The Circus of Maxentius is one of the most important historical and archeological sites along the ancient Appian Way and was established during Maxentius‘ reign, which lasted only six years (306-312). Sometimes it is also called Circus of Romulus.
Circus of Maxentius Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via Appia Antica, 153 – Rome (tel. +39 060608). Opening hours: 10.00 till 16.00; December 24, 31: 10.00 till 14.00. Closed: Mondays, January 1, May 1, December 25. Admission: Free.
History and description
The Emperor’s private domus consists, apart from the circus, of his imperial palace and of a mausoleum dedicated to his son Romulus.
The circus was meant to be built solely for private shows for the emperor and his friends and acquaintances. However, it is thought that it might never actually have been used at all, since there are no traces of the typical kind of sand used to cover the ground.
It was abandoned after Maxentius‘ death at the Battle of Ponte Milvio. The outside walls as well as those of the spine are still relatively intact and it is considered the best preserved one of the Roman circuses.
The Circus of Maxentius covers an area between the Via Appia and the Via Appia Pignatelli. The carceres, where the horses were kept before the start of the races, are on the west side. There used to be an obelisk in the middle of the track, but in 1650 Pope Innocent X ordered it to be moved to Piazza Navona, to crown Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.
From Maxentius‘ palace only three rooms are left. The central one was known as the Temple of Venus and Cupid. It was here that public ceremonies and audiences took place. Before this aula an atrium with a long portico connected the palace with the that part of the circus where the Emperor and his family were seated.
Romulus‘ sepulchre was probably meant as a mausoleum for the entire imperial family. The building is surrounded by a four-sided portico. The main entrance faces the Via Appia Antica and two other entrances face the circus and the palace.