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κίρκος). A building used by the Romans for chariot races and other amusements, the general form of which was borrowed from the ἱππόδρομος of the Greeks. (See Hippodromus.) Its name is derived from the circuit made by the racing chariots (Varr. L. L. v. 153).

The Circus Maximus in Rome was for a long time the only building of the kind, and appears to have been the model from which all later circi were copied. Vitruvius does not mention the circus in his treatise on Roman architecture. According to the legend, Romulus held the Consualia, or games in honour of the Latin deity Consus (see Consualia), in the Vallis Murcia, a long, narrow depression between the Palatine and Aventine hills. It was during the celebration of these games that the rape of the Sabine women is said to have taken place (Val. Max. ii. 4). The long, level bottom and sloping sides of the Vallis Murcia made it a naturally convenient place for races to be held and seen by a crowd of spectators, who probably stood or sat on the grassy slopes of the two hills long before any architectural structure was erected. See Ovid, A. A. i. 107.

Wooden seats (fori) for the people are said to have been first constructed by Tarquinius Priscus (Liv.i. 35), and these were frequently burnt and rebuilt in the same material: restorations in B.C. 327 and B.C. 174 are mentioned by Livy (viii. 20, and xli. 27). In the time of Iulius Caesar some of the seats were for the first time constructed of stone, but even then and many years later the upper tiers and galleries were still of wood. Very serious accidents are recorded to have happened under many of the emperors, owing to the failure of the wooden seats when crowded with people. No less than 1000 persons are said to have been killed in this way during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Dionysius (iii. 68), who describes the Circus Maximus as it was after Iulius Caesar's improvements, says that it then held 150,000 people. A destructive fire in B.C. 31 was followed by important restorations, and Augustus added a magnificent marble pulvinar or imperial box, and placed in the centre of the spina the Egyptian obelisk which now stands in the Piazza del Popolo (Suet. Aug. 43-45). In A.D. 36, another fire destroyed the upper tiers of seats on the Aventine side, and a great part of the Circus was soon restored and enlarged by Claudius, who rebuilt in white marble the carceres, which were then of tufa, and replaced the old wooden metae by new ones of gilt bronze (Claud. 21). After this restoration the Circus contained seats, partly of marble and partly of wood, for 250,000 spectators, showing that it had been much enlarged since the rebuilding of Iulius Caesar (Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 102). In the reign of Domitian the marble seats were carried still higher, and thenceforth the danger of fire was much diminished, though wooden galleries (maeniana) appear to have existed at the top of the cavea for many years later.

Great additional splendour was given to the Circus Maximus by Trajan, as is recorded on the reverse of some of his first brasses; and from his time the building must have been among the most magnificent structures of the Roman world. The whole cavea with its tiers of seats, the carceres, the emperor's pulvinar, and the central spina were then of gleaming white marble, decorated with gold and colours, studded with jewel-like glass mosaics, and adorned with long lines of columns made of richly-tinted Oriental marbles and rows of large statues in marble and gilt bronze, together with costly metal screens and richly

Circus Maximus. (Restoration by Benvenuti.)

sculptured thrones for officials of rank (Paneg. 51). Still further accommodation was added by Constantine; and Constantius set on the spina a second obelisk, which his father had transported from Thebes (Aurel. Vict. Caes. 40), and which now stands in the piazza of the Lateran. After this final enlargement the Circus held, according to the Notitia, the almost incredible number of 385,000 people. The best MS. of the Notitia gives 485,000 as the number of possible spectators in the Circus, which probably includes the crowds of people outside the Circus on the upper slopes of the two hills, who would have a distinct though distant view of the whole arena. It is impossible to discover with absolute accuracy what the size of the Circus Maximus was when complete; it cannot, however, have been less than 2000 feet long, by more than 600 feet wide, measuring outside.

