It was as though Rome had gone mad for entertainment.
Emperors continued to proclaim feast days until half of the year
was taken up by holidays. Races were held over the broad empire.
In Rome they were to be seen in the Circus Maximus where 260,000
spectators were often present to see the dare-devil charioteer
race seven times around the perilously tight track. The competition
was fierce as the charioteers urged their horses onward; as the
drivers attempted by any ruse to throw a competitor into a spill;
as the sparsor at one of the turns threw water onto the smoking
overheated wheels. The pounding hoof beats, the tumult from the
mob, the ceremonial splendor of the setting, all contributed
to the spectacle. The drivers were skillful and they risked their
lives for high stakes -- the palm and wreath of victory and great
sums of money to the winner. It is said that Diocle, during his
racing career, won nearly nine million denri (approximately twenty-six
million dollars in our modern currency.) Lew Wallace describes
such a race in his well-known novel Ben Hur.
The chariot in this spectacular statue was
copied from a Roman chariot which F.A. Franzoni reconstructed
in the seventeenth century from actual pieces which had been
found. It is now to be seen in The Vatican Museum in Rome. Equestrian
statues have for centuries been a supreme challenge to sculptors.
The skill manifested in this work is apparent in the anatomical
accuracy of the rendering of the two horses and the human figure,
the realistic detail of the chariot and the complete grace of