The Ancient Romans knew how to make their politicians work for them, and often demanded “bread and circuses” from political candidates. This lead to the races being free which meant anyone could go. Gangs were seen rioting through the streets in celebration of their favourite charioteer’s victory. Fights broke out between the fans of victors and losers. Just like modern day sports fans. Many friends would meet up and have a good time at the races supporting their team. Latin for greatest circus, the Circus Maximus was the first and largest circus in ancient Rome, and it could seat about a quarter of the entire population of the city.
Most Romans did not have weekends off, working seven days a week but if there was chariot racing they would take the day off since everyone would be at the races and no one would buy anything. Men and women were allowed in the audience, making it a popular family entertainment which allowed a larger variety of people to watch and meant that more people would watch. This was not down to it being violent but to the fact that it was free and anyone could watch. Since men and women were allowed to sit together this offered a great opportunity for a man to chat up a woman he finds attractive.
This could be another reason why chariot races were so popular. The Circus Maximus was around 2000 ft long and 625 ft wide. That is about the size of five modern football fields laid end to end. This meant it was a great spectacle since it was so large and made it very exciting. At its largest, the stadium had three tiers of seating and an estimated capacity of up to 270,000 spectators which allowed for a great atmosphere at the races and made it more popular without any violence which makes me think that violence was not the only reason to watch the races.
The chariots started from twelve gates, six on either side of an entrance. Above sat the presiding official whose white flag signalled the races to begin. At either end of the racetrack were the turning posts, around which charioteers raced their steeds at break-neck speeds. This did mean that it was very dangerous. There were thirteen turns, for seven laps, a distance of five miles. This made the races very exciting since the chariots were going at incredible speeds. The races were only fifteen minutes long so there was high octane action in a short amount of time which made the races very exciting.
There were also around 24 races a day which meant there was a lot happening in a day and many people would stay for the day. The charioteers were split into four teams, the whites, the reds, the greens and the blues. This made the races more fun because you went to support your team rather than just watch the races. This also led to betting and many people would come just to bet on the different teams. To conclude there are a lot of reasons for coming to the races and the danger of the races isn’t one of the main reasons for watching the races.
Courtney from Study Moose
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