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How important was chariot racing for the Romans?

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Classics Coursework, How important was chariot racing for the Romans? Racing has been a pastime for humans ever since we were able to tame animals and since we have had the technology to allowed us. There are so many forms of racing in the world today that have been shaped through hundreds and thousands of years. What is it that attracts us to racing? Is it the speed, potential crashes or even just the atmosphere? To answer this question many things have to be considered. To start with lets look at the start of the Rome, at the first celebration of the Consualia in honour of Consus (an ancient god of agriculture) the rape of the Sabine Women is believed to have happened. Romulus (founder of Rome) held chariot races at this celebration. The Sabine people - An ancient tribe from the mountains of central Italy, were invited to watch the chariot races. During this time Rome had no women, the chariots were a distraction, as the men were watching the Romans kidnapped the women and took them for their own wives. This shows a few things, we can see firstly that chariot racing has existed from the very beginning of Rome, which obviously means it holds a lot of importance to the Romans. This sport also was the foundation of the plan for getting the Romans their women, and just the fact they used it over anything else shows its significance. ...read more.


This is much larger than the majority of any sports ground in Britain can hold. If we think about it constructing a football ground takes quite a lot of time, and this is assisted with perfect planning and high-tech machinery. Obviously the machinery was not available then and so the time and man power put into producing this would have been immense, Why would this much effort, money and time be spent on something unless it was going to have a large importance. The races were important with the emperors to, a good show could gain you many supporters. It was obviously also a good way to celebrate any victories or festivals. It seems nearly all Emperors were almost obsessed by the races. The emperor Caligula loved the sport so much that he would be worried about the well being of the horse he supported so much that he "filled the neighbourhood with troops to ensure complete silence" - Suetonius. Another called Vitellius was a fan of the blues, when he heard a group of me chanting "down with the blues!" he had them executed. But it was not only emperors, who were unreasonable and wanting their horse to have the advantage, many lead tablets have been found with inscriptions on them. They are curses that the opposition have put on to a certain team, player or horse "I adjure you, demon whoever you are, and I demand of you from this hour, from this day, from this moment, that you torture and kill the horses of the Greens and Whites and that you kill in a crash their drivers...". ...read more.


This shows importance as well as it separates the people in to classes of status, which happens in just about all societies. When the Romans realised how useful horses could be they began selective breeding to produce specialised horses (that differed for racing, agriculture etc). The fact that horses were breed to produce special racehorses shows that there is actually importance in the games - the importance being the size of the spectators. The Romans enjoyed competing, this was because they were an outside people and liked to show off. The different colours provided them different sides to join and support. Just like now at our racetracks, bets were put on the winners, this would have obviously got the gamblers in Rome to attend and so the chariot racing also provides another pastime enjoyed by Romans. However, not much betting is mentioned and therefore I believe these bets would have just been between friends and sometimes not for money "young men, who like to shout and swagger and make bets with their girl-friends at their sides" Juvenal Satires 11.197. If we look in conclusion "How important was chariot racing for the Romans?" we can see that the Romans for many reasons would have seen the chariot racing as important. This is because thinking about it the chariot racing was not just about the actual race, but much more. In summary we can see it involved team spirit, bets, social life and status, blood lust for crashes, idolising racers (and horses) and a good way to celebrate for emperors. ...read more.

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