Essay On Circus Maxim

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Circus Maxim

The Roman emperor often provided mass entertainment to the people in a bid to ensure that the people never revolted. The entertainment in Rome was mainly designed to ensure that there was no unrest in the empire. One of areas that provided this mass entertainment was the Circus Maximums in Rome (Humphrey 88). The Roman circus was the venue for both chariot and horse racing; it also played host to athletics, public feasts as well as religious ceremonies. It is imperative to understand that alongside with theaters and amphitheaters; the circuses existed as the main entertainment sites for Romans. This paper is going to discuss the first and largest Roman circus; the Circus Maximus.
The Circus Maximus existed as early as the 4th century BC and was repeatedly renovated and rebuilt. It was a massive arena that could accommodate to the excess of 250,000 people at one sitting that can be said to be about five times of what the Colosseum could accommodate.

The Circus Maxim was first built by ruler known as Priscus. However, after building it there were several improvements that were made to the structure that was at the time massively and magnificently adorned in Rome (Humphrey 14). The circus Maximus established in a valley between the Aventine hills and the Palatine in Rome. The Circus Maximus can be described as an architectural masterpiece; this is because of its splendid structure. The design of the arena was oblong in shape, and it had a large barrier that ran down the core of the track that at the time contained statues as well as monuments. The Circus Maximums was colossal with its circumference almost stretching to a mile. The arena was superbly designed, and it was surrounded with several seats all around almost three stories high. The lowest seats in the arena were made of stone while the highest were made of wood, there were different places that were accorded to dignitaries. For example, there were places that were specially set aside for senators and the Equities.

It is of the imperative to note that the Circus Maximus was specifically designed for Chariot races. The Chariots in the arena often had to circle the spine up to seven times. This was a total distance of around four miles (Humphrey 32). The Circus Maximus was highly organized in that there were places where the entrances and exits existed which would allow people to go in and out without necessarily disturbing the spectators. On the far end of the stadium were several openings that were referred to at the time as Ostia, and it is from these points that the horses and chariots came from. The stalls in which the horses stayed in were clearly marked, and they were referred to as Caceres. Before any games began, the images of the gods were often carried in procession in several carriages in frames (Aldrete 17).

They were carried on the strongest men shoulders. The procession then followed several combatants, musicians and dancers. When all was done, and everybody had taken their seat in the arena, the priest often performed his sacred rites (Aldrete 22). The main attraction in the Circus Maximus consisted of both horse races and chariot races. In order to effectively count the number of laps that had been ran by the horses and their chariots, near the end of the spine stood two columns.

On top of the column was a crossbar that had marble eggs, the eggs were as symbol of Pollux and Castor, who was regarded to as the Patron saints of the Empire of Rome (Aldrete 45). The dolphins were especially important because they were regarded to as being sacred to Neptune, who was the patron of horses. Each and every time the chariots and horses circled the course, and egg as well as a dolphin was effectively removed in a bid to tell the crowd how many laps had been run. The spectators, therefore were well informed regarding the proceeding of the games and did not have in any way to physically count the number of laps that the chariots or horses had taken (Humphrey 24).

The drivers of the Chariots attracted fanatical following, and they wore team colors. Originally when the games begun, the factions were red and white, however, this changed and blue as well as green were added during the Empire. A ruler named Domitian introduced purple and gold factions; however, these were extremely short lived. It is of the essence to note that by the fourth century AD, the white faction had joined the green, and the blue had merged with red. It is of the essence to note that there were several hazards in the circus. There were wild beasts in the arena, and this supposedly added to the excitement of the crowd (Aldrete 18). The spectators were offered protected through a giant iron railing. However, this iron railing was broken when a Pompey decided to bring an elephant fight into the arena. As a result of this broken railing, Caesar decided to ensure that there was added security and added a 10 feet wide and ten deep trenches between the Arena and the seats. However, the hazards did not end entirely in the arena was the wooden seats were in constant danger of catching fire.

The chariots that raced had two wheels and were constantly pulled up by four horses. In some occasions, dogs, camels as well as ostriches were called upon to pull the chariots. The excitement also came in injuries and deaths; there were times the chariots overturned to the amazement of the crowd. Four to a maximum of twelve chariots often raced at a time, and the course consisted of around seven laps around the huge arena (Dibben 15). It is of the essence to note that the admission to the circus Maximus was free to all the levels of the roman society. Everybody in the empire came to watch these races from the Emperor himself to the common poor. The chariot races were extremely popular with the Romans, and people would often argue regarding which chariot teams were likely to take a day.

The Charioteers themselves did everything in their power to win; poisoning each other horses was not uncommon. In fact, one Emperor known as Nero was known to be professionally rowdy when it came to the games and was the avid fan of the races (Dibben 84). The charioteers were seen as gods in the land and were deemed to be above the law and in some instances they were not even prosecuted for any crimes that they did.

The raucous behavior however contributed the declining circus crowd and riots started to become commonplace in the arena. There were memorable events in the circus Maximus, for example, in the 3rd century, the emperor known as Probus laid a spectacular circus where beasts were killed through a veritable forest of trees on a magnificent built stage (Dibben 13). It is of the essence to note that with the advent of Christianity as the main religion of the empire, the arena gradually fell out of favor with many people. This is because the gods that were relished on the circus Maximus were now considered as being foreign gods and idols, and consequently most people did not want to be connected with it.

After the 6th century, the circus Maximus fell into complete disuse and consequently it decayed, and it was quarried by the people for building materials. The circus currently functions as a large park area in the center of the city, and it is often used by the people for meetings and concerts.

In conclusion, the circus Maximus was the first and the biggest circus that existed in Rome. It was located between the Palatine and Aventine hills. Its shape was particularly made for Chariot races and the spectators watched from inside the stadium as well as the surrounding hills. The Circus Maximus with time became an important as well as a popular celebration point for the people of Rome (Dibben 83). It was constructed by Priscus who was commonly referred to as Tarquin and was intended to entertain the Romans in order to avoid civil unrest. The drivers of the chariots were loved fanatically, and the people of Rome appreciated them. However, with the advent of Christianity, the arena eventually died away today it has been converted into a park for concerts and meetings.


Dibben, Damian. Circus Maximus. , 2013. Print.
Humphrey, John H. Roman Circuses: Arenas for Chariot Racing. Berkeley [etc.: University of California Press, 1986. Print.
Aldrete, Gregory S. Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.