Chariot Racing (May 2016)

And they’re off!

This month we’ll explore the exciting world of chariot racing. Inside this issue: a chariot race simulation, a chariot racing spoken-Latin board game, a reconstruction of the Circus Maximus, a famous Roman athlete, and more!

Email us to suggest a topic for a future issue! 


Main Feature: Two New Lesson Plans
Each issue will feature two lesson or activity ideas: one related to the Latin language, and one related to Classical Studies (Greek or Roman culture, mythology, or history). 


LS Rome Chariot Race

Introduction: This lesson gets students involved by simulating a chariot race. This activity will get kids up and moving and is ideal for a gym or outdoor area. It has been used in our LatinSummer Rome program. In fact, you can see from the picture that our students did this activity at the site of the Circus Maximus itself!

Background: One of the most popular sporting events in Ancient Rome was chariot racing. Drivers of chariots pulled by horses competed to be the first to complete seven laps around the track. VRoma has an excellent overview of chariot racing here:

Objectives: Students will learn the names of the different parts of the chariot course: spīna, mētae, obeliscī, and carcerēs.



  1. First, the teacher will show an image (or images) of the Circus Maximus, pointing out the different features. Next, students will practice saying the features themselves when the teacher has pointed to them.
  2. The teacher hands out name tags which say the names of the different parts of the race. Each student will be a different feature of the race course:
    • Mētae – Two students will stand to mark the turning-posts.
    • Obeliscī – As many obelisks as desired stand in the middle, between the mētae.
    • Carcerēs – Two students join hands to represent the starting gates. N.B. – These starting gates were called carcerēs, the Latin word for “jail,” because the eager horses were held back in this closed-in area until they were allowed to burst forth at the start of the race.
    • Scorekeeper/Teacher – Drops the mappa (white handkerchief) to begin the race, and keeps track of who won the race.
    • Aurīgae – Two charioteers will burst through the carcerēs and run around the track, turning at the metae.
  3. Once each student has his or her role, do a slow-motion practice round.
  4. It’s time to race!
  5. After racing once, students can change roles if they like.

Special Concerns: As this is an outdoor activity, it is important to remember that inclement weather could create a need for rescheduling. Also, students could potentially be hurt by racing around the metae, so it is best done in soft grass and with students who will not be so competitive that they forget how to play safely.



Introduction: In this lesson, students use a chariot-racing board game to practice speaking Latin sentences that involve the colors of chariot racing teams, numbers, and conversion from Present Tense to Perfect Tense. They also learn about common elements of a chariot race.

Background: Part of the allure of going to the circus was the danger that could strike at any given moment, not unlike today’s popular car races such as NASCAR. In this board game, students will advance by both skill (i.e., speaking Latin) and by luck (wild cards).

Objectives: Students will be able to name in Latin the four colors of the chariot racing teams and to describe major elements of a chariot race. They will also be able to use Roman numerals and to change the verb prōcēdō from First Person Present Tense to Third Person Perfect Tense.

Special Concerns: Students with less Latin experience may wish to use the script while playing.


Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.56.09 PM
Print each copy of the game board using two pieces of 8.5 x 11″ paper.
  • Game pieces in red, white, blue, and green (3 of each color. Each game piece represents one chariot. In this game, each color faction is racing three chariots.) Students can make these quickly with paper and markers.
  • Roman Numeral dice (1 die per group) – Make your own by covering the sides of cube-shaped tissue boxes, or buy Roman numeral dice here.
  • Septiēs Game Instructions
  • Egg and Dolphin Cards (1 card per group)
  • paperclip (1 per group)
  • spinner listing the names of the four racing factions – Use an online spinner such as Wheeldecide, or make your own dry-erase spinner following the instructions in the “Random Find” section later in this issue! (Only one spinner is needed for the entire class. The teams will share.)
  • Wild Cards (1 set per group)


  1. Give students some background information about chariot races. The simulation lesson above would be a fun and informative introduction. Teachers could also show the chariot racing scene from Ben Hur.
  2. Divide students into groups of four and explain that each student will play the role of one of the four chariot racing factions: red, white, blue, or green. Each faction will have three chariots in the race, so each player will need three game pieces. The first player to have one of his or her chariots cross the finish line after seven laps will be the winner.
  3. Students should follow the Septiēs Game Instructions.


