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Circus Maximus [Present Day]

Circus Maximus [Present Day]


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Tracing the origins and history of Rome’s Circus Maximus

Time’s winged chariot: reverse laps around Circus Maximus back to its beginnings.
By Martin Bennett
Early morning. But for a man slowly walking his dachshund, the vast oval of grass and tawny-colored gravel lies empty.
Now accelerate backward to 2016. First, there’s David Gilmour, then Bruce Springsteen, and the E-Street Band in a flurry of spotlights. Then, reverse two summers earlier, Mick Jagger appears and disappears in a jumping jack flash. Another decade and in Pompa triumphalis AS Roma’s Francesco Totti lifts high lo Scudetto in football triumph.
The picture next or di Guerra, summer-camps for Mussolini’s youth movement, exhibitions, and sporting displays prematurely celebrating long-lost grandeur while archaeologists come and go, excavating the area, covering it up again so it can resume an agricultural function.


Italy: Tracing the origins of Rome’s Circus Maximus

Rome: Early morning. But for a man slowly walking his dachshund, the vast oval of grass and tawny-coloured gravel lies empty.
Now accelerate backward to 2016. In a flurry of spotlights there’s David Gilmour, then Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Reverse two summers earlier, Mick Jagger appears and disappears in a jumping jack flash. Another decade and in pompa triumphalis AS Roma’s Francesco Totti lifts high lo Scudetto in football triumph.

Picture next orti di guerra, summer-camps for Mussolini’s youth movement, exhibitions and sporting displays prematurely celebrating long-lost grandeur while archaeologists come and go, excavating the area, covering it up again so it can resume an agricultural function.

Landmarking the 19th century, to grind grain for the Roman populace there is a mill powered by the Marrana water-course running underground.

That tower, for its part, is mediaeval, an add-on by Rome’s powerful Frangipani family who recycled Circus masonry for defensive purposes. 1229 might afford a glimpse of Saint Francis, sometime guest of one Iacopa, a Frangipani widow.

Gripping the reins or, like an ancient charioteer, wrapping them round your waist, fast-backward an entire millennia.

Eight metres below where strolls that one man and his dog today, the site, five-soccer-pitches-long, would have been thronged, 66 days per annum, with up to 385,000 spectators (an estimate from Constantine’s reign).

Not to mention sub-populations of bookies and bakers, butchers and bar-keepers. Even launderers, using ammonia from the ready urine-supply from between-race drunkards to aid the fulling process.

In recent years the Circus Maximus has hosted rock concerts and opera productions. All these trades capitalised on a venue which on race-days became Rome’s busiest shopping centre. Nor were the sexes separated, unlike in other public venues. Ovid’s Ars amatoria recommends the cavea and archways as an ideal spot for dating.

More sourly Juvenal mentions “the whores pimped out around the racecourse./ That’s where you go if you fancy a foreign pick up” – Peter Green’s translation. Or in the same vein, “Women and low rank and fortune learn their future/ down at the racetrack”, astrologers touting another attraction.

Reaching 50 km per hour, first and foremost came the charioteers, negotiating seven laps of a track. Or five laps, as later emperors wise to the motto panem e circenses met demand by cramming more races into a single day.

“A people that yawns is ripe for revolt,” to cite Caracopino, venerable author of Daily Life in ancient Rome. “Spectacles were the great anondyne against unemployment, the Caesars’ sure instrument of their absolutism.”

I recall attending, as a tender eight-year-old, a Kingstanding Odeon matinée of the 1959 film Ben Hur. Excuse then any confusion between the plot’s Jerusalem’s (or Antioch’s) Hippodrome with the site here: again in the memory charioteer’s elongated hub-caps eat away, splintered spoke by spoke, at Charlton Heston’s wheels. How the hero’s leather-and-wooden basket of a vehicle withstands such attrition remains a cinematographic miracle.

