Roman Chariots & Chariot Races Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Tammie Mihet

Tammie has taught elementary school for 14 yrs. and holds an MA in Instructional Technology

Heart pounding, blood racing, you fight to stay in front knowing that winning this race could mean your freedom! In this lesson, discover the world of ancient Roman chariot racing and experience the thrill of competition.

Ancient Racing

Your heart is pounding as you race around the bend for the third time. Only four more laps to go and you are almost half a lap ahead of your competition. You hear the crowds cheering you on, but the dust is thick and your horses are starting to lag. You don't know if you can hold on to your lead, but you must, for if you win this chariot race you might earn enough money to buy your freedom!

Reenactment of a Roman Chariot Race
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The Chariot

The Roman chariot was a two- or four-wheeled cart usually pulled by horses. The chariots used in racing were two-wheeled and made of wood so that they were lightweight. This made the chariots perfect for maneuvering around the track; however it would have provided little protection for the rider!

The Horse

Racing chariots were normally pulled by teams of two to four horses. The horses were beautifully decorated; some even had gorgeous gems braided into their mane or tail. Winning horses became very famous, however because chariot racing was very dangerous for them, their life expectancy was short.

The Charioteers

The charioteers were the fearless drivers of the chariots. They were usually slaves, who upon winning enough races could actually earn enough money to buy their freedom. One of the most famous Roman charioteers was a man named Diocles. Upon retiring after 24 years of racing, he had earned a present day equivalent of 15 billion dollars. Can you imagine? That makes him the highest paid sports star in history!

To protect themselves, charioteers wore helmets, knee pads and shin pads in case of a crash. They even carried a curved knife fastened to their waists or backs to cut themselves free if they got entangled in the reins.

Roman Charioteer Representing the Blue Team
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Cheering Your Team

Races could have up to 12 chariots competing in the seven lap race. Each charioteer was a member of one of four teams: the red team, blue team, white team, or green team. Each driver wore the color of their team, which made it easy for each team's loyal fans to passionately cheer the team to victory. Like present day, teams even had their own scouts who would search wide and far for new talent to make their teams even stronger.

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