Listed under categories:

- Ancient Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Facts:

Constructed:

- In the 4th century.

 

Founded by:

- Emperor Maxentius.

 

Function:

- Roman stadium.

 

Active:

- No.

 

Today:

- More or less left in a ruinous state, but still one of the best preserved Ancient Roman stadiums.

 

 

 

 

 

Traveler reviews:

 

As someone interesed in ancient Rome, this place one of the best sites in Rome. Of course not as grand as the Pantheon or the Colosseum, but still an inspiring site.

   

- hungarian56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Europe » Italy » Rome » Circus of Maxentius

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Circus of Maxentius, Rome

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Circus of Maxentius history

 

This grand arena, located next to the Appian Way, was built during the early 4th century during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maxentius. The exact history of this circus is still rather unknown, but the records tell us about at least one of the games held at this circus

 

 

Death of Romulus

These games were the inaugural ones which were described to have been funerary in character. These games were most likely held in honor of the emperor’s son, Valerius Romulus, who died at young age. Romulus is believed to have been interred at the circus, at a masoluem Maxentius most likely already had built as a future tomb for himself.

 

The Tomb of Romulus is one of the first things that visitors will see if they are walking the Appian Way from Rome. However, today the tomb itself is in ruinous state and to a large extent concealed by another building. 

 

 

Why visit Circus of Maxentius ?

 

Circus of Maxentius, known until the 19th century as the Circus of Caracalla, is the best preserved of all extant Roman circuses. It is also the second largest of all circuses, only beaten by Circus Maximus.

 

 

Left in ruins

As one can see, much of the circus itself is left in ruins despite the fact that it is the best preserved Roman Circus available. However, the 500 meter long racing track is still visible, as well as the two gate towers. These towers would have contained mechanism for raising the starting gates to allow the chariots to race down the track.

 

It was during the track excavation in the 19th century, that archeologists found an inscription which dedicated the circus to the “divine Romulus”. This was what helped the historians to identify the circus as Circus Maxentius, rather than the Circus of Caracalla.

 

 

Clad in marble

In the middle of the 90 meters wide track is the “spina” – the barrier which divided the track into two. The spina is exactly 1000 Roman Feet long, around 300 meters, and was most likely cased in marble during the glory days of the circus.

 

During these times, the circus was decorated with several statues and obelisks. One of the obelisks originally located here at the Circus of Maxentius is the obelisk which today dominates the popular square Piazza Navona, in central Rome.

 

 

A massive meeting place

The circus is believed to have had a spectator capacity of around 10.000 people. The spectators were standing on an elevated area surrounding the track, which allowed them to view the races in safety.

 

The audience was also protected from the sun by an arch which sprung from the summit. Not much of the spectator facilities are left today.

 

 

A dangerous show

While the spectators of the races were safe, the same cannot be said about the charioteers competing in the races. The dangers of the course required the contestants to wear both a helmet and a chest mail.

 

The chariots were drawn by 2, 4 or sometimes even 10 horses. As you can imagine, racing chariots on a track like this was bound to cause accidents. It wasn’t uncommon that charioteers were wounded or killed due to crashes during the race, despite their protection.

 

 

An inspiring site

Even though the towers are ruins, the spina largely covered and the arches broken, the old circus is still an impressive sight. Ruins have its own kind of beauty and together with its rich history and tradition, the Circus of Maxentius stands out as a great site along the the Appian Way.

 

 

 

Circus of Maxentius location

 

The Circus of Maxentius is located in Rome, Italy. The circus can be found along the ancient Roman road known as the Appian Way.

 

The whole area is well served by public transport, but is also easily accessed by foot or bicycle, as the Appian Way is a popular hiking road. For the exact location of the Circus of Maxentius, check out the location map to the right.

 

 

 

Circus of Maxentius resources

 

circus of maxentius

Ruinious buildings at the circus. © Jennifer Jordt.

circus of maxentius tower

One of the former gate towers. creative commons Pascal Reusch.

circus of maxentius arch

A small triumphal arch. © Jennifer Jordt.

circus of maxentius ruins

The Circus of Maxentius. © Jennifer Jordt.

circus of maxentius spina

The spina that divides the track. © Jennifer Jordt.

circus of maxentius spina

The spina that divides the track. © Jennifer Jordt.

Interactive location map. For a larger and more detailed map, check out our Italy map.

 

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