Contrasting with Birmingham’s suburban grey, in glorious technicolour glint the three bronzen cones of the metae – the hairpins at the end of the spina, the central divide with its fountains, shrines and, then Egyptian obelisks under Augustus then Constantius II.

For dramatic appeal, Cinecittà film studio modelled its set for Ben Hur after Rome’s Circus Maximus rather than Middle Eastern equivalents. Indeed the intention had been to use Circo Massimo itself only the urban authorities refused permission for conservation reasons. The producer had to make do with Circus Maxentius along Via Appia Antica.

Back to the movie’s racing scenes. Rival charioteer, failing to ram Ben Hur against the walls, resorts to some equally dastardly whip-work. Unlike Formula 1 racing with its anti-roll-bars and safety-cars, competitor security was minimal, most charioteers being infames or slaves. Victory could buy their way to freedom. Life-expectancy, however, averaged 25 years for charioteers.

Time, then, to substitute Ben Hur with the more historically authentic Flavius Scorpus. Under Domitian, Martial ventriloquises the epitaph: “I am Scorpus, most acclaimed of charioteers./ Or was. Circus fame is not sooner enjoyed than it’s over./ Envious destiny snatched me hence, aged 27 years/ numbering my victories it reckoned I must be older.”

Other perils existed off track. Performance-enhancing drugs having yet to be invented, a competitive edge could be gained by poisoning. Guilty in this regard were betting syndicates and even emperors: Caligula and the gambling-addict Vitellius. The victim could be the ‘wrong’ team’s driver or its horses.

Galen, the famous classical physician, reports that public interest extended to sniffing equine manure for signs of foul play. Then came curses. Near the racetrack in Caesarea, present-day Israel, leaden scrolls have been found in wells, a conduit to the underworld and the forces living there. “Bind and blind the opposing rider,” threatens one.

Compensating such dangers was prize-money. In a less sympathetic epigram Martial complains that he, the poet, joins a line of raggle-taggle togas each dawn for a few lead coins from his tight-fisted patron, whereas Scorpus in one hour’s work carries away 15 sacks of fresh-minted gold.

As Martial’s friend Juvenal observes, “A hundred lawyers/ make only as much as one successful charioteer.” One Diocles after a record 1,462 victories is said to have amassed 35 million sesterces convert that into pounds, he’d have outearned Lewis Hamilton or Valentino Rossi.

Spectators, for their part, could win (or lose) smaller amounts from betting. Or between races, by catching one of the wooden balls the emperor tossed form the pulvinar / royal box. Inside each a parchment scrap guaranteed prizes of anything between a pittance and the cost of a country mansion.

As Scorpus and the other riders plus the 48 horses approach the carceres / mechanised starting gates, it’s time for one last backward lap for the reader.

A chariot race depicted in a first-century fresco from Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

Centuries per second, reverse the imagination to when Rome was a village, the stadium of stadiums between the Aventine and Palatine hills was geological rather than man-made, no seating except the Valle Murcia’s flowery slopes, now home to Rome’s rose garden. It is September 750-something BC.

Later marked by the western meta / endpost, the one architectural feature is an altar to Consus, god of horses, mules and donkeys. To celebrate harvest the same quadrupeds have a hard-earned day off. Onto the scene steps Romulus. As Livy tells it, Rome’s founder has a demographic crisis on his hands.

His settlement on the Palatine has a serious shortage of women to ensure its survival Romulus has sent messengers to nearby tribes, requesting their daughters in marriage to satisfy his frustrated subjects. No consent being given, he resorts to a stratagem and invites the neighbouring peoples (especially their females) to the Consualia with the promise of wine and a good time for all.

As in Pietro da Cortona’s painting in the Capitoline Museums a couple of hills away, the Sabine guests look on aghast: Their womenfolk, by force of Roman biceps, are being hauled off to the huts on the Palatine. (Two of Cortona’s life-size figures – Roman male and Sabine virgin – would become models for Bernini’s Daphne and Apollo statue in Galleria Borghese).

