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Chapter 13

The Mad Craze for Pleasure

After Rome conquered many nations, wealth poured in and Roman entrepreneurs made fortunes. But wealth, and then rising inequality between the rich and the poor brought its problems. Here are some quotes about ‘bread’ and ‘circuses,’ and the pleasure crazy Romans. As you read these accounts, just imagine how closely conditions in Rome parallel those in America and Britain today.

Roman historian William Stearns Davis explains: "The 'Pax Romana' brought many blessings; it made possible the greatest luxury, the most active commercial life the world ever saw...though a few savage tribes might ravage the frontiers, the quiet interior provinces were destined to perpetual peace and prosperity [so the Roman citizens thought]...

"And so in this dream of the absolute fixity of the Roman system, men went on getting, studying, enjoying, dissipating — doing everything except to prepare for fighting until Alaric sacked the Eternal City...And so the barbarians at length destroyed a society that was more slowly destroying itself' (William Stearns Davis, The Influence of Wealth in Imperial Rome, pp. 314, 317, 330).

"...The excessive desire for wealth without regard to methods or to duty toward posterity...the downright sensuality were accomplishing their perfect work. The economic evil was at the bottom. First Italy, then a vast Empire, devoted itself for centuries to a feverish effort for getting money by any means, and to spending that money on selfish enjoyments. Other things went for little..." "Their fall was great...while the lesson of their fall lies patent to the twentieth century" (ibid., pp. 334, 335).

The well-known Roman historian Edward Gibbon in his excellent treatise, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire wrote about the Roman circuses: "From the morning to the evening, careless of the sun or of the rain, the spectators, who sometimes amounted to the number of four hundred thousand [the giant Circus Maximus in Rome seated this many], remained in eager attention; their eyes fixed on the horses and charioteers, their minds agitated with hope and fear for the success of the colors which they espoused; and the happiness of Rome appeared to hang on the event of a race" (vol. II, p. 148, Modern Library edition).

MB booklet comments: “Games lasting one day soon became games lasting seven, nine or fifteen days. But the Roman people could never have too much. They were not much different from the crowds who sleep overnight in front of the ticket offices waiting to buy World Series or Super Bowl tickets in the United States.”

In his riveting book Those About to Die, (p. 6-7, 139-140) Daniel P. Mannix describes conditions in Rome that led to the ‘bread and circus’ culture and draws some parallels with A&B:

"In a sense, the people were trapped. Rome had overextended herself. She had become, as much by accident as design, the dominant nation of the world.

"The cost of maintaining the 'Pax Romana'—the Peace of Rome — over most of the known world was proving too great even for the enormous resources of the mighty empire....

"The cost of its gigantic military program was only one of Rome's headaches. To encourage industry in her various satellite nations, Rome attempted a policy of unrestricted trade, but the Roman workingman was unable to compete with the cheap foreign labor and demanded high tariffs....The government was finally forced to subsidize the Roman working class to make up the difference between their 'real wages' [the actual value of what they were producing] and the wages required to keep up their relatively high standard of living.

"As a result, thousands of workmen lived on this subsidy and did nothing whatever, sacrificing their standard of living for a life of ease."

"Attempts were made to abolish slave labor in the factories but the free workman's demand for short hours and high wages had grown so great that only slaves could be used economically."

America and Britain have already gone through similar phases. Manufacturing after manufacturing industry was destroyed by the Japanese and Germans in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Now China has taken over and the USA had a goods trade deficit of $891 billion in 2018. The trade deficit with our top five trading partners was: China - $419 billion deficit; Canada - $20 billion deficit; Mexico - $81 billion deficit; Germany - $68.2 billion deficit and Japan - $67.6 billion deficit.

Loss of high paying manufacturing jobs has made America the biggest welfare state in the world, and the U.K. is not far behind per capita.

How did these policies affect the common Roman citizen? Mannix states: "With the economic and military position of the empire too hopelessly complicated for the crowd to comprehend, they turned more and more toward the only thing that they could understand — the arena.

"The name of a great general or of a brilliant statesman meant no more to the Roman mob than the name of a great scientist does to us today. But the average Roman could tell you every detail of the last games, just as today the average man can tell you all about the latest football or baseball standings, but has only the foggiest idea what NATO is doing or what steps are being taken to fight inflation."

Mannix is saying that life became so complicated for the common Roman citizen that the Caesars had to devise and continuously stage ever more spectacular games, growing bloodier all the time. One historian commented, the Caesars "exhausted their ingenuity to provide the public with more festivals than any people, in any country, at any time, has ever seen." 

But A&B today far exceed what ancient Rome had, and almost as violent. We have never-ending games in the Olympics, soccer, American football, baseball, cricket, ice hockey, basketball, athletics, tennis, gymnastics, beach volleyball, swimming, boxing, wrestling (WWF style), car racing to name just some of them. We need to quadruple that because both men and women participate in these sports at the professional level, and then at the college level. 

Rome showered its professional sports heroes with great glory. Carcopino writes: "The charioteers knew glory too — and more. Though they were of low-born origin, mainly slaves emancipated only after recurrent success, they were lifted out of their humble estates by the fame they acquired and the fortunes they rapidly amassed from the gifts of magistrates and emperors, and the exorbitant salaries they the price of remaining with the colors" (Daily Life in Ancient Rome, p. 219).

