Bread And Circuses: Sports Entering Bear Market

bread and circuses nfl gladiatorsfall of ancient rome modern american empire

One of the things I love about Martin Armstrong is how he recognizes that history and markets all rhyme/repeat. Different actors are on the stage, but human behavior is a near constant.

When one can peg our current position in a historical cycle, we see predicting the future has nothing to do with clairvoyance. It has everything to do with understanding the psychology of crowds, which we learn by reading the masters of the written word.

Armstrong posted an article back in February talking about, essentially, how we have entered “peak sports” and why it’s a really bad place to be in the cycle. That’s pretty uncanny that he wrote this eight months before the Trump-NFL drama we’ve been watching unfold.

It appears the modern American Empire is rhyming in unison with the Fall of Ancient Rome. Internal rot. Overextension of the empire. Extreme multiculturalism. Loss of belief. Decadence and distraction. Bread and circuses. Debt. Forgetting the wisdom of our elders. Sound familiar?

Excerpt of Armstrong’s theory is below.

We also see that Super Bowl viewership peaked in 2015 at 115 million and has begun to decline from a major 26-year high. Last year, Super Bowl viewership fell to 111 million, which is actually the Bearish Reversal. So if 2017 comes in under 111 million, this will confirm sports have begun a bear market. This is yet another parallel with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Circus Maximus


Gaius Appuleius Diocles was the highest paid athlete in Roman history. His earnings were legendary and were derived from earnings, not sponsorships. His career as a charioteer lasted 24 years. He is believed to have been born in 104 AD, began racing at the age of 18, and retired at about 42 (around 146 AD). Diocles may have retired during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138 – 161 AD). The Roman Empire peaked with Antoninus’ successor, Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), which was 34 years from Diocles retirement. Sports began to decline.


Indeed, Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his son Commodus (sole rule: 180-192 AD). Commodus made appearances in gladiatorial combats. Commodus would appear naked in these gladiatorial combats, which resulted in a collapse in confidence and a huge public scandal. This resulted in rumors that he was actually the son of a gladiator whom his mother, Faustina, probably took as some lover at the coastal resort of Caieta. Commodus always won since his opponents always submitted to the emperor and were spared. He charged Rome 1 million sesterces for his contests, no doubt trying to top Diocles’ earnings. Sports in Rome began to decline from 180 AD onward, as did the population of Rome itself. People began to migrate out of the city when Commodus began to rule by himself. If we add 34 years to 2015, that brings us to 17.2 years from 2032. Very interesting indeed.

Diocles won 1,462 races out of 4,257 and placed second in 1,438 races. Diocles is one of the best-documented ancient athletes in history. He was the start of the Roman Circus Maximus, and you can still see the track to this day.

The 1910-1915 translation of Latin pānis et circēnsēs is the source of remark by the Roman satirist Juvenal on the limited desires of the Roman populace:

“Two things only the people anxiously desire  bread and circuses.”

Marcus Aurelus Caesar AE Sestertius-r

During his 24-year career, Dicoles is said to have earned 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money according to Professor Peter Struck. Records from Pompeii show a slave being sold at auction for 6,252 sestertii in 79 AD. A writing tablet from Londinium (Roman London), dated to c. 75–125 AD, records the sale of a Gallic slave girl called Fortunata for 600 denarii, or 2,400 Sestertii, who must have been quite beautiful.

We can take a Private First Class in the US army today and see he earns $24,984.00 annually. However, food and lodging are included. During the 1st century AD, the ordinary legionary soldier was paid 900 sestertii per annum, rising to 1200 under Domitian (81-96 AD). This was the equivalent of 3.3 sestertii per day, of which half of this was deducted for living costs. That means the net salary for a soldier was about 1.65 sestertii per day. Therefore, his net pay for take home would have been 429 sestertii annually. That means, Dicoles earned for his 24 career what would have taken a solider 83,597 years.

If we then compare that to the net take-home pay of a US soldier, Dicoles earned $2,088,587,855 for his 24-year career or $87,024,493 per year. The top athlete in 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo, won a contract for $88 million. Of course, he would never earn that for 24 years.

Read the whole article at Armstrong Economics.


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