The Greeks were already an established culture in southern Italy whean Rome was created. Because Rome and Greece’s city-states in Italy were so close together, Greece strongly influenced Rome in many different ways. Rome’s ideas on many things were borrowed from the Greeks, things ranging from gods to theatre construction. The layout of the Roman theatre is very much like that of the Greek theatre. They both have an orchastra pit, a backstage area, and seating arrangments. Also, the ideas for plays were ‘borrowed’ from Greek plays. The plots were basically the same only the characters’ names were changed and some other minor things. Even the rules on producing plays were similar to those in Greece.
The Etruscans too had a great influence on the Romans. They were also a well established culture in Italy when Rome was just starting out. The Etruscans were a more powerful people and so they had many battles with Rome, because of these battles, many Etruscan ideals took hold in Roman culture. The Etruscans brought the Romans horse racing and many other popular civic activities. Paintings have been found that pointed out that in Etruscan theatres, there were curtained off boxes that the wealthy would watch plays from.
A far lesser known influence on the ancient Romans were the Oscans. They too came from northern Italy but overpopulation caused them to spread out. Beacause of this, they came into contact with the Romans. With them they brought their own way of doing things which greatly effected the Romans. The Oscans broght with them their ideas about plays.
The Oscans had a type of comedy called Atellan Farce. This was a type of improvised comedy played with stock characters (player types that repeated from play to play). There were typically four stock characters, Maccus (a boastful buffoon, a fool), Bucco (a fool and stupid guzzler), Pappus (a foolish old man), Dassenus (a hunchback, wise fool, others thought he was like Mandacus), and Mandacus (a monster with big jaws). These stock characters were the idea for the typical Roman play’s stock character.