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Ancient Rome's Animal Cruelty For Entertainment In The Amphi-Theatre A

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"The Romans are often characterized as loving violent and cruel entertainment in the amphitheatre. It has been suggested that the games served the dual purpose of providing entertainment for the people and maintaining the political status quo."

In today's society, the killing of humans and animals usually means a jail term, and seeing someone die is not something people go and see for fun. Violence was glorified in Rome hundreds of years ago. All the crimes they committed were condoned, accepted and glorified.

There were four different genres of such entertainment in the games held in amphitheatres (Amphi-theatres are outdoor arenas. "theatres in the round": Amphi- meaning "round" in Greek.) : Gladiatorial combat, the theatrical execution of foreigners, beast shows, as well as chariot racing. Watching someone or a beast kill another was applauded for the method, skill, or artistry used in the slaughter. The games themselves provided ways for Rome to demonstrate the power of their empire, as huge investments of wealth, time, and emotion was put into the games. Death became a spectator sport with the viewers and the viewed both contributing to a wild and gory performance. Already by the late Republic magistrates were spending huge amounts of money on these games. The Latin word for gladiatorial games is Munus which means obligatory offering. This reflects the origin of these games as funerary offerings to the dead. While magistrates in the Republic may well have put on games to gain popular favour, this was in their private capacity and not as magistrates. Only gradually did the gladiatorial shows come to be assimilated with the games put on by magistrates.

While the most popular games were 'chariot racing' and simulated naval battles, fights in the amphitheatres, shown in these mosaics include gladiator V gladiator, gladiator V animal (pic 2) and animal V animal, were a common feature. Less common, but not infrequent was the release of wild beasts from the pits into the arena where hundreds of criminals had earlier been positioned. These spectacles all deeming to be very entertaining to spectators.

Throughout the history of the Republic, there was a difference between the gladiatorial contests and other forms of spectacular entertainment. The Romans did not invent the concept of gladiatorial fighting; there is some uncertainty as to the exact source. One ancient source says it was the Etruscans, a non-Indo-European people who lived directly north of the Romans.

Games that the state sponsored were called Ludi and held quite frequently. They never involved armed single combat, were associated with the worship of a god and were paid for (in part) by the public treasury. The Gladiatorial contests (Munera Gladiatorial) were sponsored and paid

for privately, held very infrequently and were associated with funeral rituals.

In A.D 70, the emperor Vespasian began construction on the site of a drained lake, of the largest amphitheatre in Rome, the Colosseum. The word Colosseum comes from a "colossal" statue of Nero that once stood near the stadium. The Colosseum could seat up to 50, 000 spectators, including the dignitaries, their guests, their slaves, a select number of common people, and "foreigners" (people who did not hold Roman citizenship). Commoners, slaves and foreigners were seated in the hottest place right under the canvas roof. After nine years of building by slave labour, the Colosseum's opening ceremonies, including the Inaugural games, in A.D. 80 involved spectacles held for 100 days in which 9, 000 animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed, all for the delight of the crowd.

In such a cultural climate, gladiatorial games were immensely popular and a characteristic symbol of Roman culture for almost seven centuries. Adopted from the earlier Etruscans, perhaps by way of Campania, Gladiatorial Games / Munera were introduced to Rome in 264 BC, and originated in the rites of sacrifice due the spirits of the dead and the need to propitiate them with offerings of blood. The were the obligatory funerary offerings owed to important men at their death, the first time being when the sons of Junius Brutus honoured their father by matching three pairs of gladiators. Traditionally, Munera among ancient Romans, gladiators (usually slaves or captives trained for the purpose), fought, usually to the death with swords or other weapons at public "shows". The more harm the gladiators inflicted the bigger hero he was, and the more respect he gained.

The first hunting of animals, called a venatio in Latin, meaning hunting took place in 186 B.C. Exotic animals that were hunted down, caught, and sold to the Romans who imported them for the games from as far away as Africa and India. The wild beasts included lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, crocodiles, panthers, bears, hippopotami, rhinos and elephants, as well as next to harmless animals such as ostriches, giraffes and deer. Some species were wiped out due to over taking of the animals from the wild.

A letter from Cicero, written in 50 BC whilst governor of Cilicia (in southern Asia Minor), in response to a request from M. Caelius Rufus, who, as Aedile, had asked him to provide leopards (pantherae) for the games he was organizing:

About the panthers! The matter is being handled with diligence and according to my orders by men who are skilful hunters. But there is a remarkable scarcity of panthers. And they tell me that the few panthers left are complaining bitterly that they are the only animals in my province for whom traps are set. And therefore they have decided, or so the rumour goes, to leave my province and move to Caria.

Cicero, Letters to His Friends

These animals were slaughtered all for the delight of the crowd.

The butchery is evoked in a panegyric to Stilicho written by Claudian, circa AD 400,

"beasts that are the joy of the rich amphitheatre and the glory of the woods. Whatsoever inspires fear with its teeth, wonder with its mane, awe with its horns and bristling coat--all the beauty, all the terror of the forest is taken."

Panegyric to Stilicho, written Claudian

The animals added excitement to the proceedings; trap doors were strategically hidden in the wooden floor. One form of entertainment involving these creatures, was suddenly a trapdoor would spring open, releasing a charging lion



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