"The State of The World" Number 39
Complete Index Of All Issues
The First Circus
The English-language (English is a relatively new language - a branch of German having existed for less than 1,000 years) word "circus" originated from a Roman / Latin word, circus, that meant curved, or circles.
The Latin word itself is derived from an even more ancient Greek word, pronounced krikos, that meant curved, or circles, or rings.
According to the religionist and historian Tertullian (c. 155 - 240 AD), the first public "circus" events were religious in nature - worship of the mythological Greek goddess Circe (named after the curves of her female figure and her idolatry of rings) and her mythological father Helios, the sun god i.e. the circle of the sun.
The Romans later made their religious version of Helios that they named Sol Invictus, meaning the unbeatable sun, along with its "sun day" worship and things such as the sun-disk-behind-the head "halo".
The Roman circus events were also religious, or became so, in their dedication to the "divine" Emperors and the idolatry for and of their military power.
Along with the now-familiar additions of exhibitions and amusements, Rome's "circus" was a central (i.e. the center or the circle) race track for chariots (which was actually two lengthy high-speed straightaways with semi-circles at the ends), as well as to-the-death fights of gladiators, or condemned people being killed by wild beasts.
The now-common "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" gesture originated at the Roman circus where the crowds were given to decide the fate of a still-alive circus contestant who did anything less than win.
The Circus Maximus was located in the valley between the famous Aventine and Palatine Hills of Rome. It could accommodate over 150,000 people who were seated around the central show ring.
Rome's Circus Maximus survived for approximately 1,000 years, from about 500 BC to 500 AD. The area is today a public park.