What role did leisure play in the life of ancient Rome? For us in the modern world, leisure is secondary to work. But in ancient Rome leisure was central to social life and an integral part of its history.
By exploring the nature and role of leisure, Toner offers a new way of looking at Roman society at all levels, not just among the elite. He examines the imperial games and the baths, as well as the forms of leisure associated with popular culture, such as gambling, the taverns, theatre and carnivals. He shows how these activities, while central to the imperial programme, were also a focus of tension between social classes and between traditionalist and modern elements in Roman culture. Despite its popularity, gambling, for instance, was the target of fierce moral condemnation which was concerned, above all, with notions of how social status should be acquired.
Informed by the work of anthropologists and sociologists as well as historians, this highly innovative book also represents a significant contribution to what Marc Bloch called "a more human history", that is , to history understood as a dialogue between us and the past.
Leisure and Ancient Rome will be of particular interest to students and scholars of ancient history, classics, cultural history and the sociology and anthropology of culture.