Circus Parties

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CIRCUS PARTIES , rival socio-political factions in the Byzantine Empire, active in the fifth to seventh centuries at the imperial circus chariot races. They were called "Blues" and "Greens" according to colors worn by their supporters. Jews in the Byzantine Empire participated in circus activities. In 423 the synagogue near Antioch was destroyed by the Greens, and in 484 and 507 they were attacked by the Greens in Antioch since the Jews were generally Blues. In the political troubles of 608–10, Jews were among the Blues at Antioch and among both Blues and Greens at Constantinople. A seventh-century Midrash describes the glory of Solomon in terms of the circus life at Constantinople. The colors of Solomon and the audience are given according to circus rank as blue for the king, the priests, and the levites, white for the Jews of Jerusalem, red for other Jews, and green for gentiles. There were originally four colors, here also given their earlier Byzantine symbolism of the four seasons.


A. Jellinek (ed.), Beit ha-Midrash, 2 (18532), 83–85; I. Bonwetsch, in: Abhandlungen der Koeniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Goettingen, 123 (1910), 38–40; J. Perles, in: mgwj, 21 (1872), 122–39; P. Bleik, in: Khristyanskiy Vostok, 3 (1914), 178–82; Sharf, in: Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 48 (1955), 103–15.

[Andrew Sharf]