Rosemary Sutcliff Describes the Thrill of Chariot-Racing

The young Roman Centurion Marcus is allowed to try out the team of black horses belonging to Cradoc, a British tribesman and charioteer:

Illustration from the hardback second edition of "The Eagle of the Ninth."

“[Marcus] took the team through every trick and test that their master ordered, until the moment came for a final burst of speed, and they were sweeping at full gallop round the mile-wide curve of the woodshore.

To Marcus that moment was always like being born from one kind of life into another. So must an arrow feel when it leaves the bow! It had been hot and sultry in the old life, but in this one the cool wind flowed against him like water, pressing his thin scarlet tunic into his body, singing past his ears above the soft thunder of the ponies’ flying hooves. He crouched lower, feeling the chariot floor buoyant and vibrating under his wide-set feet, feeling the reins quick with life in his hands, his will flowing out along them to the flying team, and their response flowing back to him, so that they were one. He called to them in the Celtic tongue, urging them on.

‘On, brave hearts! On, bold and beautiful! Thy mares shall be proud of thee, the tribe shall sing thy praises to their children’s children! Sweff! Sweff, my brothers!’

For the first time he loosed the lash, letting it fly out and flicker like dark lightning above their ears without ever touching them. The forest verge spun by, the fern streaked away beneath flying hooves and whirling wheels. He and his team were a comet shooting down the bright ways of the sky; a falcon stooping against the sun…”

Rosemary Sutcliff, The Eagle of the Ninth, pg. 19-20