Brothels, Bars and Betting Shops Uncovered at Site of Roman Chariot Races Immortalised by Ben-Hur Movie

The chariot race scene in 'Ben-Hur' 2016.(YouTube)

Researchers recently discovered what is being called the "biggest shopping mall in antiquity" at an ancient racing stadium in Rome, Italy.

The 2,800-year-old Circus Maximus is already a well-known archaeological site and tourist park in Italy's capital. The public is allowed to tour the ancient ruins, where elites from Rome came to relax, mingle and watch chariot races during ancient times.

Archaeologists who had been studying the Circus Maximus for the past seven years unearthed the new discovery after digging down 5.5 meters at the centre of the arena. What they saw was a sprawling network of shopping facilities.

"What we excavated proves that the Circus Maximus was the biggest shopping mall in antiquity; a forerunner of modern football stadiums that pack in shops and restaurants to make money," said Maria Letizia Buonfiglio, the archaeologist who headed the excavation, The Daily Mail reported.

The astounding archaeological discovery appeared to be something straight out from the 1959 and 2016 "Ben-Hur" films where launderettes, bars, brothels, and betting shops could be seen being patronised by people attending the famous Roman chariot races.

Buonfiglio explained that 60 shops ran down each side of the stadium, where thousands of people go every day during ancient times. Just like modern entertainment facilities, there were also passageways, corridors and latrines surrounding the stadium, supplied with running water from a nearby aqueduct.

The surprises brought by Circus Maximus do not stop there, however. Researchers also discovered gold jewellery, hundreds of bronze coins and a glass race-winner's cup with a gold engraving depicting a horse with a palm branch in its mouth inside the hole dug at the archaeological site.

These findings will help the researchers further understand the lifestyle in ancient Rome. These precious pieces of archaeology will also soon be displayed at a museum. Visitors can likewise explore a portion of the excavation every day starting Dec. 11.