The Roman Empire was well-known for its ambitious sense of power, its iconic art and all the new technology they developed, but also they are remember for their numerous forms of entertainment that still prevail these days. Whether wealthy or poor, they all enjoyed their free time with moment of leisure.
The famous phrase “give them bread and circuses” comes from the ancient Rome “panem et circenses” and perfectly capture the attitude of the time.
These spectacles were offered to the people to gain their trust and make them submissive. But mainly to keep them alienated from any political aspect that could create any sort of agitation.
The Colosseum held the main activities regarding Roman leisure (otium), shows and roman games that took place during the old times of Rome.
Table of contents
- Matinee shows starring animals
- Noxii, prisoners against animals
- Naumachia: Naval battles at the Colosseum
- Munera: Gladiators fight
- Last gladiators’ fights
Matinee shows starring animals
Usually the spectacle would start with an exhibition of exotic animals from all over the empire dominion. These beasts were usually completely unknown by the audience. Some of them were tamed and could perform choreographies and even acrobatics.
Wild animal fights were known as “Venatio”, usually between very different animals such as crocodiles and hippos.
Organising these kinds of show was very demanded, so it became a harsh competition between people that wanted to gain prestigious consideration. This make it very hard to find new exotic animals, and its price increased significantly.
Noxii, prisoners against animals
The gladiators Noxii were not, in fact, true gladiators. These fighters used to be criminals or war prisoners, who offered little opportunity to become a skilled gladiator. Usually the fights and executions would take place during mid-day, between the venation (animals hunts) in the morning and the gladiator’s shows in the afternoon.
Naumachia: Naval battles at the Colosseum
In the year 80 A.D, the emperor Titus celebrated the first naval battle for the inauguration of the Colosseum: The Naumachia. The show was meant to re-enact famous naval battles inside the Flavian amphitheatre.
They had a system to collect the water and bring it inside the building through canals in order to create a huge pool flooding the colosseum. This way the ships and the army could access the structure.
Munera: Gladiators fight
No doubt these were the main event of the Colosseum games, usually organised for the afternoon. These fights were announced by a trumpet and started with a parade along the arena conducted by the person in charge of the games.
Most gladiators were slaves, although there were some free men too.
The gladiator that managed to win the battle and survived usually achieved its liberty and were awarded with victory palms and money. On the other hand, those who died during the battled would be carried away through the gate of Libitina (Roman goddess of death).
Last gladiators’ fights
These fights were eventually abolished by the emperor Theodosius who converted to Christianity. The very last fight took place at the Colosseum in 404.
Theodosius stated that the persecutions towards the Christians would be over, and so any reminding of paganism.
We really hope you will enjoy your tour of the Colosseum during your trip to Rome.
If you want to know more facts about the Colosseum do not miss this new article.