The Roman Empires greatest arena that represents 2,800 years of history has been restored and opened to the public.

Photo credit: Petar Milošević

Circus Maximus was the largest and most important arena in the Roman Empire. during 500 years, it was the arena where the ancient Romans held violent horse races, carried out public executions and celebrated the empire’s greatest triumphs.

Maximus was abandoned during the 500s CE and during the more recent decades, the arena has been a heap of archeological ruins on a muddy ground in central Rome, in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills.

Credit: Pascal Radigue
Model of Rome in the 4th century AD, by Paul Bigot. The Circus lies between the Aventine (left) and Palatine (right); the oval structure to the far right is the Colosseum.

A team has been working at full speed for seven years to recreate the greatness of the remaining ruins. They found lots of archeological artifacts, including the remains of a triumphal arch erected to honor Emperor Titus after the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

All the findings are now part of the rebuilt Circus Maximus, which in its heyday had room for several hundred thousand people from all social classes.

When the Romans stopped using Circus Maximus, it was plundered for marble and in medieval times used for agriculture and filled with vegetables and water mills.

The stadium was part of an industrial property during the 1800s and later, Mussolini used it for fascist parades.

The restored area will now be open to the public every weekend.

“We can imagine bustling activity around the semicircle which we have restored and made accessible to the people, with crowds gathering around these structures,” said Claudio Parisi Presicce, Rome’s superintendent for cultural heritage.

“This is where the famous “Rape of the Sabines” took place, which led to the formation of the first Roman families who then went on to build this city,” Presicce said.