Brace yourself for the Ludi Plebeii in November

We are all looking around for something to amuse ourselves with currently – and the ancient Romans were no different.

Every month was a festival in Ancient Rome – and in November there were two weeks of games and theatre performances to keep the “common people” of Rome entertained.

They were known as the Ludi Plebeii – games for the ordinary folk of Rome – and lasted from 4 November to 17 November.

It was important to keep the plebs of Rome happy to promote social cohesion – and games and theatre performances as well as gladiatorial combat were ways of doing this. This where the phrase “bread and circuses” originates from.

Roman soldiers on parade

The games were staged at the Circus Flaminius, which was near the River Tiber in the Campus Martius district of Rome – and extensive area that began near Teatro Marcello.

There would have been chariot races at the site, as well as theatre performances and feasting – including a feast to Jupiter on 13 November.

There would also be competition sports such as running and athletics.

It has been suggested by some commentators that the games were actually instigated by the plebs of ancient Rome as a way of celebrating their own identity among loftier Roman society, just as different groups in communities hold festivals and events now to celebrate their own identity. They may also have been the oldest games in ancient Rome.

Victor ludorum this November

It may yet be a while before we can all enjoy a festival again – but this November, we can still raise a glass to Jupiter and perhaps do some minor athletics at home. Nothing too strenuous or raucous – drunkenness was considered unacceptable in public in Ancient Rome.

Just as well we are all staying at home then.


Cook up a Roman feast at home

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