Roman Entertainment Facts

The Romans, particularly the rich, enjoyed lots of leisure time, and they spent this time in a variety of different ways.

Here are some facts about some of the forms of Roman entertainment.

Roman Baths

  • Most Romans visited the public bath house on a daily basis. Bath houses were set up like the spas or health clubs of today, and a trip to the bath house was a social occasion.
  • At the bath house Romans could exercise, get clean, meet friends, walk in the gardens and borrow books from the bath house library.
  • Follow this link to learn more facts about Roman baths.

Chariot Racing at the Stadium

  • Chariot races took place in the stadium (sometimes known as the circus). The stadium had a central platform (called the spina), and the crowd watched the chariots race around it.
  • There were eight chariot circuses in Rome. There’s also the remains of one in Colchester, England.
  • The chariots were incredibly light and travelled really quickly. Chariot racing was a dangerous sport and many injuries occurred to both the charioteers and the horses.
  • The chariots were usually driven by slaves, and were pulled by between two and four horses.

The Roman Theatre

  • The Romans loved theatre and they enjoyed watching four different types of performance: comedies, farces, tragedies and pantomimes.
  • The plays were performed in a theatre with a stage, and area for the orchestra and the auditorium (a semi-circular area where the audience sat).
  • Only men acted in Roman times and and they often played more then one role per play.
  • Simple costumes were worn to allow the audience to distinguish between different characters.

Gladiators and the Amphitheatre

  • The Roman amphitheatre was probably the key form of entertainment for the citizens of the Roman Empire.
  • Rich and poor would pile into the amphitheatres of the Empire to watch gladiators fight each other, or to watch slaves fight wild beasts, or to watch recreations of famous battles, or to watch wild beasts fight each other. The Romans were very inventive and they came up with lots of different ways in which the crowd could get their fix of combat and bloodshed.
  • To learn more about Roman gladiators, follow the link.

Roman Feasts and Dinner Parties

  • Rich Romans enjoyed entertaining at home. They took their time over their evening meal and ate a wide variety of different foods and dishes.
  • The Romans didn’t sit at chairs around a dining table as we do today. Instead, the food was placed on a low tables and the Romans sprawled on couches and most dishes with their hands.
  • Rich Romans relied on slaves to wash their hands between course and before and after the meal, and to prepare and serve the food.

Find out more facts about the Romans by visiting our resources page.

Roman Food Facts: What Did the Romans Eat?

The Romans ate a varied diet consisting of vegetables, meat and fish. The poorest Romans ate quite simple meals, but the rich were used to eating a wide range of dishes using produce from all over the Roman Empire.

Romans typically ate three meals a day – breakfast (ientaculum), lunch (prandium) and dinner (cena). Cena was the main meal.

The Romans did not sit down at a tables to eat their meals. They spread out on couches around a low, square table. They basically ate lying down! They also ate most of their meals with their fingers (although they did use spoons for some of the dishes, such as soup, and have knives to cut their food into bite-size pieces).

Fruit and Vegetables

A range of different fruits and vegetables were eaten by the Romans. They would have had: carrots, radishes, beans, dates, turnips, pears, plums, pomegranates, almonds, olives, figs, celery, apples, cabbages, pumpkins, grapes, mushrooms and many more. Some of these fruits and vegetables had never been seen in Britain before the Romans invaded.

Meat

The Romans kept animals for their meat. The rich ate beef, pork, wild boar, venison, hare, guinea fowl, pheasant, chicken, geese, peacock, duck, and even dormice (served with honey). The poorer Romans didn’t eat as much meat as the rich, but it still featured in their diet.

Fish

Lots of seafood was consumed by the Romans. They particularly enjoyed shellfish and fish sauce known as liquamen.

Bread and Porridge

Bread was a staple part of the Roman diet. Three grades of bread were made, and only rich ate refined white bread.

Pottage, a thick porridge-like stew, was made from millet or wheat. To this the Romans would add cooked meats, sauces and spices.

Roman food
The types of food eaten by poorer Romans (Credit)

The Romans liked cheese (which was mainly made from goat’s milk) and eggs (from a variety of different birds).

Romans didn’t know about sugar, so honey was used as a sweetener. Rich Romans also used salt, pepper and a range of spices to add flavour to their meals.

Roman Banquets – What did rich Romans eat?

Check out this video clip – it gives a really good sense of some of the foods that were available to rich Romans and how they would go about eating them.

What did the Romans drink?

Wine was the main drink of the Roman Empire. It was always watered down and never drunk ‘straight’. In addition to drinking wine, the Romans also drank wine mixed with other ingredients. Calda was drunk in the winter and was made from wine, water and spices. Mulsum was a honey and wine mixture.

The Romans didn’t drink beer and rarely drank milk.

Find out more facts about the Romans by visiting our Romans resouces page.