In order to appease the populace and gain political support, the rulers of Ancient Rome provided citizens with free wheat and a myriad of spellbinding spectacles and circuses. Apparently it takes much more than bread and circuses to entertain the masses of Italians today. Due to a general lack of interest, the traveling acts have been forced to cut costs and are disappearing throughout Italy at a rapid rate. The turnout for yesterday’s Aquatic Circus was clear proof that the age of the big top may be approaching it’s final act.
It rained buckets. Beyond that, the circus could hardly be called aquatic. The highlight of the extravaganza was three large pelicans parading around the tiny stage, their plumage dispersing in all directions. As the poor creatures twisted their necks frustratingly to reach the fish dangling before them, the stereo sang “The Macarena” creating the effect that the pelicans were dancing, rather than simply hungry.
I don’t recall having ever gone to the circus as a child, yet I suffer an acute nostalgia at the sight of the illuminated letters and the colored tents of the big top. The small town circus, with its threadbare costumes and inflated promises, is particularly endearing to me. The thought of this genre completely disappearing is troubling – the Romans would have incited a riot. I can’t blame them.