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In Late Antique urban centers, hippodromes continued to play an important role, although the kind of entertainment that could be enjoyed was gradually changed. In theaters, circus acts superseded comedies and tragedies, which began to be performed in excerpts before being banned entirely. Chariot racing in the hippodromes remained a favorite attraction in Late Antique urban centers, and successful charioteers were celebrated as public heroes and occasionally honored with public statues. By the 6th century, leading charioteers led teams identified by their different colors (blue, green, and so on) and to some degree by their politics. Already under attack in the 4th century by Christian bishops, the notoriously gruesome Roman form of entertainment known as gladiatorial combat was unsuccessfully banned several times by Christian emperors. It was only by the mid-5th century that such spectacles were finally terminated.
The Olympic Games, celebrated in Greece for over a millennium, were officially outlawed by the emperor Theodosios I in 393. By the 6th century, theaters were also put out of use, while the only hippodrome that remained functional was that in Constantinople.
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4th–5th century. Copper
Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, BXM 63
Photo © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism
The Good Life and Anxiety
(Photos: Christos Galazios)