Ancient History Sourcebook:
Seneca (b.4 BC/1 CE-d. 65 CE):
Epistles 7: The Gladiatorial Games
The following letter indicates how by the age of Nero cultured and elevated men were
beginning to revolt at the arena butcheries which still delighted the mob.
I turned in to the games one mid-day hoping for a little wit and humor there. I
was bitterly disappointed. It was really mere butchery. The morning's show was merciful
compared to it. Then men were thrown to lions and to bears: but at midday to the audience.
There was no escape for them. The slayer was kept fighting until he could be slain.
"Kill him! flog him! burn him alive" was the cry: "Why is he such a coward?
Why won't he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won't he die
willingly?" Unhappy that I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene
as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted
by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away.
From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts
from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the
West, pp. ??
Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg
has modernized the text.
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© Paul Halsall, July 1998