Chariot Mount with Horse

Italy or Spain (?), 4th century

Bronze 17.8 x 14.6 cm

Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut


There are various theories for the use of chariot mounts; thus, the exact function of this and many others remains uncertain. Comparable mounts used in this fashion can be seen on a reconstruction of a Roman chariot in Cologne. The orientation of this piece seems to indicate that it was used on the left side of the chariot. The type—a double ring surmounted by a figure—is derived from the Middle East and ultimately from the ancient Near East. The majority of chariot finds have been in Thrace and Pannonia. The socket, which is flanked by S-shaped parts representing swan necks is decorated on the front with incised lines and tapers toward the top. Supported on the socket is a plinth surmounted by a horse walking to the left. According to de Aviles, this piece and a similar one now in the Musees des Antiquites Nationales at Saint-Germain-en-Laye are the only surviving mounts with horses not found in Spain, where three such examples have been found. Among them, the one in Madrid provides the closest parallel for this piece. The Hartford piece was found in Rome and was probably cast either in Italy or in Spain. Both mounts are thought to be of the fourth century. Their elegance and boldly sculptural quality probably indicate their use on ceremonial chariots.