Jockeys and charioteers in the Classical period

Founded 13-Sep-2009
Last update 13-Sep-2009

Seán Hemingway, The Horse and Jockey from Artemision


Jockeys and charioteers are seldom mentioned in the literary and epigraphic sources, despite the fact that they were an essential component of the racing team.60 There are two reasons for this. In the first place, while the owner or his/her son occasionally acted as jockey or charioteer, most of the time paid professionals or servants were used.61 Second, the honor of victory in the equestrian events of the panhellenic games was bestowed primarily upon the owner of the horse, who bred and trained the animal and paid for its transportation to and from the games. One example of an owner who physically competed himself as a jockey is Aigysos, victor in the keles at Olympia in 400 B.C. He set up a dedicatory statue commemorating his victory and proclaiming that he was both owner of the horse and jockey in the race.62 More frequently, the name of the horse, and not the jockey, is recorded and its achievement recognized.63

Women, as owners, could compete in the equestrian contests. The first woman to win the chariot race at Olympia was Kyniska, a Spartan princess, in the beginning of the fourth century B.C.64 Her achievement was acknowledged with a large-scale bronze statue erected within the Altis, of which the inscribed base has been recovered.65 It is generally believed that women did not compete as jockeys or charioteers in the games, but this may not always have been the case.66

Seán Hemingway, The Horse and Jockey from Artemision, p. 123
(University of California Press, Berkeley – Los Angeles – London, 2004)


60 The names of charioteers are only mentioned twice in Pindar’s Odes (O. 6.22-25; I. 2.22) and jockeys not at all (Patrucco 1972: 386).

61 Gardiner asserts that jockeys were frequently paid servants (Gardiner 1910: 463), a reasonable assumption. Plato Lys. 205a refers to a paid charioteer (see also Kyle 1987: 199).

62 This is true of the local festivals, too, to judge from a similar, exceptional boast of the Spartan Damonon, who won many races as jockey and charioteer of his own horses at Lacedaimonian festivals in the third quarter of the fifth century B.C. (IG V, pt. 1, 213).

63 Ebert 1972: 263 gathers eight examples. Two others are mentioned in the Anthologia Graeca 9.19, 9.21.

64 Paus. 6.1.6.

65 See Moretti 1953: no. 17.

66 See, e.g., Patrucco 1972: 388. Lee (1988) argues from an inscription that a woman drove herself to victory in the four-horse chariot race at Isthmia. Raschke 1994 discusses the iconography of female charioteers in a scene on an Athenian red-figure kylix that may be related to an actual race.


Ebert, J.:Griechische Epigramme auf Sieger an gymnischen und hippischen Agonen. Berlin, 1972.
Gardiner, E. N.:Greek Athletic Sports and Festivals. London, 1910.
Kyle, D. G.:Athletics in Ancient Athens. Leiden, 1987.
Lee, H. M.: “SIG 802: Did Women Compete against Men in Greek Athletic Festivals?” Nikephoros 1: 103-11, 1988.
Moretti, L.:Iscrizioni agonistiche greche. Rome, 1953.
Patrucco, R.:Lo Sport Nella Grecia Antica. Florence, 1972.
Pausanias:Description of Greece. Translated by W. H. S. Jones. Vol. 3. Loeb Classical Library, 272. Cambridge, Mass., 1988 (1918).
Pindar:The Odes of Pindar, Including Principal Fragments. Edited and translated by J. Sandys. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass., 1915.
Pindar:Pindar. Vol. I: Olympian Odes, Pythian Odes. Edited and translated by W. H. Race. Loeb Classical Library, 56. Cambridge, Mass., 1997.
Raschke, W. J. “A Red-Figure Kylix in Malibu: The Iconography of Female Charioteers.” Nikephoros 7: 157-80, 1994.



The original numbering of the footnotes is preserved. Only sources cited in the excerpts are listed in the bibliography.