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Said to be founded by Tarquinio Prisco, this area, referred to by the ancients as Murcia, which eventually became the most impressive 'circus' of Imperial Rome; is located in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. We do know for certain that from the early days of the Republic, an area in the Murcia valley had been set aside for races and performances. In the 2nd century B.C., the wooden grandstands, repeatedly destroyed by fires, were finally replaced with stone bleachers. It was continually enlarged and embellished. Under Augustus the Imperial box was added, as well as the Egyptian obelisque dedicated to Ramses III and taken from Heliopolis. A grand arch with three openings, which served as the entrance, was added by Vespasian and Titus. Trajan enlarged the bleachers and covered them with marble; at that time, the circus had a capacity of 150,000 spectators. The last modifications were ordered by Constantine and Costanzo II, which upped the bleacher capacity to 300,000, as well as architectural embellishments, which connected it to the Royal palace on the Palatine. Another obelisque was added which can now be found in Lateran square.
The Circus Maximus took the traditional form of all Roman circuses, that being a rectangle rounded at the angles, with it's exceptional dimensions of 600 meters in length by 100 meters in width. The chariot races attracted huge crowds. The obelisque set at the far, rounded end indicated the first 'meta' or curve in the race. The last known race was organized by Totila in 549. Its abandonment led to systematic looting, which eventually left it in its present state.

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