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What comparisons and contrasts can be made between the entertainment in classical Pompeii and nowadays? Which would you have preferred? From what we know of classical Pompeii, we are given a good idea of their interests and their entertainment. They had theatres which held large amounts of people such as the Circus Maximus. This had the capacity to hold more people than many of the football stadiums we have today. I think this is extremely impressive as they would not have had the machines to build them that we have today. The Romans would have used an incredible amount of manpower.
The Amphitheatre was basically a large hole in the ground, but it could seat 20000 people, almost the whole population of Pompeii, as well as the gladiators and exotic animals. The Amphitheatre was, and still is, surrounded by a parapet more than two meters high, originally painted with scenes of hunting’s, gladiatorial matches and animal fights. I believe this was a way of marketing what was on offer within the Amphitheatre. Just as today, we market our films and theatre productions using bill boards, television and radio as an advertising medium.
The spectacles that they would have watched would have been Gladiatorial fights, Plays and speech recitals. These were all pretty ‘usual’ things to watch, apart from the fights according to today’s society. This is because it contained bloodshed which was extremely appealing to the Roman Empire. Yet this would be appalling in today’s society. I believe this is why we have replaced it with spectacles such as sport, film and opera. Although in places such as Spain there are regular bull fights, where there is much bloodshed from the animals.
I know Animal Rights Activists find bull fighting appalling and are therefore working towards a ban on this sport. The entertainment shown in the theatres was not as violent as the entertainment shown in the Amphitheatre. The entertainment in the theatres was amusing and had famous actors, although no respectable Roman would become an actor, as they would be more interested and concerned with politics. It would seem that in today’s society it is quite respectable to be a well known actor. These actors performed in many plays portraying poetic drama created by poets and scholars in Pompeii at that time.
Comedies and mimes were the main entertainment in the theatre. The mimes included clowning, dancing, juggling and athletic exhibitions. Often, the plays and entertainment would end with nude women on the stage. The people of Pompeii and all the other cities were obsessed with sex. The theatres were very similar to those of today as both performed theatrical plays. These are the same categories which we have in today’s plays. The theatres in the Pompeian society were bigger than the theatres we have today. The theatre of Pompeii had the capacity of a very large audience with suggested figures of approximately 5-10,000 people.
Their theatres had smaller theatres next to them. These were called Odeon. The theatre was publicly owned and both the large and smaller theatres charged no entrance fee. Another form of entertainment for the Romans was the shops, bars and restaurants. The shops lined many of the main Roman streets, fronting houses or high rise residential blocks. They usually consisted of one ground floor room, with a masonry or wooden counter for selling goods near the entrance, and the rear space was for storage. The shopkeeper usually lived in the accommodation above the shop.
A great variety of goods were sold in the shops, ranging from food stuffs to clothing, fabric, pans jewellery and books. Compared to today I do know that within most of our smaller towns and villages we have shops similar to those of Roman times. Our shops sell similar goods and often the shopkeepers live in a flat above the shop. The Romans used to enjoy socialising and one of the ways they could do this was to frequent many bars on the streets. They would stop for a quick drink, or more leisurely refreshment. Bars varied in size from tiny rooms opening directly onto the street, to larger places with seating.
I believe the bars of today are very similar with many trendy wine bars in larger towns. Weather permitting we can also sit outside on the street at tables and chairs owned by the bar. One of Pompeii’s forms of entertainment was the Baths. For all classes of Romans this was the main meeting place. At the Baths they would clean themselves, socialise and discuss business. There were three different bath houses in Pompeii; The Forum Baths, the Central Baths and the Stabian Baths. I think that the closest we have today to Roman Baths are our swimming pool complexes that contain eating and drinking facilities.
The Forum Baths would have been quite elaborate and don’t think that we would not be able to afford this kind of luxury on a day to day basis. The baths were all free to enter which was good for personal hygiene, as all classes could visit them. I prefer the entertainment that we have on offer today. The current day entertainment uses modern technology, and is therefore far more superior to the Romans’. Although, we do still use bars, theatres and restaurants, as the Romans did. I think that we have managed to create other forms of entertainment as alternatives. The Romans did not have the varied choice that we have today.