The Circus Maximus

The valley between the Palatine and the Aventine was the site of the earliest recorded games at Rome, a horse race during which the famous 'rape of the Sabine women' occurred. Games continued to be held there in the days of the monarchy, with temporary wooden structures, though the first recorded permanent structure is in 329 BC. Additions, repairs and alterations were made to the circus under Flaccus, Pompey and Caesar during the republican period and by Augustus, Claudius, Nero, Trajan, Caracalla and Constantine during the Principate. The circus was ravaged by fire in 31 BC and repaired by Augustus and again in 64 AD when the great fire in Nero's reign began here. Originally the circus was home for all sorts of entertainment, including gladiatorial shows and bestiaries. The building of amphitheatres (including the Colosseum) removed this function from the circus, however. The last recorded games held here were in 550 AD. The Circus Maximus is the largest of Rome's stadia (of which there were several) seating at its height 250,000 spectators. As with most Roman stadia, the lower course around the outside was filled with shops and taverna. Today the entire structure can be identified, though very few remains of exposed masonry can be seen. At the east end a section of the curved cavea have been left open to view and the spina, track and seating areas can all be made out.

Access: The Circus Maximus is a public park, freely open at all times.