A war ensues, only to be ended by the same women, now Romanised wives and matrons. Interposing their bodies between their furious (Sabine) fathers or brothers and their Roman husbands, they beg both sides not to shed kindred blood.

“Silence fell,” Livy continues. “Not a man moved. Romulus and the Sabine commander stepped forward to make peace…” The two peoples unite. Two kings later, Marcus Ancius, after defeating the Latins, chooses the same Valle Murcia for his Pompea Triumphalis. Rome is already on the road to empire.

Further interweaving sport, religion and politics, in 329 BC Tarquin Priscus builds the first permanent circus, adding (wooden) carceres and central spina to cover the drainage channel/fore-mentioned Marrana leading into the nearby Tiber.

But to return to around 90 AD, hooves are beating, the crowd is getting restless. Behind his carcere Scorpus sports Imperial green, the other teams white, blue and red, colours in another astrological link signifying the course of the seasons, the seven laps that of the seven then-known planets or days of the week.

The spartatores retire, having sprinkled the dusty track with water to maintain visibility. Drop of the presiding magistrate’s white cloth: the competitors this time surge forward on their seven laps, if they’re lucky, gilded dolphins and septem ova / stone eggs, another ancient lap-marker, counting them on their way. May the best team win.


3. Background of the Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus is sited on the level ground of the Valley of Murcia, between Rome’s Aventine and Palatine Hills. Originally constructed as a chariot racetrack in the 6th century BC, it once held the first and largest stadium in the Roman Empire. As the most suitable public space for grand religious processions, it also hosted these events between the 1st and 6th centuries AD. (Cartwright, 2013)

The Circus was originally made of wood (Figure 2) , having all wooden facilities, shops, and entrances. (Ames, 2016) The wooden seats and stands would frequently rot and require rebuilding. A fire in 31 AD completely destroyed most of the circus “The Great Fire of Rome” in 64 AD not only burned down the circus but much of the rest of Rome, as well. The third fire in less than 200 years swept through the site in 80 AD. In 103 AD it was rebuilt in stone under the leadership of Trajan. (Grout, 1997) At its peak the Circus measured 2,307 feet long by 387 feet wide, with spectator capacities estimated up to 250,000. (Grout, 1997) The construction demonstrates several classic Roman sustainability techniques, such as building underground, reusing existing materials and repurposing the land.

Exploring the Circus Maximus personally, I noticed it to be a central location in Rome. The view of Palatine Hill is scenic and the space is walking distance from several residential areas. These factors make it ideal for a park location and being potentially being accessible to the city’s population, although it’s surrounded by busy roads on all sides. Parking is hard to find around the Circus Maximus. I was surprised to see how little of the ancient structure is used today. The land is still relatively utilized, but the remains of the stadium are fenced off from the rest of the park as part of a ticketed museum. (Figures 3 and 4)

Figure 3


Rome's Circus Maximus comes to life with virtual reality

The Circo Maximo Experience, reopens from 29 April until 31 July, offering visitors the chance to "relive the ancient splendours of the Circus Maximus in the Imperial period of Rome through augmented and virtual reality."

Modern-day visitors can experience the roars of the crowd at the chariot races that once packed the 600-m long venue, or mingle among the Roman market sellers and marvel at the Arch of Titus in its original 20-m height.

The ground-breaking project, which boasts interactive display technology never before used in such an extended outdoor area, charts the history of the age-old Valle di Murcia in seven historic stages.

Overlapping images of the past to the present-day reality, the 40-minute walking itinerary is available in six languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Russian), with visitors equipped with immersive glasses and earphones.

The eight stops include: the valley floor of the Circus Maximus during the Archaic Period, from the first century BC to the first century AD, the Imperial period, the tiered seating arena (cavea), the Arch of Titus, the shops (tabernae), the Circus Maximus in the Middle Ages and in modern times and lastly, &ldquoA Day at the Circus&rdquo.

Entry to the 3-D project, which follows similar initiatives at the Baths of Caracalla, Ara Pacis and the Domus Aurea, is at the Viale Aventino end of the Circus Maximus.

