Rome’s seat of passion: An assessment of the archeology and history of the Circus Maximus

Cogent Arts & Humanities. 2016;3(1) DOI 10.1080/23311983.2016.1168906


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Cogent Arts & Humanities

ISSN: 2331-1983 (Online)

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group

LCC Subject Category: Fine Arts: Arts in general | General Works: History of scholarship and learning. The humanities

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, XML



Cody Scott Ames (University of Leicester)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 11 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

It is a place where the general public can gather communally to watch ludi, provisionally erasing invisible boundary lines which sharply divide one social class from another. The Circus is also a location which has the capability to eradicate personal and societal perceptions potentially rendering a crowd in an intoxicated, wanton state. The association existent between society and its predetermined allocation of space in many venues (e.g. hippodromes, theaters, amphitheaters, etc.) which exhibit sports and spectacles, more generally, is well attested to in the Circus Maximus’s history. Using this as the conceptual framework, this article attempts to assess the recurrent, measured, and far-ranging evolutions and interdependencies between the aristocracy and the Circus they constructed. The construction methodology, I argue, was constantly being adapted to suit specific political agendas beginning with its legendary foundation under the Etruscan kings in the sixth-century BCE and ending with its usage during late Empire in the fifth-century CE. The fictional rape of the Sabine women, for example, relates Roman notions of losing self and spatial awareness as a hazardous mistake which can be purposely leveraged by manipulating a predestined, popular situation “monstra.” The organization of this article which traces the Circus’s transitions will begin with the Regal Period, move to the Republican Period, then to the Empire. The variations and modifications the Circus Maximus has undergone since the sixth-century BCE—architecturally and usage wise—serves as evidence to both the flexibility of public spaces and usages by the aristocracy from pre-Roman times through the Roman Empire.