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Circus Maximus

The Circus measured 600 with 200 meters and had a capacity of 320.000 spectators who
watched the chariot races that were held there. The most important were those of the
Ludi Romani the first week of September, which opened with a religious procession in
which the highest religious and civil authorities of the city took part. The Circus
Maximus was the largest stadium in ancient Rome. At one point the Circus
could seat 250.000 people, one quarter of Rome's population.

Early History

Chariot races were one of the Roman's most popular forms of entertainment. Romulus,
the first of Rome's seven kings, is said to have held chariot races. The origins of the
Circus Maximus go back to the 6th century BC when Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of
Rome, created a track between the Palatine and Aventine hills. The first permanent
starting gates were created in 329 BC. In 174 BC the gates were rebuilt and seven
wooden eggs were placed on top of the spina, the central wall in the arena. The eggs
were used to count the number of laps; after each lap one egg was removed. In 33 BC
seven bronze dolphins were added to the spina for the same purpose.

Wooden Structures
A fire in 31 BC, the first of three, destroyed the wooden structure. It was rebuilt by

Emperor Augustus who also added an imperial box on the palatine hill. A large obelisk
from Heliopolis was added to the spina as a decoration. The obelisk can now be found at
the center of the Piazza del Popolo. Another obelisk was added much later, in the 4th
century. second fire, in AD 64, which started in wooden shops at the bottom around the
track started the fire that burned much of Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero.

The Marble Stadium

After yet another fire the Circus was rebuilt by Trajan in AD 103. The Roman empire was
at the height of its power and the new Circus Maximus reflected this status. The Circus
was now a stone construction, three stories high. The lower part of the cavea (seating
area) was built in marble. The arena complex was now more than 600m long and 150m
(2000x500ft) wide.

Popular Events
The Circus Maximus was occasionally used for events such as processions or gladiator
combats, but on most days only chariot races with quadrigaes, pulled by four horses,
were held here. The races themselves were wildly popular with people fanatically
supporting one of the four factions: red, white, green and blue representing summer,
winter, spring and autumn respectively. Bets were laid on one of the factions and
supporters of the different factions often clashed, sometimes resulting in deaths among
the spectators.

The Last Race


The last race at the Circus Maximus was held in AD 549, almost a millennium after the
first races was held at this location. Today only the layout of the original circus can be
seen in what is now large grassland. Most of the original structure has been used as
building material for medieval and Renaissance constructions.

Thermae of Caraculla

The Baths of Caracalla were Roman public baths, or thermae, built in Rome between 212
and 216 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Caracalla. The extensive ruins of the baths
have become a popular tourist attraction.

The bath complex covered approximately 13 hectares (33 ac). The bath building was 228
meters (750 ft) long, 116 meters (380 ft) wide and 38.5 meters (125 ft) estimated
height, and could hold an estimated 1,600 bathers.
The main building was built to a symmetrical plan similar to that of other baths of
imperial Rome (see below).
Someone using the facilities
would first enter one of the
dressing-rooms (apodyteria)
(A), where he could undress
and place his clothes on a
shelf. Then he might take
some exercise in the
gymnasium (palaestra) (B) or
have a massage in one of the
small rooms leading off it. He
would proceed to the heated
rooms for a sauna or the
equivalent of a Turkish bath in
the calidarium (C). He then
went through the tepidarium (D) to the large, unheated hall called a frigidarium (E),
which was open on one side giving access to the open-air swimming-pool (natatio) (F).
Then he could return to the dressing-room to get his clothes.

The Caracalla bath complex of buildings was more a leisure centre than just a series of
baths. The "baths" were the second to have a public library within the complex. Like
other public libraries in Rome, there were two separate and equal sized rooms or
buildings; one for Greek language texts and one for Latin language texts.

The baths consisted of a central 55.7 by 24 meter (183x79 ft) frigidarium (cold room)
under three 32.9 meter (108 ft) high groin vaults, a double pool tepidarium (medium),
and a 35 meter (115 ft) diameter caldarium (hot room), as well as two palaestras (gyms
where wrestling and boxing was practiced). The north end of the bath building contained
a natatio or swimming pool. The natatio was roofless with bronze mirrors mounted
overhead to direct sunlight into the pool area. The entire bath building was on a 6 meter
(20 ft) high raised platform to allow for storage and furnaces under the building.
The libraries were located in exedrae on the east and west sides of the bath complex.
The entire north wall of the complex was devoted to shops. The reservoirs on the south
wall of the complex were fed with water from the Marcian Aqueduct.