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.
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.
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.
The Circus Maximus was the main and largest sports stadium in Ancient Rome, capable of holding between 150,000 and 250,000 people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Merida Roman Circus was an Ancient Roman chariot racing arena which, though in ruins, is one of the better preserved of its type.
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.
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.
Plovdiv Roman Stadium was a large sports arena built in the 2nd century AD, although little remains of it today.
Tarragona Roman Circus is a partly-preserved first century AD racetrack which boasts some astonishing subterranean Roman tunnels.