Many of the activities and forms of entertainment we enjoy today, were not very different from those enjoyed by the Romans in ancient times. Wrestling, racing and swimming are just a few examples of the activities enjoyed by many in ancient Rome! A lot of time rotated around work in Rome so there was not much free time, but for those who were lucky enough got to partake in different activities. One activity done during their free time would have been swimming where one could mingle and unwind, usually in the Tiber River.
Roman baths were open to the public and apart of the Romans daily routine. The baths were prepared with plunge pools where swimming could take place and had many different rooms where one could exercise, read and it was a place for social interactions. These public baths would be like a gym in the modern world. Many of the activities and shows were free to the public, along with free bread.
The government thought this would be a great way to keep everyone happy with how they were running things.
The Campus Martius was a well-known place in Rome. Being a floodplain, it was like a big playground for recreational activities. This is where a lot of people went to take place in sports such as running, boxing and wrestling. Wrestling was a popular sport. It helped build ones strength and was enjoyed by many people. Footraces was competed by boys and a favorite activity of theirs. Fishing along with hunting being a popular sport and a favorite was what most men did in the country.
Ball games such as soccer and handball took place in ball courts knows as palaestra. The activities that took place here was part of the Romans exercise and sport activities. Usually when everyone was finished exercising, one would go in to the Tiber River to wash off and relax.
The Circus Maximums in Rome, which means “Biggest Circus” is a huge arena where numerous competitions took place. The arena could seat thousands of individuals which made it the largest and most expensive venue in the Roman world. One of the vastly popular competitions held here was the chariot races. This race was handed down to the Romans from the Greeks. The race track was made of fine sand which would permit the carts to reach higher speeds and the fine sand helped decrease as much dust as possible. Seating was based by class. Therefore the wealthiest were seated at the bottom being close to the track seeing everything upfront. The chariot was a light cart on two wheels that was pulled by four horses and had one individual driver for each cart sometimes along with a fighter. The chariots were put in to four teams known as factions, all identified by a different color. The participants of the race wore helmets and some padding to help protect them from getting hurt during the race. The colors were blue, green, red and white. The fans would pick their teams color, cheer on the faction they chose and even place bets on the teams like we do today in some of our sports. One could achieve wealth and fame by winning many races. A poet Martial named a man Scorpus who was well known because he won over a thousand races. Not only can the charioteers claim fame, the horses would be just as famous! Being pampered and gaining freedom the horses could even retire from the races. One term used for chariots crashes was a “shipwreck.” This is when the chariots would go around the sharp curves of the arena and crash and get tangled up with the horses and even cause other chariots to crash and get trampled on. One thing that was interesting was the men would keep a knife with them for if they crashed and got tangled up in the reigns, they could cut themselves loose. The frame of the track had dolphin mechanisms which would count the number of laps completed by the competitors. The competitors would attempt to complete seven laps of the Maximums arena which would complete the race. Chariot racing was seen as a family event.
The Colosseum was another building that was built where everyone could watch shows such as animal hunts and gladiator games. The theater was built oval that way everyone from any side of the amphitheater would have a good view of what was going on. This colosseum could seat thousands and thousands of people being a profitable place for the entertainment business. For the Romans, the bloodier the better. All of the events held here, nothing could be more striking than the gladiator fights. A gladiator was an armed man, who entertained the audience by getting in to violent altercations with other gladiators. Blood, skill and the fear for death had the audience in awe which made for amazing entertainment. These fights became so popular that there was local contests and if someone important came to visit or had a birthday, that called for a gladiator show! Those who won regularly even became famous and had their own fans. Another thing the colosseum held besides the gladiator shows was the wild animal hunts which featured exotic animals such as panthers and rhinos. The wild animals were kept below the Colosseum in cages. The arena would be decorated with wild scenery and different animals would be thrown in the fights by hatches. These hunts either showed the animals fighting each other or humans. Such as the gladiators going on a winning streak and gaining fame and fans, the animals and the humans during these hunts who would win also had a fan base. With modern entertainment, there has been more and more movies and video games that are coming out with just as much violence and gore as these gladiator fights.
The theatre is another important part of the entertainment for the Roman people. This was where the more non-violent events took place such as plays, acrobatics, comedies and tragedies. The theater was split into the stage which was called the orchestra and the seating area which was the auditorium. The stages were made of just wood and really did not have any backdrops. It would not cost anything for entrance to the plays. With the actors receiving little to no pay, having bad reputations because of the offensive and inappropriate performances, women never acted. They even has men dress up as women for the female parts. The actors wore different masks, colored clothes and colored wigs. The masks that were worn showed a happy or sad face which helped the audience understand the mood of the play. The basic colors such as white and grey represented old men whereas the bright colors represented younger men which helped the audience identify who the characters were. As the plays developed, women actually became actresses, music and even decorative sets were added. The way the people showed if they enjoyed the play or not was by throwing things at the actors such as food.
Dinner parties were very popular and lasted for hours with conversation and socializing taking up most of the dinner parties time. With the host showing off their house, they really wanted to impress their guests. One important aspect to the dinner party was the diverse forms of entertainment. A reading of poetry and performances by musicians involved flutes and water-organs. Dramas would also be performed along with dancing women and mimes. All of this and more was part of the parties delightful entertainment. Those who were poorer, would find entertainment by eating or drinking with friends at taverns or gaming. The gaming that was popular was dice and knucklebones.
As we can see, entertainment played a very important role and was a part of the daily life of many in ancient Rome. The violent and engaging gladiator battles, the exotic animal hunts and the chariot races being very popular among the Roman empire, it is astonishing how brutal these events were yet it still attracted so many people. Entertainment is and always will be a vital part in any society. A lot of the entertainment and activates enjoyed by those in ancient Rome, we enjoy in our own society today such as going to the movies and watching violent movies and sports.