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Chariot Racing



Chariot racing was another popular event in the Olympics, and the sport may have been played ever since the chariot was invented! There were separate races for
 
two-horse chariot races (called the synoris) and four-horse races (called the tethrippon). Also, chariots pulled by younger horses or foals were sometimes
 
given a separate race. Although not as important as wrestling or the foot-race, chariot racing was still popular - a whole extra day was added to the Olympic Games to
 
include this sport when it was added to the list of events over two thousand years ago! Also, mechanical gates and signals are thought to have been invented specially
 
for chariot-races!


  

Like horses today, in Ancient Greece it was very expensive to buy, train and feed a chariot-horse - after all, they had to be made strong enough to race for up to a staggering

nine miles! Because of the cost, only very rich people owned chariot horses. Many Greeks showed off their money by racing their chariots in the Games, which were seen by

many Greeks as places to demonstrate how civilized and rich they were.  Races themselves were very dangerous for the chariot drivers - each lap often had a sharp turn at

each end, and chariots could easily crash into the walls of the arena, called a hippodrome, killing the driver and even the strong horses!


Also, the driver's feet were strapped in to the chariot to stop them bouncing around, and so if a crash did happen the poor driver would become stuck! Unlike in modern car

races, the drivers were given almost no protection - they wore only a long-sleeved cloth shirt called a xystis. Because it was so dangerous to drive a chariot, the rich owners

of the horses hired a professional driver to do it for them or else made a slave or family member do it! There are stories of wealthy Greeks entering many of their own

chariots in the same race - one year a Greek General called Alcbiades entered seven chariots and managed to come first, second and fourth in a single race!  


Although only men could compete in the Games, it is known that rich women sometimes entered their chariots in races - because they themselves did not have to race, they

could win! Because the chariots had to go fast but still be controlled by a strong man, the drivers were often teenagers who were tall but still strong - what would you think if

you were asked to race a deadly chariot in a couple of years time?? Horse riding was another competition in the Ancient Olympics, although unlike in modern competitions

which tend to test the skill of the jockey, the Greek horse races were all to do with the endurance and speed of the horse, with sprint-races of up to four and a half miles! Like

chariot racing, slaves were usually the ones made to ride.

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