Circus Maximus Facts: Learn About The Largest Stadium In Rome | Kidadl


Circus Maximus Facts: Learn About The Largest Stadium In Rome

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Circus Maximus was one of the biggest sports arenas ever built.

Being the biggest of the Roman hippodromes, the Circus Maximus arena was rebuilt during the time of Julius Ceasar. This rebuilding increased the seating capacity of the area to an estimated 150,000 spectators.

Known in Italian as 'Circo Massimo', the estimated length of the Circus Maximus was 2,037 ft (62087 cm) and the breadth 387 ft (11795 cm). The Circus Maximus used to be a model of all circuses in the Roman Empire, and is now a well-known public park. Chariot racing is what comes to mind when we think of ancient Rome. The Circus Maximus was one place where such chariot races were held. These chariot races were said to be distracting. The Circus Maximus was initially a wooden structure, but due to the repeated fire-related accidents that happened there, the circus was later rebuilt using more concrete and marble than wood.

Its Importance

The Circus Maximus was built in the 6th Century BCE. It is said that the Circus Maximus was laid out by the first Roman kings, though it took its particular and distinctive shape due to Julius Caesar.

The Circus Maximus in Rome was the biggest venue for the Ludi. These were roman games associated with religious festivals. These festivals were conducted as Roman traditions and involved various games, including chariot races, plays, recitals, and gladiator games. Roman circuses were important venues and centers for entertainment. The Ludi were conducted to honor Jupiter.

The Circus Maximus of Rome consists of some important shrines as well, which were dedicated to Consus, the ancient god of storehouse and granary, and Murcia, an obscure deity who is associated with Venus. It was around these shrines that the chariots raced. In AD 81, a triple arch was built by the senate to honor Titus.

The History Of Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus was built in ancient Rome during the Old Kingdom era. It is said that ancient Romans built the Circus Maximus in the middle of the valley, between the Aventine hills and Palatine hills. The first Etruscan king of the Roman empire built wooden stands and seats for the upper class. Dictator Manius Valerius Maximus, as well as his descendants, were given the right to a curule chair, offering a great viewpoint for the entertainment occurring in the Circus Maximus. Tarquinius Superbus added seats for commoners. These seats were made of wood and required frequent replacement. 46 BC saw Julius Caesar lengthening the tracks and building a euripus, a water channel, around it. In 31 BC, a fire destroyed many parts of the circus. Augustus, Caesar's successor, repaired the circus.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus described the Circus Maximus as 'one of the most beautiful and admirable structures in Rome' in 7 BC. After another fire occurred around 103 AD, and Trajan restored the Circus Maximus. This restoration was said to be so spectacular that it rivaled the beauty of temples.

Although, initially, the Circus Maximus was designed for chariot racing, many different events were held there. It was used as an arena for gladiator fights as well. The chariots were usually driven by enslaved people and freedmen in Rome. The racing teams were often identified by their colors. The chariots began from 12 gates, and it was the presiding magistrate who signaled the beginning of the race. Break lines were used to ensure a fair start, and the chariots were not permitted to leave their lanes during any of the races. The chariots were pulled by the best horses carefully bred and trained.

It is said that the Circus Maximus held chariot races for 15 days in the month of September. And Emperor Nero increased the duration of each race during his reign. Along with the chariot races, military processions also took place in the Circus Maximus. Chariot races were a sport that was looked forward to by all of ancient Rome. However, chariot racing in ancient Rome came with its dangers. The races were dangerous as the chariots were made to be light, and fouls during the races were a frequent occurrence. Additionally, if the charioteers won multiple races, they were either lionized or brandished as witches or magicians, with multiple instances of prosecution for witchcraft being recorded.

The Uses Of Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus, or Circo Massimo, in Rome was used to conduct games. The principal use of the Circus Maximus was as a chariot racetrack where chariot racers or different chariot teams faced off. Despite chariot racing being one of the main uses, many religious festivals and gladiator fights were also conducted in this arena. Though chariot races were often conducted using well-bred horses, the riders of the races were often slaves.

The Circus Maximus of Rome was also used for public executions, hunts, and races.

Circus Maximus arena was rebuilt during the time of Julius Ceasar

The Destruction Of Circus Maximus

During the imperial era, a fire broke out. This was in 31 BC, and the fire damaged the wooden seating area that was constructed in the Circus Maximus. This was said to be repaired by Augustus, who was the successor of Caesar and Rome's first emperor. He added an imperial box on Palatine hill. In AD 64, Nero's reign, a fire broke out again, which destroyed parts of the city.

