In our previous blog, we had a look at the general picture of the chariot race depicted in the central portion of the large mosaic discovered in Lyon (ancient Lugdunum). Here are some additional observations!
In this view, there are many interesting details of a chariot race that may not be visually represented anywhere else.
We know that in general there were four major “teams” that were in play in the Roman world: the reds, whites, blues, and the greens. In the lower-left, note that charioteers are clad in red and white. The two charioteers above the spina are clad in blue and green!
There are two rectangular pools that form the basis of the spina. They were filled with water which seems to be a unique arrangement. Note also, the pyramid in the left portion of the spina—many Hippodromes/Circuses had pyramids or obelisks).
In the lower right, there is a figure with two jugs—evidently, he wet down the track and may have cooled down the axles of the chariots. In the upper left, the standing person may have a whip to urge the teams on—or it may be some type of cutting instrument that could be used to free horses and charioteers from chariots that had crashed.
In this image note the two figures (children?) dressed in blue between the two portions of the spina. They are ready to present the winner of the race with the prizes of a palm branch and a laurel wreath.
In the left rectangle note the obelisk and then the rack that holds seven “balls” and the blue man attending it. In the typical seven-lap race the balls were lowered to keep count of the laps. In the right rectangle of the spina there is a similar counting contraption. Also, in the right portion there are seven dolphins—I am not certain of their function. In the left rectangle there are also seven dolphins, but those are spewing water out of their mouths (click here to view).
This large second century Roman Mosaic that was discovered in Lugdunum (modern Lyon) in 1806. On it, the details of a chariot race in the circus, or hippodrome, of Lugdunum is depicted. It is 16 feet long and 9 feet wide.
It is surrounded by a floral design, inside of which is a guilloche pattern, and inside of that the arena of the circus where 9 chariots are racing. No seating of the circus is represented and indeed the circus of Lugdunum originally had wooden seats that were destroyed by fire.