The Circo Maximo Experience tour, which is not available if raining, costs &euro12.


Formation and early history (2000–2003) Edit

In 2000 long-time bandmates Michael Eriksen (vocals) and brothers Mats (guitar) and Truls Haugen (drums) were joined by keyboard player Espen Storø and Glen Cato Møllen on bass to form Circus Maximus.

Initially being a cover band, they got a lot of positive feedback for their interpretations of technically challenging material from bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X. Before long, the band started to write their own material: With other influences varying from pop/rock through classical progressive rock to heavy metal and death metal, their music synergized into a mixture of melodic and groovy sound with many heavy riffs and odd time signatures. In the musical press their sound has been compared to Queensrÿche, TNT, Shadow Gallery, Pretty Maids, Helloween and the like, in addition to the aforementioned bands.

Releasing two demos to great reviews in Norway, as well as in Europe and United States, before signing with Danish Intromental Management in April 2004, the band made a record deal with American Sensory Records for the US and Canada, which in turn forwarded a licensing deal for Europe and Russia to Frontiers Records.

The 1st Chapter (2004–2006) Edit

Circus Maximus began writing their debut album in 2004 entitled, The 1st Chapter which was released in May 2005. The eight-tracked album contains the longest Circus Maximus song with the title track running for over 19 minutes. The album also came with two bonus tracks.

Half a year later, in November 2005, keyboards player Espen Storø decided to leave the band for personal reasons. In early 2006, Lasse Finbråten (formerly of Norwegian progressive/power metal band Tritonus) joined the band, filling the vacant spot.

During 2005 Circus Maximus went on their first tour with their major performance being in Atlanta in the United States where they played at the ProgPower festival. Circus Maximus then returned to the same festival the following year with their new keyboardist. During the rest of 2006 Circus Maximus continued to play gigs around Scandinavia with other major acts such as Kamelot, Pagan's Mind and Glenn Hughes.

Isolate (2007) Edit

Circus Maximus spent the first quarter of 2007 recording their second studio album, Isolate, which was released on August 7, 2007. Before the release, as a response to impatient and expectant fans, the band established a post on the official Circus Maximus forum where they kept readers up-to-date on their studio-progress. Following the release of Isolate the band went on tour playing at major festivals such as ProgPower Europe, ProgPower Scandinavia, Sweden Rock and MetalHear. They also went on many solo shows while on the road.

During February 13 to March 5, 2008 the band toured Europe as an opening act (along with German progressive metal band Dreamscape) at the Symphony X Paradise Lost Tour 2008.

On November 18 the band posted this message in their website: "Circus Maximus will now be entering the studio to start the pre-production of the next album, planned to be released late 2010. We are writing new stuff everyday and so far we have more or less 8 songs completed for the album and we can honestly tell you it sounds AMAZING! Can't wait to show you ) We would like to thank everyone who have been supporting us throughout the years. you're the best! - Truls, Mats, Lasse, Glen and Michael."

According to the band's official forums, on the 22nd June 2010 Michael Eriksen posted some news on the recording process and said "Yesterday Mats and myself hit the studio to start the vocals on one of the tracks", he later mentioned that "We will have some videos up and running for you in a bit". [1]

Nine (2012–2015) Edit

The third album, called Nine was released on 1 June 2012. The band described the album as being both more melodic and more dynamic than their two preceding albums.

Havoc (2016–2017) Edit

The first single from Havoc, "The Weight", was released on 19 January 2016. Vocalist Michael Eriksen was later cast as a guest singer in Ayreon's ninth studio album titled The Source. [2]

Live Albums (2017-present) Edit

The first of Circus Maximus' live albums, entitled Havoc in Oslo was released on 4 August 2017, featuring songs from across all four of the previous albums but with a bias towards their newer songs.

The second live album arrived on 6 September 2019 entitled Nine Live. It contains a live performance of their 2012 album Nine in its entirety.


