spectacle_lecture_11_5_09 - Lecture notes 11/5/09: chariot...

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Lecture notes 11/5/09: chariot racing Origins of chariot racing --chariot races seem to have originated in Etruscan religious ritual, either to appease an underworld god or to propitiate an agrarian god (the Etruscans were a people living near ancient Rome, who were slightly older than the Romans and who were eventually absorbed into the Roman population) --the Romans lost sight of this connection (as they forgot about most things having to do with the Etruscans), but very late in the Empire (6 th c. CE), people started speculating again about religious, symbolic, and occult significance of the races: the 12 starting gates for horse teams = the months or the signs of the Zodiac the circular track = the cycle of the seasons the 7 laps = the 7 days of the week the 24 races per day = the 24 hours of the day --chariot racing seems to have taken place since the beginning of Roman history, and we have evidence for it lasting after the breakdown of the Western Roman Empire in the 6 th c. CE; in other words, it was the longest-lasting kind of Roman spectacle – it outlasted the Romans themselves! venue for chariot races --the setting of the races was the Circus Maximus (the “Great Track” or “Great Racecourse”), not the Colosseum, not a theater --it was built long before the Colosseum, way back before the Republic, in the period of the early kings of Rome! --it was built on an area of level ground between two long hills – perfect for raised seats --the Circus was built long and low, like a NASCAR track, with a wall down the middle of the course ( spina , “backbone”) creating a barrier to go around and cones or pillars ( metae ) that marked the end points of the spina --there were starting gates, where horses burst out of holding pens --the Circus was mostly made of wood, which meant it was prone to fires --it was made more elaborate during the early Empire: Augustus added an Imperial box He also added an Egyptian obelisk to the spina , as another reminder of Rome’s conquest of the world --every Roman town of any size would have its own circus, where they would hold races regularly Technical details --a day of racing began early, because early emperors (Nero, etc.) filled out a typical
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This note was uploaded on 11/30/2010 for the course BIOS 101 taught by Professor Plantz during the Spring '08 term at UNL.

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spectacle_lecture_11_5_09 - Lecture notes 11/5/09: chariot...

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