CHARIOT IN ANCIENT GREECE IN THE 7th–4th CENT. BC: SOME OBSERVATIONS

The article deals with the possibility of using a chariot in Archaic and Classical Greece beside races, that is, as a means of transport and for cult occasions. A chariot (ἅρμα/ἅρματα, ὄχεα, δίφρος, opposed to ὄχημα, ἀπήνη, ἅμαξα, ἁρμάμαξα, σατίναι, κάνναθρον) was a light two-wheeled vehicle harnessed by horses, which could be driven by no more than two standing men and did not allow carrying freight. It was a prestigious vehicle associated with gods and heroes. Its use by mortals for a two-day journey described in the Odyssey can be regarded as a poetic exaggeration of the heroes’ capacities. The heroic halo around a chariot could probably lead to its misrepresentation in some cases, but since the chariots were not completely out of use, one should only suppose with great caution that an absolutely impossible usage was ascribed to them. Th e sounds of a chariot were familiar to the public: they are referred to in poetry, and in the fi ft h-century drama the word σῦριγξ is applied to a wheel of a chariot or to some part of it, probably a nave (the explanation of A. W. Vernall, which appeals to the similarity of form and not of the sounds produced, is not sound). Using a chariot as a means of transport in everyday life is not attested; allegations of the opposite in scientifi c literature are due to careless terminology. But its ceremonial use is likely to date back to the Mycenaean times. Expensive aristocratic vehicles were most appropriate for a cult procession with its ostentation and display. Using chariots at funerals (of course not as a hearse) and weddings (mainly for bringing a bride to her husband’s house) is depicted in art, and though it can be considered just as a means of heroization, we cannot rule out that aristocratic families actually followed the heroic pattern for the sake of prestige, notwithstanding its inconvenience (esp. for a bride). Th ere is evidence for chariots taking part in processions at the Panathenaia in Athens and at the Artemisia on Euboea. A musician accompanying a procession could hardly use a jolting chariot as a stage for his performance. Transporting voluminous cult objects cannot be confirmed. Carrying a statue of the Mother of Gods on a chariot is not attested in Greek cult. Absurd assertion that Amphiaraos carried σφάγια on his chariot in Eur. Phoen. 1110 is due to misunderstanding of Phoen. 174 by an interpolator. Whatever the ritual at the sanctuary of Poseidon in Onchestos described in Hymn. Hom. 3, 229–238 could be, its interpretation as a mere accident by A. Schachter cannot be sustained.

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