dim. Curriclum (ἅρμα). A chariot, a car. These terms appear to have denoted those two-wheeled vehicles for the carriage of persons which were open overhead, thus differing from the carpentum (q. v.), and closed in front, in which they differed from the cisium (q. v.). One of the most essential parts in the construction of the currus was the ἄντυξ, or rim; and it is accordingly seen in all the chariots which are represented in this article. Another indispensable part was the axle, made of oak (φήγινος ἄξων), and sometimes also of ilex, ash, or elm. The cars of Her and Poseidon have metallic axles. One method of making a chariot less liable to be overturned was to lengthen its axle, and thus to widen the base on which it stood. The axle was firmly fixed under the body of the chariot, which, in reference to this circumstance, was called ὑπερτερία, and which was often made of wicker-work, enclosed by the ἄντυξ. Fat (λίπος) and pressed olives (amurca) were used to grease the axle.
The wheels (κύκλα, τροχοί, rotae) revolved upon the axle, as in modern carriages; and they were prevented from coming off by the insertion of pins (ἔμβολοι) into the extremities of the axle (ἀκραξονία). Pelops obtained his celebrated victory over Oenomas through the artifice of Hippodamia, who, wishing to marry Pelops, persuaded Myrtilus, the charioteer of his adversary, to omit inserting one of the linchpins in the axle of his car, or to insert one of wax. She thus caused the overthrow and death of her father, Oenomas, and then married the conqueror in the race.
Sir W. Gell describes, in the following terms, the wheels of three cars which were found at Pompeii: The wheels light, and dished much like the modern, 4 feet 3 inches diameter, 10 spokes, a little thicker at each end. These cars were probably intended for the purposes of common life. From Xenophon we learn that the wheels were made stronger when they were intended for the field of battle. After each excursion the wheels were taken off the chariot, which was laid on a shelf or reared against a wall, and they were put on again whenever it was wanted for use.
The parts of the wheel were as follows:
(a) The nave or hub, called πλήμνη, χοινικίς, modiolus. The last two terms are founded on the resemblance of the nave to a modius or bushel. [p. 444]
The nave was strengthened by being bound with an iron ring, called πλημνόδετον.
(b) The spokes, κνῆμαι (literally, the legs), radii. We have seen that the spokes were sometimes ten in number. In other instances they were eight (κύκλα ὀκτάκνημα), six, or four. Instead of being of wood, the spokes of the chariot of the Sun, constructed by Hephaestus, were of silver (radiorum argenteus ordo).
(c) The felly, ἴτυς. This was commonly made of some flexible and elastic wood, such as poplar or the wild fig, which was also used for the rim of the chariot; heat was applied to assist in producing the requisite curvature. The felly was, however, composed of separate pieces, called arcs (ἁψῖδες). Hence the observation of Plutarch that, as a wheel revolves, first one apsis is at the highest point, and then another. Hesiod evidently intended to recommend that a wheel should consist of four pieces.
(d) The tire, ἐπίσωτρον, canthus. Homer describes the chariot of Her as having a tire of bronze upon a golden felly, thus placing the harder metal in a position to resist friction and to protect the softer. The tire was commonly of iron.
All the parts now enumerated are seen in an ancient chariot preserved in the Vatican, a representation of which is given in the following illustration. [figure in text: Currus. (Vatican.)]
This chariot, which is in some parts restored, also shows the pole (ῥυμός, temo). It was firmly fixed at its lower extremity to the axle, whence the destruction of Phathon's chariot is represented by the circumstance of the pole and axle being torn asunder (temone revulsus axis). At the other end (ἀκρορρύμιον) the pole was attached to the yoke, either by a pin (ἔμβολος), as shown in the chariot above engraved, or by the use of ropes and bands. See Iugum.
Carriages with two, or even three, poles were used by the Lydians. The Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, appear never to have used more than one pole and one yoke, and the currus thus constructed was commonly drawn by two horses, which were attached to it by their necks, and therefore called δίζυγες ἵπποι, συνωρίς, gemini iugales, equi biiuges.
If a third horse was added, as was not unfrequently the case, it was fastened by traces. It may have been intended to take the place of either of the yoke-horses (ζύγιοι ἵπποι) which might happen to be disabled. The horse so attached was called παρήορος. When Patroclus returned to battle in the chariot of Achilles, two immortal horses, Xanthus and Balius, were placed under the yoke; a third, called Pedasus, and mortal, was added on the right hand; and, having been slain, caused confusion, until the driver cut the harness by which this third horse was fastened to the chariot. [figure in text: Currus with Three Horses. (Ginzrot.)] Ginzrot has published two drawings of chariots with three horses from Etruscan vases in the collection at Vienna. The ἵππος παρήορος is placed on the right of the two yoke-horses. We also observe traces passing between the two ἄντυγες, and proceeding from the front of the chariot on each side of the middle horse. These probably assisted in attaching the third or extra horse.
