Assignment #3: Divide and Conquer

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1. Based on what you've read, what contextual information must your group necessarily communicate to the class in order to help us better understand the theatrical material you plan to discuss?

Our group will have to communicate the Roman distaste for Greek theater (dance, music, plays) and preference toward less subtle and more barbaric displays of violence and slapstick. We also have to show the reason behind putting on these spectacles: usually to gain political sway or as a celebration of defeat of a political leader. It's crucial we discuss WHY Roman spectacle and first and foremost discuss how political leaders could manipulate the crowds. We need to touch on why it's about entertainment, food, punishment, and interaction between the people and the political power. "These spectacles of bloodshed were carried out in public often to exhibit the power of the state and to deter potentially disobedient citizens", "For example, Gaius Gracchus, seeking popular support for his office as tribune, took down the barriers around an arena, which allowed all Roman citizens to enter the gladiatorial combats for free". Also on the notion of attaining further political achievements "one could assume a connection between sponsorship of handsome spectacles as aedile and subsequent attainment of the highest offices" (Beacham, 3). We should also not forget to inform the class on where most of this information is taken from because a lot of it is not taken from written down personal accounts of Roman citizens. For example, a lot of information about chariot racing---a popular form of spectacle and sport in Ancient Rome---is actually taken from various interpretations on the carvings on vases or pottery or other forms of art and decoration. On the British Museum's website, there is an online tour which shows a few items---a coin, a lamp, a bust---which is what a lot of the information on what we know of the chariot races in that time period is taken from.

2. How does your topic express the philosophies, ideologies, political circumstances, and/or social movements occurring in the specific time and place you are investigating?

Our topic shows the chaotic, aggressive, and common changes in political power and also the power spectacle had to control the masses to gain support, to appease, or to distract. Games as a basis for political ritual, manipulation of masses, "here was public pleasure as well as law and order" (in the arena, the idea that all people were welcome and enjoyed the games. "The ritual performance in the arena was a means of Imperial control through directed attitudinal change, the creation and manipulation of mass emotional response, renewed regularity at the behest of the ruling hierarchy". Cicero had a particularly interesting view on games: "A gladiatorial show is likely to seem cruel and brutal to some eyes, and I tend to believe that it is as currently practiced. But in the time when it was criminals who fought with swords in a struggle to the death... there could be no better instruction against pain and death" (Beacham, 16).

3. Given that you only have 20 minutes to present, what big ideas/contextual elements will you have to leave out?

We will have to leave out or gloss over the contrasting Greek theater and culture. We will also most likely leave out anything that doesn't relate to spectacles of death and political and social issues that specifically surround these games. We might also have to sacrifice either a lack of specific detailing in order to talk about more kinds of spectacle; it'll force us to focus on a few or to be less general in order to discuss more.


Beacham, Richard C. Spectacle Entertainments of Early Imperial Rome. New Haven: Yale UP, 1999. Print.

Cowles, Lauren E. (2011) "The Spectacle of Bloodshed in Roman Society," Constructing the Past: Vol. 12: Iss. 1, Article 10.

Futrell, Alison. Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power. Austin: University of Texas, 1997. Print.

"Chariot-racing in Ancient Rome." British Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. .


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The purpose of the Sunday due date for this assignment is to give you time to read your sources carefully and to reflect on the information you find. I won't consider this assignment fully complete unless I see evidence that each group has spent time with its research material. To demonstrate a close reading, consider the following:
1. Cite (some of) your sources in your answers to these questions
2. Frame your responses through quotations from these sources. For example, you could talk about the philosophies, ideologies, political circumstances, etc. by citing particular passages in your sources that deal with these categories.

Quality reading and research does not always equate to length. In other words, I'm not looking for a super long response to these questions. I am, however, looking for detailed responses.

I think you're doing a very good job narrowing your focus and addressing my previous comments. My one suggestion would be to locate a specific set of games, or a spectacle entertainment that had incredibly high stakes. For example, what was the bloodiest thing you're encountered? Have you located a spectacle that was so grand in its scale that it boggled the mind? Or, conversely, have you found any spectacles that seemed rather meek? Explaining why precisely specific rulers needed to utilize the spectacles will likely add specificity to your project. Or follow up on Cicero's quotation and find out what precisely he's talking about. (By the way, have you discovered how Cicero died?)

In your response to question three you wrote, "We will also most likely leave out anything that doesn't relate to spectacles of death and political and social issues that specifically surround these games." Keep in mind that this scope alone presents a formidable amount of research. Continue to search for a battle or event that will attract the class's attention to the crucial role played by these spectacles in Rome.

GRADE: 95%

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This page contains a single entry by heerx019 published on November 15, 2012 10:31 AM.

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