Ancient Roman Games, Sports and Spectacles

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Kelly Macquire
published on 07 June 2022

The people of ancient Rome loved spectacles and, lucky for them, they could often be entertained by lavish public shows. The emperors of Rome knew of their people's love of spectacle so a way that they could garner popularity and prestige during their reign was to put on great shows in their purpose-built arenas and venues. These venues would host any number of events from chariot races and gladiator fights to processions, executions, and even mock naval battles. I guess their love of sports and spectacles makes it less surprising that some of the best-preserved architecture from ancient Rome are the buildings that were constructed for entertainment purposes.

Rome’s enormous Circus Maximus was the place to be if you wanted to catch the most prestigious chariot races that the empire put on, but by the third century CE you could see these spectacular events in other major cities like Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch, and as the empire continued, the chariot races just got even more popular. Then there were the gladiatorial events which were always popular. The display of courage, bloody spectacle, and the potential for the underdog to rise to victory were all parts of what made gladiator fights so appealing to the Roman audience.

Join our expert tour guide Dr Rita Roussos on a 9 day trip from Athens, to Thebes, Olympia, Delphi and Mycenae (just to name a few highlights). We hope to see you there!



0:00​ Introduction
0:55 Spectacle in Ancient Rome
3:32 Chariot Races
5:32 Gladiators
8:32 Triumphs, Mock Naval Battles and Executions
10:43 Roman Theatre
11:58 Outro

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You can find all attribution and credits for images, animations, graphics and music here -

The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

Carole Raddato
CC BY SA 2.0 -
Carole Raddato
CC BY SA 2.0 -

World History Encyclopedia

#romangames #romansports #ancientrome #gladiators

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2022, June 07). Ancient Roman Games, Sports and Spectacles. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Ancient Roman Games, Sports and Spectacles." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified June 07, 2022.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Ancient Roman Games, Sports and Spectacles." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 07 Jun 2022. Web. 17 Jul 2024.