Religious festivals dedicated to Zoroastrianism were some of the most popular forms of entertainment in the Persian Empire. During a five to six day fire festival, sources say that Rabbi Simon ben Gamaliel would toss eight torches that were lit on fire up into the air and catch them. All of Jerusalem was lit up by lanterns and torches because the community enjoyed and honored this festival. These fire festivals were so important to Zoroastrians that fire temples were built and still stand to this day. Along with the decrease of visuals being used during religious rituals, Zoroastrianism also greatly decreased in popularity in this region because people began practicing Islam. This led to various other ceremonies for the community to partake in. Religious rituals were a big part of Persians’ lives, therefore these festivals were cherished greatly by the citizens.
Greek Theater and Music
Another popular form of entertainment in the Persian Empire was art within the Greek theater. Greek tragedy took up the majority of Greek theater in this region. The Greeks enjoyed theater as a leisure activity because theater allowed the audience to experience and express emotions. A few plays in ancient Greece that people enjoyed were Oedipus and Philoctetes, which both incorporated feelings of grief and compassion. These emotions became an escape for the audience to enjoy and watch as a leisure activity if they had a busy lifestyle. You can come watch these plays at one of the amazing theaters in Persia! Music also played during these Greek tragedies and made the plays more engaging for people to watch. Greeks commonly said, “music is for the soul,” and saw music as a way to bring together a civilized community during peacetime. Greeks also believed that music helped worship the gods and bring people together through choruses and dancing. The Greeks not only provided theater and music as leisure, but they also influenced the arts of the Iranian regions. Iranian and Greek influences converged together to eventually create Persian Rhytons. These artistic forms of pottery featured a bull or ram’s head and resembled a cup. Rhytons of the Greco-Persian era can still be found at the Museo di Archeologia Ligure. Check them out today!
In Egypt, Greece, and Persia, fitness was another important type of leisure activity. Fitness in Egypt was not only important for pharaohs to obtain to prove strength, but it was also important for Egyptians’ leisure. Wrestling seemed to be the most popular sport for men to compete in based on murals in Egyptian tombs that you can still see today. Greeks’ fitness went beyond wrestling and included javelin, footraces, long jump, gymnastics, and discus. These are all athletics that are still seen and watched today in the Olympics. Persia also believed in fitness being a key component in a person’s life, but with the collapse of the Persian Empire, fitness began to decrease within the Persian lifestyle. However, Persians in other areas such as Egypt and Greece enjoyed various sports and activities. If you are in for an active vacation, Ancient Persia is the place for you!