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The Hunger Games - A Historical Roman Perspective If you haven't read them, "The Hunger Games" is a scifi book

trilogy set a few hundred years into the future of North America. The world has survived several catastrophes and some technology has been lost while other technology has been adapted as needed. There is advanced medicine, cloaked flying ships, and the ability to produce genetically manipulated animals, for example. It's not a post-apocalyptic exactly, more like a world that has survived several catastrophic events and changed as time progressed, while the world population has shrunk considerably, I don't think it was due to any one apocalyptic event. The population is divided into distinct "Districts" that produce raw goods under the heavy hand of the all powerful Capital city. It tells a story like many scifi books... a cautionary tale of what humans in the future could be like if they fail to learn from human history and naively choose to repeat it. The most intriguing is that the books make no secret of the references to Rome and Roman culture. Character Names: The first Roman "thing" people jump on in the books are the fact that the names are Roman in origin. Most of the characters who are citizens from "The Capital" (and pretty much only these characters) have actual Roman names (Caesar, Portia, Venia, Octavia, Flavius, Seneca, Tigris, Claudius, Plutarch, etc.) and both Cinna and Coriolanus seem to have Roman names with a deeper historical reference to actual people. Names like Alma Coin are also interestingly historical. Besides the Capital, there are also several "Districts" and people from these have non-Roman names. This seems to indicate that the Districts are more like what the conquered Provinces were to Rome. Chariots: There is a scene where many of the characters ride through the city center on chariots pulled by four horses. Along with the names mentioned above, it's a very neat (and obvious) Roman reference. In Rome, emperors, returning generals, senators, and sometimes even popular gladiators would ride through the city in a chariot. It was a way to make yourself known, win the approval of the masses, and was a very public spectacle. Interestingly, they have cars and planes in Panem too, but chariots are used in this instance as part of the Hunger Games media spectacle. Historically, using chariots or not, gladiators were paraded through the streets on the day of the fights as a way of drawing the crowds to the event. The Capital: The Capital is the actual name of the ruling city of the country of Panem, where the books take place. It is very much an allegory of Rome. The people there are wealthy, concerned with appearance and parties, and hold all the positions of real power. Rome was a slave empire. The entire economy was held up by slave labor, but this had a downside, it meant those at the top, the middle class and wealthy citizens who lived in Rome and the other large cities, were basically unemployed, had little to do, and were often bored. To keep them from revolting, Rome would hold constant entertainment: chariot races, gladiator fights, parties, festivals, etc. Panem itself is a reference to the latin word for bread and the method by which Rome kept it's citizens docile was through the use of food and entertainment. The Hunger games are just as much about appeasing the Capital citizens as anything to do with keeping the Districts oppressed. Indicating that one main theme in the books is a direct reference to this key Roman practice. In Panem, only the people of the Capital seem to be treated as actual citizens, the Districts are treated like provinces. The taxes collected from the conquered Roman provinces in the form of raw goods, money, and the direct labor of slaves were what enabled Rome itself to live a life of such splendor and excess. This is seen in Panem as well.Little things such as comments made by Capital citizens, overeating at a party and then vomiting the food up ---just to eat more, and the remark two characters make that their displays of affection are mild by Capital standards, all reinforce the ancient Roman views of food, parties, public appearance, human rights, and sexuality evident in the Capital of Panem.

