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CIRCUMVAULATION—CIRCUS

external sign of God’s covenant with Israel, and later Judaism now regards it in this symbolical sense. Barton (Semitic Origins, p. 100) declares that “the circumstances under which it is performed in Arabia point to the origin of circumcision as a sacrifice to the goddess of fertility, by which the child was placed under her protection and its reproductive powers consecrated to her service.” But Barton admits that initiation to the connubium was the primitive origin of the rite.

As regards the non-ritual use of male circumcision, it may be added that in recent years the medical profession has been responsible for its considerable extension among other than Jewish children, the operation being recommended not merely in cases of malformation, but generally for reasons of health.

Authorities.—On the present diffusion of circumcision see H. Ploss, Das Kind im Brauch und Sitte der Völker, i. 342 seq., and his researches in Deutsches Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin, viii. 312-344; Andrée, “Die Beschneidung” in Archiv für Anthropologie, xiii. 76; and Spencer and Gillen, Tribes of Central Australia. The articles in the Encyclopaedia Biblica and Dictionary of the Bible contain useful bibliographies as well as historical accounts of the rite and its ceremonies, especially as concerns the Jews. The Jewish Encyclopedia in particular gives an extensive list of books on the Jewish customs connected with circumcision, and the various articles in that work are full of valuable information (vol. iv. pp. 92-102). On the rite among the Arabs, see Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, 154.  (I. A.) 


CIRCUMVALLATION, LINES OF (from Lat. circum, round, and vallum, a rampart), in fortification, a continuous circle of entrenchments surrounding a besieged place. “Lines of Contravallation” were similar works by which the besieger protected himself against the attack of a relieving army from any quarter. These continuous lines of circumvallation and contravallation were used only in the days of small armies and small fortresses, and both terms are now obsolete.


CIRCUS (Lat. circus, Gr. κίρκος or κρίκος, a ring or circle; probably “circus” and “ring” are of the same origin), a space, in the strict sense circular, but sometimes oval or even oblong, intended for the exhibition of races and athletic contests generally. The circus differs from the theatre inasmuch as the performance takes place in a central circular space, not on a stage at one end of the building.

1. In Roman antiquities the circus was a building for the exhibition of horse and chariot races and other amusements. It consisted of tiers of seats running parallel with the sides of the course, and forming a crescent round one of the ends. The other end was straight and at right angles to the course, so that the plan of the whole had nearly the form of an ellipse cut in half at its vertical axis. Along the transverse axis ran a fence (spina) separating the return course from the starting one. The straight end had no seats, but was occupied by the stalls (carceres) where the chariots and horses were held in readiness. This end constituted also the front of the building with the main entrance. At each end of the course were three conical pillars (metae) to mark its limits.

The oldest building of this kind in Rome was the Circus Maximus, in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, where, before the erection of any permanent structure, races appear to have been held beside the altar of the god Consus. The first building is assigned to Tarquin the younger, but for a long time little seems to have been done to complete its accommodation, since it is not till 329 B.C. that we hear of stalls being erected for the chariots and horses. It was not in fact till under the empire that the circus became a conspicuous public resort. Caesar enlarged it to some extent, and also made a canal 10 ft. broad between the lowest tier of seats (podium) and the course as a precaution for the spectators’ safety when exhibitions of fighting with wild beasts, such as were afterwards confined to the amphitheatre, took place. When these exhibitions were removed, and the canal (euripus) was no longer necessary, Nero had it filled up. Augustus is said to have placed an obelisk on the spina between the metae, and to have built a new pulvinar, or imperial box; but if this is taken in connexion with the fact that the circus had been partially destroyed by fire in 31 B.C., it may be supposed that besides this he had restored it altogether. Only the lower tiers of seats were of stone, the others being of wood, and this, from the liability to fire, may account for the frequent restorations to which the circus was subject; it would also explain the falling of the seats by which a crowd of people were killed in the time of Antoninus Pius. In the reign of Claudius, apparently after a fire, the carceres of stone (tufa) were replaced by marble, and the metae of wood by gilt bronze. Under Domitian, again, after a fire, the circus was rebuilt and the carceres increased to 12 instead of 8 as before. The work was finished by Trajan. See further for seating capacity, &c., Rome: Archaeology, § “Places of Amusement.”

The circus was the only public spectacle at which men and women were not separated. The lower seats were reserved for persons of rank; there were also various state boxes, e.g. for the giver of the games and his friends (called cubicula or suggestus). The principal object of attraction apart from the racing must have been the spina or low wall which ran down the middle of the course, with its obelisks, images and ornamental shrines. On it also were seven figures of dolphins and seven oval objects, one of which was taken down at every round made in a race, so that spectators might see readily how the contest proceeded. The chariot race consisted of seven rounds of the course. The chariots started abreast, but in an oblique line, so that the outer chariot might be compensated for the wider circle it had to make at the other end. Such a race was called a missus, and as many as 24 of these would take place in a day. The competitors wore different colours, originally white and red (albata and russata), to which green (prasina) and blue (veneta) were added. Domitian introduced two more colours, gold and purple (purpureus et auratus pannus), which probably fell into disuse after his death. To provide the horses and large staff of attendants it was necessary to apply to rich capitalists and owners of studs, and from this there grew up in time four select companies (factiones) of circus purveyors, which were identified with the four colours, and with which those who organized the races had to contract for the proper supply of horses and men. The drivers (aurigae, agitatores), who were mostly slaves, were sometimes held in high repute for their skill, although their calling was regarded with contempt. The horses most valued were those of Sicily, Spain and Cappadocia, and great care was taken in training them. Chariots with two horses (bigae) or four (quadrigae) were most common, but sometimes also they had three (trigae), and exceptionally more than four horses. Occasionally there was combined with the chariots a race of riders (desultores), each rider having two horses and leaping from one to the other during the race. At certain of the races the proceedings were opened by a pompa or procession in which images of the gods and of the imperial family deified were conveyed in cars drawn by horses, mules or elephants, attended by the colleges of priests, and led by the presiding magistrate (in some cases by the emperor himself) seated in a chariot in the dress and with the insignia of a triumphator. The procession passed from the capitol along the forum, and on to the circus, where it was received by the people standing and clapping their hands. The presiding magistrate gave the signal for the races by throwing a white flag (mappa) on to the course.

Next in importance to the Circus Maximus in Rome was the Circus Flaminius, erected 221 B.C., in the censorship of C. Flaminius, from whom it may have taken its name; or the name may have been derived from Prata Flaminia, where it was situated, and where also were held plebeian meetings. The only games that are positively known to have been celebrated in this circus were the Ludi Taurii and Plebeii. There is no mention of it after the 1st century. Its ruins were identified in the 16th century at S. Catarina dei Funari and the Palazzo Mattei.

A third circus in Rome was erected by Caligula in the gardens of Agrippina, and was known as the Circus Neronis, from the notoriety which it obtained through the Circensian pleasures of Nero. A fourth was constructed by Maxentius outside the Porta Appia near the tomb of Caecilia Metella, where its ruins