Today after the punctual and timely bus ride back from Florence, I found myself with some free time to explore. Since I missed the tour of the Coliseum, I felt I should take some time to do a solo tour of the famous monument. While I was amazed by the architectural masterpiece that is the Coliseum, I found myself more impressed by what the Coliseum accomplished during its lifespan.
The Coliseum essentially served as a great a grand piece of physical political propaganda. It was used to host grand spectacles that were intended to distract the general populous from the problems of the empire. The Emperor of Rome at any given time could distance himself from any problem that would arise by putting on a show at the Coliseum. Problems of the day could be phased out of the Roman citizen’s mind by giving them enough bloodshed, bread, and a convincing performance by the Emperor, who would get the city on his side by reminding them that he was the one providing him with the grand show they all enjoyed. The entire performance of the Coliseum is a great example of how political rhetoric is often used to manipulate rather than reassure it’s citizens.
Personally, I think this election cycle showed the manipulative power of rhetoric. Both candidates were caught up in massive scandals. But, rather than ever trying to fix relationships with the voters by either apologizing for their actions or explaining their actions, they simply turned the conversation to another topic. This most often took the form of each candidate reminding their supporters that their opponent had done X that was immensely worse than what they had “allegedly” did. All this accomplished was create a ravenous base of supporters for both candidates while those on the fence were left with two unreliable candidates. Much like the Emperors of ancient Rome, the two candidates were able to reassure their supporters that nothing was truly wrong by distracting them with allegations of how their opponent did things that were worse than anything they had ever done. While the method of delivery has changed, the purpose of manipulative rhetoric in the political realm has not changed much since the ancient Roman times.