Pottery jar with a chariot-race
Roman Britain, 2nd century AD
Found at Colchester, Essex
This colour-coated pottery jar was locally made, either in the area of Colchester, or in the Nene Valley region of Cambridgeshire. It is decorated with a lively, though schematized depiction of a chariot race. The event is for quadrigae, four-horse chariots, and four competitors are shown in the middle of the race. Each is helmeted, dressed in a long sleeved jerkin and trousers, and holds whips and reins. The spirited rendering of the scene, made more vivid by the varied postures of the charioteers, suggests that the potter had actually been to a similar race.
It is highly appropriate that this pottery jar was found at Colchester, because the remains of a Roman circus were discovered there in 2004, and excavated by the Colchester Archaeological Trust. This is the first Roman circus ever discovered on British soil, and shows that chariot racing was familiar to at least some of the people of Roman Britain.
E. Köhne and C. Ewigleben (eds.), Gladiators and Caesars: the po (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)