Hershel Shanks

Although this panel from a second-century A.D. wall mosaic (compare with photo of mosaic from the Villa Armerina in Sicily) in El Djem, Tunisia, depicts a helpless prisoner being savagely devoured by a leopard, wild animals were usually the biggest losers in the Roman arena. In most shows, they were “hunted” by skilled, well-equipped fighters, who almost always triumphed over their frightened prey. As many as 10,000 beasts were slaughtered in a single set of games. Since most of the animals were captured in the wild, the demands of the arena were also ecologically disastrous.