“… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses…” – Juvenal, Ancient Rome
“What could I do at Rome? I don’t know how to cheat…” – Juvenal
Bread and circuses” (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered “palliative.” Juvenal decried it as a simplistic motivation of common people. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man.
In modern usage, the phrase is taken to describe a populace that no longer values civic virtues and the public life. To many, it connotes a supposed triviality and frivolity that characterized the Roman Republic prior to its decline into the autocratic monarchy characteristic of the later Roman Empire‘s transformation about 44 B.C.
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