Definitions

Hippodrome

Hippodrome

[hip-uh-drohm]

A Hippodrome (Gr. from hippos, horse, and dromos, race, course) was a course provided by the Greeks for horse racing and chariot racing. Some present-day horse racing tracks are also called hippodromes, for example the Central Moscow Hippodrome.

The Greek hippodrome corresponded to the Roman Circus, except that in the latter only four chariots ran at a time, whereas ten or more contended in the Greek games, so that the width was far greater, being about ., the course being 600 to . long. The hippodrome should not be confused with the Roman amphitheatre which was used for spectator sports, games and displays, or the Greek and Roman theatres which were semi-circular and used for theatrical performances.

The Greek hippodrome was usually set out on the slope of a hill, and the ground taken from one side served to form the embankment on the other side. One end of the hippodrome was semicircular, and the other end square with an extensive portico, in front of which, at a lower level, were the stalls for the horses and chariots. At both ends of the hippodrome there were posts (termai) that the chariots turned around. This was the most dangerous part of the track, and the Greeks put an altar to Taraxippus there to show the spot where many chariots got wrecked. Taraxippus means disturber of horses.

One of the largest and most famous ancient hippodromes was the Hippodrome of Constantinople, built between AD 203 and 330. However, since it was built to a Roman design, it might be better categorized as a circus.

List of Hippodromes (of Greek rather than Roman origin)

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