Tracing the origins of Rome’s Circus Maximus

Early morning. But for a man slowly walking his dachshund, the vast oval of grass and tawny-colored gravel lies empty.

Now accelerate backward to 2016. In a flurry of spotlights there’s David Gilmour, then Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Reverse two summers earlier, Mick Jagger appears and disappears in a jumping jack flash. Another decade and in Pompa Triumphalis AS Roma’s Francesco Totti lifts high lo Scudetto in football triumph.

The picture next to Orti di Guerra, summer-camps for Mussolini’s youth movement, exhibitions, and sporting displays prematurely celebrating long-lost grandeur while archaeologists come and go, excavating the area, covering it up again so it can resume an agricultural function.

St Francis of Assisi

Landmarking the 19th century, to grind grain for the Roman populace there is a mill powered by the Marrana water-course running underground.

That tower, for its part, is medieval, an add-on by Rome’s powerful Frangipani family who recycled Circus masonry for defensive purposes. 1229 might afford a glimpse of Saint Francis, sometime guest of one Iacopa, a Frangipani widow.

Gripping the reins or, like an ancient charioteer, wrapping them around your waist, fast-backward an entire millennia.

Eight meters below where strolls that one man and his dog today, the site, five-soccer-pitches-long, would have been thronged, 66 days per annum, with up to 385,000 spectators (an estimate from Constantine’s reign).

Not to mention sub-populations of bookies and bakers, butchers, and bar-keepers. Even launderers, using ammonia from the ready urine-supply from between-race drunkards to aid the fulling process.

All these trades capitalized on a venue which on race-days became Rome’s busiest shopping center. Nor were the sexes separated, unlike in other public venues. Ovid’s Ars Amatoria recommends the cavea and archways as an ideal spot for dating.

More sourly Juvenal mentions “the whores pimped out around the racecourse./ That’s where you go if you fancy a foreign pick up” – Peter Green’s translation. Or in the same vein, “Women and low rank and fortune learn their future/ down at the racetrack”, astrologers touting another attraction.

Panem et Circenses

Reaching 50 km per hour, first and foremost came the charioteers, negotiating seven laps of a track. Or five laps, as later emperors wise to the motto panem e circenses met demand by cramming more races into a single day.

“A people that yawn is ripe for revolt,” to cite Caracopino, venerable author of Daily Life in ancient Rome. “Spectacles were the great anondyne against unemployment, the Caesars’ sure instrument of their absolutism.”

I recall attending, as a tender eight-year-old, a Kingstanding Odeon matinée of the 1959 film Ben Hur. Excuse then any confusion between the plot’s Jerusalem’s (or Antioch’s) Hippodrome with the site here: again in the memory charioteer’s elongated hub-caps eat away, splintered spoke by spoke, at Charlton Heston’s wheels. How the hero’s leather-and-wooden basket of a vehicle withstands such attrition remains a cinematographic miracle.

Ben Hur

Contrasting with Birmingham’s suburban grey, in glorious technicolour glint the three bronzen cones of the metae – the hairpins at the end of the spina, the central divide with its fountains, shrines and, then Egyptian obelisks under Augustus then Constantius II.

For dramatic appeal, Cinecittà film studio modelled its set for Ben Hur after Rome’s Circus Maximus rather than Middle Eastern equivalents. Indeed the intention had been to use Circo Massimo itself only the urban authorities refused permission for conservation reasons. The producer had to make do with Circus Maxentius along Via Appia Antica.

Back to the movie’s racing scenes. Rival charioteer, failing to ram Ben Hur against the walls, resorts to some equally dastardly whip-work. Unlike Formula 1 racing with its anti-roll-bars and safety-cars, competitor security was minimal, most charioteers being infames or slaves. Victory could buy their way to freedom. Life-expectancy, however, averaged 25 years for charioteers.

