The Symbolism of the Chariot Race


A sema in Ancient Greece meant a sign, or symbol. It also had another meaning: a hero’s tomb. We see a connection between these two meanings in The Iliad when Nestor is explaining chariot racing to his young son Antilokhos. However, first we will examine the importance of chariot racing to the Greeks.

After Patroklos dies in the Iliad, his pshuke (spirit) visits Achilles in a dream. He tells Achilles to organize a funeral and funeral games for him. Achilles does so and holds a chariot race, which could be very dangerous. The race went in a counter-clockwise circle and the left turn was the hardest part of the race. To achieve a left turn, the driver had to manipulate his hands. His right hand would be impulsive, while his left was restrained. When done in equilibrium, the left turn was completed seamlessly. In the center of the race was usually a…

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