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The Circus Maximus (or in Italian Circo Massimo) was one of the greatest entertainment venues of the ancient world. It was used for entertainment and in religious purposes. Some consider it as a predecessor of modern circuses. Today is a city park.
Joseph Grimaldi invented the clown as we know today (a joy for some and deathly fear for other). He lived on the stage since his second year and left it everything that was his.
Circus of Nero began as a place for public trainings of Caligula and Nero and became a place of martyrdom of many early Christians. When it was abandoned it became a place of not one but two basilicas.
Philip Astley combined two types of show: horse riding tricks and acrobatic acts into a type of show we today know as circus. He owned many small circuses and three large: in London, Paris and Dublin. Read more about the father of the modern circus.