Are You Not Entertained? A Take On Professional Sports, Philosophy and Wargames In Ancient Rome

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Bloody gladiator sports at the Colosseum ( Gasi/ Adobe Stock)

Are You Not Entertained? A Take On Professional Sports, Philosophy and Wargames In Ancient Rome

The poet Juvenal berated the Roman people for allowing themselves to be seduced by slimy politicians who bought their votes with free wheat and expensive circus games: “Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” The heavyweight champion of vote-buying was Julius Caesar, who borrowed a fortune to ensure he was elected to the consulship. In later years, elaborate public games were organized to distract citizens from their shrinking rights after the fall of the Republic. Whatever the reason, these public games were where the big idea of professional sport came to the fore.

Professional sport needs a crowd. And crowds need to be accommodated. Enter the Roman circuses. These circuses were not big-top tents full of clowns and carnies. They were large open-air stadia used for what passed for sporting events in Ancient Rome. The best known of these venues were the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus, which were the main venues for large public events, especially chariot racing and gladiatorial games. 

The Forum was a hive of activity on game day. (Massimo Todaro/ Adobe Stock) 

The Forum was a hive of activity on game day. (Massimo Todaro/ Adobe Stock)


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