naumachia

Definition

Theater

  • (Latin: naval battle) In ancient Rome, a mock sea battle stagedin a flooded amphitheatre as an extravagant entertainment; also thevenue in which such battles were enacted. The earliest recorded naumachiawas that held in 46 BC, when Julius Caesar presented a battlebetween 'actors' representing Tyrian and Egyptian fleets on a speciallyconstructed lake in the Campus Martius. The bloody event involvedaround 4000 rowers and 2000 combatants. In one battle held under Claudiusin 52 AD, 19,000 gladiators and condemned criminals foughtto the death in the roles of Rhodians and Sicilians. In the laternaumachia, crocodiles were often added as a special terrorto participants.

    Even when the battles were presented as friendly entertainment,with the combatants being told to do as little damage as possibleto the expensive decorative ships, the scene oftenended in slaughter. After one battle, a report noted that the bodiesof dead 'actors' were dragged away to the animals' dens.

    Caesar's naumachia was reputedly some 2000 feet longand 200 feet wide, being capable of containing 50 triremes. The Colosseumat Rome and the amphitheatre at Pozzuoli could both be flooded forsea fights. The Emperor Augustus gave the name Naumachia toan amphitheatre on the bank of the Tiber.

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