#`Read me`

for purpose & organization of these index cards —>

This document is intended for the participants of the fall 2014 CLST workshop, so they may quickly find the answers to questions posed about Joe’s discussion paper (on mass spectacles in Roman Campania).

The hierarchy is arranged by author (column 1), then keyword and question (C2, i.e. this column), with full responses (C3), in the order received. Finally, when salient, detailed evidence is quoted on the far right (C4), to avoid clutter (cf. footnotes).

Answers for identical or similar questions have been grouped for convenience, with references ad loc. The document is best read in combination with the original discussion paper.


The Pompeian crowd

You consider the perspective of the Nucerians in attendance on that fateful day, but what about the Pompeiians?
1) Do our sources present them as an antagonistic, reactionary, or defensive crowd?
2) What was their role in the events?
3) How might the Pompeiian population have responded to the subsequent senatorial decree?

1a) The only explicit source for the Pompeian crowd in attendance at the riot of 59 CE is Tacitus (Ann. 14.17). He initially groups the Nucerini and Pompeians together, both of whom are coloni and “mutually hostile” (in vicem incessentes etc.), but the Pompeians are defined as “stronger” or “more powerful” (validior). The logic seems to be that they are punished by the senate simply for the damage they inflicted on the Nucerini, not because they were the more antagonistic, reactionary, or defensive of the two parties.

1b) The fresco in the courtyard of the so-called House of Actius Anicetus (I 3,23) also probably represented the 59 CE riot, but interpretations of its content are coloured by the fact that a local person appears to be commemorating what for Tacitus amounted to a disaster in terms of political and human casualties.

In combination with pointedly motivated readings of other evidence (such graffiti as CIL 4.1923, literature as Mac. Sat 2.3.11, and the painted electoral advertisements), this picture is commonly invoked to demonstrate a particularly thriving and high-stakes engagement in public life by a rowdy Pompeian population, although there really is no comparable dossier of evidence for other locations to control such a characterization.

Thus while the fresco may attest to a local witness — if not participant or instigator — it need not shed light on the Pompeians more broadly as a group.

2a) Tacitus is unclear about exactly who played what role:

2b) a collegium iuvenum?


Dig. from Callistratus, de Cognitionibus, VI

non omnes fusti[bu]s caedi solent, sed hi dumtaxat qui liberi sunt et quidem tenuiores homines: honestiores uero fustibus non subiciuntur, idque principalibus rescriptis specialiter exprimitur. solent quidam, qui uolgo se iuuenes appellant, in quibusdam ciuitatibus turbulen[tis] se adclamationibus popularium accommodare. qui si amplius nihil admiserint nec ante sint a praeside admoniti, fustibus caesi dimittuntur aut etiam spectaculis eis interdicitur. quod si ita correcti in eisdem deprehendantur, exilio puniendi s[u]nt, nonnumquam capite [p]lectendi, scilicet cum saepius seditiose et turbulente se gesserint et aliquotiens adprehensi tractati clementius in eadem temeritate propositi perseuerauerint.

3) Gather and present here the evidence for Pompeians respecting the ban on games.**

That’s what I’m trying to figure out! Evidence for Pompeians: proud, parochial, but they were indeed violent. Few other traces of this violent character on material record though or in history – again, a sign that people don’t advertise or commemorate things that go badly.
Apparently they respected the SC; perhaps some games shown without munera; ban probably didn’t last ten years; perhaps Nero (and Poppaea Sabina) relented (or the senate?) prematurely.

Comparanda btw. Rome, Campania, & Aphrodisias

I realize that you are trying to downplay the Imperial-colonial relationship here, but it is worth noting the several conceptual, ideological, and architectural similarities between the Theater of Marcellus, the Theater of Pompey, and the Theater at Pompeii (this may be something we can speak about further in person, as Professor Welch has a related forthcoming theory about the Theater at Aphrodisias). How pervasive is this dialogue both inside and outside of the entertainment sphere?


I would love to hear more details about these comparisons before I respond more fully (there are obviously certain similarities between many theatres).

In my view mass spectacles — as very well-frequented (loci celeberrimi) rituals that organized society — were ideal venues for reinforcing Augustan ideology (e.g. ludi saeculares), and would connect the building projects you mention (and implied patronage networks — see below) to the well-documented reforms that Augustus sought to impose on Roman entertainment.