Online Resource:
Each issue will feature a new or popular online resource that could prove useful for Latin and Classical Studies instruction. We aim to stay current so that you can wow your students with how “with-it” you are when it comes to technology!

Virtual Reality Reconstruction of the Circus Maximus

Students often have a difficult time picturing what the Circus Maximus might have looked like in Roman times. This virtual reality reconstruction from Progetto Traiano can help them to get a sense of what it would have been like to visit this immense structure!


Famous Roman: Gaius Appuleius Diocles
Each issue will feature a famous individual or group from Greek or Roman history whom you may wish to explore with your students.

Gaius Appuleius Diocles is not a name most people learn about in history class, but it was certainly a name recognized by many Romans of the second century A.D.  Diocles was a driver in the chariot races. We know about him because his career was unusually long, and an inscription recorded his success.

Due to the dangers involved in the races, many drivers died around age twenty-five. Diocles, however, drove successfully until he retired at the age of forty-two! He drove for three of the four teams: He began his career with the White team at age nineteen, but he later switched to the Red team and after that the Green team. By the time of his retirement, Diocles had achieved 1,462 victories! Similar to modern athletes, drivers such as Diocles were highly paid for their skills.  It is said that Diocles’ race winnings were such a high amount that he could have paid to supply grain for the entire city of Rome for a year. Some people even estimate that Diocles was the highest-paid athlete of all time!


Random Find: Do-it-yourself Dry-erase or Chalkboard Spinner
Many items being sold today do not directly connect to Latin and Classical Studies, but with a little effort, we can adapt them to serve our purposes. This section explores these types of objects. 

Have you ever wanted your own spinning prize wheel? The Shooting Star editor, Kristen Bortner, always felt like her classroom was incomplete without one.  For that reason, she was thrilled when she recently saw this simple do-it-yourself project on the blog Doodle Craft: It’s a brilliant idea of making a dry-erase spinner wheel out of a Lazy Susan from Ikea!


Kristen followed the instructions above to make her own spinner, pictured at the left. It really was simple! She made a few small changes, though. Instead of using a piece of wood, she glued the Lazy Susan to a framed magnetic chalkboard, which allows for the display of additional information as desired. She also cut one large circle to cover the spinner, instead of using many separate triangles. By doing this, she can easily change the number of sections on the spinner, depending on how many she needs for various activities. Finally, she used chalkboard-surface paper instead of dry-erase paper, because it erases well and works beautifully with chalkboard markers!


  1. In this issue’s Latin lesson, the chariot racing board game, the spinner can be used for selecting which player will be affected by the wild card.
  2. The spinner could also be used to make everyday class activities more fun! For example, conversational Latin questions could be written on the spaces.  Students could spin the wheel and then have to answer a Latin question. Teachers could also write vocabulary words on it. After spinning the wheel, and students have to come up with derivatives or a Latin sentence using the selected word. And of course, it can also be used as a prize wheel!


Featured Word: currency
Each issue will feature a challenging English word that we encourage you and your students to explore together. The English word will always come from one or more Latin words. 

Our English word “currency” is derived from the Latin word currere, “to run.”  If we consider the word “current,” which refers to anything that is “running” at the moment, then it makes sense for currency to mean the money that is “running” around in an economy at a given time. Currere gives us plenty of other words as well. Tell students to picture a chariot race as they ponder our word “course,” a place where a race is “run.”  Ask them if they can figure out how “cursive” and “curriculum” are also related to currere!

For lots of word study fun, in a chariot racing set-up, check out this board game, LUDI At The Circus Maximus!


Additional Resources about Chariot Racing

This vocabulary list from The Shooting Star writer Abbi Holt provides students with some key vocabulary about chariot racing:

Students will enjoy looking at this clever Lego project!  The set doesn’t exist, but perhaps this could inspire students to create their own models.

Here’s a spoken Latin reenactment of the taking of the auspices before the races:

Quadriga: This is a strategy game available from iTunes. Players can race at 43 different courses in this detail-oriented game, which is similar to an old board game called Circus Maximus.


Does your school or club conduct a Roman chariot race in some way?  How many different chariot racing traditions do we have among our members?  Let’s share them in the comments section! 

Each person who participates will be entered in a raffle to win an ebook version of our Vocabula Picta Latin Picture Dictionary! Comment by July 1 in order to be eligible to win!