The Palio Horse in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy

  • Elizabeth Tobey
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


On the first Saturday in May 2002, a black horse sped to the front of the pack in the 128 th running of the Kentucky Derby, winning America’s most important race by four lengths. The horse, War Emblem, though American-bred, became the first winner of the Derby to be owned by an Arab owner, the late Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia, who unfortunately passed away a few months after War Emblem’s historic victory.


Sixteenth Century Early Modern Period Italian City National Gallery Late Sixteenth Century 
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  1. 1.
    Claudio Corte, Il cavallarizzo (Venice: Giordano Ziletti, 1562), 98. “But first, you must know, that the Emperor Verus had a horse called Volucrus of incomparable speed, of greatest excellence. In honor of this horse they began to first run palio races; being at first a race of chariots” (Ma prima devete anco sapere, che Vero Imperatore hebbe un cavallo chiamato Volucro della velocità sua incomparabile, di somma eccellenza. In honore del qual cavallo si cominciarono prima à correre i palii; essendosi prima corso con le carrette). Sixteenth-century writers certainly knew about the history and even the appearance of the Roman circus, based upon the unearthing of archaeological sites and surviving writings by Roman authors such as Ovid. Pasquale Caracciolo devotes over six pages to descriptions of the ancient Roman chariot races. Pasquale Caracciolo includes a section on ancient Roman chariot races in his book, La gloria del cavallo (Venice: Gabriel Giulito de’ Ferrari, 1566), 6–10.Google Scholar
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© Karen Raber and Treva J. Tucker 2005

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  • Elizabeth Tobey

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