‘Hunts’, involving the slaughter of animals, esp. fierce ones, by other animals or human fighters of wild beasts—and sometimes of criminals by animals, see below—were a major spectacle at Rome from 186 bc. They displayed the ingenuity and generosity of the sponsoring politician, and the reach of Rome, and its power over nature, in procuring exotic species (lions, panthers, bears, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, elephants): they admitted a privileged city‐audience to the glories of traditional aristocratic hunting. Along with gladiatorial fights, they were a main reason for building amphitheatres. The emperors gave esp. sumptuous displays: 5,000 wild and 4,000 tame animals died at the inauguration of Titus' Colosseum in 80, and 11,000 at Trajan's Dacian triumph. Esp. in the later 1st cent. ad, criminals might be forced to re‐enact gruesome myths (e.g. the killing of Orpheus by a bear). See gladiators; hunting.
Subjects: Classical Studies.