There is a place in Rome where, in place of the monument or archaeological ruin, we find only a moat oblong, covered by a green meadow, where today the Romans are accustomed to jog or take a walk dogs: well this space emptiness is not other than form, "the mold" of what was once the Circus Maximus. The "miracle" of the Circus Maximus is also constitute a tourist attraction just as Rome has preserved space, the area on which stood one of the longest arenas of its history. The huge elliptical shape of the Circus Maximus in the valley extends Murcia, between the Palatine Hill and the Aventine Hill. From the first centuries of Rome, the valley was reclaimed from the original marshes and used the games of the circus, in particular to horse racing. Here would come the famous Rape of the Sabines, and again, in this site, the Etruscan king Tarquinius Priscus organized the first games of the Ludi Magni, dedicated to Jupiter.

The Circus Maximus has colossal dimensions, 621 feet long by 118 wide, and could also contain 250,000 spectators. Augustus made ​​it a spectacular center of attraction inaugurating, with music and shows, races with the chariot and the chariot, racing with the elephants, which also entailed a serious risk for the spectators and diversions, such as games with prizes, thanks to which the lucky viewer could win even the villas or a ship. Even with these gimmicks subsided the popular discontent. As was the viewer of the Colosseum, also those who attended the Circus Maximus could attend the naval battles, or a simulated naval battles that took place through a system of pipes that made possible the merging of the water of the Tiber in the arena. The Circus was embellished by Augustus with the obelisk of Ramses II, was stolen from Egypt, which today can be admired in Piazza del Popolo. Another obelisk and arcs, dolphins and other stone ornaments were set up along the so-called central "backbone", around which the chariots had to make seven laps complete. Walking in the green river bed which stood in the Circus Maximus, you can still see the shape of the original structure, with three floors, of which only a few ruins remain. And it is on these remote ruins of the Circus which is a medieval tower of the twelfth century, the Tower of Moletta. Rome continues to live again on the form and on the ruins of previous eras, readapt the past to the present time.


A Detailed History

The first installations of wood, probably largely furniture, date back time of Tarquinius Priscus, in the first half of the sixth century BC The construction of the first stable implants dates back to 329 BC, when they were built the first carceres. The first masonry structures, especially related to the equipment for the races, there were probably only in the second century BC and was Gaius Julius Caesar to build the first stone seats and give the final shape of the building, starting from 46 BC.

The monument was restored after a fire and probably completed by Augustus, who added you to decorate the plug (as evidenced by a coin of Caracalla) an obelisk of Ramses II brought out of Egypt, the obelisk Flaminio, which in the sixteenth century it was moved by Pope Sixtus V in Piazza del Popolo. In 357 a second obelisk was brought to Rome by Emperor Constantius II and erected by the praefectus urbi Memmio Vitrasio Orfito on the plug, and today is located in front of St. John Lateran.

Other renovations took place under the emperors Tiberius and Nero, and an arc was built by Titus in 81 curved in the middle of the short side: it was a monumental step integrated into the structures of the circus.

After a serious fire under Domitian, reconstruction, you probably already begun under this emperor, was completed by Trajan in 103: date back to this period most of the remains have come down to us. They are still remembered restorations under Antoninus Pius, Caracalla and Constantine I. The circus was in efficiency of up to the last races organized by Totila in 549.


Structure and uses

The size of the circus were exceptional: long 621 m and width 118 could accommodate about 250,000 spectators. The façade had three orders: only the lower one, double height, was arched. The cavea rested on masonry structures, which housed the steps and stairs to reach the different sectors of the seats, service areas and interiors of shops open to the outside. The arena was originally surrounded by a Euripos (channel) almost 3 m wide, later removed to add more seats.

On the south side is currently a medieval tower called "Moletta" belonged to the Frangipane. In the arena, were held chariot races, with twelve chariots (four-horse chariot) who made seven laps around the central spine between the two destinations. The plug was richly decorated with statues, shrines and temples, and there were seven eggs and seven dolphins from which water flowed, used to count the laps of the race.

