The ancient time—a mysterious and attractive place that people of today know very little about. The many great civilizations of the past lead to the world that people currently live in. These cultures had beliefs, rituals and traditions that were very unique, guiding the public through their daily lives, being an inseparable part of it. Even though some things might seem wild, uncivilized and preposterous to a person observing in the present time, nonetheless they were an intricate part of the community and one could even speculate if the modern world is any less brutal or uncivilized compared to the past.
The Roman Empire was one of the biggest and most powerful ones of its time. The structure of the society was closely intertwined with the belief in Gods. It seems people of Roman culture did not doubt their existence at all, just like a person in the present would not doubt atomic power. An important part of Roman peoples were the games and preceding rituals. The procession that Romans had prior to the games was a celebration and could be much compared to the present day parades. The fact that this still exists today proves the importance of a public organized event, where the community comes together in a celebration of a common theme. The only difference is that the structure of Roman “parade” was very much guided by the divinity and respect for the Gods. In the modern times only the most religious people gather for such occasions but for Romans it was an inseparable part of life for everyone. The sacrifices of animals would hardly find any approval in the general public of today but were very much needed for the Romans. A major difference is seen in the games that were a ritual at someone’s funeral, which is evident from the paintings in the tombs. The games, the need for entertainment and a display of strength and agility, have dominated all human civilizations including the one of the present world. The context of the games has changed, though some sporting events evolved or even stayed the same. This shows how important and necessary the games are for the human kind. The gladiator fights can be compared to today’s boxing and Ultimate Fighter Championships. It expresses aggression and strength but the lethal outcome has been taken out, as the taking of someone else’s life is considered criminal in the modern world. Another close connection between games and gladiator fights and the society, was the demonstration of military skill. The games were extensively sponsored by the government and very often came at a detriment creating debts, due to the grandeur nature of the spectacle. The Coliseum is a great monument and a reminder how much the games meant to the Roman people. Only in the twentieth century people started building bigger stadiums but also at a very high cost and comparing to the Roman times, a building of such scale as the Coliseum would be hard to fit into any major city in the downtown area. The architecture was another Roman relic that left a reminder of this civilization. The buildings for games, politics and worship, built specifically for those purposes, were all built with great care, many of them symbolizing the power of Gods and human respect for them. The games and the architecture were some of the most important representations of Roman culture, still admired today.
As the Roman civilization was developing into an Empire, it has created a province, called Asia. Even though it might have caused some problems, nonetheless it was a step towards greatness. In that time the Roman government was mostly comprised of select few. The social rule was considered as being democratic but the elite and wealthy had the real power. For a modern person it would seem very unfair but the people of Rome had no real choice. This is how the “rulers” were able to offer benefits to the gaming industry and the individual “athletes”. An example of this would be when Mark Antony approved the request of his personal trainer and the “high priest of the Guild of the Sacred and Crowned Victors from around the World”. He confirmed already existing privileges and included several that were previously enjoyed only by the royals and the elite. Today such actions by a political leader would be frowned upon, as personal interest and favor to some passion is not an excuse to change the set rules, possibly harmful for the whole society. The unique treatment by the Roman rulers gave the sports men a very high status in the society. Comparing to the present society it is somewhat similar, as the star athletes receive great sums of money, enjoying the life that the majority of people on the planet cannot even dream of. Almost two thousand years in between the civilizations but both favor their athletes, as a much needed aspect of a culture and society. The privileges and treatment enjoyed by these men and women prove not only their high social status, but also an undeniable need for greatness, role models to look up to and feel passionate about. With the introduction of Greek influence a new “elite” group has emerged. The actors became another great attraction alongside the athletes, having their share in the goodness of political graces but incomparable in greatness. This can be observed in the action of Sulla—a Roman who was thought of as being “vicious and ruthless”. He has taken special pleasure in having actors by his side and so he introduced special privileges for them as well. He gave them permission to not participate in any military matters, as well as giving them the right to be excluded from paying taxes and other special societal contributions. It is speculated that Sulla was the person who introduced “preliminary grant of privileges to athletes.” As seen from the actions of people like Antony, Caesar and Sulla, it is safe to assume that games and entertainment were very much liked by Romans, including the elite, who greatly contributed and supported the development and continuation of games. Comparing to Italy, Roman finances of sports men and actors were nothing alike, setting Roman culture much further in the entertainment business. The state of affairs in the present time has not changed that much. In the Roman times it was a single person in rule who provided special attitude towards the athletes, where as today, it is the sponsors, large corporations that provide the finances for the games. There are very few of those who have sufficient finances to support a sporting event or an athlete. The intentions of such support and attention to the sports people stayed the same—entertainment and the financial benefits that come with the sponsoring of an individual or a team. It is clear that there have been a few changes in the process and administration of games and special events but human emotions and wants, stay the same over thousands of years, proving the need for games, power and money.
Another major part of the social make up of Roman Empire was public baths. There were numerous private baths but the grandeur and luxury of baths was defined specifically by those that were public. Bathing was a part of everyday life for Romans, as people who were bathed were respected and “looked more presentable”. Private hygiene was not the only or major reason there were baths. A public bath became a social setting, a place where it was “prestige” to spend time. All sorts of matters were discussed, from political, to business and private. The luxury of internal decorations was a necessary part of the bath. Comparing to today, saunas, pools and hot tubs can be seen as the reflection of Roman baths. Even though the majority of such places are not as luxurious as they were in the ancient times, it still is predominantly a social experience. Very often there are cafes and bars attached to the saunas and pools. It is obvious at any tropic resort how important are pools, places to enjoy the trickling of water and the ability to swim up to a refreshments bar. But the spectacular nature of such institutions has been lost to the ages, as people today are busy with their daily routines and are always in a hurry, to take a bath and go to work. This certainly was not the case in Roman culture where people took their time, enjoyed the settings and greatly respected the privileges of having a public bath. The Romans had stricter rules about bathing than the ones today. For example, many baths were gender separated. There would be separate entrances and even different times when males and females could come to the baths. Later it became not as strict, due to the influence of emperors who preferred female company. Another interesting fact is that emperors enjoyed coming to public baths, having their subjects beside them. Today, it is very much unheard of for a president of a country to come to a public bath. For Romans bathing became somewhat of a ritual and a necessary part of healthy life, alongside with exercise and diet. To make it even more special gaming and bathing were united into one activity. A physician Galen recommended a light exercise with a ball to be followed by a massage and a bath. The fact that baths were used purely for social and pleasurable times is seen by the absence of any large pools for exercise or deep ends for diving. Athletic swimming took place in the sea or rivers, reserving baths for a special and unique experience. Unfortunately Roman baths were often associated with lust and moral inadequacies. Bathing in the nude, prostitutes and private parties were all part of the bath culture. It was the luxury for the rich and those who had time; this is why today there are no baths that resemble Roman ones. It would be almost impossible to convert Roman baths to the present times, as people would find them extreme and unnecessary for the daily life.
The games, architecture and baths, were united into one social setting for the Romans, which defined and differentiated their culture. The ways of the Romans were not the same as today but the reasons were similar—the life of luxury and pleasure.