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Friday, 18 April 2014


In Ancient Rome the circus was a round or oval building for showing horse and chariot races, horse shows, staged battles, acts with animals, jugglers and acrobats.

The standard format of the Roman games was: animal entertainments in the morning session, followed by the executions of criminals around midday, with the afternoon session reserved for gladiatorial combats and recreations of famous battles.

The Latin word circus comes from the Greek word kirkos, meaning “circle" or "ring”.

The Roman circus had tiered seats. The important people sat at the bottom, near the action.

The first circus in Rome was the Circus Maximus, in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. At first it was made of wood. It was rebuilt several times; the last building of the Circus Maximus could seat 250,000 people.

Former cavalry officer Philip Astley staged the first modern circus on January 9, 1768 with shows of acrobatic riding skills, including a female horse-rider covered in bees. The entertainment took place in an open field on the south bank opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.

This format was so successful that Astley added a clown to his shows to amuse the spectators between equestrian sequences, and later moved to fenced premises just south of Westminster Bridge, where he expanded the content of his show with acrobats, jugglers and dancing dogs.

The first circus building in the US opened on April 3, 1793 in Philadelphia, where English equestrian John Bill Ricketts gave America's first complete circus performance. The Circus was a roofless arena of around 800 seats surrounding a circular riding space. The wooden construction had been erected in a matter of weeks by Ricketts. George Washington attended a performance there later that season.

In 1825, American Joshuah Purdy Brown invented the canvas circus tent.

In 1871 P.T. Barnum established the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, which included the midget ‘Tom Thumb,’ a circus, a menagerie, and an exhibition of ‘freaks’, conveyed in 100 railway carriages.

Carl and Wilhelm Hagenbeck developed in 1888 the round cage that filled the entire circus allowing the animals more freedom.

The size of a circus ring is designed to fit the smallest circle in which a horse can gallop.

The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth toured Europe from 1897 to 1902. Its large scale, touring techniques (including the tent and circus train), and its combination of circus acts, a zoological exhibition and a freak show were all adopted by European circuses at the turn of the 20th century.

In 1919, Lenin, head of the USSR, expressed a wish for the circus to be treated as a serious art form, with facilities just like opera and ballet. Eight years later the Moscow Circus School, was established; performers were trained using methods developed from the Soviet gymnastics program.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed its very last "Big Tent" show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 16, 1956, due to changing economics. President John Ringling North announed that starting in 1957 they would exhibit in permanent venues, such as sports stadiums and arenas that had the seating already in place.

The actor Christopher Walken traveled with the circus when he was 15 as a lion tamer.

Russia has 15,000 circus performers.

Here is a list of songs about circuses and carnivals.

Source Wikipedia

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