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Chariot Race

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Two horsepower is all they needed back then.

Media set in Ancient Rome will feature gladiator games or chariot racing. If it's the race, expect it to be based on the one in Ben-Hur. Expect the enemy to cheat, play rough, have illegal modifications, etc.

In real life, such antics would have got a charioteer lynched. People rioted over their favorite teams, most famously the Nika riots of 532 in Constantinople. There were four (later six) traditional teams named after colors; in the Byzantine Empire the two major factions were the Greens and Blues, and while your loyalty to the Emperor might shift, your loyalty to your chariot team was set for life. Hell, loyalty to a chariot team was, on more than one occasion, the reason for an Emperor's fall.

For more modern vehicular racing, see Wacky Racing.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Board Games 
  • Avalon Hill's old Circus Maximus game was about chariot races.

    Comic Books 
  • Shows up several times in Asterix:
    • Asterix the Gladiator: Asterix and Obelix participate in a chariot race in the Colosseum. Asterix wins due to Obelix slowing down their last opponent. This scene was also adapted for the movie Asterix Versus Caesar.
    • Asterix and the Cauldron briefly shows a chariot race in Roman Gaul as Astérix and Obélix attempt to win the money they need by betting.
    • The entire plot of Asterix and the Chariot Race resolves around the heroes participating in a huge chariot race across Italy.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Legend of Total Drama Island, Courtney and Heather get into a canoe race paddle battle that parodies a chariot racing scene from Ben-Hur, wherein the racers took to whipping each other instead of their horses. Ezekiel and Lindsay are the obedient "horses" who continue to paddle whilst the alpha cats have their fight.
  • My Ridonculous Race: The second challenge in the Roman leg involves racing a chariot inside the inner perimeters of the Colosseum. Later, Jacques and Josee drive their chariot throughout the city when they fall behind.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Live-Action Adaptation of Asterix at the Olympic Games features one in its climax. It's essentially Played for Laughs, with cameos by Formula One legend Michael Schumacher as Schumix, the driver for Germania, and Jean Todt as his unnamed boss, who coordinates his team during a pitstop.
    Schumix's boss: Three tenths of hourglass. Nice work, guys!
  • Ben-Hur
    • The race is the Trope Codifier featuring Spiked Wheels (Messala's "Greek chariot"), Messala whipping his horses and any driver within range, if you're tossed from the chariot, there's a token attempt at retrieval.
    • In the silent movie version of Ben-Hur, apparently one of the more spectacular accidents in the chariot race wasn't staged, and the stunt driver only barely escaped with his life.
  • It's more of a joyride between two good friends, but Commodus and Livius playfully race each other in the opening scene of The Fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Magadheera: In order to win the hand of Princess Devi, Kala Bhairava and Ranadev Billa must compete in a race across the kingdom, through the palace grounds, fields and a desert before returning to the palace where they started.
  • One happens in the climax of Pompeii and in the streets of the titular city as the infamous eruption of Vesuvius happens: Senator Corvus rides a chariot in an attempt to escape the doomed city with Lady Cassia and Milo chases them on horseback. The chase ends as the chariot crashes into a temple, culminating in the last fight.
  • In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, pod racing is more than just a futuristic version of chariot racing: the sequence of the pod race and plot developments during it is straight out of Ben-Hur.
  • There's a little-known parody movie of Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, where the obligatory chariot sequence has The Rival's chariot look like the Batmobile modified to serve as Darth Vader's personal tank.

  • Cretan Chronicles, being set in Ancient Greece with the hero being Theseus' brother, Altheus, has a chariot race as one of the obstacles.
  • Assassins of Gor has Tarn races — basically the same thing, except with giant birds people ride.
  • The Mummy Monster Game: In book 1, the second arm of Osiris is won by completing a three-lap chariot race against the pharaoh Rameses, who is equipped with weapons (a bow and arrow, a spear and a sword) to ensure his victory. Fortunately, Josh is able to outrace him, and with Harry's advice, wins through a tactic Rameses didn't expect — ride to the finish on horseback, which the ancient Egyptians never would have done.
  • The Roman Mysteries book The Charioteer of Delphi has a mystery about someone trying to sabotage a chariot race. Like everything else about the series, the history was carefully researched and the portrayal of the racing is very accurate.
  • The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay has a subplot involving chariot racing, in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to 6th-century Constantinople.
  • Tanith Lee's novel Vazkor, Son of Vazkor, aka Shadowfire, has a chariot race that's an obvious homage to Ben-Hur.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Horrible Histories featured a parody ad for a historically accurate chariot racing video game based on famous charioteer Scorpus. Watch it here.
  • In the second series of Plebs, Stylax's series-long quest to become a charioteer culminates in an underground race with enough money on the line to save his neighbours from deportation. He wins, but gives up the sport because the speed made him vomit.
  • Showed up in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, where Xena races Caligula.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In Rocket Age the Martian royal caste often race in chariots pulled by a pair of Royal Karns,3.5 metre tall bipedal birds.
  • Runequest's Monster Coliseum had rules for chariot racing.
  • The Vampire: The Requiem sourcebook Requiem For Rome, which covers the Roman Empire, naturally discusses chariot racing. The Kindred are no less obsessed with the races than any living person; vampires send mortal agents to watch the daylight races and report the results, and when the races are held at night, a good portion of the crowds at the Circus Maximus are undead. On nights of the full moon, the Roman Kindred hold their own races, vampire charioteers driving ghouled horses on an eerily silent track.
    The people of Rome say that, on the full moon, dead charioteers arise and continue the rivalries they had in life. They are exactly right.
  • Circus Maximus is entirely a tabletop, turn-based simulation of a chariot race.

