Elsie Hogfat

Lagom Food. Lagom Philosophy.

Resist Bread. Resist Circuses.

You have probably heard of the phrase “bread and circuses”.  However, it’s highly unlikely that you actually understand it.

You may be thinking at this point that Elsie Hogfat is big on the words but maybe small on the ground… yes?

Well, just in case you’re not as stupid as you look, and bearing in mind that even a blind hen can find a grain, I shall explain.

The phrase relates to the Roman Empire, and to various policies providing free entertainments and free (or subsidised) food for the people of Rome

Most people take this phrase to be a metaphor.  The story goes something like this segment from Wikipedia;

… Bread and circuses (panem et circenses) is a metaphor for handouts and petty amusements that politicians use to gain popular support…. it connotes the triviality and frivolity that … may contribute to the decline of modern society…

Later there is mention of  Juvenal, from whose satire Satire X the phrase originates; as making reference to;

…the Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power through populism

At which point you might be thinking “yes, yes” … and perhaps you,  too, have sighed and bemoaned the advent of reality television, and the generally lamentable state of political debate in your nation.

You may have noticed with regret how easily your people are steered this way or that by the media (sometimes called “the media circus”) and how commonplace it is for politicians to engineer distractions, sometimes frivolous and sometimes tragic costing a great many lives and much suffering.  However, that is not the point.  That is not what the phrase is about.  Let’s look a little bit closer.

In Satire X, Juvenal describes a population subdued, restrained and listless, anxiously awaiting their next handout of panem et circenses.

Q.  Why do you think this population were so subdued and lacking in will?  Why do you think they wanted all the stupid distractions?

A.  223 years* of GRAIN SUBSIDY, that’s why!

*The Annona (grain dole) began in 123 BC

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