Return to Circus Maximus


"His horses were brought down, a multitude of intruding legs entered the wheels, and the twelve spokes were crowded, until a crackle came from those crammed spaces and the revolving rim shattered the entangled feet; then he, a fifth victim [the other four were the horses, themselves], flung from his chariot, which fell upon him, caused a mountain of manifold havoc, and blood disfigured his prostrate brow."

Sidonius Apollinaris, To Consentius (XXIII)

Terracotta "Campana" plaques present the wild animal hunts and races of the Circus in great detail. In this scene, of which there are two variants and at least eight example, an accident (naufragium or shipwreck) is depicted. The two horses in front have tripped and fallen to their knees, the pole and yoke of the biga upended and the driver thrown, the pair behind panicked and rearing. In the background, there are the monuments of the track barrier: the three metae of the turning post, where most accidents occurred, as the charioteer tried to take the turn as tightly as possible; the seven dolphins, representing the laps to be run; and, on the right, a tower used in the venationes.

This plaque is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna).

Reference: A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II (1890-1896) edited by by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; Gladiators and Caesars (2000) edited by Eckart Köhne and Cornelia Ewigleben.

Return to Top of Page