Timeline of Roman History


Any date that specifically relates to the games is in bold.

753 Legendary foundation of Rome by Romulus, the first king of Rome
629 Reign of L. Tarquinius Priscus, fifth king of Rome and the first Etruscan king; Circus Maximus supposedly laid out during his reign
509 Tarquinius Superbus, last king of Rome, expelled; Rome becomes a Republic. Creation of the office of consul
500-450 Creation of the office of Tribune of the Plebs
c. 496 Rome defeats Latin League forces and Tarquinius Superbus and sons at the Battle of Lake Regillus
396 Rome sacks and destroys the Etruscan city of Veii
390 Rome sacked by the Gauls
343-341 First Samnite War ends with Rome capturing Capua and northern Campania
338 Dissolution of the Latin League
326-304 Second Samnite War ends with Rome conquering most of central and southern Italy
298-290 Third Samnite War ends with Rome in control of most of the Pennisula of Italy, with only Greek cities in the extreme south and the Po Valley in the North outside that control
280-275 Pyrrhic War. War against the Greek city of Tarentum and King Pyrrhus of Epirus. First time elephants are seen Italy
275 M. Curius Dentatus displays 4 elephants in Rome
264-241 First Punic War (against Carthage) fought in Sicily and North Africa
264 Decimus Junius Brutus has 3 pairs of Thracian type gladiators at munera for his father
252 Lucius Metellus displays and slaughters 100 elephants captured from Carthaginian forces in the First Punic War
229-228 First Illyrian War; ends with the surrender of Queen Teuta of Illyria
220-219 Second Illyrian War ends with the defeat of Demetrius of Pharos and Roman victory
220 Circus Flaminius built by Gaius Flaminius[1]
218-202 Second Punic War fought in Italy, Spain, and North Africa
216 Battle of Cannae. Roman defeat at the hands of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general results in c.50,000 Roman deaths
216 Lucius, Marcus, and Quintus Lepidus have 22 pairs of gladiators fight over 3 days for their father, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
206 Scipio Africanus gives a gladiatorial type show for his father and uncle in New Carthage, Spain. (The participants were his soldiers, rather than gladiators, and they were volunteers.)
202 Battle of Zama results in the victory of Scipio Africanus the Younger over the Carthaginian general Hannibal
201 25 pairs of gladiators appear at the munus for M. Valerius Laevinus
200-197 Second Macedonian war against Philip V of Macedon
197 Philip V defeated at Battle of Cynoscephalae by Rome and her allies, including the Aetolian League, led by Titus Flamininus
192-188 War with Antiochus the Great of Syria
189 M. Fulvius Nobilior defeats the Aetolians at Ambracia
186 M. Fulvius Noblilior holds 10 days of ludi, including a hunt with lions and leopards at a cost of 80,000 sesterces, to celebrate his victory in the Aetolian War
183 60 pairs of gladiators fight over 3 days in the munus for Publius Licinius
174 Titus Flamininus has 74 pairs of gladiators fight over 4 days at his father’s munus
171-168 Third Macedonian War ends with the defeat of the Perseus, King of Macedon, and the Aetolian League
169 First venatio held as part of annual ludi circenses[2]
168 Third Illyrian War
149-146 Third Punic War
107 Gaius Marius elected consul for the first time
91-88 Social War between Rome’s Italian Allies (the Socii) and Rome
88 Sulla’s march on Rome
74-66 Third Mithridatic War ends with Pompey the Great’s victory over Mithridates VI of Pontus
73-71 Spartacus revolt (Third Servile War)
70 Stone amphitheatre built in Pompeii
67 Pompey the Great clears the Mediterranean of pirates
67 Lex Acilia Calpurnia permanently excludes candidates convicted of electoral bribery from office. Lex Roscia sets aside 14 rows of seats in the theatre for members of the  Equestrian order
65 Julius Caesar proposes to have 320 pairs of gladiators fight at his munus in honour of his father; number scaled back due to senatorial fears
63 Lex Tullia is passed prohibiting candidates holding munera during their campaigns for office (some exceptions were allowed)
58 M. Aemilius Scaurus builds a magnificent temporary theatre in Rome
55 Pompey the Great finishes his stone theatre, the first permanent theatre in Rome, and holds games for its opening
52 Gaius Curio builds a revolving wooden theatre for his games in Rome
49-45 Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great
48 Julius Caesar defeats the senatorial forces under Pompey the Great at the Battle of Pharsalus
46-5 Tunnels are created under the Forum Romanum at the orders of Julius Caesar
45 Julius Caesar holds games in honour of his daughter Julia (d. 54)
44 Julius Caesar assassinated
42 The aediles for the Ludi Ceriales hold gladiatorial shows instead of the normal chariot races, marking the first appearance of munera in regular shows. Battle of Philippi ends with the defeat of senatorial forces under Brutus and Cassius by the army of Mark Antony and Octavian
31 Battle of Actium and Octavian’s defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra makes Octavian the sole ruler of the Roman world
29 Statilius Taurus builds the first permanent, stone amphitheatre in the Campus Martius
27 Octavian is voted the title of Augustus and becomes the first emperor of Rome
22 A decree of Augustus bans the appearance of elites in the arena (this law may cover women as well as men)
9 Fires and repaving of the Forum Romanum result in the destruction of Caesar’s tunnel system