Time, then, to substitute Ben Hur with the more historically authentic Flavius Scorpus. Under Domitian, Martial ventriloquises the epitaph: “I am Scorpus, most acclaimed of charioteers./ Or was. Circus fame is not sooner enjoyed than it’s over./ Envious destiny snatched me hence, aged 27 years/ numbering my victories it reckoned I must be older.”

Perils and curses

Other perils existed off track. Performance-enhancing drugs having yet to be invented, a competitive edge could be gained by poisoning. Guilty in this regard were betting syndicates and even emperors: Caligula and the gambling-addict Vitellius. The victim could be the ‘wrong’ team’s driver or its horses.

Galen, the famous classical physician, reports that public interest extended to sniffing equine manure for signs of foul play. Then came curses. Near the racetrack in Caesarea, present-day Israel, leaden scrolls have been found in wells, a conduit to the underworld and the forces living there. “Bind and blind the opposing rider,” threatens one.

Compensating such dangers as prize-money. In a less sympathetic epigram Martial complains that he, the poet, joins a line of raggle-taggle togas each dawn for a few lead coins from his tight-fisted patron, whereas Scorpus in one hour’s work carries away 15 sacks of fresh-minted gold.

As Martial’s friend Juvenal observes, “A hundred lawyers/ make only as much as one successful charioteer.” One Diocles after a record 1,462 victories is said to have amassed 35 million sesterces convert that into pounds, he’d have outearned Lewis Hamilton or Valentino Rossi.

Gambling

Spectators, for their part, could win (or lose) smaller amounts from betting. Or between races, by catching one of the wooden balls the emperor tossed form the pulvinar / royal box. Inside each a parchment scrap guaranteed prizes of anything between a pittance and the cost of a country mansion.

As Scorpus and the other riders plus the 48 horses approach the carceres / mechanised starting gates, it’s time for one last backward lap for the reader.

Centuries per second, reverse the imagination to when Rome was a village, the stadium of stadiums between the Aventine and Palatine hills was geological rather than man-made, no seating except the Valle Murcia’s flowery slopes, now home to Rome’s rose garden. It is September 750-something BC.

Romulus

Later marked by the western meta / endpost, the one architectural feature is an altar to Consus, god of horses, mules and donkeys. To celebrate harvest the same quadrupeds have a hard-earned day off. Onto the scene steps Romulus. As Livy tells it, Rome’s founder has a demographic crisis on his hands.

His settlement on the Palatine has a serious shortage of women to ensure its survival Romulus has sent messengers to nearby tribes, requesting their daughters in marriage to satisfy his frustrated subjects. No consent being given, he resorts to a stratagem and invites the neighbouring peoples (especially their females) to the Consualia with the promise of wine and a good time for all.

As in Pietro da Cortona’s painting in the Capitoline Museums a couple of hills away, the Sabine guests look on aghast: Their womenfolk, by force of Roman biceps, are being hauled off to the huts on the Palatine. (Two of Cortona’s life-size figures – Roman male and Sabine virgin – would become models for Bernini’s Daphne and Apollo statue in Galleria Borghese).

A war ensues, only to be ended by the same women, now Romanised wives and matrons. Interposing their bodies between their furious (Sabine) fathers or brothers and their Roman husbands, they beg both sides not to shed kindred blood.

“Silence fell,” Livy continues. “Not a man moved. Romulus and the Sabine commander stepped forward to make peace…” The two peoples unite. Two kings later, Marcus Ancius, after defeating the Latins, chooses the same Valle Murcia for his Pompea Triumphalis. Rome is already on the road to empire.

Further interweaving sport, religion and politics, in 329 BC Tarquin Priscus builds the first permanent circus, adding (wooden) carceres and central spina to cover the drainage channel/fore-mentioned Marrana leading into the nearby Tiber.

Seven laps

But to return to around 90 AD, hooves are beating, the crowd is getting restless. Behind his carcere Scorpus sports Imperial green, the other teams white, blue and red, colours in another astrological link signifying the course of the seasons, the seven laps that of the seven then-known planets or days of the week.

