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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.
John Bill Ricketts brought circus from Europe to United States. He worked successfully for seven years until a misplaced candle brought down his business and he lost his money and life at sea.
Contemporary circus is relatively new subtype of circus (some 50 years relative to 250 of a traditional circus) which mixes elements of its predecessor with higher art and other type of media.
Circus of Maxentius is the best preserved circus from time of ancient Rome. It was designed and built with great care but it didn't see much use. Because of that we can today see, in great detail, how ancient circuses looked like.