Roland Auguet writes a wonderful book on the games in ancient Rome. The first chapter focuses on the development of the gladiatorial games, from their earliest beginnings. The second chapter talks about the arena - how was it set up, when were events scheduled, and so on. Chapter 3 tells us about the hunts and the 4th chapters deals with how the games were supplied with animals for the hunts. Next we have the races, with their stables, factions and stars. The last three chapters deal with those who took part in the games, from the stars to those do didn't do as well, what did Roman civilization think of the games, and the ruins of the circuses, theatres and amphitheatres.
He does use Latin a lot, but this IS a book on Rome. Not only does he have a glossary in the back, but his also will explain the meaning right in the text. I had no problem, in other words, with the translations. And while it is very detailed, complex, and requires some knowledge of Roman history, that isn't really a problem. Who else is going to read it but a person who is very interested in Roman history?
Also, one whole chapter deals with the issue on why did the Romans allow the games and what they really thought of them. We are talking about a people who really believed slaves were tools. Like most people they loved putting others into molds, into little pigeonholes, and slaves were as low as you could get. It seems that slaves, barbarians, and criminals by fighting in the games and only by either dying well or gaining one's freedom could they regain the status of being human beings. The games, in a way, were about glory, life, and humanity. I am not saying the logic isn't twisted or sick, but the author DID explain it within the book.
After reading this book, such an important book about the very roots of Roman society, I would also suggest The Corn Supply of Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press academic monograph reprints) and Slavery and Society at Rome (Key Themes in Ancient History). Both are, like the games, pillars of Roman civilization and helped support it and each other. Where would the games be without the slaves? Where would the slaves and the Romans be without the food to feed them? Where would the grain supply be without the manpower that slaves gave the farmers, ships, and workshops?