From the beginning of the article:
The Encyclopedia Britannica of 1910 states that the term ‘applause’, stemming from the Latin verb ‘applaudere’, is primarily used in reference to
[…] the expression of approval by clapping of hands, &c.; generally any expression of approval. The custom of applauding is doubtless as old and as widespread as humanity […] Among civilized nations, however, it has at various times been subject to certain conventions. Thus the Romans had a set ritual of applause for public performances, expressing degrees of approval: snapping the finger and thumb, clapping with the flat or hollow palm, waving the flap of the toga, for which last the emperor Aurelian substituted a handkerchief (orarium), distributed to all Roman citizens […]. In the theatre, at the close of the play, the chief actor called out ‘Valete et plaudite!’, and the audience, guided by an unofficial choregus, chaunted their applause antiphonally.
Since such forms of approval were handed down from the early Christian Church and ‘in the fourth and fifth centuries applause of the rhetoric of popular preachers had become an established custom’, similar behaviour by an audience in later theatre, opera, and concert institutions does not seem surprising, even though the Church Father John Chrysostom (347–407) had endeavored to forbid applause in the churches already in late antiquity. For as long as there has been applause, it has most likely also had an influence, and accordingly abuses of such practices must have existed:
The institution of the claque, people hired by performers to applaud them, has largely discredited the custom, and indiscriminate applause has been felt as an intolerable interruption to serious performances.