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Prize amphora showing a chariot race

Chariot-racing was the only Olympic sport in which women could take part, as owners of teams of horses. Kyniska, a princess of Sparta, was the first woman to win the Olympic crown in this sport.

British Museum curator Judith Swaddling describes the amphora.
© Trustees of the British Museum

Created by British Museum.

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Video transcript

this is a wonderful rods it shows a chariot force child at full gallop and you can see the charioteer in his traditional long white robe in fact charities were the only sports people who actually competed clothed and they would end the race with this long white eunuch absolutely drenched with sweat and as you can see this man's hair is flying and he's just coming up to the finishing post so he's the winner sometimes the charioteers were shown with a broad belt around the torso to which the reins were attached and this was to help stop the charity from falling out of the chariot but it also helped him to control the reins especially when you had four horses the horse race chap just at the running track was oblong with the turning post at either end you could have up to 40 chariots in a race and so you can imagine with all those chariots trying to get round the post as near to it as possible that was where there was the most likelihood of mishaps and crashes and disasters and that was what the crowd loved