« FöregåendeFortsätt »
celebrated for their swiftness. Pliny tells us, that it was thought prodigious in Phidippides to run eleven hundred and forty stadiabetween Athens and Lacedemon in the space of two days, till Anystis of the latter place, and Philonides, the runner of Alexander the Great, made twelve hundred stadia 9 in one day, · from Sicyon to Elis. These runners were denomi. nated hemerodromous,' as we find in that passage of Herodotus,' which mentions Phidippides. In the consulate of Fonteius and Vipsanus, in the reign of Nero, a boy of nine years old ran seventy five thousand paces between noon and night. Pliny adds, that in his time there were runners, who ran one hundred and sixty thousand paces in the circus. Our wonder at such a prodigious speed will increase, continues he,' if we reflect, that when Tiberius went to Germany to his brother Drusus, then at the point of death, he could not arrive there in less than four and twenty hours, though the distance was but two hundred thousand
paces, w and he ran with three post chaises with the utmost diligence.
2. Of the Horse Races. The race of a single horse with a rider was less celebrated by the ancients, yet it had its favourers amongst the most considerable persons, and even kings themselves, and was attended with uncommon glory to the victor. Pindar in his first ode, celebrates a victory of this kind, obtained by Hiero, king of Syracuse, to whom he gives the title of kelees, that is, victor in the horse race; which name was given to the horses carrying only a single rider. ? Sometimes the rider led another horse by the bridle, and then the horses were called desultorii, and their riders desultores; because, after a number of turns in the stadium, they changed horses, by dexterously vaulting from one to the other. A surprising address was necessary upon this occasion, especially in an age unacquainted with the use of stirrups, and when the horses had no saddles, which still made the leap more difficult. In the armies there were also cavalry called desultores, who vaulted from one horse to another as occasion required, and were generally Numidians.
. Plin. I. vii. c. 20.
P 57 leagues. 9 60 leagues. * ημεροδρομες.
s Herod. I. vi. c. 106. – 30 leagues. u More than 53 leagues. • Val. Max. I. v. c. 5, w 67 leagues. & He had only a guide and one officer with him.
3. Of the Chariot Races. This kind of race was the most renowned of all the exercises used in the games of the ancients, and that from whence most honour redounded to the victors; which is not to be wondered at, if we consider their origin. It is plain they were derived from the constant custom of princes, heroes, and great men, fighting in battle upon chariots. Homer has an infinity of examples of this kind. This being admitted as a custom, it is natural to suppose it very agreeable to these heroes, to have their charioteers as expert as possible in driving, as their success depended, in a very great measure, upon the address of their drivers. It was anciently, therefore, only to persons of the first consideration, that this office was confided. Hence arose a laudable emulation to excel others in the art of guiding a chariot, and a kind of necessity to practise it very much, for the attainment of it. The high rank of the persons who made use of chariots, ennoblé, as it always happens, an exercise peculiar to them. The other exercises were adapted to private soldiers and horsemen, as wrestling, running, and the single horse race; but the use of chariots in the field was always reserved to princes and generals of armies,
9 Κελης. * KIANTIS Nec omnes Numida in dextro locati cornu, sed quibus desultorum in modum binos trahentibus equos, inter acerrimam sæpe pugnam, in recentem equum ex tesso armatis transultare mos erat: Tanta veloci. tas ipsis, tamque docile equorum genus est. Liv. lib. xxi.
Hence it was, that all those who presented themselves in the Olympic games, to dispute the prize in the chariot races, were persons considerable either for their riches, their birth, their employments, or great actions. Kings themselves aspired passionately to this glory, from the belief that the title of victor in these games was scarce inferior to that of conqueror, and that the Olympic palm added new dignity to the splendors of a throne, Pindar's odes inform us, that Gelon and Hiero, kings of Syracuse, were of that opinion. Dionysius, who reigned there long after them, carried the same ambition much higher, Philip of Macedon had these victories stamped upon his coins, and seemed as much affected with them, as with those obtained against the enemies of his state,
All the world knows the answer of Alexander the Great on this subject, When his friends asked him, whether he would dispute the prize of the races in these games? “Yes,” said he, “if kings were to be my antagonists.” Which shews that he would not
Plut. in Alex. p. 666.
ħave disdained these exercises, if there had been competitors in them worthy of him.
The chariots were generally drawn by two or four horses, placed in a row; bige, quadrige. Sometimes mules supplied the place of horses, and then the chariot was called apenee. Pindar, in the fifth ode of his first book, celebrates one Psaumis, who had obtained a triple victory; one by a chariot drawn by four horses;d another by one drawn by mules ;* and the third by a single horse, which the title of the ode expresses.
These chariots, upon a signal given, started together from a place called carceres. Their places were regulated by lot, which was not an indifferent circumstance as to the victory; for, being to turn round a boundary, the chariot on the left was nearer than those on the right, which in consequence had a greater compass to take. It
in Pindar, and especially from one in Sophocles, which I 'shall cite very soon, that they ran twelve times round the stadium. He that came in first the twelfth round was victor. The chief art consisted in taking the best ground at the turning of the boundary: for if the charioteer drove too near it, he was in danger of dashing the chariot to pieces; and if he kept too wide of it, his nearest antagonist might cut the way upon him, and get foremost.
It is obvious that these chariot races could not be run without some danger; for, as the motion of the wheels was very rapid, and grazed against the boundary in turning, the least error in driving would have broke the chariot in pieces, and might have danger. ously wounded the charioteer. An example of this we find in the Electra of Sophocles, who gives an admirable description of this kind of race run by ten competitors. The false Orestes, at the twelfth and last round, having only one antagonist, the rest having been thrown out, was so unfortunate as to break one of his wheels against the boundary, and falling out of his seat entangled in the reins, the horses dragged him violently forwards along with them, and tore him to pieces; but this very seldom happened. To avoid such danger, Nestor gave the following directions to his son Antilochus, who was going to dispute the prize in the chariot races. “My son," says he, “drive your horses as near as possible to the turning; for which reason, always inclining your body, over your chariot, get the left of your competitors, and encouraging the horse on the right, give him the rein, whilst the near horse, hard held, turns the boundary so close to it, that the nave of the wheel seems to graze upon it; but have a care of running against the stone, lest you wound your horses, and dash the chariot in pieces.”
d FITPITTU. 6 Metaque fervidis evitata rotis. Horat. Od. i. lib. 1.
Father Montfaucon mentions a difficulty, in his opinion, very considerable, in regard to the places of those who contended for the prize in the chariot race. They all started indeed from the same line, and at the same time, and so far had no advantage of each other; but he, whose lot gave him the first place, being nearest the boundary at the end of the career,
Hom. Il. l. xxüi. r. 334, &C.