Circus Maximus

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  • Topic: Ancient Rome, Chariot racing, Chariot
  • Pages : 5 (1965 words )
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  • Published : March 13, 2012
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Circus Maximus
It is nearly impossible to look at the field that holds the remains of the Circus Maximus and understand what it once held without the aid of a vivid reconstruction. The remains of Circus Maximus lie in the Valley between the Aventine and Palentine hill. Traditionally, the history of the Circus Maximus began with chariot races held in honor of the God Consus in a less permanent structure in the area near Consus’s altar. In later years, this lead to the construction of a circus under the first Etruscan king, Tarquinius Priscus around 600 bc. Previous to Tarquin’s intervention, an underground stream kept the valley swamp like. Tarquin diverted the water and drained the area and began to hold chariot races in the area. The Circus was built for the use of public games to serve as a source of amusement for the people and was the largest of its kind in Rome. The Circus experienced various additions and construction throughout the period of the Roman Republic. The first permanent starting gates were built in 329 BC out of painted wood and the spina is suspected to have been added not too long after. The spina was a raised median built to prevent cheating. The spina was an estimated 340 meters long. Throughout the use of Circus Maximus, various amendments were made to the spina. Initially seven eggs were placed there to count seven turns about the track. Later, Agrippa in 33 BC added seven bronze dolphins that would turn upwards when laps were completed. The spina held water basins that allowed for impressive fountains to be constructed atop it. Along the sides, carvings of symbols and artwork were displayed. There were a myriad of altars and monuments placed on the spina and even an remarkable statue of Cybele mounted on a lion. Perhaps, the most impressive addition to the circus was the addition of two Egyptian obelisks. In 10 BC, Augustus had an obelisk brought from Heliopolis, which has been dated to about 1280 BC. Like was common under Augustus’s rule, Egyptian relics were places about Rome to send a message to the citizens about the dominance of the Roman empire and the stability of the capital city, Rome. Constantius II placed the second obelisk on top the spina in 357 AD. Originally, the obelisk was destined to be placed in Constantinople by Constantine, yet it remained unattended at a dock in Alexandria for 25 years. The obelisk was placed on the spina with an inscription on the base dedicating it to the city and people of Rome as well as chastising Constantine for originally intending the obelisk for Constantinople and praising Constantius II for a restoration of unity. Presently, the first obelisk is located in the Piazza del Popolo and the second in the Piazza Saint Giovanni in Laterano. There was a massive expansion and reconstruction of the Circus Maximus under Caesar and later under Emperor Trajan c. 103 AD. The Circus was built to accommodate an estimated 150,000 spectators under Caeser and reached a capacity of about 250,000 people by the time of Constantine. The first tier of seats were constructed out of concrete and the upper was built out of wood and other less permanent materials. Around the time 81 AD, the senate of Rome added a triumphal arch built to honor Titus’s defeat of Judea where the gates leading to the forum were. Customarily, arches were built to signify major military triumphs. In cases of great victories, Rome welcomed back the victorious general with a triumphus, a celebratory processional leading into the city. Triumphs passed through their erected arch if one way built for the victory and a passing about Circus Maximus was usually included in the parade route. The starting point of the 12 charioteers were marked by painted carceres which were staggered to ensure an even racing length per circuit about the track. The starting gates were split in half; six chariots would start on either side of the entrance that opened to the Forum Boarium. The officiating magistrate...
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