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Circus Maximus

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Overview



The Circus Maximus (Latin for great or large circus, in Italian Circo Massimo) is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width, and could accommodate about 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire. The site is now a public park.

Very little now remains of the Circus, except for the grass-covered racing track and the outline of the central barrier. Some of the starting gates remain, but most of the seating has disappeared. After the 6th century, the site fell into disuse and gradual decay. Some of its stone was recycled, but many standing structures survived for a time. In 1587, two obelisks were removed by Pope Sixtus V, and one of these was re-sited at the Piazza del Popolo. The lower levels of site, ever prone to flooding, were gradually buried under waterlogged alluvial soil and accumulated debris; the original level of track is now buried 6m beneath the modern surface. In the 12th century, a watercourse was dug to drain the soil and by the 1500s the area was used as a market garden. Mid 19th century workings uncovered the lower parts of a tier and outer portico. Since then, a series of excavations has exposed further sections of seating, curved turn and central barrier but further exploration has been limited by the scale, depth and waterlogging of the site.

The Circus still occasionally entertains the Romans; being a large park area in the centre of the city, it is often used for concerts and meetings. The Rome concert of Live 8 (July 2, 2005) was held there, as was the Italian World Cup 2006 victory celebration.

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