This page cannot be viewed in frames

Go to page

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Exotic animals in Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Exotic animals on Roman mosaic
Exotic animals on Romain mosaic

Animals were delivered from distant parts of the Roman Empire to show the crowd the size of the conquest and show the wonders brought from distant lands. Those were sent by provincial administrators, and even by kings or noblemen of still unconquested lands, eg. from India. Menagerie – vivarium was located near the Porta Prenestina.

The animals involved in the venatio were predominantly wild predators, although there were also exceptions. Popular were: lions, tigers, elephants, bears, deer, wild goats, dogs, camels, rabbits. Some of the animals were trained and showed tricks instead of fighting. Wolves were not usually used to fight in the arena, mainly for religious reasons.

Gnaeus Pompey kept wild animals in his gardens, which he brought via Sicily to Italy. Animals were not always used solely as victims and assassins in various kinds of massacres in the arena. Some of the performances involved showing animals trained and tame. Pliny the Elder and Martial mention the panthers pulling the cart, the elephants kneeling in front of the imperial box, or the tame lions that grasped and let go of the intact hare.

Acquiring animals from distant corners of the empire was a sign of richness and power of emperor for inhabitants of Rome, as well as a measure of the authority of the empire over the world of people and animals. For many Romans it was also a unique opportunity to see exotic animals.

  • J. Carcopino, Widowiska, p. 227

IMPERIUM ROMANUM needs your support!

If you like the content that I collect on the website and that I share on social media channels I will be grateful for the support. Even the smallest amounts will allow me to pay for further corrections, improvements on the site and pay the server.



Find out more!

Check your curiosity and learn something new about the ancient world of the Romans. By clicking on the link below, you will be redirected to a random entry.

Random curiosity

Random curiosity

Discover secrets of ancient Rome!

If you want to be up to date with newest articles on website and discoveries from the world of ancient Rome, subscribe to the newsletter, which is sent each Saturday.

Subscribe to newsletter!

Subscribe to newsletter

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: