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.