested by historians is that ancient horses were smaller and weaker than those of today, and were thus unable to efficiently bear the weight of a rider until centuries of husbandry had developed breeds strong enough to do so. Other than that, historians are open to suggestions.
Of course, even long after the advent of horseback riding, chariots and specifically chariot-racing remained popular. The Circus Maximus hippodrome in Rome was one of the largest sporting venues ever built with a capacity of some 250,000 spectators. It's also thought that charioteering produced the wealthiest athlete ever in Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who retired at 42 with an estimated fortune of $15 billion in today's money (see the post on aurigation for more about him).
|Egyptian chariots were notoriously rubbish at amphibious assaults|
Any other suggestions as to why chariots came before cavalry?
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