Social Classes: Panem is divided into several social classes. The same hierarchical and fairly ridged social classes that divided Rome. In ancient Rome you had the wealthy at the top called Patricians then Plebeians and Slaves. Social status was carefully maintained and determined if you could own property and if you were considered an actual citizen. The Patricians were the wealthy aristocrats and inclusion in this group was mostly hereditary. Most Patricians lived in Rome or other wealthy cities. In Panem, they all live in the Capital. In The Capital there are those less wealthy citizens who run shops and keep things like trains running on time. Just as in Rome where there were some jobs in the government and temples that could only be held by a Patrician. These people are still citizens and possibly while middle class in practice, are still Patrician. In Panem, they still have all the benefits of living in the Capital. Below that on the Roman hierarchy are the Plebeians (or just Plebs). This is basically everyone else except slaves, but can be divided into distinct groups. The wealthier merchant class and the basic poor laborers. This is seen in Panem in several places. In the Districts, there are the merchants such as the Baker and Butcher (and to some extent the Mayor) who are also seen as distinctly more affluent, able to feed themselves regular meals, but are by no means wealthy. They are counted among the laborers and in Rome would have been considered and treated as Plebians, but not slaves Slavery in both Rome and Panem is evident in two distinct roles. The basic laborers in the mines and fields are forced to de facto slavery by station though not by name. Sometimes at gunpoint, other times with the fact that in each District there are only specific jobs you can have and if you don't do them at the wage offered, you don't eat. Just like in ancient Rome where slaves did the farming, mining, and building for little more than food and housing, often inadequate.Slavery in Rome had another component. Slaves filled skilled roles as well such as shopkeepers, architects, artists, scribes, and personal attendants. In the Capital this is the role of the Avox. These are "traitors" who are forced into slavery and act as the basic servants in the Capital. they do all of the hard labor and dirty jobs as well as act as personal and household attendants. Government: In the Hunger Games, the President, if you read closely, has been in power for decades. He is not an elected president as you might think of in a democratic country. He is in all respects a ruling Emperor who came to power using military power. The term "President" just seems to be handed down as a title of power form the past. The books also reveal that power in the Capital is maintained through intrigue, influence, poison, scandal, money, etc. All very Roman in their description as the same things happened in ancient Rome with the rise and fall of Caesar and the various Roman Emperors. Roman Provinces were ruled by Governors who reported directly to Rome (think Pontius Pilate from biblical reference) and Roman towns were controlled by Magistrates who performed many of the day-to-day enforcement or Roman law and maintained order in towns. Since each District is mostly just made up of one large town, the Mayors in Panem fill both of these roles perfectly. Military: Panem has one military/police force called the Peacekeepers. They seem to be the standing army of the all controlling Capital. Interestingly, you seem to have to be a citizen of the Capital, or from a closely and highly favored District, to serve in the Peacekeepers. The Roman equivalent was the Roman army units, the Legions were made up of Legionaries and their officers, Centurions and Generals. To serve in the Roman army, you had to be a Roman citizen. There is no great description of the organization of the Peacekeepers military unit across Panem, but there is one very specific reference to the Roman Legions. The fact that Peacekeepers must commit to 20 years in the service and can't marry during that time-- the exact official requirement of a Roman soldier. Also interesting is that the Tributes from the "Military District" will volunteer to enter The gladiatorial like Hunger Games instead of being forced to enter. Something Roman citizens would sometimes do when enrollment in the Legions became mandatory. You could escape 20 years as a soldier if you were

a successful gladiator and you might have the same odds of survival. A successful gladiator, however, would have a lot more money and fame than a career soldier. City Layout: Yes, even mundane things like the layout of the town and cities are direct references to Rome. It does not seem unfamiliar though as many cities in the world now follow the Roman grid design with the city square and government buildings. Why dont we use a circular city design in North America like those often seen in classic European fortifications and even in the Middle East? Because Rome conquered so much of the world and influenced so much architecture. The towns in Panem are very specifically described... and they are very Roman. There is a town center, a square surrounded by the local businesses and contains the legitimate market. It is bordered by the Justice Building. The Capital also has the "City Center" which seems similar on a grander scale. The rest of the town is on a grid and people live in small houses or apartments. There