Circus Maximus Essay

1176 words - 5 pages

In Rome there was a huge stadium called the Circus Maximus (Latin for largest/greatest ring/stadium).It was used to hold chariot (cart with two wheels pulled by horses) races and it was a mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy.
Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest Chariot Racing Stadium in ancient Rome. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width, and could accommodate about 250,000 people, over a quarter of the city's population.  
The Roman Circus Maximus overlooked a variety of sporting events and religions processions - but the most famous of these were the wildly popular chariot races.
At the ...view middle of the document...

The Circus Maximus design was lacking in one way, however, and as the city grew in population and wealth, the seating in the Circus had to grow to accommodate them.

Stone counterparts quickly replaced the initial wood seats. Caesar ordered the construction and seating was increased to 150,000 before Trajan added his augmentations to the Circus Maximus design in the first century AD - now one could find 250,000 marble encased seats along the hillside.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, however, the Circus Maximus in Rome suffered greatly. Medieval and Renaissance builders commonly looted the hills for stone and marble. The rest degenerated with time until all that is left is what we have today - legends and stories and a dirt track where the best Roman athletes once made their names.

Chariots

Most chariots were pulled by ungelded stallions; two for a biga (2-horse chariot) and four for a quadriga (4-horse chariot)  Chariots completed seven circuits, marked by dolphins (sacred to Neptune, god of the sea and also of horses) and eggs (sacred to Castor and Pollux). Charioteers wore leather helmets and jerkins (a jerkin is a man’s short close-fitting jacket made usually of light coloured leather) in the colours of their factions (green, blue, red or white). To keep himself on the chariot the charioteer would tie the reins around himself, but if he was thrown off his chariot he would always have a sharp knife in his belt so he could cut himself lose. If you won a race you would receive a laurel reef on your head.
Factions
The races were run by groups called factions. The factions owned horse ranches and organized bets. The people attending the races bet on the factions not on the horses. Professional charioteers were hired by the factions. Each faction was identified by the colour of the tunic the charioteer wore; green, red, blue and white. One to three chariots ran for each faction.
At the circus twelve starting boxes were available. The gates were opened simultaneously after the magistrate (a magistrate is a judge) gave the signal. During the races many wrecks occurred due to trick caused by opponents. Each race was 7 laps long. The races were always run counter-clockwise. (Not that the Romans had clocks...)
Charioteers wore little body protection and only a light helmet their practice of wrapping the reins tightly around their waists so they could use their body weight to...

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