i About six years after its capture by him (197 A.D.) Severus commenced operations a little to the west of Byzantium, but in that year was called away by a rebellion in the West and never returned to the city. For over a hundred years it remained untouched, until 323, when Constantine, having conquered the city, pushed the work to completion after changing the de tails in the original plans. On 11 May 330 it was inaugurated.
The external appearance of the hippodrome was imposing for its vastness, its height and even for its beauty, The walls were of brick, laid in arches and faced by a row of Corinthian columns 260 in number and standing 11 feet apart. There were four entrances from the city each flanked with towers, but of the stairways leading to these entrances no description has come down to us.
Some idea of the immensity of this pro digious structure may be given by the fact that its dimensions were 1,400 feet in length by 400 feet in width, covering an area of 535,866 square feet, or 12.3 acres. On the north was a struc ture containing the apparatus for the games, the servants' and attendants' apartments, the chariots and horses, the arsenal, etc., called by the Romans the carceres and by the Greeks Fiariavg. This apartment was separated from the arena by pillars with latticed gates, 12 in number. Next to these gates was the little church or oratory, where the rival contestants prayed before the games.
The ground story was 20 feet high. On it rested the palace of the Kathisma or Tribunal, in the centre of which, supported upon 24 mar ble pillars was the platform in Kathisma proper, on the front of which was the emperor's throne. On either side and a little below the emperor were the seats for courtiers, ambassadors, etc. Far down the western side of the hippodrome and nearly opposite the built column was the gorgeous chamber of the empress, this sup ported upon four porphyry pillars and hence called the tetrakion.
The eastern, western and southern portions were occupied by parallel rows of seats, appor tioned to the spectators according to their rank. Behind these rose tier upon tier of benches until nearly half way to the top where was a broad promenade bounding the entire extent of the hippodrome except on the northern side. This promenade was without roof or covering, and, standing nearly 40 feet above the ground, pro tected by a solid marble railing reaching to the breast, the spectator had a spacious avenue 2,766 feet long. It is estimated that the hippo
drome would seat 60,000 persons and have com fortable standing room for 20,000 more, while with a little crowding 100,000 might be accom modated.
The arena was 211 feet wide by 1,190 feet long and was bounded by a narrow walk called the Euripus, paved in tesselated stone. The semi-circular southern portion of the arena, that was included in the curve of the Sphendone, was reserved for the criminals and there too was the place for executions. In the centre of the arena and lying parallel to it was the Spina; a stadium, 607 English feet in length, it marked and governed the beginning, duration and end of each course of a race. At each end of the Spina was a high, narrow framework, sur mounted by seven poles, on one group being placed seven fish, on the other seven eggs; one of each was taken down upon the completion of each circuit during the race until the race finished. Toward the southern end of the Spina was the Phiale, a broad basin of running water devoted to the victims of accidents. The space between the northern goal and the car ceres was called the Stama, where wrestlers and acrobats performed.
Many additions to the works of art already gathered by Constantine were made during the 700 succeeding years, but in 1203 the hippo drome was sacked by the Franks and Venetians and all were either carried off or destroyed. The most famous of these was the 'Four Golden Steeds,' which was stolen by the Vene tians and which in turn was brought to Paris by Napoleon, and is now standing guard over the main entrance of the cathedral I. f Saint Mark Among the others are the statues of Hercules, the She-wolf and Hyaena, the Virgin Goddess Diana, the Brazen Ass, the Caledonian Boar, Helen of Troy, the God of Wealth and eight Sphinxes, beside the statues of the early Roman emperors, martyrs, teachers, philoso phers, etc. In the early days of the city games were of frequent occurrence, but as time went by they became less and less frequent owing probably to the great cost (it is estimated that a single celebration cost 1,000,000 francs) and at last were celebrated only on 11 May and 25 December, the birthdays of the city and Christ respectively.