The Latin name for a chariot and pair was biga. (See Biga.) When a third horse was added, it was called triga; and, by the same analogy, a chariot and four was called quadriga; in Greek, τετραορία or τέθριππος.
The horses were commonly harnessed in a quadriga after the manner already represented, the two strongest horses being placed under the yoke, and the two others fastened on each side by means of ropes. This is implied in the use of the epithets σειραῖος or σειραφόρος, and funalis or funarius, for a horse so attached. The two exterior horses were further distinguished from one another as the right and the left trace-horse. In a chariot-race described by Sophocles, the driver, aiming to pass the goal, which is on his left hand, restrains the nearest horse, and gives the reins to that which was farthest from itviz., the horse in traces on the right hand (δεξιὸν δ̓ ἀνεὶς σειραῖον ἵππον). In the splendid triumph of Augustus after the battle of Actium, the trace-horses of his car were ridden by two of his young relations. Tiberius rode, as Suetonius relates, sinisteriore funali equo, and Marcellus dexteriore funali equo. As the works of ancient art, especially fictile vases, abound in representations of quadrigae, numerous instances may be observed in which the two middle horses (ὁ μέσος δεξιὸς καὶ ὁ μέσος ἀριστερός) are yoked together as in a biga; and, as the two lateral ones have collars (λέπαδνα) equally with the yoke-horses, we may presume that from the top of these proceeded the ropes which were tied to the rim of the car, and by which the trace-horses assisted to draw it. The first figure in the following illustration is the chariot of Aurora, as painted on a vase found at Canosa. The reins of the two middle horses pass through rings at the extremities of the yoke. All the particulars which have been mentioned are still more distinctly seen in the second figure, taken from a terra-cotta at Vienna. It represents a chariot overthrown in passing the goal at the circus. [p. 445]
The charioteer having fallen backwards, the pole and yoke are thrown upwards into the air; the two trace-horses have fallen on their knees, and the two yoke-horses are prancing on their hind-legs.
If we may rely on the evidence of numerous works of art, the currus was sometimes drawn by four horses without either yoke or pole; for we [figure in text: Currus with Four Horses.] see two of them diverging to the right hand and two to the left, as in the beautiful cameo given below, which represents Apollo surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. If the ancients really drove the quadriga thus harnessed, we can only suppose the charioteer to have checked its speed by pulling up the horses and leaning with his whole body backwards, so as to make the bottom of the car at its hindermost border scrape the groundan act and an attitude which seem not unfrequently to be intended in antique representations.
The currus, like the cisium, was adapted to carry two persons, and on this account was called in Greek δίφρος. One of the two was, of course, the driver. He was called ἡνίοχος, because he held the reins, and his companion παραιβάτης, from going by his side or near him. Though in all respects superior, the παραιβάτης was often obliged to place himself behind the ἡνίοχος. He is so represented in the biga at page 92, and in the Iliad Achilles himself stands behind his charioteer Automedon. [figure in text: Four-horse Chariots on Gems. (Berlin Museum.)] On the other hand, a personage of the highest rank may drive his own carriage, and then an inferior may be his παραιβάτης, as when Nestor conveys Machaon (πάῤ δὲ Μαχάων βαῖνε), and Her, holding the reins and whip, conveys Athen, who is in full armour. In such cases a kindness, or even a compliment, was conferred by the driver upon him whom he conveyed, as when Dionysius, tyrant of Sicily, himself holding the reins, made Plato his παραιβάτης. In the contest which has been already referred to, and which was so celebrated in Greek mythology, Oenomas intrusts the reins to the unfaithful Myrtilus, and assumes the place of his παραιβάτης, while Pelops himself drives with Hippodamia as his παραιβάτις, thus honouring her in return for the service she had bestowed.
