If you’ve seen the movie Ben Hur, you already have seen some pretty intense chariot racing.  It is thought that Romulus, Rome’s founder, is the father of the sport.  And, it was the most popular form of entertainment in ancient Rome.  Chariot Races were held on each of the over 100 holidays per Roman year.

Circus Maximus

Many chariot races were held at the famous Circus Maximus.  Charioteers would race around an oval track more than 1,000 feet long.  In the center of the track was a long narrow divider, and chariots raced the wall’s length making sharp turns at each end.

chariot circus maximus

Image credit: Samuel Ball Platner

Deadly consequences

With many chariots and sharp turns, crashes occur quite often.  Some suggest that the stadium’s design purposely maximizes the danger and collisions were often fatal.  Many charioteers initially survive the wrecks.  But the charioteers often tied the horse’s reins around their arms and as a result, the horses often dragged the charioteers to their deaths.

chariot racing

Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Chariot racing makes a comeback

With all this danger, it seems a bit odd that chariot racing would make a comeback in the 1920s and 1930s.  But it did just that.  So, this edition of Oddities Uncovered is about motorcycle chariot racing.

This time around, horses would not be part of the equation.  In their place, motorcycles would become the means to race.  Pictures taken around the time in countries like Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and parts of Europe, show people racing motorcycle-powered chariots instead of horses as in the Roman Era.

Rider teams

At first, a person rode a motorcycle in front pulling the chariot and its rider behind.  But later, the motorcycle riders would disappear.   The charioteer would control the chariot.

chariot racing

Initially, a rider in the front controls the chariots. Photo credit: www.visualnews.com

According to a September 1922 Popular Mechanics article, the chariots were made from wine barrels cut obliquely in half.  Then the builders would attach automobile wheels to complete the chariot.  Often, the charioteers dressed in Roman-era clothing.

Solo charioteers in control

As motorcycle chariot racing evolves, more than one motorcycle pulls the chariot.  To control it, racers attached leather reins to the motorcycle’s throttle.  This allows the charioteer to control both motorcycles at various speeds.

chariot racing

Later the motorcycle riders disappear and the charioteers controlled the motorcycles. Photo credit: www.visualnews.com

Multiple motorcycles

As if two motorcycles are not enough, racing chariots could have up to four motorcycles.  Unfortunately, the passage of time has taken its toll.  Not much more information is readily available about the sport.

chariot racing

Here, four motorcycles provide the power. Photo credit: www.visualnews.com

For more information on motorcycle chariot racing, head on over to Unbelieveable-facts.com.  And for a more detailed history of the original chariot racing, you can go Thegreatcoursesdaily.com.

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