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Circuses and Races

The most popular and the oldest of the Roman free shows were the ludi circenses, or simply shows given is a ring.

The only requirement to put on the chariot races was a long piece of ground like the:

  1. Circus Maximus, or simply the circus; it was located in the valley between Aventine and Palatine Hills.
  2. Circus Flaminius, erected in 221 B.C. by Gaius Flaminius, it was located in the southern part of the Campus Martius.
  3. Named after the tow emperors who built it Gaius and Nero, located at the foot of the Vatican Hill.

The above where the only circuses in the city, whoever, there were three others within reach of the citizens of Rome.

Plan of a Circus:

The name arena is derived from the word harena meaning sand. All arenas where covered by sand, and had seats and barriers surrounding them. Since the speed was not a greet factor in Roman races the sand, shortness of the stretches, and sharp turns did not create any discomfort.

Most Roman circus races, contained of 7 laps, the distance did vary from arena to arena. It is said that each lap was around 2000 feet in Circus Maxentius. The seats around the arena in the Circus Maximus were originally of wood, but by the time of the Empire these seats were replaced by marble ones, except for the upper most levels. At the foot of the rows of seats was a marble platform, podium, were erected boxes, in which the upper class sat, such as senators and magistrates.

Between the podium and the track was a screen made of metal, Caesar also added a canal 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep and filled it with water as an additional protection for the beast shows. There were broad stairways running up the horizontal aisles, praecincitiones, of which there were three in the Circus Maximus. The horizontal sections between the aisles were each divided into several cunei, and each row of seats in the cunei was called a gradus, meaning step.

Racing Companies

These racing companies were much like sports teams, which had owners who paid the drivers and supplied them with horse.

There were six racing teams:

Team Time of Establishment
Red Republic
White Republic
Blue Augustus
Green Shortly after Augustus
Purple Domitain
Gold Domitian

Since there were great rivalry existed between these teams, it was not unusual to hire magicians to curse the opposing team, to bribe the drivers, or to drug the horses. In a chariot racing competition, the norm was to have four horses, and the hoars to the extreme left was the most important.

The drivers in racing competitions were usually slaves and freedmen, they were known as agitatores or aurigae. These drivers wore close very similar to old football players, with the close fitting cap and a short tunic, in the colour of their company. The drivers always carried a knife in his belt to cut the restrains if something went wrong. Although the drivers were of low class citizens their pay was extravagant. They were always petted, since good drivers were in high demand.

Other shows in the circus

There were other common shows in the circus too, such as desultores, in which too men jumped from horse to horse while going at full speed. Another popular show was the beast wars, in which wild animals were thrown in the arena to slaughter each other. One of the most brilliant holiday spectacles was the procession, pompa cicensis , which formally opened certain public games. It was like the Starting Ceremonies of the Olympics Roman Style.