In the ancient times the chosen vehicle of warfare to ingrain fear into the opposition was the chariot. You could say the chariot of ancient times is the equivalent of the tanks used today. It was a fast and fearsome weapon that allowed the ancients to move quickly in battle and attack their foe before making off without injury to themselves.
While many people know of the chariot, not many know of how it was actually used, where it was used and the big battles in which it was used successfully.
Today you will be enlightened into the knowledge of the chariot, the tactics used in ancient chariot warfare and more.
The War Chariot
The chariot was first designed and built in present day Eastern Europe and in Mesopotamia, which is present day Iraq. The chariot was designed and used as early as three thousand years ago in the Bronze Age and Iron Age. The power of chariots and its devastating effect in battle were quickly realised.
The earliest chariots were simply a two wheeled cart with a floor platform and semi circle covering in front. This chariot was then pulled by two or more horses giving a light weight and super fast.
Over time the design of chariots changed to use wheels with spokes and shields to offer more protection, but the overall look of the chariot did not change much.
The chariot reigned supreme as the vehicle of battle from about one thousand BC to four hundred AD. Although it was used post 400 AD for public appearances and racing.
Ancient Chariot Warfare
Ancient chariot warfare differed greatly depending on the tribe or region using it in battle. The Britain’s were seen as formidable opponents in the use of chariots in ancient warfare, the below is the Britain’s stance of using the chariot in battle according to Julius Caesar himself:
“XXXIII.–Their mode of fighting with their chariots is this: firstly, they drive about in all directions and throw their weapons and generally break the ranks of the enemy with the very dread of their horses and the noise of their wheels; and when they have worked themselves in between the troops of horse, leap from their chariots and engage on foot.
The charioteers in the meantime withdraw some little distance from the battle, and so place themselves with the chariots that, if their masters are overpowered by the number of the enemy, they may have a ready retreat to their own troops.
Thus they display in battle the speed of horse, the firmness of infantry; and by daily practice and exercise attain to such expertness that they are accustomed, even on a declining and steep place, to check their horses at full speed, and manage and turn them in an instant and run along the pole, and stand on the yoke, and thence betake themselves with the greatest celerity to their chariots again.”
The Greeks used the chariot for auspicious occasions but rarely used the chariot to great effect in battle. While the Greeks were at the forefront of weaponry it is understood that the rugged and rocky terrain was not good for chariot warfare.
Further east, the Ancient Near East of present day Turkey, the Middle East and Egypt, used the chariot in open battle regularly. Here the chariot would employ two men, one acting as a horseman while the other was an archer picking off the enemy in battle.
The Shang dynasty of China also greatly used the chariot in battle and through using this form of weaponry they were able to take over other areas of China and consolidate their control over the region. The tactics of use of chariots by the Chinese is not known, all we know is it was a big reason why the Chinese were successful in battle.
Famous Chariot Battle
The most famous chariot battle is the Battle of Kadesh where around 5,000 to 6,000 chariots were engaged in battle between the Egyptians and the Hittites. This happened in 1274 BC, the pinnacle of chariot usage in battle.