Epistulae Mōrālēs 7.2-5

Nihil vērō tam damnōsum bonīs mōribus quam in aliquō spectāculō dēsidēre; tunc enim per voluptātem facilius vitia subrēpunt. quid mē existimās dīcere? avārior redeō, ambitiōsior, luxuriōsior? immō vērō crūdēlior et inhūmānior, quia inter hominēs fuī. cāsū in merīdiānum spectāculum incidī, lūsūs exspectans et salēs et aliquid laxāmentī quō hominum oculī ab hūmānō cruōre acquiescant. contrā est: quidquid ante pugnātum est misericordia fuit; nunc omissīs nūgīs mera homicīdia sunt. nihil habent quō tegantur; ad ictum tōtīs corporibus expositī numquam frustrā manum mittunt. hōc plērīque ordināriīs paribus et postulātīciīs praeferunt. quidnī praeferant? nōn galeā, nōn scūtō repellitur ferrum. quō mūnimenta? quō artēs? omnia ista mortis morae sunt. māne leōnibus et ursīs hominēs, merīdiē spectātōribus suīs obiciuntur. interfectōrēs interfectūrīs iubent obicī et victōrem in aliam detinent caedem; exitus pugnantium mors est. ferrō et igne rēs geritur. haec fīunt dum vacat harēna. “sed latrōcinium fēcit aliquis, occīdit hominem”. quid ergō? quia occīdit, ille meruit ut hōc paterētur: tū quid meruistī miser ut hōc spectēs? “occīde, verberā, ūre! quārē tam timidē incurrit in ferrum? quārē parum audacter occīdit? quārē parum libenter moritur? plāgīs agātur in vulnera, mūtuōs ictūs nūdīs et obviīs pectoribus excipiant”. intermissum est spectāculum: “interim iugulentur hominēs, nē nihil agātur”. age, nē hōc quidem intellegitis, mala exempla in eōs redundāre quī faciunt?

Nothing indeed is so detrimental to good character as sitting idly at some show, for then vices sneak up on us more easily while we are enjoying ourselves. What do you think I mean? That I return home greedier, more ambitious, more decadent? Actually, I return home more cruel and inhuman, because I have been among human beings. I happened to attend a mid-day show, expecting playfulness and wit and relaxation, intended to give people's eyes a respite from the slaughter of their fellow men. It was quite the opposite. The earlier fights were mercy itself, but now all fooling was dropped and this was murder pure and simple. They have no protection: their whole body is vulnerable and every blow hits home. Many people prefer this display to regular matches “on demand”. Why shouldn’t they? The weapons aren’t repelled by helmets or shields. What would be the point in defensive armor? Or skill? All such things simply delay death. In the morning, people are thrown to lions and bears, at noon to the spectators, who demand that killers be pitted against those who will kill them, and the victor is then kept for further slaughter. Every fight ends in death, for they fight with fire and the sword. This is what happens when the arena is empty. You may object “But we’re dealing with robbers, with murderers”. So what? He deserves this punishment for his crime, but do you deserve to watch, you sorry fellow? “Kill him! Whip him! Burn him! Why does he run against the sword so fearfully? Why does he kill so hesitantly? Why does he die so reluctantly? Drive him with lashes to face his wounds! Let them give and receive blows with their exposed chests turned towards each other!” When there is an interval, people shout “Let’s have some throats cut, to keep the show going!” Come on, don’t you understand even this, that examples of bad conduct redound on those who are responsible for it?

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