Circus Maximus Overview

The Circus Maximus was built as a chariot racing stadium in the 6th century BC and had a huge significance in its time. During the visit, you get transferred to the past as you witness its tracks, the temples, The Sun and the Moon Cult, and Imperial Cosmology. With its seating capacity of 250,000 spectators, this place is one of the celebrated ruins of Rome.

Circus Maximus owes its significance to being a chariot racing stadium that was built around the 6th century BC. It is in Via Del Circo Massimo and lies between Palatine and Aventine hills. Much of the stadium is destroyed today, mainly due to fire and negligence of successive regimes.

However, in its place stands a vast grassy field that has been converted into a beautiful park. Today locals use this park to relax, play games or enjoy a picnic. Tourists can take a leisurely walk around the park and enjoy the scenery all around.

Some relics like the obelisk of the ancient stadium still stand. One can easily visualize the way chariot races were held and held people captive. It is an interesting place to visit and reminisce about ancient times. One can look at the ruins and take a break from busy city life.

It was the citadel of Roman culture and was the center for all activities ranging from sports to cultural functions. Over the centuries, the Circus has seen the ravages of time. Fire, war, and flooding have systematically destroyed what had once been the main place for everything Roman.

During excavation, a lot of miniature statues and artifacts have been found that bore the stamp of the grandeur of the era gone by. Today, the site is a popular public park.

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• Explore the chariot racing venue that dates back to the 6th century BC situated between the Palatine and Aventine hills in Via Del Circo Massimo.
• Get amazed by the park full of lush greenery and spent time relaxing, having picnics, playing games, and taking walks while getting to know about the history of Rome even more closely. 
• Learn more about the relics and imagine how the chariot races were being held while keeping people captive.
• Learn about the history while listening to the famous tales of Roman events from knowledgeable guides.
• Travel back in time with the stories of history and witness the citadel of Rome that witnessed fire, blood, and wars in its time.

How To Reach

By Train:

The best way to reach Circus Maximus from Leonardo da Vinci Airport is to take a train (Leonardo train). The train covers the distance in 32 minutes. There is a train every 20 minutes. 

By Bus:

One may also take a bus from the airport to reach EUR. From EUR one can take the subway to reach Circus Maximus. It takes 45 minutes to reach EUR by bus. There is a bus every hour. From EUR the subway takes 12 minutes to reach Circus Maximus. Transportation is available via subway every 5 minutes. Line 81 bus goes straight to the stadium from the airport.

By Taxi:

One can also travel by taxi and it takes 23 minutes to reach Circus Maximus. However, a taxi is expensive. 

By Shuttle:

Alternatively, one can take a shuttle from the airport and the ride will be approximately 24 minutes.

By Towncar:

There are other options like Towncar and Uber. Transportation is not a problem and a large number of choices are available depending on the visitor's budget.

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Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Circus Maximus is during summer. The park remains open from early in the morning to late evening. The best months are between September and November and April to May. These are the months when the weather is warm, days are sunny and evenings are cool. 

Tourists can enjoy a sunny day under a leafy tree or just take a stroll and enjoy the atmosphere. Moreover, during these months you experience thin crowds which makes the trip to Circus Maximus all the more enjoyable. Avoid visiting it in the month of August as there is too much international crowd. During summer, the days are long and one can enjoy one whole day in Circus Maximus.

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Other Essential Information


Circus Maximus is situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills. 

Opening Hours:

Anyone who wishes to visit this park can visit -

- Tuesday to Sunday 9 am to 5 pm (during winter)

- Every day 9 am to 7 pm (during Summer)

Entry Fee:

There is no entry fee to visit this park.

Distance from Nearest Airport:

The park is very well-connected to the nearby airport. The road distance from Leonardo da Vinci airport is 27.4 km. A journey by train will take about 56 min. whereas if one wishes to travel by bus it will be 1 hr.19 mins.

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History of Circus Maximus

The Circus was built in the sixth century BC. It had a sitting capacity of 250,000 spectators and the seats were made of concrete and wood. A devastating fire destroyed the structure in 64CE and this was then rebuilt. The following were the architectural features of this famous stadium:

- The racing track was covered with sand and measured 540*80 m.

12 starting gates for the chariots to start the race arranged in an arc

An obelisk at the center of the track 

Conical structures at the end of each track

Eggs and dolphins structures to mark the end of each track covered by a racing chariot.

Circus Maximus was not only a center for chariot races, but it also held religious ceremonies, public feasts, and national celebrations. These events strengthened the social bonding among citizens and they enjoyed it as much as the emperors.

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Dimensions of Circus Maximus

Circus Maximus was built to be a stadium for sports and public entertainment. It was large enough to hold nearly 250,000 spectators. It measured 621m in length and 118 m. in width. The seats were made of concrete and wood. The spectators seated in banks that measured 28 m. in height and 30m. in width.

The design of the circus was oblong in shape with a long barrier (known as spina) that ran through the middle of the track. The spina contained statues and monuments to add beauty to the tracks. The entire stadium was a U-shaped structure with seats on three sides and there was a low wall running down the middle of the arena.

The racing track measured 540*80 m. and was covered with sand. A major fire destroyed the structure during Emperor Nero’s rule and later the arena got a face-lift. It measured 600 m. long and 150 m. wide. The outside of the stadium was impressive with arcades. There were shops serving the needs of the spectators.

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Chariot Race in Circus Maximus

The Circus held chariot races as the main event even though other sporting activities also took place. A chariot drawn by four horses was held here. There were four factions, red, white, green, and blue representing four seasons: summer, winter, spring, and autumn respectively.