Political occasion

As far as I know these monuments were all built within two generations of the amphitheatre and odeum of Pompeii. The political and dynastic statements of the Theatres of Pompey and Marcellus are obvious, but the role that the imperial freedman C. Julius Zoilus played in Aphrodisias — contributing to the cultural monuments and economy of the city, if not also its government — may be similar to that of the Sullan veterans in Pompeii and Augustan benefactors (e.g. the tribuni a populo, if not also more veterans), i.e. top-down acculturation as part of the colonization process.

M. Claudio C.f. Marcello patrono

At Pompeii a cipollino statue base in the Triangular Forum — i.e. on the upper terrace near the theatre — commemorates the same Marcellus as a patronus, reinforcing vertical links between the town and the capital.
It is unclear exactly whose patron he is, however: could has been interpreted along the lines of patronus coloniae, as with M. Holconius Rufus, or as a kind of proto-princeps iuventutis, given the ephebic connotations of the prince and the proximity of the base to the Samnite palaestra.

Magna Grecia

Given Campania’s close ties with the Greek world, what sort of historic precedent for mass spectacles (mainly theatrical, of course) may shed light on the phenomenon you are highlighting in southern Italy? Can we even compare this phenomenon to the Greek world?

I am very intrigued by Ted Champlin’s argument that Nero as it were stage-managed his acting career very carefully by only daring to appear publicly on stage in Rome after first testing the waters at private events and then with a public performance in Naples. The Greek aristocratic tradition of agonistic performance (e.g. Olympic Games) helps explain some of the odd stories about Roman senators becoming actors during the Principate, of which Nero is the most exaggerated example. In other words, this period may be characterized by the Roman elite adapting their expectations and behaviour to regional differences in culture.

Alternative dramatic traditions

However, the towns of Pompeii, Puteoli, or Herculaneum seem different from the more established Greek towns of the area like Naples or Cumae, given the strong influences of alternative populations (Samnites, Roman veterans, etc.). I expect the strong local traditions of Oscan drama (e.g. Atellan farces) and, further south, even Roman literature (e.g. Ennius, Livius Andronicus) to have played as much of a role in establishing the popularity of theatrical performances in the region.

– My hunch is that Naples is a town where Greek performance remains and dominates. I still have very basic research questions to answer with respect to theatres, since the evidence isn’t as well-documented or consistent as with the munera. I don’t know what the situation is like in e.g. Herculaneum, Pompeii, Capua, Puteoli, etc. The centralized political organization of the Roman world and integrated social and economic institutions in my view enhances the regional study. I am really most familiar with the Greek pan-Hellenic festivals, which we have in the Roman period (e.g. in Naples!), but those are already perverted by the Emperor…. It’s very likely that the Romans were influenced by a lot of Greek agonistic culture during the last 3rd century and first half of the 2nd century, but they added their own spin to it. But I don’t know what cultural mixing was happening before then, with e.g. Etruscans, Cumae, etc.

Regional festivals and calendars

I’m very interested to know more how the events and festivals of each city are treated by visitors and nearby populations. You say that Campanian calendars seem to avoid conflicting with these important days in Rome, but what about other cities within the region? For instance, would a Puteolan city attempt to have a major event on the same day as one in Pompeii? I can’t help but think about modern-day sporting events here.


Yes, I agree with you — the problem is finding evidence for specific dates (both for one-off and annually recurring events), and then understanding their relevance and consequences for my work.


There are no contemporary calendars for Pompeii. Whatever fasti have survived from other towns record the major Roman festivals there (without indicating whether these are also celebrated in the local townships or whether the owner envisaged travelling back to Rome to attend them). The so-called Calendar of Filocalus for 354 CE also names Roman festivals (e.g. Ludi Plebei) perhaps also applying to Campanian towns.

At Pompeii there is direct evidence for a dramatic festival dedicated to Apollo, the ludi Apollinares (CIL 10.1074d). The actor Norbanus Sorex, commemorated in the Temple of Isis, is generally thought to have been related to a performance dedicated to the goddess in the adjacent theatre.

More indirect evidence: ###*CIL *10.845, 853-7

Inscriptions from the parapet wall of the separating the arena from the audience in the amphitheatre.

Various duoviri and the mag(istri) pag(i) Aug(usti) f(elicia) s(uburbani) dedicated blocks of seats, with the approval of the local council, instead of providing games (pro lud(is) ex d(ecreto) d(ecurionum)).

This implies that theatrical games (ludi) were generally required, perhaps similar to the charters for other towns, but there is no indication of details (To which deity? What scale and cost? When?) nor what the role of munera were.

Follow up:

Perhaps I can get something out of the Sulpicii and Caecilius Iucundus archives?

