Animal spectacula of the Roman Empire

Animal spectacula of the Roman Empire

Epplett, William Christopher

Doctor of Philosophy, The University of British Columbia (2002)


Although gladiatorial spectacles in ancient Rome have been the subject of a great deal of recent scholarly literature, comparatively little attention has been paid to the contemporary animal spectacles and staged beast-hunts (venationes), the events most closely associated with gladiatorial combat in the imperial period. A number of different works have dealt with such topics as the origins and organization of gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome, but relatively few scholars have attempted to address similar questions concerning the venationes. Only a single monograph in English, written approximately 60 years ago, has been produced on the phenomenon of Roman animal spectacles. The purpose of .this thesis is to give a comprehensive account of Roman venationes and animal displays, incorporating, in certain cases, evidence that has only recently become available or has largely been overlooked by previous scholars. A wide variety of evidence will be used in this study, ranging from literary sources to archaeological data. The paper will trace the historical development of these spectacles, from Republican displays staged in imitation of contemporary Greek events, to the beasthunts of the Byzantine empire. Another major focus of the thesis will be the infrastructure and organization behind Roman animal spectacles, in particular the methods by which the Romans captured and transported the large numbers of animals necessary for events staged throughout the empire.

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