The Roman Circus stood at the very heart of ancient entertainment. Used to host epic chariot races, horse riding events and even recreations of famous battles, these massive arenas could regularly hold tens of thousands of people.
Yet while they rank among the largest Roman ruins still in existence, the majority of Roman circuses have not survived in good condition. Often easier to pillage than the taller, more compact theatres and amphitheatres, most surviving Roman circuses offer more of an outline of their original state rather than a genuine reflection of their true form.
Check out our list of Roman circuses below and discover some amazing places to visit on your travels.
The ancient city of Aphrodisias was named after the Goddess of Love; Aphrodite. The remains of the beautiful ancient stadium here constitute one of the best preserved examples of a Roman circus still in existence.
Aphrodisias was once a thriving Hellenic and Roman city in what is now modern day Turkey. Today it is an archaeological site, whose ruins include the remains of a beautiful ancient stadium. Established during the late Hellenistic period, Aphrodisias became a prosperous city under Roman rule from the 1st to the... Read More
Built as part of King Herod’s great Roman city, the ruins of Caesarea include a large Roman circus which overlooks the ocean and is still used for re-enactments.
Caesarea or “Keysarya” was an Ancient Roman city which is now a large archaeological site in Israel. It is believed that the city of Caesarea was initially founded atop the ruins of Straton's Tower, a third century BC Phoenician port city. Conquered by King Alexander Jannaeus of the Hasmonean Kingdom in... Read More
Circo Romano de Toledo is a site which houses the ruins of an ancient Roman circus in Toledo, Spain. Very little remains of this site today.
Circo Romano de Toledo (Roman circus of Toledo) stands just outside the (also Roman) walls of this Spanish city. Toledo was once the Roman city of Toletum and was an important regional centre and capital of the Roman province of Carthaginensis. Very little remains of this site, but it is thought... Read More
The Circus Maximus was the main and largest sports stadium in Ancient Rome, capable of holding between 150,000 and 250,000 people.
The Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) in Rome was the main and largest sports stadium in Ancient Rome. Overlooked from the north by the emperors’ palaces on the Palatine, this grand arena was the site of exciting chariot races watched by an exhilarated crowd. Built and rebuilt several times, at its largest... Read More
Though far smaller than the more famous Circus Maximus, the Circus of Maxentius in Rome is one of the best preserved Roman circuses to have survived.
The Circus of Maxentius (Circo di Massenzio), in southern Rome may have been much smaller than the Circus Maximus – only holding approximately 10,000 spectators – but today it has its revenge by being far better preserved that its grander counterpart. Located on the famous Via Appia, the Circus of Maxentius... Read More
Cyrene in Libya is considered to be one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world and include the remains of a Roman circus. Though little of the original structure has survived its form is nonetheless clearly visible.
Cyrene in Libya is considered to be one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world and one of the best Classical Greek sites beyond Greece itself. Traditionally said to have been founded by the Greeks of Thera in 631BC, Cyrene was a trading hub first inhabited by the Battiadae... Read More
Jerash in Jordan was once a thriving Roman city and is one of the world’s most impressive Roman sites. The main track and much of the stands of the circus at Jerash remain extremely well preserved and are among the best preserved of their type.
Jerash or Jarash, is one of the world’s best preserved ancient Roman sites. Once known as Gerasa, Jerash is believed to have been inhabited since the Neolithic Era. However, it is the impressive Roman city built in Jerash which has left its greatest mark on the area, becoming Jordan’s second... Read More
Kourion is an impressive archaeological site in Cyprus containing mostly Ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins. A little way off the main site, the ancient stadium of Kourion is still visible and would have been able to hold several thousand spectators in its heyday.
Kourion, also known as Curium, is an impressive archaeological site near Limassol in Cyprus containing mostly Ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins. In fact, it is believed that the site of Kourion was first inhabited during Neolithic times, with the earliest evidence dating back to 4500-3900 BC, but that the town itself... Read More
Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ruins. Among these ruins is the outline of the ancient circus, along with the bare remains or the original stands.
Laodikeia, also known as Laodicea, was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ancient ruins. Said by some to have been founded by Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid Kingdom in the third century BC, many of the buildings and monuments at the Laodikeia... Read More
The Merida Roman Circus was an Ancient Roman chariot racing arena which, though in ruins, is one of the better preserved of its type.
The Merida Roman Circus or “Circo Romano de Merida” was built in the time that the city, then known as Augusta Emerita, was part of one of the colonies of the Roman Empire. A vast sports arena able to accommodate up to 30,000 people, Merida’s Roman Circus would have been the... Read More
Mirobriga was once a thriving Roman town, the ruins of which can now be seen in Portugal. The extensive remains include Portugal's only surviving Roman Circus - once the site of fierce chariot races.
Mirobriga was once a thriving Roman town, the ruins of which can now be seen in Portugal. Believed to date back to the first century AD, the remains of Mirobriga are quite extensive, well preserved and include a forum and the country’s only surviving Hippodrome - once the site of fierce... Read More
Perge is a Turkish archaeological site containing mostly Roman ruins, but has a history dating back to Ancient Greece. Among the Roman ruins found here, visitors can explore the remains of the sizeable 12,000-seater Roman stadium.
The ancient city of Perge near Antalya in Turkey is now an impressive archaeological site containing a wealth of ancient ruins, mostly dating back to the Roman period, though the city itself has a history dating back well into antiquity. The current city is said to have been founded in circa... Read More
Plovdiv Roman Stadium was a large sports arena built in the 2nd century AD, although little remains of it today.
Plovdiv Roman Stadium was an ancient sports arena built in the 2nd century AD. At its peak, Plovdiv Roman Stadium had a capacity of some 30,000 spectators and, though little remains today, there is an ongoing renovation project in place. The main surviving remnants are an area of seating and track... Read More
Tarragona Roman Circus is a partly-preserved first century AD racetrack which boasts some astonishing subterranean Roman tunnels.
Tarragona Roman Circus (Circo Romano de Tarragona) is an ancient racing arena, probably built under the Emperor Domitian in the first century AD, which still contains some astonishing subterranean Roman tunnels. When Tarragona Roman Circus was constructed it would have been able to accommodate up to 30,000 spectators and was just... Read More