C I R C E N S E S
Ut quisquem vicerit occidat - Kill the loser whoever he may be
could have free spectacles; it was a right of the citizens to join banquets offered by the rich and famous, and to enjoy shows in the circus or the amphitheatre. Everywhere in the Roman world rich and prominent citizens felt like a duty to maintain a cohort of clientes in order to get social consensus, and the circenses were part of it.
In Rome the games were sponsored by the emperor and by the nobility: "panem et circenses" were given to the public so as to distract their attention from more important matters. The gladiatorial "games" had started as religious rites, though later on the sacred character of the games was almost forgotten. Their popularity and also the costs of their "production" grew up to be enormous, and a proof of their social importance is shown by the fact that the yearly schedule and the organization of the ludi were regulated by law.
The most popular games were the ludi circenses, or chariot races, which
took place in the circus, and the naumachiae, naval battles
reproduced within special facilities. The Ludi Gladiatori
in the amphitheatre were less frequent, but immensely popular, too. They were generally
associated with a venatio, which was a staged hunt of wild animals
(a show that sometimes entailed the execution of condemned
criminals). In the amphitheatre were also staged the silvae, in
which animals populated a scenery of woods and forests, and dramas, that reproduced famous