Ancient Rome had many forms of entertainment that have been replicated in today’s world. One of those forms of entertainment is NASCAR racing which compares to Ancient Rome’s chariot racing. Thousands of Roman citizens would throng the Circus Maximus (Bennett 1997) to spectate the racing of chariots which comprised several horses. The same happens today, where thousands of fans visit stadiums to watch NASCAR race cars on the track. NASCAR is an acronym standing for National Association for Stock Auto Racing. These two forms of entertainment have numerous similarities and some historians have suggested that NASCAR racing was greatly inspired by Ancient Rome’s chariot horse racing.
Similarities between NASCAR racing and Chariot Horse Racing in Ancient Rome
Chariot horse racing was very popular in the Roman era. The sport drew large crowds to the Circus Maximus and the people would cheer loudly as the horses would thunder round the stadium. This kind of wild excitement among spectators is also seen in NASCAR racing events, where stadiums are filled to capacity and crowds cheer throughout. NASCAR racing also attracts large television audiences. The chariot racing in Ancient Rome saw teams receive financial backing and skilled drivers would be poached. Bennett (1997) explains that the Teams for charioteers in Ancient Rome were called ‘factiones’. There were four major teams namely: the Reds (Russata); the Sky Blues (Veneti); the Whites (Alba) and the Greens (Prasini). This practice has also been witnessed in NASCAR championships, where the drivers are divided into various teams. The teams include the Sprint Cup Series Teams, Nationwide Series Teams and World Truck Series Teams. There are also companies that sponsor NASCAR race cars. There is also poaching of the best drivers in NASCAR racing.
In NASCAR racing, the spectators wager on the events. The people bet on which driver is going to win the race. In Ancient Rome there was also betting involved among the spectators. Stakes in these bets were said to be high just like in NASCAR. Chariots were very light in weight. For this reason they could reach very high speeds. Speed is also a major component of NASCAR race cars. Alderink (2010) states that the race cars can reach top speeds of up to 200 mph. Trumpets were used to start the chariot races and if there was too much noise then a handkerchief would be dropped from a certain high point. In NASCAR racing, there is a flag that is waved to signify commencement of the race. The high point where the handkerchief would be dropped from is equivalent to NASCAR’s flag stands.
In chariot racing there were rules but the charioteers were given so much leeway on the track. This sentiment was also reiterated by a NASCAR official who said that the race drivers are allowed to do anything on the track with a few exceptions. There is also foul play in NASCAR racing where some drivers try to give themselves unfair advantage by reducing car weights. There was also foul play of a different kind in chariot racing. Charioteers would knock their opponents over in order to defeat them. Some charioteers would have up to seven horses so as to increase their speed. It is a fact that both these sports involve a great amount of danger. There were fatal crashes involving chariots in Ancient Rome and there have also been car crashes in NASCAR racing.
Entertainment in ancient Rome was regarded as essential in everyday life. This fact can also be said to be true for modern America. The entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry which has created careers for numerous people in America. In Ancient Rome, various sports events would be attended by high ranking officials including the Caesar. This is also true of sporting events in America, where dignitaries have attended important sporting events including NASCAR racing. Chariot racing became less popular with the fall of the Roman Empire, but with its striking resemblance to NASCAR racing, one could argue that it was reincarnated.