What would a day at the Circus Maximus be like for a chariot racer?
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It is difficult to answer this kind of question with any degree of precision or certainty because the evidence is so scanty. In general our sources for the classical world come from the higher social classes and they don't tell us an awful lot about popular life and culture. However, some funeral inscriptions and surviving graffiti suggest that at least some chariot racers enjoyed a degree of celebrity, particularly among females and presumably among males for perhaps different reasons. But for most racers it was probably just another day at the office because they would have been hired by one of the four big teams, the Reds, the Greens, the Blues and the Whites (russati, prasini, veneti, albati) on a regular or irregular basis according to ability and results. Chariot racing was dangerous, especially at the metae or turning points at either end of the oval track. It was here that competition for the inside track was fiercest and dirty tricks most likely. Most sport in the ancient world was unregulated by comparison with today, so it is quite possible that the sort of thing depicted in the film Ben Hur was not a million miles from what actually went on. And we may be sure that the gambling led to all sorts of underhand stuff too, the throwing of races and so on, just as still happens today.
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