The Spartatores retire, having sprinkled the dusty track with water to maintain visibility. Drop of the presiding magistrate’s white cloth: the competitors this time surge forward on their seven laps, if they’re lucky, gilded dolphins and Septem ova/stone eggs, another ancient lap-marker, counting them on their way. May the best team win.


Mussolini’s Battle For The Roman Past: The Ancient Redesigned

By Duncan F. Grimm (History major, class of 2015)

Welcome to Rome, the Eternal City of many layers and rich history. Despite ages of construction and destruction the city today appears ingeniously planned. A lesser known, or discouraged fact, is that Mussolini and his vision for Rome created this city we experience today. On Thursday, November 1, Professor Borden W. Painter, Jr. (Trinity College ’58) enlightened an audience at the Center for Urban and Global Studies of Mussolini’s Rome, and how the self-proclaimed Marshal of Empire changed the city’s urban landscape. In the 1920s and 1930s his dream of creating a new Imperial Rome completely redesigned the city that we enjoy today. “Mussolini fought many battles,” Painter said, and “he identified chiefly with Augustus.” From 1922 to 1943 Italy was a fascist state understandably, immediately after the Second World War there was an immediate backlash against all things fascist. In the 1970s and 1980s however, individuals began to adopt a more eclectic view of Il Duce’s Rome–it may be possible to have some good come out of a bad regime.

For Mussolini, everything was a battle in spirit. His new Rome had to grow to surpass the city of Augustus. The way in which his regime used Roman history to identify with the Roman past, Painter tells us, has become known as Romanita. Mussolini used Romanita as a road to the future, connecting the tangible glory of the past, the ancient ruins, with his own achievements in the present, monumental construction.

In 1934, Mussolini salvaged the Circus Maximus, which was previously a neighborhood of slums. He “relocated” the predominantly working class, left-leaning residents to the country side in new communities, claiming he was giving them a better life. In reality however, conditions were far from ideal and it was a way he could watch and control potential dissidents. He used this “reclaimed space” to great effect, holding rallies and exhibitions, glorifying his own accomplishments alongside ancient Rome.

Along with clearing and making accessible monuments and landmarks like the iconic Colosseum or the Mausoleum of Augustus, Mussolini also constructed major roads such as the present-day Via dei Fori Imperiali, Via del Mare, and the Via di San Gregorio. Many of these fascist streets are today major arteries. These roadways certainly made the city more accessible, however their construction was extremely destructive to inhibiting neighborhoods, which were leveled, and to Italian history that did not fall under the purview of Romanita.

The concept of open space for Mussolini was important not just to modernize the city, but use of these spaces meant the connection with and domination of the ancient city itself. He created according to his doctrine a city of perfect balance between ancient appreciation alongside modern development.

In keeping with his ideology, Mussolini built the Esposizione Universale Roma–the EUR–meant to be the city of the future and commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the 1922 fascist march on Rome. Constructed of materials associated with the Roman Empire like travertine limestone and marble, the new city center broke ground in 1938, suspended in 1942, and resumed after the war. Perhaps the most defining feature of the EUR however is the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, what has colloquially become simply the Colosseo Quadrato, the Square Colosseum. The true embodiment of Mussolini’s Romanita, the Square Colosseum has become an icon of fascist architecture.

Sharp, crisp, modern architecture like the Square Colosseum manifested itself across Italy as train stations, harbors, hospitals, post offices, schools, and stadiums. Although Mussolini, a fascist dictator, caused much suffering and hardship under his rule, in Rome he ultimately achieved his dream of appreciating the ancient while promoting the modern. Controversial politics aside, Romanita and Mussolini hold great responsibility for the Rome we experience today.

Colosseo Quadrato The Square Colosseum

For those interested in further reading on Mussolini and Rome, Professor Painter has published a highly informative and captivating book on the subject.


Restored Circus Maximus Reopens to the Public in Rome

The Circus Maximus, the largest stadium in ancient Rome, has reopened to the public after undergoing major restoration that took seven years to complete.

