chapter  IV
15 Pages

Purveyors to the Carnage

Pacific safaris A historian has pointed out that it would have been possible richly to endow all the zoological gardens of Europe with the animals collected at Rome for a single great hunt. Let us recall some well-known figures: at the games given for the inauguration of the Colosseum it seems that 9,000 beasts were massacred and, if Suetonius is to be believed, 5,000 were displayed to the public in a single day. These figures, which the classical writers themselves admit to be exaggerated, none the less represent a scale of grandeur impossible to doubt. Other factors indirectly confirm them; for example the progressive disappearance of a degenerated variety of elephant which inhabited North Africa until its final extinction in the fourth century A.D., and the growing scarcity of lions in those same districts where, it is said, they had formerly been so numerous as to beleaguer native villages.