The Circus Maximus

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The Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus, located in the Vallis Murcia (valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills) in Rome, was an ancient hippodrome and mass entertainment venue for the citizens of Rome. The Circus Maximus was first utilised for public games and entertainment by the Etruscan kings of Rome. The first games of the Ludi Romani (Roman Games) were staged there under the rule of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth Etruscan ruler of Rome. They were in held in early September at the end of the military year. The games began with a religious ceremony that opened with what Ovid describes as “a golden procession of all the most important religious and civil authorites”. Statues of the Gods were paraded and sacrifices made before the praetor, or magistrate in charge, signalled the start of the entertainment. The last Ludi Romani was held in 549 by Totilla the Goth who captured Rome and reduced its population to 500. Later, the site hosted public games and festivals that were influenced by the Greeks in the second century BC.

Source 6 provides an overhead view of the Circus Maximus as a whole.

It was built in 326 BC and could hold around 250,000 spectators. The original structure was around 600 metres long and 200 metres wide until Julius Caesar expanded it in 46 BC and built an euripus or water-filled channel around it. (This information provided by Suetonius.) After this expansion the track measured approximately 621m in length and could accommodate an estimated 270,000 seated spectators. Many more citizens, possibly an equal number again were able to view the games from the surrounding hills. The reconstruction drawing (source 1) of the circus shows the view of the stands and the track from the starting stalls. The tiers could only hold about a quarter of the population so it was important that spectators arrived early to get a god seat. Members from all social classes were welcome to watch the games, even slaves were admitted as long as they...
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