AURIGA, LATIN FOR CHARIOTEER
Fantasy Chariot Races
De Ludi Circenses Imaginarî
Part 3: Bassus’ team is in the lead
The second race saw another of the drivers drafted by Bassus. This time his charioteer drove for the Blues. The race, a triple one, that is, with three chariots from each team, was exciting but it would have been non-descript if it were not for Bassus. Why is Bassus, who is the shortest of the four of us, shorter than most Romans, the one who always gets in trouble? To the joy of the guys below us, the Whites led most of the way. From time to time one of them would look up at Bassus surprised that Bassus did not share his sentiments. They thought that they had acquired a new friend and a new fan of the Whites. The Blues took the lead in the last lap. That’s when Bassus started cheering wildly. The Whites' fans felt betrayed and jilted. The Blues team ended up winning. The Whites' fans, eager to show on Bassus’ face displeasure over their team’s loss, stood up and surrounded him. Attalus and Calvus, pale faced, stepped back. Bassus, doing his best impersonation of his typical irrational self, was getting ready to fight.
With my most demurred posture and voice, I said “We are gambling“
My words acted as water on fire. Arms dropped, fists unclenched, shoulders drooped and faces turned in my direction.
“Why did not you say so? “
Everyone at the Circus understands gambling. Hey, everyone gambles at the Circus!
“He has almost all of our money after only two races“ I added as precaution pointing to Bassus. That put smiles on the faces of the troublemakers. One of them even congratulated Bassus by patting him on the back. We all relaxed and sat down.
Idiots, I thought. The Whites is the worst team. Why would anyone in their right mind be a fan of the Whites?
All the commotion made me loose track of the results. I could not talk to my companions; their memory may suddenly spring selective. I did not want to talk to the troublemakers from the row below. Nor to the sour-face next to me. I ended up getting the results from the Fat Butt.
After two races, Bassus was running away in our fantasy contest. His team had XXXIII points, X points for each of his drivers winning their races, III points for winning a single race, II points for snatching the victory in the last lap, V points for his team winning one race and III for his team arriving second in the other race. Attalus’ team was second with XVI points, followed by Calvus’ team with X points while my team had a big fat zero.
The sky was cloudless. Morning was developing into a nice and warm day. By the sixth race, the perennially aloof Calvus started showing signs of anxiety. Diocles has not appeared yet. Calvus was having a miserable day. Midmorning sun was beating on his bold head and he was without his first round pick.
All Hades broke loose in the 7th race. It was a single race involving one chariot from each faction. After three laps, the Blues team’s 2-horse biga was leading, running along the spine, flanked to the outside by the Greens. The Reds and the Whites followed, their horse heads bobbing and hovering over the back of the chariots ahead. Attalus, whose charioteer was racing for the lead team, was ecstatic. At the end of the spine close to where we sat, left horse of the leading chariot, the inside horse, the one that is trained to take tight turns around the spine, brushed the end of the spine at the foot of the metae, panicked, jumped to his right and hit its companion. The right horse fell knocking down with him both front chariots. The two chariots that were in the rear tumbled on top. Four chariots, four drivers and eight horses were shipwrecked on top of each other. Drivers took their knives out and frantically cut the reins wrapped around their waists to free themselves. A few horses stayed down, a few stood up and unbridled, run crazily around the track. Slaves rushed out to help the drivers, harness the horses and clean up the chaos.
It was the Blues' charioteer, the one drafted by Attalus who lay motionless on the ground. Was the charioteer dead or injured? It did not matter. In either case, dead or injured, it was minus twenty five points for Attalus' team. As far as I could tell, slaves finished off maimed charioteers in the back of the Circus. Nobody has any need for a crippled charioteer. Bad luck for Attalus.
“Attalus, you must have displeased gods“ I said laughing.
The moment I said it, I realized that I made a mistake. Indeed my words opened a Cloaca Maxima gate. Words that came out of Attalus’ mouth would have made a pirate blush. No doubt in my mind, Attalus will continue to bellyache for the rest of the day. I wondered if all Greeks are as annoying and impractical as Attalus was before Fortuna crossed our paths and we showed him the wisdom of Roman ways by exposing him to the chariot races and gladiator games.
I continued to record the score. At the end of each race we add or subtract points from our fantasy teams. Three horses down means there will be plenty of free meat for those who line up for it behind the Circus tonight. I subtracted points for each injured horse for Attalus, Bassus and my team and then continued by subtracting points for a fallen chariot for everyone.
After seven races, our fantasy contest was close with Bassus’ team in the lead with XXIX nine points, II points more than Calvus’ team, my team was a distant third with XIX points and Attalus’ team was hopelessly in the rear with minus XX points.