Tag Archives: Lyon

What Happened in a Hippodrome/Circus — Part 2

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!

The central portion of the mosaic. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

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.

 

Detail of the “spina.” Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

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).


The whole mosaic. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

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.

What Happened in a Hippodrome/Circus — Part 1

On a recent trip to France, we visited the archaeological museum in Lyon, France (ancient Lugdunum).  Among the many wonderful archaeological objects on display in that modern, wonderful, museum was a mosaic from the second century A.D.

The Large Chariot Race mosaic from the second century A.D.  The central porton of the mosaic depicts nine chariots, each being pulled by four horses, running a race in a counterclockwise direction around the “spina.” Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The second-century Roman Mosaic 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.

The mosaic 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.

On the left side of the image the starting stalls are represented. The central porton of the mosaic depicts nine chariots, each being pulled by four horses, running a race in a counterclockwise direction around the “spina.” The spina is composed of two rectangular pools in which there was water.  In the lower left and upper right of the mosaic two chariot crashes are represented!

View of the eight (maybe nine?) starting stalls that are on the left side of the mosaic.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Above the center “stall” are thee sponsors of the games. The chief sponsor, in the middle, can be seen dropping a cloth to start the race.  To the left of the three officials—from our perspective—is a man dressed in blue manipulating a lever that will open (at the same time) the gates to the eight stalls from which the chariots, pulled by their four horses, emerged.

Below the three sponsors is a man, standing erect and again in blue, who seems to be supervising the contest.  Above the three sponsors is a large vase from which the plants that surround the mosaic spring forth.

More on the mosaic in the next post.