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Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo)

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Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) - FURTHER INFORMATION

Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) - Rome visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo)' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Roma.

Unfortunately there is very little remaining of the Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) in Rome, except a large, elongated open space near to the Colosseum and Roman Forum that is used for waking dogs. The Circus Maximus is the location for the well known chariot race in the film 'Ben Hur'. The Circus Maximus presented too tempting a source of building blocks during the history of Rome, and was plundered for other projects. A similar fate to that suffered by the Colosseum.

At it's height, the Circus Maximus could seat about 300,000 people who would gather to watch chariot races. A similar number would gather on the surrounding hills. Each race started out with 12 chariots, but only one would last the race. The other would crash at some point. A dedicated crew removed the remains of ruined chariots and the dead and injured people and animals from the track, and try not to become track-kill themselves.

Archeology indicates that the area of the Circus Maximus was first used to stage games by the Etruscan kings as far back as 600 BC. In 50 BC Julius Caesar expanded the arena. In 81, the Senate built a triple arch honoring Titus by the east end of the Circus (this is not to be confused with the Arch of Titus near the Roman Forum).

The Circus Maximus was purpose built for chariot racing. The track is about 600m long and 80m wide and could hold 12 chariots at a go. A spina (spine) ran down the center of the track along the length f the Circus Maximus to provide a division with a turning point at each end. At each end was a meta, a turning post the chariots would career round at dangerous speeds. The number of laps was marked by rotatable metal dolphins set along the top of the spina. The spina also supported various statues and Augustus placed an obelisk here (moved to Piazza del Popolo by pope Sixtus in 16C).

You can get a much better view of the scale of the Circus Maximus from a lookout point by Via del Circo Massimo, which ascends a hill on the South side of the Circus Maximus. The hill to the north is the Palatine Hill, on top of which the remains of Domitian's Palace are clearly Visible. Access to the Palatine Hill is from the Roman Forum.

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