6.6 - Bread And Circuses (chariot racing and gladiators)

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Information about 6.6 - Bread And Circuses (chariot racing and gladiators)

Published on October 23, 2007

Author: dewert

Source: slideshare.net

Description

The Romans had their own brand of fun, which largely consisted of chariot racing and gladiatorial combat. This goes over that as well as examining their venues: the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum.

Bread and Circuses in the Roman Empire (chariot races and gladiators)

The Romans had fun. The two biggest sources for popular entertainment were the chariot races and the arena.

The Romans had fun.

The two biggest sources for popular entertainment were the chariot races and the arena.

Chariot racing The NASCAR of the ancient world, complete with financial backers and sought-after drivers. In Rome, it took place at the Circus Maximus. It was a huge stadium that was nearly 2,000 feet long and 400 feet wide and could seat between 250,000 and 300,000 people. The total seating capacity of Reliant Stadium is about 70,000. Only the Indianapolis Motor Speedway comes close with seating for about 250,000. The rest don’t get much more than 170,000.

Chariot racing

The NASCAR of the ancient world, complete with financial backers and sought-after drivers.

In Rome, it took place at the Circus Maximus.

It was a huge stadium that was nearly 2,000 feet long and 400 feet wide and could seat between 250,000 and 300,000 people.

The total seating capacity of Reliant Stadium is about 70,000.

Only the Indianapolis Motor Speedway comes close with seating for about 250,000. The rest don’t get much more than 170,000.

 

 

 

The chariots were open-back and were typically pulled by four-horse teams (though they had some two-horse races too).

The chariots were open-back and were typically pulled by four-horse teams (though they had some two-horse races too).

The chariots would start at the gates and a mechanism would spring the doors open at the same time.

The chariots would start at the gates and a mechanism would spring the doors open at the same time.

The barrier that ran down the middle was more than just a separator. It had decorations and trophies from parts of the empire as well as statues and working fountains. In the center was featured an obelisk that Augustus brought back from Egypt. It was purposely cluttered so that it blocked the spectators’ view when racers were on the other side, thus increasing the suspense.

The barrier that ran down the middle was more than just a separator.

It had decorations and trophies from parts of the empire as well as statues and working fountains.

In the center was featured an obelisk that Augustus brought back from Egypt.

It was purposely cluttered so that it blocked the spectators’ view when racers were on the other side, thus increasing the suspense.

At each end of the barrier were turning posts around which the racers had to make an insanely tight turn. At one end, the posts had seven eggs on top and at the other, seven dolphins. One of each were removed after each lap, keeping the crowd updated on how many laps were left. Anywhere from 4 to 12 teams would race at a time and a race could be between 3 to 4 miles.

At each end of the barrier were turning posts around which the racers had to make an insanely tight turn.

At one end, the posts had seven eggs on top and at the other, seven dolphins. One of each were removed after each lap, keeping the crowd updated on how many laps were left.

Anywhere from 4 to 12 teams would race at a time and a race could be between 3 to 4 miles.

The racing was ridiculously dangerous. Ramming other chariots was technically a foul, but still common and expected. So was checking a chariot into the middle barrier. The sharp turns were a recipe for disaster with speeding chariots. The drivers also wrapped the reins around their wrists in such a way that they couldn’t get themselves loose without a special knife they carried. This is a problem if you get thrown from the chariot. Most drivers were slaves, but could sometimes buy their freedom. They typically didn’t last long, though, and it was common to die racing in the early 20’s.

The racing was ridiculously dangerous.

Ramming other chariots was technically a foul, but still common and expected. So was checking a chariot into the middle barrier.

The sharp turns were a recipe for disaster with speeding chariots.

The drivers also wrapped the reins around their wrists in such a way that they couldn’t get themselves loose without a special knife they carried. This is a problem if you get thrown from the chariot.

Most drivers were slaves, but could sometimes buy their freedom. They typically didn’t last long, though, and it was common to die racing in the early 20’s.

