The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

285

CIRCUS.

CIRCUS,

lisks, statues, altars, and temples, which do not appear to have had any fixed locality.

It will be observed in the ground-plan that there is a passage "between the metae and spina, the ex­treme ends of the latter of which are hollowed out into a circular recess: and several of the ancient sculptures afford similar examples. This might have been for performing the sacrifice, or other offices of religious worship, with which the games com­menced ; particularly as small chapels can still be seen under the metae, in which the statues of some divinities must have been placed. It was probably under the first of these spaces that the altar of the god Consus was concealed (Tertull. De Spectac. c. 5), which was excavated upon each occasion of these games. (Dionys. ii. p. 97.)

At the extremity of the circus in which the two horns of the cavea terminate, were placed the stalls for the horses and chariots (H, H), commonly called carceres at, and subsequently to, the age of Varro : but more anciently the whole line of build­ings which confined this end of the circus was termed oppidum; because, with its gates and towers, it resembled the walls of a town (Festus, s. v.; Varro, De Ling. Lat. v. 153) ; which is forci­bly illustrated by the circus under consideration, where the two towers (I, I) at each end of the carceres are still standing. The number of carceres is supposed to have been usually twelve (Cassiodor. Var. Ep.iii. 51), as they are in this plan ; but in the mosaic discovered at Lyons, and published by Artaud (Description d'un Mosaique, &c. Lyon, 1806), there are only eight* They were vaults, closed in front by gates of open wood-work (cancelli), which were opened simultaneously upon the signal being given (Dionys. iii. p. 192 ; Cas­siodor. I.e. ; compare Sil. Ital. xvi. 316), by re­moving a rope (tknrATjy^, Dionys. I. c. ; compare Schol. ad Tlieocr. Idyl. viii. 57) attached to pilas­ters of the kind called Hermae, placed for that pur­pose between each stall; upon which the gates were immediately thrown open by a number of men, probably the annentarii, as represented in the an­nexed woodcut, taken from a very curious marble in the Museo Borgiano, at Velletri ; which also represents most of the other peculiarities above-mentioned as appertaining to the carceres,

In the mosaic of Lyons the man is represented apparently in the act of letting go the rope (vffTrXyy^) in the manner described by Dionysius (I. c.}. The cut below, which is from a marble in the British Museum, represents a set of four carceres, with their Hermae, and cancelli open, as left after

. * This mosaic has several peculiarities. Most of the objects are double. There is a double set of ova and delpliinae, one of each sort at each end of the spina — and eight chariots, that is a double get, for each colour, are inserted*

the chariots had started ; in which the gates are made to open inwards.

The preceding account and woodcuts will be sufficient to explain the meaning of the various words by which the carceres were designated in poetical language, namely, claustra (Stat. llieb. vi. 399 ; I lor. Epist. i. 14. 9), crypta (Sidon Cam/. xxiii. 319),/«««?$ (Cassiodor. Var. Epist. iii. 51), ostia (Auson. Epist. xviii. 11),fores carceris (Ovid, Trist.v. 9. 29), repagula (Ovid, Met. ii. 155 ; Sil. Ital. xvi. 318), limina equorum (Id. xvi. 317).

It will not fail to be observed that the line of the carceres is not at a right angle with the spina, but forms the segment of a circle, the centre of which is a point on the right hand of the arena ; the reason for which is obviously that all the chariots might have, as neaily as possible, an equal dis­tance to pass over between the carceres and mouth of the course. Moreover, the two sides of tho circus are not parallel to each other, nor the spina to either of them ; but they are so planned that the course diminishes gradually from the mouth at (J), until it reaches the corresponding line at the opposite side of the spina (K), where it is narrower by thirty-two feet. This might have proceeded from economy, or be necessary in the present in­stance on account of the limited extent of the circus; for as all the four, or six, chariots would enter the mouth of the course nearly abreast, the greatest width would be required at that spot ; but as they got down the course, and one or more took the lead, the same width would be no longer necessary.

The carceres were divided into two sets of six each, accurately described by Cassiodorus (L c.) as bissena ostia, by an entrance in the centre (L), called porta pompae • because it was the one through which the Circensian procession entered, and which, it is inferred from a passage in Ausonius (Epist. xviii. 12), was always open, forming a thoroughfare through the circus. Be­sides this entrance, there were four others, two at the termination of the seats between the cavea and the oppidum (M, M), another at (N), and the fourth at (0), under the vault of which the fresco decorations are still visible. This is supposed to be the Porta Triumphalis, to which its situation seems adapted. One of the others was the Porta Libi-tinensis (Lamprid. Commod. 16), so called because it was the one through which the dead bodies of those killed in the games were carried out. (Diou Cass. Ixxii. p. 1222.)

Such were the general features of a circus, as far as regards the interior of the fabric. The area had also its divisions appropriated to particular purposes, with a nomenclature of its own attached to each. The space immediately before the oppi­dum was termed circus primus ; that near the meta prima, circus inferior or intimus (Varr. De Ling. Lat. v. 154), which latter spot, in the Circus Maximus, was also termed ad Murcim, or ad

Pages
About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index

284

285

286
letter/word  
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.