What Were the Roman 'Ludi'?


Ludi = Games, in Latin. The singular of ludi, ludus, has other uses, as well as 'game'.

The ludi were public Roman religious festivals started, before 220 B.C., as annual communal games to give thanks to the gods.

Tradition claims the games started in the regal period, when the Etruscan king Tarquin the Elder started the ludi circenses and made the plans for the Circus Maximus race course and sporting venue where the ludi would be held.

During the period that followed that of the kings, the Republic, entertainment provided at the games took the form of chariot races (ludi circenses) or theatrical performances (ludi scaenici). The games were known as ludi Romani (or sometimes the ludi magni 'great games') from 366, becoming annual within the next half century. Three years later the first ludi scaenici were introduced.

Following the Roman Republic, during the Roman Empire, the ludi included gladiatorial combats or beast hunts.

Source: Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World, by Donald Kyle; p.257.


Examples of the Roman games are the Ludi Romani, Ludi Megalenses, Ludi Saeculares, Ludi Apollinares, Ludi Capitolini, Ludi Florales, Ludi Plebeii, Ludi Victoriae Caesaris, Ludi Taurei quinquennales, and Ludi Victoriae Sullae. Chariot races and theatrical events, part of the public entertainment of the ludi were held in the circus.

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