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This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Reconstruction of a Roman carriage, Romano-Germanic Museum, Cologne
Reconstruction of a Roman carriage, Romano-Germanic Museum, Cologne

It may come as a surprise to many that the Romans ran cart rentals, but it’s true!1

Coach houses where you could rent a car were located mainly near the city gates, and the centers were closed to all vehicles during the day. In front of the entrance to the coach house, there was a board on which the types of cars for hire were listed along with the rental price. It was possible to rent a car both for the purpose of transporting goods and for trips to more distant places.

Contrary to appearances, the choice of carriages for the journey was not poor. You could find a small two-wheeled cart called birota and it could hold a maximum of two people. The essedum was similar to it, however, it is more spacious than its predecessor. You could also buy a covinnus a universal, two-seater and small but very comfortable vehicle.

The coach house also offered four-wheeled carriages with as many as seven seats called raeda similar to them called carruca. The difference between them was that carruca had a roof. However, in raeda the roof function may have been some kind of material attached over the heads of the travelers. Some carrucas had places to sleep.

However, all the previous ones are superior to carpentum in terms of luxury, it was, so to speak, a car for the elite. In addition to what carruca had, carpentum offered a much more comfortable interior decorated for it. The right to use this vehicle had, among others, pontifexes, flamini, matrons and vestals, and from the times of Octavian Augustus, it was also used as a means of transport for empresses, especially during great public ceremonies.

In turn, the more magnificent and specially decorated carpentum funebre was used to transport the ashes and images of deceased women from the imperial family.

Author: Piotr Szuba (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
Footnotes
  1. This curiosity concerns the beginning of the 2nd century CE.
Sources
  • Alberto Angela, Imperium, Warszawa 2019
  • Anna Anzorge-Potrzebowska, Przykłady przywracania potępionej pamięci za pośrednictwem monet w cesarskim Rzymie, "Magazyn Numizmatyczny" Nr 46 (2020), str. 5-29

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