JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
The content of this antique print was expected (on some level) though it was still surprising. "Domitian's Naumachina or Naval Amphitheatre" is from an unknown source though the basis of the image has been used and reused a number of time in the 18th century--I expect this one to be mid-18th or so. Domitian was not the happiest of Caesars, and from time to time engaged in enormous spectacles, which may or may not have included scenes like that below, flooding the amphitheater and launching ships for combat and amusement of the spectators. Or not--the issue is evidently a debated one among people who know this period; the image, however, is interesting.
The following--describing Domitian and his compounded public display interests is from -Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources. II. Rome and the West, edited by William Stearns Davis (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1913, pp. 194-195, Source: http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Domit.html
- The original print is available for sale at the blog bookstore, here.
"Despite their control of the army and the subservience of the Senate, the average Emperor quailed before the hootings and ill will of the Roman mob. Thus Domitian (81-96 A.D.), a bad and tyrannical Caesar, tried to win popularity by providing the idle masses of the capital with their favorite games and arena massacres."
"He frequently entertained the people with the most magnificent and costly shows, not only in the amphitheater, but in the circus; where, besides the usual chariot races, with two or four horses abreast, he exhibited the imitation of a battle betwixt cavalry and infantry; and in the amphitheater a sea fight. The people too were entertained with wild-beast hunts, and gladiator fights even in the night-time, by torchlight. He constantly attended the games given by the quaestors, which had been disused for some time, but were revived by him; and upon those occasions, he always gave the people the liberty of demanding two pair of gladiators out of his own [private] "school," who appeared last in court uniforms."
"He presented the people with naval fights, performed by fleets almost as numerous as those usually employed in real engagements; making a vast lake near the Tiber, and building seats around it. And he witnessed these fights himself during a very heavy rain."