When was the Circus Maximus Built?

The greatest chariot racing track Ancient Roman had ever seen. Built between the valley of Aventine and Palatine Hills, it was the first and biggest stadium in Ancient Rome. It is now a historic sight of parkland, used throughout the year for large events or concerts, with the ruins of the building barely remaining.

The Birth of the Circus

The exact date of the construction is unknown, with evidence estimating different centuries. Archaeologists gather its construction began at least in the 4th century BC. But roman records state it was constructed earlier, with contrasting records affirming it was done in the 7th century by Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, with other records illustrating the birth even earlier in the 8th century, to host the first races by Romulus, Rome’s first king. No matter what you believe, we can gather that this is a very ancient Roman site.

The structure of the Circus

It was an enormous site, measuring to 621 metres in length and 118 metres in width, accommodating over 150,000 spectators at once. The main features included the track, twelve starting gates (for the chariots,) the stadium seats, and the decorated barrier.

The use of the Circus

As Rome’s largest stadium, it held an array of public entertainment events throughout the Romans rein. The stadium held numerous celebrations, including religious events as well as public festivals games. The most popular event was by far the chariot racing. This involved four horses (on average) pulling a two-wheeled standing vehicle for racers. The racing was much similar to the modern-day car racing, involving a series of laps around the large stadium. The events were often very violent, as collisions were common, causing serious injury or death. Ludi was also held here, which referred to celebrations for victorious wars. These events ranged in celebrations, with some only lasting one day, were others lasted several. One of the unique events that have been noted in historical texts is the wild beats hunts within the circus.

How you can see it today

The slow destruction of the Circus started after the 6th century AD. Frequent flooding caused the lower levels to be buried slowly, resulting in the original track now under 6 metres of soil. The site was occupied in and after the 11th century, used as housing complexes and market gardens. The Circus is now a large park area, used for large events and concerts, with only small sections of remains. Travel on a tour to find out about each missing section of the stadium, discovering the secrets of the area.

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