The Roman government wanted to keep the idle masses entertained because they knew that a large group of poor people was a major threat to their empire. Therefore, the Romans enjoyed many different forms of entertainment, most of which were free. Theaters were scattered throughout the city and empire. These theaters were large, open air theaters that could seat as few as 7,000. Various plays were performed in the theaters. Events happened at all times throughout the day, although the poor normally went to sleep at nightfall because they could not afford to keep oil lamps burning.
The Colosseum was home to various gladiatorial battles, fights between men and wild animals, executions of Christians by lions, and was occasionally flooded for a naval battle. The Romans loved blood, and to see others beat each other to death or be eaten by a savage beast was quite enjoyable. The Colosseum could seat as many as 45,000 spectators and, as seen in the modern movie Gladiator, the crowd often decided the fate of the loser in a battle.
The Circus Maximus was another public entertainment center were chariot races were held. A great reproduction of the Circus Maximus is in the film Ben Hur. The Circus was specific to Rome, but it could hold 250,000 people. Today in Rome, a road runs down one length of the track, while the other is still visible.
The Campus was an old soldier drill ground in the city that was converted into a track and field playground. The Campus was a large section of plain near the Tiber River. Young men all over Rome gathered at the Campus to partake in such sports as foot racing, jumping, archery, wrestling, and boxing. Often, the men would take a dip in the Tiber River after exercising, or retire to the baths to relax and clean up.
Men all over Rome enjoyed riding, fencing, wrestling, throwing, and swimming. In the country, men went hunting and fishing, and played ball while at home. There were several games of throwing and catching, one popular one entailed throwing a ball as high as one could and catching it before it hit the ground. Women were never involved in these games.
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