From Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation, The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916, by Sir William M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL.D., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928; pp. 182-189.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation.



Chapter XIII


THE following questions are suggested by the two forms or words Apeme, Apene:  (1)  Which is the older of these forms? i.e. was the original form apenna (apāna) or apemma (apāma)?1  (2)  What is the difference originally between Hamaxa and Apene, or are they only names for the same object belonging to two different languages? Both are Homeric.

On the coins of Ephesus the Apêmê or “Sacred Apêmê” is often represented, obviously some car of antique form used to carry sacred things — religion often preserves old forms and old customs — it is four-wheeled, and has a rounded cover like the modern Turkish araba; the driver sits within the cover (as in the modern Anatolian conveyance); it is hung with wreaths, and is drawn (so far as coins show) by a pair of mules. This might suggest that the apene or apeme was a wagon for conveyance of articles, while hamaxa was a war-chariot. On the other hand Harmamaxa was mainly used as a family wagon for the use of women and children. Strabo says that the Celts used apênai in war (p. 200, iv. 5. 2); but that may only mean that they carried the material of war in such wagons, not that they employed apênai as war-chariots, for which their form is not 183 suitable. So Cyrus had in his army against Croesus camels to carry wheat, etc.; but that does not make the camel a war animal (as the horse is).

Further, the use of the form apême at Ephesus for a religious purpose might suggest that it was ancient, while apênê was a changed form in popular use; but this is far from certain, for apeme might be an Ionic form, while the popular form, apenna, may be both earlier and persistent.2 the latter would then be the Greek form of benna, the Gallic, Messapian, and Thrako-Illyrian wagon (see Deecke, Rh. Mus. xxxvii. p. 385). Zeus Bennios, in an inscription of the Prepenisseis near Altyntash on the upper Tembris or Tembrogios, is the wagon-driving god, inventor of the car, who gave its use to men, the peasant god who improved agriculture and transport. In that case the ethnic name probably was Prepennisseis, with which in J.H.S., 1887, p. 511, the Lycian Trebenna, Prebena, Trebena, Perbaina (ai = e), and Trebendai (Ptolemy), are brought into comparison and connexion.3 It was suggested there that Praipenisseis (with Praipenissos implied in the ethnic) is formed from Prepenna or some similar form, resembling the obscure Trebenna-Prebena of Lycia. Propniasa of Ptolemy is a popular variant (if not a mere corruption).4 The Lycian form, Trebenna, is assured by coins (A.D. 238-244); while the Byzantine forms are vulgar, and therefore nearer the original Anatolian pronunciation than the grecised name given on coins.5 Probably Prebenna is native 184 pronunciation, being a reduplicated form of a name derived from benna, while Trbenna is grecised by change of P to T by dissimulation: compare Perseus, the hero-founder of Tersos-Tarsos (P-TW-T), which gives rise to a meaningless Greek legend. Perseus-Bellerophontes was one hero.

It must probably be inferred that the original form was benna or abenna, modified to apêmê in the Ionic dialect. The four-wheeled wagon was introduced, perhaps, by the nomadic tribes of the plains of Southern Russia and Roumania. The Asiatic nomad Turks or Turkmens used horse transport or camel transport, and employed domesticated animals; even forty-five years ago the wagon was little used on the Anatolian plateau, and was regarded as an innovation of the Moslem Tatars who came into the country from Russia, an innovation that should rather be called a re-introduction. The Turks (or rather the Turkmen nomads, who are always distinguished from the Turks, even by contemporary Byzantine historians, and by all modern usage in the country: though few modern travellers put the distinction clearly)6 did away with the wagon, as they destroyed the agricultural stage and reduced society to the nomadic stage wherever they had the upper hand.7

A very rude kind of two-wheeled wagon, made with solid wheels connected rigidly with a wooden axle that revolved under the platform of the car with a frightfully loud creaking noise audible at a great distance, was used in those Turkish districts 185 where agriculture was practised on any scale;8 and the four-wheeled springless wagon, hiera apeme of Ephesian coins (which was coming into use again as early as 1881),9 was called a Tatar-araba. A wagon with springs, modified from the Tatar-araba, was beginning to be used by 1900, and quickly spread. All these vehicles were of native manufacture. Western vehicles were used in cities on the plateau, but were all imported. Now automobiles are becoming common; but the peasants still use the solid wheel and axle, revolving under the separate body of the cart.

