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E´SSEDUM rarely E´SSEDA--AE (Sen. Ep. 56.4), said to be a Celtic word (Jornand. de Reb. Get. 100.2; cf. Ginzrot, 1.377), the name of a chariot used, especially in war, by the Britons, Gauls, and Belgae, perhaps also by the Germans, (Verg. G. 3.204; Serv. ad loc. ; Pers. 6.47).

According to the account given by Caesar (Bell. Gall. 4.33), and confirmed by Diodorus Siculus (5.21, 29), the method of using the essedum in the ancient British army was very similar to the practice of the Greeks in the heroic ages, as described by Homer and in the article CURRUS The principal difference seems to have been that the essedum was stronger and more solid than the δίφρος, that it was open before instead of behind; hence the driver was able to run along the pole (de temone Britanno excidet, Juv. 4.125), and then to retreat with the greatest speed into the body of the car, which he drove with extraordinary swiftness and skill. From the extremity of the pole he threw his missiles, especially the cateia (Val. Flacc. Argon. 6.83). It appears also that these cars were purposely made as noisy as possible, probably by the creaking and clanging of the wheels (strepitu rotaum, Caes. l. c.; compare Tac. Agric. 35; Esseda multisonora, Claud. Epigr. iv.); and that this was done in order to strike dismay into the enemy. The drivers of these chariots were called in Latin Essedarii (Caes. Gal. 4.24; Cic. Fam. 7.6); there were about 4,000 of them in the army of Cassibelaunus (Caes. Gal. 5.19). Tacitus (Agric. 12) observes that the driver of the car ranked above his fighting companion, which was the reverse of the Greek usage.

The essedum was adopted for purposes of convenience and luxury among the Romans (Propert. 2.1, 76; Cic. Att. 6.1; Ov. Am. 2.16, 49). Cicero (Phil. ii. 24.58) mentions the use of it by Antonius as a piece of effeminacy disgraceful to a tribune of the people: in the time of Seneca it seems to have become common; for he reckons “esseda deaurata” among things “quae matronarum usibus necessaria sint” (fr. 48, Haase). We find emperors and generals using it as a travelling carriage (Suet. Calig. 51; Galb. 6). As used by the Romans, the essedum had no seat for the driver: the traveller drove himself (Ov. l.c.), and always, it would seem, with a pair of horses, whereas with the cisium the number varied. The essedum, like the cisium, appears to have been kept for hire at the post-houses or stations (Salonem quinto esscdo videbis, Mart. 10.104). [MANSIO] The essedum must have been similar to the COVINUS except that the latter had a cover. (Marquardt, Privatl. 712 f.) The essedarii of inscriptions are explained by Marquardt (Privatl. 706) as the builders, not the drivers of esseda: but other essedarii at Rome seem to have been popular favourites in connexion with the gladiatorial shows, and these perhaps were captive Britons compelled to fight in the arena (Suet. Calig. 35; Claud. 21). [J. Y.]


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