One sports star exception to this was Diocles who raced for 24 years, won 1,462 of 4,257 races, and made 36 million sesterces in earnings.

One sports star exception to this was Diocles who raced for 24 years, won 1,462 of 4,257 races, and made 36 million sesterces in earnings.

Factions There were four main racing factions, denoted by color, and people fervently supported one of them: Red, White, Blue, and Green.

Factions

There were four main racing factions, denoted by color, and people fervently supported one of them: Red, White, Blue, and Green.

People supported a faction just like you would a modern team, wearing the colors at the races, going to clubhouses, etc. Pliny the Younger complained: I am the more astonished that so many thousands of grown men should be possessed again and again with a childish passion to look at galloping horses, and men standing upright in their chariots. If, indeed, they were attracted by the swiftness of the horses or the skill of the men, one could account for this enthusiasm. But in fact it is a bit of cloth they favour, a bit of cloth that captivates them. And if during the running the racers were to exchange colours, their partisans would change sides, and instantly forsake the very drivers and horses whom they were just before recognizing from afar, and clamorously saluting by name. Any modern parallels?

People supported a faction just like you would a modern team, wearing the colors at the races, going to clubhouses, etc.

Pliny the Younger complained:

I am the more astonished that so many thousands of grown men should be possessed again and again with a childish passion to look at galloping horses, and men standing upright in their chariots. If, indeed, they were attracted by the swiftness of the horses or the skill of the men, one could account for this enthusiasm. But in fact it is a bit of cloth they favour, a bit of cloth that captivates them. And if during the running the racers were to exchange colours, their partisans would change sides, and instantly forsake the very drivers and horses whom they were just before recognizing from afar, and clamorously saluting by name.

Any modern parallels?

Admission was generally free. The good seats were reserved for those who could pay for them. They even had box seats. Betting on the races was, of course, quite common.

Admission was generally free. The good seats were reserved for those who could pay for them. They even had box seats.

Betting on the races was, of course, quite common.

 

The other big spectacle was the gladiatorial games.

Most gladiators were prisoners of war, condemned criminals, or slaves. Some private citizens, though, volunteered for the games. Others sold themselves into a kind of servitude for the opportunity to play in the games. Though the social status of gladiators was very low, they could gain a very popular following… it’s sports, after all. Gladiators would be displayed in the forum before the game and there would be posters talking about the gladiator’s history and abilities. Gladiators could even gain a following of women who found them, ahem, desirable. One bit of Pompeii graffiti says this of a gladiator: “Crescens the nocturnal netter of young girls.”

Most gladiators were prisoners of war, condemned criminals, or slaves. Some private citizens, though, volunteered for the games. Others sold themselves into a kind of servitude for the opportunity to play in the games.

Though the social status of gladiators was very low, they could gain a very popular following… it’s sports, after all.

Gladiators would be displayed in the forum before the game and there would be posters talking about the gladiator’s history and abilities.

Gladiators could even gain a following of women who found them, ahem, desirable.

One bit of Pompeii graffiti says this of a gladiator: “Crescens the nocturnal netter of young girls.”

A gladiator could win his freedom after three to five years of fighting, but many didn’t last that long. This was in spite of the fact that a gladiator fought only two or three times a year and they were trained to inflict non-fatal wounds (remember, these were expensive slaves the owners didn’t really want killed).

A gladiator could win his freedom after three to five years of fighting, but many didn’t last that long.

This was in spite of the fact that a gladiator fought only two or three times a year and they were trained to inflict non-fatal wounds (remember, these were expensive slaves the owners didn’t really want killed).

There were different types of gladiators. The secutor.

There were different types of gladiators.

The secutor.

Oblong shield, curved helmet, right arm and left leg covering, and wielded a sword.

He was usually paired against a Retarius. Left arm covering, a net, and a trident. Lightly armed and armored, but much more agile.

He was usually paired against a Retarius.

Left arm covering, a net, and a trident.

Lightly armed and armored, but much more agile.

