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ViaGregorio

Gladiatorial game expenses

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For this project based Roman unit I'm creating I'm going to have student groups (organized as the aristocratic political base of varying candidates to become Consul)helping to design a day of gladiatorial events. They'll basically be doing the behind the scenes work to help organize the event being financed and sponsored by their candidate. What I need help with is a generated list of individual things which a sponsoring group would have had to finance. For the sake of simplification, the accuracy of the price does not matter as much as the relative cost from one item to another. I need a list like this so that student will have to invest "money" (which they have accumulated from other phases of this project) to try and put on the most spectacular event. The more spectacular, the more "popularity points" their politician wins. My overall objective is for them to learn some specifics about the gladiatorial events as well as a grasp on the concept of how much mass entertainment played a roll in the politics of the day.

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When you are talking of 'the politics of the day' we'd need to know what day that is. Expenses varied considerably during the life of the Roman empire and republic, as did the type of entertainments on offer.

 

By the second century games were classified by how much they cost, and anyone throwing a multi-million HS extravaganza without consulting the emperor would not only not be consul, he would not be alive.

 

Let's assume we are talking about the Roman Republic c. 60 BC.

 

Assume these games are ostensibly in memory of the candidate's dead father (who could have died a decade before).

 

You'll need

 

Wild beasts - Ostriches, panthers, elephants, bears, and boars are all good options. You'll also have to hire the 'hunters' who fight them. You might be able to get prisoners from the local assizes but you might have to buy them too.

 

You'll also need acrobats, musicians and dancers for between larger events.

 

Then there's arena officials to hire, and the cost of sportulae, gifts flung into the crowd. You might also need to bribe the aediles to let you hold the event in the first place.

 

Gladiators depend on whether you get a good deal from a local gladiator school, and how many pairs you want to field. It helps if some barbarian nation has lost a war to Rome recently, as you can stage mass fights.

 

The major cost will be the animals and any gladiators who die in combat - you break em you buy em, so a real cheapskate might consider fights with blunt weapons only.

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Thanks for all the info, that's a BIG help to me. Yeah, this is set during the later Republic years. As another facet of this project they did go on successful conquest in a foreign land and take some prisoners, so that will help. They also helped finance the opening of a gladiator school.

 

So the cost of a gladiator dying would be expensive, but would it be considered a worthwhile investment in terms of the crowd getting to see an especially action packed and gory fight and leaving entertained and satisfied?

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Here are my guesses for some more:

 

Presumably you rent out the arena, too?

 

Pay for someone to put up publicity.

 

Would you get money back from the snack sellers? Presumably they pay for permission to sell their wares in the arena.

 

You may have to provide additional equipment if the gladiators are doing a battle reenactment (chariots, horses, etc.)

 

Presumably you hire the Bestiarius and animals from the same outfit.

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At this period (if we are talking Late Republic), at least in Rome, there are no real arenas. You can stage something at the Circus Maximus, or set up a temporary affair in the forum or Campus Martius, but there are not that many venues to rent.

 

It's a fascinating question whether the Beastiarus supplied the animals for a hunt. Cicero's letter to Caelius Rufus (ad fam 90) suggests that Rufus was proactive in getting the beasts himself, or at least nagging Cicero to supply them.

 

"About the panthers, the usual hunters are doing their best on my instructions .... Whatever comes to hand will be yours, but what that amounts to I simply do not know."(And note that Cicero adds that he is supplying the beasts at his own expense.)

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Events were held in any public space depending on the scale of it. The supply of beasts is not necessarily clear cut. Although we see a variety of beats mentioned in sources, this was usually when the animals were first pushed in front of the public. Some of the species we regard as staples of the arena hunts weren't introduced until after 60BC.

 

Since many of these creatures were supplied from very distant llands, the hiring of trappers would have been done via proxy. Also, since it was never certain what animals were available, event organisers must have been obliged to take what they could get. Remember that shipping the animals to Rome would have involved the loss of some of them, either through poor treatment, the shock and deprivation of captivity, or simply because a ship was lost at sea. It's believed that one vessel was sunk because the elephants they were carrying got upset and broke loose.

 

Therefore anyone paying for the importation of animals was taking a risk, and since the regular supply of species was a feature of early imperial Rome, there were no guanrantees of getting what you asked for in 60BC.

 

The phrase bestiarius means 'animal man'. Strictly speaking this was a class of fighter who tackled animals in the arena one on one, thus he was regarded as a lowly competitor because he wasn't honoured with fighting another man, though his courage at facing an irate animal head on, sometimes without weaponry, was certainly worthy of entertainment. There is a claim that one bestiariius was able to defeat bears by thrusting his arm into their throats (?!!!!!).

 

I do see repeated mentions of bestiarii in other guises, such as animal handlers. I think the troubkle there is that the latin phrase is less specific than we usually think of and in fact covers a number of arena vocations dealing with animals. That would infer that a fighter of animals wasn't worthy of a specific vocational title, as opposed to the better regarded venator who 'hunted' animals in the arena from a position of mastery over them. Since the Roman sources aren't detailed in describing the handling of animals for the arena, it's hard to tell. Currently I prefer to think that bestarii referred to 'animal experts' whether they actually fought them or herded them - I suspect that was the sense the Romans used the word as well.

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In order to give you some idea you could check out the decree in AD 177 by Marcus Aurelius where he classifies the munera from being low key to very posh. (CIL II, 6278, l. 29-35) I was quickly browsing my broad library of literature on gladiators but could not find any English book which explains this in detail, only the French "La Mort en Face" by Eric Teyssier on page 418.

 

Costs for animal shows are stated in the Magerius Mosaic which is today to be found at the Museum of Sousse, Tunisia. A good article on this is by David Bomgardner "The Magerius Mosaic Revisited" in Roman Amphitheatres and Spectacula: a 21st Century Perspective, pp. 165-177.

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I presume the mosaic is imperial in origin>? There's a difference in the animal trade between mid republic and early empire. It goes from one where animals are deliberately targeted, trapped, or traded by happy coincidence, to one where an established logistical network was supplying animals whether a performance was scheduled or not. In later times, people trapped animals and sold them because they knew there was a market. One legion even boasted of ursarii, soldiers that trapped bears for a lucrative income, obviously with official patronage from their officers. At Ostia, the pavements have animals marked on them, telling customers where agents for those partioular beats could be found, and zoo's were assembled near Rome to house animals before they were required.

 

In the latter case we have an organised network that would no doubt have benefitted from Roman expertise in logistics, thus the costs would have varied and in some ways have been cheaper than 60BC for that very reason, although as the supply of animals has to extend further and further as populations are depleted, the costs inevitably rise again. This is one reason for the decline in animal hunts for the arena.

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Just wanted to say thanks for all of your great input. As an educator this forum is indispensable, you've all been a great help. Bad news is, now I'm going to be unloading more questions on you from time to time!

Edited by ViaGregorio

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Just wanted to say thanks for all of your great input. As an educator this forum is indispensable, you've all been a great help. Bad news is, now I'm going to be unloaded more questions on you from time to time!

 

I'm quite enjoying all this - would you keep us informed as to how it all goes.

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Just wanted to say thanks for all of your great input. As an educator this forum is indispensable, you've all been a great help. Bad news is, now I'm going to be unloaded more questions on you from time to time!

 

I'm quite enjoying all this - would you keep us informed as to how it all goes.

 

 

Absolutely, I'll make a post with some pictures when the project is over.

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