What Did the Romans Do for Fun?

Recreational sports such as swimming, horseback riding and running were popular leisure activities in ancient Rome. Board games such as tic-tac-toe, Roman backgammon, checkers and chess were also common pastimes.

The Tiber River was a popular swimming site for boys in Rome, especially near the Campus Martius. Some of the Roman baths also had plunge pools in which people could swim. All Romans were supposed to be skilled at riding horses, so many Roman boys took up this pursuit at a young age.

Competitive sports included footraces on the Campus Martius and boxing and wrestling in the central fields at Roman baths. All of these activities promoted better fitness and strength, traits that the ancient Romans prized. This was long before the era of boxing gloves, and the only padding that people wore on their hands was a simple wrapping of cloth.

Sports involving balls were also popular in ancient Rome. Field hockey, soccer, handball and games of catch took place in courts or in the central fields at baths. When people wanted live entertainment, they could watch the gladiator tilts at the Colosseum, chariot races around the Circums Maximus, animal hunts, theatrical and musical acts and even public executions.