Circus Maximus - History of Ancient Rome Circus
Circus Maximus is a stadium (circus) built in ancient Rome in the Old Kingdom era. It was a place where chariot races were held as well as other mass
entertainment shows. It was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and other circuses were modeled after it. Today, a place where Circus Maximus
stood is a public park.
Ancient city of Rome was built on seven hills. Between two of those hills, Aventine and Palatine, was a Valley of Murcia (Vallis Murcia) where horse races
were held. Circus Maximus started there as a simple hippodrome. It had turning posts, banks for spectators to sit, and some shrines and sacred spots. The
first Etruscan king of Rome built raised, wooden perimeter seating at the Circus for higher classes of Rome. His grandson, Tarquinius Superbus, further
improved the Circus by adding seats for Roman commoners. These seats were made of wood were had to be replaced often. Circus had turning posts made of
three conical stone pillars and an open drainage canal between the posts was a dividing barrier between the lanes. With the
Republican era started improving of the Circus Maximus continued. Dictator Manius Valerius Maximus and his descendants were granted seats in 494 BC.
Starting stalls were built in 329 BC and they could hold up to 25 four-horse chariots. Stone track-side seats were built for senators in 190s BC. In 50 BC
Julius Caesar continued improvement of Circus by extending the seating tiers to run the entire circuit of the track, except at the starting gates and a
processional entrance. Now track had approximately 621 m in length and 150 m in width. A canal was also dug between the track and the seats to protect
spectators and to better drain the track from rain water. Under the seats was a so-called “cavea” - subterranean cells in which animals were held. Front
seats were reserved for aristocracy while the other were populated by plebs – common people. Seats were still built of wood and could accommodate around
150,000 people but during the build or short after, in 31 BC, they were damaged by fire. Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, had the seats fixed and built
an obelisk and pulvinar - an "empty throne" for gods. Improvements were made in many places but mainly in wood until Trajan, after many fires and many
dead, decided to rebuild the Circus entirely in stone.
Games (Ludi) held at Circus Maximus were sponsored by Romans aristocracy or the Roman state and were held as an entertainment for Roman citizens and Roman
gods. They lasted from half a day to several days and consisted of chore racing, religious ceremonies and public feasts. Games also had purpose to show
competence, generosity, and fitness for higher office of those that organized them and were because of that a method of politics. When games were not held,
charioteers and jockeys practiced on the track or Circus was used as a corral for the animals traded in the nearby cattle market.