 

Samnites

Thracians

Murmillio

There were also those who specialized in fighting wild animals.

There were also those who specialized in fighting wild animals.

Gladiators could be killed, but at least early on, there weren’t too many designated fights to the death. These increase later in the empire as the bloodlust increases. A defeated gladiator would point his index finger up as a sign of submission.

Gladiators could be killed, but at least early on, there weren’t too many designated fights to the death.

These increase later in the empire as the bloodlust increases.

A defeated gladiator would point his index finger up as a sign of submission.

The crowd could crow whether the defeated would live or die, usually based on how well the gladiator fought, though it was up to giver of the games. Decision would be indicated by the thumb, but it’s unclear whether up or down meant death. The loser would grasp the thigh of the victor and then the winner would plunge his sword into the loser’s neck. Somebody dressed as Pluto would trot out and smack the body with a mallet. Then somebody dressed as Mercury would stick a red hot iron into the body to make sure he was dead. Indications a winner would fake killing and the loser would be dragged backstage and humanely dispatched with a sledgehammer to the forehead.

The crowd could crow whether the defeated would live or die, usually based on how well the gladiator fought, though it was up to giver of the games.

Decision would be indicated by the thumb, but it’s unclear whether up or down meant death.

The loser would grasp the thigh of the victor and then the winner would plunge his sword into the loser’s neck.

Somebody dressed as Pluto would trot out and smack the body with a mallet. Then somebody dressed as Mercury would stick a red hot iron into the body to make sure he was dead.

Indications a winner would fake killing and the loser would be dragged backstage and humanely dispatched with a sledgehammer to the forehead.

There was an important code of honor among the gladiators. When you became a gladiator, you entered a whole new society. There were actually four gladiatorial schools in Rome.

There was an important code of honor among the gladiators. When you became a gladiator, you entered a whole new society.

There were actually four gladiatorial schools in Rome.

The games were fought in the Flavian Amphitheatre, aka The Colosseum (this was dubbed later due to a collosal statue of Nero outside of it).

The Colosseum was a state of the art stadium, complete with numbered entrances, toilets, food and trinket vendors, underground-behind-the-scenes corridors, and even a retractable roof.

The Colosseum was a state of the art stadium, complete with numbered entrances, toilets, food and trinket vendors, underground-behind-the-scenes corridors, and even a retractable roof.

 

 

 

The awnings used such a complicated pulley system that they were operate by Roman sailors.

 

 

It sat around 50,000 people and the system was so efficient that the entire building could be vacated in minutes. Try pulling off that at Reliant.

It sat around 50,000 people and the system was so efficient that the entire building could be vacated in minutes. Try pulling off that at Reliant.

The corridors that ran beneath the arena floor and were used for temporarily housing men and animals for the games. It came complete with elevators to the top for theatrical entrances.

 

After the empire fell, the building was put to various uses, such as a church and a castle. It suffered mightily by the hands of nature and men. An fire and earthquake did damage. People also used it as a ready-made quarry taking away the stone to use in other building, taking the marble and burning it for quicklime, and even chipping out the bronze brackets that held the stonework together. The ruins are what we see today.

After the empire fell, the building was put to various uses, such as a church and a castle.

It suffered mightily by the hands of nature and men.

An fire and earthquake did damage.

People also used it as a ready-made quarry taking away the stone to use in other building, taking the marble and burning it for quicklime, and even chipping out the bronze brackets that held the stonework together.

The ruins are what we see today.

 

Bread and circuses By sponsoring the chariot races and the games, emperors could distract the citizenry from problems in the empire. It also kept the numerous unemployed citizens in the city occupied and placated, which kept them from uprising. They also got a daily bread allowance so they were entertained and fed.

Bread and circuses

By sponsoring the chariot races and the games, emperors could distract the citizenry from problems in the empire.

It also kept the numerous unemployed citizens in the city occupied and placated, which kept them from uprising.

They also got a daily bread allowance so they were entertained and fed.

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