Circus of Maximus

What is the Circus of Maximus?

The Circus of Maximus was a chariot racetrack build by Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth Roman king in the 6th century BCE.

The stadium would host more than just chariot races; the Ludi Romani, wild animal hunts, public executions and gladiator fights would also take place at the Circus of Maximus.

A drawing of the races

Architecture of the Circus of Maximus

The stadium was surrounded with seats, reaching three stories high. In it, the lower seats would be made of stone and the highest made with wood.At one point the stadium was able to host 250,000 people, one quarter of Rome's population.

The obelisk - dedicated to the Pharaoh Ramses the Great

In the middle of the stadium, there was a brick wall barrier called the "spina". In the middle of this spina, Emperor Augustus build an obelisk, dedicated to the Pharaoh Ramses the Great.

7 wooden eggs and 7 bronze dolphins were place at each ends of the spina and would be taken off when a lap was completed

The Chariot Races

Before the games began, the images of the god were carried on carriages and in frames in the stadium to honor them. Followed by the combatants, dancers, musicians, the consuls and priests would then perform sacred rites.

After the races were finished, the victors would be crowned and received a prize consisting of money with considerable value.

Scorpus - a famous charioteer that won over 2000 races

Chariot races were perhaps the most popular game of all that took place in the Circus of Maximus. Of the 77 days for public games during the year, races would be running on 17 days of them.

Due to political instability when Rome fell to the barbarians, consuls could no longer afford the honour in any event. The last race was recorded by Procopius, occurring in AD550.

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