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Lecture #7 (Oct. 23) - Triumphs, Spectacles, and other Distractions

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Rob Mc Cutcheon

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Lecture #7 – Triumphs, Spectacles, and other Distractions Popular Entertainment in the Roman World  How did the Roman masses entertain themselves and what do such forms of entertainment say about their society?  Three reoccurring themes in Roman entertainment are: o The use of extreme violence to entertain the masses and its meaning o The crowd’s role as a performer (and not just spectator) o The role of the benefactor of the games and such largesse as a political tools  Focusing especially on the non-elite Romans, despite a tendency to look back with ‘more civilized eyes’  Entertainment was a form of mass media – would have been seen by a lot of people at the same time Ludi  Public games offered by the state are called ludi o In contrast, games put on by private individuals (usually gladiatorial contests) as called munera (meaning “gifts”)  Ludi held for the benefit/enjoyment of the Roman people were also part of a religious festival o Usually ended with theatre/chariot racing th o E.g. the Ludi Romani in honour of Jupiter Optimus Maximus  September 4 – 12 annually o Ludi were sometimes in fulfillment of a vow (promise to gods to hold a festival in their honour in exchange for victory, success, etc.)  Paid for by the spoils of war  Though originally religious, they became more and more prominent until becoming the main focus o Vestigial religious functions retained  Originally ludi were managed by priests, then by consuls, then by aediles, and finally by the emperors  Two types of ludi originally o Ludi circenses  chariot races o Ludi scaenici  theatrical performances  Holding a munera was a way for magistrates to increase cliental/political favour o But could consequently increase debt  During the Republic, 57 days out of the year were reserved for festival days o By the 4 century CE, it grew to 177 days  No public business could be held on festival days  Chariot races were originally held in the Campus Martius, later in the Circus Maximus o These races were popular across the entire ancient world (not just Rome) Circus  The Roman arena for chariot racing o The most famous example is the Circus Maximus in Rome between the Palatine and Aventine  Romans had sports “teeams” called factiones: the red, white, blue, and green teams o The origin and meaning of these teams are unclear o Support for the teams was probably based on geographical location or family ties (your family supports blue so you do as well)  Successful charioteers could become rich and famous o E.g. Gaius Appuleius Diocles  Switched to the green team after 6 years  Rode for 15 years  Won about 1500 out of 4000 races  Made an excess of 36 million over his lifetime  Besides racing, mock battles, animal hunts, and the execution of criminals occurred in the circus  The chariots would have been fast and offered very little protection for the charioteers o Would have commonly been pulled by 4 horses  12 teams would have raced at a time and made 7 laps around the track  The Circus Maximus dates back to the Tarquinian dynasty o Basically all games/shows were held here until the Colosseum was built o Was originally a ‘natural circus’ – built into a hillside which provided natural seating  Augustus expanded it and built it up entirely o Could hold up to 150,000 spectators o By the 5CE, there was specific seating for the wealthy o By 41 CE, there was a special area just for senators o Games would include: mock battles, beast hunts, and executions of criminals on top of the chariot races  It has been suggested that contrary to popular belief, there were no Christians martyred in the Colosseum, but in the Circus Maximus instead Juvenal, Satire 10.78-81  “For the people who were once bestowing military commands, civil offices, legions – everything! Now they restrain themselves and wish for only two things – bread and circuses!” o Romans would become more interested in games than in defending themselves o Idea of the moral decline of Rome  Only wanted bigger and more elaborate circuses  No longer as much focuses on politics Roman Theatre  This was a later addition to the ludi  Roman dramas as part of the ludi have two origins: 1) Atellanae fabulae  unscripted farces with stock chracters  Idea of modern ‘imrpov’ – characters include the old man, the glutton, the fool, etc. 2) Latin adaptions of Greek plays (both comedy and tragedy)  Aesculis, Menander, Aristophanes, etc.  Osmosis – general cultural exchange  There would have been a number of differences – loosely based on the idea  Romans imported theatre from Greece  The first known Roman playwright, Livius Androndicus, is a former Greek slave o He bought his freedom by writing plays  Young man obsessed with Meretrix which causes misunderstandings  Helpful slave, overbearing father, happy ending  Two other important genres of drama were mime and pantomime o Mime: ‘sitcom’ – improvised street plays  Later would have been rehearsed  Women would have participated as actors  No plays still exist – only references here and there  Very popular  Stock themes, but much more sexualized  god Flora – fertility god of Rome o Pantomine: modern ballet  Dancing  Re-enacted Greek scenes  No talking – dancers were accompanied by musicians (and later with singers as well)  Promoted/supported by Augustus – relatively non-existent before him  There were no permanent theatres in Rome until Pompey built his eponymous theatre in 55 BCE o Location where Caesar was killed o This is where meetings of the Senate were held after the Curia burnt down  Would have been performed by male actors wearing masks o Would have exaggerated movements to make up for a lack of facial expressions  Built temporary amphitheatres out of wood that would be dismantled and rebuilt often o Permanent amphitheatres would be frowned upon because it was considered ‘too Greek’ o Theatre as exemplum – try to avoid too much of Greek culture in Rome  Temples to Roman gods were built at the theatres to combat the Greek influence  Actors had infamia – decadent and feminine occupation Seating in a Roman Theatre  Over time, the seating in the Roman theatre became highly regimented by social standing  In 194 BCE, senators for the first time received the right to sit in certain privileged seats o Prior to this they had ‘unofficial’ preferential seating  In 67 BCE, a law that laid down that first fourteen rows of the theatre were reserved for member of the equestrian order  By the Lex Iulia theatralis under Augustus, the seating in theatres became even regularized and a reflection of even more social distinctions o Free vs. freedman, soldier vs. citizen, married vs. unmarried, male vs. female, etc. o Soldiers who won an award for saving other soldiers sat in front of equeatrians o Vestal virgins had a place of honour o Boys wearing the toga praetexta had a place of honour o Women sat as far from the Greek “corruption” as possible (women were the most susceptible to corruption)  Due to the lack of virtus (manliness)  The theatre as Rome’s “parliament” o Know your place based on where you sat – enacting your status  The audience acted as a “stage” – you would go to the show to be seen and show off your status, as well as to watch the games Gladiator Games  Gladiator shows were first staged at funerals (almost a human sacrifice) o Seems to be an Etruscan or Campanian tradition o The very first show in Rome is attributed to D. Iunius Brutus Pera and his brother in
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