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Horse racing is to Edessa as football is to Britain, complete with hooligans and after-race riots. There are two race circuits in the city of Edessa, the official circuit in which a race is associated with a religious holiday, the most major of these being the Ardalian races. The second circuit races are on one of the smaller or makeshift tracks in the city. Arist teams usually don’t run on these tracks, unless a trainer wants their team to get practice. Second circuit race are smaller – both in number of teams and in track length – and they are dirtier and have a high fatality rate. These are make-shift ugly affairs. Only first circuit races have a purse (usually enough to feed a family of six for a year), but second circuit races actually make more money via betting and bribes.

Though the wealthiest houses may own a charioteer, most charioteers are freeborn. Djaani are considered some of the best charioteers in the world and are especially prized. Teenage boys and adult women are also preferred charioteers since charioteers have to be both very light and very strong. It’s not unheard of to have jockeys as young as twelve riding in the single-horse races.

Being a charioteer is extremely dangerous. A charioteer’s career might start at age fourteen and by twenty-four most have retired or been killed. So why would anyone choose to be a charioteer? Money. A good charioteer can make a small fortune even if they never ride in a first circuit race. It’s kind of like being a rock star, the richer you get the more people give you stuff for free. They are the people’s heroes, invited to parties – even arist parties – and their likenesses are sold in the marketplace. It’s all about the merchandising, baby. Even enslaved charioteers have it pretty easy. They’re the second most expensive slave you can buy, right after eunuchs, are considered prized possessions. Consequently charioteers are known for their laziness. There’s even a stock character in Edessan theatre: the drunken charioteer, self-aggrandizing, licentious and frequently drunk, who nevertheless manages to pull it together the moment he or she steps up onto the chariot. It’s a running gag in the plays of Dorophoria, the greatest comic playwright of Loukas’s age.

Upon retirement, successful charioteer becomes a trainer or race official, or if they’ve saved their winnings, they can afford to move to the country and buy an estate. One charioteer in a hundred might be so lucky.
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Aemilia

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