The Romans liked to go out and enjoy themselves.
The Roman amphitheatre was the centre of public entertainment in Rome, and all over the Roman Empire. People would go to the amphitheatre to see men fighting wild beasts or each other. These men were called gladiators. It was a cruel sport because someone was usually killed.
Find out more about amphitheatres
Find out more about Roman gladiators
The stadium (or circus) was used for chariot-racing. A stadium had a long rectangular enclosure, curved at one end, with seats all around except at the the end opposite the curve. Down the middle was the spine (spina), which the chariots hurtled around, lap after lap, trying to cut in front of each other.
A stadium has been discovered at Colchester. This is the first and only stadium so far found in the UK. Rome had eight chariot stadiums.
Chariot-racing was a very popular sport all over the Roman Empire.
Roman chariots were ultra lightweight and flimsy. There was just enough room for a man to stand on and hold the reins. In an accident, the chariot would fall to pieces in an instant and hurl the charioteer out.
There were three main types of chariots:
- Two-horse chariots (biga)
- Three-horse chariot (triga)
- Four-horse chariot (quadra)
Charioteers were usually slaves
The Romans liked to keep themselves clean. Many Romans visit the Thermae (public baths). Every town had its own bath complex (like a large swimming pool).
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Most Roman cities had a theatre. Like Greek theatres, the Roman theatre had three parts: the stage, the orchestra, and the auditorium. The auditorium was semi-circular with rows of seats rising up from the flat semi-circular chorus area at the bottom. The stage area faced the auditorium on the far side of the orchestra.
Performances were often part of religious festivals.
The actors were men with each actor playing several roles. They wore simple costumes that could be changed quickly and in public. To help distinguish the characters young men were portrayed by wearing brightly coloured clothing, while old men were portrayed wearing white. Different coloured wigs were also worn. Grey wigs represented old men, black wigs represented young men, and red wigs represented slaves.
There were four kinds of performances:
Entertaining at Home
The best way to show off your house was at a dinner party. Dinner parties were very popular, and it was common to throw one for quests who had spent the day at the amphitheatre.
The dinner parties were held in the triclinium (dining room). They often lasted up to eight hours. The Romans did not sit on chairs around the table like we do today. Instead the adults lay on sloping couches situated around a square table. Only small children or slaves were permitted to eat sitting.
Entertainment during the parties included actors performing a scene from a popular play or a dancing display.