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Tertullian's "De Spectaculis" Essay

928 words - 4 pages

The great Christian writer Tertullian was born in Roman controlled Carthage, now known better as Tunisia. Around 200 AD he famously wrote De spectaculis, a work outlining the failing of the Roman moral system based around the gladiatorial games and the circus. Tertullian received a good education growing up and partook in “pagan” rituals such as sexual intercourse and observing the gladiatorial games. However, when the Roman Empire began executing Christians he felt compelled to become a Christian himself. Tertullian outlined clearly in his essay that the failing of the games lay in idolatry, and in the belief that ‘Thou shall not kill’. He writes this essay to compel all Christians to give up the games in order to gain favour in the eyes of their god.
The problem so clearly outlined by Tertullian, is that Christians believe that if the bible does not directly argue against something, by default it is alright to do. Tertullian strongly disagrees saying that it is a waste of God’s creation and the belief that they can be of no offence to god is ignorant. He even outlines this by citing two of the Ten Commandments. Thou shall not kill, and thou shall not worship false idols. When it comes to the gladiatorial games, killing is obviously a major component, but many were confused on his views of idolatry. He states that by going to church we worship god. By going to the amphitheatre we are worshipping men. However, Tertullian was much more offended by the killing, and the martyrdom caused by the gladiatorial games. He stated in a satire that if we enjoy the spectacle of killing so much, then surely we will love the spectacle of the second coming of Christ. In which not only will all the sinful be killed, but damned for eternity. He also made a point in saying “If it is blood we desire, let it be the blood of Christ”. This struck a note with many Christians at the time as ancient Carthage was addicted to the spectacle of the gladiatorial games. Tertullian stated that he could not care less if Pagans went to the games to sin, but as more and more Romans became Christian, and still attended the games, Tertullian was outraged at their hypocrisy of belief. The killing and the spectacle of the games caused a passionate bloodlust that he felt no true Christian should ever enjoy, let alone enjoy it in the company of sinful pagans. He is also quick to outline the sinfulness of not only gambling, but gambling over the lives of the slaves and gladiators in the ring.
Tertullian makes a note of the theatre as another medium of Roman sin, stating that it is all filth. He writes that prostitutes are born on the stage, and pantomimes made of young boys. One of Tertullian’s sharpest points is that many Christians say “God has given us the material...

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