Horse chariot and Phrygian warrior on a Phrygian tile from palace of Midas at Gordium Museum, Ankara.
The chariot is the earliest and simplest type of horse carriage, used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two- or four-wheeled conveyance 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. The chariot, driven by a charioteer, was used for ancient warfare during the Bronze and Iron Ages, armor being provided by shields. The vehicle continued to be used for travel, processions and in games and races after it had been superseded for military purposes. Militarily, the chariot became obsolete as horse breeding efforts produced an animal that was large enough to ride into battle, or, for that matter, to mount a soldier with heavy weapons and armor.
The critical invention that allowed the construction of light, horse-drawn chariots for use in battle was the spoked wheel. The earliest spoke-wheeled chariots date to ca. 2000 BC and their usage peaked around 1300 BC. (See Hittite archer on a chariot) Chariots ceased to have military importance in the 4th century BC, but chariot races continued to be popular in Constantinople until the 6th century CE (AD).
PHOTO: Phrygian tile from palace of Midas at Gordion Museum, Ankara