Ancient Greece Chariot Races: One of the most popular games in ancient Greece, chariot racing was an important part of the Greek culture. The sport had huge political significance and the society was largely affected by it.
Ancient Greece Chariot Races
The Olympic Games are believed to have incepted from these chariot races. Legend has that Pelops founded the game in his own honor when he won a race and got Hippodamia’s hand in victory.
Chariot races in ancient Greece were held in the Hippodrome. Though both riding and chariot races were held here, chariot racing was more significant. The chariots were small two-wheeled vehicles drawn by horses.The horses varied from two, four and six in number. Mostly the owner of the chariot and the rider were two different people.
How did the chariot race take place?
Before the races began, the announcement of names of riders and the chariot owners was made. There were certain starting gates which were lowered to begin the race. Mechanical eagles and dolphins were also raised to mark the starting of the race.
The Hippodrome had a U shaped race track. All the teams participating in the race were made to stand in a line with the ones in the middle released last. For 320 meters they had to race in their respective lanes.
After this, a trumpet was blown indicating they could leave their lanes. The teams now entered the U shaped tracks which had an expanse of 576 meters. Different races with a different number of team members were held. In some variations, mules, stallions and asses were used instead of horses.
The Charioteers in ancient Greece:
The charioteers are believed to be the family members of the owners. Some say they could also be their slaves or even hired professionals. Mostly young and light weighted teenage boys were chosen.
The charioteers did not race naked, unlike in other events. Xyztis, a sleeved garment up to the knees tied with a belt at the waist was worn by them. This prevented them from getting hurt and kept away dust.
Women were neither allowed to watch nor participate in the ancient Greece chariot races. However, Spartan Cynisca who was the daughter Archidamus II is known to have been a winner twice.
The Chariots in ancient Greece:
Chariots were basically wood carts with open back and two wheels. War chariot was modified and made use of in these races. The ride was not a smooth one, what with only an axle supporting the entire cart.
The most dangerous part of these races was the turns. Extremely sharp and dangerous, these turns would turn lethal for many riders. The chariot would topple over as other teams raced past, crashing the rider in the event.
Ancient Greek chariot races were also held during festivals mostly for public entertainment. Olive oil, bronze, silver, and even corn were given out as prizes. The sport lost its popularity after the fall of Rome and the Nika riots.