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Ancient Roman Sports: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Just like the people of today, people in ancient Rome liked to watch sports. This lesson will teach you about the athletes of ancient Rome, some of the most popular sports they played, and some other cool facts about them.

Sports in Ancient Rome

Whether it's soccer, football, basketball, baseball or some other sport, many people enjoy watching sports or actually playing them. But sports aren't new. In fact, people have been enjoying them for a long time. Even the ancient Romans, who lived over a thousand years ago, liked sports. The sports in ancient Rome were a little different than the ones we like to watch today, though, and so were the athletes.

Ancient Roman Athletes

Today, many athletes are famous, make a lot of money, and are on TV all the time. You might even have a favorite athlete that you like to watch. Some athletes in ancient Rome also became well-known, too. But most of the athletes in ancient Rome were also criminals who lost their rights, prisoners captured during wars, or slaves who didn't have a choice.

Free people and rich people liked watching the athletes compete but didn't ever play themselves. They thought it was disgraceful to compete in sports with criminals and slaves.

Gladiator Fights

Gladiators were male athletes who were trained to use weapons and fight other men and wild animals in an arena, or stadium, as a kind of entertainment. At one time, women could also be gladiators, but they were eventually forbidden to fight.

Gladiator fights started out as part of funerals for dead rulers. However, these fights grew into violent sports competitions that people watched for fun. And while most sports today have safety equipment and a lot of rules, gladiator fights only had one rule. The men had to fight in the hot, dusty arena until one of them couldn't fight anymore.

If the losing gladiator was still alive at the end of the fight and the emperor was pleased or the crowd thought he was a good fighter, they would cheer and save his life. If they thought he didn't fight very well, the losing gladiator was killed.

Gladiators fighting
Gladiators fighting

Gladiators also fought in 'wild beast hunts' and were put in the arena with wild animals like hungry bears, tigers, and lions. Some gladiators even became famous for winning in the arena, just like some athletes are famous today.

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