Peter's Railway

Chariot Racing in the Ancient World

Dirk Bennett sheds new light on the origin and history of chariot racing as a sport, and explores its popular and political role from pre-classical Greece to the fall of the Roman Empire.

When you had covered the open stretch of the track, the part where it narrows and is enclosed by the long spina with its channel and lap counter caught you from our gaze. But when the turn round the far post restored you to our view, your second string was in the lead; your two opponents had passed you, and you were lying fourth. The two drivers in the middle hoped that the leader would swing out to the right on one of the turns and allow them to slip inside him and secure the inner berth. You kept your horses reined back, reserving your effort for the seventh lap. Sweat flew from horses and drivers, and the roar of the crowd grew louder ...
(Sidonius, Carmina XXIII, p360)

Once the horses had passed, officials hastened onto the course to clear it from debris before the chariots reappeared for the next lap and water was sprinkled onto the sand to settle it.

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