Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power

Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power

Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power

Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power

Synopsis

". . . bring[s] fresh perspectives to the study of the Roman amphitheater, situating the Roman arena within a larger cross-cultural framework of human sacrifice and providing important insights into the psychological dimensions of these public spectacles for the Roman viewer."--Classical WorldFrom the center of Imperial Rome to the farthest reaches of ancient Britain, Gaul, and Spain, amphitheaters marked the landscape of the Western Roman Empire. Built to bring Roman institutions and the spectacle of Roman power to conquered peoples, many still remain as witnesses to the extent and control of the empire.In this book, Alison Futrell explores the arena as a key social and political institution for binding Rome and its provinces. She begins with the origins of the gladiatorial contest and shows how it came to play an important role in restructuring Roman authority in the later Republic. She then traces the spread of amphitheaters across the Western Empire as a means of transmitting and maintaining Roman culture and control in the provinces.Futrell also examines the larger implications of the arena as a venue for the ritualized mass slaughter of human beings, showing how the gladiatorial contest took on both religious and political overtones. This wide-ranging study, which draws insights from archaeology and anthropology, as well as Classics, broadens our understanding of the gladiatorial contest and its place within the highly politicized cult practice of the Roman Empire.

Excerpt

We only show these people massacred because this indisputably occurred Please calmly watch these barbarous displays which could not happen nowadays The men of that time mostly now demised were primitive we are more civilized.

PETER WEISS, Marat/Sade, ACT I, SCENE 2

THE YEAR OF 42 B.C. was troubled by disturbing evidence of divine disquiet, warning the Romans of violent disruption awaiting them, of the utter transformation of heaven and earth. The signs were, quite literally, unearthly. The sun would shine both day and night, its orb growing to enormous proportions, three times its usual size, and then shrinking dramatically, to the merest pinpoint of light. The boundary between the cosmic and terrestrial realm was ruptured, as bolts of lightning and meteorites rained down from above. Roman sleep was broken by eerie sounds: the call of trumpets, the clash of weapons, and the clamor of phantom men in arms came from the gardens near the Tiber. One dog buried the corpse of another, killed in a canine coup, beside the Temple of Ceres. Prodigies were born, whose mutations spoke of excess and discord. Most dreadful portent for the unity of the Roman State, those gathered on the Alban Mount for the festival of Latiaris saw the statue of Jupiter gush blood from its right arm. Warnings appeared in other areas of Roman activity: in Macedonia, where Brutus and Cassius, the assassin liberators, had their headquarters, rivers dried up or ran backward. Bees swarmed threateningly outside the legionary camp. A boy carrying the statue of Victory in procession fell down, and that hallowed symbol of Roman solidarity and achievement plummeted to the dust. Overhead, vultures and . . .

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