What was the importance of the Roman theater for the Roman people?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Roman theater, like Greek theater, originated in religious festivals, which included a wide range of entertainments, such as music, dancing, prize fighters, and other entertainments such as juggling and pantomime. The plays we have preserved, however, come from a slightly later period, and lack strong religious elements; instead, they served primarily for entertainment.

One of the most interesting features of Roman drama was its dependence on Greek drama. Most extant Roman dramas are adaptations of Greek tragedies or Greek New Comedy (especially Menander). Thus a key element of the cultural significance of Roman drama is that it represents the cultural dominance of Greece, which the Roman intelligentsia considered far more artistically sophisticated than their own culture. 

Comedy was more popular than tragedy in Rome. Unlike the controversial political satire of Aristophanes, Roman comedy (of Terence and Plautus) was about realistic characters and every day life, focusing on romance, family conflicts, and clever slaves tricking their masters. It served primarily as popular entertainment. 


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