Around AD 103, another fire broke out, and Trajan is said to have restored the Circus Maximus to its greatest splendor. This restoration was considered to rival the beauty of even temples. Due to the Circus Maximus being prone to catching fire, the later rebuilding was done using concrete and marble. After the Western Roman Empire, the interest in chariot racing slowly faded. The last chariot race recorded in history by Procopius is said to have occurred in AD 550. By around the 6th century, the Circus Maximus was not being used at all and fell into decay due to the lack of use. Later, the site was quarried and used for constructing different other buildings causing further damage to the monument. During the renaissance, quarrying for quality stones for the building was done at the site. During this time, two obelisks of the structure were removed by Pope Sixtus V. The 19th century is when the site was used for industry and gasworks. However, in the 1930s, the area was cleared and the site was converted into a park. The park was constructed in a way so that it resembles the original shape of the circus. The Circus Maximus of Rome is still used as a venue for large public events.


Why was the Circus Maximus important to Rome?

The Circus Maximus of Rome is important as it is a site with much history. The site was used as an entertainment venue where chariot races, gladiator fights, and even religious offerings were done. These events were conducted in order to honor gods as well as to appease the people of Rome. The Circus Maximus is also considered one of the largest public stadiums ever built in the history of humankind. Additionally, the Circus Maximus was also a place where enslaved people could participate in a chariot race and get a chance to win their freedom if they placed first in the race.

What does SPQR stand for?

SPQR, the abbreviation, initially was used to refer to 'Senatus Populusque Romanus', which meant 'the Senate and the Roman People'. Roman soldiers carried a tattoo with permanent ink to be used as a form of identification and indication of membership in a unit. It is a mark of Senatus Populusque Romanus, abbreviated 'SPQR'. However, in recent years, many white supremacists have been adopting this acronym in order to symbolize their movement.

Did the Circus Maximus burn down?

Though the Circus Maximus was prone to catching fire, with many incidents of the stadium catching fire recorded in history, it was always rebuilt by the prominent figures of the time. As years passed, each fire caused the rebuilding of the Circus Maximus to be done using concrete and marble. It was due to the lack of use and quarrying of the place for the construction of other buildings that caused the Circus Maximus to decay. However, the site has now been deemed a park and is preserved.

How was the Circus Maximus destroyed?

The Circus Maximus was exposed to multiple fire outbreaks and had to be rebuilt multiple times as per the records of history. However, the ultimate damage that caused the most destruction was due to lack of use. Later, the site was quarried for the construction of other buildings. In the 19th century, the site was used for industrial purposes and even for gasworks.

What is the spina in the Circus Maximus?

The races in the Circus Maximus took place on either side of a brook. This brook ran between the two hills, Aventile and Palatine. For the racetrack, through channeling and bridging this brook, a euripus was created for use as a barrier. This dividing barrier is what is called the 'spina'.

What did they do in the Circus Maximus?

The Circus Maximus of Rome hosted chariot races. It was used for gladiator fights, celebrations and also was used to build stalls. However, the most important event that used to happen in the Circus Maximus was the chariot races. All of the citizens of Rome used to look forward to these races.

Why was the Circus Maximus important?

The Circus Maximus is still regarded as one of the biggest stadiums ever made in history by humankind. The site was used to hold different celebrations and religious festivals. Games and fun events were also hosted there as forms of entertainment for the people, as well as to honor the gods.

How old is the Circus Maximus?

The Circus Maximus is centuries old, with a rich history. Being one of the biggest stadiums in the world, the Circus Maximus went through major changes in different centuries. Though the exact age of the building cannot be calculated, as the date on which construction ended is not recorded, the Circus Maximus was built in the 6th century BCE.

What is an interesting fact about the Circus Maximus?

There are many different fun and interesting facts about the Circus Maximus of Rome. However, one of the most interesting facts about the Circus Maximus is that the main event that used to happen at this site was chariot racing. Evidence from history records suggests that much importance was given to chariot racing in ancient Rome, and this site had a track specifically set for it.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

Sridevi's passion for writing has allowed her to explore different writing domains, and she has written various articles on kids, families, animals, celebrities, technology, and marketing domains. She has done her Masters in Clinical Research from Manipal University and PG Diploma in Journalism From Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. She has written numerous articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories, which have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. She is fluent in four languages and likes to spend her spare time with family and friends. She loves to read, travel, cook, paint, and listen to music.

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