Terracotta plaque with a chariot-racing scene
Roman, 1st or early 2nd century AD
A 'Campana plaque'
Plaques of this type were named after Marchese Giorgio Campana, who had a large collection and published the first study of them in the 1840s. They were originally used to decorate the upper walls of porticoes and shrines, and occasionally private houses. The scene here shows a quadriga (four-horse chariot) thundering towards the three obelisks of the meta (turning post). The charioteer wears a cap, leggings, and a short tunic with fasciae (protective leather straps). The reins are passed tightly around his waist. Disappearing behind the meta is a jubilator, a horseman who rode among the chariots to encourage the contestants during the race. The maker's name, Anniae Arescusa, appears in a panel above the horses.
Quadriga races were among the most popular competitions held during the ludi ('games'). They took place in the stadium or circus, a long narrow structure purpose-built for racing, found in every major city of the Empire. The largest by far was the Circus Maximus in Rome, which could accommodate 250,000 people. The winners of important races could become very wealthy celebrities, and the very partisan enthusiasm of the supporters of the various racing teams (the 'reds', 'whites', 'greens' and 'blues') often led to physical violence in and out of the stadium.
Other quadrigae races can be seen on a lamp and several beakers in The British Museum.
L. Burn, The British Museum book of Gre (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
H.B. Walters, Catalogue of the terracottas-1 (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1903)
E. Köhne and C. Ewigleben (eds.), Gladiators and Caesars: the po (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
Height: 30.500 cm
Length: 40.500 cm
Height: 30.500 cm
GR 1805.7-3.337 (Terracotta D 627)