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Charioteer facts

Ten fun facts you probably didn't know
(from Roman Mystery XII, The Charioteer of Delphi)


diagram of the Circus Maximus in the 1st century AD (from The Charioteer of Delphi)

1. The Circus Maximus in Rome seated nearly a quarter of a million people! (250,000)

2. Chariots were very light so they could go as fast as possible, and were probably made of wicker and leather; it would have been like driving a basket on wheels!

3. Most chariots were pulled by ungelded stallions; two for a biga (2-horse chariot) and four for a quadriga (4-horse chariot)

4. Chariots completed seven circuits, marked by dolphins (sacred to Neptune, god of the sea and also of horses) and eggs (sacred to Castor and Pollux).

5. Charioteers wore leather helmets and jerkins in the colours of their factions (green, blue, red or white)

6. A charioteers would tie the reins around his waist and put a sharp knife in his belt; if he was thrown from his chariot he could cut himself free!

7. Some charioteers began training while they were still children, and many stars of the hippodrome would have been in their teens!

8. A charioteer (or horse) who had won over a thousand races was called a miliarius.

9. The races were always run counter-clockwise. (Not that the Romans had clocks...)

10. Chariot racing was the most popular spectator sport in ancient Rome – even more popular than gladiatorial combats!


the Circus Maximus today