"Villa Circus Maxentius and Romulus Mausoleum (Tomb) or Circus of Caracalla at Via Appia Antica" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Sunday 17th July 2011
Along the Appian Way you find the Catacombs of St. Sebastian and also of St. Callistus. One mile after you find the Circus of Maxentius, the Mauseoleum and the house of Romulus (Tomba di Romolo/ Mausoleo di Romolo) - the founder of Rome, and just after it, the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, daughter of a Roman patrician family. The first circus in Rome was the Circus Maximus, in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. Next in importance to the Circus Maximus in Rome was the Circus Flaminius, the Circus Neronis, from the notoriety which it obtained through the Circensian pleasures of Nero. A fourth, Circus Maxentius, was constructed by Maxentius; the ruins of this circus have enabled archaeologists to reconstruct the Roman circus.
The Circus of Maxentius (Circo di Massenzio), erroneously called Circo di Caracalla (Circus of Caracalla). Similar racecourses existed in many other cities of the empire, e.g., that still remaining amid the ruins of the town of Bovillaa. The length of the Circus Maximus, as enlarged by Caesar, was some 1,800 feet, its breadth some 350. The seats, which rose in a series of terraces, rested on a substructure consisting of three stories of arched vaults. The lower seats were of stone, the upper of wood. Round the outside of the circus ran a building, containing booths and seats, as well as the entrances.
The entire complex was established during the brief span of Massenzio's reign (306-312). Apart from the remains of the imperial palace, the complex includes the ruins of a circus used for private performances (for the emperor and his acquaintances), and a mausoleum dedicated to the memory of Romulus, son of Massenzio who died prematurely in 309 AD. Of the palace remain its large apsidal spaces of three rooms, the central one, known as the temple of Venus and Cupid, was the "aula palatina", the place where audiences and public ceremonies took place.
Circus Maxentius and Romulus' Tomb set in its magnificent brick-wall perimeter, the round tomb of Emperor Maxentius' beloved son Romulus is partially hidden by a medieval farmhouse. Next to it is Maxentius' private circus for chariot racing. The public entrance to this complex is 100 yards further along. Unfortunately nothing remains of Maxentius' Villa, considered extraordinary by his contemporaries.
In Rome there were several chariot stadiums. They included the Circus Maximus in the middle of Rome and the Circus of Maxentius to the south of the city by the Appian Way, as well as the Circus of Domitian now under the Piazza Navona and the Vatican Circus now under St Peter’s. A number of other circuses are known around the Roman world. But it wasn’t always necessary to have a permanent stone building – an open field with turning posts would suffice.
The long brick centerline "spina" divided the racetrack, dominated by the obelisk of Diocletian, now in Piazza Navona. In the the SPINA of Circus Maximus you will find trophies, fountains, altars, small shrines, and obelisks. The spina was elaborately decorated with bronze dolphins at one end and eggs at the other for counting the laps. Obelisks were laboriously shipped from Egypt and installed on the spina as symbols of the Sun God, and also of Rome’s power: Egypt was the first great province conquered by Augustus and remained one of the most important because of its grain, which Rome depended on.
The length ofthe Circus Maximus, as enlarged by Caesar, was some 1,800 feet, its breadth some 350. The seats, which rose in a series of terraces, rested on a substructure consisting of three stories of arched vaults. The lower seats were of stone, the upper of wood. Round the out side of the circus ran a building, containing booths and seats, as well as the entrances to the seats, the number of which amounted, in Caesar's time, to 150,000, and in the 4th century, after the building had been repeatedly enlarged, to 385,000. The podium, or lowest row of seats running immediately above the race-course, was protected from the wild animals by a railing and a trench (euripus) ten feet in width and depth. This trench was, however, filled up at the command of Nero. The end of the circus, at which were the gate of entrance and the partitions in which the chariots stood, was flanked by two towers (oppida) occupied by bands of music.Between these was the loggia of the presiding magistrate. The opposite end of the building was semicircular, and had a gate called the porta triumphalis, which seems to have been used only on extraordinary occasions.
The drawing of the Circus of Maxentius (attributed to Caracallae until 1825) is very much in the style of the drawings that Brenna had already drawn for Charles Townley, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which Brenna completed by 1770. The extensive notes on the drawing of the Circus of Maxentius provides a key to the major antique sites. The group of drawings in the Victoria and Albert of the Colosseum also have elaborate settings, in particular the lion hunt.
Since 1943, the Circus of Maxentius and the Tomb of Romulus (Maxentius’ untimely dead nine year old son) have benefited from systematic archaeological excavation and interventions by architectural conservators. The Circus of Maxentius has long been the centerpiece of an archaeological park on the Appian Way, and a new site museum in the mausoleum sector is currently being prepared for public presentation. In contrast, after limited exploratory excavations in the 1960’s, the villa block was allowed to return to nature, with the result that decades of invasive vegetation have now effectively rendered this important section of the Maxentian complex inaccessible to both researchers and the public.
The well preserved circus extends in an area between the Via Appia and the Via Appia Pignatelli. On the west side are the carceres from where the four-horse charriots left. At the centre of the track was the obelisk of Domiziano, probably coming from the Iseum Campense. In 1650 Pope Innocent X asked Bernini to put it upon the fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. The sepulchre, probably meant as the Royal family tomb, is surrounded by a majestic four-sided portico, its main entrance is in the Via Appia, two minor entrances face the palace and the circus. The tomb has a circular shape and at its centre is a column with niches.
Circus Maxentius and Romulus Mausoleum (Tomb)/ Circus of Caracalla/ Villa of Maxentius [Circo di Massenzio e Mausoleo di Romolo/ Circo di Caracalla/ Villa di Massenzio]
Via Appia Antica, 153
00179, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Quartiere Appio Latino/ Quartiere Appio Pignatelli/ Quartiere Appio Pignatelli/ Quartiere Tuscolano [South Rome (Roma sud)]
Circus Maxentius and Romulus Mausoleum (Tomb)/ Circus of Caracalla/ Villa of Maxentius is Shown By "Map K Zone" As "92"
Hour: Tuesday-Sunday: 9.00 am - 1.30 pm. Closed: Monday, December 25, January 1, Notes: Last admission 1/2 hour before closing time.
Entrance: Full: €3.00, Reduced: €2.00.