For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals
A couple days ago, I landed back in the United States after a long flight from Rome, Italy, the last place I visited on my Europe trip. Something that struck my interest was the brutality of the Romans towards both animals and other humans. Fun fact: Roma, is amor, love in Italian, backwards, making Rome quite literally the opposite of love. Although the Roman Empire fell in 1453, almost 600 years ago, this violence-loving society can still be seen through the history of the Colosseum. For most, the Colosseum needs no introduction because of the brutal fights that once took place in the stadium-like structure for entertainment. Gladiator fighting has been the theme of multiple movies, and is present in many parts of pop culture, although it’s often misrepresented. Animals played a key role, as unwilling participants, in “gladiator” fighting against each other and humans.
Now, when I say animals with no specification, I really mean animals, due to the fact that the Romans would pillage places around the world (another one of their favorite pastimes) and bring back people (as slaves), things, and animals. One problem that emerged from forcing animals to fight was that not all the animals were naturally violent, such as ostriches, and others just didn’t feel the need to fight. To solve this, the Romans would starve the animals and leave them in dark containments cells, which made them confused and threatened. As you may already be able to guess, this lead to the animals reacting very violently once let out onto the Colosseum stage (I told you they were brutal!).
Even though the Romans were undeniably brutal, they were just as much so organized and smart. To see a gladiator event, you had to get tickets. Of course, the seating was separated by class, with the lower class citizens called “plebeians” sitting in the back, and the upper class getting front row seats. In addition, the Romans liked to save the most bloody battles for the end, and progressively working up to them as time goes on. For instance, they might begin with an elephant vs. an ostrich, then an elephant vs. a giraffe, then a lion vs. a tiger. The Romans also created a pulley system, similar to a medieval elevator, for the purpose of hoisting animals like lions and tigers onto the stage with minimal human-animal interaction.
In all, while the brutality of the Romans is surprising, I can’t help but be reminded of our present day. Maybe, 563 years from now, people will look back on our dogfighting, puppy mills, and overall violence towards animals and other humans, and talk about how brutal we were. Hopefully, we can learn for the Romans, and have their intelligence, without the brutality. In the meantime, just be glad you weren’t a prisoner of war or a captured animal of ancient Rome.