Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2021
This chapter explores the central image of currus (chariot), and its top-of-line model, quadriga (the four-horse car), which occupy the most commanding position within the rhetoric of Roman transportation. Already a symbol of unique power and prestige due to its built-in, inherited features, this Roman vehicle takes most distinct shape in two powerful and complementary forms, the four-horse currus triumphalis, in which generals proudly paraded in the triumphal procession, and the currus circensis, the breakneck-fast racing vehicle of Roman chariot-racing. The chapter analyzes the rhetoric of currus in oscillation, alternating between examinations of some its winningest portraits of victory (on the battlefield and in the circus), on the one hand, and uncovering a series of unsettling representations of the danger and violence it claims to transcend. Visions of victorious currus in Ennius, in the story of Ratumena, and in Cicero are counterbalanced by an investigation of ‘chariot-talk’ in Plautus, explorations of the meaning of winning in Roman didactic, and telling versions of the story of Phaethon.