Mar. 5 - Gladiators and Caesars 4.docx

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Western University
Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2300
David Lamari

Mar. 5, 2013 On the Starting Line with Ben Hur: Chariot-Racing in the Circus Maximus – Gladiators and Caesars Chapter 4 Charioteers and circus factions  Horses and charioteers were entered by racing clubs or racing associations  Although there was state support, the officials organizing the races had to dip deep into their own pockets  There were four factions, the two main groups of the Blues and the Greens and the two subsidiary factions of the Reds and the Whites  The number of participants could always be divided by four, each faction having one, two or three teams on the starting line, so that there could be four, eight, or more usually twelve teams running in all o Any number of vehicles could have been on the starting line in the east  The Roman charioteers were generally slaves or freedmen  It was perfectly usual for professional charioteers to switch from one faction to another, although most of them committed themselves entirely to one of the factions sooner or later  The loyalty of the public was in general to the factions rather than the individual charioteers o If they were attracted by the speed of the horses or the drivers’ skill one could account for it, but in fact it is the racing-colours they really support and care about  Successful charioteers could amass huge fortunes  Many tombstones bear the information that the dead man was killed in a racing accident  By comparison with a gladiatorial career chariot-racing may be considered quite safe The horses  Shockingly brutal as the Roman attitude to animals could be, they were also capable of a positively sentimental love of animals for their own sake, particularly horses, and even more particularly racehorses  Nor were the horses forgotten when the victory prizes were awarded – many depictions show palm branches stuck in the horses’ harness  At the end of a successful career in the arena horse could expect not the knacker’s yard but retirement on a pension  The horse had honourable burial  These expensive racehorses were bred and trained on imperial and private stud farms  Hard, healthy hooves were of great importance  The horses’ joints were subject to great stress on the sharp 180-degree bends at the turning posts  There was also the risk of injury, which must have been greater for the horses than the charioteers in the frequent crashes  Injuries meant that losses of animals were high, since broken bones in horses were practically impossible to mend, and a horse with a fracture usually had to be put down  Many horses still survived hundreds of races and went into honourable retirement The chariots  The harness of the Greeks and Romans is said to have consisted of a strap around the neck and a girth around the belly, exerting a strangulatory effect on draught animals and preventing them from pulling loads weighing more than half a metric tonne  The Romans often tied up the tails of their racehorses with ribbons because otherwise the long, flowing hair of the tail could easily have caught on the pole, the chariot or the traces  The chariot is actually pulled by the shoulder muscles, not the chest  The body of the chariot, which unlike the war chariot or triumphal chariot had to hold only one man  The chariot was low – low center of gravity and small wheels allowed for better maneuverability and stability  Interwoven straps formed the floor  They had thin iron tyres  The weight of a Roman racing chariot was 25-30 kg o Since the charioteers will certainly have been rather lightly built men, the entire weight the horses had to pull in the race can be put at a maximum of 100 kg. Equipment and racing technique of the charioteers  Greek drivers of the classical period wore a long chiton and no protective clothing  Etruscan frescoes of the same period already show charioteers in a short chiton and a helmet-like cap  The Romans developed protective clothing including a crash helmet made of leather or felt, a lacing of straps around the torso, and wrappings of leather or linen on the legs
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