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The Roman Games Were Cruel and Degrading and Cannot be Justified. How Far do You Agree With This O inion!

Which aspects of Roman games might be considered cruel and degrading depends upon the responders cultural experience. All societies, including our own, indulge in spectacle and veneration of an elite or deit . !o understand wh not "ust magnificent, but horrific, games were staged we must understand Roman values and motives# $the past is another countr .%&

!here were man different reasons that the Romans staged games. A recurring concern of the Roman patricians and 'enate was the mollification of the plebeians. Roman societ operated a rigid hierarch that gave rise to numerous social tensions. !he games, even given the stratification of access and seating, were designed as a near democratic unification of societ # the $politics of participation.%& thus helping to give the audience inclusion, a sta(e, in societ . 'ome actions in the arena re)uired audience participation. !hese included sometimes deciding whether a van)uished gladiator might live. A particular punishment whereb two condemned men were forced to fight one another as gladiators $ad ludos% could result in the crowd rewarding a brave performance with release# $the ultimate democrac .% * where $the crowd decided who might live again.%*

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+an in the audience simpl li(ed the games# $When he saw the blood, , drun( a deep draught of savage passion. -nstead of turning awa , he , dran( in all its fren. , unaware of what he was doing. /e revelled in the wic(edness of the fighting and was drun( with the fascination of bloodshed.%1 !his spea(s of more than pleasure# this is almost a $hit%. !o remove the games ris(ed the wrath of the mob. 0nl two ears before the 1olosseum started building had the latest civil war and insurrections ended.2

'pectacular performances were a celebration of a common cultural tradition and an indication of the sponsors power, wealth and status. An emperor was expected to surpass his predecessors in ever more lavish displa . +artial spea(s of $a novelt , un(nown in man times.%3 and $the water li(e to the sea% 3 whilst referring to moc( naval battles staged in the arena. 'uetonius refers to the 4mperor !itus as $,second to none of his predecessors in munificence.%5 'tating that $he gave a most magnificent and costl gladiatorial show.%5 Augustus boasted that in eighteen games# $About ten thousand men fought in these shows.%* 6ess exalted men also sponsored numerous games. Apuleius tal(s of $7emochares , preparing a public entertainment of a brilliance to match his fortune.% 7

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A further use for the games was punitive. Wiedemann sa s $punishment needs to be made public in some wa .%8 0ur societ uses the media. $!he policeman and the prison are two visible factors that reassure a societ that legal , norms have more than "ust a theoretical role.% 8 !he Romans had no such infrastructure and accordingl re)uired highl public punishments. 9 being in the arena the $performers% were also in exclusion from Roman protection. !he games thus further served as a statement of social identit for the audience, which was protected b being included in that societ .

Wiedemann8 argues that to throw low status criminals to the animals allowed for the removal of direct responsibilit for an individual to (ill a condemned man, as does /op(ins.: !he arena was a place where Roman societ could deal with crime. ' mbolic of an ordered world, the $cosmos% *, the emperor guaranteed that order.

!hose regarded as a threat were similarl dealt with. !he 1hristians were used as scapegoats b several emperors. 'ub"ugated barbarians were put to death in the arena. Wiedemann8 relates the idea that Rome was s non mous with civilisation. Rebellion was to re"ect civilisation# those rebelling therefore as(ed for death.

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;or the Romans, $the struggle against nature was ver real.% * !he numerous wild beast displa s and $venationes% <animal=hunts> in the amphitheatres of the empire served to denude some lands of wild animals. Augustus stated $- provided , African animals twent =six times, , about three thousand five hundred animals were (illed.% * !he Romans regarded this as wholl desirable. $new ground gained for civilisation and agriculture.% 1& -n a ?ree( poem# $ , the former loft lairs of wild beasts are now @pasturages.% 1& !he 4g ptian cornfields were saved from the ravages of hippopotami. 1& Whole industries of huntsmen and animal trains must have been emplo ed in the collection and transportation of animals for the games. !he games thus served to both s mbolise the triumph of the empire over the natural environment and also to provide alleviation of suffering from hunger and practical impetus to the progress of civilisation as the Romans saw it.

'ome of the $entertainment% was trul appalling. -n a novel, Apuleius relates the stor of a woman being raped b an ass.1A 1oleman also mentions bestial rape.11 1hristians and criminals were put to death b being torn apart b predators, t picall lions and bears. As noted earlier, two condemned men would be forced to fight as gladiators. *

Bot all of the games were blood=thirst . Whilst chariot racing was violent horse racing was widel followed. !wo factions, the greens and blues, became established with rivalr a(in to that of contemporar football supporters.13

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-n man wa s, for reasons stated above, the games can be "ustified. Romans were concerned with defending life, order and their civilisation. !he games helped to do this and - doubt whether peaceful games would have succeeded in such a brutal societ . !he prurient level of violence emplo ed does, however, seem unnecessaril cruel and degrading.

Word 1ount# :AA

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1. 't. Augustines 1onfessions. &. Phrase in general use but of un(nown source. 3. +artial, 0n !he 'pectacles. ?.P. ?ould <ed.> <1::3> +artial 4pigrams, trans# 7.R. 'hac(leton, 6oeb 1lassical 6ibrar , 1ambridge, +ass. /arvard Cniversit Press, vol 1. 2. !he 1olosseum. P. Duennell. <1:71> Readers 7igest Assoc. 6td. 5. 'uetonius, !he 4mperor !itus. ;rom 'uetonius, 6ives of !he !welve 1aesars. W. /einnemann <ed.> trans# E.1. Rolfe. 6oeb 1lassical 6ibrar , 1ambridge, +ass. /arvard Cniversit Press, & vols, vol &. Para 7 F *. 8. !homas Wiedemann, 4mperors and ?ladiators, 6ondon, Routledge. pp. 7A=&, 15A=&, 153. 7. Apuleius, !he Robbers !ale. A /anson <ed.> <1:*:> Apuleius +etamorphoses, 6oeb 1lassical 6ibrar , 1ambridge, +ass. /arvard Cniversit Press. & vols, +etamorphoses, G, vol 1. *. !homas Wiedemann, 4mperors, ?ladiators and 1hristians. ;rom $0mnibus%, 'ept 1::1, -ssue &&, pp &8=*. :. Heith /op(ins, +urderous ?ames, from 7eath and Renewal <1:*3>, 1ambridge, 1CP pp&1=&. 1A. Apuleius, !he Ass in !he Arena. A /anson <ed.> <1:*:> Apuleius +etamorphoses, 6oeb 1lassical 6ibrar , 1ambridge, +ass. /arvard Cniversit Press. & vols, +etamorphoses, G, vol &.

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11. H.+. 1oleman, <1::A> ;atal 1harades# Roman 4xecutions 'taged as + thological 4nactments%, Eournal of roman 'tudies, vol. 6GGG, 1::A, pp.22=73, extracts from pp.82, 87, 73. 1&. ?. Eennison <1:37> Animals for 'how and Pleasure in ancient Rome, +anchester, pp.88=:. 13. +. Widdowson. !he !heor of 7ar( ages, Proximate 1auses. http#IIwebsite.lineone.netIJmarc.widdowsonIPart&I1hapter1:.html