HIPPODROME (from the Greek Hippos, a horse and Dromos, a race course), the name given by the Greeks to places where races were held. This included both chariot and single horse racing, but the hippodrome later took the form of a circus, other games, 'such as wrestling, boxing, running, etc., being added, and for a short time after the introduction of Roman cus toms and manners it 'became the scene of glad iatorial combats, but as sights of this nature did not find favor in the sight of the Greeks, these combats were eventually eliminated and the main feature of the games, as in the begin ning, was the chariot race. To the brutal taste of the Roman populace flowing blood acted as an elixir, but to the more refined Eastern people the amphitheatre was abhorrent, Though nu merous amphitheatres were scattered through out western Europe very few were ever built within the limits of the Eastern empire and then only where the influence and manners of the Romans were most powerful.
The first mention of a hippodrome is made by Homer, but it is believed that the term then applied to any course over which a race of any kind was run and that it did not necessarily have a fixed location. As the chariot-racing became the national game, the proper courses for the holding of such events became neces sary, as in these races, though much of the suc cess depended upon the courage and skill of the driver, the loss of life was often great, through collision, the overthrow of the chariot in turn ing caused by rough the breaking of an axle, or numerous other accidents. The hippo drome was built for the purpose of avoiding, as much as possible, the possibility of such mis haps, by providing a wide and smooth track, thus leaving plenty of space for the contestants. Of the ancient hippodromes (as distinguished from circus, amphitheatre, etc.), probably the most famous are those of Olympus and of Con stantinople, and while the Circtis Maximus of Rome may to a great extent have been more of a circus than race course, it was planned after the Greek race courses, was used by the Romans for this purpose and thus may properly be classed with the other two.
The origin of the hippodrome at Olympus tradition gives to Hercules. Of its length and breadth there was until recently •no precise in formation, the overflow of the. Alphus River having washed away the indications of its limits. A Greek manuscript found recently in the old Seraglio in Constantinople gives its dimensions. The total circuit was eight stadia (about 0.95 mile), but the actual course was six stadia. The breadth was 320 feet. Riding races con s:sted of but one lap (six stadia). The mule chariot race seems to have been about eight and one-half miles.
In general form the hippodrome was an ob long, one end of which was semicircular; on three sides having seats for the populace and on the fourth, where the races were started, seats for the royalty and nobles. The right side, formed by an artificial mound, was a little longer than the left side, which was built on the natural slope of a hill, the base of the fourth side being formed by the portico of Agnaptus, named after its builder. The form of the starting place was not unlike the prow of a ship, each side being 400 feet long and con taining stalls for the chariots and their horses. In the arena were two goals around which the chariots passed several times to complete the race,. one of these goals having a bronze statue of 1Iippodameia upon it, the other an altar dedicated to uTaraxippus, the Terror of the Horses." The principal difference between the Greek hippodrome and the Roman circus was in the width of the arena, in the latter only four chariots being able to race at one time; there was also some slight difference in the arrange ment of the carceres.
The erection of the hippodrome of Constan tinople was due to two Roman emperors, Sep timus Severus and Constantine the Great, who each in turn captured Byzantium by storm.