A Civilization Based on the Games
It was therefore normal that the spectacles should have been called upon to play the essential role in political life we have acknowledged them to have. The Empire turned them into a well-known instrument of domination, clearly defined by Juvenal in his phrase partem et circenses, which has remained famous. Bread, naturally, implied spectacles; once idleness was given the stamp of official approval, it became necessary to amuse the plebs, lest they should fall a prey to moods dangerous to the totalitarian power which had just been set up. It had long been known that the more the public shouted itself hoarse at the circus, the less importance its voice had in the assemblies. The custom of the games, which the Republic, wearied of itself, had be184
queathed to the new regime, was in the nature of an obligation which it could not avoid. They were just what was needed, a first-rate means of keeping people amused, and the rulers used it deliberately and skilfully; it was for them a well-proven technique.