357: Chariot by Arthur Cotterell

by Gerard


357.1: Cotterell, Arthur. Chariot: From Chariot to Tank, The Astounding Rise and Fall of the World’s First War Machine. New York: Overlook Press, 2005. 298 pp. ISBN 1-58567-667-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Science
  • 350: Public administration and military science
  • 357: Mounted forces and warfare
  • 357.1: Horse cavalry

There are two great inventions in the early history of humanity: writing and wheels. While writing helped transmit information from place to place faster, the wheel actually got people from place to place faster. Attach newly domesticated horses to the front of a basket with wheel and you have yourself a chariot. Early chariots were invented in Mesopotamia around 3000 BCE and they are seen in mosaic reliefs dated to five hundred years after that. They served as parade vehicles, battle taxis for archers, and used in races for public spectacle. For a while, they were the greatest weapons used in large-scale warfare, but strategists and inventors found ways around them. Forcing the battle onto uneven terrain or immobilizing the horses left the chariots unable to effectively take the field. Arthur’s Cotterell’s Chariot is a spectacular look into the history of, uses for, and stories about the first great war machine.

Cotterell’s history moves around the globe in search of new and inventive source material about chariots. He follows its use from Mesopotamia to Egypt to Europe proper, and then to India and China. While there are great stories and illustrations of chariots, there is no full definitive timeline included. Nor is there a good bibliography, and he even goes so far as to use Homer’s works and the Bible as source material. I would have liked a slightly better scholarly approach to the subject, but the history was interesting nonetheless. Any history buff or military history enthusiast should give this one a look-see.