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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.