The chariot changed the face of ancient warfare. First in West Asia and Egypt, then in India and China, charioteers came to dominate the battlefield. In 1274 B. C. at Kadesh in present-day Syria - where the untried pharaoh Ramesses II was nearly defeated by the Hittites - some 5,000 chariots were deployed in battle. Its use as a war machine is graphically recounted in Indian epics and Chinese chronicles. Homer's Iliad tells of the attack on Troy by Greek heroes who rode in chariots In 326 B. C. Alexander the Great faced charioteers in northern India, while in 55 B. C., on a Kent beach, Julius Caesar was met by British chariots.
Even though the chariot was the favourite conveyance of both gods and kings, there were risks when it was driven at high speed. It is more than possible that the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun died from injuries sustained in a chariot accident. Because of the danger involved, chariot racing attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. So enthusiastic were they that the Roman emperor Nero could not resist driving his own ten-horse chariot at the Olympic Games: he fell out but still won the prize. Rivalry between groups of spectators at chariot races often ignited urban riots. In Constantinople, in 532 A. D., a three-day disturbance left 30,000 dead. Yet great charioteers like Porphyrius still emerged. He was a champion into his sixties, provoking the comment that 'neither strength nor swift horses know how to win, but the brains of the charioteer.'
This unique book traces the rise and fall of the chariot right across the Old World, from Britain to Korea. Illustrated throughout and exploring the chariot's legacy - not least as depicted in Hollywood films - it provides a broad-ranging and fascinating view of the world's first revolutionary war machine.