Bets were placed on various chariots by the enthusiastic spectators and often clashes happened among them while supporting their favorites. The number of such races ranged between 8 and 25 on a single day, thereby maintaining the enthusiasm of the spectators. 

Many times, the racers risked their lives to win races because a win could mean wealth and a possible release from slavery. Most of the time, slaves of the emperor took part as the charioteers. Sometimes a racer could crash his vehicle or fall off from his seat to be crushed under the hooves of racing horses, but nothing deterred them as the spectators egged them on. 

Sometimes the number of laps varied but a seven-lap race could last as long as 15 minutes. There were different teams of racers based on their age, taking part in the race; teenagers, racers in their early twenties, mid-twenties, and elders. Spectators were free to choose their favorites and bet on them.

Such races were extremely popular and on the race days, spectators thronged the arena. The charioteers were no less than the athletes of their day, being exceptionally admired by their peers. The races were rough, consisted of seven laps, and included as many as 12 chariots at any given time.

The chariots were light and that made the race more dangerous. There was a great probability of chariots getting broken in the course of their run or the racer being thrown off. This made the races very expensive but their popularity also made them a great business.

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Tips for Visiting Circus Maximus

This monument of great historical significance holds a mirror to the past long gone. 

Though many of the artifacts are crumbling and a lot has been destroyed due to fire and ravages of war, it is still an attraction for people who attach a value to the magnificent past. 

This place takes you away from the chaotic city life into the tranquility of the ancient city. 

This place is open for visitors all day during summer and entry is free. 

A visit to Circus Maximus can easily be combined with a visit to Palatine hill, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum.

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Places to Visit near Circus Maximus

1. Piazza Della Rotonda

It is a city square in Rome and on its south side is Pantheon. In the center of the Piazza is a fountain, the Fontana del Pantheon, and is mounted by an obelisk. The water is very cold and most of the visitors get surprised by it. 

2. Roman Forum

This is a mute spectator to ancient Rome's glorious past. It was first developed in the 7th century BC and gained the enviable reputation of being the center of Rome's social, political, and commercial hub. Some important structures in the Roman forum are The Senate House, Temple of Saturn, and Arch of Titus. This is just 15 minutes from the Circus. 

3. Monte Palatino

The Palatino hill is the centermost of the seven most ancient hills of Rome. Between the 1st and 2nd century BC, this hill was the residential colony of the Roman Empire. From the height of the Palatine hills, the visitor can see the magnificence of the Roman Forum. This is just 13 minutes from the Circus Maximus.

4. House of Augustus

This was built on the south side of the Palatine hills and is a rich heritage of the contemporary Roman Empire. During the rule of Emperor Augustus, this became his residence. The layout, the paintings, and the mosaics reflect the taste and the luxury of the emperor. This place is just 7 minutes from Circus Maximus.

5. Colosseum

This was the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire. This is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. This is one of the major tourist attractions of Rome because, In a year, nearly 6 million people visit it. In the past, the Colosseum has survived looting, earthquakes, and even bombings during WWII. Over the years it has been used as a storehouse, a church, and a castle for nobility. It is 15 minutes from Circus Maximus.

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Point of Interest for Circus Maximus
The Track

The Track

The two shrines belonging to Goddess Murcia and Consus were at the end of the southeast turn of the track. Romulus discovered these two shrines and the Consualia festival started in the Goddesses’ honour. 

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The Temples

The Temples

There were several other deities who overlooked the Circus. Most of the temples are today either destroyed or lost. Temples of Ceres and Flora stood at the gates and many also believed that the stadium was under the protection of Hercules. Temple to Magna Mater stood on the Palatine hill, opposite to Ceres's temple. 

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The Sun and the Moon Cult

The Sun and the Moon Cult

The Circus was the symbol of the Sun and the moon cult. During the rules of various emperors, it was believed that the Sun God was the Circus's protector and patron of the various games being held. He was regarded as the divine charioteer who drove his chariot from sunrise to sunset. His partner Luna drove her chariot and together they represented the orderly movement of the cosmos.

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Imperial Cosmology

Imperial Cosmology

In imperial cosmology, the emperor is regarded as Sol-Apollo's earthly equivalent. Aventine temples to Venus, Mercury and Dis stood on the slopes of the Southeast turn. 

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Circus Maximus FAQs

Is Circus Maximus still standing?

Yes, it is. But much of the ancient structure is lost due to fire, flooding, and war. Today, only a grassy hollow and few bleachers are left. It serves as a part of Roman history and Roman lifestyle.

What is Circus Maximus used for today?

Circus Maximus is being used as a public park today where many public functions and concerts are being held. Today it is a visitor's paradise serving as a testimony to the rise and magnificence of the Roman Empire In the past the Rolling Stones, Genesis have held concerts to a large audience. Circus Maximus held victory celebrations after Italy won the World Cup in 2006.

What events were held in the Circus Maximus?

In the past, Circus Maximus was used for religious festivals. It was the epicenter for chariot races, gladiator fights, and other athletic activities. Most of such events were extremely popular among the spectators with many betting on their favourite gladiators or charioteers. It is also said that Pompey once organized combat between barbarian gladiators and 20 elephants.

What is the spina in Circus Maximus?

The racing track which was oblong in shape had a barrier in the middle and it was known as spina. The charioteers ran around the spina while running the race.

How was the Circus Maximus destroyed?

In 64 AD a major fire broke out in the shops lining the Circus Maximus. Much of the stadium was gutted during this fire. Again in 31 BC, a fire destroyed the wooden sitting arrangements around the stadium. It is said, fire, flooding, and war destroyed this once magnificent and mammoth stadium and what we see today is only its remains.

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