In reference to politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval or the quieting of dissent through diversion, distraction, or the mere satisfaction of the immediate self-indulgent interests of the people.
Juvenal wrote, "..that the common people—rather than caring about their freedom—are only interested in “bread and circuses” (i.e. food and entertainment)".
"… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."
This phrase originates from his Satire X. It implies the erosion or ignorance of duty amongst the people which weakens society. Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of these new citizens: giving out cheap food and entertainment, "bread and circuses", would be the most effective way to rise to power.
"The masses continue with an appetite for benefits and the habit of receiving them by way of a rule of force and violence. The people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others... institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch."
The Annona (grain dole) was administered through the government temples of Rome to make the people dependent and manageable by the despots who sought power over the people. The Cura Annonae ("care for the grain supply") begun under the instigation of the popularis politician Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 123 B.C. grew under the first Emperor Agustus and Tiberius who said that the Cura Annonae if neglected would be 'the utter ruin of the state."
Marcus Tullius Cicero who was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist said:
"The evil was not in the bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease."
The only difference now is with GMOs and food additives the evil may also be in the bread.
John the Baptist, Jesus and the Church provided the Daily bread of the people through faith, hope and charity and the Perfect law of liberty in what was called the Daily ministration. This can only be done by people who accept the spirit of Christ in their hearts and choose to follow the ways of Christ. 100 years after Christ others were still warning the people.
“The real destroyers of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and benefits.” –Plutarch
"I do not imply that bread and circuses are evil things in themselves. Man needs material sustenance and he needs recreation. These needs are so basic that they come within the purview of every religion. In every religion there is a harvest festival of thanksgiving for good crops. And as for recreation, we need only recall that our word 'holiday' was originally 'holy day,' a day of religious observance. In fact, the circuses and games of old Rome were religious in origin. The evil was not in bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease. The moral decay of the people was not caused by the doles and the games. These merely provided a measure of their degradation. Things that were originally good had become perverted and, as Shakespeare reminds us, 'Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.'" 
Galatians 5 tells us, "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
Social democrats have used this plan to obtain power since Cain and Nimrod. Many a politician was led by the same plan to obtain power over the people for they love power more than the people. They seal society into bondage to their will by spreading amongst them many benefits.
…Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses..."
This was the sin of Sodom.
"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:49)
None of this would be possible except that the people love themselves more than their neighbor in contradistinction to Moses and Jesus and all the prophets of old.
People think that Religion is what you think about God and Government is supposed to fulfill your duty to your fellowman by forcing people to contribute. Pure Religion is to perform your duty to God by loving your neighbor enough to provide for his Welfare by charity. The Church was instituted to help people to actively love their neighbor as themselves in real ways.
There were lots of Welfare systems in the Roman Empire and even in Judea but Christians would not take those benefits because they were provided by the World through force. Early Christians did not pray to men who called themselves Benefactorswho exercise authority one over the other forcing the contributions of the people in order to provide daily free bread to the needy of their society.
- “And the wealthy among us help the needy ... and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” 
This is what John's Baptism was all about. It is what Jesus preached about Benefactors who exercised authority and it was the reason he condemned the Corban of the Pharisees which, made the word of God to none effect. The early Church provided free bread from house to house as they worked daily in the temple. This welfare by the charity of the people was at the core of the Christian conflict with Rome and the Eucharist of Christ was the bread of that welfare through His Church through love according to what Jesus commanded.
The Modern Church has need of Repentance and to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness which is to attend to the Weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith which include caring for the needs of our neighbors, the widows and orphans of our society through Pure Religion in matters of health, education, and welfare. We are NOT to do so by the Covetous Practices of modern governments.
The Way of Christ was not like the way of the world, nor the governments of the gentiles who depend on benefactors who exercise authority. Christ's ministers and true Christians do not depend upon systems of social welfare that force the contributions of the people like the corban of the Pharisees which made the word of God to none effect. Many people have been deceived to go the way of Balaam and the Nicolaitan and out of The Way of Christ.
The Christian conflict of the first century Church appointed by Christ was because they would not apply to the fathers of the earth for benefits but instead relied upon a voluntary network providing a daily ministration to the needy of society through Faith, Hope, and Charity by way of freewill offerings of the people, for the people, and by the people through the perfect law of liberty in Free Assemblies according to the ancient pattern of Tuns or Tens.
"Follow me!" —Jesus the Christ.
- One of the most important things to do is to become involved in a network of Charitable Practices. Everyone should want to join a Living Network of Love and Charity.
- If you think you have a calling to be a Minister of God or you might want to dedicate your life to Christ as an Ordained Minister of His Holy Church then contact us to start the process of discipleship and become the benefactors who exercise only love, NOT authority.
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- Satire X by Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis a Roman poet active in the late 1st and early 2nd century AD
- ... iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses." Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81
- Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
- Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
- Admiral Ben Moreell Of Bread and Circuses The Freeman, Volume: 6, Issue:1
- iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses. [...] (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)
- Leviticus 19:18 "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I [am] the LORD."
- Zechariah 8:17 "And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD."
- : Matthew 5:43 "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy."
- Matthew 19:19 "Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
- Matthew 22:39 "And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
- Mark 12:31 "And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
- Mark 12:33 "And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."
- Luke 10:27 "And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself."
- Romans 13:9 "For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
- Romans 13:10 "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
- Galatians 5:14 "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
- James 2:8 "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:"
- "Justin the Martyr's Apology" to Emperor Antonius Pius in 150 AD, (Ch. 65-67) alternate translation:
- “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” Chapter LXVII
- Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
- Matthew 20:25-26 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
Mark 10:42-43 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
Luke 22:25-26 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.