is a nice section of town off to the side where larger houses are situated and where the Victors of the games live. In the Roman Empire, towns varied in size, but were very uniform. They had a central square called the Forum where all business and most politics took place. It was surrounded by temples and businesses and often dominated by a large marble building called the Basilica. In the Roman era, these Basilica were official government buildings with courts and law offices, where contracts were signed and the Magistrate worked and received official visitors from Rome. It usually overlooked the Forum and had a raised platform for addressing the crowds (just like the Justice Building). The main population also lived in town in small houses or more likely apartment buildings. Wealthy citizens might have a large house in town (a Villa) and sometimes a country estate as well. --The Games, The Arena, and Gladiator Types-All of that cultural stuff aside, what I find particularly neat about The Hunger Games is all the gladiator references. It is often more subtle than you realize. In The Hunger Games, there are a type of gladiator contest called... The Hunger Games of course. The Capital forces two people form each district, called Tributes, to fight to the death in an Arena. It is a very modern update on the idea of a gladiator fight. The crowd watched via TV and the arena is much more like something from The Truman Show where the "Gamemakers" have complete control over the cameras and the Arena conditions, but not the players. It's more of a cross between a gladiator free-for-all, wilderness survival, and a reality show. Ancient gladiator fights varied a lot, but the basic premise was pretty close to modern day wrestling shows such as the WWE... with the addition of deadly bladed weapons. The primary purpose of the fights was to entertain, not to kill. A lot of fights did not end in death, despite what is shown in movies. The professionally trained and popular Gladiators were expensive and time consuming to replace. As long as they put on a good show that lasted for a while and bled a little, they were often spared. Gladiators were even trained to die properly for the crowd when the time came. Bad shows would end in death and accidents were frequent. Gladiators would sometimes fight in teams and often fights were balanced between gladiator types. Roman crowds loved to see a fast gladiator type against a slower more armored one. There were also elaborate sets, forests, water hazards, structures, wild animal hunts, blindfolds, feats of skill, and even all out naval battles with water flooding the entire arena floor. There were also fights where they just put a sword into a slave's hand and pushed them into the arena. A lot of what actually happened is lost to history of course. The Tributes in The Hunger Games, the teenagers who have to go to the Arena, are not just tossed in unprepared. They have a support team to help them prepare for several days. There are also people in charge of doing nothing but preparing and running the Arena where the fights takes place. Not surprisingly some of these roles all have direct Roman counterparts. Gamemakers:

The Gamemakers seem to be a generic term that encompass several historic rolls. Gladiator shows, called Munera, had a main sponsor, in later Roman periods this was the Emperor (or government). However, he sometimes did little more than pay the bills. In Rome there was an Editor or Munerator who would watch the games and make life and death decisions about the contestants based on the whims of the crowds. It could be the Emperor, or another powerful individual. In the Hunger Games, this seems to be the role of the Head Gamemaker. There was also the roll of the Impresario. These individuals were charged with the production of the entertainment in the Arena. If the fight needed an artificial set, or special animals, pairings of specific types of fighters, or even a grand reenactment of a military victory, complete with historic costumes, they were in charge of putting on the show. Preferably making is as entertaining as possible and within budget. The role of Impresario varied widely, but generally speaking, they were the producers of the spectacle. On the floor of the Arena was also depicted in historical pictures a referee or umpire called a Rudarius (one who holds the long wooden staff or sword) who had some role in making sure fights had an element of "fairness". Basically they didn't want the fight to be over too quickly as a longer fight means more entertainment. Sometimes the fighters were even allowed to rest and stop for a drink. The Impresario and the Rudarius are the Gamemakers in every respect. It is also worth noting that the Gamemakers in The Hunger Games wear purple. In Rome only the Emperor could wear a toga entirely of purple, but the Senators wore clothes fringed with purple. This signifies in the books at least that the Gamemakers might be some kind of prestigious position either politically or socially with status similar to that of a Senator in ancient Rome. They also spend a lot of their time at banquets or parties eating and drinking wine, so it fits. Mentors: The Mentors in the books oversee the competitors and help them prepare, talk with sponsors, and even help them in the Arena to a very limited extent. The historical role they mimic is that of the Lanista. Now a Lanista would often own the gladiators or their