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bread and circuses

noun
1.
something, as extravagant entertainment, offered as an expedient means of pacifying discontent or diverting attention from a source of grievance.
Origin
1910-1915
1910-15; translation of Latin pānis et circēnsēs; from a remark by the Roman satirist Juvenal on the limited desires of the Roman populace
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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bread and circuses in Culture

bread and circuses definition


A phrase used by a Roman writer to deplore the declining heroism of Romans after the Roman Republic ceased to exist and the Roman Empire began: “Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.” The government kept the Roman populace happy by distributing free food and staging huge spectacles. (See Colosseum.)

Note: “Bread and circuses” has become a convenient general term for government policies that seek short-term solutions to public unrest.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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