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Ancient Roman Chariot Racing

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Chariot racing originated in ancient Rome c. sixth century BCE (Source 1). Not only was it popular in ancient Rome, but also in ancient Greece. Chariot racing has been a part of history for centuries as it brought both entertainment and an all day event that all looked forward to.

Chariot racing was a sport which took place in a type of arena called a "circus" (Source 1). The most popular place for this event was the Circus Maximus (Source 2). It was Rome's largest astrodome holding up to 25,000 people (Wikipedia). The point of the game was to come in first place by being the first person to go around the circus seven times (Teacher Source). Seems easy but it wasn't, falls were popular and once the charioteer (driver) fell with his horses he was either out of the picture to even come in second or he was dead. Although this was an extremely dangerous sport, the fame acquired with being the best was remarkable which is most likely the reason people dared to participate. Chariot racing was one of the most popular sports if not the most popular due to its availability to all social classes (Source 4).

The charioteer was usually a slave but there were at times other drivers. The chariot was drawn by two, four, or six horses (Source 2) with the charioteer leading the horses to turn, speed up, and so on. The chariot races drawn by two horses were known as "bigae", four as "quadrigae", and six as "sejuges" (Source 4). If a certain slave won enough races, he could buy his freedom and become a freedman.

The chariots were designed for speed and quickness. They were made out of lightweight (Source 2) wood and were not bulky like military chariots or ones used for reinforcement of riots. Other chariots like those would be constructed of metal for sturdiness and strength. The stand for the racing charioteer was not secure (Source 2), he had to balance himself and restrain himself from falling while steering at the same time. The charioteer was not safe either due to any protection around him (Source 2), therefore clearly depicting the job of the charioteer as dangerous and important.

This event was fairly expensive and needed to be sponsored. The event would be sponsored by a dignitary who was usually a wealthy man who also starts the event (Source 4). The event would be started by the chariots getting into place and the dignitary dropping a white flag to ignite the race. There were usually twelve races in one day but was later doubled to twenty four races per day. Because there was seven laps to run throughout each race the charioteer had to be strategic in how he wanted to run the race. Pacing the horses was important for the end when speed was the factor to pull it off. Although not spoke of highly, gambling was a popular factor in these races as it was one

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