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Exotic Animals in Northern Arenas?
Wild beast hunts and displays in Rome featured animals from all over the empire - but what about arenas on the northern fringes of the Roman world?

Would venationes in Britain or in the provinces of the Rhine and Danube also commonly feature lions and leopards etc, or would they rely on more indigenous animals: bears, bulls, perhaps wolves?
Nathan Ross
It is interesting you should mention this for was it not the emperor Claudius who made a visit to Britain and arrived with Elephants, so it would not be so far fetched to imagine that maybe there might just have been a few such exotic animals used for impotant times such as an emperors birthday.
Brian Stobbs
That's an interesting question. I would imagine that the variety and quality of animals (and gladiators) would depend on the generosity of whoever was hosting the games. The amphitheater they are excavating in Chester is reportedly quite large, which means that someone was willing to pump a great deal of money into the games on the fringes of the Empire. I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to assume that if someone had the money to build a large amphitheater they might scrounge up the funds to import some exotic animals as well. I haven't seen anything recently, but it would be interesting to find out if they found any exotic animal remains in the dig at the Chester amphitheater.
Nate Hanawalt

"Bonum commune communitatis"
Quote:the variety and quality of animals (and gladiators) would depend on the generosity of whoever was hosting the games.

Yes, I would think so - and, as Brian says, the occasion as well. Putting on an 'exotic' animal show in some outlying province would presumably have provided major kudos for the editor!

I was trying to think of any literary references to 'exotic' beasts in northern frontier areas, but aside from Claudius and his elephants there doesn't seem to be much - Marcus Aurelius allegedly tried to sacrifice a pair of lions by throwing them into the Danube, on the advice of the sham oracle Alexander, but they just swam across to the barbarians, who clubbed them to death 'thinking them dogs or wolves' (as Lucian of Samosata says). This suggests that such animals could be brought north by an emperor, but clearly they were not common enough for the barbarians to recognise them!

Bone deposits from arena sites would be useful, but all those I've found referenced (at London and Cologne) are the remains of bears and bulls, among other less fearsome animals.
Nathan Ross
I love maps because every new one I find makes my EU4 Roman Reconquest campaigns more historically accurate with province names and city names. Tongue

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