The Circus Maximus Illustration

Circus Maximus

 
 

A chariot is a small two wheeled cart pulled by horses. The ancient  Romans loved racing.  They loved racing anything, so of course they loved chariot races.  In the early days of Rome, young men would get into chariot races all over Rome.  This was very dangerous, not only for the racers but also for the people who might be out walking.

To end this practice, the Romans built places to race chariots. These were called circuses, and were race tracks. The largest and the best was the Circus Maximus built in the city of Rome.  The Circus Maximus was built during the 6th century BCE, over 2,500 years ago. It was originally built out of wood, but after burning down a couple of times, the Romans rebuilt it using concrete and marble. It was a huge stadium. There were circuses all over the Roman Empire, but all racers wanted to race in the Circus Maximus.

In the Circus Maximus, attendance was free.  Anyone could attend.  Men, women, children, even slaves were allowed to watch.  The rich had seats up high, and the poor had seats down low. The Circus Maximus was so large that it had room for nearly 250,000 people to be seated at the same time. To give you an idea of size, the largest outdoor sporting stadium in the world today seats about 114,000 people. The Circus Maximus could seat twice as many! That's how big it was.

In the beginning, the Circus Maximus was not only used to race chariots. Fights were held there. There were religious festivals and foot races and even plays. But under the Empire, mass entertainment became specialized. When the Colosseum was built for other events, the Circus Maximus became the place for chariot racing. It was considered a great honor and the height of chariot racing if you were able to race your chariot in the Circus Maximus, instead of one of the smaller circuses (racetracks) that were built all over the Roman Empire. Only the best raced in the Circus Maximus. Winners were treated like rock stars! But racing was very dangerous. Many racers died seeking glory.

Nero at the Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus

Views of the Circus Maximus (Google maps)

Chariots in Ancient Rome

Entertainment - Leisure Time

Ancient Roman Entertainment