Concerts to Continue at the Circus Maximus, Despite Controversies

Thu, 08/31/2023 - 14:00
Circo Massimo / Circus Maximus, Rome
Critics have said that the Circus Maximus archaeological site is not a fitting venue for major rock concerts / Photo: Kiev.Victor via Shutterstock

The Circus Maximus archaeological site in Rome will continue to be used as a concert and performance venue, despite recent controversies.

Back in early August, a sold-out performance by American rapper Travis Scott, with surprise guest Kanye (aka Ye) West, drew attention when nearly 60 people were treated for burning eyes and irritated throats after pepper spray was reportedly used. A 14-year-old concertgoer was hospitalized after falling four meters (13 feet) off the Palatine hill. 

Amid the chaos, attendees were seen climbing over each other and pushing through barriers to avoid the stinging vapors. While no one was gravely injured, the episode prompted an outcry for the city to end the use of the ancient archaeological site as an entertainment venue.

What’s at stake

Archaeologists have long criticized the city for allowing the ancient site where chariot races were once held to be used for modern mega-rock concerts. They argue that more sedate musical events, ballets and operas are appropriate, but that high-intensity shows should take place in modern venues such as the Stadio Olimpico (Olympic Stadium) north of the capital.

Concerts and performances at the Circus Maximus reportedly bring in more than €2 million a year that the city of Rome “can re-invest in the safeguarding of archaeological heritage,” Alessandro Onorato, city councillor for major events and tourism, told Italian press. The star-studded 2023 spring-summer lineup included such major names as Bruce Springsteen, Guns & Roses and Imagine Dragons. (The final act scheduled for the season is Max Pezzali on September 2.)

Mayor of Rome Robert Gualtieri and Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano jointly announced after the Travis Scott concert that events at the Circus Maximus would continue, but that more stringent checks and safety procedures would be implemented.

Travis Scott’s Rome show wasn’t the first time one of his concerts ended badly. In 2021, ten people died and hundreds were injured during a stampede amid his performance at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.

In 2018, a pepper spray attack caused a similar crush at a crowded club show in the town of Corinaldo in Le Marche.