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FOR AGES 3 YEARS TO 18 YEARS
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A chariot is a carriage that is driven by a charioteer, using horses for moving power.
The ancient Roman chariot was designed to be a lightweight, small, open, two-wheeled conveyance drawn by two or more horses. The horses were attached side by side and consisted of a floor with a waist-high guard at the front and sides, unlike military chariots.
Racing chariots were made of wood and braced with iron and bronze to support and protect the charioteer, who had to balance himself on the axle as he drove. Chariot racing was very unsafe because the driver could easily be thrown from the open chariot and, as a result, be trampled or, even worse, dragged to their death if the reins were caught.
Often the chariot racers and the horses suffered injuries and lost lives. The charioteer carried a curved knife to cut the reins to stop getting trampled. Apart from this, they wore helmets and other protective gear.
Chariot racers were usually enslaved people or people from low-income backgrounds. There were opportunities for them to become wealthy and buy their freedom if they were successful at chariot racing. This ancient sport appealed to all socioeconomic classes, from enslaved individuals to monarchs.
Chariot racing has a long history dating back to ancient Rome. In Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Era(Eastern Roman Empire), it was the most popular sport. It was a part of Homer's heroes' seasonal festivities and was also present in the Ancient Greek Olympic Games.
The Romans took up this tradition and turned it into one of the most popular forms of mass recreation in ancient Rome. The first instance of a chariot race appears in Homer's depiction of Patroclus's funeral. It is one of the most popular among other ancient sports in history.
Chariot racing was one of the most interesting and dangerous athletic events in Ancient Greece for both horses and humans. It all began around 700 BC. One of the most famous chariot racers was a Roman named Porphyrius the Charioteer. He raced during the fifth and sixth centuries.
During the Ancient Roman time, young nobles used to race their Roman chariots around the seven hills of Rome. The Roman chariots drawn by two horses were known as bigae, while four-horse chariots were known as quadrigae. Triage, sejuges, and septemjuges (three, six, and seven horses, respectively) were less common.
The horses too became quite well-known and famous, due to their performance. They were purpose-bred for Roman chariots and trained at a young age, starting at the age of five. Chariot racing flourished during the Byzantine Era. However, like all sports, practices of cheating and bribery were common.
According to Roman history, chariot racing was introduced by Romulus to distract Italian men shortly after he founded Rome in 753 BC. Romulus invited the cities around him to celebrate the Consualia festival. Horse races and chariot races were held during this event. Several Roman religious festivals included chariot races. A parade featuring charioteers, music, costumed artists, and god images was held following these events.
Chariot races were popular during this period because they served to demonstrate social class and political strength and were frequently used as a surrogate for battles. It was tradition to hold them on the Roman Emperor's birthday.
The danger added to the excitement and interest of spectators. Women, who were restricted from attending many other sports, could watch chariot races.
The race would consist of seven laps. There could be as many as 12 chariots racing at the same time. When the chariots were ready, the race's moderator, generally a high-ranking magistrate, threw down a white cloth, all the gates swung open at the same time, ensuring all participants a fair start.
Races were held in a counter-clockwise direction, with starting places determined by a lottery. Different sources say ceramic pots filled with olive oil were handed to the winners of a four-horse chariot race, which was a very lavish prize.
At the ancient Roman Chariot Race winner's ceremony, the presiding magistrate presented the winning charioteer with a palm branch and a garland as the people clapped and cheered. More substantial monetary awards for the stable and driver will be presented later.
In the Roman Empire, there were four teams, known as factions. They were known as the red team, blue team, green team, and white team. The Reds were attributed to Mars, the Blues to the sea, sky or autumn, the Greens to Earth or spring, and Whites to zephyrs. Spectators would dress in the same hue as their favorite teams. Later, these charioteers developed fan clubs and factions with extravagant attire and hairstyles, much like modern sports.
Roman chariot races were held at the Circus Maximus. It is a massive stadium that is oval shape and could accommodate around 150,000 spectators. The stadium was designed to have a rounded end that could have people sitting all around and two long, parallel sides. The Circus Maximus was the epicenter of chariot races in Rome. Circus Maximus was constructed between the natural slopes of Palatine and Aventine Hills.
Racing chariots would do the circus circuit seven times, meaning seven laps were required to complete the race. There were four-horse and two-horse chariot races in the ancient Olympic Games, as well as other Panhellenic Games. The chariot race was less prestigious than the 0.12 mi or (195 m) foot race, but it was much more important than other equestrian sports. The single-horse race was a late addition to the games and was discontinued early on.
Chariot racing was added to the Olympics for the first time in 680 BC. With time, chariot races became one of the popular sports and were stretched from one day to two days to accommodate them. It was considered a more important event than horseback riding, which had been dropped from the Olympics.
The Roman Circus was a place where new chariots were made and assembled, chariot races, gladiatorial combat, horse race, and other important events of the Roman Empire were performed. The races started to decline in the seventh century once the Arabs and the Roman Empire had concluded their war. In 549 AD, the Circus Maximus hosted the last chariot race in Ancient Rome
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