Gallery: Chariots and Transportation

chariot depicted on funerary plaque
Terracotta funerary plaque (520–510BCE)

This gallery displays different means of transportation used by the Ancient Greeks: chariots, horses, ships. Some pictures also show other ways of traveling in myths: dolphins and rams. The photographs were taken in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In this passage from the Odyssey, Homer compares ships to horses drawing a chariot.

 When they [= the Phaeacian seafarers] began rowing out to sea, 79 he [= Odysseus] felt a sweet sleep falling upon his eyelids. [80] It was a deep sleep, the sweetest, and most similar to death. 81 Meanwhile, the ship was speeding ahead, just as a  team of four stallions drawing a chariot over a plain 82 speeds ahead in unison as they all feel the stroke of the whip, 83 galloping along smoothly, with feet raised high as they make their way forward, 84 so also the prow of the ship kept curving upward as if it were the neck of a stallion, and, behind the ship, waves that were [85] huge and seething raged in the waters of the roaring sea. 86 The ship held steadily on its course, and not even a falcon, 87 raptor that he is, swiftest of all winged creatures, could have kept pace with it. 88 So did the ship cut its way smoothly through the waves, 89 carrying a man who was like the gods in his knowledge of clever ways, [90] who had beforehand suffered very many pains [algea] in his heart [thūmos], 91 taking part in wars among men and forging through so many waves that cause pain, 92 but now he was sleeping peacefully, forgetful of all he had suffered.
Odyssey 13.79–92 Sourcebook

Chariots were also associated with funerals. In the following passage, Achilles is honoring Patroklos.

But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, [5] and spoke to his brave comrades saying, “Myrmidons, famed horsemen and my own trusted friends, not yet, I say, let us unyoke, but with horse and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroklos, in due honor to the dead. [10] When we have had full comfort of lamentation we will unyoke our horses and take supper all of us here.” Then they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them in their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all sorrowing round the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still deeper yearning.

Iliad 23.1–12 Sourcebook


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Hélène Emeriaud is a retired teacher. A Community TA for HeroesX in v3 and v4, she enjoys being a participant in Hour 25.

Photos: H. Emeriaud