the stadium which Domitian built in the campus
Martius for athletic contests (Suet. Dom. 5; Eutrop. vii. 23
; Chron. 146;
Hieron. ad a. Abr. 20o5; Not. Reg. IX). After the Colosseum was
injured by fire in 217, it was used for several years for gladiatorial combats
(Cass. Dio lxxviii. 25
). Its arcades were occupied by brothels (Hist. Aug.
Elag. 26) as were those of the circus Maximus. The stadium was restored
by Alexander Severus (id. Alex. 24), and hence was sometimes called in
the Middle Ages circus Alexandri (Ordo Bened. 143).1
In the fourth
century it was one of the buildings that are said to have aroused the
special admiration of Constantius (Amm. Marcell. xvi. 10
. 14). It
had 30088 loca (Cur.), that is, seats for about 15,000 spectators (HJ 593).
According to the legend, S. Agnes met a martyr's death in the brothels
in the arcades of this stadium, and in her honour a church was built
in the ninth century in the middle of the cavea on the west side, which
was afterwards known as S. Agnese in Agone or de Cryptis Agonis (Arm.
383-384; HCh 68), the word agon being used both for a gymnastic contest
and for the place of its celebration (Lydus, de mens. iv. 30; 2
171). There was also a church of S. Nicolas de Agone (HCh 389-that of
S. Caterina de cryptis agonis (cf. Arm. 388) never existed). The Piazza
Navona, the largest in the city, now called officially Circo Agonale,
preserves almost exactly the shape and size of the stadium. The piazza
itself corresponds closely with the arena, the length of which seems to
have been about 250 metres, and the surrounding buildings stand on
the ruins of the cavea. Under the church of S. Agnese remains of brick
and concrete walls, travertine pilasters and the seats of the cavea are
still to be seen, and other traces have been found beneath the existing
buildings at other points. For excavations in the sixteenth century,
see LS ii. 228-231
; iii. 224-225
; iv. 190
; LR 498-500; HJ 592-594.
For the obelisk of Domitian which was erected there in 651, see OBELISCI ISEI CAMPENSIS (4)
. Cf. also Mem. L. 5. xvii. 521.