Tethrippon (Quadriga) Chariot

Tethrippon (Quadriga) Chariot Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Famous Historical Events Sports Visual Arts

The Ancient Olympics included equestrian events, beginning circa 680 B.C. This image, from a surviving Greek artifact, depicts a two-wheeled chariot drawn by four horses.

Romans referred to this type of chariot as a Quadriga. The ancient Greeks referred to it as a Tethrippon.

Greek vases and other artifacts often include illustrations depicting a driver with four horses drawing a single chariot.  Those images are often efforts to depict Greek gods and Greek heroes.

We learn more about the Tethrippon, and the rules which applied during an ancient-Olympic race, from Foundation of the Hellenic World:

The Hippodrome was a wide, flat, open area where the starting and finishing line was defined by a pole. A second smaller pole, the nyssa, defined the turning point, a dangerous point where many accidents took place.

The track itself was divided with a stone or wooden partition, called embolon, next to which the horses and chariots run. It is known that the tethrippon completed twelve rounds of the track (the poet Pindar called this contest dodekadromon)...We know very little about the rules of the equestrian events. It is known that someone could not swerve in front of the other competitors, except if he was too far away from those behind him, so that collisions would be avoided.

At Olympia, opposite the nyssa, there was a round altar, the Taraxippos, which created havoc among the horses. Possibly, this was related to the position of the sun, since the games started in the afternoon at the time when the sun was setting and during the turn the animals were blinded by the glare resulting in many accidents.

Pausanias described in detail the complex system for the starting of the race, the hippaphesis, the invention of the statue-maker Kleoitas.

On the western, narrow side of the hippodrome, the starting positions were in the shape of a triangle with a bronze dolphin on a high pole at its apex.

In the middle of the basis of the triangle there was a stone altar with the starting mechanism. The altar was decorated on its uppermost part by a bronze eagle.

Right before the contest, the chariots entered into the special partitions. With the sound of the trumpet, the eagle of the altar was raised, so that the spectators could see it, the dolphin fell on the ground and the rope was removed from the positions -starting from the two flank ones- so that all chariots should be positioned on a straight line.

The chariot was a small, wooden vehicle...

Click on the image, which depicts an ancient-Greek Tethrippon, for a better view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Nov 12, 2019

Media Credits

Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


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"Tethrippon (Quadriga) Chariot" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Nov 12, 2019.
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