Visitors can now access the remains of the 2,800-year-old archeological site, one of the ancient world's biggest public entertainment venues, especially popular for chariot races.

People will be able to walk along the galleries that led to the tiers where senators and plebeians used to sit to watch public games, executions and triumphal processions. They will retrace their steps along the paved road uncovered during the excavations, which features a large trough with travertine slabs. Along the road, it is possible to see the remains of the tabernae, or shops, set up to meet the needs of the large audiences: inns, grocery stores, brothels, laundries, and even money betting shops for the horse races.

The foundations of the Arch of Titus, one of the largest triumphal arches of Rome, were unearthed during the excavations and can also be seen as well as the medieval Torre della Moletta, which visitors can now access through an internal staircase leading up to a panoramic terrace affording a great view of the archeological site in its entirety, giving a good idea of its dimensions.

Located in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, the Circus Maximus was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome it was 600 meters long and 140 meters wide and could accommodate more than 150,000 spectators.

“This is one of the most important monuments of ancient Rome,” said Claudio Parisi Presicce, Rome's superintendent for cultural heritage. “It represents 2,800 years of history, from the age of Romulus to the present day.”

Access to the Circus Maximus is from Piazza di Porta Capena. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 (last access at 3 pm) until Dec. 11 from December 12, open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm (last access at 3 pm), and from Tuesday to Friday only by appointment by calling 060608.


Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus was a chariot racetrack in Rome first constructed in the 6th century BCE. The Circus was also used for other public events such as the Roman Games and gladiator fights and was last used for chariot races in the 6th century CE. It was partially excavated in the 20th century and then remodelled but it continues today as one of the modern city's most important public spaces, hosting huge crowds at music concerts and rallies.

The Circus Maximus, located in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, is the oldest and largest public space in Rome. Its principal function was as a chariot racetrack and host of the Roman Games (Ludi Romani) which honoured Jupiter. These were the oldest games in the city and were held every September with 15 days of chariot races and military processions. In addition, Rome had many other games and up to 20 of these had one day or more at the Circus Maximus. Other events hosted at the site included wild animal hunts, public executions and gladiator fights, some of which were exotically spectacular in the extreme, such as when Pompey organised a contest between a group of barbarian gladiators and 20 elephants.

At its largest during the 1st century CE following its rebuilding after the fire of 64 CE, the Circus had a capacity for 250,000 spectators seated on banks 30 m wide and 28 m high. Seats were in concrete and stone in the lower two tiers and wood for the rest. The seats at the closed curved end date from the early 1st century CE. The outside of the circus presented an impressive front of arcades in which shops would have served the needs of the spectators. The Roman architectural historian Vitruvius also describes a temple of Ceres in the Circus and that it was decorated with terracotta statues or gilt bronze.

The track, originally covered in sand, measured 540 x 80 m and had 12 starting gates for chariots arranged in an arc at the open end of the track. A decorated barrier ran down the centre of the track so that chariots ran in a circuit around conical turning posts placed at each end. The spina also had two obelisks added over the centuries, one in the centre and one at the end. Here also were the lap markers - eggs and dolphins - which were turned to mark the completion of each of the seven circuits of a typical race.

The last official chariot race at the Circus Maximus was in 549 CE and was held by Totila, the Ostrogoth king. The site was then largely abandoned, although, the Frangipanni did fortify the site in 1144. The first excavations were carried out under Pope Sixtus V in 1587 and the two obelisks which had originally stood as part of the spina were recovered.

The site was used for industry and even a gasworks in the 19th centur but in the 1930s the area was cleared and converted into a park made to resemble the original form of the Circus. Original seats were revealed, as were the starting gates and the spina. However, the latter two were re-covered and now lie some 9 m under the present ground level. The curved seat end continues to be excavated today whilst the main part of the circus is still used for large public events such as concerts and rallies.


Watch the video: Circus Maximus. A Virtual Tour (May 2022).