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Headword: *parh/|oros i(/ppos
Adler number: pi,628
Translated headword: attached-beside horse
Vetting Status: high
And [sc. also attested is the phrase] 'in the traces',[1] [meaning] with the bridles outside of the yoke.[2]
Greek Original:
*parh/|oros i(/ppos. kai\ *parh|ori/h|si, tai=s e)/cw tou= zugou= h(ni/ais.
Trace-horses -- sometimes both left- and right-outrunners (Wiesner, pp. 64-67; Powell, p. 193) -- were attached alongside a chariot's yoked pair, as was the mortal horse Pedasos by Automedon (cf. delta 1248 note) in Homer, Iliad 16.152 (web address 1), with scholion. Adler also cites Lexicon Ambrosianum 8. A further scholion to Homer, Iliad 16.471 (web address 2) refers to the trace-horse as o( parh|wrhme/nos i(/ppos, the horse having been hung beside, or simply the parh/|oros; cf. pi 561. The headword adjective (more common without iota subscript) enjoys two additional, but divergent figurative usages at Homer, Iliad 7.156 (web address 3) and 23.603 (web address 4). It has been argued, however, that the Book 7 passage reflects a misunderstanding of Iliad 16.471 on the part of the poet; cf. pi 627 note.
The purpose of Iliadic trace-horses is unclear. It could be to kick and bite (Leaf, note to 16.152) -- which might inspire the headword's usage at 23.603, reckless or irrational -- or to serve as a spare. Scott (p. 437) disagrees with the first suggestion, citing Xenophon, Anabasis 3.2.18, "nobody ever died in battle from the bite or kick of a horse" (web address 5), but endorses parh/oroi as reserves. In all the carnage of the Iliad, however, only two horses are wounded or killed: Pedasos and Nestor's horses at Iliad 8.80-88. Both are trace-horses. At no point does any Homeric parh/oros transfer to the yoke. Delebecque (pp. 98-102) therefore theorized that an extra chariot horse was less a practical combat advantage than a poet's fictional device. At a dramatic cusp, the trace-horse is quickly cut loose from the rest of the team, thus allowing the hero, his chariot, and the plot to proceed normally. A study of krater and amphora illustrations shows that two-horse chariots prevailed in the Bronze Age, and four-horse configurations appeared in the post-Geometric period (after 700 BCE). But only in the 8th century BCE were three-horse chariots employed (Wiesner, ibid.), a date which coincides with the probable time of the Iliad's written composition (Powell, pp. 218-219). The archaeology thus argues for the authenticity of single-trace-horse episodes, even if in Homer they are anachronistic of chariot technology during the siege of Troy some four centuries earlier.
Detailed descriptions of races at Homer, Iliad 23.334-341 and Sophocles, Electra 720-722 reveal how trace-horses were utilized for precise chariot control. The charioteer alternately let out and drew back the traces (cf. note 1 below). Thus could the inside trace-horse become a pivot, and the outside horse draw ahead, applying torque to drag the vehicle around a race-course pillar. The inside trace-horse could also be guided so as to graze an obstacle and effect an even sharper turn. Crouwel (p. 151) considers Homeric charioteering accounts to be authentic descriptions of how elite, heavily-armed warriors were transported to and from battle. Conceivably, trace-horses were added so that the chariot could negotiate obstacles in the field and be brought quickly about in dire moments.
[1] Homer, Iliad 16.152. The traces or parhori/ai tethered the trace-horse to the chariot. Adler also cites Lexicon Ambrosianum 150. It is uncertain whether the traces passed directly to the car or instead through a special ring mounted on the pole or yoke (Janko, p. 337, pp. 378-379). In any case, severing the traces, as Automedon does at Iliad 16.470- 4 (web address 2), evidently freed a chariot and its yoked team from a disabled parh/oros.
[2] cf. sigma 277 gloss.
J. Wiesner, 'Fahren und reiten,' Archaeologia Homerica, Bd. I, Kap. F, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968
B.B. Powell, Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991
W. Leaf, Commentary on the Iliad, London: Macmillan, 1900
J.A. Scott, 'Purpose of the extra chariot horse in the Iliad,' The Classical Journal, vol. 15, no. 7, April 1920
E. Delebecque, Le Cheval dans L'Iliade, Paris: Klincksieck, 1951
J.H. Crouwel, Chariots and Other Means of Land Transport in Bronze Age Greece, Amsterdam: Allard Pierson, 1981
R. Janko, The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. IV (Books 13-16), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5
Keywords: athletics; chronology; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; epic; history; imagery; military affairs; science and technology; stagecraft; tragedy; zoology
Translated by: Ronald Allen on 23 January 2008@02:10:19.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented n.1; tweaks and cosmetics) on 23 January 2008@04:11:31.
David Whitehead on 16 September 2013@06:21:39.
Catharine Roth (tweaked links) on 13 June 2021@17:08:30.
Catharine Roth (tweaked another link) on 13 June 2021@22:28:29.


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