According to Memory Alpha's In Universe Timeline, Bread and Circuses comes after Journey to Babel and before A Private Little War.
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The Enterprise is on routine patrol when it finds wreckage of the SS Beagle, which was under the command of Captain R. M. Merik, whom Captain Kirk knew during his academy days. First Officer Spock traces the path of debris back to a planet in a previously unexplored system.

The Enterprise picks up a 20th century-style television broadcast, with black and white video footage of what appears to be a Roman gladiatorial fight in an arena. The "barbarian" gladiator they see killed is named William B. Harrison, identified by ship's records as one of the flight crew from the Beagle‍.

Kirk, Spock and Leonard McCoy beam down to the planet to investigate. They are captured and brought before Septimus, who refers to the planet as Magna Roma and asks them if they are "children of the Sun".

Technologically, Magna Roma is a 20th century version of Earth, but with a culture that appears to be based on Earth's Roman Empire around the 1st century A.D. Septimus explains he was a Senator until he heard the "words of the Sun" and was made a slave. Although another slave, Flavius, suggests killing the landing party, Septimus decides the landing party poses no threat.

Kirk tells the slaves that he wants to meet Merikus, the First Citizen of the Empire, suspecting he is Captain Merik of the Beagle. Flavius offers to help and leads Kirk to the capital city. The landing team puts on slaves' uniforms and tries to sneak into the city.

They are captured and placed into slave pens. After a failed escape attempt, they are brought before Merikus and the Proconsul Claudius Marcus, who invites the landing team to sit and talk in private. Merikus acknowledges that he is Captain Merik. When he beamed down he met Claudius Marcus, who demanded the planet's culture not be divulged to the Federation, for fear of cultural "contamination". Merik decided to stay, putting his crewmen into the gladiatorial pits, where most of them would be killed. Merik informs Kirk that the Enterprise crew must also abandon their ship and integrate into Magna Roma's culture.

Kirk refuses Merik's demands and instead tells Chief Engineer Scott that the landing party is in trouble, via a code term, though no rescue attempt is needed.

Angered, Marcus sends Spock and McCoy into the televised arena. They face off against Flavius and Achilles. Spock quickly overpowers his opponent and, when McCoy is in trouble, Spock uses the Vulcan nerve pinch on his opponent, ending the fight. A hail of boos and hisses from a pre-recorded "crowd" greets this turn of events. Spock and McCoy are taken back to the slave pens while Kirk is taken to face a televised execution.

Meanwhile, Mr. Scott works on a way to disrupt power and communications on the planet while obeying the Prime Directive and not interfering with a planet's society. Blacking out the capital city just before his captain's execution, Kirk frees Spock and McCoy but is soon captured again. Merik signals the Enterprise to have Kirk and party beamed back to the Enterprise. Before he can complete the message, Marcus fatally stabs him for his treachery. Scott understands enough of the message and the landing party dematerializes just as they face a hail of machine gun fire.

Back on the ship, Spock again expresses to Kirk and McCoy his failure to comprehend why Sun-worshipping Romans adhere to a concept of peace. He opines that most sun worship is a primitive religion of superstition, with no philosophy of peace behind it. Lt. Uhura has the answer, based on her ongoing cultural analysis: it's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God."

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. McCoy punching the guard on the chinguard, without hurting his hand. The chinguard is probably padded.
  2. Marcus telling Kirk that fifteen minutes have been preempted for his execution, but ordering the centurion to kill Kirk with one clean blow. Marcus probably wants the centurion to toy with Kirk a while first.

Changed PremisesEdit

  1. Kirk describing the planet in this episode as an example of the - well established - Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development, while being surprised to find a Nazi based civilisation in Patterns of Force.They knew about the Roman style civilisation in this episode due to the television broadcasts, but weren’t expecting to find the Nazi civilisation when they beamed down in Patterns of Force.

Equipment OdditiesEdit

  1. Use of gun shaped Type 2 phasers, instead of the easily concealed box shaped Type 1 design. Kirk probably felt it necessary to take the more powerful, and obviously weapon shaped, Type 2 units, on account of the hostile environment.
  2. Lack of homing beacon in the phasers and other equipment. The beacon signal could be used by hostile forces to beam the equipment away, and might impair the operation of the equipment.
  3. Non use of subcutaneous transponders.The Television broadcasts could have masked the transponder signal.
  4. No attempt to rescue the landing party when Kirk declared Condition Green. Condition Green prohibits the listener taking any action, such as attempting a rescue.[1]

Internet Movie DatabaseEdit

Factual errorsEdit

  1. Dr. McCoy makes reference that ancient Rome did not worship the sun, which is untrue, since the Romans did in fact have a cult and temples dedicated to Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), which was also the patron deity of Roman soldiers. McCoy is not an expert historian,[N 2] and would not necessarily be expected to know about the Sol Invictus cult.

Revealing mistakesEdit

  1. When Spock is straining at the jail cell door his face flushes red. As Spock is Vulcan and has a copper based hemoglobin his face would flush green rather than red. This could be a sign of his more emotional human half.

Nit CentralEdit

  1. Scott N on Tuesday, November 17, 1998 - 9:19 am: How come the Proconsul and Merrick wore Roman style clothes, but the TV techs and announcers wore mid-20th century american clothing? D.K. Henderson on Thursday, November 19, 1998 - 1:53 pm: Maybe it's a symbol of their special rank.
  2. D.K. Henderson on Thursday, November 19, 1998 - 1:53 pm: When Kirk was first given back his communicator and told to bring his officers down, the doors suddenly burst open and guards came and surrounded him. How did they know to come in at that precise moment? Shane Tourtellotte on Tuesday, March 16, 1999 - 10:47 am: D. K. Henderson asked how the guards knew to come in right at the moment when Kirk began calling the Enterprise. He missed the following shot where we see the Proconsul looking warningly at Kirk, his hand on a button underneath the table.
  3. Nove Rockhoomer on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 8:08 pm: First they say the Beagle is a survey vessel, then Kirk says Merik went into the merchant service. So which is it? And was it a Starfleet ship? Probably a merchant ship used to survey new trade routes.


  1. Uncredited Guest cast: Paul Baxley as Policeman #1, Bob Orrison as Policeman #2, Paul Stader as Slave #1, Tom Steele as Slave #2, Gil Perkins as Slave #3, Eddie Paskey as Lt. Leslie, William Blackburn as Lt. Hadley, Roger Holloway as Lt. Lemli, Frank da Vinci as Lt. Brent
  2. He admits this at one point, explaining that he only identified the smog, which was clearly present, to prevent Spock giving an entire lecture on the subject of 20th Century style airborne pollution.


  1. Okuda, Michael, Denise Okuda and Debbie Mirek. The Star Trek Encyclopedia - A reference guide to the future. Pocket Books. 1999 (Third Edition). ISBN 0 671 03475 8. Page 84

The Original Series Season 2
Catspaw I Metamorphosis I Friday's Child I Who Mourns for Adonais?I Amok Time I The Doomsday Machine I Wolf in the Fold I The Changeling I The Apple I Mirror, Mirror I The Deadly Years I I, Mudd I The Trouble with Tribbles I Bread and Circuses I Journey to Babel I A Private Little War I The Gamesters of Triskelion I Obsession I The Immunity Syndrome I A Piece of the Action I By Any Other Name I Return to Tomorrow I Patterns of Force I The Ultimate Computer I The Omega Glory I Assignment: Earth