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What made the Romans turn out in big numbers to brutal gladiatorial games, triumphal parades and funerary processions? Why did they desire to watch?

Gladiatorial games, wild beast hunts, chariot racing, and elaborately staged executions of condemned criminals were some of the most popular forms of public entertainment in the Roman world. The spoils of war paraded at Rome in triumphal processions staged the newly conquered peoples and regions at the center of the Empire. Funerary processions of the elite included actors wearing masks bringing back to life dead ancestors of the family.

These murderous games and processions were quintessentially Roman inventions and had a central importance for Roman society as is evidenced by the distinctive architectural forms developed for their staging, and their popularity as subjects for mosaics, reliefs, and paintings. This course explores not only the array of visual representations of spectacles in the Roman world, but also the buildings (amphitheater, circus, theater, stadium, triumphal arch) in which they took place and the material culture linked to the performers involved in them, as well as the social, political, and historical circumstances that encouraged their development.