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How did the circus begin?

Everyone enjoys going to the circus. The amazing tricks take your breath away and the clowns have your sides splitting with laughter. But have you ever wondered how the circus first began? The Romans were the first to use the word ‘circus’ in the 1st century B.C. The large open area was called ‘The Circus Maximus’. The main attraction in such a circus was a chariot race. The drivers wore helmets and were wrapped in lengths of bright-coloured flowing clothes. The grounds were so large that they could accommodate around 1,50,000 people. In those days, Rome had various kinds of entertainments. Jugglers, acrobats, ropewalkers and animal-trainers also entertained people in many ways. Eventually all those feats became part of what we call a ‘circus’. However, in modern times, the popularity of circuses have dwindled, and animal rights activists have hastened their decline by arranging to have the animals confiscated and sent to zoos, where they would enjoy better health, food and environment. After the fall of the Roman Empire, circuses went into oblivion for many centuries. The first modern circus came into existence in England in 1768, when Philip Ashley turned into a trick rider, and he traced the first ring. The diameter of the ring was 13 metres. The name ‘circus’ was first used in 1782 when Charles Hughes set up the Royal Circus. Many showmen found a new outlet in the circus, as did the ropedancers, acrobats, jugglers and others. In the first half of the 19th century, many circuses also started in the United States. Circus was once a popular means of entertainment. Both young and the old loved it equally. In a modern circus, we see many amazing feats like ropewalking, wire cycling, fire eating, weightlifting, flying on trapeze and innumerable animal and bird games. Jugglers, acrobats and clowns join in to add to the entertainment. The circus is a dying industry today, as people seek newer forms of entertainment. Did you know that the world’s largest permanent circus is Circus Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. This circus was opened on October 18, 1968. It covers an area of 11,984 sq. metres. The largest travelling circus was the Gold Unit of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It was used for a show at Sapporo, Japan on July 1, 1988. The largest circus crowd comprised 52,385 people who attended the performance of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ in New Orleans, U.S.A. on September 14, 1975. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an American circus, was formed when two of the world’s biggest rival circuses, finally merged. Currently, it is the largest and the most successful of the few remaining American circuses. It can be said to be performing continuously since 1871.

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