The attitudes towards the Roman games expressed by the ancient writers varied enormously between different individuals. What follows is a look at some of the attitudes expressed by writers contemporary to the games and how and why these attitudes differ. The games took place in Rome and the wider empire from around 264bce till around 450ce. They could be elaborate and ritualistic involving the death of hundreds of men and animals at any one time. It is also worth pointing out that the games upheld the traditional Roman values of strength/courage, training/discipline , firmness , endurance , contempt of death , love of glory , and the desire to win . All of these values were considered important in such a militaristic society.
Marcus Valerius Martialis (40-103 Ce) gives us a clear indication of his attitude towards these values in his Martial Epigrams . He uses the example of the re-enactment of Pasiphae mating with the Dictean bull as proof of the original event having taken place.
He writes 'Believe that Pasiphae was mated to the Dictaen Bull; we have seen it the old legend has won credence'. In another of his Epigrams he tells of a tigress that fiercely tears at a lion. By stating she has increased her ferocity and was now capable of acts she would not have dared commit in the wild he is telling us that the tigress has benefited from the games and is exemplifying the values of strength and a desire to win.
Statius (40-96ce) also tells of a lion who exemplifies the Roman values of strength and valor. In his work Silvae he describes how a tamed lion enters the arena for his final fight. The lion is again is compared to a brave human warrior who in his final fatal moments...