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Level 5

5AACAR30 Bread and Circuses: Roman Entertainment and Spectacle

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Dr John Pearce
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list  for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x essay of  2,500 words (60%); 2 x commentary of 750 words (40%, with each commentary worth 20%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand, there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Chariot racing, gladiatorial combat, athletic performance, often violent, as well as the theatre and other forms of popular entertainment played a major part as spectacles in the lives of the citizens of the Roman empire throughout antiquity. By virtue of their close connections with other central areas of ancient life, including religious belief and practice, economic organisation, political power and patronage or the construction of political and/or ethnic identity, the forms taken by entertainment in any region or period are very revealing of contemporary concerns and values.

This module will explore the ancient evidence for Roman entertainment and spectacle from the Republic to late Antiquity, including a wide range of archaeological evidence, including art, architecture and inscriptions, as well as texts. It investigates ancient attitudes to spectacles as well as the responses of modern scholars to an aspect of Roman culture which has caused difficulties for advocates of the Classical world as epitomising civilised values. For students in Classics it builds on their understanding of Roman material and visual culture and of the relevant historical context established by first year core modules.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Christesen, P. and Kyle, D.G. eds. 2015. A Companion to Sport and Spectacle in Greek and Roman Antiquity, Chichester: Blackwell
  • Fagan, G. 2011. The Lure of the Arena. Social Psychology and the Roman Games, Cambridge: CUP
  • Futrell, A. 2006. The Roman Games: a sourcebook, Oxford: Blackwell
  • Köhne, E. and Ewigleben, C. eds. 2000. The power of spectacle in ancient Rome, Berkeley: UCLA
  • Kyle, D. 2007. Sport and Spectacle in the ancient World, Oxford: Blackwell
  • Potter, D. 2012. The Victor’s Crown. A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium   Oxford:  Oxford University Press
  • Welch, K. 2007. The Roman Amphitheatre from its origins to the Colosseum, Cambridge: CUP
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