Annotated Bibliography

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

The Ludi (annual games) were often seen as offerings to the gods and were held by public officials on behalf of the general community; "whereas the munera (events) were provided by citizens acting in a private capacity to honor a recently deceased relative" (13). If a showing were interrupted, it would be restarted at the beginning. Holidays were a big part of Roman life- (eventually formal annual games) (ludi sollemnes)), initially taking place for Gods or Goddesses instead. (ludi Apollinares for Apollo; ludi Megalenses for the Great Mother; ludi Florales for goddess Flora), these took place for fifty days a year. Then came the time when these events were more of a political statement, and increased their chances in the Senate- people were "aediles", the chapter says "one could assume a connection between sponsorship of handsome spectacles as aedile and subsequent attainment of the highest offices" (3). It was "seen as a capital offence in Rome to seek office by openly offering gifts, but shows given by prospective candidates, regardless of the potential for abuse, were not usually seen as bribery" (15). These events were seen as good investments, or as opportunities to show their family prestige, achievement, and wealth. There is a particularly good quote from Cicero: "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" (16).


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

Cowles' article The Spectacle of Bloodshed in Roman Society argues that gladiator games, public executions, and other forms of bloodshed served many purposes and were not just examples of "sheer brutality". The article explains that these games were used for sport, entertainment, food, punishment, political power, and increased interaction with leaders. Many of Cowles' facts come from Donald G Kyle's Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome. From Cowles' article one learns that at the bloody games of Ancient Rome, people of all classes attended, were accepted, and enjoyed the games. When criminals were executed publicly, it was a message to the people that they shouldn't misbehave, and a display of political power. When animals were slaughtered in the games, the meat of the animals was given to the audience in attendance. The games were also a good way to create a connection between an emperor and his people. Gaius Gracchus took down the barriers at one arena and allowed all citizens in for free, in order to gain support for his office. The article focuses on the fact that spectacles of death were common in Ancient Rome and even looked forward to. Cowles defines these spectacles as gladiatorial combat, ritualized executions, and animal hunts. While Cowles states that these games served more function than just sheer brutality, Cowles still states that it is the Roman love and desire for violence that make them flock to the arenas to see the games. Cowles cites several good examples of reasoning behind the blood games of Ancient Rome.


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

Futrell's book, Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power, discusses the relationship between blood games and political power in Rome. The book discusses much more than just blood in the arena of Ancient Rome. Other chapters include information on Campanian and Etruscan gladiators, military amphitheatres, and Celtic and Imperial Cults. The information on spectacles in Ancient Rome can be found in the sections, Early Spectacle in Rome, and Human Sacrifice in Rome. Futrell explains that the "munera" or blood games in Rome weren't considered sacrificial, but rather, agonistic (agonistic refers to social behavior related to fighting, and aggression). Futrell explains that the munera "formed the basis of a complex of political ritual" Leaders believed that blood spilt in the arena "guaranteed the community's continuity despite the passage of its leaders". The games were used to keep the community of Rome together even as leaders come and go. With this idea comes the idea that the games weren't about the death of an individual as much as they were about celebrating the continuance of Rome. Futrell discusses how the games were used to manipulate the people of Rome: "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" The games were a time to adjust the attitude and emotions of the masses. At the arena one could find "public pleasure as well as law and order". The main idea of the Roman aspects of Futrell's book is the connection between games and politics, and the political purposes behind the games.

The Art of Ancient Spectacle takes what is known about ancient Roman spectacle and uses that evidence to support why and how it may have been presented for political purpose. For example, a first person account is used of spectacle put on for celebration in the Circus Maximus. The known information is taken: that a Grecian power was overthrown and a celebration mounted because of it, and speculates why instead of a classical dance and music performance was changed into a "more entertaining" brawl between musicians. There is also information on spectacle as a religious offer to the gods and how "spectacle" came to mean festival or games to the Roman culture. The book also contains art and text about Roman spectacle from the late BCE, giving numerous example of the different kinds of common spectacle. There are also first person accounts of these spectacles to elaborate from. It also dabbles in how Roman architecture made spectacle possible and more information on how politics related to both of these themes. It focuses on the Circus Maximus and in many chapters the structure comes up because it was the primary location for Roman spectacle of many different varieties from more classical performances to caged animal fights and can be analysed on what structures were permanent and therefore more common and which structures were temporary and therefore unpopular or uncommon. The books also talks about spectacle on the street that occurred. This information can be used as evidence of the cultural idea of entertainment and why politics could so effectively use spectacle to capture the Roman audience.

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