Panem et Circenses of the SPQR: Bread and Circuses of the Senate and People of Rome.

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Panem et Circenses of the SPQR: Bread and Circuses of the Senate and People of Rome.

Panem et circenses, (bread and circuses), were the two things that the Roman mob yearned for. The importance of entertainment and leisure in the Roman world can be judged only by the physical archeological findings of today. As it is, we have found a plethora of theatres, amphitheatres, bath buildings, and the like, that have survived over time; these help us to conclude that leisure and entertainment played an important part of Roman life. Obviously, huge amounts of money were poured into providing the cities of the Republic with fitting venues. These venues were a source of considerable income, not just a source of entertainment. The finance for these projects came from a variety of 'sponsors' who varied in their motives for contributing to the entertainment of the empire.1 Buildings for the public entertainment remain some of the most spectacular monuments to survive from the Roman empire.

Representing, as they do, an enormous expenditure of society's resources on pleasure, they are a vivid reminder of the centrality of public entertainment for the exposition and formation of social values. Thus, one would almost expect that, at points, public entertainment and public policy would become one and the same. It was definitely the case in Imperial Rome2, but before that one would have to assume that the theatre, amphitheatre, and circus were the locations of communication between the government and the people, even in times of the Republic.

It is obvious that the Romans liked to indulge themselves; it was, after all, their cultural nature to expect the best and to live life to the fullest. This facet of the Roman culture can be seen through all aspects of life, in their eternal pursuit of...