Any date that specifically relates to the games is in bold.

11 A law forbidding freeborn girls under 20 from appearing in the arena is passed (the law is not extant, but is mentioned in the senatorial decree from Larinum; see below)
14 Death of Augustus. Tiberius becomes emperor
19 A senatorial decree found in Larinum, a town in Southern Italy, repeats Augustus’ ban on equestrians and the sons and grandsons of senators appearing on the arena floor or on stage and specifically says that the daughters, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters of senators cannot appear on stage or in the arena and that law applies to the wives, daughters, and grand-daughters of equestrians
27 Collapse of a temporary amphitheatre at Fidenae kills 50,000 people
40 Circus Vaticanus (also known as the Circus of Caligula and Nero) built (roughly) where the Vatican now stands. At this stage this was probably only a race track surrounded by statues, rather than a built up Circus
41 Caligula assassinated; Claudius becomes emperor
54 Claudius dies; Nero becomes emperor
57  Nero’s wooden amphitheatre built in the Campus Martius (later burns down during the great fire of Rome); Nero forbids provincial governors and procurators from giving munera, venationes and theatrical shows in their provinces
 59  A riot in the amphitheatre in Pompeii between the residents of Pompeii and those of Nuceria, a local town, results in Nero banning games from Pompeii for ten years
64  Great Fire of Rome
66-73  First Jewish War
68 Nero’s suicide means the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty
69 Year of the four emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and, finally, Vespasian). Vespasian becomes the first Flavian emperor
79 Death of Vespasian; Titus becomes emperor
80 Titus holds inaugural games at the Colosseum (the construction was completed later under Domitian); 5,000 animals are killed and an unknown number of gladiators fight
81 Titus dies; Domitian becomes emperor
86 Founding of the Capitoline Games by Domitian; these features both athletic and literary competitions and chariot racing
96 Domitian assassinated; end of the Flavian dynasty. A sixty-five year old senator called Nerva becomes emperor
97 Nerva adopts Trajan as his heir
98 Nerva dies; Trajan becomes emperor
100-150 An inscription by Hostilianus from Ostia, Rome’s port, mentions that he was the first to exhibit female gladiators there
107 Trajan’s triumph celebrating his victory over Dacia; 10,000 gladiators fight and 11, 000 animals are killed
109 Games are held for the opening of the Baths of Trajan which last 117 days; 8,000 gladiators fight, and more than 10,000 animals are killed
117 Trajan dies; Hadrian becomes emperor after Trajan appoints him on his death bed
138 In his dying days Hadrian adopts Antonius Pius; Antonius Pius becomes emperor
177 Legislation sponsored by the co-emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus tries to limit the cost of gladiatorial shows
192 Assassination of Commodus
193 Septimius Severus becomes emperor, beginning of the Severan Dynasty
200 A decree of Septimius Severus bans female gladiators
202 Martyrdom of Perpetua
211 Caracalla becomes emperor with his brother Geta; Caracalla kills Geta
213 Caracalla extends citizenship to all freeborn residents of the Roman Empire
218 Elagabalus becomes emperor
c. 220 Sessorian Circus built beside Severan palace in Rome
222 Elagabalus assassinated. Alexander Severus becomes emperor
306-312 Circus of Maxentius built just outside Rome on the Via Appia
330 Constantinople becomes the imperial capital
397 Last reference to the imperial gladiatorial ludi
417-423 Valentinian III restores the Colosseum, which had been damaged in an earthquake
523 Maximus, a Roman aristocrat, holds the last recorded venatio in Rome
532 Nika riot in Constantinople involving faction supporters causes major havoc and destruction


  1. He was either censor or consul in that year; although labeled a circus it may not have been used for chariot racing, but only for horse racing during the Ludi Tauri. It soon became built up.
  2. Circus games, the generic name for any games that included chariot racing.


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Spectacles in the Roman World Copyright © 2020 by Siobhán McElduff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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