Roman Circus (Emerita Augusta), at Merida, Badajoz.
Vista aerea del Circo de Mérida
Aerial view of the Carceres at Merida Circus

Circus of Merida is not bad preserved though it could seem so. Remainings of these kinds of buldings: circus, are scarce. As they are very great buildings because of its surface, their plans use to be modified, losing its general structure. Also becuase of their dimensions, Circus of Merida was built ca. 500 m. far from the wall, on a valley close to the way for access to the city, making easier the construction of its rows.
Datation is not sure: it could have begun ca. year 20 and was inaugurated at 50. Plays celebrated there became very popular to the public. Therefore Circus was restored and rebuilt many times.
Its structure is composed by rows and arena, as amphitheaters, though they do not share the same plan: this one is almost rectangular, with semiarchs at the minor sides. It is 440 m. long and 115 m. wide.
Also entries are well preserved, specially the monumental "Porta Pompae" or dolphins door. It keeps remainings of carceres or carts parkings. They are rectangular, with four pillars at their corners and a perimetral wall with detached pillars. From these rooms there were access to departing positions at the racings. At the opposite side there was the Porta Triumphalis.
Dimensions of the arena were big: 400 m. long and 95 m. wide. At longitudinal center there was a separating wall -spina-. It was bigger than 230 m. and decorated with obelisks, pillars and sculptures. Carts hissed around it: there were two-horses: bigae, or four-horses: cuadrigae.
Perimetral rows could admit up to 30.000 spectators. There were two boxes on it: one for judges -tribunal iudicium- and other for authorities -presidentialis-. Southern rows were built on the slope of a valley; northern rows, on a structure of archs. There were 11 rows of seats separated by a perimetral corridor. It was elevated and limited with the arena by a high podium.
Planta original del Circo de Emerita Augusta
Original plan of the Circus of Emerita Augusta
Its exterior façade was parallel to the access way for the city. It was decorated with blind archs and detached pillars. Then, it was covered by plates of granite. Its inner construction was made of masonry and concrete.
It was used more than Theater and Amphitheater, since Christian laws saw racing spectacles less evil than other shows.