De spectaculis

Also known as On the Spectacles, De Spectaculis is one of Tertullian's extant moral and ascetic treatises. Written somewhere between 197-202, De Spectaculis looks at the moral legitimacy and consequences of Christians attending the circus, theatre, or amphitheatre ("the pleasures of public shows").

In it, Tertullian posits against the popular view that human enjoyment can be of no offence to God. His view of these public entertainments are that they are a misuse of God's creation and a perversion of the gifts God has given to man. To this end he supports his claim by reminding the reader that these shows and spectacles derived from pagan ritual rites (the Liberalia, the Consualia, the Equiria, the Bacchinalia, etc). This presupposes that the events derive from idolatry.

Of key concern was that the "show always leads to spiritual agitation" (Tertullian). By attending and partaking in the event, man is subject to strong excitements, which are aroused due to natural lapses, which create passionate desire. Additionally, Tertullian writes that that which is not permissible to say or do should not be permissible to see or hear.



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