Roman Entertainment

Roman Entertainment Roman Entertainment “Bathing, wine, and Venus wear out the soul but are the real stuff of life.” (Proverb in Sparta, A History of Private Life from Pagan Rome to Byzantium, 183) Civilizations of Ancient Rome and modern day are similar because entertainment is an important part of life. In Ancient Rome, the rich and the poor could enjoy entertainment and relaxation. Men and women spent many hours of their day participating in entertainment activities. Ancient Romans enjoyed many types of entertainment, but the most popular were bathing, bloody spectacles, and banquets. A gong sounded every morning to open the public baths to the lines of people waiting. Public baths were not only used to get clean but as a place to gossip, meet people, and show off. They could be compared to modern day beaches.

The sexes were separated into two different areas; the men had the larger rooms. The society levels at the baths were nonexistent, and gladiators, slaves, men, and women were treated equal. Every town was expected to have at least one public bath, which each person was visited two to three times per week by a person. The procedure followed at the baths seemed very relaxing. Citizens would first go to the unctuarium where oil was rubbed onto the skin, and they would exercise.

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Then they would enter the tepidarium or the “warm” room, with heated floors and walls. Here, they would lie around chatting and gossiping. The last step was the caldarium, which was similar to a Turkish bath, hot and steamy. Romans would sit and perspire, and their skin was scraped with a curved metal tool called a strigil. They were served drinks and snacks in the hot bath, or calidarium. Finally they would take a quick dip in the cold bath, the frigidarium.

After this lengthy process, men and women would enjoy massages where oils and perfumes were rubbed into their skin. Many Roman citizens attended bloody spectacles at the famous colosseum. The colosseum opened in A.D.80 and hosted 100 spectacles a year. 50,000 available seats were divided into social classes. Women and poor people were seated on the fourth tier.

The most popular show featured at the colosseum was the gladiators. They would show in the late afternoon and were often attended after the public baths. The gladiators easily entertained and won over the crowd. The gladiators were slaves, condemned criminals, prisoners of war, and often they were idols of young girls. They would fight battles with animals or other opponents until death.

These bloody shows would entertain the citizens for hours. Despite laws setting limits on earnings, many gladiators earned large sums and could buy freedom. Banquets were attended for an exciting night of entertainment. Banquets were a ceremony of civility, occasions for private men to savor their accomplishments and show off to peers. Many people were invited; even the lower class was invited and treated equal. The food was spicy and served medieval style, people sat around lounging couches on pedestal tables.

Many different types of entertainment went on at banquets. The guests were expected to express views on general topics and noble subjects. The host would hire professionals to provide music, dancing, and singing. The longest time of the night was set aside for drinking. It was tradition for them to never drink when they ate.

Men were expected to consume large amounts of alcohol. Ancient Romans believed that entertainment was a very important part of civilization. They would spend mornings socializing at baths, afternoons at the colosseum, and drink and eat all night at banquets. Romans enjoyed being entertained similar to today society. “To everything there was a season, and pleasure was no less legitimate than virtue.” (Paul Veyne, A History of Private Life from Pagan Rome to Byzantium, 183).


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