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Semiotica

Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel


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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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1613-3692
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Volume 2015, Issue 207

Issues

In the arena: Communication between animals and Christians in damnatio ad bestias

Aarne Ruben
Published Online: 2015-07-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0060

This paper is about the problem of unusual prey. The author compares human and animal difficulties of understanding in damnatio ad bestias (execration, actually, public execution through beasts) in the arenas of Rome during antiquity. The prey’s signals to the predator consist of many components, including mimicry, spreading pheromonic scents, and leaving the footprints. Mimicry techniques, cryptic as well as conspicuous strategies are used by the prey. The survival of the Christians in the Roman arenas was due to the different message channels of men and animals. The Christians who survived never showed fear and therefore no predator touched them. If new prey bears no resemblance to normal prey, a predator could assume a surrender or playful position, while still cautious of the prey’s movements. The latter could be a possibly metacommunicated scene, which is universal for animals as well as humans. In that case, all possibilities of mimetic techniques and survival strategies from both sides are described here: how animals and their prey objects code their messages. Four types of arena interaction signs are presented here. The conclusion is: if the prey does not run, the predator considers it plausibly sick or poisonous. Even a domestic cat carefully avoids a mouse that dares to attack him. The cat considers it to be poisoned and leaves alone. The Christians’ “poison” was their faith.

Keywords: zoosemiotics; lions; crypsis; subjunctive and escape signs

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About the article

Published Online: 2015-07-17

Published in Print: 2015-10-01


Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2015, Issue 207, Pages 127–137, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0060.

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