This essay is based on my Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome (London and New York: Routledge, 1998). Other recent books include T. Wiedemann, Emperors and Gladiators (London and New York: Routledge, 1992); C. Barton, The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans: The Gladiator and the Monster (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); M. Hornum, Nemesis, the Roman State, and the Games (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993); Paul Plass, The Game of Death in Ancient Rome: Arena Sport and Political Suicide (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995); J.P. Toner, Leisure and Ancient Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and A. Futrell, Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997). Valuable essays include Keith Hopkins, “Murderous Games,” in Death and Renewal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 1–30; J.C. Edmondson, “Dynamic Arenas: Gladiatorial Presentations in the City of Rome and the Construction of Roman Society During the Early Empire,” pp. 69–112, and D. Potter, “Performance, Power, and Justice in the High Empire,” pp. 129–160, in W.J. Slater, ed., Roman Theater and Society (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996); E. Gunderson, “The Ideology of the Arena,” Classical Antiquity 15 (1996) pp. 113–151; D. Potter, “Martyrdom and Spectacle,” in R. Scodel, ed., Theater and Society in the Classical World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993); pp. 53–58, and “Entertainers in the Roman Empire,” sin Potter and D.J. Mattingly, eds., Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999) pp. 256–325.

Recent videos include The Roman Arena. Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities, 1994. 50 minutes; Gladiators: Sports and Entertainment in the Roman World. Cincinnati: Institute for Mediterranean Studies, 1998. 22 min.


See S. Brown, “Death as Decoration: Scenes from the Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics,” in A. Richlin, ed., Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) pp. 180–211.


Tertullian, De Spectaculis, trans. by G.H. Rendall, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931).


Potter, video, op. cit.


Graffiti: Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 4.4289, 4342, 4345; Juvenal Satire 6.82–113.


Tertullian, De Spectaculis, 22.


Seneca, Epistulae Morales 7.3–5, trans. R.M. Gummere, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925).


Seneca, De Ira 2.2.4, trans. J.W. Basore, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928).


Tacitus, Annals 12–56; Suetonius, “Claudius,” in The Twelve Caesars 12.6; and Dio Cassius, 61(60).33.3–4.


See K.M. Coleman, “Fatal Charades: Roman Executions Staged as Mythological Enactments,” Journal of Roman Studies 130 (1990), pp. 44–73.


Tacitus, Annals 15.44.3–8.


Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans 5.3, translated by K. Lake, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912); Apostolic Fathers 2.233.


Elephants, rhinoceroses and zebras were wiped out in northern Africa, and hippopotamuses and crocodiles were pushed south from Egypt into Nubia. (See J.J. Hughes, Pan’s Travail: Environmental Problems of the Ancient Greeks and Romans [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994], pp. 105–108.)


Cicero might ask: “But what pleasure can it possibly be for a man of culture, when either a puny human being is mangled by a most powerful beast, or a splendid beast is transfixed with a hunting spear?” (in Letters to his Friends 7.1.3 Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929); but Cicero clearly went to the shows.


Tertullian, De Spectaculis, 22.


Martial, Spectacula, 5.65.