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Model of a War Chariot

March 5, 2014

Whilst looking through photos on my phone earlier this week I came across a picture of the archaeological site of Paphos. It is amazing that one picture can bring back such good memories. The poor weather and reminder of a summer in Cyprus prompted me to have a look through some other photos and I came across this picture of a model war chariot.

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Ray (2009:19-20) observes that by the fifth century the chariot on mainland Greece had disappeared as the rough terrain made it an ineffective weapon. The use of the chariot was superseded by cavalry and hoplite units. In contrast to mainland Greece, the use of the chariot was retained on Cyprus. Herodotus (The Histories 5.113.1) references the involvement of war chariots in the Cypriot revolt against Persian rule in the fifth century. Unfortunately I cannot find any additional literary evidence to support Herodotus’ account. However, there are a number of other chariot figurines within the museum and as such I believe it can safely be assumed that the war chariot was widely used on Cyprus into the Classical period. It is difficult to conclude as to why the chariot remained in use. Ray (2009:20) suggests that it might be attributed to the continuation of the monarchical system of government and honor that the position of charioteer gave a man. The charioteer figurines found in the Royal Tombs of Salamis lend some weight to Ray’s argument.

This chariot was discovered in Ovgoros in 1955 and dates to the sixth century BC. It is a offering to Ares, the God of War. There are no inscriptions on the model so it is not possible to identify what the offering was for. It might be argued that the offering was made to seek the gods aid in the fight against the Persian oppressors, to celebrate a victory or to mark the death of a fallen comrade. Unfortunately there is some damage to the model, for example one of the riders is missing an arm. This model has been produced with great artistic skill evidenced in the detailing such as the horses blinkers, wheels of the chariot and the faces of the warriors.

Bibliography

Primary

Herodotus The Histories Translated by A. D. Godley Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0126 %5BAccessed: 5 March 2014]

Secondary

Ray, F. Land Battles in 5th Century BC Greece: A History and Analysis of 173 Engagements London:  McFarland, 2009.

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