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A quadriga (Greek: τέθριππος, translit. tethrippos, lit. "four horses") is a car or chariot drawn by four horses abreast and favoured for chariot racing in Classical Antiquity and the Roman Empire until the Late Middle Ages. The word derives from the Latin contraction of quadriiuga, from quadri- : four, and iugum : yoke;

The four-horse abreast arrangement in quadriga is distinct from the more common four-in-hand array of two horses in the front and two horses in the back.

Quadriga was raced in the Ancient Olympic Games and other contests. It is represented in profile as the chariot of gods and heroes on Greek vases and in bas-relief. During the festival of the Halieia, the ancient Rhodians would sacrifice a quadriga by throwing it into the sea.[1] The quadriga was adopted in ancient Roman chariot racing.

Quadrigas were emblems of triumph; Victory or Fame often are depicted as the triumphant woman driving it. In classical mythology, the quadriga is the chariot of the gods; the god of the sun Helios (often identified with Apollo the god of light) was depicted driving his quadriga across the heavens, delivering daylight and dispersing the night.[2]

The word quadriga may refer to the chariot alone, the four horses without it, or the combination.

Marcus Aurelius celebrating his Roman triumph in 176 AD over the enemies of the Marcomannic Wars, from his now destroyed triumphal arch in Rome, Capitoline Museums, 176–180 AD

Classical sculpture[edit]

Genesis 41:42–43: "And Pharaoh … made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt." (miniature from the Paris Gregory, a 9th-century Greek manuscript, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Modern sculptural quadrigas are based on the four bronze Horses of Saint Mark or the "Triumphal Quadriga", a set of equine Roman or Greek sculptures, the only representation of a quadriga to survive from the classical world, and the pattern for all that follow.[3][need quotation to verify] Their age is disputed. Originally erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, possibly on a triumphal arch, they are now in St Mark's Basilica in Venice. Venetian Crusaders looted these sculptures in the Fourth Crusade (which dates them to at least 1204) and placed them on the terrace of St Mark's Basilica. In 1797, Napoleon carried the quadriga off to Paris, but, after Napoleon's fall, in 1815, the horses were returned to Venice by Louis XVIII, King of France. The legitimate king did not want to be the illegitimate owner of a treasure. Due to the effects of atmospheric pollution, the original quadriga was retired to a museum and replaced with a replica in the 1980s.

Quadrigae also appear on the frieze of the Libyco-Punic Mausoleum of Dougga, which dates to the 2nd century BC.


Though quadrigae were usually drawn by horses, occasionally, other animals or mythological creatures were employed in spectacles and in art. Elephants were sometimes used to draw quadrigae in the Roman imperial period, and more frequently elephant quadrigae were depicted on coins and other official images. In art and sculpture, quadrigae ridden in by the gods were appropriate to their characters; Neptune's quadriga was drawn, for example, by hippocampi (mythological sea-horses).

Modern quadrigas[edit]

Some of the most significant full-size free-standing sculptures of quadrigas include, in approximate chronological order:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Farnell, Lewis, The Cults of the Greek States vol. ΙV, Cambridge University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-108-01546-2, p. 20, note b
  2. ^ Smith, s.v. Helios
  3. ^ Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of the State of New York, Volume 18, by American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, 1913, page 344
  4. ^ "A Point of View: The European dream has become a nightmare". BBC News. 18 May 2012.
  5. ^ Brandenburg Gate. Archived February 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Berlin – Offizielles Stadtportal der Hauptstadt Deutschlands – Berlin.de.
  6. ^ "World's Columbian Exposition : Photographic Archive : The University of Chicago".
  7. ^ Sprague, Elmer, Brooklyn Public Monuments: Sculpture for Civic Memory and Urban Pride, Dog Ear Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, 2008 p. 76
  8. ^ Rhind, John Massey; Scott, John (31 May 2018). "Victory and Progress" – via siris-artinventories.si.edu Library Catalog.
  9. ^ "Historic Adventures". mnhs.org.

External links[edit]


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