Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More gladiators

Following on from this post, I notice that Mary Beard, who spoke at the conference, has blogged it. Her report of her own paper is interesting. Perhaps she overreacts in underplaying the importance of gladiatorial combats - lack of frequency, after all, can contribute to the importance of an event rather than detract from it - but we modern westerners, fascinated by the (allegedly) alien concept of men killing each other for popular entertainment, do generally overplay it. The gladiatorial games were not top of the bill when it came to Roman mass entertainment - that was chariot racing. I always tell my students that (depending on which figures you use) the Circus Maximus could hold between two and five times as many people as the Colosseum, that it was riots by chariot racing fans that nearly brought down an emperor (Justinian, in AD 532),* and that there's a reason Juvenal (Satire 10.81) says panem et circenses, not panem et munera.

*Not that there weren't riots in amphitheatres - that in Pompeii that got their amphitheatre closed down for a decade comes to mind.


Gabriele C. said...

It seems to me that chariot races were a bit like Formula 1 and the football premier league combined. :-)

Paul F Cockburn said...

Great seeing you, albeit briefly, at Contemplation. Next time, we will have that chat!

Probably. ;-)