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(1) An actor in ancient Rome. For the most part histrions were freedmen. (Only the particularly famous ones were respected.) They formed a troupe headed by an actor who had once been only a troupe member. Originally, they performed without masks, which were introduced in the first century B.C..
(2) A wandering folk actor in the early Middle Ages (ninth-nth centuries). A histrion was simultaneously a storyteller, musician, dancer, singer, and animal trainer. Histrions united into special guilds, from which subsequently circles of amateur actors were sometimes formed. In France histrions were known as jongleurs, in Germany, Spielmänner, in Poland, franty, and in Russia, skomorokhi. They were persecuted by secular and church authorities.