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chariot,earliest and simplest type of carriage and the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. The chariot was known among the Babylonians before the introduction of horses c.2000 B.C. and was first drawn by asses. The chariot and horse introduced into Egypt c.1700 B.C. by the Hyksos invaders undoubtedly contributed to their military success. Simultaneously the use of the chariot spread over the Middle East, chiefly as a war machine. The Assyrians are credited with introducing chariots with scythes mounted on the wheels as weapons, a type later adopted by the Persians. In Greece and Rome the chariot was never used to any extent in war, possibly because of generally unfavorable topography. It was, however, prominent in games and processions, becoming in Rome the inevitable carriage of the triumphal procession. Here also the chariot races of the circus were developed. The ancient chariot was a very light vehicle, drawn by two or more horses hitched side by side. The car was little else than a floor with a waist-high semicircular guard in front. British chariots were open in front, had a curved wall behind, often had seats, and sometimes had scythes on the wheels.
a wheeled vehicle used in combat and for triumphal, ritual, and burial processions, as well as for sports contests. Ritual and war chariots have been found in the excavations of the graves of the rich dating from the end of the third millennium B.C. as well as from later times (the finds in Kish, Ur, the Transcaucasus, and elsewhere). Representations of chariots in clay and bronze, bas-reliefs, and paintings have been found over broad areas of Eurasia and North Africa.
War chariots were widely used in the armies of the ancient Orient (Egypt, Assyria, Persia, China, and India). War chariots made up special military detachments which operated in front of or at the flanks of the infantry. An attack by the chariots would disorganize enemy ranks, and the infantry that followed the chariots would complete the rout. There were several types of war chariots, including two-wheeled chariots that were pulled by one or two horses (one warrior drove the horses, and the others fought with spears, swords, or bows); in the case of the four-wheeled chariot pulled by four horses, spears were fastened to its poles, blades were fastened to its axles, and the horses were covered with armor.
In classical Greece the horse-drawn chariot was used chiefly for sports contests. In Rome the triumphal chariots were of the greatest importance; these chariots were used for celebrating victorious imperial campaigns. Up to eight pairs of horses were used to draw them. In medieval Western Europe war chariots were used with high, strong sides in which holes were cut; gunners and even small cannons were carried in such chariots.