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The hippodrome of Berytus was a
circus A circus is a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows that may include clowns, acrobatics, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, dancers, hoopers, tightrope walkers, juggling, jugglers, magic (illusion), magic ...
in the Roman colony of
Berytus ) or Laodicea in Canaan (2nd century to 64 BCE) , image = St. George's Cathedral, Beirut.jpg , image_size = , alt = , caption = Roman ruins of Berytus, in front of Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in modern ...
(modern-day Beirut). It is one of two hippodromes in Beirut.


History

The hippodrome was built close to the port and
forum Forum (plural forums or fora) may refer to: Common uses * Forum (legal), designated space for public expression in the United States *Forum (Roman), open public space within a Roman city **Roman Forum, most famous example *Internet forum, discus ...
of Berytus (modern Beirut). It was one of the largest in the Levant, occupying an area of 3500 m2, and was probably similar in overall design to the Circus Maximus in Ancient Rome, Rome, comprising starting gates and a circuit of two straight tracks connected by a semicircular end. The circus was mostly used for chariot racing, which was an immensely popular and highly partisan spectator sport throughout the Roman Empire; the track would have been surrounded by seating tiers for spectators. The Berytus hippodrome is mentioned in the anonymous, late 4th century ''Expositio totius mundi et gentium'' ("A description of the world and its people") as one of the five best racing circuits in the Levant, the others being at Antioch, Laodicea on the Lycus, Laodicea, Caesarea and Tyre, Lebanon, Tyrus. During the 6th and the 7th centuries of the Byzantine Empire, violent factional and political disturbances at circuses (such as the Nike riots in Constantinople) led to their gradual abandonment as places of costly, officially subsidised mass entertainment. The hippodrome at Berytus fell into disuse and disrepair. Its stone was later mined and reused in the construction of other buildings, according to archeologist Lee Levine. Its outline remained sufficiently clear in the 20th century for identification as a hippodrome by the archaeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson. Its groundworks were partially excavated in 1988. An approximately 90-meter section of wall has been uncovered, alongside the straight, and the foundations of seating tiers at the semi-circular end. The hippodrome site is near the Maghen Abraham Synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, the historic, Jewish quarter of Beirut.


Preservation

In 2009, the site was officially listed in the general inventory of historic buildings, and the Culture Minister Tamam Salam ruled that it should be preserved ''in situ'' and turned into a tourist landmark. According to an article appearing in the French daily, ''L’Orient le Jour'', Gaby Layoun, the Culture Minister at the time, approved in March 2012 plans for a luxury residential complex to be built over the ruins of Beirut’s Roman Hippodrome, bypassing the recommendations of three of his predecessors: Tarek Mitri, Salim Wardé, and Tammam Salam. The Association for the Protection of the Lebanese Heritage (APLH) organized protests as an attempt to reverse the Culture Ministry's decision to allow the building over the hippodrome. Following the litigation brought by APLH, the court suspended on May 31, 2012 the Culture Ministry's decision, N˚ 849, to dismantle the Roman Hippodrome that would have allowed for the construction of a building project on the site. The site was protected until 2015 when construction began again.


See also

* Circus of Carthage


References

{{Archaeological sites in Lebanon Roman sites in Lebanon