Ancient Roman sports were quite unlike those of ancient Greece where the cult of the body and individualism brought them to develop a number of athletics sports such as we still practice today.
Ancient Roman sports were quite unlike those of ancient Greece where the cult of the body and individualism brought them to develop a number of athletics sports such as we still practice today. The ancient Romans were rather more pragmatic and the limited number of sports they practiced were in fact generally practiced by slaves or liberti althought there were periods where even the nobility might have a go at being a gladiator as the rewards were high.
Ancient Roman Sports
Some of the major sports in ancient Rome included:
- Gladiatorial combat
- Combat against beasts (venationes)
- Hand to hand combat (Graeco-Roman wrestling)
- Naval battles called Naumachiae
- Chariot Racing: Even the horses themselves could attract quite a following.
- Hunting (and Fishing)
- There are mosaics and fresco paintings of people playing with a ball.
- They certainly swam (the Roman public baths were a great favourite)
The word “sport” in latin had individual translations and synonyms according to the type of activity involved such as “ludus” (game), “certamen” or “inis” (contest, race), “corpore exercitatio” for exercise or “delectamentum” for diversion. Someone who practiced a variety of sports would “corpus variis certaminibus exercere“.
The sports of athletics including throwing javelins, discus, boxing and so on were obviously well known but cannot be said to have been major passions of the Roman people.
Read on about the social aspects of ancient Roman sports.