Historic part of Ancient Rome has been restored
ix years of excavations have given Rome a new tourist attraction in Circus Maximus, the sprawling valley where chariot races once delighted the ancient city’s denizens. The archaeological ruin has long been a vast muddy, grassy field, lately used largely by dog walkers and joggers.
But as of last weekend, the public are now able to see ancient latrines, chunks of what was once a triumphal arch honouring the Emperor Titus and learn about a winning horse dubbed Numitor, which ran on the oval track some 2,000 years ago.
Rome’s newest tourist site comes as a counterpoint to Italy’s often discouraging cultural developments, like the erosion by pollution or the crumbling of parts of monuments that can’t be adequately protected by Italy’s chronically lean budget for its enormous catalogue of historical and artistic heritage.
For decades, Circus Maximus was littered with syringes from drug users who used to shoot up there at night. The expanse also hosted political rallies and mega-concerts, such as those for The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.
Claudio Parisi Presicce, Rome’s top official for archaeology and other monuments, said Numitor the horse will become the logo for Circus Maximus, which sits in a valley between the ancient Palatine and Aventine Hills.
Decorating the bottom of an excavated glass goblet – the only fragment found of the vessel – is the gold figure of a proudly prancing horse, with a palm branch symbolising victory in its mouth and the name Numitor emblazoned below. Archaeologist Marialetizia Buonfiglio said the image is the only documentation found so far of the horses involved in the ancient entertainment that captivated bettors. The goblet’s precious fragment, along with some of the 1,000 bronze coins that were dug up, will eventually find a home in a museum.
Excavated areas include the outside upper tiers, where the rank-and-file entertainmentgoers once cheered wild animal hunts or charioteers, whipping around a low stone wall that ran down the centre of the oval track.
Also visible is a latrine once used by spectators. An explanatory panel, in Italian and English, tells how urine was collected via pipes in ancient Roman times to be used to launder cloth.
The excavation helped archaeologists understand the various reconstructions that the Circus Maximus underwent, including one after its wooden timbers helped feed the great fire in Rome during Nero’s reign in 64 AD
Rome isn’t the only Italian city with ancient roots boasting of new archaeological possibilities for tourists.
At Pompeii, near Naples, officials on Wednesday inaugurated a 60-room residential complex that had been buried by Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79AD.
WINNER: A Roman icon of the horse Numitor