Here are the 2019 yearly earnings of the top ten athletes in the world: Lionel Messi, Soccer $127 million; Cristiano Reynaldo, Soccer $109 m; Neymar, Soccer $105 m; Canelo Alvarez, Boxing $94 m; Roger Federer, Tennis $93.4 m, Russel Wilson, American Football $89.5 m; Aaron Rogers, Football $89.3 m; LeBron James, Basketball $89 m; Stephen Curry, Basketball $79.8 m; Kevin Durant, basketball $65.4 m. In 2015 the boxer Floyd Merriweather earned $300 million, and in 2018 he earned $285 million. The golfer Tiger Woods earned $105 million in 2010. Most of these athletes have been playing for years; some more than a decade, earning similar amounts annually. Some athletes straight out of college sign multi-year contracts worth tens of million dollars annually. 

Romans passionately bet on sports activities. Carcopino writes: “But the passionate devotion which they [the charioteers] inspired in a whole people was fed also from more tainted sources. It was related to the passion for gambling....

"The victory of one chariot enriched some, impoverished others; the hope of winning unearned money held the Roman crowd all the more tyrannically in its grip in that the larger proportion was unemployed. The rich would stake a fortune, the poor the last penny" (ibid., pp. 220-221). 

In the USA in 2018, revenues from all types of gambling reached $161 billion. That is more than the U.S. Federal government spends on health, education, transportation and food and agriculture departments. In the U.K. gambling revenues are about $17.5 billion. Canada’s gambling revenues in 2017 were $13.5 billion and Australia’s revenues in 2017 were $18.4 billion. Australia per capita is the greatest gambling nation on earth. 

Romans held many orgiastic festivals during the year, in which they had sex orgies. “On February 14, The Romans celebrated Febris (meaning fever), a sacred sexual frenzy in honor of Juno Februa, an aspect of the goddess of amorous love. This sex fest coincided with the time when the birds in Italy were thought to mate.

“The ecstatic rites of the Goddess merged over time with those of Lupercalia, the bawdy festivities in honor of the pagan god of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, Pan, which were observed on the following day, February 15.

“On Lupercalia, (named, incidentally, in honor of the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus), men and women inscribed their names on love notes or billets and then drew lots to determine who their sex partner would be during this anything goes festival of erotic games. (”

Saturnalia was another orgiastic festival celebrated from 23rd to 30th December with public entertainment, dances and masks. The worship of the goddess Cybele was known for its bloody and orgiastic ceremonies (masochistic) performed by her transgender, eunuch priests called the Galli. The Megalesia was the festival of the Magna Mater, or Cybele, and celebrated between April 4 - 10 by games and theatrical performances. 

Though such rites are not publicly practiced today, behind closed doors, similar sex orgies continue in the Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day celebrations in America and Britain. For majority of Americans and Britons, sex and violence orgies continue in vicarious form on TV, pornography, films, the Internet and the dark web. 

 Here are some porn industry statistics: 

*  Porn is a global, estimated $97 billion industry, with about $12 billion of that coming from the U.S. (NBC News). Then there is massive unaccounted for piracy of content.
*  In 2018 alone, more than 5,517,000,000 hours of porn were consumed on the world’s largest porn site. (Ponhub Analytics) 
Eleven pornography sites are among the world’s top 300 most popular Internet sites. The most popular such site, at number 18, outranks the likes of eBay, MSN, and Netflix. (SimilarWeb) 
*  64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often.
*  Teenage girls are significantly more likely to actively seek out porn than women 25 years old and above. [2 ( for the above data)
*  The US continues to be the country with the highest daily traffic, followed by the UK, India, Japan, Canada, France and Germany. (

Estimated U.S. Entertainment industry revenues in 2018 are: NBA, $7.4 b; Hollywood $11.1 b; Netflix $11.7 b; Viacom $13.3b; NFL $14 b.

Dr. Robert Strausz-Hupe tells us that Romans were "inveterate sightseers and tourists." But it is doubtful they topped contemporary Americans. Tourism in 2018 was a $1.6 trillion industry in the USA with 80% of that contributed by domestic travel. Americans spent $186 billion on travel abroad in 2018. 

Roman stage was immoral. Historian Myers writes: "Almost from the beginning the Roman stage was gross and immoral. It was one of the main agencies to which must be attributed the undermining of the originally sound moral life of Roman society.

"So absorbed did the people become in the indecent representations of the stage that they lost all thought and care of the affairs of real life" (Myers, Rome, Its Rise and Fall, pp. 515, 516).

American and British stage productions, films and TV too are scraping the bottom of the barrel of depravity. Here are some statistics on TV and violence:

*  An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.
*  Two-thirds of all programming contains violence.
*  Programs designed for children more often contain violence than adult TV.
*  Most violent acts go unpunished on TV and are often accompanied by humor. The consequences of human suffering and loss are rarely depicted.
*  Many shows glamorize violence.  TV often promotes violent acts as a fun and effective way to get what you want, without consequences.
*  Repeated exposure to TV violence makes children less sensitive toward its effects on victims and the human suffering it causes. It can also affect willingness to help others in need. (

Carcopino comparing the Romans watching the gory spectacles in the arenas with our young people today states that they are "learning nothing but contempt for human life and dignity" (ibid. p. 243).

Just as in ancient Rome, A&B became great because of adherence to values, and principles of integrity and honesty derived from our religion, the Protestant work ethic and willingness to sacrifice for worthwhile causes and meet every challenge to our progress head-on with courage and determination.  

Just as in ancient Rome, today’s selfishness, unwillingness to sacrifice for the nation, self-indulgence, pleasure-seeking, dishonesty, lying, cheating, ‘getting ahead any which way you can’ philosophy will be A&B’s downfall.

God accurately foretold the conditions in our times in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures MORE than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

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