In spite of its enormous size very little now remains of the Circus Maximus; but the excavations of recent years have brought to light some very interesting portions of the substructures; and these, with the help of some drawings made in the sixteenth century, when a considerable portion of the Circus was still very complete, enable us to form a fairly accurate notion of its plan and general construction. Additional help is given by the well-preserved remains of the Circus of Maxentius, of which a plan is given on the following page. Though quite different in ground-plan, yet in the arrangement of the seats and in its external façade the Circus once closely resembled the Colosseum (q.v.), except that the general effect must have been much more splendid, since in the Circus nothing but marble and gilt bronze was visible. Part of the exterior façade of the Circus is fortunately shown in the great oil-painting in the museum at Mantua, giving a bird's-eye view of Rome as it was in the fifteenth century. A fac-simile of this is shown in De Rossi's Piante di Roma anteriori al XVI<hi rend=superscript>mo</hi> Secolo (Rome, 1879). See also Middleton, Anc. Rome in 1885, p. 287, and fig. 10 on p. 83; id. Remains of Anc. Rome (London, 1892), vol. ii. pp. 40- 60; and the article Roma. There is an interesting etching of the sixteenth century which shows a large portion (now destroyed) of the concrete vaults which supported the long line of the cavea seats. Excavations made a few years ago at the foot of the south western slope of the Palatine have exposed a long series of chambers, which formed part of the immense substructures of the Circus. These chambers were used for brothels (Juv.iii. 65), for refreshment stalls (Dionys. vii. 72), and other purposes. They open upon a road, paved with flint blocks, which appears to have run at the foot of the Palatine along the whole northeastern side of the Circus, and led from the Forum boarium to the Porta Capena.

Owing to their lofty positions, the palace of Augustus and the other imperial buildings on the Palatine must have commanded a very complete view of the races in the Circus; and some of the emperors built special additions to their palaces to enable them to see the games without leaving their residences (Calig. 18). See Palatium.

Arrangements of the Circus.—The drawing of the Circus of Maxentius given on the next page will serve to give an idea of the arrangements of the Circus Maximus, from which it was copied.

According to Livy , the Roman senators from a very early period had the privilege of special seats at the Circus. Augustus arranged a complete classification of the spectators. He reserved the podium for the Senate and persons of high rank, and allotted special seats to soldiers, married plebeians, boys and their paedagogi, women, etc. (See Suet. Aug. 44; Nero, 11; and the Mon. Ancyranum, ed. Mommsen, Berlin, 1883.) Until

Plan of the Circus of Maxentius. AA. Carceres. Porta Pompae, entrance in centre of the carceres. CC. Gradus, seats of the spectators. D. Tribunal Iudicum. E. Pulvinar, seat of the emperor. F. Porta Triumphalis. HH. Entrances between the carceres and gradus. II. Towers. K. Alba linea, starting line. LL. Metae. MM. Spinae. N. (See p. 353.)

this classification, the fact that men and women sat together in the Circus had been one of its peculiarities as a place of amusement—a fact often alluded to by Ovid. Cushions (pulvini) were used, especially by ladies, on the hard marble seats, and footstools (scabella) were sometimes introduced, though each gradus was so low—only thirteen to fourteen inches high—that these can have been of but little use. See Ovid, A. A. i. 160-162.

A large number of interesting inscriptions have been found at different times, which throw much light on the way in which the seats were apportioned in the circi and amphitheatres of Rome. (See Lanciani, Inscriz. d. Anfit. Flav., Rome, 1884.) The cavea was divided into bands called maeniana by the horizontal passages, ambulacra or praecinctiones; there were probably three of these divisions or maeniana in the Circus Maximus, without counting the gallery at the top. The lowest of these divisions was called maenianum primum, and the highest was called summum; each of these bands of seats was also divided by flights of steps into cunei, which were numbered; each line of seats (gradus) in each cuneus was also numbered; and as there were no divisions to separate one place from the next, each gradus was measured, and allotment was made to various classes of a fixed number of feet measured from one end. Thus, for example, the space allotted to a collegium of priests might be described as follows: “In the first maenianum, in the twelfth cuneus, nine feet of gradi 4 and 5.”

In addition to the cavea proper and its podium, various state boxes were constructed of marble, with columns and arches to support the entablature and roof of each. One series of these (cubicula or suggestus) was over the carceres, and appears to have been occupied by the giver of the games (editor spectaculorum) and his friends. Another elevated box (the tribunal iudicum, D) was placed at one side for the umpires, who decided which chariot first crossed the line chalked on the arena in front of them. See Henzen, Acta Fratrum Arval, p. 37 (Berlin, 1874).