Competition — ludi

If the major Roman ludi are also being celebrated with dramatic performances in other towns, albeit on a reduced scale, that would imply a large and fairly steady demand for actors.

Perhaps this may be read with the inscriptions of magistrates preferring to build seats in the amphitheatre rather than sponsor ludi (see above):

Competition — munera

munera were more flexible, less frequent, and more costly, and took place in front of larger audiences. This explains why they had to be advertised widely, and why different towns might find themselves in competition with one another.

Cf. the siege of Placentia, 69 CE (Tac. Hist. 2.21):

“During the struggle the handsome amphitheatre, which was situated outside the walls, was burned, being set on fire either by the besiegers — as they threw firebrands, hot bullets, and burning missiles against the besieged — or by the besieged themselves, as they directed their return fire. The common people of the town, being given to suspicion, believed that inflammable material had been treacherously brought into the amphitheatre by some persons from the neighbouring colonies, who looked on it with envy and jealousy (invidia et aemulatione), since no other building in Italy was so large.”


Significance of expenditure

Was euergetism a structural element in the economic life of the cities in Roman Empire? I know this is a very big question, but you seem to imply that this was the case at least for the Campanian cities. Could you please expand a little more on this?

– not sure I understand the question: is it large-scale? (Not as a %age of GDP, no.) Is it formally organized by law? (Yes.) I won’t answer this because I don’t have answers apart from Zuiderhoek.*

Heuristic method

Could you please tell us a bit more about the heuristic tools you will use in order to ‘identify’ the addressees of the spectacles?

– That’s the problem. In theory everyone is addressed; but everyone’s also creating the spectacle. Individual sponsors could target whomever they liked. We may assume they would maximize their message in order to gain the most from it, and this would include both among the decuriones and also influential groups and individuals among the plebes.

Markets and fairs

The relationship between feriae and municipal festivals (with markets and spectacles there associated) has been analyzed in two relevant contributions such as ‘Mercati permanenti e mercati periodici nel mondo romano’ edited by E. Lo Cascio and ‘Fairs and Markets in the Roman Empire’ by L. De Ligt. Where would you place the originality of your approach to the subject, especially in relationship to these two fairly recent and quite comprehensive contributions?
I know you have read these two books :)


Ticketed entry

Q1: You make a brief point about the connection between non-decurionic games sponsors and ticketed entry on p. 11, and I’d love to hear you discuss that in more detail. This may simply be my lack of familiarity talking, but why would decurionic status be a prerequisite for ticketed entry, particularly given the market activity surrounding games (which could provide an alternate source of revenue)?

– the idea of games being free is largely ideological: but there is some evidence for ticketed entry to games. As far as I know there has never been a systematic answer to the question, although the possibility is that locals / citizens get in for free, while others pay. I agree that market activity could also generate some revenue through fees (or not if taxes are remitted – although there would be some general stimulus), and both ticketed entry and market revenue could be ways for sponsors to recoup some costs, since I don’t believe that they wouldn’t have tried to capitalize on these investment (i.e. it was a gift, a symbolic exchange, etc.).

Voluntary vs. mandatory liturgies

Q2: This is something of a “talk about how this ties into my pet topic!” question, but reading this brought to mind some of the later sources on Egyptian liturgies. The liturgies share many of the same features and social context of the Campanian games (euergetic behavior performed by a self-conscious elite with membership churn), but are obviously better sourced; one feature we see, at least later on, is that the liturgies become mandatory, and in fact a real burden on their holders. Do we have any way of knowing if the games were perfectly voluntary, or if the social pressure to benefit the city might have been combined with something a bit more formal?

– Cool to know! I spoke a bit about some of the laws, and I’ll discuss other ones.
– The usual argument is that the office of curator munerum is created to manage the annuities which are increasing in the 2nd century; this is when M. Aurelius also caps the prices of gladiator according to ranking; perhaps also a reduction in building activity, but there may be little evidence of that compared to e.g. Rome, Campania.

Regional fairs

Q3: This is a bit repetitive of Lucia’s question, but I know you asked me about market fairs, so here goes… how do you think these local spectacles interacted with the itinerant fair economy of that time? In particular, if we assume these games drew any kind of specific mercantile activity beyond a traditional fair, would it be possible to ensure access to those merchants without inter-city coordination? I do not know if the games are sufficiently frequent (or linked with specific dates that would be relevant to multiple cities) to raise this sort of scheduling problem, but if so it could really complicate any attempt to tie games into the market fair economy.

