episode 6

Bread and circuses

Italy, 80

published the 11th april 2016


Profession : hunter

The Roman circuses got through a lot of wild animals. Soldiers in the Roman Legion were specially assigned to capture wild beasts wherever they were posted. Lions were a particular favourite with the crowds back in Rome, but all sorts of animals were taken, from giraffes to big cats, ostriches and even rabbits. What the audience wanted to see was blood spilled and fur and feathers fly.

Volunteering for the arena

Fighting animals in the arena was not always a punishment. Some gladiators volunteered for the job. If you were an experienced hunter with a taste for adventure, it could be quite a nice little earner.

Christian martyrs

Contrary to popular belief, Christians were not alone in being thrown to the lions : other unpopular groups joined them in the arena for a variety of reasons.


Naval displays meant flooding the arena to stage miniature battles. The circus was equipped with a complex hydraulic system to fill the vast arena. To mark the grand opening of the Colosseum, Titus held two such displays involving over three thousand men, re-enacting a battle between Athens and Syracuse.



  1. wikipedia (article on the ludi)
  2. wikipedia (article on the Roman Colosseum)