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Lecture explores arena blood games of ancient Rome

April 13, 2010

ASU is conducting a lecture on the role and meanings of the arenas of the ancient Roman Empire by Alison Futrell, an associate professor of Roman history at the University of Arizona.

“Blood and Power: Arena Spectacle and the Roman Empire” will look at the arena beyond its entertainment value. In many ways, the arenas represented the essence of the Roman Empire, providing a venue for the establishment of power relations, a sanctuary for ritualized combat, and a stage for blood-drenched demonstrations of Roman moral strength.

The lecture will take place at 6 p.m., April 15, in the Business Administration C-wing room116, on the Tempe campus. Admission is free.


The popular image of ancient Rome puts the arena at center stage. From “Ben-Hur” to “Gladiator,” our mental images of Rome center on the arena and the violent spectacles it housed. Along with its luxurious bathhouses, banquets and orgies, blood games are fundamental to the popular perception of the ancient empire as devoted to sophisticated luxury and personal pleasures yet doomed by its decadence.

The Roman world devoted an overwhelming amount of time, energy, money and attention to the arena; politicians bankrupted themselves to provide games, and towns gave over huge amounts of public space and public funds for the construction of amphitheaters. The legions of Rome built arenas alongside their basic barracks, while Romano-Celtic villagers constructed lavish arena complexes out in the middle of rural Gaul. This talk will explore how, with its monumental status, the arena was indeed central to ancient Rome.


The speaker will focus on the amphitheaters of the western provinces of the ancient Roman Empire.


This event is part of the spring lecture series of the Central Arizona Society, Archaeological Institute of America. More information at, or contact Almira Poudrier (, a lecturer in the School of International Letters and Cultures at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, or Thomas Morton (, an assistant professor of architecture in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Roxanne Wheelock,
School of International Letters and Cultures
College of Liberal Arts and Science