Tag Archives: Rome

Hippodromes/Circuses Part 1

In the Late Roman Period through the Early Byzantine (Christian) Era chariot racing was one of the most popular events of the public.  “Hippodrome” comes from two Greek words: hippos (meaning horse) and dromos (meaning “course”).  In Greek times they were used for horse races and chariot races.

The Latin equivalent to a Hippodrome was a “Circus,” meaning “circle,” that took over the functions of the Hippodromes and was also used for other events.  The most famous, and largest, of the Circuses, is the Circus Maximus in Rome.

One end of the Circus Maximus in Rome.

The Circus Maximus was over 2,000 feet long and could accommodate over 150,000 people!  It was used for Chariot Racing, Religious Festivals, and Political and Military Processionals.

In Rome the Flavian Amphitheater, aka. the Colosseum, was used for Gladiatorial contest and other public spectacles: mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, etc.

The Flavian Amphitheater in Rome could seat 65,000+ spectators.

For those readers of this blog, many of you have visited Caesarea Maritima.  The west, or seaside, Hippodrome/Circus, evidently dates to the days of Herod the Great (r. 37 t0 4 B.C.).

View looking north from the Promontory Palace where the governor of Caesarea Maritima resided.

This Hippodrome/Circus was 950 [290 m.] feet long and 165 feet [50 m.] wide. The prominent position of this Palace, from which this picture was taken overlooking the circus, was a reminder to those attending the chariot and foot races that Rome (the Emperor as represented through the governor) was the great benefactor of the games and of the political order.

In the second century A.D., a much larger (30,000-capacity) hippodrome was constructed in another section of Caesarea and the southern third of the Circus was converted to an Amphitheater that was used for gladiatorial contests.

View looking south along the length of the 1,476 ft. [450 m.] long hippodrome.

On both the right (west) and left (east) side of the image, the slopes outlining the hippodrome are visible. This is where the seating for 30,000 people was located.

The re-erected obelisk is clearly visible and beyond the hippodrome are three smokestacks from the electrical power plant at Hadera.  The hippodrome is now either used for agricultural purposes—note the stubble of the harvested crop.

In addition, some of you have visited Istanbul/Constantinople and the outline of the large Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet district.

The Hippodrome in Constantinople was 440 yards. 480 m.] long and 107 yrds. [117 m.] wide.  Some believe it could hold 100,000 spectators.

The Hippodrome was first constructed around A.D. 200 by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus as part of his rebuilding of the city of Byzantium.  Constantine the Great and his successors later expanded it. The royal box was close to where the entrance to the Blue Mosque is now situated.

Today a park covers most of the hippodrome and it still reflects its elongated shape.  Here chariot races and other extravaganzas were held: including victory parades and coronations.  Here also the Nike riot of 532 began, and it was here that some 30,000 partisans were slaughtered.

What really happened in an ancient Hippodrome/Circus?  Well, we have the next best thing to an ancient photograph or video.

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A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where Did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 1

The Arch of Titus (Roman Emperor A.D. 79–81) is located in Rome on the east end of the ancient Roman Forum not too far from the Colosseum.  The emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) built it soon after the death of Titus in A.D. 81.

View looking west at the Arch of Titus from the east. Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

The arch commemorates the victories of Vespasian (A.D. 69–79) and his son Titus—particularly their putting down the Jewish revolt in Judea and the capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

It is well to remember that this commemorative arch was built by Domitian, to commemorate a triumphal parade of the previous emperor Vespasian and his son Titus who was the actual conquer of Jerusalem.  On the south inner side of the arch, Roman soldiers carry the booty from the Jerusalem Temple in triumph into Rome—see end of blog for quote from Josephus.

View looking southwest at the relief carved on the southern pier of the Arch of Titus in Rome that depicts the procession of booty taken from Titus’ capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

From right to left note the representation of a Triumphal Gate with two chariot groups on top of it (enlarge the image to view details).  To the left of this are two crossed (silver) trumpets taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.  Faintly visible (enlarge image) is a representation of one of the tables that held the “show bread” in the Holy Place of the Temple.

On the left side of the image one of the seven-branched candlesticks (menorah) from the Jerusalem Temple.  This is one of the earliest representations of a menorah in existence!  Also visible are several rectangular placards on poles.  These probably were painted with inscriptions naming either cities or peoples conquered—or identifying the objects that were being displayed in triumph.

One of the seven-branched candlesticks (menorah) from the Jerusalem Temple.  Note the figures on its base!  This is one of the earliest representations of a menorah in existence!

Josephus, who was probably an eye-witness to this Triumphal Procession describes it as follows:

(148) and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that which we made use of: (149) for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; (150) and the last of all the spoils was carried the Law of the Jews. [= Torah scroll(s)?] (151) After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. (152) After which Vespasian [Emperor at the time] marched in the first place, and Titus [son of Vespasian] followed him; Domitian [son of Vespasian] also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.  (Josephus War 7.148-152 [7.5.4])

Evidently, all this booty, along with other treasures from Judea, were deposited in Vespasian’s “Temple of Peace!”

What is the “Temple of Peace” you ask?  We will take a look at that in my next blog.


Click Here to view additional images of the Arch of Titus.

Olympics and Statues from the Time of The Apostle Paul

With the Olympic games in progress and Bible History Daily featuring a 2004 article entitled “Ancient Combat Sports” my mind drifted back to a trip to Rome in which seventy(!) world-class statues from all over Italy had been gathered in the hallways of the Colosseum in Rome.  The display was called “Nike. Il gioco e la vittoria”   (Nike, joy and victory)—it had nothing to do with the shoe company!  The following are three of the 23 images that I have posted on my web site.

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Discus Thrower (Diskobolos)

This is a first century A.D. life-size (61 in. [1.54 m.]) marble statue copied from a bronze statue originally done by the sculptor Myron of Greece ca. 450 B.C.  This piece is normally displayed in the Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome.

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View of the “Terme Boxer” (Pugile delle Terme).  This contestant participated in pancratium (a combination of boxing and wrestling that allowed such tactics as kicking and strangling)

This bronze statue of a boxer, a pugilist, is signed by Apollonius.  He is seated, weary, and battered.  The realism of this statute is characteristic of the Hellenistic period.  It was found in Rome.  It is a first century A.D. copy of a third or second century B.C. original.  If you enlarge the image the leather gloves that the boxers wore—sometimes with metal bands, as in this case—are clearly visible.

1 Cor. 9:26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

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Runners (Corridoi)

Two bronze runners from the villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum.  These are first century A.D. copies of third century B.C. statues.