The Circus Maximus of Rome!

So we went off to Italy , well I went off several times mostly on business trips, but with the family we chose Rome. Such an impressive name and a great introduction for them to Italy. There is so much to see , very old stones of very old history nevertheless, a primer from where most began. I have written several posts on Italy and most on Rome in my blog.

However, as usual many have been general in scope and I feel this spot in Rome deserves a bit more description and information on it. I will tell you a bit more on the Circus Maximus or Circo Massimo of Rome or Roma!

The Circo Massimo or Circus Maximus literally “the biggest circus”,  is the largest and oldest racecourse in Rome, considering the importance of its dimensions and the richness of its history compared to the dozen or so circus of Rome, it is often called simply “Circus” by the ancient writers. The largest public building of ancient Rome, it is mainly dedicated to chariot races but it can also be used for other types of show or during triumphal processions, especially from the reign of Trajan. Today, it is located in the rione of Ripa and remains the scene of large gatherings at festivals, concerts, or other major events.


A bit of history I like, just a bit ok

The Roman tradition attributes the foundation of the circus to Tarquin the Elder, in 599 BC, with the first works of arrangement. Its location corresponds to the site where, in the time of Romulus, the rites and the first sacred games, called Consualiaa, which included equestrian races, would have taken place in honor of the god Consus. At the end of the 4C BC appear the first permanent structures but it was not until the end of the 1C BC, with the work undertaken by Julius Caesar and Augustus, for the building to adopt its definitive form of Roman circus.

At the beginning of the 4C, Emperor Constantine I restored the circus magnificently, and prepared a site on the spina for a new obelisk taken from Karnak in Egypt and arrived in Rome in 323. In May 357, the Emperor Constantine II resumes the project of Constantine I to raise a second obelisk on the spina. This second obelisk is a monolith of 33 meters, the largest in Rome, as high as a 10-story building. It was carved out of Syrian Aswan pink granite during the reign of Tuthmosis  IV between 1401 and 1390 BC. It is today known as the Lateran Obelisk, because it was re-erected on the Place Saint-Jean-de-Latran in the 16C.

In 549 took place the last race, under the reign of Ostrogoth king Totila, after which the Circus Maximus  is left abandoned and falls into ruin. During the Middle Ages, the stones and marbles of the terraces and tribunes are gradually re-used in the construction of various palaces and churches. In 1587, the Constantine II obelisk was removed. Broken into three pieces, it is transported and reassembled in 1588 in the Place Saint-Jean-de-Latran. In 1589, the obelisk of Augustus was in turn moved to Piazza del Popolo. After the Renaissance, there is almost nothing left of the vast construction.

Under the Empire, with the construction of the amphitheater of Statilius Taurus and especially that of the Coliseum, the circus is no longer the privileged place for the organization of much of the entertainment that took place under the Republic,  like gladiator fights, hunting shows, and fighting wild beasts. However, this type of show does not disappear completely from the circus; representations continue to be given from time to time.

Today’s and it’s uses of the Circo Massimo!

The grassy valley that today forms the Circus Maximus is used for major events such as concerts, popular gatherings like the celebration of Italy’s victory at the 2006 World Cup with a million people, or giant outdoor cinema sessions.

The Circus Maximus extends in a very elongated plan that ends up occupying virtually the entire valley between the Palatine and the Aventine. In reality, its maximum capacity (in the 4C) was 95,000 to 100,000 spectators (that is 1 / 10th of the population of Imperial Rome).  A bit on the Interior Architecture, just to name the main places such as the  Arena, Spina and Euripus, Obelisks, Bleachers and Pulvinar, and Prisons. Outdoor Architecture, you have the Facades, Associated Temples, The Consuls Altar, The Fornix Steriti, and the Arch of Vespasian and Titus.

The ways of getting here are varied. Directions to get here are easy, we took the bus and then walk . However, there is the Metro, line B (stop Circo Massimo). The Tramway line 3 (stop Aventino/Circo Massimo). And the many bus lines passing by such as the  51, 75, 118, 81, 85, 87, 118, 160, 186, 626, 673, 810, and N2 nighttime bus.

Ok so as usual some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourist office of Rome on the circus

Quadrata or square Rome webpage on info of the Circus

Cultural site of Rome on the circus

All Italy map of the circus and surroundings in Rome

There you go , now you are all set for a wonderful time in Rome and the Circus Maximus or in Italian Circo Massimo. Hope you have enjoy the brief tour.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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2 Comments to “The Circus Maximus of Rome!”

  1. I visited last week and it’s now come to life via a great virtual reality experience. I’ve blogged about it, but this could me a great excuse to go back and see the Circus again!


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