Saturday, 12 March 2011
The Water Games of Domitian
Despite the huge popularity of the naumachiae, they do not seem to have been a regular feature after the games of Domitian. There are scattered references to naval gladiators, but the large scale recreation of naval battles was abandoned by about AD100. It may have been that the cost of the events in terms of money and life was simply too great. The crowds could apparently be satisfied with cheaper events and spectacles. There was no point in an emperor spending money if he did not need to.
Only once again was a naumachia to be held in Rome. In AD248 the emperor Philip the Arab presided over the events celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Rome. Among the magnificent games held to mark this momentous event was a naumachia staged on an artificial lake dug upstream from that built by Augustus. Dubbed the Naumachia Vaticana, the site has given its name to the modern home of the Popes.
The mob had, meanwhile, found a new favourite game in their orgies of blood. Pitting man against man was no longer enough to keep the crowd entertained. Now it was the turn of the wild animals.