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Chariot-racing in ancient Rome
Bronze sestertius with the Circus Maximus
This coin was struck for the emperor Trajan (reigned AD 98-117) to commemorate his renovation of the Circus Maximus, the greatest chariot-racing track of antiquity. Given the restricted space, a remarkable amount of detail can be seen. It is likely that the designer of the coin chose to depict the features that Trajan restored.
There are three statue groups of quadrigae (four-horse chariots), one above the triumphal arch at the curved end around which the chariots raced, and two at each corner of the straight end, where the race started and finished. The central barrier dividing the race track, the spina, is also lavishly decorated with an obelisk and turning posts at either end. Between the posts is an equestrian statue and even a tiny shrine. On the far wall of the circus is another shrine, with a rayed-sun device, dedicated to the sun-god Sol.