The Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus.

The Palatine Hill (Latin Palatium) is the centermost of the seven hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city of Rome in Italy.

Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Indeed, recent excavations show that people lived there since approximately 1000 BC. According to Roman mythology, the Palatine hill was where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. According to this legend, the shepherd Faustulus found the infants, and with his wife Acca Larentia raised the children. When they were older this is where Romulus decided to build Rome.

Ancient Rome was built on the east, or left, bank of the Tiber on elevations (now much less prominent) emerging from the marshy lowlands of the Campagna. The seven hills of the ancient city are the Palatine, roughly in the center, with the Capitoline to the northwest and the Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, and Aventine in an outlying north-southwest curve. The Pincian, N of the Quirinal, is not included among the seven. In the westward bend of the Tiber, W of the Quirinal, lies the Martian Field (Campus Martius), facing the Vatican across the Tiber. On the side of the Tiber opposite the Palatine is the Janiculum, a ridge running north and south, which was fortified in early times.

Early in the first millennium B.C. the Tiber divided the Italic peoples from the Etruscans in the north and west (see Etruscan civilization). Not far to the north were the borders between the Sabines and the Latins; the Sabines were closely related to Roman life from the very beginning. The hills of Rome, free from the malaria that had been the bane of the low-lying plains of Latium, were a healthful and relatively safe place to live and a meeting ground for Latins, Sabines, and Etruscans. In the 8th cent. B.C., the fortified elevation of the Palatine was probably taken by Etruscans, who amalgamated the tiny hamlets about the Palatine into a city-state.

Well-preserved samples of Roman era palaces and temples still stand, incorporated into the natural landscape by trees and vegetation that grow out of the ruins. Today these sites — which include the Baths of Septimus Severus — feel more like a park than an archeological site. Quiet paths shaded by slanting maritime pines give the place a serene feel. For a treat, visit Palatine Hill at early dusk, and watch the sun set on the center of ancient Rome — from Circus Maximus, to the Forum, to the Colosseum.

The Circus Maximus was a track used primarily for horse-racing, although it was used on occasion for hunts or mock battles. It had 300,000 seats and was famous throughout the ancient world. Built in the 6th century B.C. during the time of the Tarquins, the history of the Circus Maximus is troubled.
It was twice destroyed by fire and on at least two occasions the stands collapsed, killing many people. There was a long barrier (spina) that ran down the middle of the track, in the area of the picture where you now see only grass. In addition to obelisks, fountains, statues, and columns, there were also two temples on the spina, one with seven large eggs and one with seven dolphins. At the end of each lap of the seven lap race, one egg and one dolphin would be removed from each temple, to keep the spectators and the racers updated on how many laps had been completed.

In the Circus Maximus, unlike the amphitheaters of the day, men and women could sit together. The Circus Maximus also had the ancient equivelant of the skyboxes you see now in stadiums for professional sports. The Emperor had a reserved seat, as did senators, knights, those who financially backed the race, those who presided over the competition, and the jury that awarded the prize to the winners. The last race held at the Circus Maximus was in 549 A.D., nearly a full millenium after the track's construction.

Now only the lay of the land, much higher than the original arena, betrays the form of  the original structure. For a long time it was built entirely of wood. In 329 B.C. the carceres or stalls for the horse and chariots were built in painted wood, as well as the spina in the center which covered and channeled the stream which the race was run.

 In 174 B.C. the censors Fulvius Flaccus and Postumius Albinus had the carcers built in masonry, and placed the seven stone eggs along the spina as markers for the number of circuits the chariots had run. In 33 B.C.  Agrippa had bronze dolphins set up for the same scope. Caesar also used the Circus for hunts. On the side towards the Palatine , Augustus had the pulvinar, a sacred box reserved for the tutelary gods of the games, set up and in 10 B.C.  he had the obelisk of Ramsetes, II  taken at Helipolis placed on the spina. The obelisk, 23.70 meters high, was transferred to Piazza del Popolo by Pope Sixtus V in 1587  

Claudius took a hand in the restoration after a fire in A.D. 36. He had the caceres rebuilt in marble and had the metae (the goals, conical extremes of the spina) covered in glided bronze. The Circus was once more destroyed in thje fire of A.D. 64. Nero rebuilt it and increased the number of seats. Another fire under Domitian an ravaged the building and recostruction was finished by Trajan. Constantine restored it and Constantinus II embellished the spina with a second obelisk of Tuthmosis II., which came from Thebes and was even higher then the other one  (32.50 m) and which Pope Sixtus V had placed in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano in 1587.The Circus measured 600 with 200 meters and had a capacity of 320.000 spectators who watched the chariot races that were held there. The most important were those of the Ludi Romani the first week of September, which opened with a religious procession in which the highest religious and civil authorities of the city took part.