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A modern recreation of chariot racing in Puy du Fou

Chariot racing (Greek: ἁρματοδρομία{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} harmatodromia, Latin: ludi circenses{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}) was one of the most popular ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine sports. Chariot racing often was dangerous to both driver and horse as they frequently suffered serious injury and even death, but generated strong spectator enthusiasm. In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, the sport was one of the main events. Each chariot was pulled by four horses.

In the Roman form of chariot racing, teams represented different groups of financial backers and sometimes competed for the services of particularly skilled drivers. These teams became the focus of intense support among spectators, and occasional disturbances broke out between followers of different factions. The conflicts sometimes became politicized, as the sport began to transcend the races themselves and started to affect society overall. This helps explain why Roman and later Byzantine emperors took control of the teams and appointed many officials to oversee them.

The sport faded in importance after the fall of Rome in the West, surviving only for a time in the Byzantine Empire, where the traditional Roman factions continued to play a prominent role for some time, gaining influence in political matters. Their rivalry culminated in the Nika riots, which marked the gradual decline of the sport.


Chariot racing sections
Intro  Ancient Greece  Roman era  Byzantine era  See also  References  Sources  External links  

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