A Chariot Racing Day in the Roman Times
The Circus Maximus was the oldest and the largest of all the circuses
where chariot races took place holding up to 250, 000 spectators. It
was traditionally founded in the sixth century BC by Tarquinius
Priscus, the fifth king of Rome. In 329 BC, permanent starting gates
were constructed and, in 174 BC, that they were rebuilt and seven
large wooden eggs were set up to indicate the completion of each lap.
The track was originally formed by the low ground of the valley.
Inside, the track was covered with a bed of sand which sparkled with
bright mineral grain. The lower seat tier was made out of marble, the
second was made out of wood and the third seemed to have offered
standing places only.
This is a model of Circus Maximus in completion. All around it is the
seating and there is a tiny building in between where the judges must
have been. The charioteers must have started on the left in the
starting gates; the Romans called it the Spina Metae. They would go
down where they would have to make a very sharp turn with other
charioteers in the way. It must have been hard unless they were very
The races started with a procession of chariots through the
Processional Gate, the horses sleek and well groomed, the charioteers
splendid in their colourful costumes. Statues and Gods were paraded:
Jupiter, King of the Gods, Mars, God of War, and Venus, Goddess of
Love and beauty and Neptune. People in the crowd wore the colours of
the team they supported.
Most drivers were proud of their horses if they won the races. They
were very highly trained, probably more than today, some horses became
famous. Tuscus and Victor were two famous horses who won 386 prizes
and won 429 times. The Emperor had a favourite horse called Incitatus.
'Incitus had a marble stable, an ivory stall, purple blankets, and a
jewelled collar.' Horses like Incitatus must have been very lucky.
Some people in the crowd looked for powerful beauty of the stallions,
the richness of their accoutrements, perfection of their training and
all the agility and bravery of the drivers and riders. Some people
watched it because they gambled money into it. A few minorities hated
chariot racing. A Roman called Pliny is one of them. He couldn't
understand the appeal of the circus. 'Chariot races but I am not the
least bit interested in that kind of entertainment.' He explains his
point of view by saying 'There's never anything new or different.'
He's amazed by the amount of people who watch it and thinks those
people are childish. 'I am amazed that so many thousands of men time
after time have such as childish desire to see horses and men driving
chariots.' He thinks if spectators watch the beauty and running of the
horses, then that would be good but complains that...