a place for propaganda the roman arena Panem et Circenses
< Back to blog

Propaganda in the Roman Arena

Talking about candidates and elections:
the modernity of ancient Roman political communication strategies

November 12, 2020

Panem et circenses: give them bread and circuses.

The famous Latin motto, taken from the satyrical work of the Roman poet Juvenal, is still very true. 
If a politician wants to gain favour, build his reputation, grow a consensus and win the elections, he needs to please the crowds.  

Over the centuries, Roman emperors developed several programs that would work in every remote corner of the Empire.
One was flooding the provinces with that very Emperor's portrait on coins. Moreover portrait statues of the Emperor could be found in every public space, in every city of the Empire. Those images were very, very familiar to every single Roman citizen.

Also local politicians needed to make themselves known to be elected to the Senate in Rome. The best practice model would include sponsoring a show at the gladiators' Arena. The games were by far the most popular venues where a local politician would want to make himself known by hiring the coolest gladiators, real celebrities of the moment.

The politician would present himself dressed in white: he was the "candidate". Candidus in Latin means white, candid, pure, sincere, honest and true.
Seated exactly where he could show off his status, he would kick off the games, cherished and acknowledged by the audience, that would vote for him, hopefully.

The iconic gesture defining the games is the very famous "thumbs-up/ thumbs-down", Facebook style. Did you know that is a fake?
In Verona we have a stunning Roman amphitheater that is in very good shape. In our Verona Roman Heritage tour we take you inside and tell you the end of the story!
Request this tour