In the past, the typical circus was held within an oval or circular showground with tiered seating often flanking the edges. Other circuses performed under a large tent, but in Rome, an open-air stadium served as the arena where an array of public exhibitions took place. Horse races, staged battles, equestrian shows, and chariot competitions unfolded, as spectators cheered and embraced this exhilarating form of entertainment.
Trained exotic animals wowed the crowds, while jugglers and acrobats amused guests before the next battle or race commenced. The circus associated with Rome may have very well stemmed from the Egyptians’ display of exotic animals to the Greeks’ use of chariot racing as a popular form of entertainment.
Tiered seating ran parallel with the sides of the course, which created a crescent at the ends. People of rank were seating at the lower arrangements, while separate state boxes were offered to the host of the games and their friends. The circus in Ancient Rome also served as a significant event in history because it was the only public scene that allowed men and women to enjoy an event with one another.
The first circus established in Rome was called the Circus Maximus, which was situated in a valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. Additional circuses in Rome flourished, including the Circus Flaminius, the Circus Neronis, and the Circus of Maxentius.
After the fall of Rome took place, Europe was at a loss when it came to possessing a defined circus. Wandering showmen traveled about the continent, but the allure of the original Roman circus was lost as animal trainers and performers peddled their talents between towns and at local festivals.