Merida Roman Circus - History and Facts | History Hit

Merida Roman Circus

Merida, Extremadura, Spain

The Merida Roman Circus was an Ancient Roman chariot racing arena which, though in ruins, is one of the better preserved of its type.

Peta Stamper

28 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Merida Roman Circus

The Merida Roman Circus or ‘Circo Romano de Merida’ was built when the city in Spain, then known as Augusta Emerita, was part of one of the colonies of the Roman Empire.

A vast sports arena measuring over 400 metres long and 30 metres wide, able to accommodate up to 30,000 people, Merida’s Roman Circus would have been the site of chariot races and even naval games, considered to be one of the largest of its kind.

Merida Roman Circus history

Whilst it is unclear as to when the circus was constructed, it may have been built around 25 BC, when Merida itself was founded and inaugurated some 30 years later. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire as Christianity spread across Spain, the circus saw more use than the other Roman structures in Merida. The races and athletic games were seen as less sinful than spectacles found in the amphitheatre.

Merida Roman Circus today

Today, Merida’s Roman Circus is in fantastic condition for a ruin of this type and still boasts its original track and spina wall, stands and gateways, including the Porta Pompae – the main entrance gate. Sat near the middle edge of the circus grounds, there is now a visitor centre where tourists can learn about its history from a short film in Spanish and dotted around the circus, several display signs in English.

Walking up to the observation platform and looking out across the circus, it is easy to imagine chariots furiously racing across the length of the track. Like other historic sites in Merida, the Roman Circus is part of the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Getting to Merida Roman Circus

Located on the east side of Merida, the Roman Circus is just off the N-630 road. For those on foot, the circus is found besides the Parque de los Centollos and is a short walk from the Amphitheatre of Merida and the San Lazaro Roman Baths. Via public transport, you can get to Merida on the Intercity, MD or REG.EXP train lines from Badajoz or Caceres and the station is only a 15 minute walk from the circus.

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