Chariot: The Astounding Rise and Fall of the World's First War Machine

Overview

Lively, accessible and lavishly illustrated, this is a cross-cultural study of chariot warfare throughout the Old World, from Ireland to Korea.

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 B.C. ...

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Overview

Lively, accessible and lavishly illustrated, this is a cross-cultural study of chariot warfare throughout the Old World, from Ireland to Korea.

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 B.C. Alexander the Great faced charioteers in northern India, while in 55 B.C. on the south coast of England, Julius Caesar was met by British chariots.

Historically and geographically broad-ranging, and packed with fascinating personal details about ancient figures, from the boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun to Emperor Nero and the great charioteer Porphyrius, this fascinating exploration of the chariot’s legacy — not least as depicted in Hollywood films — is illustrated throughout and presents an engrossing look at the world’s first war machine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this entertaining work, Cotterell (The Encyclopedia of World Mythology) immediately sets out all that was distinctive about the chariot, namely, the spoked wheel, the trained horses, and the composite bow. He divides his subsequent discussion geographically, covering the evolution of the chariot's use in various regions of Asia and Europe. Finally, topical chapters consider racing and modern misconceptions about the chariot. Historians will be fascinated by the numerous analyses, such as how the number of spokes varied from culture to culture, thus furnishing clues as to who borrowed from whom technologically. The shrewd scholar will look here for information about bow construction and the many aspects of the domestication and use of horses in war. This work is abundantly illustrated, not only with renditions of the various chariots, weapons, and charioteers but also with representations of the chariot in art and literature. This work is a welcome addition to a collection specializing in military history or ancient history but will appeal to general readers as well because the writing is accessible despite the plethora of detail. An excellent bibliography is included. Recommended for all large libraries and academic libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844135493
  • Publisher: Random House UK
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.03 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Cotterell’s previous books include The Minoan World; A Dictionary of World Mythology; The Penguin Encyclopedia of Classical Civilizations; The Pimlico Dictionary of Classical Civilizations; The Pimlico Dictionary of Classical Mythologies.

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