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Science Circus

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The circus proper has a great antiquity. The word derives from the ancient Greek krikos, which became, by an inversion, kirkos and thence the Roman circus. A circus is traditionally defined by its central ring in which performances take place. However, in recent years, it has come to mean almost any spectacular display, such as the American “barnstorming” flying circuses of the 1920s.

Travelling shows are as old as civilization. The first travelling performers probably appeared at the same time as the first villages and towns. Ancient Rome enjoyed its histrions, usually freed slaves who went about entertaining crowds with storytelling, music, songs, juggling, and acrobatics – what, today, we would call busking. In the Middle Ages, minstrels and jongleurs travelled between European towns fulfilling the same role. Miracle plays, in which religious scenes were enacted for delighted crowds, were also a feature of the Middle Ages. First an initiative of the people, they were later taken...


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Correspondence to Chris Bryant .

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© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

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Bryant, C. (2012). Science Circus. In: Gunstone, R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Science Education. Springer, Dordrecht.

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  • Online ISBN: 978-94-007-6165-0

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