New Excavations to Explore at Rome’s Circus Maximus

Water mill, Circus Maximus
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email

Disclosure: This article may contain links to products/services that I may earn a small commission from- at no extra cost to you.

Last time I was in Rome the Circus Maximus was just a vast grassy area. A pleasant place for a walk, or a picnic perhaps, but nothing more. But now excavations at one end of the site have uncovered some of the original brickwork – seating, shops and more. The excavated area opened to visitors at the end of 2016.

Circus Maximus, Rome
The Circus Maximus was the largest sports stadium of all time

History of the Circus Maximus

Accordingtto one of the many helpful information boards, the Circus Maximus was the “largest sports and entertainment venue of all time”, with the ability to house more than 150,000 people. Dating back to the 6th century BC, it was located in a valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, just outside the city of Rome. For the next thousand years it was home to the ludi, public games associated with religious festivals. These included athletics, chariot races, plays and gladiator contests, as well as religious ceremonies and feasts. The festivities might also feature public executions!

Excavations at the Circus Maximus, Rome
Pinnable image of the excavations

The Circus Maximus later fell into disuse and was plundered for building materials. The marble of the triumphal arch and of the temples at the centre of the stadium were particularly in demand. The area gradually reverted to agricultural use. In the 19th century, when it was still outside the urban area, it became an industrial zone with gasometers and manufacturing operations. Later the city expanded and the industrial activity relocated to the outskirts. At this point the Circus Maximus became a grassed leisure area, occasionally hosting outdoor concerts.

Stairway at the Circus Maximus
Spectators would have entered the stadium via this stairway

[box]LivItaly offers small group tours in Rome and throughout Italy. You can get a 5% discount on any of their tours by using booking code WORLDWIDEWRITER.[/box]

Exploring the Circus Maximus

Eventtoday most of the Circus Maximus is effectively a public park. However there is plenty to see: you can walk up the steps by which the crowds would have entered and see the seats they would have crammed into to watch the sports. Around the entrance are the remains of shops. These housed not just the usual hawkers, but also taverns, betting shops and brothels. All the needs of the spectators were met; there were even public latrines and fountains for hand washing.

Roman latrine
A brick latrine provided for the benefit of spectators

Around the site you will see fragments of other structures, including the triumphal arch. This would have been a magnificent structure, allowing a mighty procession to enter the stadium at the start of the ludi. At the centre of the excavations is a tall tower. This is not Roman, but medieval, the remains of a watermill, and a reminder of the varied history of the site. Climb to the top of the tower to see the Circus Maximus spread before you like a massive football pitch, and try to imagine the roar of the assembled masses as they cheer on the athletes.

Water mill, Circus Maximus
Climb the medieval water mill for the best view of the Circus Maximus

Looking for a hotel in Rome? Book here with Booking.com.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

12 thoughts on “New Excavations to Explore at Rome’s Circus Maximus”

  1. Your description made me ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the crowds – Its amazing how the spirit of connection is transposed across time in stones laid by hand 😉

  2. I love exploring ruins like the Circus Maximus, especially when they’re not crowded with people. Then you can walk around or just sit and use your imagination to visualize what it was like in its time.

    1. Paolo Capaccio

      We travel to Roma 2-3 times every year and love the ongoing excavations at the curved end. Original curva sud !!!! One of our favorite ruins.

  3. Pingback: May 22, 2018 – Business in Rome

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

FOLLOW ME

Want a regular dose of inspiration and information from WorldWideWriter?

Sign up to our mailing list now!

Booking.com