In Monty Python’s the life of Brian, there is a stoning at the beginning of the film. A man is being stoned to death for blasphemy and the crowd stands ready with rock in their hands. Stoning was common form of punishment in that time period. The accused or condemned was brought into the public area and a crowd formed to participate in the punishment. They would hurl rocks and stones at the condemned until they were dead. Many times people were stoned to death with out benefit of formal charges.
At the end of the film, Brian is crucified with a group of others. This scene show the men attached to the crosses and a crowd of onlookers watching as the punishment was carried out. The ancient Romans used crucifixion for criminals and rebels and it was a well attended public spectacle. Pontius Pilate, the governor of Jerusalem in that time period, had absolute power over the non-roman citizens and historically, is believed to have issued the official order to have Jesus of Nazareth crucified. There were often groups of people to be crucified and they would march through the street carrying their crosses to the appointed spot. Once there they were nailed or lashed to the crosses and hoisted up to die. Those who were lucky had someone who could slip them poison. Once dead, the bodies were usually left as a deterrent against further crime.
At one point in the middle of the film, the Jews are complaining about the oppression of the Romans and how much better off they would be without them. This leads into a conversation regarding the things the Romans had done to improve the city; such as aqueducts, wastewater removal and roads.
The Romans were famous for their aqueducts. They had them built in all their cities and most of their colonies. An aqueduct is an artificial channel that lets water flow from the spot it originates to the spot it is needed. They had fresh water running throughout the cities. The water
fed the bathhouses and wells. They also created a wastewater removal system using pipes or conduits to wash away the wastewater. This was mostly for the rich and the poor still used the old fashioned methods of waste disposal. The Romans also built roads, some of which still stand to this day. Current estimate is that there were 4080 Roman miles of road. The roads ran in a direct line from one point to another and were complete with mile stones.
Pontius Pilate angered the Jews when he took money from the temple treasury to have the aqueduct in Jerusalem built to provide fresh water to the city.
The Coliseum, or an arena like one, is featured in the film. It shows the Roman nobles in their private boxes and the peasants on the open stone steps that surround the arena. They are watching a Gladiator chase another man around the arena in order to kill him.
This type of sport was common in those times. The actual Coliseum was built in Rome in 80 A.D. and held between 45,000 and 50,000 people. Romans were very much into blood sports
and it was nothing to have a succession of fights that lasted for months.
At first the fights were gladiator to gladiator in an attempt to gain honor. Gladiators could gain enormous amounts of money and fame as long as they were winning. When the Roman emperors realized it had become such a public attraction, they started using it to stage fights that showed their power and influence.
Slaves and prisoners were made to fight to the death. The prize was often the promise of freedom if they lived. It was not only man to man fights, but man to wild animal, wild animal to wild animal and any other combination that would please the crowd and make the emperor look more powerful. The shows ended in 5th century A.D.