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Chariot-racing in ancient Rome
Three bronze strigils with scenes from the Roman Circus
Before exercising or competing athletes applied oil to their bodies to keep the dirt out of the pores of the skin and perhaps also to avoid sunburn. Afterwards a strigil was used to scrape off the accumulated sweat, oil, dirt, and sand from the arena. These three strigils would have hung from a ring (part of which still survives), probably together with an aryballos (oil-flask) and a sponge, forming a portable set.
The set is decorated with scenes from the Circus Maximus, stamped into the metal and inlaid with silver. On one side is an altar with festoons and seven eggs on top, referring to dedications made by competitors; then follows a biga (two-horse chariot) driven by a charioteer with a cap and holding a stick, and finally three cone-shaped markers on a plinth denoting the turning point at the end of the spina, the barrier down the middle of the track. On the other side are similar markers, a domed temple, an altar with a group of the goddess Cybele and a lion, an obelisk and another altar.
This set probably belonged to a successful or at least a wealthy sportsman, with a keen interest in chariot-racing or perhaps himself a winning charioteer.