Circus Maximus Marcus with the scrolls under the Circus Maximus

Circus Maximus

Episodes 34, 36 and 39

A Roman Circus wasn’t a place of fun like the ones we know today – it was a place where gladiators fought, sometimes to their death, to amuse the audience!

The Circus Maximus in Rome was a huge arena where horse races and gladiator fights took place. Over the years many researchers and historians have tried to work out exactly what the Circus looked liked using information from other circuses built in Roman times and have drawn and made reconstructions of it.

We used these drawings and reconstructions when we were creating the Circus for Friends and Heroes. We know that it was built of stone and wood and had stone seats. In the first century AD it could hold about 150,000 people. Along the middle of the arena was a long, wall which was decorated with statues, trophies and an obelisk which is a tall four-sided tapering tower ending in a small pyramid. We found that each end of the wall was rounded and on top of this part of the wall there were three cone-shaped columns showing the racers where to turn. Seven movable dolphins were used to count down the seven laps of each race. You can see these features in Episodes 34 and 36.

Gladiator fights also took place in the arena and our research showed us that a great deal of the Circus Maximus is underground because the animals and the gladiators had to have somewhere to stay before they went to fight or race in front of the crowds. We discovered that they had lifts which used a pulley system to move the animals and people up to the arena level and you can see how we used that in Episode 39.

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