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WELCOME TO SPORTS IN ANTIQUITY     contains essays, articles, book reviews and short stories about sport in antiquity with an in-depth study of Chariot Racing and references to modern day real and fantasy sports. If you are a sport's fan or are interested in Roman history, this site is for you. If you play fantasy sports, you will enjoy reading about ancient Romans playing their version of fantasy baseball.  Some articles are historical facts, some are short fiction. New articles are posted once or twice a month. If you are new to the site, scroll down and begin with the earliest post.





You have to know the past to understand the present


                                                                                                                                          C. Sagan

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Coming Soon
Review of Alan Cameron's Bread and Circuses
Lecture given at King's College in 1973
Chariot Racing, Ben Hur

Posted on: 11/13/2017

How historically accurate is the chariot race in the movie Ben-Hur, 2016 version

Yes, rules existed and, No, crashes were not encouraged

Posted on: 8/02/2016

Posted on: 6/17/2015

In-depth analysis of the job duties of sparsores

Chariot racing

Posted on: 3/26/2015

Sport in the first millenuim of the Western civilization

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

A short, narrow and utterly nondescript street in downtown Milan

Posted on: 12/30/2014

Chariot racing

Posted on: 11/11/2014

The author asks a valid question: "can gladiatorial combats be considered sport?"

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Pictures of its accurate model of a circus and of the famous and magnificent Barcelona mosaic depicting chariot racing

Posted on: 10/20/2014

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

The circus of Milano, Italy and its well-preserved carceres tower

Posted on: 8/14/2014

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Pictures of what little remains today of the great hippodrome of Byzantium

Posted on: 8/4/2014

In April of 2014 I took a three-month sabbatical to visit hippodromes, arenas and antiquity museums in the Mediterranean world. The first four essays posted after July 2014 are the results of my travels.  

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 4/15/2014

The original article by Rawson was published by Papers of the British School at Rome in 1981

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 2/18/2014

In the eyes of the Romans some chariot races were more prized than others; a first-ever study of race ranks and preferences


Posted on: 1/11/2014

Were the chariot races religious in origin, were they an extension of the practices of the Etruscans and the Greeks, were the races held at the Colosseum?

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 12/17/2013

A survey of ball games played in ancient Rome, Part 2: Trigon, Datatim, Raptim and Expulsim Ludere

chariot racing, sport in antiquity
chariot racing, sport in antiquity
chariot racing, sport in antiquity
chariot racing, sport in antiquity
chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 11/14/2013

A survey of ball games played in ancient Rome, Part 1: Harpastum

Posted on: 9/26/2013

Book review: THE ROMAN WAY by Edith Hamilton and ROMAN PASSIONS by Ray Laurence

Posted on: 9/20/2013

Book review: LIFE, DEATH and ENTERTAINMENT IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE Edited by D.S. Potter & D.J. Mattingly

Posted on: 8/26/2013

Did Romans play fantasy games? Decide by yourself after you read this article

Posted on: 7/14/2013

Book synopses and unsurprising and anticipated parallels with today's customs

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 6/13/2013

A short fictional story about Diocles the Charioteer, Part 4: Diocles arrives

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 6/3/2013

A short fictional story about Diocles the Charioteer, Part 3: Bassus' team is in the lead

Posted on: 5/4/2013

A short fictional story about Diocles the Charioteer, Part 2: The First Race

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on: 5/20/2013

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chariot racing, sport in antiquity

A short fictional story about Diocles the Charioteer, Part 1: At the Tavern

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Musings about recent baseball records

