Terms

Palio

Today the Palio of Siena is known to tourists around the world as an annual horse race that occurs in the yown square in front of their town hall or Public Palace (Palazzo Pubblico). As a horse race, the Palio is a highly complex social event because it is effectively entails all the sections of the city (Contradas) in a form of co-opetiton -- vant la lettre. Much less known is that the Palio has a series of forms in many of the early city states with festivals that contunue to our day. For instance the Palio della Vittoria in Anghiari dates back to a famous battle in 1440 -- also the topic of painting by Leonardo da Vinci. In most cases these Palios are not just horse races. They are complex festivals that are directly connected with the mediaval tradition of the Joust, and typically involve jousting with a mock Saracen (Saraceno), recalling the battles, especially in Spain, to conquer the Moors. It is significant that these struggles between Christianity and Islam are commemorated in the form of contest and play -- a theme that fascinated Huizinga in Homo Ludens.
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