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ABSTRACT. By associating relaxation, excitement and death with entertainment, the frenzy of imperial performances includes with the same force of contagion the public space and the space of power in a drunken violence and delight projecting decadentism onto the Roman world in an orgiastic Dionysian atmosphere. In between the arena walls, the Romans’ favorite (and even adored) space, and the stage of power, we will find the same scourge of exaltation and crime, the delirium of power cascading from the emperor’s scene to the spectators’ arena: the illusion of sovereignty over the deliberate deaths. A Dionysian vertigo mixes the differences between life and death, pleasure and tearing, triumph and fall, contaminating people with the illusion of power (their sovereign decision on life and death over the arena-nailed gladiator) and seducing the power to the lure of the different and special: the diversity of experiences and spectacular masks. This transfer from palace to arena, people becoming consumers of shows, is symptomatic of the confusing interface between periphery and center, the transgression of death in the arena being the model for the radical transgression of tragic sacrifice.

Keywords: decadent Rome; theatre; performance; carnival; madness; power; histrionism

Ilona Manuela Duta
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University of Craiova

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