February 24, 2012

The Grandest Death


The world harbours an infinite range of viewpoints regarding the morality of the execution of criminals nowadays, but as we all know, many ancient civilisations held no such concern for the human rights of their wrongdoers. There are many famous forms of execution, barbaric and gruesome, that I need not go into. However, in satiating my curiosity for obscure history today, I stumbled upon a most creative and symbolic method, of what is ultimately the termination of a man’s life.

Amidst the grandiose setting of the Flavian Amphitheatre, better know today as The Colosseum, ancient Roman criminals were put to death before a live (and paying) audience, in elaborate plays and dramas. The condemned man would be cast as the hero in an authentic mythological show, and, as is often the case in works of dramatic tragedy, would be killed in the final scenes. Prisoners would knowingly act as the protagonists in the grand and regal performances, with their characters, as well as themselves, fated to be met with an elaborate and exotic execution at its grand denouement.

To their credit as well, the Romans spared no expense in achieving the authenticy and spectacle of these pieces. Wild animals would be imported from across the world to be a part of the dramas, and the audiences in The Colosseum (at the time stated to be up to 75,000, but a modern estimation suggests it to be closer to 50,000), would all file in and pay to witness the grim performance. An uncomfortable topic it may be in modern times, but in an era of barbaric atrocities and wanton violence, it’s somewhat comforting to know that the Romans gave some of their ill-behaved constituents such a memorable send off.

Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. What a way to go.

  2. This is ancient history. Literally. Good point, though. Literally.

  3. I wonder if things have changed that much. The popularity of ‘reality’ shows suggests that a thirst for the grotesque still remains. Given a chance, I wonder how many people today would pay to see a Colosseum spectacle – sadly, I suspect quite a few.

  4. I’m with Bassis-except I think if given the chance, it would be one of those events sold out in less than an hour. Scalpers? What a gig! Sad, but true.

  5. Reality shows give the audience a chance to watch the slow death of personal relationships and allow the audience to wallow in the filth of someone else’s demise. I agree that we are a short step from the Hunger Games or Running Man.

  6. Interesting, though horrible.
    good post

  7. I love thinking about this kind of stuff. The way you described the event made it sound like how the anime “Deadman Wonderland” works. I look forward to reading more posts from you!


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About Felix O'Shea

Felix is a guy who isn't actually a writer, but calls himself one when he wants to try to impress gullible people.


Random rubbish that I can't think of a category for


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