“We cannot, even when we try, ignore compelling visual stimuli; we can only withdraw the stare once it is in play.” (Yantis, 239)
Two of the case studies, one public and one private, mention the feeling of ‘wonder’:
1) Remember the dwarves fighting in the arena? The last line of the selection of Statius, Silvae 1.6.57 -64 in Latin is: “ridet Mars pater et cruenta Virtus casuraeque vagis grues rapinis mirantur pugiles ferociores”. These final three words can be literally translated as “The fierce fighters are wondered at…”.
2) Remember the display of corpses? When describing Posio and Secundilla as objects of curiosity (Pliny VII.16), the Latin text tells us: “fuere sub Divo Augusto semipede addito, quorum corpora eius miraculi gratia in conditorio Sallustianorum adservabantur hortorum”. Literally “an example of a miracle/wonder”.
This emotion is perhaps the least surprising, as human oddities and spectacles are often themselves described as ‘wonders’. The concept of ‘wonder’ is quite complex and can embody several additional sentiments, but is one typically associated with the fixation on positive qualities such as beauty and remarkable characteristics. While it is undoubtedly dependant on the individual viewer, the use of this terminology allows us to feel somewhat connected to the ancient Romans who employed such familiar and stirring language.