The Game of Death in Ancient Rome: Arena Sport and Political Suicide

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    Our taste for blood sport stops short at the bruising clash of football players or the gloved blows of boxers, and the suicide of a politician is no more than a personal tragedy. What, then, are we to make of the ancient Romans, for whom the meaning of sport and politics often depended on death? In this provocative, thoughtful book, Paul Plass shows how the deadly violence of arena sport and political suicide served a social purpose in ancient Rome. His work offers a reminder of the complex uses to which institutionalized

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Overview

    Our taste for blood sport stops short at the bruising clash of football players or the gloved blows of boxers, and the suicide of a politician is no more than a personal tragedy. What, then, are we to make of the ancient Romans, for whom the meaning of sport and politics often depended on death? In this provocative, thoughtful book, Paul Plass shows how the deadly violence of arena sport and political suicide served a social purpose in ancient Rome. His work offers a reminder of the complex uses to which institutionalized violence can be put.
    Violence, Plass observes, is a universal part of human life, and so must be integrated into social order. Grounding his study in evidence from Roman history and drawing on ideas from contemporary sociology and anthropology, he first discusses gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome. Massive bloodshed in the arena, Plass argues, embodied the element of danger for a society frequently engaged in war, with outsiders—whether slaves, criminals, or prisoners of war—sacrificed for a sense of public security

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Plass (classics, U. of Wisconsin-Madison) shows how the deadly violence of arena sport and political suicide served a social purpose in ancient Rome, drawing on ideas from contemporary sociology and anthropology. He discusses gladitorial combat, and spells out the rules implicit in Roman political suicide using game theory as a model. Includes a section of detailed notes describing legal antimony, orgiastic violence, clemency, loss aversion, and degrees of penalty, based on the writings of Tacitus and Seneca. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299145705
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1995
  • Series: Studies in Classics
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on References
Introduction 3
Pt. I Arena Games and Public Uses of Violence
1 Public Spectacles as Broken Routine 15
2 Games and Liminoid Ritual 25
3 Gladiatorial Combat 29
4 Extravagant Expenditure, Conspicuous Consumption 46
5 Sociology of Public Violence 56
6 Social Anomaly and Public Violence 62
Pt. II Political Suicide: Were They Pushed, or Did They Jump?
7 Political Violence and Suicide 81
8 Political Game Rules 87
9 The Tactics of Political Suicide 92
10 Political Anomaly and Suicide 116
Epilogue 135
Addendum 1. Legal Antinomy 141
Addendum 2. Orgiastic Violence 144
Addendum 3. The Ambivalent Triumph 148
Addendum 4. Political Monstrosity 155
Addendum 5. Political Game Moves 158
Addendum 6. Clemency 163
Addendum 7. Loss Aversion 168
Addendum 8. Degrees of Penalty 172
Notes 175
Selected Bibliography 262
Index 272
Index of Passages Cited in Text 276
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