The Hippodrome was an ancient Greek stadium for horse and chariot racing. Hippodromes were usually set into the slopes of hills, in a circular shape with two turn-around points at either end, which proved to be the most dangerous site on the course as many crashes occurred there.
The name comes from the ancient Greek words for horse and course. One of the most famous hippodromes was the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which served as the sporting and social center for the city. A few remnants of the original structure remain to this day, now converted into a square. The hippodrome was built by the emperor Septimius Severus in 208 A.D.
When Constantinople became the new capital of the Byzantine Empire, the hippodrome was rebuilt and expanded to be fit for an impressive city. With the remodeling of the hippodrome, the stadium could hold up to 100,000 citizens. This particular racetrack was u-shaped, with a lodge for the emperor located on one end that could only be accessed through the great palace by members of royalty.
The hippodrome served as a center for culture and socializing and for politics and gambling, with bets being placed on races and political parties sponsoring certain horses or chariots. Important political discussions were often held at the events at the hippodrome.