Entertainment: What has changed over two millennium?by Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
How has entertainment changed over two millennium?
Man has searched for an entertaining time from Genesis to the present day. The Greeks were the first in written history to show an interest in Drama and the classical arts, where as Rome, a military power was interested in sports competition such as chariot racing and gladiator games. As history has changed, so has entertainment. Yet the psychology of what entertains has remained remarkably consistent over the ages.
The Romans idea of sport was often cruel and violent. In fact, at the Gladiator games during the time of Jesus, the Gladiators would say "Hail Caesar, we who are about to die, salute you!" The Romans went wild as the Gladiators killed each other. The audience got in on the act and if a Gladiator was about to kill his opponent, he would look at the audience, and if he saw that the majority of the crowd were holding their thumbs up, then he would spare his opponent's life. If not. . . a violent death would entertain a stadium full of men and women.
Rome seemed to inherit more of Greek Sparta's love for violent sport than the Greek Athenian's type of Olympic Games. The national games we enjoy every two years as the winter and summer Olympics started in Greece. The original coliseum is situated in Olympia, Greece. "The ancient Greeks dedicated the Olympic Games to the god Zeus. Women were neither allowed to compete in the games nor to watch them, because the games were dedicated to Zeus and were therefore meant for men." 1 Perhaps it was also because the men competed in the nude.
Greek drama found its way into western society. Our "Academy Awards" reflects back to the Greek playwrights who would compete for a prize. Attending a Greek play over a thousand years ago was different than attending a play today. "To name a few differences, Greek plays were performed in an outdoor theater, used masks, and were almost always performed by a chorus and three actors (no matter how many speaking characters there were in the play, only three actors were used; the actors would go back stage after playing one character, switch masks and costumes, and reappear as another character)." 2 Since the Greek drama came about by religious ceremony, only at religious ceremonies would the plays be acted out. Plays were usually only preformed once unless it was reviewed and then acted out again. There were two types of plays, Tragedy and Comic. The tragedy dealt with violent themes such as Oedipus Rex getting his eyes gouged out after he kills his father and marries his mother. The comic made fun of present day people and happenings. "Not only did the Greeks produce many lasting comedies, they also cast the molds for many Roman, Elizabethan and modern comedies." 3 The Iliad is the classic violent tragedy. "Hector kills Patroclus...and pays for it by being killed by Achilles, who drags Hector's body behind his chariot. Achilles, in turn, pays for killing Hector by getting the infamous arrow through his heel."4
As Rome had adopted Greek entertainment, the nations that rose from the ruins of Rome adopted skills of war as a sport. The time of the knights and chivalrous acts came. For entertainment, the wealthy upper-class would go to the lists to see jousting, a sport dangerous for both the knights and the horses they rode. A knight would set up at the end of a long strip of grass, facing another knight. Both were given a lance (long spear) which bore their colors. At a signal, both would ride at the other, lances leveled. The object of the "game" was to unseat the opposing knight. In doing this, many a knight or his horse was seriously wounded or killed. The layers of armor both knights wore didn't help much. If either knight were unhorsed he would not be able to get back up because of the weight of his protective garments. A hot sunny day might kill a knight as he overheated in his armor. Despite the dangers, People insisted on having lists up until guns came into existence which put to extinction (except for in re-enactments), lists and chivalrous knights. Violent sport is one impact Rome had on Europe.
Another source of entertainment for higher wealthy class citizens was the theatre. Many a playwright came along, but none so great as William Shakespeare. There has been some speculation that Shakespeare was not a real man, but a pen name of a duke, as it was not proper to write or act in plays. Shakespeare wrote many comedies and tragedies that used Greek influence, such as a chorus that introduced each act, and shaped modern theatre by using more than three actors to play his parts. As with Greek acting, however, men only did the acting. Women were supposed to stay at home. Each audience must have had a bit of Roman in them since it was common practice to put an iron fence around the stage to keep the audience from hurting the actors should the audience not like the play or the way the actors were acting. Violence was often the play's theme and the audience's response.
Sports have evolved from the young boys hitting a ball with a stick to baseball, or should the ball happen to be hit along on the ground, hockey. Basketball was at first just a basket and a rough ball. Some immigrants in America's streets found a basket and, using a ball, invented a game that has become a nation wide favorite. In Comparing Aztec and Roman Sports, the author writes, "Aztecs played a sport called Tachli that was a little like basketball and soccer. It had differences, for example, their 'basketball hoop' was a vertically hung stone ring. Their 'basketball' was a heavy solid rubber ball. Aztecs believed Tachtli was the sport their gods played with the stars in the stadium of the heavens. Tachtli was replicated on earth in honor of the gods." The violence was severe as the losing team was sacrificed to the gods. Even soccer has violent roots as "Soccer was first played as a game by Roman soldiers, who used the heads of their enemies in a game with simple goalposts. So it's understandable why there is a rule against touching the ball with your hands." 5 Once again, we see Roman influence in the favorite sports of today. Soccer, also known as football in Europe, is greeted with as much enthusiasm there as American football is in the United States! Both sports are contact sport causing blood or injury to at least one player per game. Yet, people in both continents love these games, not to mention rugby, boxing, and various extreme sports shown on television.
Through out the centuries, as games have evolved and drama has formed and become close competitors of films, people have lusted to see blood. Today's films are filled with gore and violence and yet people deny their passion is connected to the same passion the Roman's had for blood sports. Blood, whether virtual or real, still teases to satisfy the lust for violence. Since lust is an appetite that only increases the more it is fed, public demand for horrific films is driven by the same lust that fueled Roman demand for violent entertainment. From the popular gun-slinging, bar-brawling cowboy movies of the 1960's, and through the cops shows of the 1990's, violence becomes more gratuitous. When adding in computerized role player shooter games, which have such realistic graphics and sound, violence has become a multibillion dollar entertainment industry. The arena format of Rome is replaced by today's movie theators and multiplayer games over the Internet.
There had been many martyrs for the Christian faith in the arena during the gladiator days. At least one martyr went voluntarily. He was a monk who was so disturbed at seeing people being killed for entertainment that he climbed down into the arena as a protest against the murderous onslaught. The blood-thirsty crowd booed him down and a Gladiator finished him off. However, there were enough in the audience who were so stunned by what had happened, including the Emperor himself, that the gladiator circus was ended for a long period of time.
If there seems to be no way out of blood lust, maybe one should turn to the example of the monk. His love for the slaves who were being slaughtered was driven by his knowledge that God made man in his own image and sent Jesus to pay the death penalty for sin. Perhaps the bravery of the monk came from his ability to see man as God sees man. The greatest command is two fold: Love God with everything and love others as yourself. This is the narrow path that leads to peace with God and man. Still, the broad path of violent entertainment continues to draw in billions of followers as it has through the centuries due to mankind's sinful nature.
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