The simple wagon, resting on an axle rigidly connected with a pair of wheels, was developed through the use of two (or three) round logs to move a heavy weight: the weight rested on two logs, and the third was ready to be slipped in at the front, as the weight was pushed on. The round log was cut to make a rigid wheel-and-axle; the wheel was solid; the harvest load was piled on a wooden frame which rested on the two axles; a pair of oxen yoked in front supplied the motive power; to the yoke was fastened the pole projecting from the wooden frame; the knot fastening the pole to the yoke seemed marvellous to the ignorant rustic; and thus was formed the wagon of Gordius, the gift of the god to his own people. The knot was an ingenious yet simple contrivance; the adaptation of various kinds of knot to various purposes is always puzzling to the unskilful, as much so to a modern landsman at sea as to those who admired the skill of Ulysses or of Gordius. The cart of Gordius was preserved 186 at Gordium, and the knot furnished a test for the future lord of the land: in other words, his successor must understand how to perform the work of the farm. According to the legend Alexander proved himself heir by cutting the knot, or in another form of the tale he pulled out the pin, whereupon the knot dissolved itself.

This simple form of wagon is still to be seen in the fields (as I have said) at the present day. On 27th April 1926 we examined one. It can be constructed by any peasant out of wood ready to his hand (which gives it an advantage, where carpenters are unskilful and few).

If we set aside bronze chariots, which were used in Egypt under the nineteenth dynasty (specimens in Cairo and Geneva), the invention of the apenna and of the war-chariot belongs to the age of iron, the last and worst of the ages according to the ancient view. The ox-wagon may be useful in the harvest field, and wherever time is of no value; but it can be of no value in travelling and would be an encumbrance in war. The war-chariot belongs to the age of bold and lawless invention; it is not the gift of God, but an elaborated device of man for strife and slaughter, and probably the first maker was accursed, like Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it into the power of men: if the “Freeing of Prometheus” had been preserved we might perhaps have authority for considering that Prometheus was punished for placing fire at the service of lawless hands, whereas the divine intention was to keep it a gift divine granted to man only as a blessing of God, but too dangerous to be used recklessly and capriciously. The too daring inventiveness of man, and the boundless development of his knowledge and skill, are regarded by the religious poets as unlawful.

Monsieur S. Reinach considers that the car with free-revolving wheels in Europe came in with the age of iron about 1100 B.C. The war-chariot as an effective weapon must be swift. Jabin, king 187 of Canaan, had 900 chariots of iron, and the effect of these on an untrained rustic army must have been tremendous, so long as they could move more rapidly than men; but they proved useless and an encumbrance in the Valley of Megiddo, when the Kishon was swollen by a rain-storm and the ground unsuited for their overwhelming charge at full speed.

The benna-apenna-apeme, so far as known, had a wheel with six or eight spokes: the Ephesian coins seem to vary; but the number is more likely to be cut short by the engraver than exaggerated. Eight is therefore the probable number. Such a wheel certainly is made to revolve round the axle-end. The wheel of the primitive ox-wagon was rigidly connected with the axle. The wheel may be indicated apparently by four spokes; but that means only that it was constructed in four solid pieces of wood, held together by a rim (which must have been of metal).

The Hittite name Tuana has been explained by Sayce as the town of chariots (tua), and tuati was a chariot-driver, grecised as Teattes and Tot (Tos): see Chapter XII. Probably a war-chariot was denoted by tua. In Homer the Hamaxa and the Apene seem to be practically equivalent, and never to be used of a war-chariot: both are drawn by mules. The war-chariot, ἅρμα  δίφρος, essedum, was drawn by two, three, or four horses, the diphros was strictly the frame or framework, placed on the pair of wheels and the axle, but the name is used also both for the entire chariot and for a species of chair or seat. Sayce shows me a sealing on which is a representation of a chariot drawn by four horses, with the driver seated on a seat or high stool, placed far back: the date is about 2300 B.C., and it was excavated near Kaisari of Cappadocia, close to the Halys.

