Sjef van Tilborg, «The Danger at Midday: Death Threats in the Apocalypse», Vol. 85 (2004) 1-23
This paper proposes a new suggestion in the discussion regarding possible death threats in the Apocalypse. It makes a comparison between relevant texts from the Apocalypse and what happens during festival days when rich civilians entertain their co-citizens with (gladiatorial) games. At the end of the morning and during the break special fights are organized. Condemned persons are forced to fight against wild animals or against each other to be killed by the animals or by fire. The paper shows that a number of texts from the Apocalypse are better understood, when they are read against this background.
The Danger at Midday: Death Threats in the Apocalypse 5
Attikos (17). In Pergamum there is the very early inscription of
Romanius Montanus (from the time of Tiberius) who is procurator
Augusti familiae gladiatorum, that is to say, the procurator of a
gladiatorial school of the emperor (18). And in Smyrna the asiarch Kl.
Timoon is honored by his phamilia monomachË›n (19).
It should be clear that the gladiatorial games were also strongly
present in the so-called Apocalypse area. The following is important:
from the time of Augustus (but actually already earlier) these
gladiatorial games are often connected with two other forms of
amusement which originally had nothing to do with the munera,
namely 1) in the morning the venationes ad matutinum which
consisted of showing all sorts of wild and exotic animals; and of the
qhriomacia: the fights of animals among themselves and the fight of
human beings with animals; and 2) in the midday intermission, the
public execution of criminals of low social status (the noxii, cruciarii)
who had been condemned ad bestias or ad flammas.
It is particularly these two forms of amusement as parts of the
munera which are relevant to this paper. So I go into it more explicitly.
2. Ad matutinum
The competition between the emperor and his predecessor(s)
provided the needed variation. At the first part of the venationes one
could vary the number and sort of animals. Pompey organized games,
for example, with 20 elephants, 600 lions, 410 leopards, monkeys,
lynxes and the first rhinoceros. Caesar surprised his public with
giraffes. And in the Res Gestae, Augustus boasts of the cumulative
total of 3.500 animals slaughtered in the various venationes for the
Roman people (20).
Two types of fights are organized: fights between the animals
themselves: lions, leopards, wild boars, bears, crocodiles and
rhinoceros against bulls, deer, sea lions, dolphins, elephants and
giraffes; and the fight between human beings and animals: bullfighting
was an old custom but now combined with the fight between the
bestiarius, an armed man, and a bear, leopard and lion.
(17) Inscr Eph VII-2-4346.
(18) CIL III 14192; ROBERT, 258.
(19) Inscr Smyrna 842; ROBERT, 225.
(20) Cf. WIEDEMANN, Emperors and Gladiators, 60; MEIJER, Gladiatoren,