The Roman Army and Chariot
Experience - 23rd December 2007
The Roman Army and Chariot Experience, or RACE, live at the Hippodrome in Jerash. The only place in the world, so they say, where you can experience for yourself a large scale Roman army, gladiator and chariot racing performances, all in an authentic Roman setting.
Check out their website at www.jerashchariots.com
We were invited to take out places on the same seats on which the Romans sat to enjoy the entertainment at the Hippodrome.
Our presenter (in excellent English) introduced our legion, the VI Legion Ferrata or Ironclad, established by Julius Caesar. The Legion present their equipment and demonstrate the battle tactics that were used in the Roman army, throwing pilae (spears) and wielding the famous short stabbing sword, the gladius.
Then the Centurion cries out in Latin, "Are you ready for war?" and the legionariesí roar echoes around the hippodrome. The legionaries attack through the lines and defend the vexillum forming the testudo and the wedge.
After the legion has finished with their display of equipment and battle tactics, the gladiators arrive! With the words "we who are about to die salute you", the gladiators with classical weapons enter to fight.
The gladiator trainer, dressed in a grey sheepskin jerkin, is a mean looking fellow as you can see.
You can shout and cheer for your favourite. The fate of the loser depends on you, and on the Magistrate, with a thumbs up or down (actually thumbs horizontal). We were a friendly crowd, which was fortunate as our presenter said he needed some gladiators for the 2pm show!
After the gladiator games we were treated to a chariot race. Our chariot race was not quite as dramatic as the one mentioned on the RACE website (probably as we were visiting in the winter months) but it was still great fun.
After the winner received a well deserved round of applause from the crowd, you are invited down to take photos with the legion and gladiators, if you dare!
I have read that the cast of our show are retired Jordanian soldiers and police. I'm told that Alfredo Danesi, one of the charioteers in the movie Ben Hur, helped with the design of the chariots.
The Roman Army and Chariot Experience is excellent entertainment and well worth seeing!
After Jerash and the RACE, we drove south for lunch and a swim at the Dead Sea before driving to Aqaba.