A separate pulvinar or state box (E) for the imperial family, of great size and magnificence, was erected on the Palatine side of the Circus Maximus (Claud. 4). An interesting relief of the third century A.D., found at Foligno, represents the presiding magistrate or editor of the games seated in his box over the carceres; he holds in his hand a bag of money, which he is about to give to the winning charioteer, who has driven up and is saluting him from below. A similar scene is represented on several of the ivory consular diptychs of the fourth and fifth centuries. (See Gori, Thesaur. Vet. Dipt., Florence, 1759). The chief of these is the celebrated leaf of a fourth century diptych in the Museo Quiriniano at Brescia. On this the presiding consul sits in his pulvinar; in the arena below four quadrigae are racing round the spina, which, like that on the Lyons mosaic, is a long tank of water. The way in which the reins were looped round the body of the driver (auriga) is clearly shown; each holds in his hand what seems to be a combination of whip and goad; and they all wear fasciae round their legs and bodies. The horses' legs are also closely bound about with thongs. See Fröhner, La Verrerie Antique (Paris, 1879).

On the ivories the consul, or other president of the games, is usually represented in the pulvinar, magnificently robed in the toga picta and pallium, and in some cases holding in his hand the mappa or napkin with which he gave the signal for the start.

The starting end of the Circus was formed by a row of small vaulted chambers (carceres, A A), each large enough for one chariot and its horses. Of these carceres there were at the most twelve. Each had two doors—one behind, by which the chariot entered, and one in front, opening into the arena. This latter doorway was closed by folding doors, with open work (cancelli) in the panels. These doors were thrown open at the start by slaves (tentores), two to each doorway (as in the accompanying illustration), who flung them open simul

Doors of Carceres opened by Slaves. (Museo Borgiano, Velletri.)

taneously at the signal. In early times the races appear to have begun at the carceres; but later, the actual start took place at a line marked on the arena with white chalk or lime (alba linea), and hence sometimes called creta or calx (K). A similar white line for the finish was drawn opposite the judge's box (D), at a point unequally distant from the two metae. The starting-line was drawn opposite the metae that were nearest the carceres. The carceres received no light except what came

Doors of Carceres. (British Museum.)

through the grating. Their narrow openings are called fauces. The lofty state-boxes above the carceres, with their colonnades and arches, towered to an imposing height, and the whole structure was known as the oppidum, from its resemblance to the gate and towers of a city (Varr. L. L. v. 153).

A brass of Caracalla shows the external façade of the oppidum, and a sort of bird's-eye view beyond of the interior of the Circus, with its spina, central obelisk, and aediculae, and statues in quadrigae set at the top of the wall surrounding the cavea. It will be seen from the typical plan given above that the carceres (A A) are slightly curved on plan, and are constructed on a segmental line, the centre of which is struck from a point midway (N) between the line of the spina and the side of the cavea. Thiś plan was adopted in order that the chariots in all the carceres might have as nearly as possible a position of equal advantage at the start. The special carcer occupied by each chariot was fixed on by drawing lots.

The spina (back-bone) was a long, low wall, or rather platform, of marble (M M), set in the middle of the arena to separate the going and returning course of the racers. The line of the spina is not parallel to that of the cavea, but is slightly inclined so as to leave a wider space at K than that near the semicircular end. The object of this seems to have been that the chariots might have more space where they were crowded together at the start than at other points where some would have begun to tail off.

Various mosaics and reliefs show the spina (M M) covered with a series of statues and ornamental structures, such as obelisks, small aediculae or shrines, columns surmounted by statues, altars, trophies, and fountains. In addition to these were two sets of seven marble eggs (ova) at each end of the spina—each set mounted on a small aedicula,

Race in the Circus, showing the Spina, with the Dolphins, Obelisk, and Ova. (Ancient relief in the Vatican.)

to which access was given by a ladder. One of these eggs was removed after each lap (curriculum) was run (Varr. Re Rust. i. 2, 11), there being usually seven laps to each race (missus). According to Livy (xli. 27), these ova were first set on the spina by the censors in B.C. 174; but Dio Cassius attributes their introduction to Agrippa, in the reign of Augustus. He is, however, probably confusing them with another series of ornaments—seven dolphins, which were set on a similar aedicula and served a similar purpose ( 590). These dolphins must have been too heavy to take down, and were probably merely moved in some way to indicate the number of laps.

