A Day in Old Rome: A Picture of Roman Life

By William Stearns Davis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE PUBLIC GAMES: THE THEATER, THE CIRCUS, AND THE AMPHITHEATER

317. Roman Festivals: Their Great Number . -- One thing only, besides a long session of the Senate, ordinarily will keep men of the class of Publius Calvus away from the great thermæ -- the celebration of one of the greater Public Games.

The Ludi Publici, around which so large a part of Roman life revolves, like the Pan-Hellenic games and similar Greek festivals, always have religious origin; they are in honor of some god or group of deities. But the secular has long intruded into their routine. Nobody worries greatly about the fact that the Ludi Apollinares are for the glory of Apollo, save perhaps as one adds an extra fervent invocation of the Delphian god during the placing of wagers. The time consumed by the Public Games represents a period of recreation and festival, which other ages will find in Sundays and Saints' Days.

Altogether there are some 76 days per year normally set aside for these great Ludi Sollemnes, including such prolonged periods as those of the Ludi Romani or Magni which extend from September 4th to 18th, on a stretch, with several others for six days and more. When to these periods are added various extra or very special holidays, during which the ordinary life of the city is broken up, the courts are closed, and only the most necessary labors of commerce and industry are conducted, it is plain that the plebeians and even the slaves get pretty ample respite in their year of toil. Without

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