contracts and made money from their fights or compensation on their deaths. They were the owners of a sports teams, if you will. On a day-to-day basis though, they made sure the gladiators were trained properly and well fed, similar to modern athletes. They also arranged public appearances, because a popular (or at least familiar) gladiator would gain more favor with the crowd and possibly earn their sympathy if they had a bad fight. Lanista wanted their gladiators to survive. It was both a business and a personal investment for them. Powerful Lanista could own their own schools and even fill the roll of Impresario. Mostly though, they were the coaches and mentors. The most common profession for a retired gladiator, one who "won" the games, was to become a Lanista. The Mentor you see most in the book is very concerned with the Tribute's surviva. Victor: In the Hunger Games books, we meet several former Victors. These are people who have won the games and are then rewarded with food, money, and large homes. They also take on the role of Mentor for the new Tributes each year. Notably, they aren't treated as citizens of the Capital, although they do spend a lot of time there and are well known to the Capital citizens. It is important to note the historical similarities here to that of the successful gladiator. A gladiator could generally retire after five years or if they gained fame with the crowds and frequently won fights in the Arena, the Editor might grant them a Rudis. This was a symbolic wooden sword signifying that they were free from their contract. Gladiators who won their freedom were also called Rudarius. They had "won" the games similar to how the Victors in The Hunger Games win. However, it goes deeper. Retired gladiators would often become trainers or Lanista, but sometimes they were eager to go back into the Arena to fight again, being unable to give up the blood lust or possibly the attention of the crowds. This is seen in the books among the Victors. Retired gladiators also much sought after as entertainers and were offered large sums of money or coerced into going back in and fighting again. Some gladiators won Rudis multiple times

over. The easiest and best way for an Editor to please the crowd was by bringing back the most popular and famed of all gladiators. The Arena: There are several Arenas discussed in the Hunger Games. They are specially designed for each annual game and only used once. They vary in size from large to small, but all seem to be round. They are designed to give the crowds, watching through the eyes of the cameras, the best possible vantage of the action. The Gamemakers control the traps, water, temperature, and other things in order to manipulate the drama and entertainment. There are corridors underneath where tables and animals can be raised and lowered from the Arena. All said, the similarities to ancient arenas are present in more than just the name. Rome had many different Arenas as each major town had their own. They were called Amphitheaters and the sand floor where the fights happened was the Arena, though the name has become interchangeable. Most of them were round, and made out of wood, stone, or both. The most famous and largest of course is the Coliseum in Rome. It also has corridors underneath and on the sides where things could be raised, lowered, and introduced into the Arena. The Roman arenas were very much like a modern stadium, while in the Hunger Games the Arena is a high-tech modern biosphere. Little things like the use of trumpets and the arrangement of the fighters standing still before the signal is given for the games to start have some historical significance as well. Gladiator Types: Finally, I'll talk about the Gladiator fighting styles. In Rome, there were distinctive fighting styles that gladiators trained in and these were distinguished by specific weapons, shields, and strategy. In The Hunger Games, there are no shields, but there are many, many weapons. The choice of weapons seems to indicate a direct reference to some of the ancient Roman gladiator styles. It is important to note that while the books will refer to "a pile of various weapons," The ones described in detail are Roman in nature. There are no European polarms, or claymores evident here. Also missing are Japanese and Chinese style weapons. There is mention of throwing knives and axes, snares, and a few other things, but most of the weapons reference back to Greece and Rome. There is a "short, sturdy sword" that sound like a Gladius and daggers, spears, bows, clubs, tridents, etc. Now, many of the Tributes were not extensively trained and just used whatever they could get their hands on quickly, including rocks. There were other Tributes that the books described as having extensive training at their home districts from their Mentors and these are called "Careers". Interestingly, these professional, career fighters (even given the choice of many different weapons), all seem to conform loosely to a popular gladiator fighting style. Animals - Yes, the Roman arena had exotic animals that were often killed for sport or performed as gladiators in their own way. Lions, tigers, wolves, bears, rhinos, crocodiles, chimps, baboons, and a dozen others. It's worth noting that in Panem, they don't put wild animals in the arena. They genetically engineer exotic creatures for fighting. Which is about the same thing. Remember, May Fortune forever favor the bold.