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fadeaccompli
03-03-2013, 08:30 PM
So, chariots. I find them spiffy; they look neat, and they're a nice change of pace in pseudo-historical fantasy from the standard pseudo-European knights thing. But my (admittedly cursory) research isn't telling me why chariots stopped being used in warfare. Wikipedia helpfully explains when they fell out of military use, while still being used for racing and such later, but it doesn't say why.

So...why? What was the replacement? Especially if they were used for recreation and hunting as well as actual warfare, what makes everyone just go "Eh, chariots" and give up on them entirely? I'd like to use them in my story, but not if it's going to make readers immediately say "Chariots? Why would anyone use chariots when there's <insert appropriate technological upgrade here> making them obsolete?"

Rufus Coppertop
03-03-2013, 09:14 PM
At the Battle of Gaugemala, 331 BC, Darius III deployed chariots with scythed wheels against Alexander the Great.

Before the battle, Darius had the ground levelled. The fact that he bothered tells us something.

"As for the scythed chariots, they proved a fiasco, as they had done nearly 70 years previously at Cunaxa. The Macedonians opened their ranks and allowed them to pass through while the light troops bombarded them with missiles, grasped the reins of the horses and dragged down the drivers." - Warfare in the Classical World. John Warry. P 83.

mccardey
03-03-2013, 09:19 PM
At the Battle of Gaugemala, 331 BC, Darius III deployed chariots with scythed wheels against Alexander the Great.

Before the battle, Darius had the ground levelled. The fact that he bothered tells us something.

"As for the scythed chariots, they proved a fiasco, as they had done nearly 70 years previously at Cunaxa. The Macedonians opened their ranks and allowed them to pass through while the light troops bombarded them with missiles, grasped the reins of the horses and dragged down the drivers." - Warfare in the Classical World. John Warry. P 83.

Oh. I was going to say parking.

jennontheisland
03-03-2013, 10:10 PM
Saddles with stirrups.

Early saddles were little more than a layer or two between you and bareback. Stirrups change the physics of sitting on a horse. They improve stability for the rider, manoueverability of the horse, and allow at least one hand to be free in the midst of chaos.

They also remove the need for a bulky car that is easily tipped and which can kill a horse when it upends.

ClareGreen
03-03-2013, 10:17 PM
Saddles with stirrups came in a long, long time after chariots went out, though.

jennontheisland
03-03-2013, 10:19 PM
And in between was the fall of Rome. Which meant no more roads being maintained. Chariots need roads.

benbenberi
03-03-2013, 10:48 PM
What made the chariot obsolete? Breeding bigger horses that could carry armed men into battle on their backs.

Cavalry were the super-weapon that tactically superseded chariots in warfare. (Chariots remained in use for sport racing for centuries after they were militarily obsolete.) Ancient cavalry was quite effective on the battlefield for many centuries before stirrups were used -- it was critical to Alexander's success, for instance.

A thousand years later, the introduction of stirrups was another technological change that revolutionized medieval fighting styles, but that's a separate issue altogether.

Drachen Jager
03-03-2013, 10:59 PM
I think Chariots made themselves obsolete, by simply being ineffective for the cost and hassle.

As was pointed out above, they needed level terrain and near-ideal conditions to have any kind of effectiveness, and even then a decent tactician could neutralize them with ease.

WriteKnight
03-04-2013, 02:00 AM
Their application was limited to mostly level and firm terrain. Very few battles are fought under ideal conditions.

Cavalry was cheaper, easier to move and maintain - there was an overlap between the use of cavalry and chariots however - they didn't just 'swap out' one day.

fadeaccompli
03-04-2013, 02:16 AM
Ahah! So it does look that while I could justify the continued existence of chariots under some conditions (they're all the rage in the capital this year!), they're definitely not going to be a plausible warfare tool in my setting unless I invoke some level of A Wizard Did It. Thank y'all kindly.

King Neptune
03-04-2013, 03:40 AM
Chariots never went completely out of use, but they have evolved greatly in the millennia since they were first introduced. Tanks are the most recent version.

frimble3
03-04-2013, 04:17 AM
I'm guessing a combination of bigger horses (not even big, big horses, just big enough to carry an armed man into battle at a good fast clip) and the chariots being comparatively expensive and complicated to make.
'Nova' has an episode on 'Building Pharaoh's Chariot', in which they try to recreate an Egyptian chariot, with local craftsmen using the methods and materials that would probably have been available at the time. Now experienced chariot builders would doubtless have done it faster and more smoothly, but it looks like all skinny poles, and delicate joins, constantly bounced and jarred as it moves along.
For an army's worth, there would have had to be a whole industry set up to build and maintain them, and would have added to the baggage train to keep them going in the field.

