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"bread & circuses" = distraction

Posted by ESC on January 15, 2001

In Reply to: "Bread & circuses" = decadence?? posted by mortimer on January 15, 2001

: what does the phrase "bread and circuses" mean? doesn't it have something to do with the old roman empire? people use it seeming to imply decadence. why?

: mortimer

Bread and circuses - It means distracting people with food and entertainment (bread and circuses/popcorn and movies) so they won't notice the things that are really wrong. It's kind of like distracting a baby with a bottle and a rattle. The expression comes from an ancient Roman saying. "A pallative offered especially to avert potential discontent. Public spectacles or entertainments distract the public from important issues and may alleviate discontent in the short run, but neither provides fundamental solutions. The term comes from the work of the Roman satirist Juvenal (ca. A.D. 60-140), who wrote: Duas tantum res anxius optat/Panem et circenses.(The people) long eagerly for two things/Bread and circuses." From "Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions" by Elizabeth Webber and Mike Feinsilber (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass., 1999).