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p111 Circus Flaminius

Article on pp111‑113 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Circus Flaminius: * built by C. Flaminius Nepos while censor in 221 B.C. It was in the prata Flaminia (q.v.; Liv. III.54.15), in the southern part of the campus Martius (Liv. ep. 20; Fest. 89; Cassiod. Chron. ad a. 534), and was named after its builder, although Varro says (LL V.154) that it took its name from a Campus Flaminius (q.v.). In it were celebrated the p112ludi plebeii (Val. Max. I.7.4), the Taurii (Varro V.154), and other games, e.g. the ludi saeculares in 158 B.C. (Liv. XL.52.4); and assemblies of the people were frequently held here (Cic. ad Att. I.14.1; pro Sestio 33; post red. in sen. 13, 17; Plut. Marcell. 27; Liv. XXVII.21.1). It was also a market-place (Cic. ad Att. I.14.1), and within it part of the ceremony of the triumph took place (Liv. XXXIX.5; Plut. Lucull. 37).1 In 9 B.C. Augustus delivered the laudatio of Drusus here (Cass. Dio LV.2.2); and in 2 B.C. water was brought into the circus and thirty-six crocodiles butchered immediately after the dedication of the forum of Augustus (ib. 10.8). If P. Meyer (Straboniana, II.20) and A. W. Van Buren (Ann. Brit. Sch. Athens, 1916‑18, 48‑50) are correct, Strabo (V.3.8) mentions it between the circus Maximus and the forum Romanum.

Extant literature furnishes no information concerning the construction of the building, its restorations or its contents, except that contained in the statement of Vitruvius (IX.9.1: plinthium sive lacunar quod etiam in circo Flaminio est positum Scopinas Syracusius (dicitur invenisse)). This circus was so conspicuous a building and so important a centre that it soon gave its name to the immediate vicinity, and other buildings were described as ad circum Flaminium (Plin. NH XXXVI.26), and very frequently; cf. Mart. XII.74.2: accipe de circo pocula Flaminio). In the Regionary Catalogue it is the official name of Region IX. It is marked on a fragment (27) of the Marble Plan (cf. FUR 21‑22). Money changers appear to have had their stations in its arcades (CIL VI.9713). In the Einsiedeln Itinerary (1.2; 2.2; 8.3) the name is wrongly applied to the Stadium, though some think the Ordo Benedicti has the name correctly (Mon. L. I.521; cf. BC 1901, 57, 58), while others think the circus is the basilica Iovis.

At the close of the twelfth century a considerable part of the circus, called castellum aureum, was still standing (a bull of Celestin III of 1192 mentioning the churches of S. Lorenzo and S. Maria in Castello aureo or de castro aureo (Domnae Rosae; Bullar. Vat. I.74; Caetani-Lovatelli, Passeggiate nella Roma antica, Rome 1909, 108‑128; HCh 284‑285, 331)). Its ruins were described by Biondo (Roma instaurata III.109) in the fifteenth century, but almost entirely removed in the sixteenth to make room for the Mattei palace, and the whole site then gradually covered by modern buildings. Some remains of the curved end lie in and beneath the Palazzo Caetani in the Piazza Paganica (Ill. 14) and of the long sides in various cellars, especially those of the Palazzo Longhi Mattei Paganica. The construction is of concrete faced with opus reticulatum, but the pillars are built of large squared blocks of tufa and travertine. None of these remains can belong to the original date of erection.

The major axis of the circus ran almost due east and west. On the east (the carceres end) the limits of the circus seem to be set by the discovery of private houses and the pavement of an ancient street just east p113of the Piazza Margana (Bull. d. Inst. 1870, 48 ff.; cf. Fulvius, Antiquitates urbis p. l(x)v; LR 453; PS II.64‑66). If so, the length of the circus was about 260 metres, and its width about 100.

The few remains (cf. Canina, Edifizi IV pls. 186, 187) and drawings of the sixteenth century architects (LR 454‑456; HJ 551, n122; JRS 1919, 187) show that this circus was built on the general plan adopted in later structures of a similar character, and that its lower story opened outwards through a series of travertine arcades, between which were Doric half-columns. In the Middle Ages the arcades on the north side were converted into dark shops, and gave the name to the street on that side, the Via delle Botteghe oscure; cf. the churches of S. Lucia de calcarario or de apothecis obscuris (HCh 300‑301; cf. 306, and v. Domus Aniciorum, 2) and of S. Salvator in Pensulis (ib. 449);2 and the memory of the rope makers who plied their trade in the arena is preserved in the Via dei Funari and the churches of S. Nicola and S. Caterina dei Funari (HCh 399; Arm. 551, 567).a See HJ 548‑551; RE VI.2580‑2581; Marchetti-Longhi in Mem. L. 5.xvi.621‑770.


The Authors' Notes:

1 See also JRS 1921, 33‑34.

2 We may add S. Lorenzo in Pensulis (HCh 293), which is probably the same as S. Lorenzo in Pallacinis (see Pallacinae).


Thayer's Note:

a Arm. 551, 567: Very minor, but Platner-Ashby have here 551‑568, a double error. The churches in question are on pages 551 and 568 (the intervening material has nothing to do with the Circus Flaminius or the churches); and 568 is indeed what Armellini's own index has for the church of S. Caterina dei Funari — except that it too is wrong: the article is on p567!


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