Thanks, Zach – I don’t know either! Do you mean local merchants, as opposed to travelling ones? The idea is that people from the countryside come into town when there is no major activity required; they can buy what they need at the same time, and conduct business too. This also maximises distribution in an economy that is apparently otherwise artisanal. The questions I’m interested in is who is benefitting from all this, and does it result in particular forms of culture being produced (e.g. souvenirs)?


Sponsorship strategies of euergetai

Q1. I am also interested in the non-decurionic sponsors. If I understand it right, they needed to gain both the popularity from common people and honor from local governments. How did they secure such achievements? Do they have favors of certain games over others, such as building projects since the former may be more welcomed by local people?

– Yes: what are Augustales and lanistae getting out of this? My idea is that most people would enjoy a free show. Whether or not they are regulated by the magistrates – I don’t know, nor how lanistae operate. I think I will have to quantify this or at least present some models. Perhaps the magistri pagi are devoting their resources to monumental structures – perhaps this is in some ways more conservative, more practical, more affordable, more diplomatic.

Civic honour

…& gambling

Q2. For the competitions of neighboring towns, you narrated it, if I understand it right, as a competitions of honors and resources. I wonder if this feeling of honor is generally felt by all residents or just by local elites. How did patronage work in this kind of competition if elites were more actively involved? Also, in the brief mention of gambling, how did the large gambles held by sponsors arouse the enthusiasm of the spectators? Would they also join the gambling?

– patronage: The top families probably have links of patronage or property to many towns. Perhaps the Pompeians are really the ones who benefit, if they get these games all the time without it costing anything. I conceive of this regional model of euergetism as a capital investment that patronises the citizen body, so that the whole town receives favour from the sponsor. Mouritsen argues patronage is more powerful in local elections than spectacles; perhaps patronage is powerful in getting the right support for the spectacles too, in terms of loans, supplies etc. and spectators.
– there is next to no evidence of gambling, which makes it difficult to say. So the argument is by comparison to other spectacles (e.g. chariot-racing) and practices (e.g. dice), as well as other societies.

Arenas: real vs. painted

Q3. Also, could you please talk more about the relationship between the real arenas and those depicted ones on frescos, especially when they were using arena to describe civil bloodsheds? How did local elites deal with the obvious differences of arena slaughters and citizen murders?

I don’t understand this question…. The fresco image is very faithfully rendered – or rather, there is an attempt to make it look not generic but specifically about Pompeii. (It is crucial to note that there are very rarely images of amphitheatres until later periods, apart from on imperial coinage.) I don’t know about citizen murders… the painting is from a non-elite house.


Pantomime riots

Q1: You mention pantomime performances instigating more violence than gladiator shows. I’d love to hear more about this rather counter-intuitive (at least to me) fact, as I would think that actual violence in the theater would be more likely to get the crowd’s blood flowing, so to speak, than anything fictional.

– yes! To be fair, this is happening in Rome, it is a novelty, and seems to be more intensely focussed – i.e. the crowd is smaller (though still sizable) and the spotlight is on only one person who is communicating mythological narratives, rather than gladiators fighting for their lives. The argument is that young men are causing the damage.

Pantomimes in Campania

Q2: Related to question 1, do pantomimes, which you note often involved improvised political commentary and instigated violence, give us a particularly useful tool in considering the relationships between the crowd (especially the less-elite crowd) and the wealthy figures who sponsored these spectacles? Perhaps this is ill-informed, but the eruption of tensions seems like the best way to uncover such tensions that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Also, I know the rarity of at least literary evidence for pantomime, so perhaps this is a dead-end.

Yup. There is little evidence at Pompeii as well – just a few inscriptions or graffiti. The paved marble floor of the small theatre compares to a late-antique reference that this is what pantomimes liked to dance on. The question would be about whether or not pantomimes know anything at all about local tensions.

How to deal with material evidence?

Q3: You’re probably going to talk about this anyway, but as a non-historian, I’d like to hear more about how one might use the sorts of material objects you’ve indicated to answer the sorts of questions you’ve raised.


Local responses to regulations

Prioritization of amphitheatre

Function(s) of small finds


Lit. review

Q1: I was wondering if you could expand a bit on the literature you mention and/or allude to in footnote 18. This sounds like an abridged history of the scholarship on the subject, and I believe it would be interesting for everybody to learn more about it.

