Roman Spectacle Entertainments and the Technology of Reality
Arethusa – Volume 43, Number 1, Winter 2010, pp. 63-86
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Roman spectacle entertainment has attracted substantial scholarly interest because of renewed ways in which politics is seen as culturally enacted. Less attention has been paid to the technologies associated with these spectacles. When discussed, technologies emerge as a manufactured form of manipulation by a knowing elite over a gullible populace that heightened the anticipation of violence or magnified the charisma and prestige of the emperor. I suggest a more paradoxical result. These technologies, in their ability to extract that which is distinct and permanent from the environment, make both nature and humanity transitory, reproducible, and conformable to human desire. What I call technologies of reality produce a tension between the status-affirming function of spectacles and the status-collapsing effects of a new cultural politics as spectacles combined participation with consumption and hierarchic distinction with democratized desire.