The Circus Maximus

Episode 27,   Sep 20, 2020, 04:09 PM

Legend has it that the Circus Maximus was founded by the early kings of Rome in the 6th Century BCE.  It is undoubtedly the oldest and was by far the largest public sports venue of ancient Rome.

It occupies most of the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, and served Rome’s chariot-racing stadium for over 1,000 years.

That said, use of the Circus was not limited to chariot racing, it also served as a venue for public games or Ludi connected to Roman religious festivals. Ludi were typically sponsored by leading Romans or the Roman state for the benefit of the Roman people and gods. The earliest triumphal ludi at the Circus were vowed by Tarquin the Proud for his victory over Pometia and dedicated to Jupiter, the god of the sky,

Ludi ranged in duration and scope from one-day or even half-day events to spectacular multi-venue celebrations held over several days, with religious ceremonies, gladiatorial combat, public feasts, horse and chariot racing, athletics, plays and recitals and wild animal hunts. Some included public executions.

The race track is roughly 550m long and 80m wide. The spectator stands are 30m deep and surround almost the entire perimeter giving, in the first century, a maximum capacity was reported to be roughly 250,000 spectators although this may include people sitting on the sides of the adjacent hills – in any case this is over four times more people than the maximum capacity of the Colosseum.