Whenever ancient Roman life is being discussed, topics usually just revolve around their works and businesses back in those years. But did you know that just like in the present time, the youth of ancient Rome had also played sports?
Ancient Romans had played a variety of indoor and outdoor sports and the wealthy Romans even had large playing fields and structures in their villas which were called gymnasia and palestrae. Their sports were often played in these places because it was considered as a status symbol for the rich.
During the reign of Emperor Nero from 37 AD to 68 AD, a large-scale state patronage of sports began. It was also during this time when the first public gymnasium was built and was followed by giant amphitheaters. As time passed, violent sports, as well as large amphitheaters became one of the Roman power symbols. To learn more, here are some of the ancient Roman sports.
Chariot racing is one of the most popular among the ancient Roman sports. This sport was also played in Greece which was probably the inspiration for Roman chariot racing. Back in those times, chariot racing was one of the central events of Olympics, as well as other Pan-Hellenic Games. It involved teams which are financially supported by different groups.
The Romans had an intense interest in this game. In fact, it resulted in conflicts between the fans of different teams and even caused political clashes. Because of these, the Roman and Byzantine emperors appointed officials to ensure peaceful games.
In ancient Rome, boxing was called Pugilatus. It was one of the most popular sports back in those times. The rules of their boxing were different from the modern day boxing because the players could strike any part of the body including the back and genitals. This sport was also a wild display of endurance and physical strength.
Also, there was no time limit under the boxing rules. Once one of the players get exhausted or gave up, the game would end. The gloves used in this sport were made of leader with stiff rings of leather wrapped around the fingers, and they were called Imantes Oxeis.
Roman Ball Game
There was a ball game played by the ancient Romans which was called Harpastum. It involved a small ball that was equal to the size of a softball. It was a Romanized version of the previously existing Greek game called phaininda. The exact rules of this game was unknown but it required a lot of agility and physical effort. Some of the photos of people playing this game was found in ancient Roman paintings.
This was one of the bloodiest of all Roman sports. Gladiator fights involved armed combatants who fight with other gladiators or sometimes with wild animals as well. Most of the gladiators who fight in this game were slaves who were sustained under harsh conditions and remained isolated throughout their lives, even after their death.
The Romans loved the bloody fights of the gladiators because they personified the martial ethics of ancient Rome. The origin of the game was believed to be from some time during the 3rd century BC.
You might have noticed that the sports in ancient Rome were bloody and violent, but not all of them. There were also peaceful sports that were enjoyed by the children and one of those was hoop rolling. It was taken by the Romans from the Greeks. Aside from the hoop, it also involved a stick which was known as clavis or radius. It was usually made of metal and has a wooden handle. It was popularly played in Campus Martius. Sarmatian boys also played this sport on the frozen Danube River.
Ancient Romans also played indoor games and one of those was chess. Roman chess was called Ludus lantrunculorum. It was not exactly similar to how we play chess in the present time but it resembled it. It was also considered a game of military tactics.
Aside from chess, other indoor sports played in ancient Rome were dice known as tesserae, knuckle bones known as tali, and Roman checkers known as Calculi.
Through these ancient sports, we can say that ancient Romans have indeed put a lot of emphasis on physical fitness as well as agility. These sports, especially those which includes bloody fights, could certainly represent Roman power.