Bread and Circuses: A Sourcebook on the Roman Games / Edition 1

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This sourcebook presents a wealth of material relating to every aspect of Roman spectacles, especially gladiatorial combat and chariot racing.

  • Draws on the words of eye-witnesses and participants, as well as depictions of the games in mosaics and other works of art.
  • Offers snapshots of “a day at the games” and “the life of a gladiator”.
  • Includes numerous illustrations.
  • Covers chariot-races, water pageants, naval battles and wild animal fights, as well as gladiatorial combat.
  • Combines political, social, religious and archaeological perspectives.
  • Facilitates an in-depth understanding of this important feature of ancient life.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A lively and wide-ranging collection of sources on Roman public spectacle. Alison Futrell has made an excellent selection and she introduces and links the extracts with very lucid and helpful commentary. This book will be enormously beneficial for students and helpful to scholars too.”
Jonathan Edmondson, York University, Toronto

“This excellent book promises to be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the violent entertainments of the Roman arena. Futrell’s collection of sources enables readers to see the broader context of the games, offering a first rate collection of material for life outside the amphitheater, as well as for events that took place within it.”
David Potter, University of Michigan

"Futrell's main purpose is to provide interesting, unusual material, and this she does ... Her brief explanatory notes are insightful, learned and intended to provoke further research. Those interested in ancient Rome will welcome this fine sourcebook ... Highly recommended."

"This very useful book provides a wide-ranging collection of sources of different types on this ever-popular branch of Roman civilisation, offering valuable insights into aspects of Roman public entertainment. . . a worthwhile purchase for the school library."
Journal of Classics Teaching

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405115698
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Series: Blackwell Sourcebooks in Ancient History Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 266
  • Sales rank: 598,350
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Futrell is Associate Professor of Roman History at the University of Arizona in Tucson and author of Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power (1997). Her current research interests are in representations of gender and power, both in the ancient past and in modern popular culture. Her recent projects include the cultural history of Spartacus and a monograph on Barbarian Queens.

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Table of Contents




1. The Politics of the Arena.

Origin and Growth of Games.

Games and the Roman State.

Origins of Gladiatorial Combat.

Origins of Wild Animal Shows.

Roman Spectacle Overseas.

Spectacle and Roman Politics.

Politics and Shows.




Shows as Political Assemblies.

Imperial Spectacle.

Ordinary Spectacle.

The Emperor and the Arena.

The Emperor as Spectator.

Imperial Spectacle as Political Forum.

Gladiators Outside Rome.

2. The Venue.

Republican Arenas.

No Theaters Please.

Temporary structures in Rome.


Disaster and control.

The Colosseum.

Mixed edifices in the Western Empire.

Military amphitheaters.

Special Features.


Features of the Circus Maximus.

Circus as Cosmos.


Stratification and Seating.

3. A Day at the Games.

Preparation and pompa.




The Armatures.

The Combats.

Good spectacles vs. Bad Spectacles.

The Other Show: Audiences at the Games.

Dangerous Games.

Power of Life and Death.

Special Treats.

Food, Spectacular Food.


Inaugural Games at the Flavian Amphitheater.

Commodus’ Games.

Tainted by the Crowd.

4. The Life of the Gladiator.

Where did gladiators come from?.

Prisoners of War.

Condemned Criminals.

Slave gladiators and the Spartacan War.

Gladiators and status.

Free Gladiators.

Choosing gladiatorial status.


Life in the ludi.

Death or Survival.

Sexy Gladiators.

Death and Choice.

Gladiator familiae.

Female performers: gladiatrices and ludia.

Crimes of status: elites in the arena.

Imperial gladiators.

5. Christians and the Arena.

Rome and the Christians: the official relationship.

The Neronian Persecution.

Trajan’s Policy.

Christian denunciation of the Arena.

The arena and Christian identity.

Martyr Acts.

Christian Rome and the arena.

6. Chariot Races and Water Shows.

Chariot Races.

The Events.


The Horses.

The Colors.

Circus Fans.

Emperors as Fans.

Fan Clubs and Unrest.

The Nika Revolt.

Water Shows.

Timeline of Roman History.

Glossary of Terms and Names.


Suggestions for Further Reading.


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