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Reassessing the Capacities of Entertainment Structures in the Roman Empire

Reassessing the Capacities of Entertainment Structures in the Roman Empire

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In recent years, scholars have become increasingly skeptical of the idea that there is any relationship between the capacities of entertainment structures such as theaters and amphitheaters and the populations of Graeco-Roman cities. In this article, we begin by offering a model of information percolation in cities grounded in settlement scaling theory. We then show that there is a systematic relationship between the capacities of both theaters and amphitheaters and the populations of cities in the Roman empire, but this relationship is far from linear, indicating that a decreasing fraction of the population attended events in entertainment structures. In addition, although there is a great deal of variation in the extent to which sites conform to the underlying relationships, there is a relationship between the sizes of these deviations and the overall standing of sites as reflected in their civic statuses. Collecting similar measures for other relationships might be a useful way of characterizing sites and indicates a fruitful avenue for future research.

Reassessing the Capacities of Entertainment Structures in the Roman Empire

By J.W. Hanson and S.G. Ortman

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 124, No. 3 (July 2020), p. 417–440

DOI: 10.3764/aja.124.3.0417

© 2020 Archaeological Institute of America