|Life in Ancient Rome: Entertainment
What did the Romans do for fun?
Some things which people in Roman times did for fun are similar to things we do today. Board games with counters and dice were very popular with the Romans. Counters and marked out boards for these games have now been found. However, nobody knows the rules for the games! Hunting was also popular. People in the countryside would hunt animals for fun as well as for food. The Romans even introduced fallow deer to Britain to make the hunting better. Some things the Romans did for fun were horrible. Animals and people were sometimes killed for entertainment as part of shows put on in amphitheatres.
What did the Romans see in the Amphitheatres?
Despite the fact that they were criminals some achieved great fame and had followers rather like footballers today. They could even retire from the arena and become trainers.
To make the fights more interesting they normally were not matched against a similar gladiator and would also fight against wild animals and in re-enactments of great battles from myth and history.
oncivted criminals or specially trained slaves called gladiators would fight each other in amphitheatres. There were four main types of gladiators, recognised by their costumes and with what they fought. The Samnite, Thracian and Murmillo were all heavily armed. The fourth type of gladiator called the Retarius carried a trident and net.
The Romans imported wild animals for the arena from all over the Empire. Gladiators would fight everything from Bears, Wild Boars and Lions to the strange Hippos, Ostriches and Elephants from Africa. When a gladiator lost a fight the crowd would decide if the loser should live or die. The audience would wave their handkerchiefs or put their thumbs up if he should live. If they wanted the loser to die, they would put their thumbs down. Amphitheatres were an incredibly successful form of entertainment.
The greatest amphitheatre in the Empire was the Colosseum in Rome. It was built under the order of the Emperor Vespasian but took ten years to build and was not opened until 80AD. In addition to putting on the gladiatorial shows and beast shows the Colosseum was also used for public executions of criminals and later on Christians.
The stadium could hold 50,000 spectators, 45,000 of them seated. There were 80 entrance arches and the building could be emptied in 15 minutes. The further away from the arena you sat, the less important you were. Slaves and women could attend performances, but had to sit right at the top.
During the Colosseum's opening ceremonies in A.D. 80, spectacles were held for 100 days in which thousands of animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed.
A wooden flooring was used to cover the subterranean chambers where the gladiators as well as the animals were kept prior to performance. During the first ten years of its existence, the stadium was filled with water and used for mock naval battles. However, over time the Romans found it was damaging to the foundation as well as to the flooring.
Take a new page and under the headline “Colosseum to Open 80AD” write about 50 words, describing the building itself and 50 words describing the events that will take place here. Include a picture of the Colosseum or a gladiatorial fight.
The Colosseum as it looks today
A reconstruction of the Colosseum