COME WITH ME TO THE CHARIOT RACES

March 29, 2016

 

Come with me. I’ve gone many times. We have twelve or more races in the hippodrome almost once a week, namely on every holiday, festival, and special occasion. Excitement builds as you anticipate the fanfare to signal the first race. You watch the starting gates spring open; feel the ground thunder as the chariots rumble into the arena; thrill in the scent of the richly-oiled leather on the teams’ straps, protective gear, and fastenings; and choke on their swirls of dust as the fans’ voices merge into a universal roar.

 

The fans love to see a driver demonstrate his skill by fouling another, even though it’s against the rules. Once I saw a driver reach out and grab the bridle of his rival’s horse, pull on the bit, and force the rival’s chariot back while his own sprang forward. Another time I saw a driver scrape his opponent’s chariot with his own, and then, as he surged ahead, he broke the leg of his opponent’s horse with one of his wheels. All the while, the fans are playing charioteer themselves, streaming with sweat as they lash their imaginary horses to drive them to victory.

 

The races are exciting, but the excitement soars when a charioteer, splendid from helmet to boots in his faction’s color, captures the inside track, or alas, when there’s a spill or a crash. The last time I was at the races, drivers from both the White and Blue factions forced a Red charioteer into the median just as he was about to execute his last deadly turn. Following the crash, his four-horse team dragged him around the circus while the hooves of the other horses trampled him. Before he could cut the reins, his chariot splintered, his bones snapped, his team of horses stampeded, and the spectators yelled until their voices croaked. But all I saw were the backs of the fans who, enthralled by the spectacle, stood on their seats flourishing their fists.

 

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