As to the initial a in Greek apenna, compare with Thraca-Illyrian benna, Sayce points out that “the Hittite name for wagon is kuana :  benna therefore represents an older kwenna or gwenna” (as bana and bonok correspond to γυνή). The prothetic vowel 188 in apenna is usual before a double consonant kw. Phennion-Median road, i.e. road traversable by wagons, a word attributed by Hesychius to the Pamphyloi,10 must be a derivative from benna. This phennion was evidently the wagon-road from the Troad up the Rhyndakos to Syria, the traces of which Pausanias had seen on his travels in Maeonia and north-western Phrygia.11 The traces of such roads, apparently worn deep by wheels in rock, are found occasionally in Anatolia. The most important that I know are west of Ambararassi (Serpek) in Lycaonia, on the great Pisidian Route leading east to the pass of the Cilician Gates; but I have not been there since 1882, and Calder, who was in the neighbourhood in 1909 did not observe the wheel-tracks, nor did Callander in 1908. Such traces are easily missed by one who passes ten yards away to one side or other.

The god on the car, Benneus or Zeus Bennios,12 was the peasant-god, the trainer of men in the art of agriculture. He lives in legend as Gordius, whose ox-drawn car was preserved as a holy relic at the Phrygian Gordion. Deecke, loc. cit., connects with benna the Illyric name Bennus and the Illyrian and South-Italian family name Bennius, also the Thracian town Benna, car-town (Anatolian Tuana); compare Hamaxa in Bithynia, Hamaxia in Cilicia, Hamaxantia an Attic deme, Hamaxitos in the Troad. The dedication “to Zeus and the Benneitai priests that bear his name 189 (and are his descendants),” found near Altyntash, belongs to a familiar class; and Zeus here must obviously be understood as Benneus, in more grecised form Zeus Bennios. This whole valley stretching west and north-west from Altyntash, was an estate of the Emperors, and retained Anatolian forms and customs very late. The Emperor ruled the people as their god and lord, identified with the old native god, and the Benneitai were his priests, and interpreters of his will.



 1    A similar doubt arises in respect of δάρχνα — δραχμή :  πυθμήν — Skt. budhna : Ger. bodem, boden : modern Simav, ancient Sunawos, etc.

 2  I regard the Ionic dialect as a late development, and believe that the language of the Old-Ionians was closer to Aeolic than to fully developed Ionic; i.e. Kranna, not κρήνη, was the Anatolian original. Hence a form used in Ionic is not necessarily primitive.

 3  Those coins are so classed by Waddington and in B.M. Cat.; they are wrongly called Pamphylian in older numismatic classifications.

 4  Perhaps Prepenasa (cp. Olbasa, etc.), Prepniasa, Propniasa.

 5  It is found to be a safe principle that the rude native pronunciation is less hellenised than forms in literature or official records such as coins.

  6  On this distinction see Hist. Geogr. As. Min. p. 213. It is clearly stated by the Byzantine writers within fifty years after the Turks first appeared on the eastern frontier of Asia Minor towards 1070 (battle of Manzikert, 1071). Anna Comnena speaks of Tourkomanoi, ii. p. 284; while Nicetas, p. 156, and Cinnamus, 295, either call them Persai Nomades or describe them as nomads.

  7  The city population and the governing class continued to practise industries of various kinds and to maintain the Roman legal customs until the centralisation of authority at Constantinople gradually killed by oppression all old industries except where western European influence could maintain its influence.

  8  In 1884 I had a horse which had never seen a wheeled car, and got into an agony of panic on every one of the few occasions when it came within sight or even hearing of any wheeled vehicle.

  9  I saw the Tatar-araba in the eastern part earlier than in the centre and west of the plateau. It spread quickly westwards; in 1886 we found it impossible to hire horses in Konia, and were informed that there were now hardly any horses for hire, because horse transport had been replaced by wagon transport. In 1882 it was still easy to hire horses almost anywhere, but the first time I saw a wheeled Tatar-araba was at Sivas in 1881.

10  “Pamphylian” probably means only Anatolian, or taken from a dialect of Anatolia.

11  See above, p. 169 f.

12  The inscription mentioning Zeus Bennios, also Benneus of the Soenoi, was published first by Lebas-Waddington, No. 774; see also Hist. Geogr. A. M. p. 144. Soa occurs in the names Souagela (Steph. Byz.), Suassos (probably for Souassos, place of the grave, equivalent to Ballenaion, property of the Ballen, king), the city of the tomb of Midas: Waddington made a town Benneisoa, instead of separating the two words. Soa was the ordinary name used in inscriptions; but Benneisoa, Tomb of Benneus, is possible, although improbable. Benneuekê was the “land of the Benneu(s).” βεννει  Σοηνῶν was added in more native form at the end of the inscription.