22 April 2023

What is the Roman Circus? – Objective, function and characteristics

By Donald

Since ancient times, the Roman Empire has shown us a large number of imposing buildings. Let us remember that slavery and submission to the emperorsupported thousands of commoners by building various structures such as theaters, amphitheatres, and the Roman Circus.

The latter being an icon among all the others, due to the fact that it was intended for the entertainment of the mightiest and of the Roman people in general. Because, we could see strong riders or gladiators face each other in competitions similar to those that a triathlete does today, but full of violence, even death.

However, the creation of the Roman Circus reveals a very persuasive political strategy, since its main purpose was not to entertain the emperor. On the contrary, he sought to distract the people of so many outrages through a while of entertainment. Below we will tell you more details about this enormous structure, its origin and true objective.

What was the Roman Circus?

From the physical point of view, we can say that the Roman Circus is a building intended for the entertainment of the inhabitants of the region. Since, they used it for the realization of sport activities, such as: charioteer races. Therefore, its purpose was entertainment, similar to the Roman Colosseum, since amphitheaters and theaters are also part of those structures for fun.

It should also be noted that the construction of these spaces simulated the well-known stadiums of ancient greece, similar to the famous racetracks but of enormous magnitude. The structure of the Roman Circus was elongated, where they enjoyed horse races and great shows, mostly sports.

Taking into account that the arrival of Christianity brought a message of peace and repudiated violence, theaters and amphitheaters diminished their fame. Since, in them tough gladiator fights were held. It was at that moment that the Roman Circus reached the peak of receptivity, becoming the main entertainment site for locals by horse racing.

In conclusion, these enclosures were a kind of hippodrome, but much larger than those of Ancient Greece, with an elongated and rounded shape at the tips with stands in the center to accommodate the spectators. It was a form of entertainment devised by the emperor in order to improve his political image and keep his followers happy despite the odds. abuses and violation of rights who suffered daily.

What is the history of the Roman Circuses?

Its origin dates back to 200 BC and its main objective was to keep the common people happy with huge celebrations and shows of great magnitude. The truth is that this political strategy increased the popularity of the rulers, for that reason, the famous phrase ‘bread and circuses’ arises that we all know in history.

Due to the fact that, since ancient times, the Romans have not only measured the popularity of their rulers by the number of conquests of territories. Since it was also very important to distribution of wheat to the common people and putting on big shows to keep them happy and increase their popularity.

In fact, these celebrations were a reason for competition between those in power, since their rivalry was visible to see who did a more ostentatious event than the other. So, they took the idea of ​​the ancient Greek hippodromes and proceeded to create a much larger and more imposing structure for their sporting celebrations.

The most impressive thing is that it was not until the 19th century that we were able to see structures as enormous as these, with the appearance of metallic materials and other artifacts. Well, the Roman Circuses consisted of wood, concrete and granite, its construction required large investments at very low cost. Well, labor was free, thanks to the exploitation of thousands of slaves.

Who created the Roman Circus?

According to details in history, the Circus Maximus was the first of the Roman circuses to be built, its main purpose was to celebrate harvest times and other festivities. Usually its creator, the king of RomeLucio Tarquino Prisco, he threw huge annual parties with sporting events, hair races and carriages for the entertainment of all.

This circus suffered constant deterioration, especially its wooden parts, which is why it required many repairs. The raised seats built by King Lucio Tarquino Prisco were made of this material to accommodate the people of the highest social stratum from Rome. In addition, he ordered the incorporation of awnings in that area for the comfort of the most privileged.

It should be noted that years later, his grandson Tarquin the Proud, decided to incorporate the seats intended for the common people, expanding the capacity of spectators in the structure. That way everyone would have a better view of the arena and enjoy all the details the show had.

When did the Roman Circus emerge?

According to recorded data, we believe that the ancient Roman Circus appeared 200 BC as part of the festivities of the emperors of the region. However, said data may vary depending on the building in question, since they underwent great modifications over the years, until they became the ones we know today.

As we have mentioned, the Roman Circus is part of the entertainment spaces of the Romans, along with theaters and amphitheatres, all intended for the amusement of rulers and the common people. At first, to celebrate important dates and triumphs, later, it became a strategy to please the people.

But it was during the reign of Lucio Tarquino Prisco, when the Roman Circus Maximus arose, being the precursor for the later construction of other similar entertainment spaces. As time goes by, we get many more Circuses with their game arenas, some with special boxes and marble seats for the most powerful.

What objective did the Roman Circus have? – Function

The main purpose was the entertainment of poor and rich, since its origin reveals that they were used for special celebrations. In the case of Roman Circus Maximushosted more than 150,000 people to have fun with horse and carriage races.

They sought to copy the type of event of the ancient Greek hippodromes with their construction. Besides, they organized annual games, long awaited by the population at harvest times or religious celebrations. However, over time the objective of the Circus changed, because its purpose was to manipulate the mob with moments of fun.

Since, the rulers competed to gain popularity through the realization of these great festivals for the people. In the same way, they cleaned up their political image by giving wheat to their inhabitants, keeping them happy with ‘bread and circuses’. Thus, they managed to get the people to ignore the great abuses to which they were subjected, a very common strategy in some rulers and dictators today.

What was done in the Roman Circuses?

The main sporting event in these venues were the quadrigas, which consisted of a horse and carriage race, led by the charioteers. It should be noted that the 4 participants wore four different colors, red, white, blue and green. These last two being the ones that represented the upper classes and the common peopleTherefore, the most acclaimed by the public.

Another of the most popular celebrations in the ancient Roman circus were the Naumaquias or naval battles. They were very important battles and with ostentatious parties. These enclosures also housed fights between gladiators and shows with animals or exotic beasts. In addition, he served to carry out executions in order to end the lives of traitors in front of the whole world.

What are the characteristics of the Roman Circuses?

These buildings have very remarkable aspects, such as their capacity for about 300,000 spectators. We also saw huge stands for commoners and royalty. In addition, it is made up of three fundamental parts: the cavea, the arena and the spina.

For its part, the cavea are the stands where the spectators are located, they have a connection to the Circus exits. In the case of the arena, it is the play area, that is, the place where the show takes place. And, the spina is the curve that allowed the carriages to turn when competing, whose main characteristic was its mosaic decoration and statues.