    Video Games 
  • In the Caesar games, you can build a Circus in your city to entertain the citizens.
  • Centurion: Defender of Rome features a chariot race as one of the mini-games.
  • Circus Maximus Chariot Wars is built on this trope. You're a charioteer in Ancient Rome and must race other charioteers for your freedom.
  • There's an actual WiiWare game called Heracles Chariot Racing, which is a Mario Kart-esque Wacky Racing chariot game.
  • In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Iggy and his minions utilize chariots to fight Mario.
  • Twice in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the titular hero does this to advance the plot — first by reaching Babylon and then chasing down one of the antagonists. The player has to not only pick the proper way to turn (which may not always be obvious) but also ram into enemies and strike them out of the chariot before they can kill you.
  • Parodied in Saints Row IV: Enter the Dominatrix with a sequence that starts at a sex club, so the "chariots" are pony carts pulled by furries or leather-clad submissives. And the charioteers are shooting assault rifles at each other. And the carts explode when their "steeds" are slain. And there's a pair of sports announcers providing running commentary and introducing racers like "Rusty's New Trombone" and "The Mischievous Gimp." But the Orchestral Bombing going on during the sequence sure makes it feel as epic as the example from Ben Hur.
  • Tales from the Borderlands: The first episode's climax takes place in one with pairs of motorcycles pulling trucks in a race to obtain the suitcase containing a million dollars.

    Western Animation 
  • Back to the Future, "Roman Holiday". Marty, Doc, Jules and Verne went to Ancient Rome, where Marty (as Marticus) had to enter a chariot race against Bifficus (Bifficus called Marty by an Ancient Roman expression translated by Marty's device as "Chicken") and had to lose for the sake of space-time continuum because otherwise people would (according to Doc) revolt against Bifficus, which would prevent Caligula from becoming Emperor of Rome. Doc described it as a key event to the end of the Roman Empire.
  • Big City Greens: In "Night Bill", when Cricket and Tilly find that their dad is taking a night job to provide better stuff for his family, they confront Bill's boss Jyle, challenging him to a chariot race with Bill in danger of being committed to an ironclad 5-year job contract if he loses.
  • This happens in an episode of Care Bears set in Ancient Rome times.
  • One episode of Codename: Kids Next Door had Numbah 4 digging into the KND's couch in search of the remote, only to stumble upon a civilization that lives inside what looks like a giant couch (accessed via people's couch cushions). They're a mix of Romans and frat boys and Numbah 4 must enter a chariot race— with huge dust bunnies as steeds— to get his remote back.
  • The Cattanooga Cats: Motormouse and Autocat participate in a chariot race as part of scene in a movie being filmed with them in "Lights! Action! Catastrophe!" Naturally, Autocat finishes on the short end.
  • Inspector Gadget helps one of his ancestors win a chariot race in the Time Travel arc of the series.
  • There was a chariot race in a Laff-A-Lympics episode. Dread Baron (Rottens) won it; Doggie Daddy (Yogis) got second place; and Dynomutt (Scoobys) made it third.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Greece Lightning", the boys stage a chariot race through Danville's streets after learning about ancient Greece.

    Real Life 
  • The Roman and Byzantine chariot races, of course.
  • Harness racing, which is especially popular in Scandinavia. It involves on single-horse races with a light chariot called sulky.


Video Example(s):


Ben-Hur vs. Messala

Ben-Hur defeats Messala in the chariot race.

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Example of:

Main / ChariotRace

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