Public Entertainments

Kathleen M. Coleman

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Relations in the Roman World

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780195188004
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Public Entertainments

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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Roman History
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology


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This article focuses on the public entertainments in Rome, including the games and gladiatorial displays. It notes that the key issues in determining the social relations in places of public entertainment in the Roman world were hierarchy, freedom of expression, and visibility. It describes the different entertainment facilities and notes the various symbols of the social order within these structures, including the missilia, or the hierarchical distribution of tokens of the sponsor's generosity. Public entertainment was also used as a primary tool for establishing a pecking order within the community, and that the entertainment facilities were used as venues to express the thoughts of the masses. The article also examines the social distance between the spectators and the protagonists in the arena, and the role public entertainment had in diplomatic relations.

Keywords: public entertainment; entertainment facilities; social order; missilia; hierarchical distribution; pecking order; social distance; diplomatic relations

Article.  11128 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Roman History ; Greek and Roman Archaeology

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