From the belvedere of the Domus Flavia, you can see the Circus Maximus, the giant arena where more than 300,000 spectators watched chariot races while the emperor looked on from this very spot. Ancient Rome's oldest and largest racetrack lies in a natural hollow between two hills. The oval course stretches about 650 yards from end to end; on certain occasions, there were as many as 24 chariot races a day and competitions could last for 15 days. The charioteers could amass
fortunes rather like the sports stars of today (the Portuguese Diocles—one of many such "miliari"—is said to have totted up winnings of 35 million sesterci). The noise and the excitement of the crowd must have reached astonishing levels as the charioteers competed in teams, each with its own colors—the Reds, the Blues, etc. Betting also provided Rome's majority of unemployed with a potentially lucrative occupation. The central ridge was the site of two Egyptian obelisks (now in Piazza del Popolo and Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano). Picture the great chariot race scene from MGM's Ben-Hur and you have an inkling of what this all looked like.
Valley between Palatine and Aventine hills, Rome, 00153, Italy