The circus games mosaic

What if you were able to witness a chariot race from Roman times ? Imagine yourself standing next to the track, where four teams are ready to race: the blues, greens, reds and whites.
And they're off! In the official tribune on the left, someone has dropped a scarf to start the race. At top right and lower left, two chariots have turned over while rounding the curve; it's the end of the race for them. To encourage the participants, single horsemen gallop near the chariots. And, in the center, two people are ready to confirm the results and carry the insignia that will be given to the winner : a palm leaf and a crown of laurel leaves.

Locate in the museum

Marble (opus tessellatum), limestone (opus tessellatum)
L. 4.97 m; W. 3.02 m

Second century

Europe / France / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes / Rhône department / Lyon / Lyon 2nd arrondissement / Rue Jarente

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History of the work

An outstanding piece in the museum's collection, the circus mosaic was discovered in 1806 on the Lyon peninsula and dates from the second century. Particularly representative, it was used as the visual on the invitation to the museum inauguration on November 15, 1975.

Let's watch the chariot races !

In the Roman Empire, chariot races were a major event in daily life and provided entertainment for the masses. The competing chariots were drawn by one, two, three or even six horses and were driven by aurigas. The races were held on a circus track and included seven laps, representing around seven-and-a-half kilometers. The colors worn by the aurigas corresponded to various "stables", and spectators bet on the winners.