Friedländer’s Sittengeschichte: begins from Altertumswissenschaft; expands political history to wider social history; based on new corpora. Treats the spectacles as a unit though with variation; stresses the importance and centrality to Roman society; interested in moralizing, essentially buys elite biases.
Veyne: Le Pain et le Cirque: totalizing longue duree, from 500 BCE to 400 CE. Focuses on symbolic exchange but fails to take into account Roman patronage; also fails to really tease out what prestige is, how it can be translated into other forms of capital. He stresses the desire to increase social distance between elite and masses is enough to make them do it, plus of course inveterate culture + laws.
Potter, stresses agonistic nature of games as continuation from Greek culture.
Zuiderhoek: claims ERG wasn’t necessary as charity or to build; he argues ERG legitimates the elite order, who cannot reproduce themselves and are under threat from democracies getting angry at increasing oligarchization, by creating ideology of civic unity.
Ville: standard work, origins of gladiators in Etruria, increased sacralization; typological e.g. free games, munera ob honorem.
Robert: massive collectiong resources, cf. Sabbatini-Tumolesi. Back to antiquarian, some larger argument, but still fairly positivistic.
Lomas and Cornell: search for history from below, but don’t really find it. Discursive, fragmentary collection of papers. Criticize Veyne for no patronage.


Q2: Similarly, I would like you to elaborate on the category of “unpredictability”. It seems an interesting and potentially productive one. At the same time, if I understand you correctly, it brings together under one label several phenomena that are very different from each other.

– SHIT! My idea is based on psychology of crowd expectations at and before events; but also the role they play in creating content. At the most basic level, there is a genre or medium of spectaculum or munus, in contrast to the details that provide satisfaction etc. at the level of individual spectacle.

Cassius Cerialis

Q3: Finally, I got very curious about Cassius Cerealis and his damnatio memoriae. I do not know much about him and would love to hear more.


Euergetism vs. patronage

Q1: As I was thinking of ways to possibly distinguish euergetism from patronage, I wondered about the delimitation of each concept. Might we say that patronage is primarily operated through private individuals for often private collections whereas euergetism is an official, public activity? Or were there any instances of euergetism that were reserved for just magistrates or elite classes, blurring the distinction between private/public benefit?

– Nope, euergetism casts itself as a form of patronage. I can’t think of any evidence of the latter, although it’s worth reiterating that the grain dole is for adult male citizens only, and not for e.g. the impoverished or starving. The forms of euergetism selected seem to be catered to leisure activities or buildings (Zuiderhoek), which are about civic and communal life – i.e. perhaps this idea of games or baths only being free for locals might hold water, and this would at least limit the definition of public to the local citizens only (which is not the same as your question).

Pantomime riots in Campania?

Q2: I share Sam’s interest in the riots accompanying pantomime performances. Is there any record of the Senate censuring towns in the Campania that rioted or the producers who sponsored those pantomimes? If there are, it might be fruitful to juxtapose those instances against Tacitus’ description of the political response to the violent gladiatorial show in Pompeii.

Guy Debord

Q3: There seems to be a methodological orientation in your paper against loose theorization and in favor of close contextualized analysis of “messier, more complicated series of relationships.” On the other hand, toward the end of your chapter, I caught passing references to Gans, Benjamin, and Adorno. I thought of some other contemporary theory that might be fruitful to either to mention or to reject methodologically. One is the field of “crowd psychology” which could be useful to interpret violent audience response or worthwhile to dismiss as an interpretative historical tool. Another, in the same vein as Benjamin and Adorno, is Guy de Bord. His Society of the Spectacle proposes that all social communication is grounded in a shared spectacle that perpetuates political order; I thought his framework might be interesting with regard to the dialogue that emerges between spectators and sponsors in your paper.

– Yes, these theories are very loose! Why not Guy Debord indeed!
– This is the reason I want to go into economic evidence for the commodification and mass production of images representing gladiators and actors, and the roles that the distribution of these items might play during the festivals, most famously the Saturnalia. I don’t know how much mass consumption might contribute to the spectacle (in both senses of the word), but it’s a great question to ask: it would lead away from scholarly research that stresses the role of mass spectacles in bringing people together, and move towards the atomization of disenfranschised masses without access to property / capital, and the means of production, in both spectacular scenarios and also how the spectacle pervades into everyday life. Again the challenge is how to write this without the pendulum swinging too far the other way, i.e. an approach that is too modernistic, that dismisses differences between ancient and post-Industrial Revolution society, and essentially becomes an essay in post-modern description and Marxist philosophy that projects claims and is divorced from any real evidence, i.e. as one might argue is the case with Debord.