In some ancient representations, as in a mosaic found at Lyons and figured on page 355, the dolphins form fountains—water spouting from the mouth of each fish. This shows that they could not have been wholly removed. The eggs had some sacred connection with the Dioscuri, and the dolphins with Neptune (or Consus)—deities who were the patrons of horses and racing (Tertull. De Spect. 8). The Lyons mosaic, which no doubt represents the local circus, has what appears to have

Metae. (Relief in the British Museum.)

been a common form of spina, consisting of a long tank of water instead of the marble podium; statues and other ornaments stand on pedestals in the water. Two sarcophagi in the Sala della Biga in the Vatican have reliefs which represent a chariot-race of Cupids in the Circus Maximus, and show clearly the spina and its ornaments, among which are statues of Apollo Helios, Cybelé, Victory, a quadriga, and an obelisk, as well as the eggs and dolphins. The metae are shown at each end; a similar relief is given in the illustration above.

The metae (L L), the goals, were three tall, conical objects (Ovid, Met. x. 106; Hor. Carm. i. 1, 5) set on a semicircular plinth, at a short distance from each end of the spina. From the time of Claudius, they were of gilt bronze decorated with bands in relief, as is shown in the above illustration from a relief in the British Museum. These formed the turning-points for the chariots. The primae metae are not, as might be expected, the ones nearest to the start, but those near the semicircular end of the Circus, round which the chariots made their first turn. Tertullian (De Spect. v. 8) mentions that the ancient altar of Consus in the Circus Maximus was ad primäs metas; it appears to have been in the spina, and was only exposed to view during the progress of the games.

Remains of the spina, stripped of all its rich marble decorations, exist in the Circus of Maxentius, at Vienne in France (Bull. Inst. 1861, p. 143), and in the circus of Carthage (Falbe, L'Emplacement de Carthage, p. 40).

The arena, or sandy floor of the Circus, like that of the Colosseum, was on some occasions strewn with glittering particles of mica, red lead, or perfumes, by the ostentatious extravagance of the emperors (Suet. Cal. 18). That part of the arena which formed the course for the chariots was known as the spatium ( 582). The space near the carceres was known as the circus primus, while that on each side of the spina was the circus interior (Varr. L. L. v. 154).

Before the construction of amphitheatres in Rome, the Circus Maximus was used for gladiatorial fights with wild beasts and other scenes of butchery. The Ancyraean inscription records that Augustus had no less than 3500 wild beasts slaughtered in the Circus, Forum, and amphitheatre, in twenty-six exhibitions.

In order to keep the beasts from reaching the spectators on the cavea, Iulius Caesar constructed a canal (euripus) ten feet wide and ten feet deep all round the arena; this was supplied by a stream which still runs through the site of the Circus, near the modern Via de' Cerchi (Iul. 39). After the erection of the amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus in the reign of Augustus, the Circus Maximus appears to have been no longer used for fights with beasts, and the euripus was therefore filled up by Nero (Plin. H. N. viii. 21). It was, however, again introduced in later times (Lamprid. Heliog. 23).

Other Circi at Rome.—Few remains of other circi exist to-day above ground at Rome. The important edifices of this sort were as follows:


The Circus Flaminius which gave its name to the Campus Flaminius, an important part of the Campus Martius (q.v.). It was founded in honour of the censor C. Flaminius Nepos, killed at the battle of Lake Trasimenus, B.C. 217.


The Circus of Caligula and Nero in the Horti Agrippinae, at the foot of the Vatican Hill (Claud. 21). No traces of this circus are visible at the present time.


The Circus of Hadrian in the Campus Vaticanus, near the emperor's Mausoleum. No traces of it now remain.


The Circus of Maxentius on the Via Appia, two miles from the walls of Rome, is sufficiently well preserved to show its original form, though it is completely stripped of its marble seats, columns, and other rich decorations. Till 1825 it was thought to be a circus built by Caracalla, but three inscriptions which were then found showed that it was dedicated in A.D. 311 to the memory of Romulus, who died in A.D. 309, by his father Maxentius. The plan of this circus is shown on page 352; the greater part of the external wall is still standing, but the concrete vaults which supported the seats have mostly fallen in.


The Circus of Sallust, called after the historian.

