Auriga (slave)

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A Roman auriga

In ancient Rome, the auriga was a slave with gladiator status, whose duty was to drive a biga, the light vehicle powered by two horses, to transport some important Romans, mainly duces (military commanders). An auriga was a sort of "chauffeur" for important men and was carefully selected among trustworthy slaves only.

It has been supposed also that this name was given to the slave who held a laurel crown, during Roman Triumphs, over the head of the dux, standing at his back but continuously whispering in his ears "Memento homo" ("remember you are [only] a man") to avoid that the excess of celebration could lead the celebrated commander to lose his sense of proportions.

The term became common in latter times to indicate any biga driver.