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The Roman News: Sporting News – text only version

A DAY AT THE RACES

Illustrated by ANGUS McBRIDE

 

<Image: Close-up track-side view of a chariot race before a Colosseum crowd>

FIRST PAST THE POST: Charioteers lash their horses in a desperate race for the finish line.

IS CHARIOT RACING a waste of time? After all, at least 400,000 people spend one day a week just at the racetracks in Rome. The Roman News asked one regular racegoer: What’s the appeal?

 

Some people call the races a “childish passion”. Do you agree?

 

Well, I don’t know about childish, but they certainly make you passionate! By the time the chariots—anywhere from four to twelve of them—shoot out of the starting gates, I’m already shouting for my team. By the third lap, I’m wishing my charioteer would lash his horses even harder.

 

Then it’s the seventh lap—the horses go for the finish line, and the whole crowd is on its feet and screaming.

 

Don’t some people get a bit carried away?

 

Well, yes, I suppose the younger men get over-excited, and fights can spill out onto the streets.

 

But it’s just because everyone wants his or her favourite team to win. I support the Greens, but all four teams have their devoted fans—some people go for the Blues, the Reds, or the Whites.

 

What about the dangers on the track?

 

Chariots are pushed onto the walls sometimes, where they are tipped over or their wheels smashed. And since the drivers have the reins looped around their waist, many of them cant avoid being dragged beneath the hoofs and wheels of other racers.

 

But you don’t think a day at the races is a waste of time?

 

No, I definitely don’t! And neither do thousands of others. After all, there are five racetracks in Rome alone, and most cities around the Empire have at least one of their own. Let’s face it, chariot racing is here to stay!

 

<Textbox on right> STAR RACER The most celebrated charioteer in our entire history is Diocles, who raced for the Reds. We look back at his brilliant career. - FIRST WIN: AD 122 - RACED FOR: 24 years - ENTERED: 4,257 races - WON: 1,462 times - RETIRED: AD 146, aged 42 years

 

Extracts from The Roman News by Andrew Langley and Philip de Souza, Candlewick Press, reproduced with permission of Walker Books, text © Andrew Langley 1996.