Though immensely popular, gladiators were by no means the only popular attractions of Roman amphitheaters. There were also a wide variety of animal shows, collectively known as venationes (singular, venatio ), or "hunts." (The term hunt is a bit of a misnomer, since none of these consisted of sportsmen stalking wild creatures in their natural habitats; fights would be a more accurate way of describing most of them.) Though technically classified as ludi, the hunts came to be associated with the munera, mainly because they were usually presented on the same program with gladiatorial bouts in the amphitheater or elsewhere.
Originally (throughout the second and well into the first century B. C.), the venationes were minor spectacles presented generally in the morning. Because this was when most Romans were busy working or attending to personal affairs, the morning audiences tended to be small. But the hunts became increasingly popular, and by.....that housed the Roman games reflected the fact that the Romans were great builders—
overall the most prolific, efficient, and practical in the ancient world. Indeed, as the late,
noted classical scholar Edith Hamilton pointed out, the true Roman artist was not the
painter, sculptor, or poet, but the engineer. "Roman genius was called into action by the
enormous practical needs of a world empire," she wrote. And Rome met these needs
appropriately and magnificently by producing a vast network of roads for the swift
transport of armies and trade goods; miles of aqueducts that supplied life-giving water to
sustain hundreds of cities and towns; as well as great circuses for chariot racing and
amphitheaters where gladiators and beasts fought and died.
The Romans did not invent roads, aqueducts, and games facilities, of course. As with the
public games themselves, they borrowed many.Even today, many centuries after the last
gladiators died in Roman amphitheaters, people find these arena warriors...