In addition, the driver didn't fight, he only controlled the horses, so you're using two men for one to fight. And the driver can't be just any random guy-with-a-whip, he has to be able to control the horses, work with the other chariots to avoid smash-ups, and understand what the fighting man needs, as far as using his weapons effectively. As well, the driver has to keep his head down, because if he's disabled, the whole thing grinds to a halt. Some skillis required.

blacbird
03-04-2013, 08:40 AM
My guess would be individually mounted warriors. Much more maneuverable. But before that, the Hittites (who invented chariots, as I understand), beat the crap out of Egyptian foot soldiers.

caw

mirandashell
03-04-2013, 04:32 PM
I've always thought chariots were more for looking impressive than actually fighting in.....

Sarpedon
03-04-2013, 06:33 PM
I also add my vote to bigger horses. 'Natural' horses are pretty small, and ugly, and early domestic horses were basically the same size as they are.

melindamusil
03-05-2013, 01:56 AM
Something else - if I recall correctly, the thing that made chariots useful was for creating a stable platform to fire an arrow or spear. As firearms changed (from bow-and-arrow to guns) their use declined.

Sarpedon
03-05-2013, 02:26 AM
I think they were obsolete long before guns.

I recall reading that chariots were used side by side with cavalry in the 3rd century BC in China. The big chinese chariots would have three guys in them.

The seemed to become obsolete during the Roman period, more or less worldwide. I wonder if this could be tied to a mass migration of bigger horse using people, or if people everywhere more or less simultaneously bred the bigger horses.

Drachen Jager
03-05-2013, 02:37 AM
Just doing some reading. Two Roman tactics basically rendered chariots ineffective.

Caltrops, and wooden posts dug into the ground in a row in front of the infantry.

Looking up scythed chariots they are notably one of the least effective military units of all time, there being only two recorded instances where they tipped the battle the right way, and one of those instances was because they caught a poorly prepared and badly disciplined foe by surprise.

WriteKnight
03-05-2013, 04:24 AM
The size of the horse isn't that important regarding chariots. They can be pulled by one, two or three horses. And honestly, mounted light cavalry doesn't require a big horse.

The Irish were riding bareback, and on saddles without stirrups, on 'small' horses, and doing quite well against the armored English right up through the 14th century. And of course, the plains indians were quite formidable on small mustangs well into the 19th.

It is simply more efficient to put one man on one horse, for use over uneven terrain, than two men in a chariot.

(Yes, I teach mounted combat, and yes, I've ridden and driven in a chariot.)

Layla Nahar
03-05-2013, 06:53 AM
I guess another point to consider might be - what made the chariot effective? Like, why did people take to using them? And didn't they coincide with the bronze age? (I used to know a lot more about this...)

Mark Jacobs
03-10-2013, 08:48 PM
Historian Robert Drews has speculated ancient chariots were used primarily as a mobile archery platform with a driver and an archer aboard. Accordingly, military/martial history expert Joseph Svinth says around 750 BC the Assyrians developed bridles and bits that allowed riders to control individual horses while shooting a bow and arrow which lead to the eventual decline of chariot usage.

ECathers
03-12-2013, 05:36 PM
I second WriteKnight on the horse-size issue. Larger horses were only needed due to the development of heavy armor such as chain and plate. It's also likely that larger horses were originally developed after the invention of the plow and wagon since a larger stronger horse was needed to pull those. (Though oxen were commonly used for those functions).

Here's a rather long (but on first glance interesting) article on chariot history. I haven't yet read the full, so I'm not yet sure what the author's conclusion is re your question http://filebox.vt.edu/users/bhollenb/EDCI5314/portfoliobkh/html/History_of_Chariot_Warfare.html

WeaselFire
03-13-2013, 12:15 AM
But my (admittedly cursory) research isn't telling me why chariots stopped being used in warfare.
Turned out the world wasn't flat. :)

Seriously. Horse-drawn warfare became obsolete when wars stopped happening on orderly, flat, clear lands. The Middle East had deserts that were flat rock plains, chariots worked fine. Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the steppes of Eastern Europe, they didn't work well. Greeks, Romans and so on rarely bothered with them, although they stayed around for transportation much longer. Roman roads were built to fit chariot wheels, and the track width of a Roman chariot became the track width of the railroads as well.

Mounted cavalry took over, moved to mounted knights and eventually motorized infantry.

Jeff

mirandashell
03-13-2013, 02:45 AM
And chariots were built to fit the width of a horse's bum.


So there you go. From a horse's arse to a train. True progress.

Medievalist
03-13-2013, 03:22 AM
Turned out the world wasn't flat. :)

Horse-drawn warfare became obsolete when wars stopped happening on orderly, flat, clear lands. The Middle East had deserts that were flat rock plains, chariots worked fine. Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the steppes of Eastern Europe, they didn't work well.

They worked rather well for the Celts. Note that the Celts were building roads in Ireland long before the Romans arrived in England—some of them specifically intended for use by chariots, others designed to be used by wagons.

The Celtic *kar inspired both Modern English Car and Chariot (Latin carrum derived from Gaulis Karros; Latin carrum, carrus specifically referred to Gaulish two-wheeled chariots used in war).