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Events in Asculum in 91 BCE

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman mosaic showing the actor in a mask
Roman mosaic showing the actor in a mask

In 91 BCE in the city of Asculum (the city of the Sabines in southern Italy) theatrical performances took place, during which the Roman part of the audience killed one of the comedians who showed an anti-Roman attitude. When an actor of Latin origin was to appear next, the man decided to use a joke to get out of the situation, fearing for his life.

The comedian was supposed to say on the stage: “Neither am I a Roman. I travel the length and breadth of Italy and plead for people’s favour, entertaining them and making them happy. So spare the swallow, whose gods allow them to nestle safely in all your houses!”

Finally, after the end of the theatre performances in the city, all Roman citizens died. The event proves that social divisions based on origin (Roman, non-Roman) were extremely lively at the beginning of the 1st century BCE. The hatred of the inhabitants of various Italian cities towards the Romans and vice versa resulted from the privileges enjoyed by the former. This led to the outbreak of the so-called wars with allies (bellum sociale) in 91 BCE. The events in Asculum were a prelude to the outbreak of unrest and the struggle for their rights.

  • Beard Mary, SPQR. Historia starożytnego Rzymu, Poznań 2016

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