The Persepolitan sculptures, and the innumerable paintings discovered in Egyptian tombs, concur with the historical writings of the Old Testament, and with the testimony of other ancient authors, in showing how commonly chariots were employed on the field of battle by the Egyptians, the Persians, and other Asiatic nations. The Greek poetry of the Heroic Ages proves with equal certainty the early prevalence of the same custom in Greece. The ἀριστῆεςi. e. the nobility, or men of rank who wore complete suits of armour, all took their chariots with them, and in an engagement placed themselves in front. Such were the ἱππεῖς, or cavalry of the Homeric periodthe precursors of those who, after some centuries, adopted the less expensive and ostentatious practice of riding on horseback, but who, nevertheless, in consideration of their wealth and station, still maintained their own horses, rather to aid and exhibit themselves individually on the field than to act as members of a compact body. In Homer's battles we find that the horsemanwho, for the purpose of using his weapons and in consequence of the weight of his armour, is under the necessity of taking the place of παραιβάτηςoften assails or challenges a distant foe from the chariot; but that, when he encounters his adversary in close combat, they both dismount, springing from their chariots to the ground, and leaving them to the care of the ἡνίοχοι. So likewise Turnus is described by Vergil, Desiluit Turnus biiugis; pedes apparat ire Comminus. As soon as the hero had finished the trial of his strength with his opponent, he returned to his chariot, one of the chief uses of which was to rescue him from danger. When Automedon prepares to encounter both Hector and Aeneas, justly fearing the result, he directs his charioteer, Alcimedon, instead of driving the horses to any distance, to keep them breathing on his back, and thus to enable him to effect his escape in case of need.
These chariots, as represented on bas-reliefs and fictile vases, were exceedingly light, the body often consisting of little besides a rim fastened to the bottom and to the axle. Unless such had been really their construction, it would be difficult to imagine how so great a multitude of chariots could have been transported across the Aegean Sea. The light and simple construction of war-chariots is also supposed by Vergil, when he represents them as suspended with all kinds of armour on the entrance to the temple of the Laurentian Picus.
We have already seen that it was not unusual in the Homeric battles to drive three horses, one being a παρήορος; in a single instance, that of Hector, four are driven together. In the games, the use of this number of horses was, perhaps, even more common than the use of two. The form of the chariot was the same, except that it was more elegantly decorated. But the highest style of ornament was reserved to be displayed in the quadrigae [p. 446] in which the Roman generals and emperors rode when they triumphed. The body of the triumphal car was cylindrical, as we often see it represented on medals. It was enriched with gold (aureus currus) and ivory. The utmost skill of the painter and the sculptor was employed to enhance its beauty and splendour. More particularly the extremities of the axle, of the pole, and of the yoke were highly wrought in the form of animals' heads. Wreaths of laurel were sometimes hung round it (currus lauriger), and were also fixed to the heads of the four snow-white horses. The car was elevated so that he who triumphed might be the most conspicuous person in the procession, and, for the same reason, he was obliged to stand erect (in curru stantis eburno). A friend, more especially a son, was sometimes carried in the same chariot by his side. When Germanicus celebrated his triumph, the car was loaded with five of his children in addition to himself. The triumphal car had, in general, no pole, the horses being led by men who were stationed at their heads.
The chariot was an attribute not only of the gods, but of various imaginary beings, such as Victory, often so represented on coins, vases, and sculptures; Night; and Aurora, whom Vergil represents as driving either two horses or four, in this agreeing with the figure in the illustrations on p. 445. In general, the poets are more specific as to the number of horses in the chariots of the deities, and it rarely exceeded two. Iupiter, as the father of the gods, drives four white horses when he goes armed with his thunderbolt to resist the giants; Pluto is drawn by four black horses.
The chariots of Iupiter and of the Sun are, moreover, painted on ancient vases with wings proceeding from the extremities of the axle (πτηνὸν ἅρμα; volucrem currum).
These supernatural chariots were drawn not only by horses, but by a great variety of brute or imaginary beings. Thus Medea received from the Sun a car with winged dragons. Iuno is drawn by peacocks, Diana by stags, Venus by doves or swans, Minerva by owls, Mercury by rams, and Apollo by griffins. To the car of Bacchus, and consequently of Ariadn, are yoked centaurs, tigers, and lynxes.
Chariots executed in terra-cotta (quadrigae fictiles), in bronze, or in marble, an example of which last is shown in the annexed illustration from an [figure in text: Biga. (Sala della Biga, Vatican.)] ancient chariot in the Vatican, were among the most beautiful ornaments of temples and other public edifices.
No pains were spared in their decoration, and Pliny informs us that some of the most eminent artists were employed upon them. In numerous instances they were designed to perpetuate the fame of those who had conquered in the chariotrace. As the emblem of victory, the quadriga was sometimes adopted by the Romans to grace the triumphal arch by being placed on its summit; and even in the private houses of great families, chariots were displayed as the indications of rank or the memorials of conquest and of triumph.