This is the first installment in a proposed series by Filippo Canali de Rossi on Greek, Etruscan, and Roman chariot racing. In the introduction Canali de Rossi states that he intends to present a synthesis of the manners in which chariot races were held and competed in the three civilizations. This slim volume, a text of 76 pages with nearly an equal number of indices, focuses on quadriga races in the Greek world. As the focus of the book is particularly equestrian, the race itself and its antagonists are given primary consideration. It is the emphasis on the victorious and their competition that provides this book with a novel approach to Greek chariot racing.
Canali de Rossi begins his examination of quadriga competitions in the Greek world by looking at the three Mycenaean stelae that have images of chariots; these he interprets, as did Mylonas, as racing scenes rather than battle scenes.1 With these Bronze Age depictions as a basis for the earliest vestiges of the Greek sport, he presents a survey of the mythological chariot races, such as Pelops’ contest with Oenomaus and the funeral games for Patroclus. These myths serve as the early history of chariot racing in Greece, and, Canali de Rossi continues on to discuss the victors of races in the archaic and classical periods. The continuation and development of chariot racing first by the Macedonians and then in the early Hellenistic era completes the main body of the book. One critique of the succinct treatment is that the organization of the evidence for chariot racing presupposes, or at least imagines, a continuity of competitions from the Mycenaean period into the archaic age.
Throughout Canali de Rossi provides the reader with generous quotations, and Italian translations, of the literary sources. The predominance of footnotes at times almost overwhelms, as some pages have as little as four lines of text proper. As a result, even before the ample appendices, the book serves as an excellent reference for the historical and literary sources of chariot racing in the Greek world. There are a number of images of chariots from pottery discussed in the book, the first being the François Krater, and they are reproduced nicely in black and white in tavole at the end of the book, though in a curious editorial decision the appendix of images is not referred to in the text. These minor complaints aside even in the midst of a catalogue of quadriga victors, Canali de Rossi manages to discuss some of the social and political significance of chariot racing, in particular the manner in which the conflict between Athens and Sparta in the later part of the 5th century was also played out on the arena of Greek hippodromes during athletic competitions. Some readers, however, might be left wanting for more of such analysis on a broader scale than Canali de Rossi offers here. For aficionados of chariot racing this book offers much information collected into a compact and well-bound volume.
1. G. E. Mylonas, “The Figured Mycenean Stelai.” AJA 55 (1951): 134-147. Canali de Rossi’s interpretation of the Megiddo Ivories as containing racing scenes is far less convincing.