Knowing that the Circus Maximus was once home to chariot races in Rome, I was quite excited to go and see what it all used to be about. The area is clearly shown on all maps of Rome and the route to get there easy to see. The Latin translation for Circus Maximus is large circus so from this, I was expecting to get to see something quite spectacular.
== Getting there ==
Getting to the Circus Maximus is extremely easy. The site is just across the road from the Circo Massimo metro stop which is on blue line B. To get here, usually you will need to change metro lines at Termini which is on red line A. From here, the metro will only take roughly 5 minutes to get to Circo Massimo. There are also plenty of bus stops around the area. Circus Maximum is within walking distance from the Colosseum.
== History ==
Circus Maximo was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome. After being fully built, the stadium measured over 2000ft in length and 380ft in width. Full capacity could reach 150,000 spectators. The stadium was built under the rule of Julius Caeser in about 50BC. Not only were chariot races held here but also animal hunts, athletics and even gladiator games. As the Colosseum was built at a later date, many of these events were stopped at Circus Maximus giving more time for chariot racing. The last known animal hunts were held in 523AD and the last races in 549AD.
== My experience ==
Upon arriving at Circus Maximus, I was extremely disappointed from the start. My boyfriend and I walked across the road, getting ourselves ready to see something great... and we were met with a field. At first, we were both in a bit of denial, reassuring ourselves that we were in the wrong place. After consulting several different maps, it seemed as though we were actually looking at Circus Maximus.
It is quite hard to imagine what kind of stadium that this once was due to only seeing a field in its place. Unlike other ruins in Rome, there is no information anywhere about this one or pictures around the site letting people know what used to be there. Nor is the site well marked as I think many people could just walk past it like we nearly did. If looking at plain fields is your kind of thing then this is the attraction for me... not the kind of thing I want to spend time on while in Rome though.
Unlike what this stadium would have been in its heyday, Circus Maximus is now used as a public park and a pretty pathetic one at that. All that can be seen of the original stadium are parts of the track and where the middle used to be, where statues were once placed. As a park, Circus Maximus fails. The grass is patchy and rough, with a hell of a lot of rubble and rocks taking its place. Even standing in the middle of this mass of land didn't do anything for me. I was standing there, trying to imagine what the atmosphere would have been like but that didn't work out too well. This site has no imagination left in it at all and I wish something more could or would be done with it.
Circus Maximus was the most disappointing thing I did while in Rome and was sad that I even wasted time on going there. Luckily, this is really close to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum so even if you do go here and realise what a waste of time it is, there is something else for you to do that is worthwhile close by.
There we were, Mrs p and my god self, striding boldy past Rome's many antiquities on our way to the Greatest Show on Earth. Slabbering with anticipation, we could hardly hold our collective water at the thought of the delights in store...heffelumps, gyraffes, tiggers and hosses; clowns, trapeze artists and jugglers; lion tamers, 'little people' in suitcases and guys with red coats and top hats. The smell of grease paint and sawdust competing with the heady aromas of rancid fat from fried doughnuts and sweet, sweet candy floss. Hold me back.
Yes, we were merrily on our way to the CIRCUS MAXIMUS.
What a swizz!
The Circus Maximus bears as much resemblance to the Big Top as a hippodrome does to a rhinoceros. Why it's nothing more than a huge open space where spectators used to watch races and such in Roman times.
It dates back to Etruscan times when it was first used to entertain the masses but its heyday arrived around 50BC when Julius Caesar had the builders in and enlarged the place to accommodate an estimated 270,000 spectators with perhaps as many again lining the surrounding hills for a free view.
Chariot racing was the big deal here, with up to 12 chariots hurtling madly around and around and around with Charlton Heston usually winning.
The track, stretching 620m in length and 18m wide traversed around a raised central island caled the Spina which was decorated with statues of various gods.
The last race was held almost 1,000 years after the first in AD 549...darn, missed it by a mere 1462 years.
Sadly, nothing much remains of what must have been an amazing arena in its day. The seating and the statues have long since departed and all that can be seen now is the Spina, the track surrounding it, and the raised area where many of the seats sat. Still, it's quite an impressive sight for all that. And lying below the ruins of the Imperial Palace on the Palatine, the surroundings are pretty photogenic too.
Circus Maximus is a park these days, but not a delicate, intricately planted park. Nor is it an elegant promenading type of park...ditto a wildlife haven. It's just a big expanse of grass (and not very good grass at that) with a few trees around the perimeter. However, a little sprinkle of imagination and you can almost hear the screaming roar of the crowd, the thundering chunder of the chariots and the crack of zinging whips as Ben Hur and his cronies raced hell for leather around this ancient track.
It's bit quieter now.
There's not a lot to do here, save walk around or sit on the grass eating a sandwich or an ice cream purchased from one of the many vendors situated around the park. It's only a very short stroll from the Collosseum and a nice place to escape the hustle and bustle of the area around the Collosseum and Forum. In fact that's exactly what we did and it was a treat to escape the throngs and sit reflectively musing on the greatness and wonder that was ancient Rome whilst munching on an overpriced, and bone-dry panini.
The irony is that while we were 1462 years late for the chariot racing, we were 28 days early to see Genesis perform there in the final show of their tour. Apparently they performed in front of 500,000 fans in what was a free show - so no danger of it selling out then...unlike Genesis...
So I suppose the Circus Maximus is not quite the redundant ancient monument first impressions would suggest, but a living, breathing entertainment venue, albeit one that neither lives, nor breathes, and one that hosts ancient monuments as entertainment.
* All spelling mistakes are entirely intentional.