Roman Sports

Sports, just like now, were very popular in Ancient Roman times.

The arena (The Colosseum) was a place where people would gather around and play games of sport.

Rich people watched sports they would pick someone to represent them, and then they would become popular if they won the sport.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar would put on sports games for the people to watch.

These sports games made him very popular with the people.  He would put on these games in the theater, and many people would come and watch the games.

Inside the Arena

Inside the arena, people would gather to watch and play sports, but the arena would also be a place for animal games.

Sometimes exotic animals would be brought into the arena, and they would be used in games and slaughtered, or they would fight each other.

Some of the animals that were in the arena were elephants, lions, bears, rhinoceroses, tigers, horses, and more.  These animals would fight until death, or they would be hunted and killed.

The arena was not just a place for sports, even though most events in the arena had spectators, but it was also a place for punishment.  Sometimes, if a person was a criminal, they would be thrown into the arena and would be eaten alive by the exotic animals.


The biggest sport that happened in the arena was between the gladiators.  A gladiator was a person that would dress up and fight.  Most of the time, the gladiator was someone that was a criminal or someone that was a slave.

Sometimes, a person would volunteer to be a gladiator because if they survived the fight, they would become famous and very, very rich.

Gladiators training and learned to fight. Even the slaves trained and learned how to fight before the big day.

Weapons and Armor

The gladiators would use different types of weapons, and some of them would have swords and armors to help them in battle.  Sometimes, a gladiator would choose not to wear armor because the armor during Ancient Roman times was very heavy, and that would stop them from being able to move fast.

Different Types of Fighting

The gladiators all had different styles of fighting and learned to use different weapons.

One type of gladiator was called a retiarius this gladiator would use a trident and a net to fight.  Each of these different styles would have different advantages in the arena.

Fight Until Death

Not all gladiators would have to fight until death, and sometimes the fight would stop if the gladiator would beg for mercy.  The crowd would be the one that would choose if the person that lost would live or die.

Chariot Racing

Another sport that was popular in the Ancient Roman times was chariot racing.

During the chariot racing, there would be different teams.  Sometimes the teams would choose a color, and the people would follow after the chariots and would cheer on the racers.

These races didn’t take place in the fighting arena. But, in an arena that was called a circus.  These arenas could hold over 150,000 people at one time.

Gymnasia and Palaestra

The gymnasia and palaestra were places that the rich Romans owned, and many sports and other activities that happened in these places.


Pugilatus was a term for boxing during the Roman Empire.  It was a popular sport, and it was different than boxing today because the boxer could hit their opponent anywhere that they wanted.

The boxing match would only end if someone would surrender or give up.

Children Sports

There were some sports in Ancient Rome that were not violent and bloody.

One sport called Hoop Rolling was a sport where children would hop through the sports.

This sport was aimed at children to have fun when they were playing together.

Harpastum was another sport that many children played.  This game was a ball game, and the ball would be small like a softball.  They would hit the ball with the stick, just like in our modern games of softball.


One game was called Tesserae, and this was a game that was a board game.  It was considered a sport, and the winner would sometimes win prizes.


Wrestling was very popular during Ancient Roman times.  In wrestling during this time, the athletes would either stand and wrestle or wrestle on the floor.  The match would lend when one of the players decided to give up.

Fact About Ancient Roman Sports:

  • One famous Emperor, Emperor Commodus would fight as a gladiator and would fight wild animals in the arena.
  • Many people died during the chariot races.
  • Gladiators would take a break between their fighting so that they could rest and get food and water.
  • Most of the time, chariot racing was sponsored by famous and high officials, and so the winner would get a lot of money.
  • The Romans thought that bloodshed was a sign of power.
  • When Nero was in rule, sports became more popular.
  • One game was called calculi, and it was similar to checkers that we play today. It’s another game that was considered a sport, and players would sometimes compete against each other.

What Did You Learn?

  1. What were Roman sports?  Roman sports were sports that would take time during Ancient Roman times.
  2. What was interesting about most of the sports during this time? Most of the sports during Ancient Roman times ended in blood or were very brutal.
  3. What were some brutal sports? The animal battles and gladiator battles were the two most brutal and bloody sports in Ancient Roman times.
  4. Where their other sports that were not bloody?   There were some sports, such as ball games, board games, and other sporting games that people of all ages could play.
  5. Why were gladiator games important to the gladiators? The gladiator games were important to the gladiators because they would become famous and rich if they won the battles.