We can see the elimination of gladiatorial combat from a very high perch – we perhaps even daydream about how it might have been inevitable. But one wonders what Christians with contemporary temperaments would have thought about it if they were set in, say, 390 AD, when the games are still going on across the Empire, and have no sign of stopping even within sight of the centennial of Christianity becoming the official religion of the Empire (and having very large numbers for a long time before this). Would it have been reasonable to see them as necessary for good social order? How could we know that we could live without being able to watch other men murder each other (though we would never use the impolite word “murder”). And you don’t actually murder anyone by just watching someone else do it… Maybe we’ll all just be Arians and Donatists and Manicheans living next to Colosseums forever…


  1. Gagdad Bob said,

    September 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Although most people seem to believe that human nature hasn’t changed, I find it quite impossible to truly enter the mentality of antiquity, or the middle ages, or even certain contemporary people, what with Islamists sawing off the heads of perfectly innocent people.

    Just yesterday I was reading a book about the religious wars, and how some Protestants thought is was a good idea to skin a certain priest alive. But the number of similar gruesome events is just staggering. In another book that tries to trace the evolution of human mentalities through a close reading of contemporaneous literature, I read a disturbingly vivid account of the torture of a 13 year old boy. Very hard to wrap one’s mind around that.

  2. peeping thomist said,

    September 29, 2010 at 11:54 am

    James, I think you fail to see that the world-spirit inevitably led them out of their sins (back when the church was much purer and so could purify and conquer the world bit by bit). After Our Lord left us, things just kept getting better and better. And so humanity evolved to the greatness of the middle ages. At which point, you see, the flawed philosophies of a few scholastic intellectuals led to the withdrawal of the world-spirit’s approval. Leading, of course, to the inevitable and continual devolution of the world ever since. The line graph for western civilization once Christianity starts goes up and down like this: ^

    Thus, there is nothing we can do now about our world’s sins (this is modernity, HELLO!), but they didn’t really have to do anything to get rid of theirs but be themselves. They didn’t live in modernity. Things just kinda progressed onwards and upwards due to their inherent goodness and the lack of corrupt liberal democracies and the clear support of a Christian government that instituted laws for virtue and the common good. Also, they were not into abstraction at all like we are today. For instance, they were all localist regionalist distributist small republicans. Obviously they must have known that things were getting continually better during their time, because things were getting better. They all knew the Colosseum was wrong and progressively worked together to end it.

    I can’t believe you don’t know this already. Sheesh.

  3. peeping thomist said,

    September 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    The real trick, it seems to me, is to both see the Colosseum for what it was (and is, and ever shall be until the New Earth) AND to avoid despair. At any present moment you choose to examine, from the time we first walked the earth till it all ends, if you truly see the reality of human life and compare this with what ought to be you will weep for Jerusalem. And the clearer you see it, the more tears you will shed. Which is why Hope is a virtue we need, caught as we are between Faith and the reality of human life. This entails both seeing the good that is also present at any given time and knowing that all things are possible to him that has Faith. Without Hope we don’t engage that sordid reality in a wise manner. We sit with our Faith and delude ourselves one way or another about how we ought to live our lives in the midst of the vale of tears.

    Gagdad, I think you answer your own question when you say “certain contemporaries.” Human nature doesn’t change, and part of that is the gulf that we find in any present moment we choose to pick, the vast gulf between the truly vicious and the rest of us, who are usually incontinent fellows. But its not as wide as we think. Never as wide as we think.

  4. Vetdoctor said,

    September 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “The”biggest thing now is cage fighting, -millions of dollars. Boxing is now passe. Bigger than that is”reality” TV. We are one breath away from gladiators.

    At least the gladiators and cage fighters are professionals. What do you think the pagan Romans would say of our propensity for shoving cameras into peoples private lives and gawking at the private failings. Who was the couple with the kids that divorced on air-John and somebody?

  5. peeping thomist said,

    September 30, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Here’s a young gal who sees the Colosseum clearly:


    “Most people do not see clearly the evils of their own century, their own age. It is the history makers, the revolutionaries, and the visionaries who identify the failings, injustices, and opportunities of their century and work tirelessly to address them.”

    Here’s an older guy who sees the Colosseum for what it is:


    What distinguishes them from others is that they do not despair on account of their clear vision.

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