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p585 Harmamaxa

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp585‑586 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

HARMAMAXA (ἁρμαμάξα) is evidently compounded of ἅρμα, a general term, including not only the Latin Currus, but other descriptions of carriages for persons; and ἅμαξα, which meant a cart, having commonly four wheels, and used to carry loads or burthens as well as persons (Hes. Op. et Dies, 692; Hom. Il. VII.426, XXIV.782). The harmamaxa was a carriage for persons, in its construction very similar to the Carpentum, being covered overhead and inclosed with curtains (Diod. XI.56; Charito, V.2, 3), so as to be used at night as well as by day (Xen. Cyrop. IV.2 §15); but it was in general larger, often drawn by four horses, or other suitable quadrupeds, and attired with ornaments more splendid, luxurious, and expensive, and in the Oriental style (Diod. XVII.35; Aristoph. Achar. 70). It occupied among the Persians (Max. Tyr. 34) the same place which the carpentum did among the Romans, being used, especially upon state occasions, for the conveyance of women and children, of eunuchs, and of the sons of the king with their tutors (Herod. VII.83, IX.76; Xen. Cyrop. III.1 §8, IV.3 §1, VI.4 §11; Q. Curt. III.3 §23). Also, as persons might lie in it at length, and it was made as commodious as possible, it was used by the kings of Persia, and by men of high rank in travelling by night, or in any other circumstances when they wished to consult their ease and their pleasure (Herod. VII.141; Xen. Cyrop. III.1 §40).

The body of Alexander the Great was transported from Babylon to Alexandria in a magnificent harmamaxa, the construction of which occupied two years, and the description of which, with its paintings and ornaments in gold, silver, and ivory, employed the pen of more than one historian p586(Diod. XVIII.26‑28; Athen. V p206E-->; Aelian, V.H. XII.64).

The harmamaxa was occasionally used by the ladies of Greece. A priestess of Diana is represented as riding in one which is drawn by two white cows (Heliod. Aeth. III. p133, ed. Commelini), and the coins of Ephesus show, that this carriage, probably containing also symbols of the attributes and worship of Diana, added to the splendour of the religious processions in that city.


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