The Circus Games.—The games in the circus (Ludi Circenses) opened with a grand procession (pompa), which gathered on the Capitoline Hill, passed down the Clivus Capitolinus into the Forum, along the Via Sacra, then branched off along the Vicus Tuscus, and so through the Velabrum into the Forum Boarium, where was the entrance into the Circus at the Porta Pompae. It then passed once round the spina, pausing to offer sacrifices and to salute the imperial pulvinar. The gorgeous procession which opens a modern bullfight in Spain bears much resemblance to the Roman pompa circensis: it winds round the arena, and then pauses to salute the presiding official, who gives the signal to begin by throwing a key to the chief espada. The Roman procession was headed by the presiding magistrate, or in some cases by the emperor himself, in a biga or quadriga, wearing the dress and insignia of a triumphant general; probably a survival from the time when the ludi circenses were celebrated in honour of victorious generals. A gold wreath was held over his head by a slave (Liv.v. 14; Juv.x. 35-46; Dionys. vii. 72). Next came a crowd of noble citizens on foot and on horseback; then the chariots and horsemen who were to take part in the games, accompanied by musicians. Next in order were priests, grouped in their various collegia; bearers of holy water, incense, and sacrificial implements; and statues of deities in chariots (tensae) drawn by horses, mules, or elephants, or else borne in litters (fercula) on men's shoulders, and attended by noble Roman youths (Dionys. vii. 72). Statues in litters and in a car drawn by four elephants are shown in an ancient sarcophagus relief figured in the Ann. Inst. 1839, tav. o. The games mainly consisted of chariot-races; the cars (currus) being drawn by various numbers of horses, from two up to ten, and called bigae, trigae, quadrigae, seiuges, septemiuges, and so on according to the number attached to each car. In early times bigae and quadrigae were mostly used; but under the later Empire wonderful skill was displayed by some of the drivers in managing a large number of horses. In a biga both horses were under a yoke (iugum), and were called equi iugales; in chariots with four or more horses, only the two in the middle were yoked; those at the sides were merely attached by traces (funes), and were therefore called equi funales.

The chariots were light structures of wood bound with bronze, high in front and open behind. The Sala della Biga in the Vatican is so named from an ancient (restored) marble chariot, possibly a votive offering for victory in the Circus. See Currus.

Aurigae.—The drivers (aurigae or agitatores) were usually slaves or men of low class. They wore a short tunic laced round the body with leathern thongs (fasciae); other thongs bound their thighs. The accompanying illustration shows the statue of an auriga, no doubt some distinguished winner; it is now in the Vatican by the marble biga; the arms and legs have been restored, as well as the head. That shown in the cut does not belong to it. The aurigae wore a low, closefitting cap—not a bronze helmet. Though belonging to a despised class, the favourite aurigae in the degraded times of the Empire were much honoured and fêted, and their society was sought after by the dissolute Roman youth. Very great skill, courage, and coolness were required to guide a chariot successfully round the sharp turns of the

Statue of an Auriga. (Vatican.)

metae, among a jostling crowd of other horses and chariots, especially as each driver tried to upset his rivals. Constant accidents must have happened, for almost every ancient representation of a circus race shows one or more chariots overturned; and this was especially dangerous, as the auriga drove with the reins looped round his waist. That he might have a chance of cutting himself free in case of accident, he wore a curved knife (falx) stuck in his waist-bands; this is shown in the Vatican statue here given. No doubt one of the chief attractions of the Circus to the brutal Romans must have been the sight of the crushed limbs of an unfortunate driver among the struggling hoofs of his fallen horses, or under the wheels of a luckier rival. In spite of these dangers some drivers lived to win an enormous number of victories. The monument of the auriga Diocles (circ. A.D. 150) records that he defeated Scorpus, the winner of 2048 races; MusclosusPomp. , the winner of 3559; and EpaphroditusPomp. , who had won 1467 times. Diocles himself, when he retired from his profession at the age of forty-two, had won 3000 races of bigae, and 1462 with more than two horses. The victorious auriga received a prize of money; or in some cases, if a slave, he won his freedom. The prize was sometimes called the brabeum or bravium (βραβεῖον, Prud. Peristeph. v. 538; cf. St. Paul, 1 Cor. ix. 24), and the giver of the prize was known as the brabeuta (Suet. Nero, 53). The winners of important races, on which there was heavy betting, sometimes received enormous sums of money from patrons who had backed them (Juv. vii. 113, Juv. 243; Claud. 21; Capitol. Ver. 6). Martial (x. 74, 5) mentions one named Scorpus, who, in the reign of Domitian, won no less than fifty purses of gold

