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Cruelty and Civilization: The Roman Games [Paperback]

Roland Auguet
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

10 Mar 1994
Roland Auguet examines the Roman taste for blood and considers what the games, that strange combination of Cruelty and Civilization, reveal about the Roman mentality. He shows how the great spectacles became a part of city life - they were awaited with impatience, everyone discussed them, some applauded the action in the arena, while others booed frantically.
This book provides an exciting history of gladiators, chariot racing and other games as well as an investigation of their function and significance within society. It is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the Romans' violent form of entertainment.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (10 Mar 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041510453X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415104531
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.9 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 638,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The gladiatorial combats first appeared in Rome long after the Circus games, in 264 B.C., as a funerary rite reserved to the aristocracy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Gamla
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Romans were not the gentlest of peoples.
Massacres and murder meant very little, especially if committed against non citizens.
Crimes against the state were inevitably paid for by having to fight in the arena.
It was interesting though that the victims, those who fought had a code of conduct that meant
if once defeated in battle and sentenced to die, they had to die in the bravest manner, by offering their necks to their executioner, and falling back into a sitting pose.
Indoctrination worked even with those condemned to die fighting. Because die most of them had to. Some were successful and would be freed to teach the next generation, or knowing all the tricks would fight for large rewards killing innumerable people in the process.
A translation, sometimes a little difficult to understand.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating material but difficult reading 30 Dec 1998
By A Customer - Published on
The book was fascinating but as it was translated from the French the wording and puncutation is often awkard. It was very difficult to stay focused while reading this book. It uses lots and lots of foreign terms/words and at times I felt I was reading a book written in a foreign lancuage. The author also seemed to assume the reader was already thoroughly familiar with the basics of the matertial presented so he jumped right into technical jargon. If you read for pleasure I wouldn't recommend this book.
29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars thumbs down 3 Dec 1999
By cecilia blanchfield - Published on
For many centuries in "civilized" Europe, the mostpopular form of mass entertainment was watching other people being putto death in horrible ways. This phenomenon reached its apex (or if you will, its nadir) during the Roman empire, with the infamous games of the amphitheater. As Roland Auguet relates, in his recent book, Cruelty and Civilization, the games had their origin in the funeral customs of wealthy Etruscan families, who would compel a few of their slaves to kill each other in ritual combat as a form of sacrifice to appease the spirit of the deceased. By the time of Caesar Augustus, these gladiatorial combats had pretty much lost any vestige of a religious character and become huge spectacles, organized with all the style of big budget Hollywood productions. Like the blockbuster movie, they often featured a cast of thousands. The big difference was that in the Roman shows, the blood was real, the stunts weren't faked, and the stars really died. Everyone loved the games. The most respectable women in Rome, the Vestal Virgins, had their own reserved seating so they could have a close-up view of men being hacked to pieces, disembowelled, or torn apart by wild animals. Roman fathers would take their sons to see murder done for the same reasons they'd take them to a hockey game today; it was good clean fun. The Romans revelled in violence in a way that is hard for us to accept or understand. In Cruelty and Civilization, Mr. Auguet promises us something more than just a standard narrative history of the Roman games; he also proposes to offer some kind of psycho-moral analysis. Unfortunately, he is such a slavish admirer of Roman culture that he can't bring himself to see it clearly. Right at the beginning of the book, he asserts that "there is nothing more incompatible with the Roman mentality than the form of cruelty known as sadism." - in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Having ruled out the most natural and logical explanation for the games - that the Romans, like all human beings, had their dark side - Auguet is then unable to come up with any alternative theory. He raises all the usual questions but doesn't provide any new answers. So why did he bother to write the book? And why should we bother to read it?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To Read or Not To Read 27 Dec 2002
By A Customer - Published on
The previous reviewers are all correct on the matter of this book-very uneven writing style and an odd presentation of Roman history. But perhaps the reason could be that this is an English translation of a French book...maybe. However, the book has some strong redeeming factors that make it worthy of your perusing. It's more than just a description of gladiator activities, the book covers all the big games popular in Roman society-even a little on theater and the torture dramas.The author does seem to know his Roman history(even though it's not presented well). He unexpectedly uses this knowledge(at odd intervals) to flesh out some of the nuances to the political and religious side of the games. Personally,I found the coverage of chariot racing quite fascinating. As others have stated already,if you're looking for a good coverage of gladiators, Michael Grant's book is the one. If animals in the arena interest you, then Daniel Mannix's book is good. But if you've read a little on this subject already, this book will add a few facts that you probably didn't know.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Not Impressive; Not Disappointing" 7 April 2002
By Johannes Platonicus - Published on
Roland Auguet's "Cruelty and Civilization: The Roman Games", translated out of the original French edition, is a work that fails to provide itself as an introduction to the games. It also fails to furnish itself as a comprehensive, scholarly overview of the spectacles, which caught a hold of the everyday passions and imagination of Roman civilization. Instead, this work is something in between. It is neither impressive or, on the whole, disappointing. In this work, Auguet briefly touches on the nature and origin of the Circus Maximus, the gladiatorial combats, the hunts, and the patrons and factions which provided funds and fueled the populace to back these extravagant and brutal events. The process of recruiting men and beasts, is a subject in Auguet's work, which carries significant merit in interest and depth. Just how the gladiators, who were notoriously born of humble origins, rose to the status of superstars by the arts of the sword, is another aspect of this work deserving of recommendation. The prose style used in this work, on the other hand, is at times fluid and completely in tune, however other times it is difficult to follow, awkward, and is distasteful to read. Again, there are many terms the author uses that will be difficult for anyone seeking for an introduction to the games to discern. The short glossary in the back does some justice to this minor setback though. Overall this work should not be discounted; but it is not a recommendation. Instead try Michael Grant's "Gladiators."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully detailed... 25 Feb 2010
By Michael Valdivielso - Published on
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?
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