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Chariot-racing in ancient Rome
Glass beaker with chariot-racing scene
Glass vessels with scenes from the circus or the arena may have been intended as souvenirs, showing not only a picture of the sporting event but the names of the participants, who would have been well known to the fans of the games, just as sporting heroes are today.
On this beaker the two lower bands of decoration depict the four competing quadrigae (four-horse chariots). The typical architectural features of the race-track, such as the lap-markers, are also shown. The inscribed upper band records that the charioteer Cresces beat his opponents Hierax, Olympaeus and Antilocus.
Like footballers today, a charioteer might move to a different faction, for a fee. The careers of certain outstanding charioteers are recorded in inscriptions: when Marcus Aurelius Polyneices died at the age of thirty, he had 739 victories to his name in all, 655 for the Reds, the others for the factions of the Greens, Blues and Whites. Fans, naturally, stayed loyal to one faction through thick and thin.