29.9). Presumably such individualized scenes depicted in the homes of their actual editores elicited from observant guests the same kinds of questions and positive comments that result today from the display of trophies, signed letters from the president, or records of civic honors.
Toynbee wonders how the Romans could illustrate violent scenes from the arena on their floors. If we ask "How could they?" about gladiatorial and venatorial themes, it is because we cannot imagine today enjoying what the scenes represent, or focusing our own private living or dining rooms on permanently displayed, fixed images that either specifically depict graphic (and still ongoing, rather than mythological or historical) violence, or at least imply that the violence will occur-- although we can permit the fugitive violence of the television screen into these rooms. 35 We are more likely to accept the display of mounted heads (or antlers, or other parts) of killed animals, from which we distance ourselves perhaps partly because they are disembodied. We are also not disturbed by the images of typical arena beasts depicted alone in medallions in a mosaic floor, in which no aggression is even implied. It is the graphic illustration of animals' fear or pain and of the terrible wounds inflicted on man and beast that provoke the question "How could they?" The simple answer to the question is that the Romans did not typically see the images that bother us--or the practices behind them--the same way we do: with empathy for the victim. The mosaics instead emphasize the distance of patron and audience from those whose deaths they enforced or delayed; scenes of attack and suffering may be funny, they may be diminished in importance by subordinate locations and small scale, and they may be reduced to decorative patterns.
In this essay I have considered only the mosaics of the relatively wealthy. Depictions in other media may illustrate different aspects of the games and suggest other interests or reactions of lower social classes. For example, in art on a smaller scale with less scope for narrative and detail, such as that on terra-cotta lamps (probably intended for less wealthy spectators who could not themselves afford to give shows), the emphasis on blood and on requests for missio does not seem to be as strong. But on the richly detailed floors of the wealthy, scenes of panic, blood, and fatal moments were indeed decoration, celebrating the social structure that both permitted the games and admired appropriate reproductions of them. The cooperation or approval of viewers of the art who were themselves potential victims of the arena, such as slaves or non-Roman visitors, is assumed in the mosaics and in the homes that display them. These gladiatorial and venatorial images were surely observed by visitors and diners who responded with praise for their hosts; the violence they saw was essential to the games, commonplace in its context, and directed against legitimate victims.
I would like to thank Amy Richlin for interesting me in this topic in the first place and for inviting me to contribute to this book. She and Robert Sutton have been kind and helpful critics. I am especially grateful to my colleagues Jeremy Rutter and James Tatum for their enthusiastic support and suggestions, and for generously sharing with me their own archae-