Bread and circuses  

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"Since, then, all passionate excitement is forbidden us, we are debarred from every kind of spectacle, and especially from the circus" --De spectaculis by Tertullian

This page Bread and circuses is part of the entertainment series. Illustration: Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872
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This page Bread and circuses is part of the entertainment series.
Illustration: Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Bread and circuses" (or Bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for handouts and petty amusements that politicians use to gain popular support, instead of gaining it through sound policy. The phrase is invoked not only to criticize politicians, but also to criticize their supporters for giving up their civic duty.

Bread and circuses was how the Roman satirist Juvenal characterized the imperial leadership's way of placating the masses.

Bread and circuses has come to be a derogatory phrase that can criticize either government policies to pacify the citizenry, or the shallow, decadent desires of that same citizenry. In both cases, it refers to low-cost, low-quality, high-availability food and entertainment that have become the sole concern of the people, to the exclusion of matters that the speaker considers more important: e.g. the Arts, public works projects, human rights, or democracy itself. The phrase is commonly used to refer to short-term government palliatives offered in place of a solution for significant, long-term problems.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bread and circuses" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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