Posted on: 4/29/2013

chariot racing, sport in antiquity

Posted on:  4/16/2013

A short history of the evolution of the word Forum from antiquity to today

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    Of the many daily distractions and diversions, Romans derived  most  pleasure  out  of  their  passion for the immensely popular sport of chariot racing.     However, sports  in  ancient   Rome  are  an  astonishingly  under researched subject.  Only a handful of ambitious historical studies claim that their field of  research is related  to the topic of sports. Alan Cameron in the preface to his  “Circus Factions” lamented, “scholars essayed an interpretation [of circus factions]  in social, religious and political  terms rather than sporting terms.”
    Could it be that scholars from high academia are disconnected from the world of those who they deem uneducated masses? We, "plebs sordida" spend our Sundays in front of TVs watching football games. Perhaps, sport is an undignified and frivolous topic not worthy of high academia.
    Whatever the reasons, the intent of this web site is to do justice to the passion of the Romans for sports. You will be able to read  and  learn  all  about  it and, with time,  join  a community of like-minded fans.
    I want to enlist your help: if you have done any research on the topic  and you want to  share your findings,  contact me at Your input to this site is welcome.
       Suggested reading:
- John H. Humphrey, Roman Circuses, Arenas For Chariot Racing, University of California Press, 1986
            [ rated the best book about sports in antiquity; check out my book review on ]

- H.A. Harris, Sport in Greece and Rome, Cornell University Press, 1972


- A Companion to Sport and Spectacle in Greek and Roman Antiquity, edited by Paul Christesen (author) and Donald G. Kyle (author), Wiley-Blackwell, 2014 [a review is coming up shortly; in the meantime you can download a free 16-page long General Introduction from here: 
- Alan Cameron, Porphyrius The Charioteer, Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, 1973
- Alan Cameron, Circus Factions, Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium, Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, 1976     [ check out my book review on]
-  Richard Burgess, Description of the circus on the via Appia near Rome with some account of Circensian games, 1828, freely available on line at the Bodleian library
- Anne Mahoney, Roman Sports and Spectacles, A Sourcebook, Focus Publishing, R. Pullins Company,2001
      Suggested web sites:



-  Some Observations on Roman Chariot-Racing


   A well-researched and accurate description of chariot racing by Peter Donnelly


Encyclopaedia Romana


   Selected essays about history and culture of Rome by James Grout


- Articles on Ancient History, a scholarly site about ancient history, including Rome, by Jona Lendering.


  [All web sites are cited with permission]





     The reading habits of men follow three stages. Men begin their reading life with comic books, move on to fiction and later in life when they get curious about their place in this puzzling universe, they read history. I have reached this blessed third stage around 10 years ago. Since that first book,  Life In Ancient Rome by  F.R. Cowell ( Perigee Book, 1961 )  my principal interest has been the history of the Roman Empire, as you can probably guess.
    I have lived in Italy, have studied Latin and have visited Rome on  several  occasions.  You  may  say  that  I  am naturally inclined to be interested in Rome in antiquity. That could be partially true.
    Drawing parallels between the U.S and the Roman Empire is thought provoking and another possible reason for my enthusiasm about studying Rome in antiquity.  A worthy topic, but, oh, so boring.
    Roman Empire offers  a  unique  opportunity  to  study  a classical civilization as it evolved from birth, through rise and glory days, to  the  decline  and ultimately, by closing the loop,  to  the  fall and  final demise.  The multitude of evidence   about   the  life in  ancient  Rome  appears  as scattered pieces of  a  large  puzzle.  Putting  that  puzzle together has fascinated a countless number of people over centuries. I am among them.
    One  specific  aspect  of the daily life in ancient Rome has captivated me: sports. Those pesky Romans were big sports fans.   I am, too.   I like soccer, baseball and by extension, fantasy baseball.  My first fantasy baseball season was in 1992. Since then I have joined,  a fantasy baseball analysis site, as a staff member and contributor, Today I play at a quasi-expert level,  modestly   speaking, and have been quoted by   USA  Today  during  the draft seasons.
Studies of sports in antiquity  and  fantasy  baseball  have made my life richer, fuller and more valued. This web site is a marriage between my two passions.  
    Other writings by Pasko Varnica:                                                                                      
summer of my silence
Summer Of My Silence

autobiographical, published on

For other formats, e.g. PDF, Kindle, Nook, etc, access Smashwords

Fantasy Baseball web sites I recommend:

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