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Leisure Activities

Leisure

Everyone tried, as far as their means would allow, to make time for leisure activities. Possibly as much as 10 percent of the towns were given over to sports and entertainment facilities - exercise grounds, theatres and public baths. In addition the towns had a number of taverns and inns.

Taverns and Inns

Taverns (caupona) offered simple meals of cheese, bread, sausages and wine - either cold or mulled - which made agreeable accompaniments to games of dice or board games similar to draughts.
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.Public Baths
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Those that could, spent most afternoons at the public baths. Unlike the fevourish activity in modern health clubs, Roman baths promoted a more relaxed approach.
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Beginning around noon, patrons would enter the baths to bathe, swim, or simply relax.
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After undressing in the apodyterium, patrons would proceed though a series of increasingly hotter rooms, from the warm tepidarium through to the hot caldarium, with perhaps a visit to a laconicum (sauna), if present.

In the baths, slaves served as masseurs, rubbing patrons with olive oil after they had visited the caldarium, then scraping the oil and accumulated dirt back off with a strigil (a curved tool of bone or metal).

In the age before soap, this was the best way to wash. After this, a final dip in the frigidarium sealed the pores and envigorated the body.

Palaestra

More serious athletes may have gone to the Palaestra. This was an open area, generally with a central pool, surrounded by colonnades with adjoining rooms. Here, athletes of various shapes and sizes could practice their choice of sport - running, jumping, wrestling, boxing, javelin, and so on. Certain types of sport had a more military flavour; running in full armour, for example.


Theatre and Amphitheatre

The citizens must have enjoyed watching plays and other entertainments. Plays were either pure comedy or pure tragedy or a mix of both. The tragic plays of Seneca were popular, but even more so were the comedies of manners based on works by Menander.
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Another popular genre were farces that caricatured all kinds of familiar professions from painters to fortune-tellers.
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Besides plays, there were performances marking the town's many religious festivals, concerts, readings and orations.

For the action seekers, a trip to Pompeii provided the Amphitheatre, a place of institutionalised violence, where fighting was not unknown to spill over into the stands.
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The games were organised by the wealthy residents and involved not only gladiatorial combat but also fights between men and lions and wild and domesticated animals. As many as forty pairs of gladiators fought over a period of four days. The gladiators tended to be professionals taught in combat schools. Contrary to popular belief these fights were not always to the death, the magistrates often choosing to spare the best gladiators.

In AD 59 a riot took place that caused the Senate to vote to close the Amphitheatre for 10 years. This measure was revoked three years later after the earthquake of 62AD.




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