Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire by Fik Meijer
Oct 20, 2010
These days when we think of spectacle in ancient Rome, we immediately think of gladiators in the arena. Yet gladiator shows only took place anywhere between ten and twenty days per year, and had a maximum audience of some 50,000 people at the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum).
Chariot races happened regularly, and attracted some 150,000 people to the Circus Maximus. Charioteers were highly-paid superstars who had flocks of devoted followers. One such fan even threw himself onto a funeral pyre so that he could perish along with the remains of the charioteer he worshipped. And even when gladiator fights became a thing of the past, chariot races continued to be an essential part of Roman and Byzantine culture for centuries more…
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