The Hippodrome was an ancient Roman design to hold horse and chariot racing.The most famous one-The Circus Maximus- was 600 metres long and 200 metres wide. It could hold up to 250,000 people (1/4 the population of Rome).
It was built into a hillside, and the material dug out was used to create support on the other side of the building. Seats ran in tiers around the u-shaped arena (except for the open end ). A fence ran down the middle - called a Spine- to make laps.
Chariots were pulled by 2 - 4 horses, and were driven seven times around the ring at extremely fast speeds. Great skill was needed and sometimes a lot of accidents happened, and drivers were often trampled to death. Big crowds turned out to see the teams. There were four teams - reds, white, blues and greens - and each team, and their fans wore these colours. Huge bets were placed on the races.
At one end of the track, there were 12 boxes, where the chariots wait. The judges sat above, who announced the start of the race, by dropping a white handkerchief. The rope in front of the horses was lifted and the race began.
Drivers were famous and made a lot of money; Gaius Apuleis, charioteer of the reds, a Spaniard, aged 42 years , 7 months and 23 days. He drove his first chariot for the whites in AD 122. He won his first victory with the reds in AD 131.
Grand Totals; he drove for 24 years, started 4,257 races and won 1,462 of them. In all he won a total of 35,863,120 sesterces (an inscription found in Rome). The Emperor's palace was behind the Circus Maximus, and he had a special box where he could sit without even leaving the grounds of the palace. He attended most of the races that took place.
The races were an occasion to dress up. The ladies all dressed up in their best gowns, as did the men. People wore a lot of jewellery. Even the horses sometimes had pearls threaded into their manes and tails.