Circus Games. (Lyons Mosaic.)

in one hour's racing. M. Renan in November, 1878, read before the Société des Inscriptions in Paris a paper on an interesting inscription found in Rome, which recorded that a Moorish auriga named Crescens had during ten years (A.D. 115-124) won 1,556,346 sesterces with four horses called Circus, Acceptus, Delicatus, and Cotynus. Under the Empire, wealthy Roman citizens were not ashamed to act the part of aurigae, especially after Caligula and Nero had set the example.

Race-horses.—The horses used for racing purposes were mostly bred in Spain, Sicily, Mauritania, northern Greece, and, in late times, in Cappadocia. No expense or trouble was spared in their training, and the Romans were careful not to spoil the horse (in the way the modern English racer is ruined) by using it too soon. As a rule the Roman racer was not broken in till the age of three, nor allowed to run in a race till five. Consequently some of the horses won a surprising number of victories. A horse which had won 100 races was called centenarius; in the inscription of Diocles a horse called Tuscus is mentioned as the winner of 429 races; a horse belonging to Diocles himself was a ducenarius. Like the modern Romans, the ancients seem to have disfigured their horses by branding on the flank the initial or badge of the owner; which is shown on several mosaic pavements. Stallions were used, and apparently but few mares were trained for races. Almost all the names of race-horses which exist in mosaic pictures or in inscriptions are those of males. See Friedländer, De Nominibus Equorum Circensium (Königsberg, 1875).

The public training-stables of Rome consisted of six or more groups of buildings in Regio IX in the Campus Martius, and near the Circus Flaminius (see Jordan, Topogr. der Stadt Rom, ii. 554). In 1878, in the village of Oued-Atmenia in Algeria, some elaborate mosaic pavements were found in the villa of Pompeianus, proconsul of Africa under Honorius, who appears to have been a great breeder of Moorish horses for the Circus. Perspective views of the training-stables are represented on these mosaics, and other pictures show the racers in their stalls, carefully clothed from head to foot. The name of each horse is placed by it—e. g. Altus, Pullentianus, Delicatus, Polydoxus, etc., and an auriga named Cresconius is also depicted. Large coloured drawings of these by M. Martin were exhibited in Paris, in 1878, and afterwards published by the Archéol. de Constantine, in 1879. The training-stables seem to have been centres of intrigue and villainy of all kinds: bribes were given, and horses were often “hocussed.” Caligula, who spent much of his time in the stables of his favourite factio, is said to have poisoned the cleverest drivers of his rivals' horses. See Dio Cass. lix. 5 and 14.

Large sums of money were lost and won on the races (sponsio, “betting,” Juv.xi. 202, with Mayor's note; Plin. Ep. xi. 1Plin. Ep., 15). Race-cards (libelli) were sold with lists of the horses and names of the drivers; and these were also given in the advertisements of the games, which were painted in large letters on conspicuous walls: examples of these have been found at Pompeii. In addition to the chariots and their drivers, men on horseback appear to have galloped with the racers, exciting them with shouts; after the race these iubilatores, as they were called, seem to have called out the name of the winner. In some cases these attendants were on foot (cursores).

In early times only four chariots ran in each race (missus), one for each colour (see below); in later times eight or even ten chariots started together. The starting signal was given by the presiding magistrate, who waved a mappa (Liv. viii. 40, 2; xlv. 1, 6; Mart.xii. 29Mart., 9); and hence Juvenal (xi. 193) calls the circus games spectacula mappae. Seven laps or circuits (curricula) of the spina appear to have been the usual length of each missus. (See Varro, quoted by Aul. Gell. iii. 10.) On one occasion Domitian reduced the number of laps to five, in order to get 100 missus into one day. In early times very few races were run in a day; even in the time of Iulius Caesar they did not usually exceed ten or twelve. Caligula increased the number to twenty, or on very grand occasions twenty-four; but in later times a long succession of races was run throughout the whole day from sunrise to sunset.

Intervals between sets of races were filled up by exhibitions of rope-dancing, tumbling, and feats of horsemanship, very like those of a modern circus. See Desultor.

