Wi-Fi zone
Circus Maximus

Circo Massimo

The first circus used for chariot races lying in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills is said to have been built by king Tarquinius Priscus even if there are testimonies of similar races held at the time of Romulus. The track was originally bordered by banks of wooden seats. Later the starting stalls (carceres), the spina, which divided the racecourse, and stone seats were added to the older structure.

In 10 b.C. Augustus brought from Heliopolis the obelisk of Rameses II 24 mt high ( which today graces the Piazza del Popolo), to occupy the centre of the circus and in 357 A.D. also the obelisk of Thutmosis III 32mt high was added (by wish of Pope Sixtus V it stands today in the Piazza S.Giovanni in Laterano).

The circus was enlarged by Caesar and Augustus added to it the pulvinar (royal enclosure or sacred area).Its seating capacity was of around 150,000 people till the reconstruction by Nero who, after the great fire of 64, increased the number of seats to 250,000. Further enlarged it reached the colossal dimension of 600 by 200 metres. Today few remains are still preserved at the southeast end. In 1931 by the northwest end a brickstone edifice dating back to the Imperial Age ( probably a tribunal) was discovered, it was transformed in the III cent. A.D. in a Mitreum (today under the basement of the ex- pasta factory Pantanella).

Su di essa si installano sette uova e sette delfini in bronzo per contare i giri delle quadrighe, e, in epoche diverse, due obelischi : nel 10 a.C. quello di Ramsete II, alto quasi 24 metri (trasportato nel 1587 in Piazza del Popolo) e nel 357 d.C. l’obelisco di Thutmosis III, alto più di 32 metri (collocato poi da papa Sisto V in Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano).

Al circo, ampliato da Cesare, Augusto aggiunge il pulvinar (palco imperiale o area sacra). La capacità dell’edificio era di 150.000 spettatori, almeno fino alla ricostruzione neroniana (dopo il celebre incendio), che la porta a 250.000. Ancora ampliato in seguito, raggiunge la lunghezza di 600 metri per una larghezza di circa 200. Attualmente si conserva parte del lato curvo meridionale. Nel 1931, presso il lato nord, fu rinvenuto un edificio in mattoni di età imperiale (forse sede di un tribunale), trasformato nel III secolo d.C. in Mitreo (ora nei sotterranei dell’ex pastificio Pantanella).