Famous Charioteers

Monument to Porphyrios, a charioteer of the 5th and 6th century CE in Constantinople
Monument to Porphyrios, a charioteer of the 5th and 6th century CE in Constantinople


Charioteers were celebrated stars of their eras. They were rewarded by emperors – one charioteer for the Greens was given two million sesterces by the Emperor Caligula (Suetonius, Caligula 45.2 – the fortune needed by a senator was one million sesterces); another, Diocles, amassed winnings of over 30 million sesterces.

Charioteers usually started their lives as slaves; some managed to free themselves, others died as slaves, as did Fuscus, a charioteer for the Green faction, who died at 24 in 34 CE after winning 53 victories:

Fuscus, charioteer for the Greens, lived 24 years, he won 53 times at Rome, twice in the ludi for the goddess Dia,  once in the ludus given at Bovillae. He won one palm, after he was called back twice. He was the first of all the drivers to win on the first day he raced. His fellow slave, Machao, set this up in the consulship of Gaius Cestius and Marcus Servilius to preserve his memory.

 CIL  6.33950, Rome.

(Click here to see his inscription along with a Latin transcription and a slightly different translation.)

More successful and long-lived was Publius Aelius Gutta Calpurnianus (the remains of his tomb can be seen here if you scroll down slightly): he won no less than 1,127 times – mostly for the Greens, although he raced for the other factions as well. Even more successful was the above mentioned Diocles, whose monument dates from 146 and was clearly set up by a dedicated fan (or by Diocles himself). who wanted to show Diocles was superior to every other charioteer who had ever set foot in the Circus Maximus:

Gaius Appuleius Diocles, charioteer for the Reds, born in Lusitania, Spain, aged 42 years, 7 months, 23 days. He first drove for the Whites during the consulship of Acilius Aviola and Corellius Pansa [122 CE]. He first won for the same faction during the consulship of Manlius Acilius Glabrio and Gaius Bellicius Torquatus [124 CE]. He first drove for the Greens during the second consulship of Torquatus Asprenatis and the first of Annius Libo [128 CE]. He first won for the Reds during the consulship of Laenatis Pontianus and Antonius Rufino [131 CE].

His wins: drove a four-horse chariot for 24 years. He started 4,257 races, won 1,462, he won the first race of the day 110 times.[1] In races for single four horse chariots he won 1,064 times, and in this he took the largest purse 92 times; he won the 30,000 sesterces prize 32 times (3 of them in a 6 horse chariot), the 40,000 sesterces prize 28 times (twice in a 6 horse chariot), the 50,000 prize 28 times (one in a 6 horse chariot), the 60,000 sesterces prize three times. In races for pairs of four horse chariots he won 347 times; and won 15,000 4 times in a three horse chariot. In races for three chariots he won 51 times. He gained honours 1,000 times He was second 861 times, third 576, fourth with 1,000 sesterces once, and took no prize 1,351 times.

He won jointly with a charioteer for the Blues ten times; with one from the White 91, and shared the 20,000 purse twice. His total winnings were 35,863,120 sesterces. He also won 1,000 sesterces in a two-horse chariot, jointly with a White charioteer once and with a Green twice.  He won while leading from the gate 815 times, coming from behind 67, after being passed 36, in different ways 42, and at the finishing line 502. He won against the Greens 216 times, against the Blues 205, and against the Whites 81 times. Nine horses had 100 wins with him and one had 200. His notable achievements: In the year when he first won twice driving a four horse chariot, he won at the finishing line twice.

The acta say that Avilius Teres was the first in his faction to win 1,011, and he won most often in one year for single chariots, but in that year Diocles won over 100 victories, winning 103 races, 83 of them for single chariots. Increasing his fame he passed Tallus of his faction, who was the first in the Reds to…But Diocles is the most distinguished of the charioteers, since in one year he won 134 races with another charioteer’s lead horse, 118 races for single chariot, which puts him ahead of all the charioteers who compete in the games. It is noted by all, with well-deserved admiration, that in one year with unfamiliar lead horses, with Cotynes and Pompeianus as the inside pair, he won 99 times, winning the 60,000 purse once, the 50,000 four times, 40,000 once, and 30,000 twice.  …for the Greens winner 1025 times, Flavius Scorpus, winner 2048 times, and Pompeius Musclosus, winner 3550 times. Those three charioteers won 6,652 times and won the 50,000 purse 28 times, but Diocles, the greatest charioteer ever, won the 50,000 purse 29 times in 1,462 wins.

CIL 6.10048

Other charioteers went on to become trainers, as the following inscription shows:

Sacred to the memory of Aurelius Heraclides, charioteer for the Blues and trainer for the Blues and Greens. Marcus Ulpius Aposlaustianus set this up for a worthy colleague.

CIL 6.10057

Another extremely famous charioteer was Porphyrius. In the late 5th and early 6th century he was the preeminent charioteer in Constantinople, where 7 monuments were erected in the Hippodrome to him.

[1] The Latin says he won from the pompa, that is right after the parade that opened the races.



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