Besides the famous gladiators fighting in the Coliseum, and the fights with wild animals shown in many films, the Romans loved to race with their chariots. The Circo Massimo was a racecourse in which up to 250,000 people would cheer on the chariots.
Even the theatre had many fans. Usually, there were two shows: a drama and a comedy. Even though the Romans loved the Greek arts, the actors were considered lower class people. All of the Coliseum, racecourse and theatre shows were free. Expenses generally were paid by the emperor or by an important person with the aim to conquer the favor of the people.
In addition, contrary to popular belief, the gladiators did not fight against the animals but against other gladiators. The Venatori were the ones who carried out ferocious fights with the animals. Gladiators and other Venatori coming from the distant lands of the empire also fought each other. The gladiators and the Venatori were slaves and prisoners of war.
Under the reign of emperor Commodoro it was possible for anyone, even a citizen, to fight in order to demonstrate his own valor and courage. The defeated gladiator would look at the emperor who decided his fate according to the public's mood: thumbs up meant life, thumbs down death.

(Rita B.)

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