How Domitian Attempted to Amuse the Populace
Source: Suetonius, Life of Domitian IV. From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in
Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn
and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West. Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg,
Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton.
He frequently entertained the people with the most magnificent
and costly shows, not only in the amphitheater, but in the circus; where,
besides the usual chariot races, with two or four horses abreast, he exhibited
the imitation of a battle betwixt cavalry and infantry; and in the amphitheater
a sea fight. The people too were entertained with wild-beast hunts, and
gladiator fights even in the night-time, by torchlight. He constantly attended
the games given by the quaestors, which had been disused for some time, but
were revived by him; and upon these occasions, he always gave the people the
liberty of demanding two pair of gladiators out of his own private school, who
appeared last in court uniforms.
He presented the people with naval fights, performed by fleets
almost as numerous as those usually employed in real engagements; making a vast
lake near the Tiber, and building seats around it. And he witnessed these
fights himself during a heavy rain.
Thrice he bestowed upon the people a bounty of 300 sesterces
per man, and at a public show of gladiators a very plentiful feast. At the
“Festival of the Seven Hills” he distributed large hampers of provisions to the
Senatorial and Equestrian orders, and small baskets to the commonalty, and
encouraged them to eat by setting the example. The day after he scattered among
the people a variety of cakes and other delicacies to be scrambled after; and
on the greater part of them falling amidst the seats of the lower classes, he
ordered 500 tickets to be thrown into each range of benches belonging to the
Senatorial and Equestrian orders.