Home Forums Ancients Mycenaean chariots – a taxi service?

This topic contains 9 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Paskal 8 months, 4 weeks ago.

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    So from about 1350 BC. Some Greek noblemen would have been mounted on chariots which were no longer battle chariots as in the East or in Africa, but transport chariots …

    These types of chariots , known as ‘ railchariots ‘, had appeared during the 13th century BC. BC and would eventually have replaced the previous types.

    They consisted only of a platform and a rail …

    These chariots were certainly the result of a major change in the chariots tactics, if not of the military organization in general.

    It seems therefore highly probable that their crews would descend to land more easily than the crews of the more ancient chariots types of the Aegean world, and they corresponded to most of the descriptions of the chariots tactics contained in the Iliad.

    These models thus probably mark the transition between battle chariots tactics and transport chariots , a gradual process occurring in some states before others and perhaps still incomplete at the time of the Trojan War, which could the meaning of certain confused descriptions existing in the Iliad.

    The chariots in the Iliad were therefore not used for massive charges, but simply to carry the heroes to the front line where they fought on foot.

    For me it is hard to believe that the chariots were used in this way so soon after the great battle of chariots of Kadesh between Hittites and Egyptians …

    Thus an inventory found in the arsenal of Knossos in Crete lists 340 cases of chariots and 1000 pairs of wheels.

    These were hardly used to bring the nobility into the front line.

    Indeed the ratio of five to six wheels for each case implies that these chariots were intended for a service more severe than that of taxi.

    They had to be used for combat.

    The insular Bretons also used their chariots as taxis.

    But it was at a time when the chariots had become obsolete.

    Was this the case at the time of the Trojan War?

    • This topic was modified 9 months ago by  Paskal.
    Mike Headden
    Mike Headden

    My main focus of interest, currently, is the wars of Sumer and Akkad and so my knowledge of modern conflicts like the Trojan Wars is rather more patchy.

    With that proviso, it seems to me that war in the Mycenaean world must have become more fluid as evidenced by the transition from tower shield and long spear to pelta and javelin infantry and the lightening of chariots.

    Whether this is down to a move from more formal battles to increasing “police actions” or an attempt by the palace administrations to reduce the military budget or a move from formal inter-city-state warfare to a series of foreign raids (which is what I suspect the “Trojan War” was) it would leave the better armoured elite warriors less mobile than the foot-sloggers so the Battle-taxi concept has some merit especially as the first and last of those would probably make chariot-on-chariot clashes far less likely.

    The chariot then becomes a means of delivering elite warriors to the battle line to stiffen resistance if things were going badly or to exploit an opening if they were going well. A Bronze Age “fire brigade.”

    Modern reconstructions of the Dendra panoply suggest that they were optimised for melee weapons rather than missile weapons which would suggest that, unlike Middle Eastern chariots of the period, the occupants were not expected to engage in archery or the throwing of javelins. So, at the very least, Mycenaean chariots may have been proto-lancers not proto-horse archers!

    I think the chariot warriors were elite warriors rather than necessarily “nobles” as the palaces seem to have made up the difference between what the warrior could provide and the approved equipment.

    Finally, the more wheels than chariots thing doesn’t necessarily imply a particular mode of operation to me. Simply moving around in terrain with no metalled roads must have taken it’s toll on wheels, let alone charging around in battle!

    As ever, random thoughts of the marginally informed 🙂 Interesting thread, I trust I’ve added something positive to it!!


    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!



    Obvious the tactic has changed and it’s evidenced by the transition from tower shield and long spear and heaviness of the first chariots to pelta and javelin infantry and the lightening of chariots.

    But why ?

    Mike Headden
    Mike Headden

    My guess, and it is no more than that, is that state boundaries have settled down, alliances have formed and the major powers posture and glower but rarely engage in outright warfare.

    Armies are increasingly involved in police actions against raiders and bandits or in raiding themselves rather than formal battles. Mobility and training become the keys to success.

    We see similar things occurring from Bronze Age Mesopotamia to the armies of the Later Roman Empire.

    Wars of expansion require a formal military capable of knock ’em down, drag ’em out battles and sieges.

    Once you have as much as you think you can hold as a state you need paramilitary police more than an army … until the next wannabe Empire comes knocking!

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!



    Yes they may have to adapt to a new type of  opponent …


    Homer, of course, describes “battle taxis” rather than squadrons of attacking vehicles; darting & looking for openings in the ranks of poorly trained infantry.

    But Homer wrote several centuries after the fall of Troy and at a time where chariots no longer ruled the battlefield. I agree with the idea that the Blind Singer simply had no idea how chariots were used.

    I can accept that given that Greece itself is not the best chariot country, chariotry may have been more like a dragoon force: fighting both on the vehicle & on foot. However, rail or not, I think the nobility & their numerous retainers were often fighting it out on board chariots.





    Sorry Donald but at the time of homer, there were still chariots in the greek armies – but of several models different from those of the late Mycenaean – although all of the transport type …


    Sorry Donald …


    You correct me, sir? Certainly no need to apologise & please correct me wherever you find me in error (though that might be a full time job).


    donald (we Bronze Age fans need to stick together!)

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 4 weeks ago by Ochoin Ochoin.

    I’m not terribly familiar with the current theories but I’ve always wondered…

    If the chariots were driven into combat (i.e., melee), then why is the driver frequently depicted unarmored? (Or is that a misconception on my part?) I can see unarmored drivers providing an advantage if the chariot is a missile platform where speed provides a defense against being shot. And in this case, I think armor becomes more of a status symbol than a defensive advantage. My understanding, though, is that there is little evidence for Mycenaean chariots being used this way.

    I can see unarmored drivers dropping off their passengers, withdrawing a bit and picking the fighter up after individual ‘heroic’ combat has ended.  The advantage here is that it conserves the energy of the heavily armored fighting man. But having an unarmored driver guiding the chariot through close combat is a real vulnerability. If I’m being attacked by a chariot like this, then I’m going to try to position myself where I can strike at the unarmored man preoccupied with controlling the horses.  Ultimately, the ‘battle taxi’ idea just seems to fit the rule of common sense.

    As for all the extra wheels in the inventory, I think that’s just because the wheel is the most labor intensive part to produce and also the most vulnerable to damage. Having spares seems to make logistical sense. Though one wonders if and how the spares were transported…. Hmm….

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/




    While two- or four-wheeled war chariots, biges or quadriges still appear late in combat in the art of the geometric period, there are no representations of warriors fighting from their chariots which seem to be so than ‘taxis’ as for the last Mycenaeans.

    These chariots were of 4 types :

    1) A chariot of the proto-geometric period known as the rail-chariot as in the time of Mycenaeans, it recalled the achean last type of chariot, nevertheless it was certainly slightly different …

    2) The four -wheeled chariot as the four -wheeled -chariot of the time of Mycenaeans, is still represented on a huge krater dated around 1100 BC.

    Both the rail-chariot and the four-wheeled chariot fom continued to be used until the end of the Geometric Period…

    Nevertheless they should be somewhat different from the old Mycenaean models, which were obviously no longer used. .

    3) A further chariot type to appear in the Geometric pictorial record is called the Helladic chariot or high-front chariot.

    This is the most frequently depicted form in the Iron Age, and is the standard type found from the 8th century.

    4) The Cypriot chariot type of the 8th, 7th and 6th centuries BC.


    In my opinion, they change tactics because they are slowly passing from the solid chaiot of shock with his fighter in  Dendra armor and long spear to the heavy infantryman in a chariot of transport …

    All this will be replaced by ordinary cavalry.


    • This reply was modified 8 months, 4 weeks ago by  Paskal.
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