The horse argument, part 1

Dominique.Thillaud thillaud at UNICE.FR
Sat Apr 4 09:46:04 UTC 1998

>One of my old Classics teachers said exactly the same thing: "They come to
>the battle on their chariots as if they were riding taxis." His conclusion
>was that Homer knew about chariots but that he had not seen them used in
>battle. The Romans used chariots too, but only for racing. Old instruments
>of war sometimes end up as pure sports articles. Today, we throw spears and
>shoot the bow at the Olympics, but - pace Rambo - both weapons keep a low
>profile in today's warfare.
>Lars Martin Fosse

Dear Lars,
        I agree. But the reciprocity is not sure and the "disk throwing"
shows that some parts of the "agOn" have perhaps a religious origin.
        The war-chariot was perhaps a "taxi de la Marne" but we can't
definitely exclude that it was nothing in epics but the ICON of a God-like
status. Many passages of Iliad or of Mahabharata are very difficult to
understand as a real-life fight and the long long travel of Arjuna, running
against the sunset, seems very far from an actual battlefield.
        Even being unable to PROVE anything, I believe that the later use
of the chariot in a warfare context is derived from an early use limited to
processions and races, the Gods being the first owners of light and fast
chariots, able to fly over the world. And, even later, the chariots,
drastically submitted to the landscape, were probably more signs of power
(like banners and eagles) than powerful tactical weapons. As you remark
with accuracy, the Romans, the better war-experts of their time, never used
it, except in races and ... triumphs.
        The actual use of pesant wagons to carry food and various supplies
is evidently not excluded.

PS: to other mailers:
        About the difficult words aryaH and asuraH and the apparent
contradictions in their usage, many pages was written by many reputed
scholars. Despite some good tracks, there is not (to my knoledge) any
ultimate answer.

Dominique THILLAUD
Universite' de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France

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