In addition to these races and games, the young Romans sometimes held reviews and assaults of arms (armaturae) in the Circus Maximus; these were sometimes on foot (armaturae pedestres) and sometimes on horseback (equestres). One variety of this was called the Ludus Troiae (Tac. Ann. xi. 11; Suet. Aug. 43, and Suet. Nero, 7). Various other entertainments, such as feasts, were sometimes given in the Circus (Stat. Silv. i. 6, 28); or money was flung among a crowd in the arena. On one occasion Probus planted and stocked an artificial forest with wild animals and birds in the Circus Maximus, and finally let in the people to kill and carry off what they could (Vop. Prob. 19).

The factiones were companies or organizations of contractors who provided horses, drivers, and all other requisites for the games. The factio system was not developed till the time of the Empire; under the Republic a few citizens of knightly rank provided all the requisites. The giver of the entertainment (editor spectaculorum) only found the money, the whole business being managed by the factiones. Each factio was distinguished by a colour, which was worn by the aurigae and other performers in the ludi. At first there were only two factiones, distinguished by the colours red and white, russata and albata; next blue (veneta) was added, probably in the time of Augustus; and a fourth, green (prasina), came in soon after (Juv.xi. 196; and Tertull. De Spect. 9). Lastly, Domitian added purple and gold—purpureus et auratus pannus (Suet. Dom. 7). Under the later Empire each factio consisted of a sort of collegium, carefully organized and ranked in classes of every kind, such as the methodical and bureaucratic Romans delighted in. At the head of each was a factionis dominus, and under him were employés, slaves, and artisans of every sort required for the whole management of the ludi. The number and classes of a familia quadrigaria (a division of a factio) are given in an ancient inscription published by Gruter, 336-339. The familia consists of twenty-five decuriones—that is, at least 250 people, who are classified as follows: aurigae, agitatores, and quadrigarii, drivers of four-horse chariots; conditores and succonditores, grooms and helpers; sellarii, saddlers; sutores, cobblers; sarcinatores, tailors; margaritarii, pearl-embroiderers; medici, surgeons; magistri and doctores, perhaps trainers and instructors; viatores, messengers; vilici, farm-servants to supply fodder; tentores, probably the men who pulled the ropes to open the doors of the carceres; sparsores, water-men: these probably watered the dry arena to prevent clouds of dust from rising, and also brought water to refresh the men and horses.

The rivalry between the different colours of the factions and the heavy betting on the races often led to scenes of riot and bloodshed. Even in Rome, faction fights frequently took place towards the declining period of the Empire, but it was not till after the transference of the Roman capital to Constantinople that these disturbances reached their highest pitch. In the sixth century, the great circus at Constantinople was frequently the scene of the most hideous slaughter, and on one occasion in the reign of Justinian the tumult was not suppressed till about 30,000 of the rioters had been killed (see Gibbon, Decline and Fall, cap. xl.). A great part of this circus is still well preserved, though stripped of all its rich marble linings and columns.

For the various festivals that were celebrated by circus games, see the separate articles on the Cerealia, Consualia, Equiria, Floralia, and under Ludi.

For further information the reader should consult Tertullian, De Spectaculis; Panvinius, De Ludis Circensibus (Venice, 1600); Bulengerus, De Circo Romano, printed by Graevius, Thesaur. Ant. Rom. ix. (Lyons, 1694); Bianconi, Descrizione dei Cerchi (Rome, 1789); Bianchini, Circi Max. Iconographia (Rome, 1828); Canina, Roma Antica, vol. i. (Rome, 1830); Nibby, Circo detto di Caracalla (Rome, 1825); Magnin, Origines du Théâtre (Paris, 1838); Hodgkin, Letters of Cassiodorus (London, 1886); and articles in the Ann. Inst. Arch. Rom. for 1839, 1863, and 1870.

hide References (20 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (20):
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 10.106
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 43
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 44
    • Suetonius, Domitianus, 7
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, 1
    • Tacitus, Annales, 11.11
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 18
    • Suetonius, Nero, 11
    • Suetonius, Nero, 53
    • Suetonius, Nero, 7
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 8.21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 1.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 40
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 35
    • Statius, Silvae, 1.6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 12.29
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 9
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