The twelve carceres, the starting structure that was on the short side straight towards the Tiber, arranged obliquely to allow alignment of the start, were equipped with a mechanism that allowed the simultaneous opening.


Medieval and modern uses of the Circus

In the Middle Ages the area surrounding it was gradually silting and was used for agricultural use.

In the Renaissance we know that the area was reduced to a swamp, where, in 1587, the two obelisks were carved out of the plug by Domenico Fontana, by order of Pope Sixtus V. The work was complex and expensive because of the water that flowed from every part of the valley, making it suitable for cultivating and facilitating the creation of vegetable gardens, which in fact were numerous and contiguous to each other. In the Nolli map of Rome of 1748 they are property of the Convent of Santa Maria in Cosmedin of Sant 'Eligio dei Ferrari, San Silvestrino and the Marquis del Bufalo, whose gardens were neighbors, almost occupied by the Jewish Cemetery, whose history is very strange.

During the long period of seclusion of the Jews in the Ghetto of Rome was forbidden for them to own property, an exception was made ​​only for the Company of Charity and Death, which was to provide for the burial of the dead. It had some land near the Church of San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere, but in 1587 work on the new walls of Portaportese greatly narrowed their properties, so that Pope Innocent X in 1645, granted to the Company to purchase additional land for the cemetery, which were identified in the area of the Circus Massimo, in a series of vineyards neighboring with each other that they came to achieve the marrana Crabra water, in the long side south of the valley. The cemetery was active until 1894, when it was opened the new Jewish cemetery at the Verano and from then on there were only buried in the graves of deceased family.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the area was still largely agricultural and occupied by several buildings "utility", over a considerable elevation of about 8 meters of ground compared to the share of Rome. The ancient structure is now recognizable only by the persistence of some workshops (a blacksmith, a workshop of plein air curtains, became a tavern restaurant) at the end of Via dei Cerchi, under the Palatine. The work of liberation took place between 1911 and the subsequent thirty years.

In 1934 began the construction of the new route of the Circus Maximus.

During the work on the construction of the new road, the valley of the Circus Maximus was freed of all sheds and industrial buildings that had occupied and became the meadow we see today, while the Torre dei Frangipane was isolated and restored. They were also saved the cypresses of the Jewish Cemetery which, being on the route of the new road, they should be killed and instead were moved by Muííoz in the new square Romulus and Remus and along the edges of the new road, with a daring and successful operation of transplantation, the subject of interest and curiosity of his contemporaries especially for the funny-looking trees hooded with moist cloth to reduce perspiration.

In 1959 here were to take place outdoor shooting of the chariot race in the film Ben Hur, but in the end the Superintendent refused permission to the set, he was forced to move to the Circus of Maxentius on the Appian Way. For the vast availability of open space "is not dulled " in the historical center of the city (the Circus Maximus is still inside the Aurelian Walls but at the center of a huge green area crossed by numerous archaeological and public transport), the Circus Maximus was chosen more and more often as a venue for large scale events: concerts, shows, jubilees, events - here are the ideal space:

• Between the concerts, are those held by Antonello Venditti from which they were derived two live albums: Circus Maximus Circus Maximus in 1983 and 2001.

• In May 2000 and in June 2001 it hosted the celebrations for the victory of the badges of Lazio and Rome, in March 2002 a demonstration against the abolition of Article 18 of the Statute of Workers organized by the CGIL.

• On 10 July 2006, after the victory in the World Cup in Italy, there was organized a party, July 14, 2007 you have played the Genesis at the Telecomcert.

• On the occasion of the 2007 White Night Circus Maximus hosted the installation Maximum Silence by Giancarlo Blacks.

• On April 4, 2009 was the scene of a single manifestation of the CGIL

• At Europride 2011 was held in the Italian capital on June 11, is used as the last stage of the event closed by the Italian-American singer Lady Gaga.




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