Circus Maximus in Rome - Bread and Circuses

It seems that Romans were the grandfathers of the biggest entertainment in history. The amplitude of recrationational passtime was diverse and spectacular to its maximum. Emperors used entertainment to approximate the citizens and to immortalize themselves in the centuries. Some of them have succeeded in doing so and today we still have complexes like the famous Colosseum and the Circus Maximus in Rome - the two biggest venues of Ancient Roman World.

Well, it turns out that people have always wanted circuses and bread, but the difference between the modern times and that of Ancient Rome is that ancient Romans pushed the limits of their pastime and had less scruples about the moral side of it. The more impressive and brutal the event was the better. Emperors used this knowledge to their benefit, they knew how to shock and how to show their power. One of the ways to stand out was to hold big chariot racing events and here is when the Circus Maximus comes in the spotlight.

As we know the Colosseum is the biggest ancient amphitheater and one of the best preserved constructions that survived till today. But did you know that the main venue in terms of entertainment for Ancient Romans was actually the Circus Maximus in Rome? Let’s find out why. 

So, What Is the Circus Maximus?

The Circus Maximus in Rome was built in VI BC much prior to the Colosseum (72 AD) by Tarquinius Priscus. The stadium was the largest hippodrome stadium for chariot races and was also used for celebrating religious festivals and holding public games. 

The Size And Capacity

To understand how large it actually was we need to compare it with other famous arenas. What comes first to mind is the world famous Colosseum that could invite 50 000 people at a time. Now, imagine that the Circus Maximus in Rome was so huge it could sit about 250 000 people. The size of the Circus Maximus was also impressive - 600 meters in length and 150m width (2000*500ft). For comparison here are the dimensions of the Colosseum: 187,75m long and 155,60 wide. 

Location Of Circus Maximus In Rome

It is situated between Aventine and Palatine Hills. Address: Via del Circo Massimo, 00186 Roma RM, Italy. 

History Of the Circus Maximus Through Interesting Facts 

  1. This legendary Circus was in use for about 1000 years.
  2. Twelve chariots could participate in the races simultaneously. 
  3. The Circus Maximus was described and documented in the works of Pliny. 
  4. Julius Caesar reconstructed the hippodrome and enlarged it to become 600 m long with the capacity of 250 000 people. Before that happened it was smaller and could sit 150 000 people, which is neither too little.
  5. The narrow part in the middle of hippodrome, called the spina, survived till our days. It was decorated with two obelisks, which were relocated during long Roman history. Today one of them is on the Piazza del Popolo and the second one is on the piazza in front of the Lateran Palace.
  6. Different emperors made changes to the Circus Maximus. Trajan, Domitian, Julius Caesar and others had their fingers in the pie. Trajan, for instance, increased the number of seats after Julius Caesar. Domitian paved the way from the hippodrome to his palace. It was also thoroughly restored and decorated with a new obelisk by Emperor Constantine. 
  7. The last Roman games were held in 549. 
  8. The Circus Maximus stayed more or less intact until the XII century. Then it was plundered for its marble. However, during long Roman history the territory of the Circus Maximus has never been occupied and thus we still can witness the ruins of this once gigantic and important ancient landmark. 
  9. The Circus Maximus became a model for other venues of the same kind all around Ancient Rome. No wonder, you can find traces of similar venues all around the big Roman Empire. 
  10. As in case with the Colosseum the materials - marble and stones - from the Circus Maximus were also often used to build other architectural masterpieces of the City of Seven Hills. 

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