It is a good thing, when the guilty are punished ('Bonum est cum puniuntur nocentes').
(Tertullian On the Spectacles 19, Loeb)
The startling quantities and diversity of humans and beasts who performed in Roman spectacles testify to the resources of the empire and to Rome's organizational abilities. Providing, orchestrating, and disposing of the animal and human victims posed a logistical challenge, and also, because of the way the human victims were killed, disposal was not purely a logistical problem.
We cannot be certain how many creatures Rome killed in spectacles each year, for the city kept no systematic records of arena victims. Even if we collected data on all the known festivals and occasions involving blood sports, plus all the specific numbers explicitly recorded for historical games, we would not have complete and reliable statistical data for the problem of disposal. 1 Cliometrics have limited application for antiquity, for ancient authors cited numbers symbolically, not statistically. 2 Pagan sources seem more concerned with total numbers amassed rather than with specific numbers of casualties and deaths, and martyrologies tend to be late and fervent, dwelling more on bravery and horrors than on objective recording. The public and official nature of most spectacles, and the desire of producers to publicize their generosity, make some claims and numbers seem credible: e.g. announcements of upcoming games, inscriptional records by editors, occasional statements in mosaics, and the multiply attested (though sometimes inconsistent) numbers for the great spectacles of emperors such as Trajan. 3 We do not doubt Augustus' claim in his Res gestae that 10,000 gladiators fought in eight shows and 3,500 animals died in twenty-six hunts under his reign. 4 Inaccuracies in such sources would be too obvious and would defeat the purposes at hand (i.e. to glorify the editor's liberalitas).
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Publication information: Book title: Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome. Contributors: Donald G. Kyle - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 76.
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